Barolo: One of the Great Red Wines of the World

By John ~ October 16th, 2013

For many years, I’ve heard Barolo referred to as the “King of Wines”; but when I looked at a glass of Barolo, it looked like a wimpy wine because it was light red in color and somewhat transparent. Consequently, I had a hard time getting excited about it, especially when I looked at the price tag on what was touted as a good bottle of Barolo. However, after our trip to Italy’s Piedmont region this past summer, the home of Barolo, I’m now a believer (and I believe that the black, opaque Riedel glass is perfect for Barolo). Even though they don’t look like it, Barolos tend to be rich, deeply concentrated, full-bodied wines with pronounced tannins and acidity.

The eye opener for me came when we visited the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo. Not only did they have fantastic exhibits about the history of the Barolo zone and the establishment of the Barolo DOCG, but also they had a great tasting bar and knowledgeable English-speaking staff who could tell the Barolo story. The Barolo zone is located in the Langhe Hills of the Piedmont wine region, southwest of the city of Alba, in the Cuneo province of Northwest Italy.

One of the most significant things I learned on our visit was that the Barolo zone consists of production around eleven different communes (towns) with three distinctly different soil types. LaMorra, Cherasco, Roddi, and Verduno area vineyards are in lighter sandy soil and produce less tannic, fruity Barolos. The Barolo and Novello areas consist of a mixture of sand and clay and produce wines with a more harmonic bouquet that are fairly tannic. The soils of Castiglione Falletto, Montforte d’ Alba, Serralunga d’ Alba, Diano d’Alba, and Grizane Cavour are clay and produce the big powerful Barolos that are intense and structured.

Historically, the three main Barolo towns were Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, and Serralunga d’Alba. Even today, almost 90% of all Barolos are produced in those three plus Monforte d’ Alba and La Morra. With this new knowledge, I can match up the type of Barolo I’ll most likely prefer and buy from a producer in that commune, which will be listed on the label.

While Barolos have been made for over a century as a dry red wine, vintage variation was historically high because the Nebbiolo grape (Barolos are 100% Nebbiolo) is a slow-ripening grape with harvest taking place in mid to late October. In more recent years, global warming has had a beneficial influence on the Barolo zone with increased summer temperatures followed by mild autumns, contributing to a string of successful vintages over the last twenty years.

Traditionally, Barolos were produced by fermenting the Nebbiolo grapes on the skins for at least three weeks, and then aging them in large, wooden casks for years. To be labeled as a Barolo, the wine must be aged at least 3 years; a Barolo Riserva must have 5 years of aging. In recent times, more modernist producers began to cut fermentation times to around ten days and then aged the wines in small barrels to cut down on the tannins and make the wine more approachable at a younger age. The controversies between traditionalists and modernists have been called the “Barolo Wars.” From the Barolos that I’ve tasted, it appears that weather along with advances in viticulture, such as better canopy management and controlling yields, have led to riper grapes being harvested earlier with more developed tannins, while preserving fruit flavors and aromas more than in the past.

While our resident Wine Peeps food expert, LaGayle, could give you many good pairing suggestions, I noticed on our trip that Italians typically pair their Barolos with meat dishes and heavy pastas. While good entry level Barolos often tip the scales close to $50 per bottle and the best, older vintages, in the hundreds of dollars, Barolos age very well, and many aficionados won’t drink one less than 10 to 15 years old.

Two good entry-level Barolos that I would recommend are the Paolo Conterno Riva del Bric Barolo (Montforte d’ Alba) at $37+, and the Vietti Castiglione Barolo (Castiglione Falletto) at $38+. I tried the 2008 vintage of each, which were both still a little young but have an excellent future with good aging potential. I encourage you to give Barolo a try. If you like robust red wine, I believe you’ll like it.


