Lummi Island Wine Tasting October 27 ’12
Hey! Bellingham Herald Article Makes Us Even More Famous!
A couple of weeks ago our friends Dan and Alex stopped by for what turned out to be most of the afternoon to chat about how the wine shop has been faring the last year or two. Dan (Radil) writes the weekly wine column in the Bellingham Herald, and he and Alex drop in from time to time to check up on us. Their too-occasional visits make for a festive time, and we always look forward to seeing them. (Of course those of you who visit regularly know that, hello, we always have a good time here, but that’s another story!). Suffice it to say that Dan’s article featuring us appeared this week! Numerous people have read it and told us it was a great article (Thanks, Dan!). I thought it would be easy to find online but unfortunately there is some weird delay between when the column appears in print and when it appears online. Bottom line: we haven’t seen it yet! Since we didn’t manage to get out and buy the edition of the paper in which it appeared, the next best option is this:
Free tasting this weekend for the first person (or couple) who presents us with a clipping of the original article!
Several months ago our trusty little Canon Powershot S500 Digital ELPH that Pat bought ten years or so ago starting acting as though it had suffered some kind of stroke. This is a camera we have relied upon heavily in the wine shop to document our (and your!) activities on this blog over the past several years. The first symptoms were the appearance of horizontal bands in the photos. That went on intermittently for several months; sometimes pictures had the bands, but most of the time they were fine. A few weeks ago, however, the bands started appearing all the time, definitely a problem. That was quickly followed by an unresolvable seizure mode, in which the camera could not zero in and focus, but just kept trying anyway. It appears, therefore, that we need a new camera, and that’s why in the past few weeks I have been relying almost exclusively on public photos I find online to illustrate this weekly missive rather than the more familiar shots of People Having Fun in the wine shop!
It is bizarre that these days you can take photos with your camera, your phone, your computer, your Ipad (not to mention tiny spy cameras in the shape of little black helicopters in microscopic specks of dust!). Yet despite the ready availability of photographic technology, when I try to use one of these alternatives I find that there is always some other piece of hardware necessary to access the photos, which tends to make me a little grumpy. So the good news is that I can take pictures with the new dumb phone I bought last winter when my old one ran out of power, but of course I don’t have the special cable required to connect it to my computer. We do have an Ipad, which also takes pictures, and even a cable to connect it to an actual computer, but it is a little unwieldy to “point and shoot.” At the moment, based on the recommendation of one of our regulars visitors who happens to be a professional photographer (thanks, Jim!), I am leaning toward the new Canon Powershot G15 to replace our terminally ill camera. However, that is a little pricey, so we are still shopping. In the meantime, if you have a camera to recommend, let us know!
Next week we are off for a week or so to Napa wine country, visits with family and friends (maybe including a white-knuckle ride in The Kid’s Red Car…ah, the Napa lifestyle!), and possibly a bit of wine tasting, you never know. Never fear, Ryan will be here to attend to all of your wine needs during our travels, so the shop will be open as usual next Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5, and we will be back the following weekend, which might be studio tour..? Anyway, there is something about vineyards, especially hillside vineyards, that always evokes in me a deep sense of calm, a soothing beauty, a long, restorative exhalation. Ahhhhh!
Even after all these years, it is still a surprise– not a complaint– to re-experience the seasonal slowdown our business takes in the Fall. So it was a bit of a surprise that last weekend, when we were special tasting of the new Betz releases of their Rhone blends, that we had so few visitors to share them with.
Despite the low numbers in attendance, I have to say that the quality of conversation and cameraderie reached a new qualitative high. So here is a special thanks to Mary Jane, Capella, and Judy O (this photo is from last Halloween with Capella, Leere, and Mary Jane…sorry no photos of Judy) on Friday night for a lengthy and enjoyable salon, and special thanks to Randy for wasting most of a perfectly good Saturday with us, including taking it upon herself to make sure everyone got several chances to taste the Betz wines…! and yes, folks, they were very, very good; imho, this very difficult 2010 Washington vintage more closely mimicked the climate of the southern Rhone, yielding more Old World-like wines with sharper varietal delineation and brighter acidity than usual. They may not earn the big ratings scores they have in the past, but I suspect that they may come closer to the ideal that winemaker extraordinaire Bob Betz has been continually striving toward.
This week’s tasting notes
Poet’s Leap Riesling ’11 Washington $18
Fragrant nose of mineral, lemon-lime, and floral notes leading to a vibrant, Kabinett-style, off-dry wine with pear and apricot flavors on the palate. Balanced by the excellent natural acidity of the vintage, it is likely to evolve for 1-2 years and drink well for another 6-8.
