Washington Wine: The Shaping of a Region

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, North Bend, WA

March is Taste Washington Wine month and to celebrate I will be sharing some history about the Washington Wine industry and along with highlights of some local Washington Wineries, a deep dive into Washington’s AVAs and more to help you can become a Washington Wine Expert. In preparation for the month-long event and corresponding blog posts, first I want to start with a quick overview from the ground up on how climate, geology and geography helped shape Washington Wine Country region.

Panoramic Views of Washington and the Columbia River Gorge from Rowena Crest Viewpoint on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Maryhill Winery

Washington State is a region that is defined by its geology. It’s landscapes have been forged by volcanoes, creased by faults and sculpted by ice and water. The rugged mountain pikes, varied forests, canyons, rivers, rolling grasslands and fertile farmland give glimpses of this magnificent land’s dynamic contrasts. As you travel through the state of Washington you will not only experience a variety of landscapes but varied ecosystems, and a collage of macro and micro climates as well. The distinct geographic regions and geological formations that make the “Evergreen State” unique can all be experienced as you make your way from the Pacific Ocean beaches of Western Washington through the dense evergreen forests, through high mountain passes, to the plateaus and dry hills of Eastern Washington.

The dividing factor of the Cascade Mountain Range.

It is not unusual to have such diverse climate differences in a state but there is a giant reason for the difference in climate between Western and Eastern Washington, The Cascade Mountain Range.

The Cascade Mountain Range originates in southern British Columbia and stretches through Oregon into Northern California. Mountains in the Cascades average 6,000 feet in height and the range includes 5 volcanoes in Washington state: Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens.

The Cascades are a natural barrier between the wetter, and mild maritime climate of Western Washington and the mostly high country desert of Eastern Washington that has hot summers and cold winters.

Eastern Washington is scattered with a myriad of microclimates from the effects of the Cascade Mountain’s rain shadow. The tremendous influence of this rain shadow means that Eastern Washington has an average of 300 days of sunshine each year.

Now that we have a better understanding of the climate that helps shape the wine region in Eastern Washington we can take a look at other factors that make this region ideal for growing wine grapes.

The Geological Influences on the Terroir of Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington Wine County

To better understand some of the geological history that makes up the distinct landscape of Eastern Washington it is best to start with a quick review of the Missoula Floods that occurred in this area at the end of the last Ice Age. This series of events was brought on by the breaking of the ice dam which was holding back the 2000-foot-deep glacial Lake Missoula located in what is now Montana. This fast-moving volume of water rushed through the Columbia Valley with a flooding depth up to 500 feet high. It is called a series of events because this occurred multiple times over thousands of years at the end of the last Ice Age. These massive floodwaters brought with them a mixture of gravel, silt and sand along with great granite boulders that blanketed the basalt rock base of Eastern Washington. The deposits left by the Missoula Flood are deep, well-draining and relatively low in nutrients, the perfect terroir for growing grapes. The Flood in essence laid the foundation for the soils that make up Eastern Washington’s unique terroir. In addition to the floods, windblown loess, similar to what is found in the wine regions of Austria, accumulated on top of the flood deposits, especially at higher elevations above the flood water levels.

Glacial Lake Missoula and pathway of the floods. Map from Digital Geology of Idaho

One of the best ways to learn more about the Missoula Floods and it’s affect on the Eastern Washington area known as the ‘Scablands’ is by reading, Folds, Floods, and Fine Wine: Geologic Influences on the Terroir of the Columbia Basin by Professor of Geology, Kevin R. Pogue.

Geography rounds out the natural contributions to the wide array of grape varietals which are grown in Washington’s wine growing regions. Specifically latitude and the altitudes in some of the vineyards.

Latitude is used together with longitude to specify the precise location of features on the surface of the Earth and Eastern Washington grape growing region sits at a latitude of 46˚ N which is the same latitude of Bordeaux, France. Also, at this latitude, the growing season sees an average of 17 hours of sunlight, which is 2 hours more than Napa. With this abundance of daylight the region is able to fully ripen a diverse range of varietals.

In addition to the long growing season the region also experiences large diurnal temperatures which result in warm days and cool nights. The added benefit of these large diurnal temperatures is an extension of hang-time, time to build exceptional structure, and preserving the grapes natural acidity. In the winter the cold temperatures also allow for deep vine dormancy which minimizes diseases and pests in the vineyard.

Vineyards surrounding Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, WA

Within Washington’s wine growing regions, elevation plays a critical role in both vine health and wine style. Many of the Columbia Valley’s vineyards are planted along a broad, semi-arid plateau at altitudes of 200-2,000 feet. Many vineyards in Washington currently rest between 1400–1675 feet of elevation and for classification purposes typically any site above 1200 feet qualifies as high elevation. Thriving throughout these various elevations is more than 80 wine grape varieties, with a planting of 59% red and 41% white. The red and white grapes grown in Washington are as diverse as the landscape that they are planted on. Varieties cover the range of the alphabet from Agliancio to Zinfandel, along with important plantings such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Franc. Although, Washington’s most widely planted grape is Chardonnay, followed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on the rise is Riesling and Syrah.

Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s CheValle Vineyard, Lake Chelan, WA. You can learn more about this Washington Wine region in my previous post, Autumn in Lake Chelan.

Washington State is home to a diverse collection of world-class vineyard areas, and these vineyards can be found in the boundaries of sixteen unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) all across the state. Each distinctive AVA possesses an individual combination of climate, topography and soils that shapes and defines the aromas and flavors of grown grapes and the wines crafted from them. I hope that you will join me during the month of March as I take a closer look at the two of the state’s newest AVAs, share information about Washington Wine History and highlight Washington Wineries.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Wine Tour at Home: Alsace

“Getting to know wine is getting to know the world. More than just a complex and delicious drink, wine is history, geography, the very soil from which the grapes are grown. It opens us to life on a deeper level and it enriches and enhances our days.” -Thom Elkjer, Adventures in Wine.

