Friday, December 19, 2008

Yakima - Alaska's Napa

Driving down I82 on our way to Zillah, I looked at my wife. "Was that you?"
"Not me. Did you?"
"No... there's some funk in the air."
"I guess we're in farm country."

Eastern Washington in primarily agricultural and despite becoming known as a premier wine growing area, it is still got a core of good 'ol farmland. As you drive through the area you see fields of orchards (apple, cherry, etc) as well as crops like hops and of course, vineyards.

We arrived late in the evening and made our way up to Zillah, home of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where several wineries were having holiday open houses. Each winery is located down gravel roads and past barns and other farm homes. Make a wrong turn and you'll find your headlights shining on a couple mules and a horse looking at you and wondering what city-folk are doing out and about in this area.

Evening one we went to Bonair winery-a family run winery that had great clam chowder and wonderful hospitality; and, Silver Lake - one of the larger WA wine producers. Then we decided to make our way to our B&B.

The Orchard Inn is run by Karen and Henner. Henner makes the wonderful breakfasts and Karen makes sure you feel at home and are well taken care of. We were the only guests in the 4 room B&B so we got special attention and plenty of room to stretch out. They provide wonderful hospitality and we enjoyed several relaxing mornings drinking coffee and talking. They also are well connected and provide lots of recommendations of things to do in the Yakima area.

Day two we went to Prosser, home of the Horse Heaven AVA. In Prosser they have set up more of a Vintner's Village with a planned community of tasting rooms. Some were just opening and we made it to Apex, Thurston Wolfe, and Airfield. I loved the theme of Airfield and they are a growing, young, ambitious group.

Note: we had a Wolfe Primitivo (the Italian version of Zinfandel)after arriving home and it was great - rich but not syrupy, nicely balanced, and confident tannins. It is aged 13 months in American Oak and you certainly can tell. But, it doesn't ruin the wine even though I'd have liked to seen a little less barrel influence.

That evening we headed to the Tasting Room. There is one of these in downtown Seattle, that we've visited, and like the wines they serve - Wildridge, Harlequin, and the latest NHV. The couple that runs the tasting room (which sits at about 1800') lives in a room above the store. They are perfect hosts and provide colorful service while tasting their wines. He recommended a couple Zillah wineries to us, which is where we headed the next day.

Two Mountain is a Zillah winery run by a couple brothers. We showed up right as a bunch of family did and, though we felt we were intruding, they didn't seem to mind. They were preparing for their annual holiday party and we'd have loved to stay. The tasting room is in the middle of their warehouse. The wines are full of sediment and brother 1 described them as elegant and refined. I think they are doing a fabulous job and it is a winery I'll keep an eye on. They have a style they are developing, a desire to produce great wines but not become pretentious - themselves or their wine.

Wineglass Cellars, home of Capizimo, one of our favorite Washington wines. Their tasting room wasn't open but we set up a private appointment with Linda and got a tour of their production facilities. They are a small producer, about 2000 cases, of some great wines from small vineyards. In talking to her I understood more completely the life and challenges of a family vineyard - how to make the transition, how many cases to produce, and what some of the limitations are unless you want to go big time.

We also made it to Portteus. If you're here in Alaska you may have had their Rattlesnake Red. They produce about 9000 cases a year and have been in the area 20+ years. We had a wonderful visit with the owner/winemaker while we tasted some of their wines.

Visiting in the off-season is highly recommended. Sure, the weather isn't great... we got hit with a snowstorm. But, the people of Yakima are wonderful and when they don't have the crowds to deal with you get the time to sit, talk to them, learn about life their, and appreciate wine at its orgin. It may not be Napa, but Alaskans will like the relaxed, friendly style of the area, the slow pace, and of course, the lower costs. Alaska Grape Nuts will really appreciate the great wines coming from the area.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2005 Baer Winery Ursa

Gotta love the posting activity of these grape nuts!

Baer Winery ( is located in Washington and according to their website have recently moved to the Woodinville area. If you haven't been to Woodinville, you should. It is just a bit north of Seattle and home to some big name wine rooms like Chateu St. Michelle, Columbia Winery, etc. They are putting a lot of money into community development and making it a wine destination... perfect for aspiring Alaska Grape Nuts.

Anyway, we stopped in at a nice little wine store and tried a few of the daily pours. I had a great Aussie Cab that was full bodied but nicely restrained compared to what you typically expect. The woman behind the counter was leaving for a visit to Alaska in a few days so was very interested in talking to us. We had a nice visit and she recommended this wine.

Tragically, I believe the owner or winemaker had passed away before the wine was completed. A few friends got together to finish off this vintage. It is a nice wine - good structure and nice acidity with fine tannins. It isn't a heavy fruit wine but well balanced. This would be a good dinner wine and would go with a wide variety of dishes.


Thursday Nov 13th

Tuesday Nov 11th we spent a fair amount of coin and over an hour at Vino Volo. I agree with Jim, the Washington Syrah's were very good!! WE also had a Oregon Pinot Blanc... cannot remember the name, but it was very good.

