The Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience

“Never pass up new experiences, Scarlett. They enrich the mind.” Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind                 

Located just 30 miles East of Seattle, The Snoqualmie Valley is a farming and tourist destination located along the Snoqualmie River in Western Washington. The valley is known for its mountains and rivers, from the convergence of the three forks of the Snoqualmie river at North Bend to the confluence of the Snoqualmie and the Skykomish Rivers which forms the Snohomish River in the town of Monroe. At the town of Snoqualmie, the stretch of the river also includes the popular and majestic Snoqualmie Falls. Towns located in the beautiful valley include North Bend, Snoqualmie, Preston, Fall City, Carnation and Duvall.

The Snoqualmie Valley is rich in heritage, with rough and pastoral landscapes. Farmers in the area take advantage of the fertile soils in the lower valley, and supply fresh produce to restaurants and farmer’s markets both near and far. Outdoor activities are plentiful in the valley, and include numerous trails for hiking and mountain biking. Rafting down the river, rock climbing and sitting in the meadow to admire a herd of local Elk can all be enjoyed in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Washington State is home to 970 wineries, and celebrates Taste Washington Wines in March. The official Washington wine month is in August. The Snoqualmie Valley currently has 9 wineries producing a wide array of varietals. In North Bend you can visit Pearl and Stone Wine Co. and Convergence Zone Cellars. The town of Snoqualmie is home to Sigillo Cellars, Chateau Noelle Vineyard and Winery, and Mount Si Winery. Traveling west down the valley to Fall City, you will find Fivash Cellars and William Grassie Wine Estates. Carnation offers a stop at Orenda Winery, who will be releasing their first Vintage in June. Finally the town of Duvall will land you at Cherry Valley Winery.

With Mount Si in the background, the new releases from North Bend Winery, Pearl and Stone Wine Co. are ready to be enjoyed next month.

Pearl and Stone Wine Co.

Founded in 2013, Pearl and Stone Wine Co. is a partnership of three families and the winemaking talents of Chris Stone, Rob Wesorick and Paul Ribary. All three families are deeply rooted in the valley and share a strong commitment to supporting the local community. Their name says it all, Pearl represents something of value, like the value of friends and family and Stone represents a strong foundation, and a grounding sense of place.

Pearl and Stone specialized in crafting small batch, red blends with grapes sources from some of the “very best vineyards in Washington.” This years red blend releases include 2017 Wandering, 2017 Resolution Peaks, 2017 Mailbox Peak, and 2017 Boulder Loop. This Spring they will also be releasing their very popular Rose’, 2018 Unemployment Beach with the addition of their first white blend, 2018 Old Rickety, a beautiful blend of 94% Grenache Blanc and 6% Roussanne. Each of the wine names represent a well known location in the North Bend area. This years bottling produced approxiamtely 1000 cases and next year Pearl and Stone hopes to continue with an increase in bottling of 1400 cases.

Old Rickety is named for the Old Rickety Bridge that is found along a hiking trail and is a popular spot to jump off into the river.
Pearl and Stone Wine Co. tasting room, located at 43015 SE 114th St in North Bend, is open Saturday from 12 pm – 5 pm (until 6 PM in spring and summer). New release wines will be available on April 15th.

Convergence Zone Cellars

Convergence Zone Cellars is a family-owned and operated winery located in North Bend. Owner/Winemaker Scott Greenberg began as a home winemaker in 2004 and made his first commercial wine in 2008. Due to the unpredictable weather here in the Pacific Northwest, the winery started in the middle of a Covergence Zone weather pattern, hence the name. With an annual case production of 1100 cases, the grapes for Convergence Zone Cellars wines are from some of Washington’s best vineyards in the Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills and Columbia Valley areas. Building on the motto of ‘Where Craft and Culture Meet’, Scott produces small batch, award-winning, premium quality wines that he hopes you will like to drink as much as he does.

Scott is also currently on the City of North Bend Planning Commission (a volunteer position). Scott and his wife Monica moved to North Bend in 2014, but are long time residents of the Seattle area.