A Sense of Curiosity is essential when it comes to expanding your knowledge of any subject and for many wine enthusiasts the desire to further cultivate their curiosity about the diverse world of wine can be accomplished in many different ways. Yet, more than any wine book or wine course, the simple act of tasting different styles of wine can be the greatest teacher in any wine lover’s life. Curiosity is a virtue that advantageously propels a wine lover no matter where they are on their journey. Each individual reflection leads to discoveries that fuel the excitement that makes up a part of every wine lover’s passion and continual exploration. Such exploration invariably helps us figure out what we like and what we don’t and fuels the desire to experience yet another unknown corner of the wine world.

The ideal experience to enjoy a wine for the first time is to try them where they originated, on their home turf. Tasting wines in a winery provides more understanding of the creativity and environment the winemaker intended to share. When that is not possible the next best thing is to put together your own Wine Tour at Home. In this new series I will be sharing a flight of wines from a specific winery and incorporating other ways to make the wine tasting experience a little more exciting with some food pairing ideas. I wanted to start with a wine region that I have not had the opportunity to visit yet, Alsace. Kicking it off, I have no blueprint to follow. This wine tour will only be guided by my own curiosity and the desire to wander the world of wine through it’s “Liquid Geography”.

Exploring Alsace with Trimbach Wines

The Alsace region in France primarily produces white wines and it is the only Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) region in France to make mostly varietal wines. These wines are typically from similar grape varieties to those used in German wines, such as Rieslings and the highly aromatic Gewürztraminer. The choice of Trimbach wines was in part due to its availability and because of its long history in the Alsace region. The Trimbach family has been promoting the history, unique terroirs and exceptional wines of Alsace since 1626. Located in Ribeauvillé, Maison Trimbach continues to pay homage to it’s family history with three generations who are work closely together to carry on the legacy. Brothers Pierre and Jean Trimbach, the 12th generation of the Trimbach family, personally handle the day-to-day operations. While Bernard and Hubert Trimbach, the 11th generation (father and uncle, to Pierre and Jean) continue to be an integral part of carrying on Trimbach’s winemaking vision. The Eldest of the 11th generation, Anne, has also recently joined the family business. The Trimbach family has always produced wines that are balanced and long-lived, with an elegant fruity structure that celebrates Trimbach style and this unrivaled expertise makes these wines a reference for Alsace wines across the world.

Think German Grapes with a French Soul!

Due to its close proximity and history with Germany it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Alsace wines are dominated by German grape varieties, but these wines are distinctively different and crafted in a distinguishing Alsatian style. The wine-growing region of Alsace produces wines under three AOCs; Alsace and Alsace Grand Cru for still white wines (both sweet and dry), and Cremant d’Alsace for sparkling. With its continental climate and 13 different soil types, Alsace land supports a wide diversity of grape varietals although 90% of production is white varietal wines, with Riesling being the dominant grape variety. Pinot Blanc is a close second in Alsace wine production, followed by Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. With a principle favor of the more aromatic varieties and a focus by the winemakers to retain the original pure flavors of the grapes, it is understandable why some people describe Alsace wines as ‘the white wine for red wine lovers’.

Trimbach Riesling

With Riesling taking on the role of the signature grape of Alsace, and almost half of their production being Riesling, this 2018 Trimbach Riesling felt like the perfect way to begin this Wine Tour at Home. Where to start with this classic dry Riesling? Do I begin with it’s richness and incredible floral aromas or should I start off with its concentrated ripe fruit flavors? When both the aromas and flavors of a wine are equally impressive and vie for your attention, it is hard to pick a starting point. Trimbach extols the virtue of the Alsatian Riesling with craftsman like precision by bringing out its finesse, elegance, and fruitiness, not to mention the wonderful long concentrated finish. I really appreciate that this is a wine that you can open and enjoy now but also tuck way to for another five years to experience some of this varietals aging qualities. A beautiful wine that expresses the true potential that lies within the Riesling grape.

Trimbach wines are the perfect solution in the search for the ideal matching of food and wine.

The wines of Trimbach have within them the ability to host a multitude of gourmet alliances. Their outstanding balance between acidity, fruitiness and minerality almost guarantee the triumphant pairing of wines and food.

Trimbach Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc is always a wine that gets my attention, its a wine that easily opens-up on the palate. Along with being incredibly versatile it is a well-balanced wine that is both delightfully food friendly and so much more than just a summer time wine.

Easygoing and fresh from start to finish, Pinot Blanc’s interplay with food makes it a cinch to pair with a wide variety of foods. it’s a grape with a hefty dose of virtue that can please a wine enthusiast looking for fruit or structure, because it incorporates both. Pale in color but rich in concentrated aromas of white flower and apricot the 2018 Trimbach Pinot Blanc is smooth with a wonderfully refreshing acidity. I couldn’t think of a better pairing with this Pinot Blanc than with a Classic Tarte Flambée, an Alsatian Pizza made with just four ingredients, Pizza Dough, Crème Fraîche, Onions, and Bacon. This dish was originally conceived by peasants using up any leftover dough, cheese and meat, and the fire oven which was cooling down after a hard day’s work. It makes a quick and simple meal but when paired with the Alsace Pinot Blanc from Trimbach it was a first-class way to take a tour of the Alsace wine region at home.

Tarte Flambée was an instant hit during our last family Wood Fired Pizza night. The next time that I make this delicious pizza I am going to try changing it up by using this recipe from VinAlsace.com

Trimbach Gewürztraminer

Wrapping up this first installment of Wine Tour at Home: Alsace, I couldn’t leave out the most charismatic of Alsace’s Nobel Grapes, Gewürztraminer. While it may be difficult to pronounce Gewurztraminer, this delicious wine is an easy one to fall for and once you’ve climbed aboard the Gewürztraminer wagon, you owe yourself the experience of Trimbach Gewürztraminer.