Underwood Pinot Noir ’11 Oregon $11
Notes of cranberries and red raspberries with hints of smoke and spice. The palate is filled with sweet raspberry fruit intertwined with warm cinnamon tones.
St. Francis Red Splash ’08 California $12
Lush with succulent ripe, red fruit flavors and spicy aromas. Full-bodied and versatile, RED pairs with a variety of foods for any occasion.
Cryptic Red ’10 California $18
Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from lots of vineyards, yielding a big, jammy New World red blend brimming with brambly, intense, red berry flavors; inky, intense depth and color; and a silky mouth-filling finish: a hedonist’s delight.
Lummi Island Wine Tasting October 20 ’12
Sweetest- & Newscarriers- Day
October 22 was first celebrated (I am not making this up) as “Sweetest Day” in Cleveland in 1922, when philanthropic candy company employee Herbert Kingston wanted to bring a little joy into the lives of orphans, shut-ins, and others who were forgotten. With the help of friends, he began to distribute candy and small gifts to the underprivileged. On the first Sweetest Day, (90 years ago today) movie star Ann Pennington (leftmost) presented 2,200 no doubt very excited Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy to express gratitude for their service to the public, while fellow actress Theda Bara (near left) distributed 10,000 boxes of candy to people in Cleveland hospitals. Like us, everyone probably wondered if these Silent Screen stars had, you know, actual Voices, and whether they were anything like what people expected!
This day also commemorates the hiring of the very first newspaper carrier; on September 10, 1833, Benjamin Day, publisher of The New York Sun, hired 10 year old Barney Flaherty to sell papers for his penny press. “The only job requirement, was that he had to show that he could throw a newspaper into the bushes.” (really??…the bushes?)
It seems likely that Kingston and the actresses were aware that the day was already designated as Newspaper Carriers’ Day; or maybe it was just a coincidence (you think???) that on the first “Sweetest Day,” special effort was made to honor the carriers with candy. Personally, I think ”Sweetest Day” was a pretty bad choice of names, good intentions notwithstanding… Nowadays, few kids deliver papers anymore except in small towns; it’s mostly adults who get up early and deliver them by car; but the “Carrier Day” tradition lives. Ah, yes, another memory from a simpler time…
Carmenere is a wine grape that originated in France but died out there a century ago, caused either by “coulure,” and the vine’s defensive response to prolonged wet and dark conditions (ummm, probably not a good choice for planting around here…), or perhaps by phylloxera, which decimated French vineyards. For whichever reason, carmenere disappeared from the world in the nineteenth century, only to be rediscovered– and this is the exciting part- within the last decade or two, mainly in Chile, where it had been grown for over a hundred years under the mistaken impression that it was a clone of Merlot. Over the years we have carried several carmeneres, and we have enjoyed them all. Softer than merlot, mellower than malbec, wines from this varietal occupy a unique and satisfying niche between the Big Tannic Guns of the Bordeaux varietals (cab, merlot, malbec, cab franc) and the softer “wines of the sun” of the South (grenache, syrah, mourvedre). We will be pouring one this weekend; come check it out! more history of Carmenere
Betz Family Winery Fall Releases
Twice a year we head down to Woodinville to pick up new releases from Betz. In the winter they release their Bordeaux-style blends (based on cabernet sauvignon and merlot), and in the fall they release their Rhone-style blends (based on syrah, grenache, and mourvedre). This year their release party was the first weekend after Labor Day, or as it is usually known around here, the first weekend of Drydock. So we missed the release party, and finally made it to Woodinville to pick up the wines this week. We don’t usually pour these wines at tastings, but since we haven’t tried them yet, we will pour a couple of them this weekend. The good news is that these are world class wines made here in Washington; the bad news is that these are $40-$50 wines, so the tasting will be$10 this week instead of the usual $5. The way the math works out, if we monitor pours very carefully, we might break even on the tasting, and we will all get to taste a couple of exceptional wines.
Here’s a short video of winemaker Bob Betz talking about the 2010 vintage
This week’s tasting
Fleur Chardonnay ’08 California $10
From vineyards in the hills along California’s North Coast combining opulent fruit with wonderful richness and brilliant color; aromas of apricots, honeysuckle and Comice pear. Aging in neutral French oak on the lees gives the wine a creamy, soft texture and a wonderful richness.
La Joya Carmenere ’10 Chile $11
Nicely toasty, with a coffee edge framing the black currant, plum and tobacco notes, which push through on the finish.