Current releases from Convergence Zone Cellars include: *Drizzle Pinot Gris: 100% Pinot Gris from Ciel du Cheval vineyard, Red Mountain AVA. Drizzle is the only Pinot Gris available from Red Mountain. Vintages currently available are 2015 and 2016.
*Sunbreak Chenin Blanc: 100% old vine Chenin Blanc from Upland vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA. Vintages currently available are 2016 and 2017 (new release).
*Three Forks Winery Rose’: 100% Pinot Gris from Ciel du Cheval vineyard, Red Mountain AVA. 2018 vintage is a new release.
*2015 Storm Front: Blend of Merlot (53%), Cabernet Sauvignon (23%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Petit Verdot (9%). Columbia Valley AVA
*2014 Squall Line: Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Malbec (11%). Columbia Valley AVA
*2014 Mistral: Grenache (63%), Syrah (32%), Mourvedre (5%). Red Mountain AVA
*2015 Fly Rod Cellars Prince Nymph: 50% Cabernet Franc, 31% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot. Columbia Valley AVA

Convergence Zone Cellars is located at 10808 428th Av. SE in North Bend.
New hours for 2019 are Saturdays 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.

A Bit of History

Snoqualmie is the English pronunciation of “sah-KOH-koh” or “Sdob-dwahibbluh,” a Salish word meaning moon. As a spiritual place, it gave birth to many legends. The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, is a federally recognized tribe of Snoqualmie people. They are Coast Salish Native American peoples from the Snoqualmie Valley.

Growing wine grapes in the Snoqualmie Valley is often a challenge, but Snoqualmie winery Chateau Noelle is proving that it can be done.

Chateau NoElle Vineyards & Winery

Tom and Lorrie Wilson will tell you that “Chateau NoElle is truly the manor built for our children, Elle and Nolan. It is a place of genuine connections between friends and neighbors, it is a place of shared stories over shared glasses, it is a place of laughter and love.”

Long time Snoqualmie residents Tom and Lorrie Wilson, set down roots on their beautiful property in 1998. With a desire to be stewards of the land and with a responsibility to leave the world a better place than they found it, a “Trial” Vineyard was planted in 2015. Located at an elevation 800 feet on the west slope of the Cascade foothills on the 47th parallel, the cool climate is similiar to many of the most renowned wine growing regions of the world. For this reason the “Trial” vineyard was planted with red varietals, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Rondo along with white varietals of Pinot Gris, Sauvingnon Blanc and Siegerrebe. After two years of establishing the root systems and trunks, the first small crop was harvested in 2018 and yeilded a few cases of each variety to share with the Chateau NoElle founding wine club members.

In 2017, more vineyards were planted which is included three clones of Pinot Noir – the “go to” Dijon clones 115, 667, and 777 along with Auxerrois (cousin to Chardonnay) grown in the Alsace region of France and Iskorka a grape that hails from Russia with a beautiful bouquet and flavor profile similar to Pinot Gris. Tom and Lorrie will evaluate the performance of these vines in 2019’ and take a small crop from those vines that are ready to support fruit.
Additionally in 2017’, Chateau NoElle also took over the care of the Hollywood Hill vineyard in Woodinville, WA which is approximately 1 acre planted in 2004. Two clones of Pinot Noir (Dijon 667 & 777) make up 2/3’s of the rows and Chardonnay (Dijon clone 76) makes up the balance. The 2017 wines from this vineyard have been well received (the Chardonnay sold out) with the Pinot Noir set to formally release this month.

Not done yet, in the spring of 2019, they will site prep, install trellising, and plant another acre of vines in Snoqualmie. Approximately 2/3’s of an acre will be planted to 4 clones of Pinot Noir; 113 (said to be the most aromatic/finessed of the Dijon clones) 115 (backbone & structure), 667 (spice & pepper), & 777 (red & dark fruits). The remaining 1/3 of an acre will be planted to Chardonnay – Dijon clones 76 & 95. Chateau NoElle does currently source grapes from other areas in Washington to produce their wines.

Chateau NoElle available wines include:

  • “Eve” 1st pick Riesling – 2016 Spring Ranch Naches Heights. 2017 Bacchus Columbia Valley.
  • “Sarah” Late Harvest Riesling – 2016 Spring Ranch Naches Heights. 2017 Bacchus Columbia Valley.
  • “Delilah” Gerwurtzraminer – 2016 Spring Ranch Naches Heights.
  • “Salome” Chardonnay – 2017 Hollywood Hill (nearly sold out).

