lummi island wine tasting august 28 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1202 (Modified)Toasted Pecan Flax Seed - Made with a rye sourdough culture and about 1/3 fresh milled whole wheat, toasted pecans and honey – $5/loaf.

Heidebrot. Made with a  50% rye sourdough culture with coarse ground fresh milled rye. Try with cheese or smoked salmon. – $5/loaf

Pan de Cioccolate- “Chocolate bread”– sourdough with a bit of whole rye plus plenty of chocolate, honey, vanilla, chocolate chips and a touch of espresso. Not a “pastry,” but rather a whole chocolate loaf! –$5

 

 

Trebbiano di Lugano by any other name

By a slight margin, Italy produces more wine than any other country– yes, including a slight edge on France. In addition Italy has more distinct grape varietals than any other country, with about 350 officially authorized in at least one region, and another 500 that exist but remain pretty obscure. Much of this cornucopia of varietals is due to Roman laws which prohibited growing wine grapes outside Italy beginning around the First Century AD.

Trebbiano is a widely planted white wine grape, and accounts for about a third of all white wine made in Italy. However, this trebbiano has many faces, names, and characteristics. A recent DNA study concluded that at least seven grapes known as “trebbiano” are actually genetically distinct from one another, and do not have a common ancestor. It also found a strong genetic match between Trebbiano di Soave and Trebbiano di Lugana, but neither was strongly related to other “trebbianos.” Further, Trebbiano di Soave is genetically identical to Verdicchio, another common Italian grape, but Trebbiano di Lugana had only 97% DNA matchup to verdicchio.

Whew! The bottom line is that you can expect the Trebbiano di Lugana we are pouring this weekend to taste a lot like Verdicchio: clean, crisp, and minerally with notes of citrus and white peach. Read more

 

 

And now for something more familiar

dscn1266Yes, we all understand that by all the standards of Elsewhere, our summer has been just lovely. But we also all know that this summer has been drier, hotter, and longer than anyone around here can remember. Heck, it was only about three summers ago that it got warm enough to venture outside wearing shorts on occasion. This summer they have been the default uniform since sometime in May.

Today, however, the forecast started looking more familiar, with Rain forecast for the next three days, followed by Showers for the rest of the week. I have been living in these parts for forty years, and I still can’t give you any sort of precise distinction between Rain and Showers. By common practice, however, it seems to be both a matter of degree and intensity (yes, I am making this up). A forecast of Rain implies that it will be sort of continuous, while Showers suggests some kind of intermittency, with some dry periods and some brief rain events, i.e., “showers.”

For the sake of our trees, plants, and animals, we are all looking forward to a good rain. In addition, of course, a good saturating rain will be a welcome ally in the battle against the record numbers of forest fires currently blazing throughout the region…!

 

Pic St. Loup

I confess a certain infatuation with the little wine region of Pic St. Loup. The “Pic” is a 640-meter “tooth” of rock that dominates the French landscape for miles in every direction. At some mythic level, there is a powerful grounding energy here, as if there is something in the soil composition that makes gravity a little stronger, or as if the ancient gods of the place still have a Hand in the Game. It’s definitely about Power and Grounding.

The wines from this place, which must be predominantly syrah, grenache, and mourvedre (as in nearby Southern Rhone) have a certain gravitas. The vines must be at least six years old (not three) before being used for red wine (but are just fine for rosé!). The climate tends to be cooler and wetter than much of the Languedoc, which stretches in a band along the Mediterranean, while Pic St. Loup is open to more of the Atlantic climate from the north and west. This combination of soils and weather, along with whatever Magic is sown by the energy of the Pic itself, makes for wines that have an esoteric appeal that goes beyond the usual discussions of terroir, in the direction of something more Profound, archetypal, or, for lack of a better term, “spiritual.”

And yes, this is all a big Metaphor to describe my own personal affection for wines from this appellation. As always, of course, it is up to you to make up your own mind!

 

This week’s wine tasting

Ottella Lugana Bianco ’13     Italy    $16
Trebbiano di Lugano (Turbiana). Intense straw yellow color with green tinges. Exotic notes of candied fruit and citrus, warm and very deep on the nose. Widespread expressive finesse, with  rich and persistent texture.

