The Nitty Gritty Details of Portugal’s Past

One can’t quite tell the story of modern Portuguese wines without starting with the history and the fall of their wine industry.  The tales of exploration, maritime trade, wars, disease and of course scandal is the backbone of Portuguese wines.  Hundreds of years ago, Portugal was placed on the map of wine fame with its fortified wines: Port and Madeira.  The happenstance luck of these wines were based on centuries of trade with England and long distance travel.
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Imagine 1200 AD:  The Portuguese livelihood was centralized around maritime trading routes and exploration.  It was the discovery of an abbot in the mountainous region in the Douro Valley that shined light on the sweet fortified wines (“port”) of Portugal and, of course, the late 1600’s ban on French wine in England.  In an effort to supply demand, English tradesmen and Portugal began production of these fortified wines. The travel time to England enhanced the flavor and richness.   Unfortunately, demand over reached supply and cheap knock off wines and fortified fruit wines were introduced to the market.

The market rebuked!  The price of “port” dropped drastically as the Portuguese and their investors scrambled to build back confidence.  In turn, the Douro Wine Company was formed by the Portuguese government to create structure and methodology of  “port”.  One house to regulate creation and exports as well as  fixing prices on  the entire process from vineyard management to final prices.  Since this was a business and not a government entity, many questioned its motives (especially other larger houses that were not in charge!).
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As this transpired, British tradesmen looked beyond “port” and  discovered the sweet liquids of the island of Madeira.  A similar story however it is the story of eager business men trying to make up the missing spot of port in the market with Madeira instead.   By happenstance (again) traveling with Madeira creates richness, that is– oxidation. It was the new Americas Englishmen that embraced Madeira.  So well received that some barrels would travel around the world to cure Madeira for higher prices.

Back to our story of “port”…  The Douro Wine Company solidified the styles of port as a Portuguese wine and its popularity in England and now Russia increased until the French and Spanish attack in 1807.  War shook the base of wine production, especially  export.  Then of course, the unfortunate parasite phylloxera hit in the late 1800’s.  Instead of rebuilding the wine community, Portugal focused its wine industry on cork production.  We do not see Portuguese wine (not “port”) until WWI then it was extremely cheap.

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However, in the mid 1980’s, Portuguese wine recognition began to slowly transform.  Entrance into the European Union (then European Community) “insisted” that the government dissolve several monopolies of cooperatives (the Douro Wine Company) that had been in control of the wine program for decades. Tearing down these walls allowed for investment (especially from other countries such as Australia), as well as development of wine styles. Many small estates (quintas) severed their ties with “co-operatives” and started making their own wines. Portugal devised a new appellation system in line with EU standards, designating Regiões Demarcadas as Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).

Back on track, Portuguese wines currently offer us value and quality.  Will they become as big of contenders to the world of wine as they were in the past is yet to be seen; however there are several producers that are showing high quality work.  It is definitely not just plonk wine.  Passion is brimming!

Read more here in our September 2015 wine club on Portuguese varietals >>
Information credit>> 1 | 2
Image creditBoat | Workers | Current Vineyards

February 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

Archive: FOOD + WINE by Jaci

Food + Wine

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What is a Pulse?  It is a legume or “grain legume” and internationally recognized as a vital player in crop rotation world wide.  2016 is the International Year of the Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  Washington State is the largest producer of garbanzo beans in the world as well as one of the large producers in legumes in the United States.

Morroccan Lentil Soup  –  Pair this with Vinchio Vaglio Serra Nebbiolo Lange Piedmont Italy  Reg. $19.99 | INSIDER $18.99 | Mixed Case $15.19 — Light bodied, yet expressive tannins, plum skins and cherry.

Mung Bean – Pair this with Bodegas Rauda Tinto Roa Crianza Castilla Y Leon Ribera del Duero Spain — Reg. $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39 — Ripe raspberries, red currant & blackberries delicately meshed with notes of toast and balsamic

Black Eyed Pea and Collard Greens Soup – Pair this with La Fleur Chazal Rouge Bordeaux France — Reg. $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79 — Blue currants, black raspberries, plums with medium tannins, structure and depth.

Vegetable Chickpea Curry – Pair this with Petit Romain Rouge Costieres di Nimes France  Reg. $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99 —  Dark rich summer cherries, white pepper, hillside herbs and soft tannins.

Smoky Chili – Ashobourne Red Hemel en Aarde South Africa — Reg. $44.99 | Mixed Case $37.49 — This Pinotage blend is expressive with rich cranberries, cherries, black raspberry, iron, leather, smoke and earth.