Saving the Best for Last!

With a combination of buttery, flaky pie crust on the bottom, tart apple, caramelized sugar, and warm spice sandwiched in the middle and a topping of ginger spiced oatmeal streusel topping, a slice of Dutch Apple pie begs for a luscious wine. That is where the 2017 Trimbach Gewürztraminer comes in, just pour a glass and give it a gentle swirl, that’s all it needs for you to experience the heady floral aromas that are fused with fruit and spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Without even a taste it is already a perfect pairing with apple pie. Add in the lightly sweet juicy texture bursting with apple and lychee notes and you have a fine tuned luscious wine that ends on an even higher note with its long finish.

The comfort of warm slice of Dutch Apple Pie meets its match with this exotic Gewürztraminer.

To spice up the standard oatmeal streusel topping recipe, I added a teaspoon of apple pie spice and a tablespoon of minced candied ginger.

Wine Geek Information: Gewürztraminer is a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc and the tongue twisting name is a German word meaning “Spice Traminer” or “Perfumed Traminer”.

With so many wine regions and wineries to explore as a possible Wine Tour at Home, I wonder, where will your wine Curiosities take you this year? I’d love to hear about your favorite at home wine tours.

“Wine is perhaps the closest thing the planet has to an elixir of life.” -Thom Elkjer, Adventures in Wine.

Cheers everyone, stay safe and healthy.

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

WoodFired Pizza and Wine Pairing with Left Coast Estate

Along with an interview with Left Coast Estate’s CEO Taylor Pfaff

Are you the type of person who places an order for your favorite pizza pie and then heads to the fridge to double-check and make sure you also have some beer? If so, I can relate, in fact my go to drink with pizza used to be a crisp hard apple cider which just seemed to go so well with any topping on a pizza. However, times change and tastes change and now wine is usually my most reached for beverage to accompany pizza. When chosen with a little bit of care, it will complement the right savory pie perfectly. Now it is no surprise that like so many others pizza has been a staple of our diets over the past several months in 2020, to include both homemade pizza and when we are sick of cooking, delivery or carry out.

Pizza is one of those great meals that once you have the dough taken care of all that is left is to decide on the topping and pop it into the oven. Easy, delicious and most importantly always satisfying also, a little wine added to the meal definitely adds some pizzazz to pizza night. Now, I understand the importance of pairing the right wine with certain pizza toppings and how the butterfat of the cheese, the spice of certain meats and the general saltiness of the pizza are all important elements when it comes to finding the ideal match. But, here’s the thing unless you’re tossing a Cabernet Sauvignon into the mix with a Hawaiian Pizza the number one rule should be to drink what you love. You know your own tastes and what you think goes well with what you are eating. There are thousands of websites out there that are just screaming at you to pair this pizza with this wine, it is really enough to make you crazy. So, let’s make it simple. Let’s match flavor intensities with wine intensities and just go for it. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like the pairing, then go grab a beer, finish your pizza and save the wine for later. Food and wine should be about experimenting and the experience as well as lessons learned both positive and negative.

Today I want to share with you a fun collaboration that I had with Left Coast Estate, an Oregon Winery in the Willamette Valley. If you have read some of my past posts you will now that I have shared a visit to Left Coast’s Winery and I continue to be a strong supporter of them because of their strong sense of community, sustainable practices and overall quality of the wines they make. I am also excited to write about an interview that I had with Taylor Pfaff about how Left Coast has been fairing during the pandemic, the wildfires and what new and exciting things Left Coast has been working on. First however, we are going to dive into something that the folks at Left Coast love as much as I do, Wood fired Pizza and wine.

Vegetarian Pizza with Left Coast 2018 Suzanne’s Reserve Rosé of Pinot Noir

I think of Vegetarian Pizza as a Garden Party a place where earthy, savory, sweet, and salty flavors with a kick of heat can all join together and throw a spectacular shindig. For this Vegetarian Pizza I incorporated fresh peppers and tomatoes from our backyard garden along with sweet Walla Walla onions, mushrooms and black olives on top of two sauce, a traditional pizza sauce and a curry pizza sauce. The end result is always a crowd pleasure in our house fulfilling everyone’s pizza craving without the meat. To pair with this Vegetarian Pizza I chose a rosé. The best thing about rosé is how well the subtle flavors pair with food – especially, vegetarian dishes.

2018 Left Coast Estate Suzanne’s Reserve Rosé:
Zesty aromas and flavors of Rainer cherries, citrus, and watermelon are intensified with a combination of savory dried herbs, spices and a hint of summer meadow grass and wildflowers. Creamy well-balanced acidity and a lingering finish that is reflective of a classic Oregon Pinot.

Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza with Left Coast 2019 White Pinot Noir

Each summer I grow as much basil as I can to dry and add to the spice cabinet, but my favorite thing to do with a bounty of fresh basil is to make pesto in large batches and freeze a portion of it to use all winter long in a variety of dishes, including pizza. This Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza uses this homemade pesto as a base and is quickly becoming a favorite in our house. It is a very satisfying pizza, garlicky, cheesy and honestly who doesn’t love adding bacon to a pizza? With so many bold flavors going on you could pair this pizza with a number of different wines including a Pinot Noir or in this case a White Pinot Noir.

2019 Left Coast Estate White Pinot Noir:
This 100% Estate grown White Pinot Noir is a blend of 91% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier, and 3% Pinot Blanc; not to mention it is one of my favorite Oregon wines. Wonderful floral aromas float around the glass with each swirl as pears soaked in a vanilla cream invite you to keep exploring this wine. Enticing flavors of pineapple, ripe stone fruit and a little spiced cherry along with a crisp minerality make this richer than an average white wine. One of the things that I love about this White Pinot Noir is how it changes with the seasons and with food that it is paired with. With the Pesto Chicken and Bacon Pizza the delicious fruit finish was a great counterbalance to the garlic and salt flavors.