Betz Grenache Bésoleil ’10 Washington $39
Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah each complement the dominant black raspberry notes of Boushey vineyard Grenache, creating aromatic layering and palate impression of cream, white pepper, lavender blossom and toasted earth. Silky and full on entry, the mid palate expands while still remaining plump and supple.
Betz Syrah La Serenne ’10 Washington $49
Impenetrable black color of classic Boushey vineyard Syrah leads to distinctive and seductive aromas of smoky, candied blackberry that gives way to notes of licorice, iron, roasted earth and meat. Despite the cooler vintage conditions, there a full, rich, almost powerful overall impression, the velvet hammer, the gloved fist: plush, silky and yet jam packed with character.
Lummi Island Wine Tasting October 12-13 ’12
Harrison Hot Springs
We just returned this afternoon from two days at Harrison Hot Springs, about a two-hour drive north into BC. It’s been a few years since we last visited, but we enjoyed it so much we think we would like to go more often. This time we rented one of their dozen or so one-bedroom cabins, which are: a) quietly located behind the hotel along a small stream (dry at the moment, but probably not for long!!), and which b) welcome pets (!!), which allowed us to take our dogs with us. All in all it was very relaxing and enjoyable. It’s not often we allow ourselves this level of pampering, and…well…Surprise, it is curiously enjoyable! Who knew that self-indulgence could be pleasant?
OMD: Senior Citizenhood!
The down-side to to this little getaway was the somewhat disturbing realization that we are in fact officially Senior Citizens. On the one hand it’s a little like being “under 12″ again, which meant, way back when we were kids, that we got into the movies for less than adults. The actual numbers will probably be a little mind-blowing for anyone younger, but most of the theaters in Bangor, Maine back in the fifties when I was under 12 cost a quarter for kids, and a whopping 35 cents for adults. One theater, affectionately known as “the Rathole,” which as far as I can remember was ONLY open Saturday afternoons, typically featuring a Western, cost nine cents for admission. No, I personally never saw any rats.
The fact that goes hand in hand with these memories from a half-century ago is that in order to have them you gotta be OLD. I remember an old joke I heard when I was in my twenties:
“A young reporter goes to interview an elder gentleman on the occasion of his one hundredth birthday:
“Tell me, sir, how does it feel to be so old?”
To which the elder gentleman replied, “Well, sonny, I’ll tell ya…I don’t feel so much like an old man as I do like a young man with something the matter with him!”
So it was that we found ourselves in the company of other folks our age (and OMD, even Older!) wandering aimlessly (as one does at our age) in and out of the hot pools and various dining facilities. Some even danced to the resident band that did a nice job playing oldies. All in all it was vaguely disturbing to realize that your Peer Group are old, stiff, and a little droopy; and you feel a compelling need to distance yourself from them…omd, how did this happen…?
The name “Super-Tuscan” refers to Italian wines which combine Sangiovese with grapes which are not traditional in the particular region, like Syrah, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. Such wines fell outside the official DOCG classifications of Italian wines either because they contained international varietals such as cabernet sauvignon or merlot, or were aged “incorrectly,” or in some other way violated the strict rules for wine classification in their region. Therefore forced to be classified as simply Vina di Tavola (table wine), many of these wines nonetheless found favour in international markets and some hugely surpassed the highest quality wines typical of the region. The wine industry and press began to refer to these wines as Super-Tuscans because of their popularity and quality; subsequently, the Italian authorities, under the Goria Law 1992, redrew the classifications, and included the category IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) to include the SuperTuscans in the DOCG typology.
For several years now we have carried a delicious and inexpensive super-tuscan from a family winery (Perazzeta) just south of the famous wine region of Montalcino in Tuscany. We special-order several cases each year, along with a case or two of their delicious olive oil. We will be pouring the current vintage this weekend; see tasting notes below.
The highlight of our trip to Spain in May was our week in the Priorat/Montsant regrion, about 100 mi SW of Barcelona. Everything about the region is dramatic. The landscape is high, dry, and hot during the growing season. There is no irrigation of vines, which have to send their roots deep into the earth to find water. Sometimes it takes over twenty years before the vines find enough water to produce fruit. When they DO produce fruit, however, it can be quite profound, with deep concentration and complexity, not just because of the depth, but because of the unusual soil which underlies much of the region. Called licorella, it is a uniquely structured shale with a neutral pH, which allows the wines to develop a wide range of distinctive mineral nuances.