Brazilian Freijoada (Black Bean Pork Stew)  – Pair this with La Puerta Gran Reserva Blend La Rioja Argentina  Reg. $55.99 | Mixed Case $44.79 — Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah.  Intense dark plums, Rainer cherries, wood smoke, peppercorn and vanilla.

Red Beans and Rice – Pair this with Casto Pequeno Cotoval Castilla Y Leon Spain Reg. $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case  $11.19  —  Summer fruits- blackberries, raspberries, wild strawberries mixed with black peppercorn, soft tannins and subtle hints of vanilla

Here’s to your health!  Enjoy!  Jaci
Food + Wine_ legumes
Check Recipe Archive> for earlier posts!
Front Page Image  |  Above Image

Food + Wine

Dilemma with Dessert- Pairing

Pairing with desserts can be a challenge- already a treat and sweet, yet the wrong combo can be so wrong.  Like ying and yang, food pairing should keep in mind complementing as well as contrasting.  Most people assume dessert wines are syrupy sweet, but several are not.  And dessert wines don’t have to be what one pairs with dessert- sometimes a beer, cider, cocktail or wine is a better choice.  And if all else fails, have a few options and make it a fun end of the meal conversation!

Since many of you are entertaining the holidays, here are a few ideas to strike your fancy as well as some fun reading links!

Apple based:  cider, hot cider with rum or whiskey, Alscaian Rielsing, or Kabinett Riesling, Oregon Gewurtraminer, Sauternes, Blanc du Blanc Sparkling (100% Chardonnay)
Berry based:  Australian muscat, brachetto recioto di valpolicella, sparkling rose, sparkling shiraz or red wine (Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo), Campari

Rich cream based, such as custards or creme brulee:  (Matching weight) Amontilado (nutty), Tawny Port, Sauternes (esp if fruit), LH Alsacian Riesling, Trocken Riesling, Moscato (for light and floral)

Chocolate based: Bual or Malvasia Maidera, Ruby Port, Dark German Ales, Porters, California Cabernet, WA Syrah, Austrailian Shiraz

Caramel, butter based: Bual Maidera, Single vintage or white Tawny port, Pedro Ximenez, Belgium beer

Cookies and simple cake/cake breads:  Trocken Riesling, Moscato (for light and floral), Beaumes de Venise (Eames), vermouth, Lillet, Sparkling Cider, Rose, Lambrusco
Coffee and cream based: Chocolate or Espresso Martini, Amarone, Barolo, Stouts, Malvasia Madiera

More reading 1 | 2 | 3

February 9, 2016 at 8:44 pm Leave a comment

Refresh Yourself 2016

It is a new year! Time for new beginnings?  Sometimes it is time to do what you really wanted to do in the first place!  Following a passion takes a lot of dedication.  Just like going to the gym, practicing guitar, and creating new works of art– the only way to make it happen is to physically manifest it!

If your passion is to learn more about wine, here are the tools to cementing the abyss of wine information by creating a more educated you in 2016!

Tasting and Tasting GroupsWalk the Talk–  Actually see it, smell it, sip it, spit it… and repeat.  And don’t forget to write it down! Focus on the fruit, wood, earth, acidity and body of the wine.  It’s all there, but if you don’t keep tasting wine, you won’t find it.  Seek out tastings- at your local wine shop, winery or join tasting groups.  We feature wine tastings (free) Wed-Friday nights from 5- 7pm AND Sat and Sundays from 12pm -4pm. Jens and I have a wealth of information to share with you- for free.  Check our schedule here >>

You can also form your own tasting groups- just be careful to keep changing it up and make it blind so you are not biased.  Call us if you would like us to set up blind tasting wines for you.  Or if you like blind tastings, our Thursday tastings are blind- be prepared to think!
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Wine Club –  Busy schedule?  That happens, but it doesn’t have to restrict you.  Join a wine club that offers a diverse selection of wines from around the world so that you are out of your element.  Many local wine shops have wine club programs.  Our clubs >> at Portalis focus on education and diversifying your collection.   Wines from around the world, with exceptional value as well as classic styles- Jens is keen on providing these for all of our guests.

Books — Read and visualize it.  The perspective and voice of one wine professional is different to another.  Invest in some solid works, and continue to read new works.  Here’s a short list:

  • Hugh Johnson and Janic Robsinson- The World Atlas of Wine
  • Jancis Robinson- Wine Grapes
  • Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack– Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine
  • Karen MacNeil- The Wine Bible
  • There are several more if you want an formal list, I can compile one for you.