Spring Release – May 11 2019, 2018 Eve, Sarah, and Salome.

  • “Revelation” Pinot Noir – 2016 Devorah Creek Puget Sound (almost sold out).
  • 2017 Hollywood Hill (3/22/2019 release).
  • “Communion Syrah – 2016 Spring Ranch Naches Heights.
  • “Numinous” Claret (Cab Franc/Merlot/Syrah blend) – 2016 Washington State.

Fall Release – September 1, 2019, 2017 new “Numinous” Claret blend (Cab Franc/Merlot/Cab Sauv/Malbec/Carmenere), “Ascension” Malbec, “Unity” Cab Sauv, and “Communion” Syrah.

Chateau NoElle is currently open by appointment only but Tom and Lorrie would love to have you come out to visit, walk through the vineyards and taste some of their handcrafted wines. Chateau NoElle is located at 36105 SE 89th Pl, Snoqualmie, WA

A Bit of History

Many of the exterior shots for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series and movie (Fire Walk with Me) were filmed in Snoqualmie and in the neighboring towns of North Bend and Fall City.

Sigillo Cellars

In 2005 the Seal family paired up with former winemaker Steve Bailey and friends to make wine for personal consumption out of his garage. With the passing of time they were able to source better fruit, hone the processes, and share their newfound passion with others. Following a great 2009 crush, father and son team, Mike and Ryan started talking about sharing their passion for good wine with more than just their close friends. Then in 2010 Mike and Ryan Seal along with Ryan’s childhood friend Scott founded Sigillo Cellars, an Italian translation of their last name.

With the help and loyalty of family, friends and the Snoqualmie Valley Community Sigillo Cellars opened a tasting room in the beautiful historic Sunset Theater in the heart of downtown Snoqualmie.

Under the guidance of former winemaker, Steve, Sigillo Cellars broke into the wine industry that first year with a 400+ case production. By 2012 production had increased to just over 1300 cases and continue to increase with a portfolio of traditional Bordeaux and Rhone varietals as well as a few other favorites.

To maintain their belief that wine should be
experienced and not merely tasted Sigillo Cellars has expanded their inviting, family friendly tasting room to include light fare for those who want a longer experience, a new outdoor seating area for the Mt. Si viewing experience, and live entertainment for those who want an evening experience.
  • Sigillo Cellars new releases include:
  • 2017 Columbia Valley Chardonnay
  • 2018 SUD which is comprised of 50% Viognier, 27% Chardonnay and 23% Roussanne
  • 2018 SnoValley which is a blend of 50% Viognier, 27% Chardonnay and 23% Roussanne
  • 2016 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sunset, a 2016 Columbia Valley Red Blend of 36% Merlot, 28% Cab Sauv, 18% Malbec, 9% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Carmenere
  • 2016 Columbia Valley Malbec

Located at 8086 Railroad Ave Snoqualmie, WA, tasting room hours are:

Monday 3PM – 8PM
Wednesday and Thursday 3PM – 8PM
Friday and Saturday 12PM – 10PM
Sunday 12PM – 5PM

A New Winery in the Snoqualmie Valley

Orenda Winery

Orenda Winery, whose name was chosen because the word means “the balance of energy between all things” is thrilled to release their first vintage in June.

Through immense serendipity, Xander and Samantha Kent stumbled upon the property of Pleasant Hill Estate in Carnation, WA during the fall of 2017. Pleasant Hill, is a 3.3-acre historic farm estate with a boutique winery and event center, whose owners were looking for someone to continue using the property as a winery. Feeling deeply inspired, a plan and a new winery began to form. The Kent’s reached out to friend Mark Bosso, Cellar Master for Baer Winery in Woodinville, about joining their venture. Mark brought his knowledge and passion to the position of head winemaker. Xander has space on the property for his beekeeping and honey making pursuits. The Kent’s plan on offering honey at local farmer’s markets. Samantha is the estate’s manager and marketing/event coordinator, but also works with Mark to add her passion for wine chemistry.

