lummi island wine tasting july 25 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)

Multi Grain -Half bread flour and half a mix of fresh milled whole wheat and rye flours with flax, sunflower, and sesame seeds. – $5/loaf.

Whole Wheat -Half bread flour and half fresh milled whole wheat with a bit of honey for sweetness.
- $

Sourdough English Muffins – These delightful treats are made with a sourdough culture, bread flour, and some fresh milled whole wheat for extra texture and flavor.  – 2/$5.



Willows Inn revisited

kaleBack in the old days a lot of us here on the Island ate at the Willows fairly often, especially in the first few years of Sunday Grilled Prawns on the Deck, when you could have a great afternoon of delicious fresh prawns, beer, and Island camaraderie for about thirty bucks. Much has happened since those days, beginning with the arrival of young chef Blaine Wetzel a few years ago at age 24, and the NY Times article that put him, the Willows, and Lummi Island on the Global Food Map.

It’s been several years (and about four price hikes) since we last ate at the Willows. Let’s face it, the model of striving to be one of the best restaurants in the World is not that compatible with serving the needs of a small rural island population in the Pacific Northwest. However, we have family visiting this month, renting Anne’s apartment down the street for the month of July, and after all, Everyone should experience the Wetzel Willows at least once, so last night we went back.

All you need to know is that every one of the twenty or so — hmm, not “courses” in the usual sense– let’s call them “culinary presentations”– was imaginatively  conceived, perfectly assembled, impeccably delivered, and exquisitely delicious. The best metaphor I can come up with is that generally even good meals are like ordinary fireworks…the rocket goes up, explodes, makes a noise, maybe even with some really nice effects, and fades away. And that’s generally the best you can hope for. But these dishes are more like the “end of the show” fireworks, where each explosion morphs into the next and the next and you can’t help going “Mmmm…MMmmm….MMMmmm” as the flavors unfold. For example, shown here is delicate grilled kale with dollops of black truffle and herbs…crispy, fragile, and cascading with flavor.


Edible blossoms

One big takeaway from the Willows dinner was the incredible depth of flavor in the tiny flowers of many common herbs. Sure, we all know the flavors of the fresh or dried leaves of borage, chives, marjoram, sage, savory, rosemary, thyme, basil, or coriander (aka cilantro). But the tiny flowers also have their own flavors, similar to the leaves, but with their own special intensities or nuances. When masterfully combined with otherwise ordinary dishes, they yield a surprising range of gustatory experience.

Often the flavors of these herbal flowers are similar to the leaves of the same plants, but with curiously intensified, sweetly floral, mildly bitter, or surprisingly spicy flavors like the edgy bite of watercress.

And of course, before eating any unusual plant, always make sure it is safe!

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renaudieblancSome of you may remember that a year or two ago we partnered with our Friday night host Ryan along with Kevin of Dickerson Distributing in bringing a number of lovely French wines into the Pacific Northwest. These are all wineries that Ryan built relationships with many years ago when he was a wine importer in Los Angeles.

Many of you probably attended the inaugural tasting of these wines at Lis and Mark’s two years ago. If so, almost certainly you ordered some of the La Renaudie Sauvignon Blanc, which turned out to be the most popular wine of the tasting, with total orders twice the next most popular wine. Obviously it struck a nerve with many of you!

Interestingly, there is a French term, “nervosité,” used to describe some white wines, especially sauvignon blanc, and especially from the Loire region. And although everyone who uses the term seems to know what it means, the precise definition remains quite elusive. At one level it means a combination of vigor and firmness, while at another it suggests a more vaguely defined tension. Metaphorically, it kinda suggests “ten pounds of something in an eight-pound bag.”

So as you taste this wine this weekend, be mindful and consider: IS there such a thing as nervosité?  And if so, does this wine have it…???!!!



This week’s wine tasting

Domaine la Renaudie blanc ’13   France    $15
Benchmark Loire Sauvignon Blanc with a great balance between nervous, lean acidities and restrained grassy, elderflower character.

La Croix Belle Caringole Rosé ’14 France $11
Syrah-Grenache blend; intense nose of rose petals and pear-drop candies; palate of alpine strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries, with a citrus accent on the crisp finish.

