Roman Pfaffl – The Face of Austria’s Future


“In a winery, the cheapest wines have to be very good.  If they’re not good, I don’t want to taste the expensive ones.”  ~ Roman Jr.

Roman Pfaffl is the face of where Austria’s wine industry is heading … and this is a good thing.  He was in Seattle this last week and we had the good fortune of being charmed by him in the most unpretentious yet solid kind of way.  In fact, he was so modest during my interview that the importer had to prod him a bit to get him to cough up more of his story as he didn’t think that the American audience would think it was interesting.  Decide for yourself:

Roman’s parents, Roman and Edelheid, founded Weingut R&A Pfaffl in 1978 when they inherited the family farm.  Over the last decades, Roman Sr. has played a big role in the Austrian winemaking community.  Aside from being called Mr. Veltliner by the Austrian press, he is credited with founding the Weinviertel appellation, Austria’s first DAC, and he was named Austrian Winemaker of the Year in 1996.  I figured young Roman was probably in the early stages of learning the ropes and a promotional tour to the US was part of that plan, but that was actually incorrect.  He explained that in the Austrian school system, you go to elementary school for 4 years, then Gymnasium (which is university bound secondary school like in Germany); however, in Austria at the end of grade 8 you can choose to continue with Gymnasium or attend an academic trade school.  This is the route that Roman took, attending the Höhere Punkt Lehr Gestalt für Wein und Obst Bau, which provided him with training in both oenology and viticulture. After school he did his 8 month compulsory military service (which he, like Jens, remembers fondly, telling me (with a little smile) that 2 of those months were posted on the border, directly protecting the motherland). At 19, he arrived back at the farm, and his dad basically wished him luck and handed over the keys, letting him know that he was there if Roman Jr. had any questions, but that he was heading off to be the Chairman of the Regional Wine Board of the Weinviertel region.  That was five vintages ago.

So, I asked him, were you a nervous?  Yes, he said with this charming grin, but he assured me that he had grown up around winemaking and it was sort of like coming home.  And, he told me not to forget that 2004 (his first vintage) was a perfect year in Austria, lots of sun, just enough rain, an easy harvest.  The perfect year to get your feet wet, so to speak.  Since then, he has started to move the focus from Grüner Veltliner (the fruity, crisp, peppery white famous to that part of Austria) to red wines, which he feels are the winery’s future. 

He has his work cut out for him though.  Austrian wines are still little known in the US, but way more people are familiar with Grüner Veltliner than Zweigelt or St. Laurent. We’re going to work to help Roman change that though as these wines are beautifully crafted, elegant wines.  I was particularly impressed with the two entry level wines.  Their names “Pepper” for the GV and “Cherry” for the Zweigelt were a little cutsie; however, I can forgive them as a German label is close to a death sentence in the American market and efforts to overcome that are commended.  Especially when they are as good as these for $17.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79.  When I told Roman that I had been pleasantly surprised by these wines, he said, “In a winery, the cheapest wines have to be very good.  If they’re not good, I don’t want to taste the expensive ones.”  We agree …

Pfaffl 2008 Grüner Veltliner “Pepper”  REG $17.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79
100% Grüner Veltliner. This is their entry level GV and it’s a delicious wine for the money.  Hints of citrus, herbs on the nose. Flavors of white pepper, lemons.  Great acidity.  Very refreshing as a sipper.  Pairs well with fish, chicken, pork dishes.
 
Pfaffl 2008 Grüner Vetliner Hundsleiten  REG $41.99 | Sale $34.99 | Case $27.99 
100% Grüner Veltliner. Single vineyard with very stony soils. This vintage had a very late harvest (November).  Not so much pepper. Bigger, rounder wine with flavors of grapefruit, citrus & herbs.  Beautiful, elegant wine.

Pfaffl 2008 Zweigelt “Cherry”  REG $17.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79
100% Zweigelt. Lots of dark cherry fruit, a little bit oaky, but lovely (aged 6 months in 30% old barriques).  Smooth tannins.  Roman said this is a typical Austrian red.
 
Pfaffl 2006 St. Laurent Altenberg  REG $55.49 | Sale $45.99 | Case $36.79 
100% St. Laurent.  Very elegant, smooth, old world style wine.  Plums, blackberries & “exotic woods” on the nose. Flavors of cherries & blackberries with a touch of smoke. 


We had a lot of fun with Roman at this tasting, and encourage you to give the Pepper & the Cherry at try …

Cheers,
Julie

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Portalis Explores! ~ Wine Club Archives

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AUGUST 2019 // Portugal

Over the last year or so, Portalis customers have been talking more and more about travel to Portugal and subsequently the interest in Portuguese wines has grown. I support the effort! The wines are excellent, and you get a lot of wine for the money. Since it’s summer, we’re featuring a delicious Vinho Verde from northwest Portugal — a light, effervescent white made for seafood and fun — and a red from the Dão region in central Portugal, where reds rule. For a fun Portuguese wine primer, we recommend this overview from Wine Folly. And for a little more on your particular wines, details are below. Enjoy!