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Maps, maps and more maps–  Speaking of visualizing it- sometimes it being there is really what allows it all to sink in.  Read the maps, check out the rivers, mountains, terrain… and the stories of the winemakers. In somm school, I drew every single map with notes on the environment so that I could memorize the diversity in which each region provides the varietals.

Apps–  ahhh… technology.  A blessing, a useful tool and a wealth of information; however, be wary of validity and choose what best suits your needs for retaining information!  Here’s a listing and a few links for descriptions on each!

  • Hello Vino
  • Wine Spectator- Wine Ratings
  • Vivino
  • WSET Wine Game
  • Delectable wine
  • Drync
  • Plonk
  • More >>   |  More II >>

Wine Shop Classes  | Education—   And there’s nothing like the tried and true- class room style education!  Not only do local wine shops offer classes, but there are several certified programs in the area for more advanced studies:

Seattle Wine Shops that Offer Classes

Formal Education –  Time for a new path?  Perhaps you are ready to commit to this vast world of knowledge and ever changing details?  Consider the following groups:

For an entertaining definition of what’s what, Wine Folly >>

Have more questions?  You can find us in the shop from 11-7pm Tuesday  thru Saturday, Sundays till 5pm.

Happy New Year!
Jaci Kajfas, Sommelier &
Portalis Wine Shop Manager



December 31, 2015 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Naughty or Nice… Our Pick List 2015

Naughty or Nice… Our Pick List 2015

Tis the Season! If we handed Santa our list of wines, first he would laugh and double check that we are not on the “Naughty” List!  Enjoy!

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  • Capitello Sauvignon Blanc (OR) — Zesty!  Lychee, passion fruit, citrus and minerality.  — Julie
  • Ashan Cellars  Kestral Vineyard Chardonnay (WA) – Toasty oak with cooked golden apples, caramel and exotic spices.  French oak-new and neutral.  –Jaci
  • Brickhouse Select Pinot Noir (OR) –  Beautiful and Biodynamic! — Jens
  • Wish Wine Co. Pinot Noir (CA) — A spicy Damsel is what this Pinot is:  aromas of rose petals and lilacs, tart cranberry and wild strawberry with rich Rainier cherries, soft earth, and subtle peppercorn.  –Jaci
  • Isenhower Holiday Paintbrush  (WA) — Another Everything But The Kitchen Sink blend by Brett Isenhower!  How does he do it? Dark ruby red bing cherries, river rock, baking spices and soft earth.  –Jaci
  • Reininger “Helix” Pomatia (WA) —  Primarily Merlot with a touch of Syrah, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and a kiss of Petit Verdot.  Rich dark cherry, dried plum, black currant with subtle herbs, black olive  and oak.  –Julie
  • Cadence  CODA (WA) — Cabernet franc, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot |  Bright raspberries, warm summer cherries, baking spices and cedar undertones.  Supple, plush and silky. –Jaci
  • Sleight of Hand Spellbinder (WA) Beautiful cassis, summer blackberry cobbler, river rock, pencil shavings.   Aromatic and definitive. –Jaci

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Big, Bold, Brash

  • Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon (WA) — Summer blackberry cobbler tango’ing with Asian spice, figs, cedar and fun.  — Julie
  • Nottola Vino Nobile Riserva (IT) – The real king in Tuscany! –Jens
  • Le Mourre Chateauneuf du Pape (FR) – Recently had the pleasure of retasting this wine. 100% Grenache. Great earth. A little spice. Killer! — Jens
  • B. Leighton Grenache (WA) – Not your normal Grenache. Powerful. Vibrant dark fruit. Kind of smoky. Long finish. — Jens
  • Buty Rediviva of the Stones (WA) — Vivid. Black raspberry, black cherries, black berry, currants with black olive, wood smoke, baking spices and hints of pepper. –Julie
  • Turley Old Vine Zinfandel (CA)  — Can a Zin be elegant?  I guess so!  Jammy blackberries, black cherry, briary wild berry, cedar smoke, peppercorn and anise. –Jaci
  • Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) — Hint of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  Layers of  dark cherry, boysenberry, blackcurrant, blackberry and black fig mingle with cedar, cassis and dark chocolate.–Julie
  • Coral Red (WA) — Rhone varietals in Washington = Depth, rich cherry and currants mingling with spice and sagebrush.  Mmmm. — Jaci


