lummi island wine tasting march 28 ’15

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Bread Friday (sign up for

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Buckwheat & Rye. Dark and strong, pairs nicely with cheese or cold cuts - $5/loaf.

Ciabatta. 10%  whole wheat, 90% bread flour. Overnight cold ferment makes the whole wheat shine, wet dough baked in chunks, great all around rustic style bread. – $5/chunk.

Palmier. Sometimes known as  “elephant ears;” from an all butter, sugar-coated puff pastry baked into a delicious crunchy treat. Limited, order early. – 4 for $5.

uh-oh, this just in…Palmier sold out unless you pre-ordered…!

 

Arsenic and Cheap Wine

Extra! Extra! Two-buck Chuck ( and a bunch of his buddies) found to have highly toxic levels of Arsenic! OMD! So that’s what that funny taste was, and why my hair is falling out! Seriously, a class action lawsuit was recently filed in California claiming that some of the country’s largest-selling wines (including TBC, aka Charles Shaw) have arsenic (As) levels several times the Federal maximum standard for drinking water or 10 ppb.

This is interesting and alarming for a couple of reasons. Most obviously, no one wants to poison themselves. In addition, however, for the last few years I have been Prez of our local water association and have learned a lot about arsenic contamination and treatment. As most of you who live on Lummi Island know, many of the wells here contain very high concentrations of As, up to several hundred ppb, due to the natural occurrence of the metal in the local geology. So it is not particularly surprising that lots of crops around the world, including grapes, would take up a great deal of it into their tender little bodies and deliver it into our tender little bodies when we eat it, or in this case drink wine made from it.

The lawsuit is calling for some kind of standards and labeling, which seems reasonable. But establishing standards for wine is very different from establishing standards for drinking water. That’s because with drinking water you can ask, “if someone got all of their water from a well with X concentration of As, how many years would it take them to suffer measurable damage?” In the case of wine, however, we really don’t expect (but we could be wrong!) that anyone is really going to drink enough contaminated wine, even if several times the allowable concentration for drinking water, to get sick. If you are worried about it, we strongly recommend that you immediately stop buying mass-produced wine, and get all your wine from us!

 

Calling Professor Plum…

dscn1116 (Modified)Here’s the thing…fifteen or so years ago we planted a few fruit trees where we thought they would have some shelter from the prevailing southeasterly winds and as much sunshine as our shady lots would allow. Well, we have gotten the occasional apple over the years from our two trees, though not many, and not very big. Last year’s little bagful of Akanes was the best haul so far, and they were very tasty. But in all these years we have only seen one plum, and that didn’t survive to be harvested.

Initially we had two trees, thinking maybe they would get along, do their little stamen and pistil thing , and, you know, make fruit happen. The first problem (maybe) was that the two trees we planted blossomed weeks apart from each other, so that they never had blossoms at the same time. The second problem was that the early-blossoming plum tree passed on to tree heaven when it was only five or six years old. The late-blossoming tree is about fifteen, and is just now blossoming (see photo!).

We keep thinking it would be a nice experience for our surviving plum tree to actually bring some little plums into the world. You know, plum fulfillment, a sense of purpose, a sense of satisfaction. But here we are again, another Spring, another drawn-out blossom-time, and probably another barren year.

So YES, we are calling for HELP! We know Someone Out There has the Answer…so Please, our plum tree needs you! Bring your bees, your travelling blossoms, your divining rods, your magic, whatever it takes! Yes, will trade wine for plums!

 

All Betz are off! 

Again we are pouring from our library of Betz wines this week. This week we are pouring the 2010 La Sarenne Syrah. La Sarenne is Bob’s ongoing ode to Southern Rhone wine style, or as he puts it: “For over a decade we’ve worked with Dick Boushey to grow Syrah for La Serenne from the same rows of vines in his vineyard just north of Grandview. This relationship can’t be overstated in importance for achieving the results we want. As we’ve walked the vine rows during previous growing seasons, kicking dirt and tweaking leaves, we’ve developed an understanding of what each of us wants—growing the best grapes possible that create a wine of character, reflecting the vineyard and compelling the palate.”