“Neapolitans have always had their fast food. It’s called pizza.” -Luciano De Crescenzo

Homemade Pesto can be expensive to make with the soaring price of Pine Nuts so in place of Pine Nuts I often use other nuts like Cashews or Walnuts.

Meat Lovers Pizza with Left Coast 2016 High Acres Pinot Meunier

When I think of a really satisfying pizza, it is a hearty pie piled high with all kinds of meats and cheeses. Here is where a red wine will provide the balance your taste-buds need, one that will counter the rich fattiness of the meats. Juicy-berry flavor and an earthy dimension in a wine like this Pinot Meunier will bring out the robust flavors of the meat and enhance the notes of melted cheese. This Meat Lovers Pizza includes mild Italian sausage, Genoa salami, prosciutto, pepperoni and bacon along with three types of cheese whole mozzarella, smoked white cheddar and a triple cheddar blend.

Completely unique and extremely food-friendly Pinot Meunier is much more than just one of the trio of grapes most famously known for making Champagne. Slowly, Meunier is winning people over who like its bright, fresh flavor of raspberries and cranberries, along with its softer balanced tannins.

2016 High Acres Pinot Meunier: I think one of the appeals of this 100% Pinot Meunier is definitely its uniqueness and the sense of enjoying a wine that not everyone else is drinking. As far as how it pairs with a Meat Lovers Pizza, it is like peanut butter and jelly, it just goes so well together. Rustic and fruity, this Pinot Meunier delivers a burst of dark red fruit flavors, led by cherry and raspberry. It is a hearty and rich wine with notes of tobacco and coffee as well as soft hints of vanilla and anise spice. If I had to choose I would say that it had to be my favorite pairing.

“I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

An Interview with CEO of Left Coast, Taylor Pfaff

Situated on nearly 500 acres in the middle of the Willamette Valley, family owned and operated Left Coast Estate has been taking a sustainable approach to their winemaking process since their inaugural 2004 vintage was released. With 2020 proving to be along with so many others, their most challenging year, I recently asked CEO of Left Coast Estate Taylor Pfaff if he could share how Left Coast has been adapting their business to work around regulations put into effect in Oregon due to the Pandemic.

Left Coast Proprietors, Robert and Suzanne Pfaff, Emily and her husband, CEO of Left Coast Estate, Taylor Pfaff

When asked how well Left Coast has been able to navigate the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in regard to closures and social distancing regulations in the tasting room, Taylor shared that it has been challenging.
“The threat of Covid-19 goes well beyond closures and protocols. It’s always a balancing act of doing everything we can to create a safe place for our staff and guests while still conducting our business operations. I feel like we’ve done a good job at adapting new measures to reduce the risk posed by Covid-19. We have a lot of great outdoor space and our customers embraced that and were able to explore the property to a greater extent than they used to. Guests were able to walk our hiking trail and spread out across the oak savanna to relax for an afternoon, which I’ve always thought was the best way to enjoy our property.”

Not being able to visit the winery for tasting hasn’t stop people from buying the wines that they want to enjoy at home and Taylor told me that the pandemic has definitely led to an increase in pick-up and online ordering. He added; “As winter sets in and risk heightens, we hope that people will utilize these methods to drink great wines and help support family owned wineries like ours. We have a lot of cool wines on our website that aren’t available in national distribution like our Queen Bee Bubbly with an estate honey dosage.”

Challenges will continue during the winter months with the ongoing Covid crisis for wineries in Oregon and other parts of the country, but Left Coast is doing everything possible to make the tasting room a safe place to visit. “We will still have outside seating available, but Oregon is cold and wet for a couple months each winter so I can’t imagine it will be very popular option,” Taylor told me. He went on to say, “We will have 5 tables in our Tasting Room with great distancing between them and we’ve recently done some work on our Wine Library to be able to have an additional 5 table available for weekends. We’ve added Aerus Air Scrubbers to each of our hospitality spaces and they help remove airborne contaminants like Covid-19.”

Switching to another subject that many wineries in Oregon had to face this year, I inquired about the wildfires that devastated the state and asked Taylor if he could fill me in on any problems or effects that Left Coast has encountered because of the wildfires, such as smoke taint. Here’s what he told me,
The entire Willamette Valley was affected by some degree of smoke taint and Left Coast was no exception. We are fortunate to be located very close to the Van Duzer Corridor, which was able to allow some airflow into the valley and help us escape the worst of the smoke. Most of the vintners who I’ve talked to are optimistic about the 2020 vintage and smoke impacts seem to minimal for those who weren’t directly next to the fire zones in the Cascades. We let our grapes hang for several weeks after the smoke cleared to continue to ripen and mature. With winemaking we ran faster fermentations and targeted lighter extractions to try to minimize the about of smoke phenols that could seep into the wine. Thus far we are feeling good about our wines and their potential.”

Winemaker J. Wright (pictured fourth from the right) and a few of the Left Coast family. (Photo supplied by Left Coast)

The challenges of this year are not stopping the Left Coast family from continuing to work on new projects, on the Estate, in the vineyards and in the winery, they have been as busy as ever. Taylor told me that they always have a few new projects in the works, but this year they were very excited to make their first Blanc de Blanc méthode traditionelle sparkling wine. Other projects- “It was the first growing season for our newest vineyard block, which is planted to Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. We also continued our forest restoration efforts and have over 100 acres of old growth oak forest under various conservation programs. For 2021 we are going to redo our road paving, which isn’t very sexy but was much needed and we are excited about it. We are looking at creating some new and exciting outdoor tasting experiences for next summer, which will be unveiled throughout the winter.”