Classic Old World

  • Jacques Lassaigne Vignes de Montgueux Brut Blanc de Blanc (FR) — Diamonds are a girls best friend?  Not this girl!  Here’s my glass.  — Jaci
  • Cave de Bissey Cremant (FR) — Delicate bubbles with warm toasty notes of apple, quince, stone fruits & white flowers. Cheers! –Julie
  • Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc (NZ) —  Well-integrated acidity with juicy gooseberry on the mid-palate. Mildly herbaceous. –Jens
  • Bodegas Rauda Reserva (SP)– Older now. More settled.  — Jens
  • Pelassa Barolo (IT) –  Hedonistic.  Cured fruits, leather and character! — Jens
  • Burgum Novum Lagrein Riserva (IT) – Unknown grape. Vibrant fruit. Rocky minerality. Smooth in the middle.   Crazy-good & interesting wine. — Jens
  • Domaine de Nalys Cuvee Reserve (FR) — Sweet black fruit, cassis, dried herbs, with spice and floral notes. Corpulent with a long finish. –Jens
  • La Croix Dillanges Saint-Julien (FR) —  Complex, elegant, appealing personality. Dark fruit with earthy undertones. –Jens
  • Fleur du Grand Port Pauillac (FR) – Left Bank (so, Cab driven). Super complex. Memorable finish. — Jens
  • Dead Arm Shiraz (AU) –  Intense just like its name!   — Julie


Talk of the Table

  • Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvee (FR) — Brioche with summer peach- orchard goodness mingled with bright citrus and subtle red currant aromas.  — Jaci
  • Weingut Prechtl Gruner Veltliner Reserve Leitstall von Molasse (AT) — Delicately nutty, soft ripe yellow apple, some biscuit, herbs & spices. Wonderful, full-bodied white. Great gift!  –Julie
  • La Colline aux Princes Sancerre Rose  (FR) — Fabulous nose: raspberry, blackberry & black cherry. Lively acidity. Fresh. Long finish. Love this wine!  –Julie
  • La Puerta Reserva (AR) – Several years ago this wine was BIG. It has settled down. Smoother. More sophisticated but still decadent.  — Jens
  • Ashborne Red Blend (SA) – Pinotage blend, so smoky. Full-bodied, peppery. Voluminous. Hollering for a flank steak! — Jens
  • Flying Dreams Tempranillo (WA) —   Exotic and spicy.  Dark and mysterious.  Sounds like my kind of wine!  — Jaci
  • Maison Paul Reitz Volnay (FR) — Huge, masculine type of Pinot Noir with densely packed dark cherry, cassis fruit. –Jens
  • Quilceda Creek Red Wine (WA) — Classy, harmonious character. Juicy, black fruits, licorice, some spice. Outstanding depth. –Jens
  • Smith Woodhouse 2000 Colheita Tawny (PT) — Harvested in 2000, this single vintage tawny exudes gingerbread, mace, praline-hazelnuts, dates, burnt sugar, toffee and light citrus.  –Jaci

These wines are available in shop and on line.  Please note that shipping is best to do earlier than later!

Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!

Jens, Julie and Jaci

Image Credit:  1 2 3 4 Front page

December 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Obscure Reds and Seasonal Flavors for Autumn

Jaci_Jens_Julie_thanksgiving 2015

This is the month of feasting.  In winter months, gathering is not just for holidays but for sharing food, story telling and in many ways keeping each other company while the weather is terrible!  So this month we feature unique and obscure wines to hopefully kick start a fun gathering.  Why not present something that starts a conversation?

Rosé wines will be 20% off from Thursday November 12th until Thanksgiving!  Our fabulous Ramato is on a huge discount as we need to change labels by the end of February:  Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe Pinot Grigio Ramato (Veneto, Italy) Originally $17.99 … it is now: INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19.  Spread the word!

Here’s the line up of obscure reds:

Weingut Prechtl Zweigelt (Weinviertel, Austria) — Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59 — Tasting notes: 100% Zweigelt- inky color with black currants, blackberry skins, sage and savory herbs, medium tannins. Pair with: Buffalo Burger as well as sausage dishes, especially blood sausage with sage or a pomegranate jicima hazelnut fresh greens salad.