This picture was taken during our visit to Pasanau, a winery at the northern end of the region, looking south toward the Mediterranean coast, about 50 miles away. (You can click on the image to see a larger version.) In the same tradition as the Super Tuscans of Italy, many wineries in Priorat are embracing other varietals than the traditional carinena and garnatxa found in most wines from Priorat. This weekend we will be pouring the Pasanau “Ceps Nous” (Catalan for “new varietals,” and pronounced “seps noose”).
Everywhere we look in wine regions these days, there is a creative tension between the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative. Whether it is in Italy with the introduction of French varietals like cabernet, merlot, or syrah to make “supertuscans,” or in Spain to find the best varietals to express the unique terroir of Priorato, winemakers are constantly exploring the creative possibilities. These are at lease a couple of reasons why exploring modern wines is a dynamic and fascinating intellectual and sensory pursuit. In a nutshell, that’s what our weekly tasting is all about!
Tasting notes for this weekend:
Chateau Guiraud White Bordeaux ’10 France $20
Bright golden yellow. Captivating nose offers complex, deep aromas of lemon, mint and white flowers. Enters the mouth bright and fresh, with tightly wound citrus and mineral flavors gaining flesh and depth with aeration, picking up honey and herbal qualities on the very long, pure finish
Can Blau “Blau” ’09 Spain 90pts $11
40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, and 20% Garnacha aged for 12 months in French oak. Wood smoke, spice box, incense, lavender, black cherry and plum aromas are followed by a mouth-filling, round, dense wine with outstanding grip and length. It over-delivers in a big way. Drink it over the next 6-8 years.(Btw, this wine is made in Montsant at Celler Masroig, within sight of the southern edge of Priorat).
Perazzeta “Erio” Super-Tuscan ’10 Italy $14
A local favorite we have brought in for several years: a Sangiovese, cab, syrah blend from Tuscany just south of Montalcino (we also carry their olive oil–delicious!) – this vintage is richer and more balanced, with even bigger flavor than last year– totally yummy!
Pasanau Ceps Nous ’10 Spain WA90pts $22
A blend of 45% Garnacha, 30% Merlot, 5% Syrah and 20% Carinena. It has a very elegant nose of raspberry, wild strawberry and fennel. The palate is very well-balanced with a succulent core of spicy red fruit. The Carinena is very expressive, with wonderful balance and composure towards its smooth but structured finish.
Lummi Island Wine Tasting October 6, ’12 “Frugal Fun Day”
“Frugal Fun Day”
According to people who pretend to know, October 6, aka Frugal Fun Day, is widely celebrated (or, if we all got behind it, it could be!) as
“a day to enjoy fun activities that are free (or very inexpensive). If you use your imagination, the ideas are endless. Go on a bike or walking hike. The Fall leaves are on display. Have a picnic in the park, or your back yard. Take a bunch of friends to visit Artisan Wine Gallery on Lummi Island for their frugal and delicious wine tasting (only $5!!). Go fly a kite (they mean that in a nice way). Pull out the those old board games or puzzles that you have stored in the basement (and get rid of them once and for all!). Play cards with friends.”
even more frugal fun
Muddling Toward Frugality
Actually, as I am writing this, I have been struggling to recall a title from years ago, something like “Muddling Toward Frugality,” one of many neo-Malthusian calls to arms about over-consumption back when people were, you know, concerned about the environment. I just looked it up to find the first edition was 1978 (back when I was a practicing environmental economist), with a revised edition in 2010. Glancing through the new edition online, I am struck by how cynical I have become about the possibility that anything at all can or will be done about the multitude of environmentally-related woes now facing the world.
This is exacerbated by the surreal experience of watching the Obama-Romney debate last night. By all accounts Romney was the “winner,” and I have to admit he was the better debater. I was also, of course, fascinated by the rational ideas that came out of his suddenly Centrist mouth, ideas very far removed from anything else he has espoused in the last several years of his more or less permanent campaign. As President Obama quipped this morning (day after the debate), “Last night I was in a debate with a spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.”
The reason I bring this up, yes, intruding some level of politics into today’s posting, is that it suddenly occurs to me how far into the ozone the zeitgeist of our political economy has moved since the hopeful days of the seventies. Since then we have endured the Reagan years (who heroically decided we had to throw the poor out of the lifeboat to save the lifeboat), the Bush years (Reagan Lives On?), the Clinton years (Episode Three: Rise of the Reagan Clones?), the W years (Reagan Knows Best?), and the Obama years (The Curse of Reagan?).