Filed under: Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Red Wine, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25

Challenging Wine Pairing: Roasted Eye of Round with Shallot Sauce

By LaGayle ~ October 9th, 2013

While the roasted eye of round roast was the main course for this challenging wine pairing dinner, it was the shallot sauce that added something extra to the meat. Roasted beef can get a little boring if you’re not careful. I love beef, but I do like to see what can be done to give it a little more personality. In the case of this meal, the shallot sauce was the star. It was an easy sauce to make with ingredients that included shallots, red wine, and country Dijon mustard, but it certainly added to the overall flavors of the roasted meat as well as the entire meal. In addition to the roasted eye of round roast with the shallot sauce, we had a mixed green salad with fresh raspberries drizzled with blackberry ginger balsamic vinegar, seasoned green beans with sautéed red bell peppers, and rosemary roasted tri-colored fingerling potatoes. In addition to being yummy, the various side dishes made a very colorful presentation.

As always, I referred to my favorite book, What to Drink with What You Eat, and decided to try a Cabernet Franc and a Merlot with this meal. We selected the 2009 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot, both from Washington State. Both wines were excellent, but the unanimous choice as the best pairing was the Cabernet Franc.

What would you have paired with this meal? Your suggestions for future challenging pairings are always welcome.

Bon Appétit!

2009 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc (Riverbend Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, dark purple. Nice nose with black cherry and spice aromas. More black cherry and spice as well as herbs and a touch of earth come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery $30

2009 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot (Stone Tree Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, dark purple. Nose is a bit tight at first and then plum aromas come through. Plum and black pepper dominate the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery $30

Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Challenging Wine Pairing, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Food & Wine, Merlot, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Apaltagua Unoaked Reserva Chardonnay

By Kori ~ October 2nd, 2013

Would you like a quick suggestion for a good wine to drink tonight (or this weekend) that won’t break your budget and is widely available? If so, you might want to check out the 2012 Apaltagua Unoaked Reserva Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley of Chile.

Our selection criteria include:

  • A very good Quality rating of >=3.5 stars (out of 5)
  • A price tag of <=$20
  • Must be widely available

Viña Apaltagua, founded by American businessman Edward Tutunjian, produces 235,000 cases annually, which are exported to 40 different countries. Apaltagua has winemaking projects in six different valleys in Chile. This Reserva Chardonnay comes from the Casablanca Valley. The Casablanca Valley was Chile’s first cool-climate wine region. With its cool Mediterranean climate and pronounced maritime influence, the Casablanca Valley is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

“A lovely pale yellow hue, our Apaltagua Reserva Chardonnay has flecks of green, and is clean and bright. Aromatically, it reveals hints of tropical fruit, such as passion fruit and pineapple. In the mouth it leaves a persistent note of lemon peel and melon.” –Winemaker Benjamin Mei

2012 Apaltagua Unoaked Reserva Chardonnay (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Chardonnay. Pale, greenish straw yellow in color. Aromatic with lemon, lime, and tropical fruit on both the nose and palate. Dry and medium-bodied with tart acidity and a long, crisp finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $12; Available elsewhere, $11 to $15

Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, Chardonnay, Chilean Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Good Everyday “Go-To” Wines Under $10

By John ~ September 25th, 2013

LaGayle and I sip a glass or two of wine virtually every evening, either just sitting out on the deck talking and/or as an accompaniment with dinner. Unless we are having guests or it is a special occasion, we like to keep the cost moderate on these everyday wines. Over the years, we have developed several “Go-To” favorites that seem to be consistently good from vintage to vintage. In that group there is one sparkling wine, the Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut (Columbia Valley, Washington); two white whites, the Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) and the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington); and one red wine, the Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet (South Australia, Australia).

All four of these wines are well above average in quality, give you excellent bang for your buck, and are readily available almost anywhere you go to buy wine. We often buy one or more of these to keep in our hotel room when we are traveling to sip in the evening after a day of sightseeing.

Domaine Ste. Michelle is one of the largest sparkling wine houses in the United States, producing more than 300,000 cases each year. DSM has been producing sparkling wine for over 30 years, and Rick Casqueiro has been head winemaker since 1994. While this Brut is good enough to celebrate a special occasion, its price point makes it an excellent weeknight or Sunday brunch bubbly. Available at Total Wine and More for $7.57.