Weingut Prechtl Reserve Red (Weinviertel, Austria) — Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59 — Tasting notes: Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Blaufränkisch —  If your palate wanted to explore other countries, here you go-  Inky, yet tart, luscious tannins and layered dark fruit berries with vinous herbs. Pair with:  Sage and pork spatlese, your green bean casserole that Grandma made, or a fresh rack of lamb.  Choices, choices…

Food_Lamb rib chops with fregola

Carmen Carmenère Gran Reserva (Colchagua Valley, Chile) — Reg $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59 — Tasting notes: Dark cherries, plums, toasted smoky bits, vanilla and a hint of fresh raspberries. Pair with:  Smoked ham with cloves and fruit- orange would be ideal, but do your pineapple and tell me otherwise.

Neil Ellis Pinotage (Stellenbosch, South Africa) –Reg $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39– Tasting notes- Dark plum, cherry, blackberry melded with dark chocolate, soft tannins. Pair with: STEAK!!  Seriously.  Alternatives of morels, nut pies, pot pies and ham hock stews… ahhh yeah.

Spice Route Pinotage (Swartland, South Africa) — Reg $23.99 | Mixed Case $19.19 — Tasting notes: Smoky cherry tobacco with explosive plum, raspberry fruits, medium tannin and a hint of beetroot (as the winemaker calls it). Pair with:  Collard wraps with stewed meats or pulled pork.  Or Spring rolls with a tamari aoili.

Castelfeder Lagrein (Alto Adige, Italy) — Reg $20.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59 — Tasting notes: Extracted black raspberries, black currants, cherries and blackberries with tannins, tobacco leaves and earth.  Inky, but not heavy.  Lush, but not heady.  Pair with: Smoked turkey or ham roasted with nuts.  Vegetarian: squash, zucchini and roasted potatoes.

VEG_ZUCCHINI with yellow & red peppers, pesto & goat cheese over tomato purée_Sep 2014
Castelfeder Pinot Nero (Alto Adige, Italy) — Reg $20.99 | INSIDER $19.99 | Mixed Case $15.99 — Tasting notes: Rich dark plums and black cherries with supple tannin, smoke and spice. Pair with:  If salmon was in season, that would be delicious.  Alternatives — Scallops, duck, game hen, roasted beets with blue cheese, fig and pomegranate endive salad with hazelnuts and balsamic.

Palazzo Malgara Nerello Mascalese (Sicily, Italy) — Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99 — Tasting notes: Rich black berries, black cherries, tannin, leather components with layers of tobacco, vanilla and licorice. Pair with: Cioppino, seasonal mushroom dishes, risotto and veal.

FOOD_veal rack chop with linguine_Sep 2012
Palazzo Malgara Negroamaro (Salento, Italy) — Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19 — Tasting notes: Dark plums, herbs, silky texture with subtle rustic earth undertones. Pair with: Lamb meatballs, stuffed piquillo peppers, paella.

Palazzo Malgara Nero d’Avola (Sicily, Italy) — Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19 — Tasting notes: Blackberry, blueberry, & cassis with a medium and mild body and a soft round finish. Pair with:  A great seafood red!  Swordfish, sturgeon, spot prawns with a side of fresh pasta and herbs!

Robert Ramsay Cinsault (Columbia Valley, Washington) — Reg $31.99 | Mixed Case $25.59 — Tasting notes: Briar patch strawberries, black cherries, summer baked fruit with hillside herbs. 94% Cinsault, 6% Syrah. Pair with:  Duck and game hen, roasted potatoes and yams, cassoulet.

Foppiano Vineyards Petite Sirah (Russian River Valley, California) — Reg $24.99 | Mixed Case $19.99 — Tasting notes: Brambly fruit and blueberry mix with softer hints of espresso, black cherry, and dark chocolate. A seductively long finish. Pair with:  Flank steak with sauteed peppers, Stilton Blue, Humbolt Fog and figs, roasted chicken with rosemary and carrots.

$5_crostini with blue cheese mousse, figs

Flying Dreams Tempranillo (Columbia Valley, Washington) — Reg $49.99 | Mixed Case $39.99 — Tasting notes:  Ripe raspberries, anise and spice mixed with fresh cedar and cocoa. Pair with:  Lamb with a cherry balsamic sauce, risotto with saffron, pancetta and goat cheese pizza

Santa Lucia Morello di Scansano (Tuscany, Italy) — Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59 — Tasting notes: Spicy with earthy aromas.  Deep dark plums, wild black berries, cooked cherries with stony minerality. Medium plus tannin gives a leathery quality with hints of tobacco leaves. Pair with: Jens’ Sausage Lasagna

May you have safe travels with great meals filled with laughter, great conversation and delicious pairings!

