lummi island wine tasting november 1 ’14

This Week’s Breads

20141024-122220.jpgJanice brings a basket of fresh-baked bread just just as we open each Friday shortly after 4pm.

This weekend:

– Light rye with caraway seeds – (think Reuben sandwich!)
— Golden polenta with dried cranberries

Rumor has it that Janice’s breads will be featured in the next incarnation of the Beach Store Cafe, reopening soon under new, Island-friendly management. I can tell you that Ryan is helping set up the wine list and server wine training, that many of the wines will be pleasantly familiar to our regulars, and that you will probably be able to buy a decent bottle to have with your dinner. We do remind our members, however, that it will continue to be to your advantage to buy a nice bottle from us and pay the modest corkage fee to have it with your dinner at the Cafe. I’m just saying…! In any case, after a month without a restaurant, we are all looking forward to having it open again!

Special Hours on Saturday

leePlease note we will not open till 3pm this Saturday so we can attend the Memorial for our friend and Wine Club member Lee McCollum. We press our palms together and bow in gratitude for having known him, and with sorrow for his loss.









Murphy and the Green Ketch. cont’d

dscn1015 (Modified)With apologies for dwelling on a subject, there is something so tragic and yet so inevitable about the ongoing (albeit at a very slow pace) saga of the Green Ketch, which we mentioned last week. The day after our post, stalwart volunteers mounted an energetic attempt to move the boat to what they hoped would be a more benign situation at the SE corner of Legoe Bay…you know, where the Happy Jack spent many years rusting in peace before being hauled away in chunks last Spring.

It has been reported that the effort involved a lot of muscle, a sturdy tractor, lines through blocks set offshore, and the like. Given the many unexpected obstacles, however, by the time the Ketch had been drawn close to the desired safe perch, the Tide had receded too far, and she was left stranded much further from shore than had been planned.


dscn1016 (Modified)Every sailor of experience has learned many times the inevitability of Murphy’s Law: “Anything that Can go Wrong will go Wrong…and at the Worst possible time. ” This is an important point for you non-sailors out there, who may only be familiar with the first part. Because to Really understand how Murphy’s Law operates, you must have a firm grasp of the “worst possible time” part of the Law.

Personal experience suggests the existence of several additional corollaries: 1) Murphy always shows up when you least expect it, and b) things go wrong in an exponentially cascading sequence.

It is particularly disturbing when the salvage attempt turns out to make things Worse. But that’s Murphy for you.

Wander Brewery


Week before last on a quiet Saturday afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting the owners of Bellingham’s newest brew-pub, Chad and Colleen. They opened their place in a hangar-like warehouse on Dean Street, in the little industrial area south of Bellingham High School, last Spring.







Since today Is Pat’s birthday, we took the opportunity to visit the brewery. We are happy to report that there are about 10 brews at any one time, and we tried them all in two rounds of samples. Though they serve no food, they have arranged for a different Food Truck to be at their place each day they are open. Unfortunately, today they had a last minute cancellation, and we had to hustle over to Taco Lobo for some takeout to bring back.  All you need to know is that Chad is an Artist who makes Beautiful brews, and we highly recommend a visit!

Lambrusco Rosé

For those of us of a certain age, the word “Lambrusco” conjures memories of consistently unpleasant sparkling wines of our youth. Not only were we young and inexperienced; in fact the Lambruscos that made it to our shores and our parties were quite often sappy-sweet and not particularly pleasant.

Slow-forward to today’s global, educated wine market, and it’s time to take another look at what Lambrusco can be. There are two versions, a sweet version (Amabile) and a dry version (Secco). Like other dry sparkling wines, Lambrusco goes well with lots of dishes because of its festive bubbles, palate-cleansing acidity, and subdued and adaptable flavor profile, which can be fruity, floral, or both.

Lambrusco is apparently quite an ancient wine, mentioned by Virgil, Pliny, Cato, and Strabo. No one knows what those wines tasted like, but in more recent centuries a steady stream of poets have sung its praises.We have occasionally carried dry Lambrusco, but this is our first dry rosé version. Come by and check it out!




This Week’s Tasting

i Quercioli Lambrusco Rose Italy $10
A lovely dry and sparkling Rose with pie cherries, huckleberries and aromas of strawberries and fresh herbs. Nice mousse and clean finish

Feraud Cotes du Rhone 11 $14
Dark berries and cherry pit on the pungent nose; slight jamminess and a hint of cracked pepper to its extroverted berry fruit. Juicy and focused, with supple tannins and a lingering herbal note.

Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya ’11 Spain 91 pts $10
Black raspberry and cassis aromas, with spicy mineral and floral elements. Powerful dark fruit flavors with vanilla and cola nuances and juicy acidity; velvety texture, with lingering spiciness.