When asked about new wines being released in 2021, Taylor revealed: “We partnered with our Winemaker, Joe Wright on his personal wine brand J Wright Vintner. He will be releasing a new Blanc de Noir sparkling wine that spent nearly 5 years on triage and is delicious. For Left Coast we have a lot of vintage changes coming up for existing wines that we are excited to share with our customers. The 2017 vintage designates are great representations of classic cool climate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, very elegant and complex wines.”

J. Wright (Photo supplied by Left Coast)

Taylor like all of us is hopeful that 2021 will bring a return to normalcy. He said, “2020 was a hard year for so many. Through the challenges a lot of lessons were learned. We believe that Left Coast can use this experience to better prepare for the future to create authentic wines for our consumers, gracious hospitality for our guests, and equitable working conditions for our staff. We are excited for the 2021 vintage and the prospects of the New Year.”

Wood Fired pizzas are popular item at Left Coast and Taylor’s Dad Bob is the one who brought this delicious addition to the winery. “My dad always wanted a wood fired oven ever since he got into cooking in the 1990s. He got the oven and we owe a big thank you to the guys over at the Breadboard in Falls City for being kind enough to teach us their basics. Recently retired Greg Pramuk was another great contributor to our pizzas. It’s been a team effort and they are delicious. You should try them.” I definitely will try one of their pizzas on my next trip to the Willamette Valley and that will most likely be their most popular pizza and wine pairing, Margarita and Right Bank Pinot Noir.

What are some of the Left Coast’s family favorite pairings? Tasting Room Manager Lisa Fahrner enjoys their garlic cream sauce pizza, with roasted pear, goat cheese and prosciutto paired with a glass of 2014 Blanc de Noir. While Mitch Graham, Wine Club & Logistics Manager, loves the butchers block pizza which has house made roasted tomato sauce, bacon, salami, and sausage with parmesan on top paired with the Right Bank Pinot Noir.

I also want to share an exciting Virtual Pizza and Left Coast Wine Pairing that Lisa and I will be streaming live on Instagram this Saturday, December 12th at 5PM, PST. It would be wonderful if you could join us as we talk about our favorite pairing and Lisa will be sharing some exciting things that Left Coast is doing this holiday season.

Cheers everyone and Happy Holidays!

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Washington Wine Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Including an introduction to three Washington Wineries.

Small businesses are the heartbeat of your neighborhood, the spine of your local economy and the spirit of your town.

This year the Holiday shopping season looks a lot different due to restrictions around the world because of Covid-19 and this is causing many businesses, especially small business an excruciating amount of financial hardship. So today in celebration of Small Business Saturday, I encourage you to demonstrate how during these times we lift each other up, and that starts locally. Remember these local small businesses are also working to support the area where you live, work, and play. This holiday season give back to them and all that they have done for your community by Shopping Local, Eating Local, Spending Local, Enjoying Local. Let’s continue this trend for our local communities.

Since more of us are doing almost all of our holiday shopping online this year, many small business are offering new products as well as great gift boxes and baskets that highlight their community. So, in supporting Small Business Saturday, today I want to introduce three local Washington Wineries that have some wonderful Wine Gift ideas for that special someone on your gift list.

One Small purchase can make a big difference with Small Business. Pledge to Shop Small.

Gård Vintners-Wines with unique characteristics of the land in each bottle.

Lisa and Josh Lawrence owners of Gård Vintners. (Photo supplied by Gård Vintners)

Each bottle of Gård Vintners Lawrence Estate Wines is 100% estate grown sustainably in the heart of Washington’s Royal Slope AVA with wine production in Walla Walla and tasting rooms in three locations, Woodinville, Walla Walla, and Ellensburg. Gård Vintners is a family owned and operated estate winery which was founded in 2006 by Josh and Lisa Lawrence, along with Josh’s Dad John Lawrence and Uncle Sandy Lawrence, who had farmed the Royal Slope for more than 40 years. Today Gård is owned and operated by Josh who oversees the vineyard and other farm operations, and Lisa who is in charge of sales and marketing. At the helm of Gård’s winemaking since 2011 is Aryn Morell who has a wonderful talent for showcasing the terrior and unique minerality found in the Royal Slope vineyards.

Gård means “farm” or “estate” in Scandinavian languages and is a tribute to our family farm and heritage. Our family has been farming the Royal Slope, now one of Washington state’s newest AVAs, for more than 55 years.” -Lisa Lawrence (Photo supplied by Gård Vintners)

Gård Vintners produces an impressive array of wines including a nice selection of red and white blends, as well as single varietals like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, to name a few. They also make a lovely Grenache Rosé and a members only Skål Sparkling Wine made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This year Gård has some new wines that owner Lisa Lawrence was excited to tell me about.
“As an estate winery, we have several new and exciting wines coming into production this year from our estate, Lawrence Vineyards, including a new Mourvedre blend called Kvasir, our first Pinot Noir, and an Albariño, all new to our line-up. Also, just in time for the holidays, we will be featuring our brand-new Cab Collection in December, which is a series of Cabernet Sauvignon wines specific to our vineyard sites. This 2016 Collection is a 3-pack from our Corfu Crossing, Scarline and Laura Lee vineyard blocks in the newly designated Royal Slope AVA, and should be at our tasting rooms the second week of December.”

(Harvest 2020 Photo Supplied by Gård Vintners)

When asked how Gård has been navigating the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in regards to closures and social distancing regulations in the tasting room, Lisa shared, “We have a nimble team of passionate wine ambassadors here at Gård who adapt to the ever-changing restrictions related to social distancing and aim to serve our customers in the safest manner possible while still continuing to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. We are grateful for our fantastic fans and club members, who have consistently been loyal supporters throughout this crazy, unpredictable year.”

