lummi island wine tasting august 2 ’14

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. “Tavel is reputed to have been a favourite wine of kings Philippe le Bel and Louis XIV, the Popes of Avignon, and aficionados like Ernest Hemingway.” Tavel rosé spends more time on the skins than in Provence, and thus is not only darker in color, but also has more structure, tannins, and aging potential. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, it is absolutely Declicious!


Drone Spotted Over Legoe Bay!

dscn0893 (Modified)Most days around noon we leash up the dogs for a walk down to Village Point. Occasionally I take the camera along. Which brings up the curious contradiction: if you have your camera with you, you don’t see that many good shots. But if you left it home, oh yes, that’s when the kingfishers, the orcas, the ducks, the shadows and the light are all out in full glory. You know, Irony. So today going out the door I grabbed the camera as an afterthought,” just in case.” What caught my eye were some little thickets of Queen Anne’s Lace (believe it or not, the ancestor of the Carrot!) amid the driftwood between the road and the beach, with the reefnetters in the background. So I took a couple of photos, hoping there would be some way to crop them for an interesting composition.

So, honestly, I didn’t even notice it, the odd flying shape in the frame, until I downloaded the photo and was looking for an interesting way to crop it. Then, as I was zooming in, there it was, this strange shape with wings like a huge dragonfly, legs and long neck like a Great Blue, but neither of those. Something Else. Something Strange. Go ahead, click on the photo for the large format, and take a look. I’m thinking either Drone or…maybe even worse…OMD…Space Alien!?


Prehistoric Eight-ball

dscn0895 (Modified)Speaking of strange sights on the beach this week: there we were, the dogs and I walking along the beach, as we all do, with an occasional scan for agates, maybe a little hopeful, but also knowing the beach has been scrubbed clean by at least a century of like-minded Islanders. Even so, we have all had the experience, as we walk along the beach, of an image that sticks, and even though your feet have kept moving, you think “Huh? Did I just see a tiny Eight-Ball??”  So, yeah, it is a little startling, but you stop in your tracks, and back up a few yards for another look. What did I just see?

In this case, the image in my mind was an “8″, which neither I nor my Unconscious was expecting. So I backed up and rebooted, and there it was, a perfect Number Eight. At first I thought, okay, so Ancient Undersea Dwellers actually invented pool (you know, pool, get it…??) millions of years ago. Underwater it didn’t matter so much if the balls were all that Round, and it was probably in 3-D, too, and Who Knows what the cue ball or sticks looked like? If you click on the photo, you can see in the larger version that the number 8 is the residue of crustaceans, probably relatives of the barnacle that still clings.

The obvious conclusion is that although crustaceans (duh!) did not invent numbers, our earliest ancestors DID see this pattern, and invented a game from it involving other rocks with other symbols. Much, much later, when numbers were actually invented, it was only logical to use the symbols everyone was already familiar with to mean stuff people were just starting to think about. All I’m saying is the shapes were already there, and we just put Names on them! Wow! Is that Awesome or What???


Cloudlift returns

For the past several years, like migratory birds, Tom and Joannie Stangeland come to Lummi Island (and of course to the Wine Shop) in early August for their Anniversary. It turns out that Tom has been a highly skilled furniture maker for a long time. But his more recent passion has been making wine. So a few years ago he started Cloudlift Cellars in downtown Seattle…in the same building where he makes furniture, of course, given the obvious fact that: if (Time = Space), and (Time = Money), then of course, (Space = Money)!

We have tasted through the Cloudlift wines several times, and last fall I had a chance to help out with crush.  This weekend we will be pouring the Cloudlift Panorama, which Tom describes like this.

This week’s tasting notes

Altarocca Arcosesto Orvieto ’13 Italy     $14
A crisp, clean, fragrant white wine (grechetto, procanico, malvasia), bright and sunny with minerally notes of flowers, citrus, and dried fruits that pair well with savory dishes.

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

Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone ’11 France $13
50% Grenache co-fermented on skins with syrah, cinsault, carignan from 40 yr old vines; matured in concrete tanks. Good ripeness and lots of minerality along with fleshy plum, blackberry and licorice notes. A floral hint adds charm on the finish. (read more)

La Quercia montepulciano riserva ’10 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.