Wine Maker Mark Bosso has been a part of 13 vintages for six different wineries in both the northern and southern hemisphere. Working for three years as cellar master at Baer Winery, Mark is now taking on the role of head wine maker at Orenda.
This April Orenda Winery plans to bottle:
•2018 Riesling (old vine), Columbia Valley.
•2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley.
•2016 Merlot, Columbia Valley (75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon).
•2016 Balance, Columbia Valley (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc): This is Orenda’s flagship wine.
•2016 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley
•2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot).

This June’s release will be 500 cases of 2016 vintage, with plans to expand to 1000 cases by next year. Currently available to host weddings and events, Orenda Winery looks forward to opening a tasting room soon, and also plans to sell their harvested honey.

The Snoqualmie Valley has always been a location that attracts nature lovers, hikers, railroad enthusiasts, rafters and kayakers, and now the Valley is becoming a perfect destination for wine lovers as well.

For more information about the Snoqualmie Valley Wine Experience you can visit any of the wineries listed above, as well as Cherry Valley Winery, Mount Si Winery, William Grasse Wine Estate, and Fivash Winery.

Group photos supplied by Pearl and Stone Wine Co. and Sigillo Cellars.

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

Cooking with Chardonnay

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf

Since March is Taste Washington Wine Month, I used a Washington Chardonnay from Maryhill Winery© for the following recipes. After using the Chardonnay in both recipes there is still enough left for two glasses to go with dinner.

Many of us have opened a bottle of wine while we are cooking up a meal, pouring some for ourselves into a glass and adding a splash to the dish while its simmering on the stove. Wine can be a very versatile ingredient to cook with and can add a new layer of flavor to your favorite recipes.

Cooking with wine is an often misunderstood technique used in the kitchen. When you add wine to a dish which is cooking, some or all the alcohol evaporates as it simmers and what you are left with is the concentrated flavors of the wine. It’s important to understand the basic flavor profile of the wine you are using. The sugars in a sweet wine will become far more concentrated as the wine cooks down, and the tannins and acids in a red wine will disperse those flavors as it cooks.

When a recipe calls for a white wine, the most important thing to remember is that the wine should be one that you enjoy drinking on its own. A poor-quality wine can ruin a fantastic recipe. Luckily, you can find great-tasting wines at very affordable prices. So, don’t limit yourself to the typical grocery shelf “cooking wine”.

Using a Vibrant and crisp flavored white wine like a Chardonnay for cream sauces, gravy, and white meat adds another level of rich and creamy flavor. When adding wine to a cream sauce or gravy it is important to reduce your wine prior to blending in the cream to keep the acidity balanced.

“If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” -Julia Child

For absolutely the best pork loin recipe I’ve ever made, you need to try this Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy. Cooked with wine, garlic and herbs, sliced thin, and served with a beautiful wine gravy. Add a Barley and Mushroom Risotto for a special night at home, or a dish your guests will not forget.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy & Barley and Mushroom Risotto

These recipes are all about the wine, fresh herbs and quality ingredients.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy

Pork loin cooked on the stove-top with wine and herbs, sliced and served with a delicious, light creamy gravy. If using a pork loin roast, look for one with a little bit of fat for ample drippings.

1/4 cup garlic olive oil
5 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced in half lengthwise)
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves chopped
2 lb center cut boneless pork loin
1 1/4 cups Chardonnay (plus a splash more to deglaze the pan with)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic, rosemary and sage, stirring for about one minute. Add the pork loin to the pan, carefully placing it on top of the herbs. Saute the pork for about 5 minutes on each side, then remove it to a plate. Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook until the smell of the alcohol has disappeared, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Lower the heat under the pan to low-medium heat. Return the pork to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Partially cover with a lid and cook for about 1 1/2 hours ( Rely on a thermometer to check for internal temperature of 145 degrees), flipping the pork and scraping the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it, making sure there continues to be some liquid in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of warm water if necessary.

When the pork is cooked through (if you want to test with a thermometer, it should be about 140-145° internal temperature.) Remove pork to a cutting board to rest and cover with loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil to help retain the heat while it rests.

