Wine Regions in Washington

How doesn't enjoy a glass of fine wine? If you are in Washington, you at a prime advantage. Washington State has become notorious for its superb wines. The mountains, valleys, and soil temperatures all affect the growth of the grapes resulting in a unique and very distinct flavor. There are several notable wine-making regions throughout the state. 


Yakima was the original major wine region in Washington, although not the largest. White wine is the specialty in Yakima. Silver Lake Winery is known to produce delicious Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. For fruity Cabernets, visit Agate Field. For an amazing vacation experience, you can visit Cherry Wood Bed and Breakfast to savor more than just the wine. Partake in horseback rides and stay in a posh teepee. 

Red Mountain

The Red Mountain is not only the youngest, but also the smallest in the state with only about a dozen wineries in the area. The scenic regions offers colorful hills and a view of the Columbia River.  The region is also eco-friendly. Terra Blanca Winery provides spectacular views and a new age cave producing classic Champagne, Chardonnay, an array of red wines, and dessert wines. 

Walla Walla

Walla Walla, famously referenced in Bugs Bunny cartoons, features beautiful landscape and quaint shops, gourmet restaurants, and a rich arts community. Vineyards in Walla Walla produce rich red wines. Abeja in located  in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The winery is situated on a century-old farm that has been beautifully restored. Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and Viognier are the most popular wines produced at Walla Walla, but only in small quantities.

Zefina Wines

Amazing Washington Horse Heaven Hills wine

Zefina, like Alder Ridge, Six Prong, and Sawtooth, was once owned by Corus Estates and Vineyards, a small company making wines in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Corus has close ties to the early history of Washington winemaking, when Associated Vinters was started by a group of Washington university professors interested in growing traditional European grapes. Associated Vintners became Columbia Winery in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, began acquiring other wineries, including Idaho's Ste. Chapelle, Pintler (renamed Sawtooth) and Covey Run (Columbia Winery, Covey Run and Ste. Chapelle were later sold to Constellation). Associated Vintners created a company called Corus to oversee these wineries, and, as Corus, created a large new vineyard in the eastern Columbia Gorge called Alder Ridge. Grapes from Alder Ridge were used in new labels, among them Zefina. In 2004, Robert J. Chowanietz was appointed head winemaker for three of Corus's labels—Zefina, Alder Ridge, and Six Prong.

In January of 2010, Precept Wine Brands acquired Corus Estates & Vineyards. Corus Estates and vineyards had been owned and managed by the Baty family; Dan Baty is one of the co-owners of Precept Wine Brands. As part of the acquisition deal, the Baty family retained separate ownership and operations for their vineyard company, Winemakers LLC. Precept Wine Brands in turn will continue sourcing grapes from Winemakers LLC's vineyards for their wine.

Zefina specialized in "hand-crafted" wines of the Rhone and Mediterranian sorts, made with Alder Ridge-grown grapes. More specifically, a rhone-style white wine blende made of Vigoneir and Roussanne, and a red blend made with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsault. They also produced and bottled Sagiovese, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo. The first release was in 2001 to some acclaim. Not all wines were produced and released in every year. With the shift in ownership, Six Prong and Zefina wines are appearing in Washington state liquor stores, Trader Joe's and the Bargain Grocery Outlet, at strikingly reduced prices.

Zefina's 2004 Serience red is very much a Rhône style red blend. It was well-received by the wine community in that it in 2008 received a Gold Medal at the North West Wine Summit, an award from Seattle Wine Awards for "Outstanding Rhone Style Blend," and a Silver Medal from the Washington State Wine Competition as well as a bronze from the San Diego International Wine Competition. Wine Enthusiast awarded Zefina's 2004 Serience Red 88 points. It's a rich, robust blend, and while it's quite enjoyable, it's not a wine I'll be buying by the case. Zafina's 2006 Serience White, however, is a different bottle of wine; we went back to pick up all we could.