This holiday season Gård Vintners welcomes guests to sit outside on their heated patios at their Walla Walla and Woodinville tasting rooms, and they also provide pick-up and delivery from both, as well as the Ellensburg tasting room. For those who prefer to imbibe at home, they have created special holiday selections– plus recipes to pair with Gård wines – that can be picked-up at their tasting rooms or shipped to 30 states across the country.

“Wine is Earth’s answer to the sun.” – Margaret Fuller (A favorite quote from Gård Vintners)

Gård Vintners Gift Ideas

Gård Vintners has taken the guesswork out of finding the right wine to pair with your holiday meals with their Perfect Holiday Pairing 4-pack. This wonderful selection of Gård wines includes their 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Vaucluse and 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Holiday Pairing pack sells for $126.

Notes from Gård Vintners:

“The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is Fermented 100% in barrel and left on the lees for its entire life to maximize richness and mouthfeel. Bordeaux blanc in style this Sauvignon Blanc the extended lees contact adds light toasty notes to the incredible tropical fruit flavors with aromatic hints of fresh herbs.”

“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” -Pierre Corneille

Notes from Gård Vintners:

2017 Vaucluse : “A blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Grenache, the 2017 Vaucluse has a beautiful bouquet of blueberries, lavender, herbes de Provence and ground pepper”.

Still looking for more gift ideas? Gård will customize a beautiful holiday gift for your friends, family, employees or clients with variations in pricing to meet your holiday spending budget. Making it even easier they offer gift boxes, gift bags & other specialty packaging as well as written note cards & custom messaging. Along with their wines you can chose from a selection of Gård merchandise, such as tumblers, growlers, hats, shirts, glassware, blankets and more. There are also Gourmet Foods, Glassybaby votives Wine tools & accessories and Gift Cards available. Still not sure? Nothing beats a Club Membership to Gård Vintners and they have three Wine Clubs to choose from.

Looking toward the New Year, Lisa told me about a big anniversary coming up in 2021 and some new projects that they will be working on.
“In 2021, we are excited to commemorate the 15th anniversary since founding Gård Vintners, and hope that we can host a celebration in some manner if or when social distancing restrictions loosen up next year. As farmers with an estate winery, a new year always brings the hope and optimism of a new crop, which invigorates the team as we pull out of winter in 2
Also, as winter sets in for 2020/2021, we are excited at the opportunity to harvest an ice wine yet again. Each year we leave a portion of Riesling grapes on the vine, and tend to luck out with the right conditions to harvest grapes for ice wine roughly every other year or so. We always cross our fingers for low temps at this time of year in anticipation that ice wine might come to fruition!”

WIT Cellars- Wine, WIT and Wisdom

WIT Cellars owners Gina Adams-Royer, Flint Nelson and Caroline ‘Cat’ Warwick (Photo supplied by WIT Cellars)

It was just a little over 4 years ago that Flint Nelson, Caroline ‘Cat’ Warwick, and Gina Adams-Royer took a big leap and opened their own winery in Prosser, Washington. With several decades of collective winemaking experience, their passion for wine, Washington terrior wisdom and crafting skills blend together to produce some expressive and memorable wines. Why the name WIT Cellars? They wanted to name the winery something that was fun, easy to remember, and meaningful, so three letters came to mind, “WIT”, which means intelligent humor, and is an acronym for both “Whatever it Takes” and “We’re in Together”.

WIT Cellars’ October 2020 Harvest from Boushey Vineyard in Yakima Valley (Photo supplied by WIT Cellars)

WIT Cellar wines include a diverse line of Reds, Whites and Rose from varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, and Riesling. The WIT wines offer many styles of wine with the majority being more new world in style and fruit forward. These are wines that you can easily enjoy on a week night with take out or as the perfect companion to a festive holiday meal.

WIT Cellars Gift Ideas

WIT Cellars has Wine Gift Baskets starting at $100 and include a white and a red wine, two WIT Cellars wine glasses, a wine opener, and a package of delicious Washington Chukar Cherries Chocolate. Other accessories are also available for purchase to add to the basket, making it the ideal Washington Wine Gift for the Holidays. Visit WIT Cellars to learn more.

A couple of wine suggestions for a perfect WIT Cellars gift basket:

The Double Gold award winning 2016 WIT Cellars Petit Verdot is a 100% Petit Verdot with grapes harvested from Olsen Vineyards in Yakima Valley. Often used in a blend this Petit Verdot is a wonderful example of how this varietal can stand on its own and deliver an impressive long finish that you will remember long after the bottle is gone. Dark, rich with the aromas and flavors of dark berries and ripe black cherries, this Petit Verdot also delivers lovely nuances of violet, spice and some smoky tobacco notes. Intense and delicious!

2018 WIT Cellars Chardonnay: This Chardonnay comes from the Ancient Lakes AVA and Evergreen Vineyard where WIT sources their aromatic whites for exceptional quality. The vines struggle in this vineyards high elevation amongst silt loam on fractured caliche and basalt. Fermented in stainless, then transferring to neutral oak barrels this Chardonnay is aged for six months prior to bottling. Winemaker Notes: “Our Chardonnay is nearly colorless with clean bright aromas of citrus, peach, and pear. These aromas are layered through the silky mouthfeel with light notes of butter, starfruit, and wet stones.”

Each year WIT Cellars makes ornaments from their used corks which they sell and donate the proceeds to a local charity. This year WIT is donating to LifeWire, which help adults, children, and youth who have been impacted by domestic violence to build safer, healthier homes by offering support, resources, and professional services including survivor advocacy, mental health therapy, legal advocacy, shelter, and housing. A donation like this certainly helps since in 2020, LifeWire has seen an unprecedented increase in safety concerns for survivors due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the economic downturn. Survivors are struggling to meet their basic needs, and LifeWire has been experiencing a sharp increase in emergency requests for services. This ornament is available on their website.

Although WIT Cellars’ “We’re In-It Together” wine is only available to club members I wanted to share it with you. Here’s how WIT describes this wonderful Washington Red Blend.