“Sparkling wine is a wonderful yet often overlooked accompaniment to food. Bright acidity and effervescence cleanses the palate, while the delicate flavors complement a wide array of dishes….” –Winemaker Rick Casqueiro

Regular readers know that as far as white wines go, we Wine Peeps love Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. But as far as LaGayle is concerned, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the best wine period. And, Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc is one of her favorite wines from New Zealand. It is crisp, refreshing, and an excellent sipper no matter whether you are sitting on the deck on a sunny afternoon or curled up with a book on a winter’s evening. Available at Total Wine and More for $7.57.

“Intense aromas of pineapple, passion fruit and guava [and LaGayle would say grapefruit, too], complemented by flinty minerality and herbal notes of nettle and cut tomato plant. The nettle and cut tomato plant characters give richness to the palate, and there is an abundance of luscious fruit sweetness, especially passion fruit and pineapple notes. The wine has excellent presence and mouth feel, with balanced acidity and a generous finish.” –Nobilo

Riesling has become known as Washington State’s signature white variety. Washington is the largest Riesling producing state in the United States. And, Washington State’s own Chateau Ste. Michelle is the largest Riesling producer in the world. Chateau Ste. Michelle makes a number of different Rieslings of different styles and price points, including this off-dry Columbia Valley Riesling. Available at Total Wine and More for $5.97.

“Our Columbia Valley Riesling is a blend of Riesling from throughout Washington’s Columbia Valley. We craft it to be a refreshing, off-dry Riesling vintage after vintage. The wine delivers sweet lime and peach character with subtle mineral notes. This is our ‘any day Riesling’ that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods.” –Bob Bertheau, Head Winemaker

Penfolds is one of the oldest and most well respected wineries in Australia. Today, Penfolds is most famous for its top of the line Grange wine that often sells for $500 or more. This Koonunga Hill wine is from one of their value lines. Nevertheless, according to some experts,  it is a wine that can age for 20 years, which is remarkable for a wine at this price point. Available at Total Wine and More for $7.97.

“Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet is very much a reflection of the Penfolds winemaking style and philosophy. Sourced from premium vineyards across South Australia, the wine is known for its full-flavoured style with excellent Shiraz and Cabernet fruit, firm yet well-rounded structure and balanced oak. Made as a traditional ‘Australian blend’, the Shiraz component provides fleshy fruit flavour while Cabernet provides a frame of fine grained tannins.” –Penfolds

I highly recommend that you put a few bottles of each of these wines in your cellar (wine rack, closet, or wherever you keep your wine), and you’ll have some very enjoyable evenings without breaking the bank.

Filed under: American Wine, Australian Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, New Zealand Wine, Red Wine, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, Sparkling Wine, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Women of Washington Wine: Karen Wade of Fielding Hills Winery

By Kori ~ September 18th, 2013

Today’s post is part of a series featuring the Women of Washington Wine. In an industry once dominated by men, more and more women are joining the ranks as winery owners, vineyard owners, and winemakers. Being a woman myself, I am fascinated by these women and what they have done and continue to do. Through this series, I hope to introduce you to some of the brightest female faces in the Washington wine industry.

Karen Wade and her husband Mike own and operate Fielding Hills Winery in Wenatchee, which is one of the top wineries in Washington State. They are longtime apple and cherry growers who turned a middle portion of their orchard near Mattawa into a vineyard. Their Riverbend Vineyard, planted in 1997, is in the Wahluke Slope AVA and is their sole source of grapes. Strictly red wine producers, Fielding Hills’ current annual production is 1,400 cases. We have tasted their wines from their inaugural vintage in 2000 through their current 2010 vintage and continue to be impressed. They are so consistent; it is not a question of whether their wines will be good but where they will fall on the quality spectrum between “very good” and “Wow!”

Recently, Karen was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me and our Wine Peeps readers.