Meanwhile, increase the heat under the liquid in the pan to medium. If your pan has little liquid, deglaze with a splash of white wine. Stir well to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook until the alcohol smell disappears (about 1-2 minutes). Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat a few minutes, to allow the chicken stock to heat through a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cream. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring the sauce constantly, until it thickens a bit and is warmed through. Avoid vigorously boiling. A gentle simmer is fine. (*If your sauce doesn’t thicken up, mix 2 Tbsp. cornstarch with 2 Tbsp. water and add a bit at a time to your sauce until it thickens to your liking.) Taste sauce and add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

When the sauce is ready, slice the pork very thinly and place on to a serving platter. Pour the warm gravy over-top to serve.

Barley and Mushroom Risotto

Barley cooked risotto-style, with beef broth, garlic and mushrooms and a touch of Parmesan. It’s full of chewy, nutty deliciousness.

3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms about
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
4 cups beef broth hot
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Begin by heating the 4 cups of beef broth in a saucepan and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring regularly until the mushrooms are tender and lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the barley and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 3-4 minutes.

Add 1 ladle of the hot beef broth and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until nearly all of the broth has been absorbed. You want a consistent simmer, adjust heat to that point. Continue adding ladles of broth one at a time, allowing to cook until the liquid is absorbed before adding another. Cook until all the broth is added. Test the barley, you want it to be al dente. If it is not quite there, add another ladle of hot water and cook a bit longer. When cooked, stir in grated Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with additional grated Parmesan.

With the addition of the Barley Risotto this isn’t a quick, weeknight meal, but it’s not a huge time investment either. Two perfect recipes for a weekend dinner or entertaining, and Chardonnay left from the bottle to enjoy.

These recipes were adapted from a Food & Wine version.

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

Saying Goodbye to the Winter Blues with Blueberries

I am fortunate to live in a town that has one of the best You Pick Blueberry Farms in the state of Washington. Each year around the first of August Bybee Farms Blueberry Farm opens for a short season that usually only lasts about two weeks. For the last 10 plus years I have been there on opening day first thing in the morning with buckets at the ready to fill with the beautiful dime size blueberries that are bursting on the plants. As a family we eat a lot of blueberries year round, in smoothies, muffins, on yogurt for breakfast and of course in blueberry pie. For this reason we pick between 40-50 pounds of blueberries on opening day and then process them to store in the freezer in 2 cup bags to be enjoyed until it is blueberry season again.

Flash freezing the blueberries on a cookie sheet in the freezer makes bagging the blueberries easier.

Today I want to share two recipes that are perfect for frozen blueberries.

Blueberry Tequila Sour Cream Pie

Begin by putting 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain really well) in a bowl with 2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint, 1 Tbsp lime juice and 1/4 cup of silver Tequila. Mix well and let it set for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. For this recipe I used a Blanco Tequila from Tequila Corcel.

Prepare 1 deep dish unbaked pie crust with your favorite pie crust recipe or a store bought pre-made pie crust.

2 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cold butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare pie crust by covering the crust’s edges with foil. This will help to keep the edges from getting too brown.
To make the filling, combine sugar and flour together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in sour cream, egg, vanilla, salt and nutmeg over medium speed for about five minutes. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into pie crust and bake for 30 minutes.
While pie is baking, prepare the topping by crumbling together the flour, sugar, and butter with a fork.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle on the topping. Return to the oven and bake for 10-15 more minutes until topping is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.

The rich creamy Tequila Blueberry Sour Cream Pie pairs perfectly with a Syrah wine or a similar red like this Ruah Proprietary Red Blend from Washington Winery Desert Wind. With a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, this Ruah offers cocoa notes that linger on the finish, with a mixture of plum and vanilla bean flavors.

Served slightly warm with a glass of wine, this dessert is guaranteed to chase away the winter blues.

Blueberry and Pink Peppercorn Margarita
A Blueberry Margarita is just the right winter drink to use frozen blueberries. With the addition of pink peppercorns this Margarita gets kicked up a notch. This drink has a flavorful balance of sweetness from the blueberries and peppery essence from the pink peppercorns. The pink peppercorns add a unique twist to a typical blueberry Margarita.

For this Blueberry and Pink Peppercorn Margarita I used a Resposado Tequila from Tequila Corcel.