Happy Autumn & Happy Thanksgiving!

Jens, Julie and Jaci

November 10, 2015 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

Premier Vineyard Tours with Gina Gregory!

Gina Gregory | Premier Vineyard Tours

Established in 2009, Premier Vineyard Tours offers bi-annual exclusive tours to Tuscany and Piedmont, Italy.  Gina Gregory developed the concept of tour while managing Portalis Wine Shop and Bar in 2007.  With local distributor connections she was blessed to immerse herself into the world of wine and wine making.  Once working at Portalis, she realized that the many people were craving more than the typical in and out hustle of a wine tour, but the true essence of what and why we fall in love with this culture.

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The culture of wine is about community.  And as Gina developed relationships with guests here in the States- sharing stories about their trips to Italy vs her adventures- she surmised that their experiences could be greatly enhanced by the local touch of small producers and cooperatives.  They may not possess marketing gurus, wine directors, tasting room manager and tour guides… but they do possess the love of wine making and the creation thereof.  So onward to adventures we go…

Keeping with the concept of community, locals and vineyards, Gina, her business partner Kimberly Chilcutt, and her husband have been offering tours for the last six plus years.  Intimate, informative and selective.  Producers range from small to large however all of them are family owned.  Gina spent a great deal of time and research selecting restaurants, wineries and even routes to ensure that her tour guests would have a remarkable memory.  Not the rush into a wine tasting, rush out to a van, rush to this and that.

When she began, tours were primarily Tuscany (Italy) as it is a mecca for wine tourism and that was where a lot of her research had been focused.  Piedmont, though the hub of transportation between Austria, France and Eastern Europe, was not as well developed.  Focus is on locals, community and wine… but tourism?  Yes! Piedmont was not as well established for accommodations as Tuscany, but Gina took the challenge with her local contacts and has been offering tours to Piedmont as well.  Now she is proud to announce that they will be purchasing a home in Piedmont her own accommodations after renovations to a local farmhouse in the Asti and Alba regions.

Gina’s concept of embracing the culture of wine- community- and offering it to her guests is beginning to flourish.  Well nurtured and thought out, the tours are crafted to experience the community not the tourism.  After she establishes her plans, she will be interested in expanding beyond Piedmont and Tuscany, however- not without much research and making the connections with her locals!

We are honored to share Gina’s story, as it reflects our own philosophy- the culture of wine is about community.  Embrace it!

For more information and tours
For more stories about Gina
Image credit:  Red Box Pictures

October 11, 2015 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

New Tasting Series: Battle of the _____________:

BATTLE OF THE_boxing gloves_email
Compare the subtleties of a specific type of wine!  It’s a classic geeky wine tasting which we will be pleased to run through the end of the year. Join us every Thursday from 5-7pm for a blind tasting and wine 102!

Here’s this week’s tasting details (+ the archives from previous tastings in this series):

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Who’s your Daddy? Primitivo vs Zinfandel

California’s mystery grape Zinfandel is none other than Crljenak Kastelankski- originally from Croatia. Primitivo is also another clone of Crljenak Kastelankski. There is a difference when it is grown and cultivated in different regions as well as the vine vigor and cluster size.


Primitivo – Apulgio, Southern Italy (or the heel of the boot) is where one finds Primitivo. It ripens earlier than Zinfandel, which can result in lower-alcohol wines. Flavor profile is blackberries, violets and pepper. Primitivo from Italy tends to have zero to minimal oak (rarely ever new oak use).

Zinfandel– California regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo are identified separately. It is the 3rd leading wine grape varietal in California. Flavor profile exhibits jammy fruits such as blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs. High sugar content can lead to very high alcohol content, with levels of 15% abv. and higher quite common. If left unchecked these wines can taste hot or have volatile acidity. Typically has some level of oak process.

Beer_WA_No-Li_Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout Beer_North Coast Brewing_Russian Imperial Stout

Stout:  Old World vs New World

By roasting malts and barley one produces a dark beer.  Stouts were a generic term for the strongest (stoutest) of porters- 7-8% ABV.  There are several different styles of Stouts, yet the Dry Irish is the standard.

Old World vs New World

Inspired from English & Irish Stouts, the American Stout has lots of innovation and originality.  Not tied down by tradition methods one could find barrel aging, coffee and chocolate additives, or even excessive hop.  Typically balanced, easy drinking with an average (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

Dry Irish Stout is most classic with a lighter body, lower carbonation and typically a nitro system for creamy texture.  Bitter at times from roasted barely.