Soter North Valley pinot noir ’12 Oregon $30
Spicy red and dark berry aromas; palate of juicy raspberry, floral pastille and licorice flavors lifted by tangy acidity. Silky and seamless, finishing with smooth, fine-grained tannins.

Matthews Sauvignon Blanc ’13 Washington
A scintillating nose of lime, melon, green apple and hints of quince, with a racy background of grapefruit and herbs. Bright, crisp and steely, with bracing acidity and minerality. A limited production wine for a good cause,

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting october 25 ’14

This Week’s Breads
20141024-122220.jpgJanice arrives with fresh bread just after opening each Friday at 4pm.

This week’s Fresh breads include Semolina; Golden Raisin & Fennel Seed; Rustic.






Uh-oh, Bad Day for the Green Ketch!

dscn1005 (Modified)A few weeks ago I posted an item about the sailboat that had been anchored in Legoe Bay most of the summer. In particular we were curious about its “Cascadia” flag. After being around for a few months, the boat went away a couple of weeks ago, only to return early this week.







dscn0998 (Modified)That turned out to be unfortunate timing and a poor choice of anchorages for Tuesday night’s high winds from the southwest. Wednesday morning found the boat stranded on the shore with a substantial hole in her side. Local stalwarts spent some time trying to patch and refloat her, but to no avail, as these photos taken today attest. Aye, lads, it’s a sad business, as we well know from our own little adventure a few weeks ago…




2015 Calendars now on sale!

dscn0994 (Modified)Wine club members Cheryl and Di are usually the first ones here each Friday afternoon as we open, along with Janice delivering the day’s Fresh Bread. These days they are often met by Bread Devotees from around the Island. Some of them don’t even drink wine…! Don’t they know they can’t Live by Bread Alone…???!

In any case, Cheryl and Di are both nature photographers of some skill, and each year they produce a calendar featuring Lummi Island scenes, often involving birds, the Ferry, birds, Mt. Baker, and perhaps a few birds. The point is that if you are not a bird, a ferry, or Mt. Baker, your picture will probably not be in the calendar. All you need to know is that we DO have their 2015 calendars on sale at the wine shop!

So it is with some pride and sense of Good Luck that this year’s photo of Mt. Baker also includes a sunrise sky in the background, and Hales Passage in the foreground, along with a picturesque sailboat quietly at anchor. It turns out it is our boat, the same one you just saw if you clicked on the link in the last sentence in the previous paragraph. She is now safely tucked in her slip in Bellingham for the winter, her bottom cleaned and painted, and no signs of damage from her recent grounding adventure. May the Green Ketch fare as well!


Wine Club…Do we still have one?

clubhouseLast year was the first year of our Wine Club. The rules were complicated: discount tastings, different levels of purchase discounts based on sales, and members joining all through the year. We changed the rules a bit for this year, but our goal all along has been to give Wine Club members two kinds of rewards: 1) lower tasting fees than the general public, and 2) increasing savings the more wine you buy from us. The current rules are posted here.

This year we continue to be happy with the discount tastings part of our membership package, even though we have had only about half as many members. On the one hand that makes for fewer regular visitors. On the other hand, it means that a greater proportion of visitors are not members, and we do a little better than breaking even on tastings. On the third hand, it feels like our community of regulars has been declining in number, and that causes concern, because, in case you hadn’t noticed, building community is the main reason we continue to carry on this absurd pretense that we are some sort of “real business.” Now that is a scary thought!



It’s hard to believe that we have been open for almost ten years. Back in those early days, one of the first wines we carried was from a Washington winery that had already established a reputation for quality. Having opened in 1993, it was an early player in a Washington wine scene that has grown on the order of a new winery every two weeks for the last twenty years. So in a sense these folks were pioneers.

As often happens in America (unlike elsewhere), retirement of one generation leads not to passing on the baton within the same family, but selling the whole kit and kaboodle to someone new, whether that be a human person or a corporate person. So I really don’t know what is going on at Matthews these days, but a few weeks ago their rep Eric stopped by (I was in the ferry line as he came off and detoured home to taste…duty calls!) and poured samples of all their wines. Suffice it to say I was impressed enough to buy several of them, which we will pour over the next couple of weeks. I think you will like them!


This week’s tasting

Grand Bateau Blanc ’12 France $11
80% sauvignon blanc and 20% semillon, it has reticent aromatics of apple skin, bruised peach, lemon, stone fruit kernels, hay, grass and gooseberry. The palate is medium to full bodied, the acid medium and its flavours remind of lemon, apple skin, grass and gooseberry.