Henri Favre Rose ’14     France  $12
Pale orange. Aromas and flavors of peach, stone fruits, orange blossom on a crisp, minerally frame.

Writers Block Cab Franc ’12   California    $14
Complex aromas of fresh dark berries, black cherry, plum, and a subtle brambly profile. Tobacco, chocolate, and herbal flavors blend with a floral component and notes of toasted oak.

Chateau la Roque Pic-St. Loup Rouge ’12   France   $16
A lithe and expressive red, with fine balance and well-structured flavors of dried cherry, plum and boysenberry, featuring hints of tarragon and cream on the finish. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Setteporte Etna Rosso ’12   Sicily  
95% Nerello Mascalese, 5% Nerello Cappuccio. Intense ruby red colour with a pleasantly fruity bouquet layered with red fruit and wild berries. The taste is dry, harmonious, elegant and persistent.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting august 21 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)

Italian Walnut, Golden Raisins & Honey - Made with an italian preferment called a biga. About half of he flour ferments overnight which to enhance flavor and develop gluten. Uses about 30% fresh milled whole wheat and lots of toasted walnuts and golden raisins with a little honey .– $5/loaf.

Le Pave d’autrefois-  “Old paving stones,” a sourdough multi-grain bread from bread flour, whole wheat, rye , and buckwheat flours. The dough doesn’t hold a loaf shaped, so is just cut into pieces. – $5/piece

Chocolate Babkas: Yummy sweet rolls rich with eggs and butter, rolled out and spread with chocolate before baking. - 2/$5.

 

 

It’s back! La Rocaliere Tavel Rosé

20140724-123448.jpgWe have mentioned frequently our fondness for La Rocaliere, a little winery in the Lirac region of France, a bit west of Avignon. Like many wineries in Lirac (there aren’t that many), La Rocaliere also makes wine from the neighboring region of Tavel, where rosé is the only wine permitted. To keep it a rosé and yet retain some color the juice must be removed from the skins after a short period of contact time.

In Tavel, the contact time with the skins is longer than in many other appellations, making Tavel rosé darker in color than other rosés, with more structure, tannins, and aging potential. Or as some people (you know who we mean) might say, “Tavel is the absolute shiznit of rosés!” Well, we certainly think so, having visited this winery a couple of times, and we always look forward to this particular rosé each summer. And it’s here now!
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Waitsburg Cellars

Waitsburg winery is a collaboration between wine writer Paul Gregutt and mega wine marketing giant Precept Wine. Waitsburg is a tiny town resting quietly east and north of Walla Walla out on the Palouse, while Gregutt has long been known to Washingtonians for his “Wine Adviser” column in The Seattle Times. His book, Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide, is considered a definitive resource on Washington wine. Wiaitsburg Winery came about when Precept offered him access to its “big box of crayons,” as he puts it, which roughly translates to “we have all these vineyards, see what you can make from them.” Would that be fun, or what??? I mean, why doesn’t anyone ever ask us that question??

A number of wines have manifested from this project. The one we are pouring this weekend is called “Three,” which is a multiple play on words. It is made from three red grapes with names beginning with “M”: merlot, malbec, and mourvedre, i.e., two cool climate Bordeaux reds with a big splash of one warm climate Southern Rhone red. Despite our philosophical distaste for giant conglomerates like Precept, we like the creativity in the Waitsburg venture, we relate to Gregutt’s fascination with all things wine, and yes, we like the wines. Be warned, they are definitely New World style, and sometimes that is exactly what the occasion demands. Pretty tasty stuff– come by and check it out!

 

The World on Fire

Let’s face it, it’s a disturbing archetypal concept: “The World’s on Fire!” I first heard the phrase when I was maybe seven or eight years old, in Maine. Our street had a steep hill at one end, so in Winter traffic was blocked, making a great place for sledding, as people from Elsewhere seem to call it, or “sliding,” as we called it. On this particular occasion, the sky was already dark (it was Winter, so maybe five o’clock in the afternoon!), and there was a reddish glow in the sky. Not sunset, something else. And my sister said “The World’s on Fire!”

Well. That’s a pretty Heavy Idea for an eight-year-old, right? But I tried to wrap my head around it, or as some prefer to visualize, “wrap it around my head,” with no particular success, leaving a long-lingering Fear about the World Catching Fire. You know, like, “Nowhere to Run To, baby…Nowhere to Hide!” as I believe Martha and the Vandellas put it some years later.