Highlights from Q&A with Karen Wade:

How did you first get involved in the wine business?  
I guess I became involved in the wine industry by saying “I do” almost 30 years ago to my visionary husband. As his life partner, I held on tight as he fulfilled his dreams of becoming a first class winemaker. We have been a team on this journey, which began with planting our vineyards in 1997.

What were the steps that led to where you are now?  
We are fortunate to have a background in both agriculture and business. Our main business is apples and cherries so many of the first steps to begin a winery were different for us. We had the land and basic things like tractors that can be a real challenge in a startup. Owning and growing our own grapes has been a key to our brand. Our first step is to grow the best grapes possible and then never cut any corners in the process of bringing the wine from the dirt to the table.

Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey?
Mike and I have split the business into two parts. He makes the wine, and I handle the sales, marketing, and the business end. I think the industry as a whole is not gender-biased; however, there is a lot of grunt work in the actual production, and there are many things I cannot do just out of sheer strength during the production.

What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
My advice would be the same if I were talking to a man or woman. If you want to be an owner, go to school to learn how to run a business followed by education in the wine industry through apprenticeship or education. There are a lot of career options in the wine industry from working directly with the grapes in the vineyard to managing a retail business and staff in a tasting room. The industry is young enough in Washington that there are many ground entry opportunities.

What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?  
About 4-5 years ago, I predicted that wineries would start selling or closing, and that is exactly what is happening. It is a labor intensive industry encumbered by unique legislation concerning alcohol. It sounds like a romantic business to sit in your vineyard and sip the fruit of your labor, but I think we are seeing many cases of burnout after 5-10 years of production. Making wine involves a lot of grunt work. The industry exploded about 7 years ago and now it is interesting to see who will stay the course. I think the general wine enthusiastic consumer is a winner here with so many great Washington wines at their fingertips. I’m not sure if we will ever gain the worldwide respect we deserve for Washington wines, though. We have the quality to achieve the respect, but it is a different world now from when Napa first stepped onto the scene.

As a side note, we pulled out Red Delicious apples to plant Riverbend Vineyard, which is the single source of grapes for our wines. The Red Delicious apple market was not doing well 15 years ago so we planted wine grapes to diversify agriculturally and to support Mike’s winemaking plans. Today, if we were wearing our apple hat, we would pull out the grapes and plant some of the fabulous boutique apple varieties that are becoming incredibly popular. Don’t worry; we are not going to pull out the grapes, but you may want to watch and see if that starts happening, as there were a lot of grapes planted 10 years ago in Washington. Vines start producing product sooner than a tree, but with wine grapes, you have to wait 1-3 years before you see a return on investment and with tree fruit, once the tree is producing, you can see a return every year.

I understand that you and Mike recently decided to hold your wines longer before release, releasing them three years from vintage rather than two. What does this mean for your customers?
I have had nothing but positive comments about holding our wines for another year. Mike believes our wines are best when consumed 4-7 years from the vintage date. It has been funny to have people thank me for holding them longer so they are not tempted to open them too early.

What is your vision for the future of Fielding Hills Winery?
Mike and I are currently reviewing plans for a tasting room in Lake Chelan. When the bids are done, we will decide if building a “real” tasting room makes sense for us. Our three daughters have grown up in this business and are now in college and graduate school. There is some interest from them in becoming involved. The immediate future is to just keep doing what we are doing, and the long-term is undecided and evolving.

Feel free to share any other thoughts that you believe would be of interest to our readers.  
The wine industry is a fascinating business to me. There are so many business plans from wine hobbyists to huge commercial conglomerates. There are not many industries that have such a variety in size. Then add the product variety from someone like us that focuses on only red wine to wineries that have a wide array of unique varieties including sparkling wines and now distilling. Add to that wineries that have events and serve food, and you can soon see why I think it is a fascinating industry. Every winery has a unique story.

Many thanks to Karen for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her, Mike, and their family all the best and will continue to follow their work and Fielding Hills Winery with great interest, and I hope that you will too.

Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine

Wine Tasting Dinner: 2012 Rosé from Around the World

By Kori ~ September 11th, 2013

Summer is the time of year when we turn our attention to rosé wines. In fact, many wineries only make small quantities of rosé wines to be released during the summer months. Rosé is French for “pink” and is used to describe wines of that color. Rosés are generally made from red grapes; however, unlike typical red wine production, the skins are removed from the juice after only a couple of days. This limited skin contact gives rosé its light pink color and is the reason that rosés are lighter-bodied than most red wines. Rosés can run the gamut from dry to sweet. Too many people think pink wines are all sweet. Not so. For me, the dry rosés are more serious and interesting.

Trying to hold on to the last bit of summer here in Seattle, we featured six rosé wines from around the world at our wine tasting dinner last Friday. It was another fabulous evening of good wine, the company of wonderful friends, and excellent food. Our good friend and next-door neighbor, Eric, served as the guest chef for the evening and made his wonderful paella. The wines paired extremely well with our entire meal which included bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Serrano pepper and cream cheese spread with pepper jelly on crackers for appetizers, ensalada mixta and the paella for the main dish, and fresh strawberries garnished with simple syrup and black pepper served with a scoop of orange sherbet for dessert.

The consensus favorite was the 2012 Domaine Saint Aix Rosé. This wine is produced in the Provence region of France but is easy to find across the United States, especially this time of year. It is great as a sipper and gets even better with food.

When the sun is shining and you’re looking for a refreshing beverage to enjoy on the deck or in the backyard, don’t forget to give rosé wine a shot. In addition to the paella we had at this dinner, two other foods that pair very well with rosé are grilled salmon and hot dogs.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2012 Domaine Saint Aix Rosé (Provence, France): Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Very pale salmon color. Beautiful nose with floral and citrus aromas. Citrus fruit, watermelon, and a touch of spice come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $15; Available elsewhere, $15 to $17

2012 Viu Manent Estate Collection Reserva Malbec Rosé (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 94% Malbec and 6% Syrah. Pale to medium pink. Aromatic with strawberry, watermelon, and citrus peel on the nose. More strawberry, cherry, and floral notes come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $7; Available elsewhere, $7 to $11

2012 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Rosé (Western Cape, South Africa): 51% Syrah, 28% Cinsault, and 21% Grenache. Medium pink. Aromatic with strawberry, cherry, and spice on both the nose and palate. Off-dry and medium-bodied with lively acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $10; Available elsewhere, $9 to $12

2012 La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rosé (Rhone Valley, France): Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah. Medium pink. Nice nose with strawberry and floral aromas. Cherry and strawberry come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $9; Available elsewhere, $6 to $10

2012 Chateau La Mascaronne Quat’saisons Rosé (Provence, France): Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. Very pale salmon color. Aromatic with citrus and floral aromas. Meyer lemon, watermelon, and pink grapefruit come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $15; Available elsewhere, $13 to $21

2012 Robert Ramsay Rosé (Columbia Valley, Washington): 45% Grenache, 45% Cinsault, and 10% Viognier. Pale to medium salmon color. Nice nose with orange peel and strawberry aromas. Strawberry and citrus fruit comes through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $18

Filed under: American Wine, Chilean Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Food & Wine, French Wine, Rose Wine, South African Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Pieropan: A Small, Family Producer in Italy’s Soave Region

By Kori ~ September 4th, 2013

This summer, our family vacationed in Italy. It was my first trip to Italy, a place that had been on my travel bucket list for some time. While this trip was truly a family vacation filled with sightseeing, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we Wine Peeps worked in some winery visits as well.

We visited Pieropan, a small, family winery, located in the center of the town of Soave. Soave is in northeastern Italy in the province of Verona, about halfway between Venice and Milan. Only white wine is produced in the Soave region with a minimum of 70% of the wine coming from the Garganega grape.

Founded in 1890 by Leonildo Pieropan, the estate is now in the hands of the third and fourth generations. Leonildo and his wife Teresita run the winery along with their two sons Andrea and Dario. We had the pleasure to meet Andrea who gave us a tour of the winery and tasted us through their wines.