Chateau Fontanes Rosé’13 France $17
Redcurrant and strawberry aromas are accented by orange zest and cinnamon. Silky and broad in the mouth, offering juicy red fruit flavors and slow-building spiciness.

Casarena ’505′ Malbec ’10 Chile $12
Nuanced aromas of currant, dusty herbs, licorice, spices, coffee and smoky oak. Serious and lively, with saline complexity to flavors of blackcurrant and cranberry. Intense, suave and long, a splendid value.

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.

Matthews Red Wine ’12 Washington $18
Syrah, Cab Franc, Merlot blend; solid dark berry fruits, spring flowers, graphite and spice to go with a medium to full-bodied, nicely textured and up-front profile.


Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting oct 18 ’14

Hey, let’s taste some f#%ing  Merlot!

Let’s face it, it’s a classic scene from the movie Sideways, so much so that in many parts of the country merlot sales went down and stayed down for a long time after the movie came out. I mean, think about it, even now, years later, everyone fears a vague sense of disapproval if seen ordering, buying, or enjoying it. So it is a great surprise to me that– quite by accident– the three red wines we are pouring this weekend all have from 34% to 75% merlot!  OMD!!

A little history: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc are the predominant red grapes of the Bordeaux region of France, and are therefore known as– wait for it– Bordeaux varietals! And although cabernet sauvignon is often found these days in various blends with non-Bordeaux varietals (as with sangiovese in so-called “Super-Tuscans), merlot is most often found blended in various proportions only with other Bordeaux grapes, or as a single varietal, especially in California and Washington. In Bordeaux, of course, Left Bank blends are mostly cab sauv, while Right Bank blends are mostly merlot.


Right Bank (click image to start video)

The Garonne River which defines Bordeaux opens out in a broad estuary toward the Atlantic. The southern riverbank has somehow become known as the Left Bank, and the northern as the Right Bank. That seems bizarre to me, as anyone looking at a modern map would call them “upper” and “lower” rather than “right” and “left,” but then I have often been burdened by taking language far too literally.

Our first red this weekend, “Grand Bateaux,” is 75% merlot, and seems to be a collaboration involving a Left Bank producer (St. Julien, mostly cab sauv) and (I imagine…?_) a Right Bank producer  which I have not been able to identify. The remaining question is, okay, how does a left bank winery make a bunch of merlot-dominated wine??? I was hoping to answer this riddle for you, but alas, it must remain a mystery for the moment. The takeaway is merlot-dominated = “Right Bank.” In most cases…I think…!



And then there’s always California…

Well…this theme is not working out at all as I had planned, for lack of available data! This wine, called Red Splash, is made by California winery St. Francis. They are So Big that you have to look carefully at their website to find if they still make wine at all! Restaurant, yes. Food, yes. Weddings, check. Social media, oh yeah. But any mention of their errant child Red Splash…mmm…no.

So this reminds me that there is a Trend of sorts taking over in the world of Corporate Wine: getting more and more selective to pull the Best Grapes from the fruit available to you in order to make limited-production, high-scoring, publicity-gathering, Cult Wines that get High Scores from the Critics, and therefore the Very Rich will pay a LOT of money for. It is hard to say whether that is a good thing or a bad thing for us in the 99.9%.

On the one hand it means that The Best is not available to us. Well, Duh, nothing new there. On the other hand, it means that a LOT of fruit doesn’t make the cut for the Varsity, and that can generally mean an increase in quality for the Jayvees and the intramurals…you know, the rest of us. Most likely whole portfolios are being designed by Corporate HQ to aim each layer of quality at a particular socio-economic layer. The question for you as you taste this wine is, as always for the wine consumer at every level, “hmm, (sniff, sniff, taste, taste)” would I pay that much for this??


Tapteil Vineyard

Tapteil Vineyard, located on Red Mountain near Benton City, produces some of Washington’s best Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In a state that has Mountains like the Cascades, it has always seemed a bit brow-furrowing that this little hill gets to be called “Red Mountain,” which at around 800′ elevation is more of a low, wide hill. Nevertheless, this vineyard’s silt loam soil produces grapes of distinctive quality and well-structured wines with softly insistent tannins. This weekend we are pouring a wine that has been sitting in our cellar since we opened, the 2002 Cadence Tapteil blend of all three of Red Mountain’s Bordeaux varietals.

By the way, the name “Tapteil” is a Native American term for “narrow,” referring to the narrow meander of the Yakima River about a mile west of Red Mountain. Taptielmin were the  “narrow river people” who once inhabited this portion of the Yakima River.


This week’s tasting

Chateau Lancyre Rose ’12 France $15
(50% syrah, 40% grenache, 10% cinsault): Bright pink. Intense red berry and tangerine with notes of anise and white flowers; juicy and precise, with palate-coating cranberry and bitter cherry flavors.