Zefina's 2006 Serience White is also a Rhône style blend, one made using the traditional combination of Viognier and Roussanne. The blend is 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne. It's quite fabulous; 14.1% ABVjust sweet enough, and just dry enough to be thoroughly enjoyable with goat cheese and salmon salad, or crab-stuffed avocados, or even pear and spinach salad with goat cheese and toasted walnuts. I note that this wine took a Bronze Medal at the 2008 North West Wine Summit as well as at the 2008 Washington State Wine Competition and a silver at the 2008 Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition. At $3.99 a bottle, we went back for more; it's going to be a long summer.

Attend a Champagne Tasting

Many people have gone to wine tastings, but champagne tastings can be just as much fun to attend. Like wine, champagne is an acquired taste—though many people who don’t enjoy wine do like champagne, depending on its kind, due to its sweetness and bubbliciousness.

To find a champagne tasting near you, just look up your favorite wine and spirits provider. See if they have any in-store events you can attend. Various wineries will surely have champagne tastings as well; just search for the nearest winery in your area and see if you need to schedule a tasting.

The beauty of a winery tasting is that you often don’t have to pay much, if anything, and you can also get cheap tours, making the outing a perfect cheap date. If you do end up drinking more than you had intended, however, it’s always a good idea to book a room at the winery so you don’t drive home that night.

Iron & Wine's "Naked As We Came" (Video)

Samuel Beam, aka Iron & Wine, has five daughters. It must be cool to have a dad that has such a beautiful voice and brings the sun and summertime everywhere he goes.  But knowing kids, they probably find him embarassing. Here's his song, "Naked As We Came".

Canoe Ridge Winery, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, WA:

Dry Riesling and Cabernet Franc

At the recent spring sale at Bargain Grocery Outlet, I made some fabulous Washington wine scores. I'll be writing about Sagelands later. Right now, I want to tell you about two wines from Washington's Columbia Valley Horse Heaven Hills region, produced by Canoe Ridge Winery.

Canoe Ridge Dry Riesling 2007

This wine was very pale straw in the glass, with a citrus-honey note on the nose. This is dry, and pleasantly acidic, but while it is perfectly pleasant, it's also oddly flattened, and simplified in terms of taste. Yes, it's a definite Riesling, but it is as if the upper and lower ranges of flavor and aroma have been removed. It's dry, and quite enjoyable, but I'm not filled with any desire to buy more of it. When I can find Pacific Rim Dry Riesling at the same Bargain Grocery Store for $3.99, I'm going to buy the Pacific Rim, every time. And there are other excellent and quite affordable Washington state Rieslings from Columbia and Ste. Michelle. To be fair, 2007 is a little long in the tooth for a Washington Riesling at this level; I suspect a year or two earlier, this might have been a better wine. I'll certainly watch to see what Precept does, though they seem to be focusing on the Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Canoe Ridge Cabernet Franc Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley Washington, 2005

I've been deliberately looking for Cabernet Franc to try, so I was delighted to find this Canoe Ridge Cabernet Franc 2005.

In the glass, Canoe Ridge Cabernet Franc is a beautiful deep red. It's very beautiful. The nose is ripe black raspberries, with a an earthy element, and even a hint of bitter chocolate. In flavor, this Canoe Ridge Cabernet Franc is fruity without being jammy. The aroma really does open up after a few minutes, to the point where it's hard to tell where the aroma ends and the flavor begins. There's a slight edge of tannin, and in the finish a definite hint of bitter chocolate (this may be what people who know what they're talking about refer to as "herbacious." This is the Cabernet Franc I've been looking for; this is the Cabernet Franc that provides structure to some of the red wine blends I've enjoyed, the varietal said by many to be crucial to traditional burgundy blends, and responsible for the characteristic aroma of French burgundy.

I was terribly fortunate to be able to pickup two bottles of this 14.5 ABV wine at the Bargain Grocery Outlet's spring sale for $5.99; I hope that Precept does well by the winery.