So as with all of the Betz wines, this one is born from the footprint of the almost legendary Boushey vineyard and the fingerprints of both Dick Boushey and Bob Betz. By the way, when we were in Lyon last June, wandering around looking for a place to have dinner, I caught sight of Bob’s familiar face only a few feet away, and exclaimed, “Bob Betz!” He looked stunned for a moment before acknowledging, as we did, the rare experience of running into someone you know in a faraway place.

Our Betz wine display is almost finished (maybe up for this weekend!), and our special sale will continue until we have whittled down our inventory a bit.

Here’s the deal: Buy one Betz wine at the sticker price, and take off an additional 10% on any additional bottles. AND, if you are a wine club member, WE PAY SALES TAX!

See detailed tasting notes below.

 

This week’s tasting

Arindo Verdejo ’13 Spain 89pts $11
Perfumed, mineral-accented scents of pear, citrus, anise and smoky minerals. Dry and taut on entry, with lively pear and Meyer lemon flavors, leaving a refreshing lemon pith note behind.

Chateau Mayne-Vieil Buisson Redon ’11    France     $10
From 25 year old vines; 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc from clay-loam soil. Well made, easy to drink, and very affordable. 

Bodegas Triton Entre Suelos ’11 Spain 90pts $12
Ripe cherry, cassis and licorice on the pungent nose. Broad, chewy and concentrated, offering spicy black and blue fruit flavors with suggestions of candied violet and black pepper.

Domaine Moulinier Les Sigillaires  ’07   France     $17
Aged 12 months in neutral barrels. Nuanced notes of tapenade, dark fruits, and a fresh finish. Harvested quite early to retain acidity; nuanced palate with hints of orange and an elegant finish. We love this wine!

Betz La Sarenne Syrah ’10 Washington 93pts $49
Scented with cassis, blackberry, sage and fennel. Vibrant, expressive and deftly balanced, playing its juicy currant, plum and lavender flavors against refined tannins and lively acidity, firming up smoothly on the long finish.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting spring equinox ’15

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Bread Friday  (sign up for

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Pain Meunier:  (“Miller’s Bread”), includes all parts of the wheat kernel, bread flour, whole wheat flour, cracked whole wheat and wheat germ. A great all around bread. – $5/loaf.

Dried Cherry, Walnut & Buckwheat: Bread flour, buckwheat flour, and some whole wheat, packed with dried cherries and walnuts. – $5/loaf.

Chocolate Babkas: Yummy sweet rolls rich with eggs and butter, then rolled out and spread with chocolate before baking.  Limited supply, order early! - 2 for $5. .

 

 

Cucugnan

cucugnanThis weekend we are pouring another wine from Corbières– a red from Cucugnan, from the same winery as last week’s delicious white. So it seems appropriate to explore the region a little further,  including of course the Cathars, who some people think were the first to bring Christianity to Europe in general, and to France in particular, as long ago as 50AD, pretty Early in the Christian Game.  Supposedly their beliefs and practices were based directly on the original teachings of the historical Jesus.

Interestingly, the Cathars believed that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, and had come to Narbonne and Corbières while Mary Magdalene was pregnant with Jesus’ baby. No other Christian sects ever espoused this belief, which stemmed from historical accounts that their ancestors had actually met Mary Magdalene and Jesus, in this very region, back in the first century. Though the Cathars themselves didn’t appear in history until about 1000AD, they lived in Languedoc from the time of Jesus himself. Read more here.

Btw, Cucugnan was also the setting for a famous short story (Le Curé de Cucugnan) by the nineteenth century novelist Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897). The Priest has a dream in which he goes to Heaven and finds that “There are no more Cucugnanese here than there are fish-bones in a turkey.” Faced with Eternal Damnation, the Cucugnanese are supposedly compelled to clean up their act. Somehow that is harder to believe than that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were, you know, an Item…an idea that has a certain appeal, n’est-ce pas?