So slow forward to Right Now, and the Great Global Warming Drought that is manifesting around the planet and in particular on the West Coast of what we currently know as North America, and the tinder-like dryness and the Heat, and yes, the Fires. Right at this moment huge forest fires are raging in the North Cascades near Mazama, Winthrop, and Twisp, as well as all around Lake Chelan, to the point that there aren’t enough resources to keep fighting them. Firefighters are exhausted and injured, and some have died trying to save forests and communities. It’s a kind of Hell out there, some kind of razor-edged, spear-pointed Karma.

So yeah, here it is the year we call “aught-fifteen,” and the World is On Fire, and Our Way of Life has lit the matches, and the animals are all running for their lives, while our so-called leaders continue to pretend there isn’t a Problem…? Really?

 

This week’s wine tasting

Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2014 Italy $13
From hillside vineyards in Sardinia with mild winters, limited rainfall, and very hot and windy summers. Hand-selected grapes, using only very light first pressing. Typical notes of papaya, passion fruit, flowers, and honey, with clean, mineral notes.

la Rocaliere Tavel Rose ’14 France $13
Scents of dark berries, cherry and licorice, with a floral accent. Firm and structured, displaying cherry and floral pastille flavors and a hint of bitter herbs, finishing with good power and length.

Borsao Garnacha ’13    Spain $9
Expressive aromas of blackberry, licorice and and fruitcake aromas; Juicy, spicy and supple, sweet, red and dark berry flavors; finishes fresh, focused and nicely persistent.

Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi ’11 Italy $14
Rich, chewy, dark fruit, evolves into a smooth palate with notes of black cherry and sweet tobacco.

Waitsburg ‘Three’  Red  ’12    Washington     $19
Merlot, Malbec and Mourvedre; Cool aromas of blackberry, redcurrant, tobacco, spices and fresh herbs, complicated by rose petal and hints of licorice and menthol. Moderate density and texture with light dusting of tannins and New World charm.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting august 15 ’15

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Reminder: No Friday Bread this week!

Just a reminder your baker Janice is taking the week off for her annual baseball trip with her nieces.

What does that mean to you? Unfortunately it means no bread or treats this Friday! On the other hand, maybe Friday night won’t be so Crazy, and some of you will come on Saturday this week!

 

Avignonesi

IMG_0883About five years ago we were in Tuscany for a few weeks, exploring hilltop towns, wineries, and vineyards. On a whim one day we made a fairly long drive to visit the Avignonesi winery, located in on beaufiful hillside a few miles east of the town of Montepulciano. The location and its iconic trees were stunning, and all the wines were delicious! We have carried several Avignonesi wines since then, although their Washington distributor has changed several times, making the wines difficult to find.

We are happy to report that the latest distributor has been found, and last week we were treated to a lovely tasting of a number of the latest releases. This weekend we will be pouring the Avignonesi Cantaloro, a “Super-Tuscan” blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40%  merlot, and 10% sangiovese. The name “Super-Tuscan” was coined a few decades ago when a few high-end Italian producers challenged the strict, long-standing naming and blending protocols that govern which grapes can be used in which regions by blending sangiovese with cab and merlot. Some of those wines are now among the most expensive and sought after in the world. While Cantaloro is not so rarefied, it is a really nice example of why these blends have gained so much popularity.    read more

 

Thinking about Blends

One of the many interesting things about being a potter was mixing glazes. If you have two or three glazes you have used and like, sometimes the question arises, “what would happen if we blended them?” And it’s not as if you can make any useful inference from their individual appearance to what some blend of them would look like fired. After all, firing pottery is like putting a note in a bottle and throwing it in the Ocean…you have no idea how it will turn out until you try it!

One method for exploring glaze blends is called the “tri-axial blend.” You make some sample tiles like these in the photo for example. The tile on each corner is one of your existing glazes. Each side of the triangle shows a blend series between the two end points of the line: 100/0; 80/20; 60/40; 40/60; 20/80; 0/100. The middle three tiles are blends of all three glazes.