Cloudlift Panorama ’ Washington $23
Enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of roses, mulberry and sultry oriental incense, and balanced flavors of red currant and Rainier cherry.


Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting july 26 ’14

Legendary Rosé

20140723-191015.jpgTo say that our rosé this week is legendary invites some explanation. The first part of the explanation involves wine importer Kermit Lynch, who began his wine career by traveling around France in the seventies. His book, Adventures on the Wine Route, tells a tale of a young man enthralled by the wine traditions of France. He explores the people who grow grapes and make the wines, telling their stories alongside the stories of the fruit and the wines. It’s something of an educational and entertaining ode to French wine. He returned to America to start his now well-established (if not quite “legendary”) import business (based in Berkeley), and his import label has earned a reputation for quality.

Of the many people he encountered on his first wine odyssey in France some thirty years ago, none stand out more prominently than the Peyraud family of Domaine Tempier in Bandol. (read more) . The domaine has been in the family since 1834, and in modern times has been instrumental in re-establishing mourvedre as premier grape of the Bandol region.

We spent the better part of an afternoon looking for the Domaine (i. e. being lost!), with only a vague notion of where it should be, and expecting (always a mistake!) it would be, you know, easy to find. Without an address. Without an internet connection. I.e., totally unprepared. As it turned out, we did stumble onto it quite by accident (there were vineyards!), and fortunately, Pat saw the sign— and suddenly we were–surprisingly–there!) Thus ensued a very pleasant and low-key tasting with Mme. Peyraud, who was charming and gracious, and the wines were delicious. Pretty low-key for, you know, Legendary, but one of the big draws about Old World wine is that at the end of the day wine is made by ordinary people with a passion. And sometimes, as with Domaine Tempier and many other small old-world producers, the passion has gone on for centuries.

The important take-away here is that we will be pouring their legendary rosé this weekend. It is more expensive than most rosés. On the other hand, it is probably the most famous rosé on the planet, and, let’s face it, that’s what legends are all about!


Rare Birds

Among the highlights of our recent stay in the French countryside were the ever-present swifts, rocketing in long, incredibly fast arcs high against blue sky and cotton clouds. At first glance these well-named birds look a bit like swallows, but actually they are closer relatives of the hummingbird (who knew?). They are swift indeed, with some larger species clocked at over 100 mph. Their wing design allows them to change the shape and area of their wings, maximizing their efficiency and maneuverability. Their aerodynamic lines are reminiscent of skipjack or yellowfin tuna, which can reach underwater speeds of (I’m not making this up) 50 mph. The takeaway about swifts: uncommonly fast, beautifully evolved, and an absolute joy to watch!


20140724-121507.jpgCloser to home, rumor has it that here on Lummi we also are visited seasonally by swifts, though I don’t remember having seen any. Of course, there are lots of “local birds” that we don’t see very often, so it is always a pleasure to sight any of them. You might recognize this pair that wandered into the shop last weekend, a little off track from their usual migratory route. I suspect it has something to do with the camouflage provided to the male of the pair by Pat’s quilt behind him…? In any case, I understand they are frequently sighted all over the island, especially up around Wild Wabbit Woad (gonna have to explore it, I guess). Btw, at least one of them posts really fascinating photos almost every day on Facebook…check it out!


Bread Rocks!

20140724-123524.jpgNo, no, not those kinds of rocks! No, here is Janice last Friday with the beautiful basket of bread she brought in. (See last week’s post). She has been teetering on the edge of starting an island bread business for over a year now. In the off-chance the there were any lingering  doubters, last weekend has the fans stamping their feet and wailing in the stands: Yes! Yes! Sign me up! Bring me bread! Every day! Every week! Please!

An abiding sense of Fair Play forbids us from giving you her email, but we know you are Enterprising, you love a good loaf of bread, and you know that sometimes you have to ask for what you want.

What do we Want?

Fresh Bread!

When do we want it?

Now! Now! Now!


This week’s tasting

St Innocent pinot blanc ‘12 Oregon $18
Intriguing scents of honey, lemon custard, and minerals, with hints of tangerine and herbs. Light and easygoing, with delicately earthy notes mixing with the pear and citrus flavors.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé ’13   France    $38
50% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 2% Carignan; Light, bright orange-pink; intense aromas of rose petal, orange rind, citrus blossom and distinct minerality; palate is rounded and full with notes of peach and pomegranate and good acid balance.