 

Raisin Taxes

http://www.libertynews.com/2013/07/seriously-farmer-faces-650000-fine-for-neglecting-to-surrender-raisins-to-government/

The idea for this paragraph emerged from a light-hearted conversation on yesterday’s dog walk, when this little pun occurred to us: “raisin taxes.” You know, the Tea Party people and the Libertarians and the Republicans and Fox News and the Billionaires are always going on about, you know, “Raisin Taxes.” So we thought we should jump in with our own concerns that sure, today maybe they tax raisins, but hey, we have to be ever vigilant or else pretty soon they will start taxing not just Raisins, but All grapes, and OMD, that could be a Disaster for the entire Wine Industry! Something like that.

So I just searched on “Raisin Taxes,” and as usual Truth is far stranger that anything we can make up. Yes, we all sort of know that historically, agricultural production has been subject to cycles of boom and bust, and that bumper crops can have the paradoxical effect of ruining farmers because the huge supply pushes prices toward zero. So since the ‘thirties, the federal government has had programs in place to support all kinds of crop prices through various techniques to keep prices above some minimum floor.

Therefore it shouldn’t have been a surprise (but it was!) to learn that under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, the government continues to confiscate part of the annual national raisin crop to keep it off the market. A group called the Raisin Administrative Committee (I’m not making this up!) decides each year what portion of the raisin crop it must confiscate in order to keep the raisin market “orderly.” At present one of those raisin farmers (they’re almost all in California) has taken his case (he got into Trouble for not turning in his “excess” raisins for over ten years) to the Supreme Court. See more in this article in The Economist.

 

All Betz are off! 

We are continuing our plan to pour one of our library of Betz wines at each tasting for awhile, and offering compelling incentives for you to take some home; see recent blogs for details. This week we are pouring the 2012 Besoleil. All you need to know is that 2012 was a fantastic vintage for much of Washington State, and as a result this year’s Besoleil earned a score of 94 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, its best score ever. I am a big fan of grenache, the dominant varietal in this blend, and have been a fan of this wine since it first appeared eight or nine years ago. Yes, it’s a little pricey, and yes, the pours will be smaller than usual.

But as always, of course, we will set up the pricing so the more you spend, the more you will be able to save!

See detailed tasting notes below.

 

 

 

 

 This week’s tasting

Chateau Lamothe de Haut Bordeaux Blanc  ’12   France     $14
Bright and engaging, with fresh grapefruit and Meyer lemon pulp notes backed by a flash of straw on the open-knit finish. Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.

Chateau Trillot Rouge ’12 France $16
Intense colour with deep purple highlights; Expressive nose exuding aromas of red fruit, redcurrant, blackcurrant and a hint of oak. Silky, well-structured tannins and great freshness.

Hightower Murray Syrah ’11 Washington $16
From legendary Red Mountain grapes; Ripe, rich and utterly enjoyable; lush red berry fruit followed by a complex, meaty mid-palate and a long finish.

Vignalta Colli Euganei Rosso Riserva ’09   Italy   $21
Merlot and cabernet sauvignon from volcanic hills north of Venice. Rosso Riserva is a true and delicious expression of its terroir and a nice balance of fruit and tannins, softened with two years of oak barrel aging.

Betz Besoleil ’12    Washington    94pts    $48
50% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 15% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre aged all in neutral oak. Gorgeous on all accounts, with fantastic density and depth, richness, beautiful freshness and classic aromas and flavors of raspberry, black raspberry, pepper, herbs de Provence and flowers.

 

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting march 14 ’15

No Bread Friday this week

no bread todaySorry folks, your Friday bread baker (Janice) is taking ANOTHER week off (an apparent annual need to be near baseball Spring Training).

The good news is that Regular Bread Friday will return next week, on March 21! Mark your calendars!