Canoe Ridge Winery, Walla Walla Washington

An old winery under new management

Canoe Ridge Winery began when a group of investors in the Chalone Wine Group created a cooperative with farmers. In 1989, these farmers planted the first acres of grapes in the uttermost southeast of Washington State, near Lowden, Washington, in the Horse Heaven Hills appellate. In 2001 Chalone Wine group bought out the other investors, and expanded the winery. By 2003, they had over fifty investors and 143 acres of grapes in the Canoe Ridge area. Their neighbor on the south west of Canoe Ridge was Chateau Ste. Michelle. (I should note that Chalone Wine Group used the name Canoe Ridge Vineyard and Chateau Ste. Michelle uses Canoe Ridge Estate.) Canoe Ridge grew several acres of Cabernet Sauvignon specifically for Woodward Canyon and Hogue Cellars. Chalone established the Cano Ridge winery with a modern facility and a tasting room in Walla Walla. Canoe Ridge rapidly established a reputation for the quality of their wines, especially their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But in 2004 Chalone Wine Group was acquired by beverage giant Diageo. Diageo, based in Lodon and a giant beverage conglomerate didn't really seem to be aware that they even owned Washington wineries, and in July of 2010, the Canoe Ridge Winery tasting room was closed for economic reasons. In February of 2011, Precept Wines of Seattle made public their purchase of Canoe Ridge Vineyard (as well as Sagelands Vineyard in Wapato, formerly also owned by the Chalone Wine Group) from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines. Precept is the second largest winemaker in Washington, after Chateau Ste. Michelle. They currently own over 30 labels, including Apex, Avery Lane, Pine & Post, Waterbrook, and Washington Hills.

Precept CEO Andrew Brown stated in an interview by Paul Gregutt that both wineries participated in the 2010 crush, that Canoe Ridge would be a premier label alongside Precept's Waterbrook label, and that Bill Murray would move from Precept's Sawtooth winery to become the new Canoe Ridge winemaker. Brown also said that Precept "will continue to sell the inventory for both brands in the Northwest and other key markets in the US." Precept has already moved the Canoe Ridge Web site to Precept's site

At least one of those "key markets" was apparently the Bargain Grocery Outlet. As part of the annual spring 20% off wine sale at BGO, we picked up Canoe Ridge Dry Riesling 2007, and Canoe Ridge Cabernet Franc 2005. While I was delighted to be able to pick up bottles of both these wines for incredible prices, it is disheartening in the extreme to see yet another Washington winery be gobbled up by a conglomerate. That said, I notice that Paul Gregutt seems hopeful that Precept's interest in their new properties will mean a revival for both wineries.

I certainly hope so.

Shadows of Obsession

Shadows of Obsession, An erotic novel that cautions us that sometimes one touch, one taste of undulated ecstasy, or one chance encounter, is all it takes to become the object of someone's affection, or the desire to become someone's obsessional affliction

  An erotic psychological thriller that sets the heart racing, and the pulse pounding

  An intimate romance that indulges your wildest and illicit fantasies


Sip Into Spring With Sangria

Try A Fun Sangria Recipe
With spring swiftly approaching, some of us may be worried about what to do with our red wine. Just as their are summer cocktails, there are spring and summer wines, and reds often do not fall into that category.

Their full-bodied flavor and heavy texture can often be at odds with the heat, driving many of us to ignore our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon and indulge in a nice Sauvignon Blanc instead.

But, just because the weather is getting warmer, that is no reason to completely ignore the reds that you did not get a chance to open during the winter months. Nope, this is an opportunity to make lemons into lemonade, or to be more specific wine into Sangria.

The tasty Spanish-cocktail is easy to make and has many variations. After spending some time in Spain I learned that the mixture is supposed to be a garbage drink, much like Jungle Juice in which you can throw in almost anything or everything. Though Sangria is often thought of as special drink, it really is just a party punch that taste delicious and packs a punch. Those who are brave can make up their own recipes, but we’ve got one for those who may not be ready to experiment too much with their favorite Shiraz.

When making Sangria you can use any red wine, but more fruit-forward varietals like Shiraz and Grenache may make for a more satisfying drink.

This recipe is simple and straight-forward, from the Food Network.