While the majority of Pieropan’s wines are the dry white wine most common in Soave, they also produce a limited-production late harvest Recioto that is dried on traditional bamboo mats, the same mats that were used by its founders over 100 years ago. In fact, Pieropan’s first wine was Recioto, even before they produced a dry Soave. In 1999, the family acquired another winery in Valpolicella and began making red wine in addition to Soave.

Pieropan does not buy any grapes; all of their wines are produced from estate-grown grapes. In 2011, Pieropan became certified organic for their Valpolicella and Amarone. They are in their second year of organic certification for Soave.

Ninety-five percent of Soave is produced by large production wineries. At just 400,000 bottles per year, Pieropan is one of the 5% of small producers in Soave. Pieropan bottles their wines under both screw cap and cork, depending on the market.

2012 Pieropan Soave Classico (Soave Classico DOC, Italy): 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. Pale straw yellow. Nice nose with citrus, lime, and pineapple aromas. Citrus, almond, and floral notes come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with fresh, crisp acidity, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $13-15

2011 Pieropan Calvarino (Soave Classico DOC, Italy): 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave. Pale, straw yellow. Beautiful nose with floral notes, almond aromas, and minerality. Pear, apricot, apple, and floral notes come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a long, fresh finish. A good food wine.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $23-27

2011 Pieropan La Rocca (Soave Classico DOC, Italy): 100% Garganega. Medium golden yellow. Aromatic with oak, minerality, pear, apple, and almond aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied with lively acidity. Well-balanced with a long, rich finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $23-27

2010 Pieropan Ruberpan (Valpolicella Superiore DOC, Italy): 60% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corinone and Croatina Veronese, and 5% from old traditional Valpolicella varieties. Medium ruby red. Nice nose with bright red fruit and spice box aromas. Red fruit, white pepper, and spice come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium tannins. Well-balanced with a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $23-27

2008 Pieropan Le Colombare (Recioto di Soave DOCG, Italy): 100% Garganega. Medium gold color. Beautiful nose with dried apricot, honey, and orange peel aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied and sweet but not cloying. Well-balanced with good complexity and a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $40 [500ml]

Filed under: Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Garganega, Italian Wine, Red Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Mandarano Balsamic Glaze & Sauce of Modena

By LaGayle ~ August 28th, 2013

It is always fun to try new food preparations; however, I admit that the simpler the preparation, the more I like it. Having said that, anything that can make a simple dish a little more special is great!

I have always enjoyed preparing dishes using various balsamic vinegars, especially those that have additional flavors. When we recently received a sample of Mandarano Balsamic Glaze & Sauce from Modena, Italy, I was excited to try it. A balsamic vinegar reduction made from a centuries-old Modena family recipe, it sounded like a great way to enhance a dish without a lot of fuss.

The information that accompanied the glaze suggested that it could be “the perfect compliment to almost any food.” I took that claim as a challenge and started experimenting. I tried it drizzled over scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles topped with fresh berries, grilled fresh peaches, pan seared flat iron steak, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and roasted sweet potatoes. Lo and behold, it was great on all of them. It even works on desserts; it was amazing drizzled over pecan pie and vanilla ice cream!

Since our focus here on Wine Peeps is wine, here are some pairing suggestions for the foods I tried with the balsamic glaze:

  • Grilled peaches—Riesling or Sparkling Wine
  • Flat iron steak—Shiraz/Syrah or Merlot
  • Brussels sprouts—Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sweet potatoes—Gewurztraminer or Riesling
  • Pecan pie—Port

Using the Mandarano Balsamic Glaze & Sauce is a great way to dress up a simple meal or to give a dish a boost. It sells for $14.95 and can be found at specialty retailers across the United States.

Bon Appétit!

Full Disclosure: We received this balsamic glaze as a sample.

Filed under: Food & Wine

A Wine for Tonight: 2012 Anew Riesling

By Kori ~ August 21st, 2013

Would you like a quick suggestion for a good wine to drink tonight (or this weekend) that won’t break your budget and is widely available? If so, you might want to check out the 2012 Anew Riesling from the Columbia Valley of Washington State.