 

 

 

 

Solar Sails

20150312-184721.jpgA long time ago (ca. 1970), on a very enjoyable road trip to Nova Scotia, I bought a stained glass schooner that I have kept all these years. It hangs in an eastern-facing window in the bedroom, where it generally goes unnoticed. A few days ago, however, the morning sun caught it in full profile and projected this amazing image onto the folded desktop next to the window. Click on the image for the larger version…quite stunning!

Corbieres

corbieres castleThis weekend’s white wine is from the French wine region of Corbieres. We visited there a few years ago, and were amazed by the spacious terrain. It is also the region where over a hundred years or so a splinter group of Christians called Cathars were hunted down and exterminated on orders from the Catholic Pope of the time, who rewarded the worst brutality with titles and riches. This was not all that long after the Church had declared the inhabitants of the New World to be subhuman, unleashing upon them as well centuries of brutality, slavery, and hellish misery.

These people weren’t just killed; they were slaughtered by the thousands at Perpignan under the slogan “let God sort it out (i.e., who were Cathars and who weren’t);” hundreds had their eyes gouged out and lips cut away and sent marching with a one-eyed guide; and many more hundreds were burned at the stake en masse. The brutality is breathtaking.

However, that tragic piece of history doesn’t change the fact that Corbieres has some spectacular terrain, including many of the sites where Cathars retreated to remote mountain-top castles where they could resist sieges for long periods of time.  This particular Cathar castle is actually not all that far from where this weekend’s white wine originates, near Queribus, probably somewhere down to the left. Anyway, despite the deeply disturbing history of the area, the wine is great, the region is beautiful, and maybe some day people will not be so stupid and cruel. Judging from the daily news, we still have a way to go.

 

All Betz are off! 

As mentioned last week, Betz wines consistently show great concentration and character, and regularly earn high ratings from critics. However, as they are typically priced a little above the comfort range of most of our members and visitors, we seem to have accumulated a LOT of these wines over the years, and we are continuing a concerted effort to find new homes for these beauties, most of which will cellar well for many years. Over the next few weeks we will be pouring at least one of these library wines at each tasting, and offering compelling incentives for you to take some home. As always, of course, the more you spend, the more you will be able to save! See notes below for this weekend’s Betz Bargain!

 

 

This week’s tasting

Chateau Trillot Blanc ’12 France $16
Blend of Roussanne and Maccabeu harvested by hand, resulting in an authentic wine packed with character and a strong sense of place. A very aromatic wine with aromas of white flowers and exotic fruit.

Finca el Tesso Tempranillo Spain $10
100% tempranillo from clay and limestone soil in western Spain at 600 meters above sea level, providing cool nights and long growing season where the wines develop a rich, alluring complexity.

Townshend Red Table Washington $12
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah blend; aromas of black cherry, blackberry, strawberry, cedar and a hint of orange zest fill your senses with lingering pepper & tobacco notes.

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.

Betz Besoleil ’09 Washington 91pts $42
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault. Aromas of smoky black tea, resinous green herbs, and earthy salinity, and strawberry jam. Sappy and plush, with an invigorating bitter edge and a fascinating degree of complexity in the lasting finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting march 7 ’15

No Bread Friday this week

no bread todayThat’s right, folks, your Friday bread baker (Janice) is also in her tenth year or so as Chef of the Annual Lummi Island Heritage Trust Annual Fundraising Dinner this Saturday night. The good news is that the dinners get better every year…the bad news is that she will not have time to make bread this week, so sorry, NO BREAD FOR SALE THIS FRIDAY at the wine shop– but she WILL bring a loaf of fresh Rye Bread for all to share at the Friday wine tasting!

Regular Bread Friday will return in two weeks, on March 21.

 

Heritage Trust Annual Dinner…and Dueling Desserts!

dscn1111 (Modified)For the last few years the LIHT dinner has featured a display of fabulous desserts contributed by Island bakers and confectioners. Before dinner everyone gets a chance to gawk at these mouth-watering tempations. Then as the the dinner nears a close, each table gets to bid for its choice of dessert. Highest bidding table gets first choice, and so on. It’s great fun, and for a good cause. This year Pat has made her Signature Truffles as one of the desserts. Flavors include Caramel Fleur du Sel (dark chocolate ganache), and Gentle Ginger (milk chocolote ganache), both of course enrobed in gorgeous Valrhona Dark Chocolate. There’s a big platter for the winning table to savor on the spot, and a box for each guest at the table to take home.