Blending wines is pretty much the same process, except it can be a lot more complicated, even when blending different barrels of the same varietal from the same year into the best possible final blend. All of this is to say that when we think about a Bordeaux blend (cab sauv, cab franc, merlot, malbec) or a Rhone blend (syrah, grenache, mourvedre, cinsault), or a Super-Tuscan (cab, merlot, sangiovese), we don’t think much about how the winemaker came up with that blend. And it turns out that, just as with color in glazes, flavors in blends can be incredibly sensitive to small changes in the final blend. Something to think about next time you taste a blend of more than one varietal!

 

Reuilly

The little wine region of Reuilly comprises only about 500 acres of vineyards west of Bourges in the Loire Valley of France, where the primary grapes are sancerre and pinot noir. Our interest goes back to a few weeks ago when we were discussing the somewhat arcane topic of “nervosité.” The concept is nicely capsulized in this quote from Kermit Lynch: “If you want to experience minerality, notice the first impression on the palate, which is of fresh, cushiony, Sancerre-like Sauvignon Blanc.  Then, immediately, there is a firmness, a stony firmness that appears from within the wine. Pierres Plates is from a specific vineyard with Chablis-like soil full of chalk, fossils and sea shells, making the fruit lively, with white flower perfumes, citrus and minerally finesse and precision.” 

We are feeling the tendrils of Fall in the air these days, which remain hot in the afternoon despite the cool of the evening and the night. This is the perfect time to enjoy a really nice sauvignon blanc, and our first wine this weekend fits the bill perfectly. Whether you call it nervosité or something else, this wine’s combination of flavor, acidity, and minerality fits this time of year perfectly. Yum, mmm, and ahhhhh!

 

Read more   

This week’s wine tasting

Reuilly “Pierres Plates” Sauvignon Blanc  ’12    France    $18
Sage, black currant, gooseberry, and lime dominate both the nose and palate, where a suffusion of salt and chalk adds to a palpable sense of extract and invigoration…bring on the shellfish!

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc ’14 California   $16
Pale pink with a copper hue; citrus-driven aromas carry through to bright acidity, a creamy orange note and layers of tart apricot. Great balance of texture, fruit, and minerality.

Montes Twins malbec/cab ’11    Chile      $7
Richness and fruit from the Cab, and smooth, velvety texture from the Malbec add up to vibrant acidity and integrated layers of plum skin, blueberry, and blackberry flavors and soft tannins.

Tarima Hill Monastrell ’11 Spain 91pts $13
Complex, perfumed scents of dark berry liqueur, cola, incense and smoky oak spices. Plush and expansive, with sweet cherry compote and blueberry flavors with notes of floral pastille and bitter chocolate. Rich and lively, finishing with excellent power, smooth tannins and a late jolt of allspice.

Avignonesi Cantaloro ’13     Italy   $16
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese; This Super-Tuscan blend offers  lovely aromas of red fruits, sweet spices and tobacco, then fresh and supple on the palate, with ripe red cherry and plum flavors lingering softly on the long, smooth, spicy finish. 

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting august 7 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)

Barley & Rye with Pumpkin seeds – Sourdough with a mix of barley, fresh milled whole rye, and whole wheat flours with a bit of buttermilk, honey, and toasted pumpkin seeds.– $5/loaf.

Poolish Ale Bread- A “poolish” is a process that pre-ferments some of the flour, enhancing flavor and jump starting enzyme activity, in this case using ale with fresh milled whole wheat -$5/loaf.

Individual brioche tart au sucreA traditional rich brioche rolled into individual tarts, then topped with demarara sugar, a mixture of cream, eggs, and even more butter. Rich, delightful, and surprisingly light. – 2/$5.

 

Warm welcome to La Baronne

andre_ligneres While the Lignères family’s ties to the wine world can be traced back to the sixteenth century, its modern history began in 1957 when André and Suzette Lignères bought la Baronne Estate, and gradually expanded its vineyard holdings in the Languedoc along the border between the wine regions of Corbieres and Minervois, which roughly follows the main highway between Narbonne and Carcasonne.

I have a particular fondness for this winery from a spontaneous visit there a few years ago. I had read something that intrigued me about the winery, so late one afternoon I drove in with no appointment, and encountered a lone André, a gentleman of my generation, who had turned over the reins to the winery to his son a few years before. Despite my rudeness in dropping in unannounced, André proceeded to pour samples of a number of wines. His English was even worse than my French, but somehow we got along very well, and I continue to be grateful for his gracious hospitality. Btw, he was having a terrible time with a funky old corkscrew, so I sent him one of ours…hope he received it!