  • 2 bottles chilled dry red wine, like Rioja
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 oranges, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 Meyer lemons, cut into thin rounds
  • 3 Key limes, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups cold club soda


In a large pot or bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the fruit and club soda. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. Add the fruit before placing the mixture in the refrigerator to chill. Before serving, add the club soda.

There are a lot of alterations that can be made to this traditional recipe. Add rum instead of brandy or use strawberries instead of apples.  Also, for those who enjoy a sweeter drink, use a lemon-lime soda in place of club soda. This a drink that can easily be altered to taste so have fun and enjoy!

Washington's Skagit Valley Tulip Fest

it's Better then Holland!

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a long-time Northwest tradition. The Festival runs from April 1 to April 30, every year. 2011 marks the 28th annual Tulip Festival, and hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to gather, tour, and enjoy Washington's Skagit Valley bedecked in her very brightest splendor.

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival began in 1984 as an event sponsored and run by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. When it became apparent that people were showing up by the thousands to see the tulips, other events and festivities were incorporated into the celebration to further enhance the experience for Spring visitors to the Skagit Valley. In 1994 the Tulip Festival went independent, separating from the local Chamber of Commerce and becoming a local entity of its own. The duration of the Tulip Festival has steadily grown, as well, from 3 days initially to the current month-long extravaganza it now enjoys. The other benefit of a 30 day tulip festival is that you can be reasonably sure the tulips will actually be blooming, at some point during the designated month of April.

The Tulip Festival has very much become associated with local special events, as well, like the Kiwanis Salmon BBQ, bike rides, runs, street festivals, concerts, and art-gallery gala events. You can keep up with the festival fans and organizers throughout the year, on Facebook. La Conner, best known for its artists, is an active participant in the Tulip Fest.

Local artisan cheese makers and organic farmers enjoy the benefits of hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region, and you can find farm stands and fresh, local, organic produce and goods, galore.

If you plan to drive, you should can find helpful tour maps online. You expect some traffic congestion (much of the 15 miles of tulip farms are on two-lane blacktop county roads) and wear comfortable shoes. If you prefer to be driven, you can book a tour and ride in comfort in one of the chartered buses that will be ferrying thousands of visitors through the local countryside.

Image Credits: Jina Lee and Gina. Creative Commons licenses.

Less Food for More Money


Consumers need to be aware that food prices are expected to rise this summer and have already started to climb. As the NYT reports, food producers use different packaging to disguise higher prices.


The article gives the real-life example of a 33-year-old woman struggling to feed nine children; each time she cooked meals after going to the grocery store, she noticed that she wasn’t getting enough yield to feed all of her children. As soon as she noticed that something was wrong, she began inspecting the amounts in products ranging from pasta to tuna fish and found a striking similarity: most of the pre-packaged food on the aisles in the grocery store had smaller amounts in the packages.


The smaller packages often come under the guise of new and improved packaging, with some design changes that are supposed to be great improvements for the consumer. Unfortunately, the reality is that the design improvements often just result in smaller packages with less food.


It could be argued that this is a good thing because of the large portions Americans typically eat and the concerns about obesity. But if you consider the smaller packages from the point of view of a mother or father trying to feed a family, smaller amounts of food per packages means you have to buy more packages just to feed your family (which is the probable goal of the companies). 


Even items like ketchup and diapers have gone up in price. As Professor Gourville, the expert interviewed by the NYT, observes: “For indulgences like ice cream, chocolate and potato chips, consumers may say ‘I don’t mind getting a little bit less because I shouldn’t be consuming so much anyway.’” That argument doesn’t hold water, however, for household necessities and staples.


What can consumers do?

 Look at how much you are paying per ounce. Pay attention at the grocery store. If the amount per ounce isn’t included on the package, calculate it so you can effectively compare the prices between brands. (Often, grocery stores will have the price per ounce listed on the shelf below the item.) 

Consider buying in bulk. If you are feeding a family, shop at Cost-co or other wholesale food stores to save money. 

Don’t fall for the new and improved packaging. It’s usually the exact same food at higher price in a fancier package.