“The feast of reason and flow of soul moved us to create this Red Blend with love in a historic time. The Wit’s End Red Blend is full bodied, with hints of sweet cherries, blueberries and brambles. These subtle fruit flavors integrate with flavors of dried herbs and cola in the mid-palate. It has a long pleasing finish, that will leave you at your Wit’s End, when the bottle has been enjoyed.”

Don’t forget that a WIT Cellars Wine Club Membership also makes a wonderful gift.

“When you’re at the end of your wits, there is no better way to end your day, than with a bottle of Wit’s End.” -Lisa Jellison, WIT Cellars Club Member

Orenda Winery-Small Town Winery Producing Big Washington Wines

“And what is it to work with love?… It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit… It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit… work is love made visible” – Kalil Gibran, The Prophet (A favorite quote from Samantha at Orenda Winery)

In October the Owners of Orenda Winery Samantha and Xander Kent shared the exciting news that they are expecting their first child. (Photo supplied by Orenda Winery).

In March of 2019 I shared the story of how Samantha and Xander pursued their dream of starting a winery here in the Snoqualmie Valley and at the time their wines were still resting in barrels waiting to be bottled. Since then Orenda has released 6 wines including a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and a red blend called Balance, also in the line up is a 2018 Syrah and a 2019 Fume Blanc. They also sell their own line of honey, which comes straight from hives behind the winery on the Orenda property. Along with producing some wonderfully unique wines, Orenda has created an inviting and relaxing environment for wine tasting on their beautiful property just outside of Carnation, WA.

Navigating their way through the pandemic this year has delivered some challenges for Orenda but they have a great deal of outdoor space and this summer it was filled with people tasting wine and social distancing in their gardens. Now that new restrictions are back in place and winter weather is unpredictable in the Snoqualmie Valley, service has switched from indoor tasting to more online promotions and sales along with local curbside pick-up.

Orenda has many new projects in the works including adding Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Malbec to their repertoire, (they are unsure if all of these 2018 wines will be released in 2021…) Also, in 2021 they will be bringing back their Riesling and adding a Pinot Grigio and off-dry Rose to the mix.

Photo supplied by Orenda Winery

When asked how Orenda Winery will be celebrating the holidays this year, Samantha shared, “We will be quiet these holidays, 2020 has brought a lot of change and we, like many in the community, are reflective of all that is going on.”

Orenda Winery Gift Ideas

Single Bottle Gift Basket ($60): These baskets are a lovely gift for holidays and includes a bottle of Orenda wine, engraved Orenda corkscrew, gourmet, gourmet shortbread scones, an amazing assortment of cookies and a 4oz. jar of delicious Orenda honey! You can also get a two bottle gift basket that includes similar items and sells for $100.

Visit Orenda’s Website to learn more about how to order the winelover on you shopping list this basket full of wine and treats.

A great wine selection for an Orenda Gift Basket would be their 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. For this Cabernet Sauvignon, Samantha and Xander teamed up with Woodinville winemaker Mark Bosso. This joint effort earned this wine a double gold medal at the Great Northwest Wine Competition in the Fall of 2019. Fruit for the 2017 vintage was harvested from the Royal Slope AVA in the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and the wine spent 24 months in French oak. This Washington Cabernet is a rich and full bodied wine with bold tannins and displays an expressive textural layer of flavors . With flavors and aromas of ripe crushed blackberries, cassis, and dried mint this Cabernet is a wonderful winter sipping wine with the addition of a lovely note of chocolate on the palate.

Raw Orenda Honey in an old fashioned glass muth jar with cork stopper is also available to purchase online from Orenda Winery and is sold in 4 0z and 8 Oz jars.

Wine Club Memberships with Orenda are available in 6 and 12 bottle subscriptions and can be customized to mixed wines or red wines only. Memberships include 25% off all wine, First Choice of limited wines and access to exclusive events. Joining is free and you can cancel at anytime.

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local and that is kind of the same”. -Unknown

Finding the right gift for that special someone on your holiday shopping list can sometimes be difficult, but I hope that I have given you a few ideas with these Washington Wine Gift Ideas for the Holidays. Let’s continue to support small businesses any way that we can during this difficult time. Cheers Everyone and Happy Holidays!

Photos and all rights reserved ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Need a pairing idea for that leftover Halloween Candy? Try Sherry!

“There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.” Robert Brault

Even though there is a lot of uncertainty about Trick or Treating this year, there is a very good chance that some Halloween candy will find its way into a bowl in your house. If this is the case, you may be faced with that frightful question, what to do with all of your leftover Halloween candy? What you should be asking yourself is can I sneak some of this candy in with your glass of wine. No tricks here, candy and wine pair really well together, especially when there is chocolate involved. Today I want to share with you some not-so-terrifying Halloween candy pairings and Sherry from González Byass. Now don’t be frightened, this fortified wine is not just for the little old lady that lives down the street, it can be divine with nutty, chocolatey sweets and to make the most of this pairing occasion González Byass invited four renowned Sherry experts to provide their pairing recommendations. Along with the experts I wanted to share some ideas of my own pairing each sherry with a Washington Made Candy.

Candy Pairings with González Byass Alfonso Oloroso

Founded in 1835 and headquartered in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, family-owned González Byass collection of wineries span across Spain’s most important wine producing regions.

Meaning “scented” in Spanish, Oloroso is a variety of sherry that is made in Jerez and Montilla-Moriles and is made from palomino grapes. Oloros Sherry shows it age by it’s darkness, the darker the wine the longer it has been aged, and those tones range from rich amber to deep mahogany. Known if it’s powerful, warm aromas and complex flavors , Olorso gets it’s nutty bouquet flavor from oxidative aging. Here are a couple of candy pairing recommendations from the experts and something that I think pairs perfectly with this well-rounded and full bodied Sherry.