I bought several bottles of his wines to bring back, and have been looking for a source for them ever since. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I learned a new distributor now carries these wines, and now we have some! This weekend we are pouring la Baronne Costa Lise, a classic Languedoc blend of carignan, grenache, and syrah. Next week we will pour the old vines Carignan called Piece de Roche, which Really Rings my Wine Chimes!

Read more about the estate on Tom Fiorina’s excellent blog article (we met Tom on the same trip and keep a link to his blog on our site- check it out!)

 

Dream Time

dreamtime1I learned how to sail in the early sixties when I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy, and found it immediately engaging. For most of the last fifty years I have had a sailboat of one sort or another. For the last dozen years I have co-owned a 32′ boat with a long-time friend, and this year we made the difficult decision to sell the boat. Preparing the boat for sale required a lot of work, and also led to some soul-searching about whether a boat still had a place in our lives.

So the past week has delivered some considerable surprise, excitement, anxiety, smiles, and the occasional philosophical shrug. Just over a week ago our old boat was suddenly sold. A day later, out of curiosity, we drove down to Anacortes to see an unusual little boat we saw on Craigs List, called a Montgomery 23. A couple of years ago we were sailing back from Clark Island when I noticed a small  sailboat making tidy progress against the wind and a bit of a chop. Later research revealed it was something called a, you guessed it, Montgomery 23.

Seriously, we just wanted to take a look, the beginning of an open-ended shopping excursion that had not even established an objective. All you need to know right now is that the boat is called “Dream Time.” She was built in 1979, but was substantially rebuilt over the last ten years. Somehow we said “Yes!” and this afternoon we sailed her up here to Lummi Island. And we are both doing a lot of grinning. Bottom line: not quite ready to be without a boat!

 

Evolution

dscn0008 (Modified (2))Somehow it is hard to remember what the wine shop was like BR, you know, “Before Ryan.” I honestly can’t remember if he arrived on the scene two, or three, or four years ago. But we all know he has been a Force for Aliveness and the Founding Energy behind our decision to expand our hours to Friday nights.

As most of you know, over the last few years Ryan has developed his European wine tours, taken over the wine list at the Beach Store Cafe, expanded his wine classes through the Community College and the Food Coop, not to mention his recording business, and generally spread himself down to about four microns trying to Do It All. We all knew that Something would eventually have to give, and the logical First Thing to Give is the one that pays the least.

The Truth is that since we have never made a Profit in our little wine business, we have never been able to pay dear Ryan actual Money for his efforts. Now that he has developed a number of better options, and like all of us, has finite resources, it makes perfect sense that “Somethin’s Gotta Give.”

So it is with the reluctant but inevitable acceptance of Impermanence that we announce that for the foreseeable future Ryan will no longer be your default Friday night host. Like Pat and me, maybe he will prefer dropping in and schmoozing for a time on Fridays, rubbing elbows, enjoying Janice’s bread samples, and coming and going as the mood dictates…!

This weekend’s wine tasting

La Quercia Falanghina ’13 Italy $18
100% Trebbiano from hillside clay soil; a lovely, straw-yellow wine, with rich notes of white flowers, sea salt, and pear.

Perazzeta Rosado di Montalcino ’14 Italy $14
From the same grape as Brunello (sangiovese grosso), this beautiful rosado has it all: rich, bold, flinty, and summery.

Riojanas Rioja Canchales ’11 Spain $12
Pungent red currant and cherry on the nose, with bitter cherry and rose pastille flavors open to deeper blackberry and licorice notes and a taut, youthfully tannic finish.

Grand Bateau Rouge ’12 France $11
75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon; expressive nose of ripe red fruits and spices with an elegant touch of new oak. Harmonious and powerful, with appealing fruit flavors, ripe tannins, and a savory finish.

La Baronne Costa Lise ’12 France $14
Organically grown blend of Carignan, Mourvedre and Syrah from Corbieres; juicy and complex, with luscious, mouth-filling flavors of dark berries and exotic spice.

 

Wine Tasting