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.

Garmendia Tempranillo ’10 Spain $12
Organically grown grapes ferment in carbonic maceration, yielding a balanced, round wine with sturdy tannins and notes of strawberry, raspberry, banana, and a note of fennel.

La Quercia montepulciano riserva ’10 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 19 ’14

Friday Bread Line

One reason we have such a loyal group of Friday regulars is because on most Fridays, Janice brings in freshly baked bread just as we open. This Friday she will bring a number of surplus loaves from an additional baking gig. They will be available at the wine shop, on a first-come, first-served basis, starting about 4:30! There will likely be only a few loaves each of:

Suggested donation $5 each. Don’t dally, they will disappear quickly!

Sauv Blanc time warp!

Periodically some of the distributors we buy from have close-out sales. They email out a list of wines they want to get rid of, and our job is to pore over this list of mostly wines you have never heard of and decide if the markdowns make any of them attractive. Most of the time, whatever you want has already been snapped up, but occasionally there are some interesting deals. A case in point is the Constantia Sauv Blanc from South Africa listed below (vineyard area at left). On the one hand as a 2004 it is pretty much past its predicted shelf life. On the other, older white wines often have intriguing characteristics. I happen to like this one, and bought the last two cases, as I often like sauv blanc from this area. However, we had a special event earlier this evening and not much is left. So the notes below also include the wine we will pour for you after the Constantia sells out–which may only take a few minutes (yep, snapped up by the same people who will buy all the bread before you get here…!) Not to worry, there are backups, including a little Italian sauv blanc from Tuscany (no, really, I  am not making this up) and the Brancott (from NZ) listed below. Sunny days and sauv blanc are a match made in heaven, especially with shellfish, salt, fresh peppers, or maybe fresh radishes. Mmmmm! And sun…did I mention sun???


La Rocaliere revisited

This little winery in Lirac has become one of our favorites. We first visited about three years ago. We were immediately enthralled by the wines, the region, and the story. The winery was inherited and is run by two charming sisters, Severine (winemaker) and Melanie (business manager). Lirac itself is not the most scenic of French wine regions, but it IS just across the river from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and people have been making wine there for time-out-of-mind because the special constellation of soil and climate that drives human beings to grow grapes and make good wine in a place has made it so. The Bad News is that we are still waiting for our next shipment of their wonderful rosé…but the good news is that we will be pouring their red (and possibly their white) this weekend. The way things have been going lately, we may sell out quickly, but the Good News is that more is on the way, including their wonderful rosé. I took the accompanying photo during our visit last month when we were there again on Ryan’s Southern Rhone wine tour. See also



Lost River Rosé

The other compensation for not having any Rocaliere rosé at the moment is that we just received a shipment of one our favorite Washington rosés, that from Lost River Winery based in Mazama. All of their wines have been consistently appealing over the years, and their rosé is among our most popular of each summer season. We will also have some of their new pinot gris, as well as our regular stock of their red wines, including the Western Red blend, the delicious Nebbiolo, and their big and satisfying syrah.

Y’all come by now, heah??






This week’s tasting notes

Constantia Sauv Blanc ’04 South Africa $5
Yup, 10 years is old for most sauv blancs. This one shows some age, along with crisp notes of minerally lime, gooseberry and a bit of effercescence. (Not unlike a lot of us old-timers!) Only a few left at this amazing price!

Brancott sauv blanc ’12 New Zealand $14
Spicy quince and Asian pear flavors rest on a crisp, juicy body, with plenty of lime zest and grapefruit notes through the juicy finish.

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.

La Rocaliere Lirac Rouge ’10                 Lirac               $16
Equal parts grenache, mourvedre, and syrah. Clay hillsides and serene aging in cement tanks yield this
inky purple wine with deeply pitched aromas and flavors of cherry-cola, licorice and violets.

Lopez Cristobal Crianza ’07    Spain    $27
Tempranillo/merlot blend from high, calcareous vineyards in Ribero del Duero; long, balanced, and full-bodied, with soft, ripe tannins and a luscious, elegant finish.