Our selection criteria include:

  • A very good Quality rating of >=3.5 stars (out of 5)
  • A price tag of <=$20
  • Must be widely available

Produced by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, Washington, Anew Riesling is a new offering presented in a sleek, custom-molded bottle with a screw cap closure. The “feminine” packaging is meant to appeal to women consumers. The grapes for this debut vintage of Anew are sourced from vineyards in the Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, and Yakima Valley. More than 70,000 cases of Anew were produced and are available nationally.

“Opening with aromas of bright fruit, subtle spice and citrus, Anew Riesling offers a harmonious blend of pure fruit flavor, heightened aromatics and balanced acidity. Expressive flavors of fresh peach and a hint of spice give this wine a crisp, refreshing essence.” –Winemaker Wendy Stuckey

2012 Anew Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington): 88% Riesling, 10% Gewurztraminer, and 2% Muscat Canelli. Pale straw yellow. Nice nose with apple, peach, and floral aromas and flavors. Off-dry and light-bodied with lively acidity and a medium to long finish. Residual Sugar: 2.44%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $11; Available elsewhere, $9 to $15

Filed under: A Wine for Tonight, American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Riesling, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Red Willow Vineyard: 40 Years and Just Beginning!

By John ~ August 14th, 2013

Humble, dedicated, innovative, smart, hard working, ethical, family-oriented, forward thinking…these are some of the words that came to my mind to describe Mike Sauer and the Red Willow Vineyard family as I participated in their 40th anniversary celebration a few weeks ago. While 40 years is not a long time when you compare it to the history of many European vineyards, it is ancient history in Washington wine growing circles. Red Willow’s first Cabernet Sauvignon block was planted in 1973, and the first Syrah in Washington was planted at Red Willow in 1986.

While Mike Sauer is quick to give much of the credit for his success to Dr. Walter Clore and long-time Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake, it took a big leap of faith to plant test plots of numerous grape varieties on unproven vineyard land back in the 1970’s when there were only six wineries in Washington State. And, after 40 years, Mike was talking to me not about retiring, but about an obscure Russian grape, whose name I can neither spell nor pronounce, that he thinks has some good potential here in Washington. That’s just one example of why I believe the future looks so bright at Red Willow Vineyard.

Mike and Karen Sauer’s sons Jonathan and Daniel, and son-in-law Rick Willsey are all active in the business and provide the continuity so vital in a long-term oriented occupation such as grape growing. Red Willow is located in the northwest corner of the Yakima Valley AVA, 13 miles west of Wapato, Washington, on the fourth-generation Stephenson family farm established by Mike’s grandfather-in-law in 1920. The Monsignor Chapel is the most famous visual symbol of Red Willow and stands atop some of their best producing hillside vineyard blocks.

When we made our first trip to Red Willow over five years ago, so that Kori could do research for the first in a series of posts on the vineyard, Columbia Winery had just released some blocks from contract with Red Willow. At that time, I sensed that Mike was a little apprehensive about where he would go with those grapes. I told Mike then that I thought that would prove to be the best thing that ever happened to Red Willow because it would put grapes in the hands of many more excellent winemakers who would have a wide variety of winemaking styles that would express the potential of his grapes in new and maybe even better ways. Since then, in addition to Columbia Winery, Red Willow grapes have been utilized in wines by Betz Family Winery, Mark Ryan, Fall Line, Avennia, Gramercy Cellars, Adams Bench, DeLille Cellars, Owen Roe, Efeste, Eight Bells, Barrage Cellars, Cavatappi, Newport, Andrew Rich, and others.

Later in the fall of 2009, Kori wrote an article for Washington Tasting Room magazine giving a more comprehensive history of the development of Red Willow as well as some thoughts on its future. If you didn’t see it then, I’d suggest reading it now. And keep looking for wines made with Red Willow grapes. They are, and will continue to be, some of the best wines in Washington state…or anywhere else, for that matter.

Filed under: American Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Vineyards, Washington State Wine