Went by La Bodega this afternoon and bought two red blends that I have never tried. One Calif, the other Aussie. Tonight with Pizza we had the California 2004 Adelaida.
34% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 14% Counoise, 12% Cinsault

Sandy and I both enjoyed it. Cost is around 18 or $19. The Rioja Vega Spanish wine had a Mourvedre grape in it. GOOGLE on the COUNOISE GRAPE, "Yet the grape is a key component of many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and comprises 10% of the Beaucastel Rouge. Its moderate alcohol and tannins, combined with good fruit and aromatics, balances the characteristic intense spice, strong tannins, and high alcohol of Syrah. "
The precise origin of Counoise (pronounced "Coon-wahz")

Cinsault (or Cinsaut) is one of the oldest south of France variety. Even nowadays it is impossible to determinate its origins, between Provence and Languedoc.The Cinsault is a hill-side grape-variety. It is the reason for which it is always associated to other varieties: Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah. Cinsault produces large grains, very sweet and juicy


Thursday, November 6, 2008


You all know how diligent I am at doing my homework, especially when it includes drinking wine. I had a really good spanish wine the other night but after the pitiful results of the elections we opened 2 more bottles and now I completely forgot the name and everything about the great spanish wine I had at Little Italy. Enough talk about politics though on to the important things in life, WINE! Sooo, I decided I would open a bottle of 2005 Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo that came from Wine Styles. I think it was last months club selection. I just opened the bottle and it has a REALLY intense nose just out of the bottle. A little Sniffy Sniff and I am ready to dive into the bottle. So far so good. The label that Wine Styles attaches says "complex flavors", up front I find it very smooth and easy to drink. Very HEAVY or Chewy though. I like it! Nice peppery finish that actually is pretty complex. I think as it breaths it will get even better. Ok, I will tell you more about it as I continue on the quest to see what lies on the bottom of the bottle.
I do however want to tell you about a Phenominal Syrah I recently had. I was passing through the Seattle airport a few weeks ago and stopped at Vino de Volo for a snack and a wine sampler. One of the wines in the sampler were soo good I had to take a bottle with me. It was called K syrah from K vintners. $25. Awesome wine from the Wahluke Slope in Columbia Valley. I have never tried a wine from this winery but this one was outstanding. We had this with grilled filet and it paired really nicely. Great raspberry flavors, smoky, very smooth.
Ooh, we interupt this extra long wine blog to report that the 2nd glass (after it has breathed a bit) of Ramon Bilbao Tempranillo was even better than the first.
I am really liking the Washington Syrah's and look forward to the AGN wine tour in April.

Well, I must sign off but will continue on the quest for some great Spanish wines. This weekend I am taking my Wine Spectator to Brown Jug and Gold Rush to stock up on some great Spanish Wines to taste. Until we blog again. Cheers! !!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Election Day 2008

Over the last 3 nights we tried a couple of nice wines. A 2005 Spanish Rioja Vega and a California Cashmere (Blend) from Cline.

Both were very good. The Rioja Vega was smooth with a hint of cherry / berry taste. Initially smelled of must and liquorice until it breathed a little. To me a rich, full bodied wine. For $14 a bottle I thought a great value for a very good wine.

The Cashmere is also a red blend from California Cline Vintners. A little bit lighter than the Rioja Vega with a little stronger hints of fruit. Not overpowering though. We enjoyed this with pasta and found it very nice.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Assignment 1: Spain

You all thought we'd forgotten about our little Alaska Grape Nuts group, didn't you? But, in reality, we've simply been doing the reverse summer hibernation that all Alaskans do. Now that winter is upon us again, the wine fun also rises.

As our first group assignment, we've decided to tackle Spain. Want to learn more... here are a few available sites:

Of course, some personal studying is required. Wine Spectator has a list of value Spanish wines. Or, visit your local wine store and ask for some recommendations.
Dive in, do your homework, and share your stories here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

2005 Tin Roof Merlot

A month and a half since our last post?!? Well, no wonder no one reads. Tonight while the misses is down in Valdez I made a grocery run to Costco. Unfortunately, I made a swing through the wine department on a typically low will-power evening and happened to find several new wines I'm quite interested in trying. There was a Argentina Malbec and a French Rhone import that I picked up. Then, on my way out, they had a massive display of 2005 Tin Roof Merlot... probably 40 cases of it. I had heard somewhere about this sub-$10 bottle of Merlot receiving a 90 point Wine Enthusiast rating. At Costco their selling it for $8 a bottle... an absolutely amazing price especially considering we're in Alaska. So, I had to pick up a bottle of that and crack it open to see what all the fuss is about.

2005 Tin Roof Merlot
I wouldn't call this a memory-making wine, but there is really nothing wrong with it. It comes across very subtle and smooth. The mid-palate shows the most complexity, but the finish is a bit weak, in my opinion. After a few sips I seemed to be able to nurse some lingering tangy fruits, but it all fades pretty quickly.

90 points Wine Enthusiast?... I'm not on the same boat. I'd probably rate it 85. A quick note about ratings - I think they're interesting but I'd like to develop enough knowledge to understand who gave the rating, since then I could start to determine if they share a similar slant as me. It's like a friend who you know likes the same style wine... if they tell you about a great wine, you'll go try it. But someone that you konw prefers a different style, you may regard their recomendations a bit differently.