No doubt there will be lots of other lovely desserts to choose from; but if you are a chocolate lover, Pat’s Famous Artisan Wine Gallery Truffles should definitely be on your Short List!

 

Signs of Spring

dscn1107 (Modified)Not too many years ago, daffodils used to bloom sometime in late March. This photo was taken out front over a week ago, in late February. Cherry blossoms and forsythia are also in bloom. It’s not just an early Spring; it’s not even clear that Winter actually happened. Mt. Baker reports the lowest February snowfall ever at 16″ for the month, with a total snowpack (an estimate of how much water is stored in the snow and available as potential runoff) about 20% of normal through much of the Cascades.

So yes, there are long-term worries about climate change, but this past week of brisk, sunny mornings that spread out into bright afternoons with warm sun on the shoulder has been quite delightful.

Oh, and by the way, rumor has it that this weekend we set our clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time…now THAT is a Sign of Spring!

 

 

All Betz are off! 

Any business-oriented observers who paid any attention to our wine shop operations over the last ten years (certainly not us!) would have found much to scratch their heads about. Fairly early in the game most people would have figured out what sells and what doesn’t, and stopped carrying the things that don’t sell. However, over the years we have consistently failed to accept that very sound and conventional reasoning. Among our most flagrant examples of this perversity is our long-term attachment to buying wines from Betz Family Vineyards in Woodinville.

As we have mentioned in this blog before, Bob Betz consistently makes wines of great concentration and character. Each year he releases five wines for the retail trade, each modelled after a French regional wine style:

The wines are all terrific, and regularly earn high ratings from critics. However, they are typically priced in the $35- $65 market, out of the comfort range for most of our members and visitors. As a result, we have accumulated a LOT of these wines over the years, and it’s time to begin a concerted effort to find new homes for all these beauties. Over the next few weeks we will be pouring at least one of these library wines at each tasting, and offering compelling incentives for you to take some home. As always, of course, the more you spend, the more you will be able to save!

We will also be posting more details here on the blog in the next few days about how you can capitalize on our flagrant overstocking of these wines. Stay tuned!

    
This week’s tasting

Schoenheitz Vin D’Alsace Riesling ’13    France-Alsace   $15
Bright straw yellow with green reflections. Expressive nose bloomed nicely with lemon and a hint of minerality. A pretty generous fruit supported by fine acidity and elegant with a fresh and invigorating lemony finish.

Comoloco Monastrell ’11       Spain     $9
Powerful aromas of blackberry, blueberry, licorice and pungent herbs. Juicy, firm and focused, with a faintly herbaceous touch to its bitter cherry, dark berry and anise flavors. Finishes with gentle tannic grip and good length, leaving a note of cracked pepper behind.

Napa Cellars Merlot ’11   California   $14
Aromas of toasty baking spices, vanilla, malt and fresh, ripe plums alongside alluring flavors of warm berry compote, juicy blueberry, blackberry, cherry, and a hint of dark chocolate and toffee.

Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico ’08 Italy $14
Spicy redcurrant, strawberry and herbs on the nose, with tobacco and smoke nuances emerging with air. Pliant red berry and succulent herb flavors show an appealing sweetness, buffered by fresh minerality.

Betz Clos de Betz ’09    Washington   92pts   $48**
65% merlot, 29% cab sauv, 6% petit verdot. Good bright red-ruby. Aromas of cassis, licorice, and aromatic oak. Broad, sweet and tactile on entry, with a plump, expressive midpalate that spreads generously across the tongue, offering notes of cherry, cassis, licorice and pepper. Finishes with very suave, fine-grained tannins structured for cellaring.

Wine Tasting