Stephen Vincent Chardonnay ’12 California $11
Hints of tobacco and prosciutto aromas with butterscotch and warm green apple carrying over into a palate of  crisp citrus with minerals, tamarind, and fig.

Grand Bateau Rouge ’11 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.

St. Francis Red Splash ’11 California $12
Lush merlot-based blend with succulent ripe red fruit flavors and spicy aromas. Full-bodied and versatile, with luscious raspberry fruit and spicy clove notes, a round midpalate, and well-structured length.

Cadence Tapteil Vineyard ’02     Washington     92pts    $32
Cab, merlot, cab franc. Red currant, plum and tobacco leaf on the rather claret-like nose. Dense and spicy, with strong fruit notes of crushed blackberry, raspberry and red currant and an intriguing saline character. Finishes with big, chewy, broad, palate-coating tannins and excellent persistence.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting october 11 ’14

Camera Mystery Explained

p7700The older we get (a wonderful thing in SO many ways!) the more often our “Aha!” insights can turn out to be “You mean Everyone but me has known this all along…???” It’s a humbling experience that can make one wonder: “Is this another Little Slip toward the “Over” side of The Hill…?”

In last week’s post I admit got a little obsessive about my camera woes– the Case of the Disappearing Photos. I have since determined that the supplemental memory chip, which fits into a slot next to the camera battery (photo), is easily jostled loose. Last week’s mysterious reappearance of a set of long-lost photos, together with the sudden disappearance of a large number of more recent photos, seems to have been caused by the tendency of the memory chip to go in and out of contact with relatively small movements of the camera or battery. Move it this way, these photos appear…move it that way, and those photos appear!



Where cement comes from

20141009-173156.jpgLast week Pat spent several days in Vancouver at an embroidery design workshop on Granville Island. While there she took photos of these colorful characters painted on silos at Ocean Cement. As art it’s pretty interesting, although it is vaguely disturbing that, you know, trucks drive between the legs of these Giant Space Aliens to get, you know Dumped On.

Actually, the whole project is one of a number of large art installations by Brazilian artists and twins Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, who call themselves OS GEMEOS  (“THE TWINS”). They have been installing giant works of art around the world for over a dozen years. For a little trip through their work, go to their website and scroll across the mural header at the top of the page. Pretty amazing stuff!

See more details on the Granville Island installation.


Symphonic Metal 

dscn0985-1 (Modified)Two weeks ago we enjoyed a very quiet Saturday afternoon at the wine shop. Such days often provide a laid-back atmosphere more conducive to easy conversation than more crowded times allow. Such was the case with Margaret and Eric. They both have musical talents, interesting jobs, and an infectious upbeat attitude.

The conversation somehow started on the topic of “Symphonic Metal,” which is, apparently, an emerging music genre. Margaret is on the verge of starting a group in this genre which would fuse elements of Opera (she has had a lot of training) and, you guessed it, Heavy Metal. Everybody’s favorites, right? How could you possibly miss?? Just think “easy listening” and imagine it piped into elevators…ah, so soothing!

We managed to get Pandora up and running for awhile on our ten-year-old salvaged PC, and they led us through several groups that have some of the elements of the genre: Nightwish (e.g., Phantom of the Opera or End of All Hope) and Apocalypica (try Heat  (metal + cello…I am not making this up!). There are lots of others (The Glitch Mob, Epica). Much of it tips way too strongly toward Metal for my taste. But I have to say some of the more interesting examples have a very Epic sound, easy to imagine as movie sound track material for sweeping, vaguely dystopian sci-fi films…!

This week’s tasting

Lost River Rose’13 Washington $15
A long-time favorite here…blended from merlot and cabernet franc, harvested early to preserve crisp acidity and bright notes of strawberry and cherry.

Cepas del Zorro Macabeo ’13 Spain $10
100% Macabeo; barrel-fermentation preserves a lively character while adding body and texture; great intensity of fruit aromas, highlighted with notes of ripe apple.

Agricultura Vinho Tinto ’11 Portugal $11
From Alentejo, on Portugal’s south-eastern border with Spain, comes this eminently quaffable red wine with surprising depth and complexity.

Borie de Maurel Espirit d’Automne ’11 France $13
Syrah, grenache, carignan; perfumes of black olives, tobacco, and spices; minerally flavors of graphite, limestone and clay with notes of morello cherries, red fruits, mint, and licorice.

Susana Balbo Signature Malbec ’12 Argentina 91pts $25
Sexy aromas of dark berries, violet, and mocha, with juicy, fruit-driven black plum, blackberry and violet flavors and harmonious acidity, precision, and inner-mouth tension.


Wine Tasting