The first step to making the Margarita is to make a Blueberry Concentrate. Combine 3 cups of frozen Blueberries with the zest and juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon of crushed pink peppercorns with 1 cup of raw sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, while stirring bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until blueberries have broken down, continue to cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Strain blueberry mixture through a cheesecloth or fine sieve; let cool.

Margarita Ingredients for one drink:
1.5 ounces of tequila
1 ounce of lime juice
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce of Blueberry Concentrate
½ cup of ice
Garnish: Wooden skewer of blueberries and salt with crushed pink peppercorn rim

In a cocktail shaker add tequila, lime juice, triple sec, blueberry concentrate, and ice.
Shake and pour serving into glass with salt and peppercorn rim. Top off the margarita with a splash of club soda.
Garnish with blueberries on a wooden skewer

A winter treat with the taste of summer in a glass.

Now all that is left to do is sit back and wait for Spring to arrive. Cheers!

Home Cocktail Ginspiration.

Creating great tasting cocktails at home is easy once you have some recipes that really inspire you. Today I would like to give you some Ginspiration with two refreshing fruit and herb Gin cocktails and a classic Dry Gin Martini.

Two of the best ingredients for a delicious cocktail are fresh produce and a well crafted spirit.

A well-crafted home Gin cocktail begins with a quality Gin that can stand alone and stand out when introduced to other ingredients. Over the last several decades there has been an impressive amount of innovation in the production of gin. Many new distilleries are experimenting with the botanicals used to flavor gin, which has enormously expanded alternative aromas and flavors. Drawing from seasonal botanicals, as well as foraged wild plants, there is an explosion of new gins which span the spectrum of traditional to unconventional.

The current gin revolution has been spurred by the creative minds of the new artisans.  The United States now has over 600 craft distillers, many of them are starting with Gin production because unlike brown spirits that require a period of extended maturation, gin requires little or no aging. While new distiller’s brown spirits are quietly maturing, clear spirits like Gin and Vodka allow a new distillery to create revenue.

For these cocktails I have selected three distinctive American Gins that paired perfectly with the cocktail ingredients. For the Red Grapefruit Gin Fizz, I used California Distillery Loch & Union. This Gin has a classic flavor that I think is enhanced by the additional ingredients in the drink. The Blackberry Gin Fizz recipe incorporated a Gin produced by Northern California Distillery SipSong Spirits, and was chosen for the Gin’s unique Italian Juniper taste. Keeping true to a Classic Dry Gin Martini I wanted to highlight the Gin, so I chose Builders Botanical Gin from Restless Spirits crafted in North Kansas City, Missouri. Thinking about the flavors of the Gin that you use in your home cocktails will definitely enhance the overall outcome of the drink.

Red Grapefruit Gin Fizz
Serves 2

Infused Cardamom Rosemary Syrup
8 cardamom pods
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 rosemary sprigs

2 oz infused simple syrup
3 oz Gin
1/2 cup red grapefruit juice
splash of Prosecco

Garnish rosemary sprigs

In a small saucepan bring sugar, water to a simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add cardamom pods and rosemary sprigs and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the rosemary and cardamom and use right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To make the cocktail add infused simple syrup, gin and red grapefruit juice over ice in a cocktail mixer and stir. Using a strainer, divide the mixture in two and pour directly into glasses filled with fresh ice. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

A splash of Prosecco.

Blackberry Gin Fizz with Juniper & Thyme

12 frozen blackberries
1/4 lemon, chopped into little pieces
2 sprigs of thyme
10 juniper berries
1 cup Raw Sugar/1 Cup Water
Club Soda

Simple Syrup Instructions:
Combine water and raw sugar with crushed Juniper Berries and Thyme sprigs into a small pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain mixture to discard juniper berry and Thyme. Use immediately or keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Divide the blackberries and lemons evenly between each tumbler. When you’re ready to serve, use a muddler to mash the berries and lemon until the fruit is crushed. Add 1 oz Infused Simple Syrup to each glass and fill each glass with ice. Top with 1.5 oz gin and a dash of club soda, stir well and serve.

The Classic Gin Martini

2 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
​1 dash orange or Angostura bitters
Garnish: 3 olives

TRAGANO GREEK ORGANICS GREEN OLIVES from Zēlos™ Authentic Greek Artisan

Steps to Make It:
In a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, combine the gin and vermouth, pouring more or less vermouth to your taste.
Stir for 30 seconds.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Add a dash of orange or Angostura bitters.
Garnish with Olives.