Owen Roe O’Reilly’s pinot noir ’13 Oregon $17
This ruby red-hued Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is filled with bright flavors of cherry, fresh summer raspberry, silky chocolate and subtle oak undertones.

Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone ’11 France $15
Bright ruby-red. Lively aromas of cherry, lavender and white pepper with a delicate floral component. Silky, seamless, and plump in the mouth, with sweet, ripe red fruit flavors, a solid spine of acidity, and supple tannins.

Marchetti Rosso Conero ’13    Italy :$22
All from “free run juice,” yielding enticing notes of exotic spice, vanilla, dried cranberry, and bitter dark chocolate.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting july 18 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)

Pain au Levain – Think of it as French sourdough; mostly bread flour with fresh milled whole wheat and rye for a nice, chewy  bread with a great crust. – $5/loaf.
– $5/loaf.

Breton Bread - Buckwheat flour and sel gris (gray salt) with a bit of rye for added flavor.  Great with cheese or meats – $5/loaf.

Brioche- Buttery, delicious rolls filled with rum soaked raisins and almond paste, then topped with a chocolate glaze and sliced almonds. Ah, mais oui! – 2/$5.



Corsica E Prove

High in the foothills of Monte Grossu mountain in Corsica lies the granite plateau and Corsican micro-climate that produces U Vinu di E Prove – “the wine of the Prove.” It location close to the sea provides hot, dry days and cool nights; these wide daily temperature variations and the granite, clay, and sand soils, coupled with winemaker Camille-Anaïs Raoust’s practice of giving the wine at least two years in large oak casks, makes for a unique and delicious Mediterranean food wine.

Wine has been produced on Corsica for at least 2500 years, enjoyed long ago by the Phoenicians, then the Greeks, then the Romans…and now us! In recent years Corsican winemaking has been reinvigorated, and demand for the wines has been increasing rapidly. Come in and try it!


The Local

Following up on last week’s discussion of Washington State’s leadership role in producing hops for America and the World, tonight we visited The Local Public House on Railroad Ave. in Bellingham. Capitalizing on the plethora of great local microbrews, the Local offers a wide and ever-changing selection– tonight there were 16 beers or ales on tap, PLUS it was Cask Night, with five special “cask brews:” Menace Brewing Summer Wheat w/ cucumber & mint; Machine House English Mild, Wander Brewing Uncommon Cali Common w/ grapefruit rind, North Sound Hopsolute IPA w/ mango, Fremont Summer Ale w/ orange zest, ginger and mint.

We found the Machine House English Mild much like a very smooth and soft stout, very malty and flavorful. We are also fans of Wander Brewing, and found their Uncommon Cali Common w/ grapefruit to be very refreshing, tasty, and unusual. In addition, the Local has a great menu of delicious pub food, including the best Reuben sandwich we have ever had, with huge slabs of corned beef, delicious sauce, well-behaved kraut that knows to stay out of the spotlight, and beautiful dark bread. Yes, folks, this is an endorsement! check it out!


This week’s wine tasting

Marchetti Tenuta de Cavaliere Verdicchio ’14     Italy    $16
Full-bodied, with lush pear, melon, and a touch of honey; a little off-dry, with an extra month on the vine to develop greater body, structure, and fruit essence; deftly made, with beautiful acidity. Lovely!

Tintero Elvio Rosato  ’14    Italy   $10
Mostly Barbera; lurid pink. Lively red berries and floral cherry on the nose; fleshy raspberry and bitter cherry flavors pick up a hint of anise with air. Can stand up to o strong cheeses and spicy charcuterie.

Renegade Red ’12 Washington $11
Nicely crafted blend of Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc; shows lots of red and black fruits, scents of loamy minerality, and fine grained tannins that are matched with balanced acidity.

Maestracci Corse Calvi Rouge “E Prove” ’10   Corsica    $18
Blend of hand-picked Niellucciu, Grenache, Sciacarellu, and Syrah, slowly fermented over several weeks and aged in neutral barrels, yielding lush black fruit with a beguiling tarry, earthy tang, structured with minerality, acidity and just enough tannin.

La Quercia Montepulciano riserva ’11 Italy $18
100% organic montepulciano from low-yield vines; rich, port-like nose of candied cherries that carry through on the expressive, rich, earthy palate; nice balance of fruit and acidity.


Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting july 10 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)Buckwheat Rye - This bread is made with about half bread flour and half a mix of whole buckwheat and fresh milled rye flour.   The buckwheat lends a great earthy flavor to this artisan bread with a little honey added for sweetness. This is a bread that would be great with cheese – $5/loaf.

Pain Meunier - Also known as miller’s bread, developed to honor the miller by using all parts of the wheat berry, plus bread flour, fresh milled whole wheat & cracked wheat, and some wheat germ as well. A local favorite! – $5/loaf.

Palmiers- These delightful treats are made with puff pastry dough, loaded with butter, then covered with sugar, folded and baked. Di says these are her favorites! — 4/$5


Washington Hops

For many years now the story has been that a new winery has been opening in Washington every two weeks since the nineties. That would be about twenty-five a year, 250 in ten years, or something over 600 since 1990, for a current total of about 750 state-wide. All those wineries either grow their own grapes or buy them from the many large vineyards in the State. There is a pecking order based on seniority of contracts, and fruit from the best vineyards is tough for newcomers to get. These are things we all know about Washington wine.

What you may not know is that not only is Eastern Washington a great place to grow grapes; it also produces about 75% of all the hops used to make beer across the entire nation. The Yakima Valley is one of the most important hop growing regions in the world, exporting two-thirds of its total hops production to other countries.

There are two general types of hops, “bittering” and “aroma,” each with many individual subtypes. Bittering hops are high in alpha acids (about 10 percent by weight). Aroma hops are usually lower in alpha acid ( around 5 percent), and are used to impart desirable aromas and flavors to the beer. Many hop varieties can be used for either purpose.  read more …and even more…



This Just In: Walking in Nature relieves the blues

20140530-002138.jpgOkay, to anyone with an actual Brain this “recent scientific finding” is so not surprising as to evoke a “well, Duh!” However, the fact that someone actually decided to study it, gather data, and make conclusions, as reported here, is kind of interesting. Some researchers at Stanford recently did a study exploring the effects of nature walks on “rumination,” i.e., the process of “self-referential thought” (see?? it IS all about me!). Or as they put it,  “Rumination shows up as increased activity in a brain region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a narrow band in the lower part of the brain that regulates (or doesn’t!) negative emotions.”

The upshot of all of this is that there is something about walking in natural surroundings that restores balance, quiets internal dialogue, creating a “soft fascination,” a “sense of belonging,” or a “sense of being away.” Those of us who live here on the Island are fortunate to get lots of exposure to the many  soothing balms of Nature…ahhh, it’s a wonderful thing!     Read more



The Italians are back!

dscn1247 (Modified)Yes, friends, it’s time for our semi-annual shipment of Italian wines from Seattle importer Small Vineyards. Each August and March we attend a low-key, sit-down tasting with a SV representative, who guides us through about 20 wines we can order for delivery in three months or so. The wines we ordered in March have arrived, and we will be pouring two of them this weekend. Tonight we previewed the Brunelli Apricale, a blend of sangiovese with a little merlot and cab franc, and it makes us remember why we ordered it! During the sampling the sun shone through the wine glass, staining my hand with Bacchan light…it is a Miracle? Or is it just the everyday wonder of how the sun makes life possible?

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy!”


This week’s wine tasting

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

Caymus Conundrum White ’13    California  $16
Blend of Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli. Nose of citrus orchard in bloom. Tastes sweet without being cloying, showing fig, apricot, exotic spice and melon flavors. Ends clean and pure.

Domaine La Croix Belle Caringole ’12  France   $10
Syrah, Carignan and Merlot blend from Languedoc’s Cotes de Thongue region; fresh and supple with flavours of cherry, and black olive, and herbs.

Portteus Bistro Red ’13    Washington    $10
54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc. A food friendly wine with delicate yet elegant mouthfeel. Notes of blackberry, pomegranate, cocoa, honey and licorice, with a creamy finish.

 Brunelli Apricale  ’14    Italy  $14
Sangiovese grosso with a little Merlot and Cab Franc; Fragrance is fruity and persistent with scents of wild berries and slight traces of spice. Soft and balanced and appropriately tannic, this Sant’Antimo Rosso ideally accompanies the entire meal.






Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting july 3 ’15

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Friday Breads (sign up for

dscn1237 (Modified)Semolina Levain – think of it as French sourdough; mostly bread flour with fresh milled whole wheat and semolina for a tender crumb and nutty taste. – $5/loaf.

Prairie Bread - A hearty bread made with about 25% freshly milled whole wheat flour, rolled oats, and lots of poppy, flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, with a bit of brown sugar. – $5/piece.

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.



Fourth of July Weekend Hours

For sure we will be open Friday July 3, for our usual hours, 4-7 pm!

But Saturday July 4, is another story. As we all know, Independence Day is on a Saturday this year– a customary “Open” day in the Gallery. Traditionally, however, the Fourth is a time for family gatherings, afternoon barbecues, and lots of beer and potato salad. It’s not generally a day when people go out and about much, like, you know, to the local Wine Shop.

So on the one hand we don’t see much point in opening for our regular tasting. On the other hand, we acknowledge that holiday weekends are a horrible time to have a Wine Emergency, and we do want to be there for those of you who might not have planned ahead. In that light we will be open Saturday, July Fourth, but only from 2-4 pm! We will offer a complimentary two-wine tasting (if this heat continues, probably a white and a rose!), holiday greetings, gracious hospitality, and of course– your shopping convenience!


It’s So Hot That…

dscn1246 (Modified)For the past few years our weekly tasting has included five wines. From about April through September, that typically means one white, one rose, and three reds. Sometimes the white or the rose might be a bubbly sparkling wine. And through the colder half of the year that usually means one white wine and four reds.

Given the unprecedented heat around here for the past week, this weekend we are changing the formula for Friday to two whites, one rose, and two reds. Yes, yes, I know, these are desperate times, and these are just the times that demand this kind of Bold Action.

Lummi Island being what it is (as some say, “an Argument Surrounded by Water”), this Crazy Idea will have some of you intrigued, others incredulous, and many — perhaps very many– completely indifferent. What is important is that from time to time we take Bold, Daring steps like this, with the appearance of Heroic Nonchalance even while that tiny nervous tic on the corner of the mouth gives away the tension we really feel. Bottom line for all of you white and rose lovers: “This one’s for you!”



Lummi Island Women, cont’d

dscn1236 (Modified)Since Anne put up her show a month ago, it has been fun whenever one of the subjects comes in. In several cases we have managed to get photos of the subjects in front of their paintings. In this case last weekend, however we were treated to a more candid photo opportunity of painting and subject (Christian, seated left, painting right).

The show will continue through the end of July. If you haven’t yet had a chance to come in and enjoy these portraits, you owe it to yourself to come in and check them out. Many have already been bought, and it is unlikely that they will ever appear again in one place like this.

I’m just sayin’…!


This week’s wine tasting

Ormarine picpoul de penet ’14 France. $8
Yellow-green color; fruity nose with sharp citrus and tropical fruits; firm palate of pear, apple, lime peel, lemon, and an very long, refreshing, minerally finish.

Maryhill winemaker’s reserve white ’14 Washington. $12
Flavorful blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc; clean, bright aromas of pear and apple with touches of tangerine, butter and lemon oil lead to flavors of pineapple, pear, and white pepper; broad in the mouth, yet bright, crisp, and refreshing.

Villa des Anges Rosé ’14   France    $10
Spicy and focused on the nose, showing fresh citrus and red berry and a hint of white pepper. Dry and nervy on the palate, with refreshing bitter cherry and berry skin flavors.

Mont Gras carmenere ’11 Chile $11
Deep red with aromas of crushed black fruits, peppery crushed blackberries, and notes of earthy truffle, tobacco leaf, licorice, and tar; broad palate of wild cherries, spicy blackberries, huckleberries, and bell peppers with liqueur-like elements of cherry and elderberry.

Lafond Roc-Epine cotes du Rhone ’12      France   $14
70% grenache 30% syrah: Dark purple. Cherry, licorice and black pepper on the deeply pitched nose. Broad and chewy in texture, offering dense dark fruit flavors. Finishes on a peppery note with bit of sweetness.

Wine Tasting