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + PayDay©  Bars Washington DC-based Chantal Tseng, Founder of Custom Cocktails for the End of Times and US Sherry Week Ambassador offered this recommendation for the Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso, a PayDay© Bar. This salted peanut bar held together with delicious nougat-caramel was first introduced in 1932. “They are reminiscent of Squirrel-Nut-Zippers which aren’t really around anymore,” Chantal remarked.

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + Peanut Butter Cups©: Another great pairing idea according to Nick Africano, Founder of En Rama LLC New York, is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups©. “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups© are a classic American candy. What’s better than chocolate and peanut butter, right? Perhaps, when two icons meet! Sweet, but balanced by the unctuous, roasted peanuts and salt, Reese’s are a perfect bite of candy…not just on Halloween…it’s a total classic any time of year. Now try them alongside a sip of another classic: Oloroso Sherry.” Nick went on to add, “I believe Oloroso is Sherry’s gateway to the American palate. The Alfonso Oloroso from the iconic Gonzalez Byass family with its dark notes of toasted pecan, old wood, and burnt orange is not only a harmonious match for the nutty, chocolatey, Reese’s buttery goodness but simultaneously serves as a poignant introduction to one of the world’s best beverages: Sherry!”

González Byass Alfonso Oloroso + Hawaiian Fruit Chocolates from Liberty Orchards© Candy Company in Cashmere, WA.

Let me just say if you haven’t tried Aplets and Cotlets or any of the other assorted sweet treats from Liberty Orchard© than you should considering treating yourself and order some for the Holiday Season.

With an assortment of tropical fruit flavors like Pineapple and Guava along with buttery macadamia nuts and rich chocolate, these Hawaiian Fruit Chocolates were a perfect match for González Byass Alfonso Oloroso. The full body and impression of sweetness in this richly fragrant Oloroso blended naturally and complimented the fruit, nut and chocolate flavors of the Hawaiian Fruit candies. There is no need for a fancy dessert when you have this Decadent and Delicious combination available.

“The great thing about candy is that it can’t be spoiled by the adult world. Candy is innocent. And all Halloween candy pales next to candy corn, if only because candy corn used to appear, like the Great Pumpkin, solely on Halloween” -Rosecrans Baldwin

González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez + Good & Plenty© Candy

When asked what she would pair with González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, Cheryl Wakerhauser, Owner, Executive Chef and Wine Director of Pix Patisserie and Bar Vivant, in Portland, Oregon selected the Good & Plenty Candy. “The full-bodied opulence of the Pedro Ximénez is calling for something to contrast it with, such as the crunchy outer shell of a Good & Plenty” Cheryl said, “and the licorice flavor of the candy brings forward the hint of savory, black olive notes in the wine. Try it!”

González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez + Theo Chocolate©

With so much delicious sweetness alone in the González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, I didn’t want to pair it with anything that would mask its sweet fig, and cinnamon chocolate flavors. For this reason I kept it simple by pairing it with one of the best chocolate producers in Washington State, Theo Chocolate©. To compliment the caramel and date flavors of this sherry I selected an Orange 70% dark chocolate bar. I loved how the orange in the chocolate played off of the nectar flavors in the sherry. Very rich, very sweet but such a delightful combination.

Theo Chocolate© has been a Pacific Northwest favorite since it was founded in 2005. With award-winning chocolates and candies, Theo is always coming out with new bars, candies and confections, you can visit their website for their current selections and holiday releases.

Harveys Bristol Cream + Chunky Bars©

Harveys was founded in Bristol, England in 1796, Harveys Bristol Cream, produced in Jerez, the home of Sherry is the number one selling sherry in the world with presence in more than 70 countries.

This pairing comes from Kat Thomas, Wine Goddess LV from Las Vegas who selected a Chunky Bar© to go with Harveys Bristol Cream. Here is what she said, “So, you want to feel responsible with your candy cravings? Well, I’ve got the perfect treat (no tricks here). Unwrap a Chunky Bar© and let yourself find the flow in a nutty, sweet, and responsibly balanced bite. Dried fruit and sweet chocolate find their safe place nestled in this Sherry’s ‘legs’… and if you can’t do peanuts, feed the flow with Raisinettes”

Harveys Bristol Cream + Chukar Cherries©

Each sip of Harveys Brisol Cream is heavenly! Thick and creamy with the sweet flavor of the burnt caramel topping of creme brûlée, I envisioned enjoying this sherry with a chocolate cherry mousse, but these Dark Chocolate Cherries For Wine from Chukar was the next best thing. With an assortment of three flavors of dark chocolate-covered dried cherries, Cabernet Cherries, Amaretto Rainiers, and Classic Dark, the natural wine essence and naturally-ripened dried cherries from Prosser, WA give each bit of candy and sip of Bristol Cream a completely different flavor combination. Of the three chocolates, I really enjoyed the Amaretto Rainiers with this sherry and loved how the caramel flavors of the sherry complimented the Amaretto flavors in the candy. So enjoyable! It was almost too easy to get carried away with this pairing.

If you happen to find yourself in the small town of Prosser, Washington, perhaps to visit some of the areas wineries, don’t leave without a visit to the Chukar Cherries© factory and store on Wine Country Road. Family-owned, Chukar Cherries© has for three decades transformed local sweet and tart cherries into mouthwatering award-winning chocolate cherries. Drawing on the wine community around them Chukar has a line of chocolate cherry candies that pair perfectly with wine. I highly recommend visiting Chukar Cherries© to shop for holiday gifts and to fulfill your own chocolate cherry cravings.

I hope that this gave you some ideas for pairing Sherry with candy and now you basically have a great excuse to purchase and stockpile candy! Cheers everyone and Happy Halloween.

“Can anyone suggest a wine that pairs well with eating all of my kid’s Halloween Candy?”

Images are ©Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.