Back in the seventies there was an excitement, a tangible sense of Possibility that the World could be saved, or healed, or at least managed with good intention, stewardship, and compassion. Now, as I look through the revised edition of “Muddling,” only a year or so after having been deeply involved in working to establish an academic program in Sustainability at WWU, I find I have grown quite cynical, which is a way of saying I have become way less confident that human beings have the will, the good sense, or the ability to avoid destroying the ability of the world to support civilization. Suffice it to say I could go on at some length about this, but not here, and not now. Maybe over a glass of something…?
My point for right now is the curious juxtaposition of last night’s “debate,” my random discovery tonight that October 6 has been named by somebody as “Frugal Fun Day,” and the other random discovery that there is a recent version of the old environmentalist treatise, “Muddling Toward Frugality.” Which leads us to…
The Other Debate
It turns out that the so-called Presidential debate is very carefully designed and managed so as only to include two candidates, the Republican and the Democrat. The format, the questions, and all the rules are made by the two parties. As you might imagine, the rules are strongly oriented toward not letting us see behind the Wizard’s curtain, and last night was no exception, which brings us to the Other Debate.
in order to get other voices heard in the debate, Democracy Now! found a way to include Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party to answer the same questions asked of Obama and Romney in the mainstream debate. They had also invited the Libertarian candidate to participate, who declined. Still, it is encouraging to find that at least in small corners there is information NOT wholly managed by corporate interests, and I encourage anyone who is curious to check it out; it is a comfort to find serious people who reinforce our values while the mainstream goes further and further into la-la land. Link below:
Which brings us to:
This week’s tasting:
St Michael-Eppan Pinot Bianco ’10 Italy 91pts $12
Another winner from the alpine region of Alto Adige, this Pinot Bianco is again one of the stand-outs in San Michele’s 2010 releases. The aromas and flavors are beautifully delineated in this layered, expressive Pinot Bianco. White stone fruits, flowers and crushed rocks wrap around the insistent, layered finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2015.
For no particular or planned reason, it turns out that we have visited three of the four wineries whose wines we will be pouring this weekend, ranging from Bellingham to France to Spain. The first wine is NOT from an area we have visited, although by all accounts it (Alto Adige) is a stunning landscape, and I already know it produces exceptional and unusual wines. It is in far northern Italy, at the foot of the Alps, along the border with Austria.
Domaine Moulinier St. Chinian Rouge ’10 France $14
Typical of the domaine, this blend of syrah, grenache, and mourvedre is made for food, offering bright notes of dark berries and fruits, a hint of spice, excellent acidity, and nicely managed tannins.
Both we and many of our regulars have visited Domaine Moulinier in St. Chinian, tasted their wonderful wines, enjoyed hanging out with dad Guy and son Stephane, and been amazed at the museum-quality collection of fossils and ancient human artifacts, including Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal stone tools.
Celler Can Blau Can Blau ’09 Spain 90pts $15
The 2009 Can Blau is made up of 40% Carinena, 40% Syrah, and 20% Garnacha aged for 12 months in French oak. Wood smoke, spice box, incense, lavender, black cherry and plum aromas are followed by a mouth-filling, round, dense wine with outstanding grip and length. It over-delivers in a big way. Drink it over the next 6-8 years.
It turns out that the Can Blau winery is NOT located in the Montsant region, where we visited last spring, even though that is where several of their wines originate. Spanish law requires that in order to carry the label of a region, the grapes must be grown AND the wine must be made in that region. So Can Blau is mostly made up of grapes grown in the Spanish region of Montsant, which surrounds the famous area of Priorat. The wines are actually made by the Can Blau winemaker (a woman we met very briefly) at the Masroig cooperative winery located in the village of, you guessed it, Masroig. You will recall that we have tasted several of the Masroig wines over the past month or two, including the Les Sorts rose, the Sola Fred, and the Vinyes Velles.
Masquerade Syrah ’07 Washington $22
Made by Bill and Jennifer Kimmerley in Bellingham from Burgess Vineyard in Pasco, this syrah is both fruity and crisp, a great accompaniment to the heavier fare we are starting to enjoy as our evenings are turning decidedly cooler.
Bill and Jennifer Kimmerley of Masquerade Winery in Bellingham did a special tasting of their wines here in June for the Schooner Zodiac Wine Cruise stop here at our shop, and we have poured them on other occasions during the summer. We keep their wines in stock, as we do with several neighborhood wineries. We encourage you to stop by their tasting room on Iowa street (open most weekday afternoons), and to come by this weekend to taste their syrah.