Each of these exceptional gins highlight different botanical flavors, from juniper berries to pine needles to lime peels. The continuing rise of Artisan Distilleries make it so easy to create fantastic gin cocktails. Have some fun mixing and matching with different kinds of ingredients to bring out the flavors of the gin or keep it classic with a Dry Gin Martini.


More information about the Gins used in these recipes can be found here:

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

2019 Seattle Wine and Food Experience

Highlights from this years fabulous Grand Tasting event of the Seattle Wine and Food Experience held at the Bell Harbor International Convention Center in Seattle.

Celebrating in the Emerald City at the 11th Annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

With an itinerary of four distinctive epicurean events, the eleventh annual weekend of local feasting and tasting included Comfort (Thursday, Feb. 21), POP! Bubbles & Seafood (Friday, Feb. 22), the extremely popular Grand Tasting (Saturday, Feb. 22), and a brand new event Sunday Supper (Sunday, Feb. 23).

This annual Grand Tasting extravaganza of all things edible and drinkable included a variety of scrumptious small plates.

The Grand Tasting featured restaurants and chefs who were included in the February issue of Seattle Magazine’s list of 100 Best Things to Eat. These mouth watering dishes were a major highlight and included many top culinary talents serving delicious gourmet bites.

The Chef In The Hat, Thierry Rautureau, the talent behind Loulay Kitchen & Bar and Luc restaurants, brought a French twist to the Grand Tasting with his Hot Chocolate and Toast. Hot chocolate, made with fresh milk and powdered cocoa from Seattle’s own Theo Chocolate. Chef Rautureau’s toast incorporates pieces of brioche, grilled to perfection and served with salted butter.

Sweet sensations were plentiful and included some of the best baked goods in the Pacific Northwest. Baker Mi Kim of Raised Doughnuts was serving up some beautiful Raspberry Doughnut Holes, Seattle’s A La Mode Pies and Chef Chris Porter offered a variety of small bite pies. Chef Chera Amlag of Hood Famous Bakeshop wowed with a Ube Cheesecake and Seattle’s Wandering Goose Chef Heather Earnhardt baked up a rustic Cherry Hand Pie.

A Beautiful 2015 Columbia Valley Vineyard Syrah from Woodinville’s Damsel Cellars.

Washington and Oregon Wineries played a key role at the Grand Tasting, providing wines to suit any palate. I really enjoyed the diversity of the wines, and the conversations with the producers added to the overall experience. Event organizers hit the mark by arranging the venue in a way which allowed you to easily stroll, or taste your way through the Convention Center.

A few of my favorite sips from the Grand Tasting included wines from Silvara Cellars in Leavenworth, WA., Pearl and Stone Wine Co. in North Bend, WA., Double Canyon and Seven Hills from Walla Walla, WA., and some absolutely fabulous Mead Wines from Sky River Mead in Woodinville, WA.

The event brought Spirits front and center displaying some of the best selections of an ever growing number of innovative distilleries making handcrafted, locally-distilled spirits from local ingredients. The unique and large gathering of distilleries at the Grand Tasting included WhistlePig® Rye Whiskey from Vermont, Idaho Distillery 44° North® was pouring their flavorful Potato Vodkas, and from Snohomish, WA. Skip Rock Distillers shared their variety of spirits.

Brews and Ciders helped round out the beverages offered. Matchless Brewing from Tumwater, WA really caught my attention with their ingenious use of flavors and easy drinking brews.

For a Good Cause

The Seattle Wine and Food Experience benefits Northwest Harvest, Washington’s leading hunger relief agency. Supporting a statewide network of 375 food banks, meal programs, and high-need schools with a focus on improving equity in Washington’s food system.

Seattle Wine and Food Experience is a whole weekend filled with the best wine, food, and beer that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, with over 200 vendors. This sampling from the Saturday Grand Tasting event is just one of the reasons for you to mark you calendar and get ready to attend the 12th Annual SWFE next year! With four days to choose from there will be something for everyone.

I hope to see you there next year.

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