Imperial — Russian Imperial is the original term, coined for the export to Catherine II of Russia.  ABV is 9% or higher.
Baltic — another style or Imperial, however cool fermented (lager).  Found in the Baltic regions, especially Poland.
Oyster —  with the actual use of oysters, yes.  Traditionally, oysters were standard plates in public houses and taverns.
Chocolate — No, sorry, typically no chocolate additive here.  However, the malt is toasted until it presents a chocolately flavor and color.  There are a few brew houses that add chocolate flavoring, but it is not the common practice.
Oatmeal- with a maximum of 30% oats it lends to a bitter taste.
Irish or Dry — The standard for stout with a dryer taste.  Guinness is a prime example.
Milk — Residual sugar (lactose) that is not fermentable by beer yeast.  Sweet, rich and supposedly nutritious.



BATTLE OF THE_Riesling Rivarly

Riesling Rivalry: Germany vs Alsace

Join us to test the senses! Experience the difference between the Vosges Mountain slopes and the steep and slate covered vineyards of Mosel. Tasting runs from 5 to 7pm.

Mountain styles | Acidity levels | Fruit Differences

Mosel’s Slate Slopes — A cool continental climate, super steep vineyard slopes (between 45-60° grades are typical), a heavy influence from the visible chunks of blue-gray slate covering the soil and typically a condensed growing-season that can be a little short on sun, make up the unique terroir of the northerly Mosel River Valley. The South facing slopes tend to be the most desirable vineyard locations, as they garner higher doses of sunshine. The Mosel River itself represents a critical component of the area’s terroir, as the river is responsible for both reflecting and retaining the sun’s heat to the vines as well as providing a buffer to early frosts via the river fog

Vosges Mountains— Because of predominantly westerly winds, the Vosges mountains tend to shelter Alsace from rain and maritime influence, and the region is therefore rather dry and sunny. The long, dry growing seasons allow grapes to ripen fully. These grapes are filled with sugar and aromatics; when they are made into dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer wines, the wines retain lovely fragrance, delicious spice and moderate alcohol levels.


BATTLE OF THE_Garnacha vs Grenache

Thursday October 29th, 2015:  BATTLE OF THE…
Garnacha vs Grenache: Spain vs France | Southern Rhone and Castilla y Leon
Was it grown in the Meseta of Spain or the under the strain of the pebbles of Southern Rhone?  Garnacha (Spain) and Grenache (France) are the same varietal- yet delightfuly differnet depending on where it is cultivated.  Tasting runs from 5-7pm.

Meseta-–  Higher acidity.  Extracted fruit.
About 40% of Spain’s land mass is made up of a high central plateau (Meseta).  It includes Castilla-León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Aragón and La Rioja.  High elevation means cool nights, so ripe grapes retain enough acidity for fresh flavor.

Southern Rhone– Soft full fruit.  Higher alcohol.
Pebbles- The galets have the beneficial property of absorbing the heat of the day and radiating it out at night, thus reducing the chances of frost at ground level during the colder winter months.  While advantageous for north facing vineyards, those facing the south often have cleared them away, the night time heat radiating from the stones risking over ripening the grapes.  The wines from these soils are deep, muscular and high in alcohol.


BATTLE OF THE_rt v lft bank

Thursday, October 15:  BATTLE OF THE:
Right vs Left | Bordeaux Soils and Varietals

Is it all about the soil and the varietal?  Let’s taste the difference between the varietals of the Left Bank vs the Right Bank of Bordeaux! Tasting runs from 5-7pm!

Varietals and Growing Conditions
Right Bank Bordeaux— Clay and Limestone.  Merlot is the king of the Right Bank, perfectly adapted to the clay and limestone terroir of Saint Emilion and to the gravel and clay of Pomerol.  Here it is blended with Cabernet Franc and infrequently with Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Merlot produces fleshy, silky and aromatic red wines, often earlier drinking than those of the Left Bank.

Left Bank Bordeaux— Gravel.  On the Left Bank, the gravel soil is particularly conducive to the development of Cabernet Sauvignon, which provides structured red wines with very firm tannins and a long aging capacity. It is associated with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, sometimes Petit Verdot, rarely Malbec.


BATTLE OF THE_coast v central
Thursday, Oct 8: BATTLE OF THE:
Coastal vs Central | California Climates
Take one varietal and match it up to different areas of the same AVA (region/state).  Find out the impact of maritime influences vs continental!  5pm- 7pm!