Alright, enough for tonight... I have a glass of wine to drink and an open house to prepare for. If you come, I'll pour you a glass of Tin Roof under my roof.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oregon Pinot Noir

My uncle was a wine lover. I’ve only recently begun my wine quest adventures and with his recent passing, I do feel a bit of remorse that I wasn’t able to talk to him more about his wine knowledge and learn from him a bit. I did learn, however, that he was a bit put out my recent panning of the Pinot Noir varietal ( and suggested I needed to try some Oregon Pinot Noir’s. So, while visiting Eugene for his memorial, that’s what I did.

King Estate Winery ( is only about 20 minutes from my uncle’s house. It was started by the King Family (of aviation radio fame King Radio) in 1991. They are most known for their Pinot Gris but have a large estate and produce several other varietals including Pinot Noir.

We tried three different Pinot Noir’s from this vineyard – their entry level Pinot, their Signature series, and a Pinot made by the winemaker. All were excellent and didn’t leave me with disappointed expectations. I also think that my price scale needed to adjust – the cheapest bottle of the three I tried was $20. Pinot Noir is a more difficult grape and so to get a decent bottle the cost goes up to the $20-$50 range.

We tried the King’s Next Pinot Noir and did a little interesting comparison. We decanted one bottle and then compared it against the pop-and-pour bottle. The PAP bottle had a steely metallic finish that made it quite unpleasant, to be honest, and would have reaffirmed all my assumptions of PN. But, decanting the wine brought out some subtle but ripe fruit in the mouth and completely removed the metallic aftertaste in the finish. For me, it was a very nice wine when decanted but almost undrinkable right out of the bottle.

Stay tuned for more on the Oregon Pinot’s… in honor of my uncle I plan on continuing a quest of discovering the allure and intrigue of this grape and Oregon’s Bordeaux-like growing region.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chateau de Seward

2 members spent 2 days working in Seward and, at the last minute, were sent with a bottle
of Orphelin '04 by Chateau Ste.Michelle. Thanks to fellow member(my spouse)
for thinking of it!!
A huge blend of many, many varietals that claims to be Rhone-style.
It's slightly fruity but does have a very "Old World" finish. We enjoyed it with
Trader Joe's Dark chocolate and it went well.
True to our group, we relish chances to drink and eat well with good friends.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wine Styles

My dream: be in the wine business. Not sure I'd want to run a retail store like Wine Styles, but it's good to see them in the Anchorage market. We needed a store like this, not because they provide great value, but it raises the general marketability of wine in an area.

Mrs. Frogged and I went to dinner at the Thai restaurant next door and then paid a visit to the Wine Styles store. Their strategy, as far as I can tell, is to provide a nice grouping of wines - fruity, crisp, bold, mellow, etc. - and then limit the selections within each of those groupings to a few hand-picked brands. I think it is a good concept and something that works for a certain group. I'm a bit disappointed in their price - I don't think you'll find any great values - but that isn't the purpose of the shop. And, I applaud them for that. We joined their wine club. I assume we'll keep it for a couple months, get to know the shop, and then probably cancel it.

I'd recommend the shop for anyone getting into wine, who might feel a little intimidated going into larger shops (like I am), yet wants to start exploring and being able to articulate and characterize their palatte. But, I think those people will end up seeing this kind of shop as a phase in their wine tasting journey, which is okay. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dinner 1, Sartan 0

Well, our inaugral get together went off great and you'll now have several other posters on this blog. Last night we had a beatiful dinner of French country cuisine including lamb shanks, bread, beans, swiss chard, and salad. The wine selection included a nice Bordeaux, a 1998 Silver Oak cab, and a Châteauneuf du Pape. Sorry, I don't have any more info on the French wines at this point, but it's time to work.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aussie Attack

Well, the first post of the Alaskan Grape Nuts... of course, we'll be lucky to keep these posts alive beyond a couple, so let's get right into it. I've been drinking quite a few Aussie wines as of late and truth be told, I'm ready to move on. The representative wines I've been drinking have been quite sweet and juicy. They come across very full and rich and luscious. That's nice and it is really impressive when you first start drinking it - the wine hits you like the fruit bomb it is and provides a full blast that makes you feel you're getting your money's worth. But, after a while, you start to feel that maybe there's something more.

Obviously there is... the wine world is pretty huge. But, it is an interesting point to be at. I'm really shying away from Aussie reds right now and have been trying a few California cabs. Also, we have a trip to Amsterdam and Paris coming up so the French wines will quickly be entering our rotation in preparation for that trip. Our first official gathering of the Alaskan Grape Nuts (although they don't know it yet) is Feb. 17th... and it's French night.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

We're nuts for grapes!

Welcome to the Alaska Grape Nuts blog! Who are we? A few folks that love good food, good wine, and good friends. Most of us understand the social aspects of food and wine. And while talking about wine is fun, talking about wine over a good meal with some of your best friends is one of our top enjoyments. So, join us as we post about the wines we're trying and the food we're cooking.