Wine Tasting

lummi island wine tasting july 11-12 ’14

Wine club tote bags

Earlier this year we bought a bunch of new tote bags. The idea has never been to use them for general distribution. I mean, Hello, we are NOT Haggen’s or Costco! Rather, the idea has been to provide each wine club member with a bag to carry in the car at all times, like a cell phone or flares, only a lot more useful. In case any of you have not fully grokked this, we want to be there for all your Wine Emergencies, because let’s face it, we have all had them, and it is NOT pretty! Interestingly, even after many months, we still encounter members who have not yet picked up their wine bags, or, what’s worse…have forgotten to bring them! No matter, we can give you another— but ideally we would like to train you to keep your bag in your car at All Times. And if there are two of you, we are happy to provide TWO bags. They’re stylish, they’re practical, and they mark YOU as a member of Lummi Island’s Premier Wine Club! Which reminds me…have you renewed your membership for 2014?


Fresh Olive Oil

For several years we have carried olive oil from one of our favorite Italian wineries, Perazzeta. It was a new experience to see olive oil labels that tell when (to the month) the olives were picked and pressed. In Tuscany, they like their olive oil a little “green,” with a “bite” that you can feel in your throat. What is important now is that we just received our annual case of this lovely oil, picked and pressed this past winter. We also have a few bottles (500 ml) left from last year. On Friday night we will offer these oils for tasting– hopefully they will go well with Janice’s weekly loaf of fresh bread!

read more!




Broken glasses

Glasses prove quite perishable in a wine shop. Sometimes they break while you are washing them. More often they get knocked off the bar by a misplaced gesture. In any case, it has taken a while to re-imagine wine glasses as consumables, not durables, as we generally think of them in the house.

For the first bunch of years we were open, our glasses of choice were from IKEA. They had an attractive shape that tapered inward at the top, a nice feature for collecting and reflecting aromas, and they were a mere $2 apiece. Definitely a good deal! Then a few years ago that particular glass was replaced by a rounder, fuller shape that doesn’t really work for general tasting (imho…). So a year or two ago we bought several cases of Riedel’s “working glass,” aimed at bars and restaurants….and wine shops!  These glasses are attractive and relatively affordable; last week we were shipped four cases, all packed into one very large carton with about (I am not making this up) thirty feet of bubble wrap somewhat haphazardly thrown in among the cartons. A couple of the travelers didn’t make it, and the Riedel folks wanted a photo of the damage. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “So it goes.”


Savoie sparkler  

A little over a month ago we visited the somewhat obscure (to most Americans) French wine region of Jura. An hour or two south is the equally obscure region of Savoie. Like Jura, it has long traditions based on unusual local grapes. A few years ago, the most famous regional producer of sparkling wine was saved from extinction by being taken over by local wine merchant Gérard Lambert, who now makes delicious Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wines from the local Molette and Altesse grapes. The wines are aged on lees for six months, followed by two years sur latte*, giving the wine more complex, distinguished aromas and a fine perlage (bubbles).  This week we are pouring his basic bubbly; next week we will move on to a somewhat higher rung. These wines have more flavor than many sparklers, a little leesy and a little yeasty, two qualities I happen to like a lot. Come see what you think! link


This week’s tasting notes

Seyssal Petit Royal Brut   France     $16
Traditionally made from Savoie white varietals Molette and Altesse, with extended time on lees and two years sur latte before rebottling, yielding a yeasty complexity and fine bubbles.

Chateau L’Ermitage Blanc ’13 France $10
An old favorite here, this vintage is even better– Light gold in color with aromas of peach, flowers, and honey; the Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne, a heavenly blend!

Perazzeta Rosado di Montalcino ’11    Italy     $14
It’s back! From the same grape as Brunello (sangiovese grosso), this beautiful rosado has it all: rich, bold, flinty, and summery.

Le Pigeoulet en Provence ’12 France    $16
(grenache, syrah, cinsault,carignan): Fresh raspberry and candied lavender with a spicy lift. Juicy and seamless in texture, with lively fruit; very easy to like.

Meroi Nestri Merlot ’10     Italy   $24
From Fruili between the Alps and the Adriatic, aged two years in once-used barrels; shows both power and poise partnering with savory dishes from steaks to aged cheeses.

Wine Tasting