Technically most of California is a Mediterranean climate however there are sub regions that are more continental.  Continental is very warm temperatures during the day that drop drastically at night.  Washington and Argentina are a prime example of continental climates, however, Lodi AVA of Central Valley California areas are also similar (not Central COAST California).  Mediterrean climates have long growing season with very little temperature variation and precipitation.  Maritime climates are in between the two with obvious bodies of water that mitigate weather.  Like Mediterrean, long growing seasons, yet there is always precipitation and distinct season (like continental climates).  New Zealand is a classic maritime climate.
How does this impact wine?
– Hot climates that have cool nights have rich dark fruit (juicier) with richer body yet higher acid levels.  Doesn’t have to be acidic, but the finish is impacted.
– Mediterranean are moderate climates which have medium fruit, with medium body and moderate acidity.
– Maritime climates have medium to mild fruit with a medium to light body and medium to higher acidity level.
Bonus:  what’s the varietal?

Thursday, Oct 1: BATTLE OF THE FUNK:
Oregon vs France | Pinot Noir
Forest floor and coastal Willamette funk or deep dug soils of French terroir? Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape in the vineyard. It picks up a lot of character- can you tell the difference? Test your senses!  In its home, it has had many centuries of intense care, presumably leading to the use of clones that are exactly matched to their soils and micro-climates. France: limestone and topsoil is mostly a varying mixture of limestone, clay, and flint; Manure, rich soil, tart cherries, cranberries. Oregon: volcanic and sedimentary soil, overlaid with any combo of granite, silt, loam and clay. Flavors: Mushrooms and forest floors; Cherry cola and pomegranate

Brettanomyces- lives on the skins of fruit, fruit flies, wine barrels
4-ethylphenol: Band-aids, barnyard, horse stable, antiseptic
4-ethylguaiacol: Bacon, spice, cloves, smoky
isovaleric acid: Sweaty saddle, cheese, rancidity

.BATTLE OF THE_mtn vs lake
Mountain vs Lake |  Pinot Grigio
Temperature and Cooling Factors — what’s the effect on wine?  Micro-climates have a huge impact. TerroIr gives off immutable characteristics; however, we are talking about the structure of the area and the impacts thereof. Sea breezes tend to leave traces of briny qualitites.

Mountains- proximity to sun or shade, cooling factors (higher altitudes heat fast, cool quick), impact cloud formations and precipitation.  Overall- a cooler growing area.  So wines tend to be crisp with subtle fruit nuances
Lakes- mediate temperatures by maintaining warmth from the summer, and cooling through the summer; protecting vines from frost at budding time.  So overall- a warmer growing area.  Therefore, wines show ripe fruit, warm body and subtle acidity.
Image credit: 

Image credit: 

Thursday, Sep 17: no tasting as it’s wine club pickup

BATTLE OF THE_grapeft straw
Thursday, Sep 10: BATTLE OF THE:
Grapefruit vs Straw |  Sauvignon Blanc
CITRUS!  But what kind?  And can you taste grass, straw, green peppers or just grapefruit?  We are super excited about this new tasting. Hope you can join!

Ripeness Challenge 
Cooler climate and Less Ripe:  Lime, Green Apple, Green Bell Pepper, Gooseberry, Basil, Jalapeño, Fresh Cut Grass
Warmer Climate and Ripe:  Asian Pear, Kiwi, Passionfruit, Guava, White Peach, Nectarine, Dried Summer Grass, Tarragon, Lovage, Celery, Lemongrass
Other fun flavors:  Box of Chalk, Wet Concrete (Stainless) and Vanilla, Pie Crust, Dill, Coconut, Butter, Nutmeg, Cream (oak)
More fun


Thursday September 3rd:  BATTLE OF THE:
Oak vs Steel | Chardonnay Challenge! 
BUTTER- OAK- FRUIT- MALO WHAT?  The face off of steel vs oak.  Can you tell the difference?  Find out Thursday September 3rd 5pm-7pm!
Oak- French oak (vanilla, baking spices), American oak (coconut, sunscreen oil, caramel, butter), soft on the palate
Steel- Fruit (tree fruits, Meyer lemon, pineapple, tropical fruits) and higher acidity
SIDE NOTE:  Malolactic fermentation is the process of stripping lactic acid by applying malolactic.  This removes the angular acid notes and replaces it with the creamy soft butter texture that plops on your palette.

October 8, 2015 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

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