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Vinha das Margaridas 2018 Vinho Verde
Minho, Portugal // Reg $11.99 | Mixed Case $9.59

Vinho Verde is a light, refreshing, low-alcohol and well-priced white. This wine is well-crafted by experienced winemaker Álvaro van Zeller. Produced and bottled on the farm, this Vinho Verde exclusively uses grapes grown on the property, and it is produced and bottled on the farm. The farm is approximately 34 hectares, of which 25 hectares are Loureiro, 5 are Alvarinho and 2.5 hectares planted at the entrance of the farm are Arinto, known locally as Pedernã.

Tasting Notes: Notable is the alcohol level of 11%. Grapes are Loureiro, Arinto. Aged in stainless steel, the wine is a very light green color. Aromas of citrus and light, white flowers. Refreshing, slightly sparkling with flavors of lemon, lime, grapefruit citrus on the palate. Great food wine. Pairs especially well with seafood, shellfish and salads. Drink now to 1 year.

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Quinta de Cabriz 2015 Colheita Seleccionada Tinto
Dão, Portugal // Reg $12.99 | Mixed Case $10.39

The Dão is known for its quality. Not as full-bodied as reds from the Douro (to the north), Dão reds are well-balanced with good fruit, good acidity and pleasant tannins. The vineyards are located between 400 and 700 meters on plateaus with schist and granite soils surrounded by pine forests. The area enjoys a continental climate with long, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. Osvaldo Amado (pictured right) is the estate’s winemaker joined by Professor Rogério Castro (left), their vineyard consultant.

Tasting Notes: 40% Alfrocheiro; 40% Tinta-Roriz. 20% Touriga-Nacional. 6 months in French oak barrels. Fresh red fruits, forest fruit jam, spices and toasted notes on the nose. Fruity, smooth, silky, elegant and harmonious on the palate. Ideal with soft cheese, delicate fish, white and red meats and especially dishes featuring Mediterranean, Asian, Indian and African cuisines.

I am a big fan of Portuguese wines in general, and these wines in particular are outstanding for the money. Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, August 14 for your pickup tasting.

Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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JULY 2019 // Minervois & Corbières

Summer reds from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon… it’s a beautiful thing! This club we’re showing off red blends from two of the more famous subregions: Minervois & Corbières. Languedoc-Roussillon runs along the Mediterranean from Montpellier to the Spanish border and is home to the oldest vineyards in France.

Minervois sits due north of Corbières and is the less dramatic of the two. Corbières is larger (easily twice the size) and is scruffier with more variation in altitude and wildlife. It’s also known for its Carignan, a varietal pretty much exclusively used in blends, imparting a distinct cran-raspberry flavor with notes of tobacco, herbs and cured meat. Minervois makes a more standard, juicy blend of Syrah & Grenache. Hope you enjoy these summer reds. I think they’re interesting and delicious!

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La Tour du Tourril 2017 Cuvée Angela
Minervois, France // Reg $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
From the winery: “Chateau Tourril, a family vineyard located between the Canal du Midi and the fortified city of Carcassonne (both on UNESCO’s World Heritage List), is a small 16ha jewel nested in clay-limestone corrie surrounded by shrub-land and garrigue. Its name comes from an ancient gallo-roman tower standing on the heights of the estate. The whole production process is conducted organically with no pesticides. The vineyard is under AB certification since 2016.”

Tasting Notes: 80% Grenache & 20% Syrah. Medium-bodied, this juicy red blend has aromas of fine black currant, ripe cherries and a little spice. It’s a soft wine with a warm finish and silky tannins. Made for food, this wine is flexible. Enjoy with meats and veggies off the grill, rotisserie chicken, eggplant gratin and more. Drink now to 2 years.

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Château du Grand Caumont 2018 Cuvée Spéciale
Corbières, France // Reg $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79
Owned and run by Laurence Rigal after inheriting it from her mother several years ago, Chateau du Grand Caumont is one of the larger estates in the area. We deal directly with Laurence to buy these wines, and truly she is the salt of the earth. Lovely, easy, accommodating (especially when we send guests from Seattle to visit her winery). The estate has old vine Carignan, and you will get to enjoy some in this blend!

Tasting Notes: Syrah 50%, Carignan 45%, Grenache 5%. Medium in body, intense in aromas and flavors: red and dark fruits & jammy berries, red currants, coffee, baking spices with a little hint of gaminess in a lovely-you-want-more kind of way! Pairings include charcuterie, grilled red meats & game, lamb …and the winery suggests enjoying the wine with red fruit pies for dessert!

I hope you enjoy these wines and come back for more! Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, July 10 for your pickup tasting.

Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections


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JUNE 2019 // South Africa

I had the great pleasure of visiting South Africa (as a medical intern working in a hospital in Soweto) during the spring of 1994, the year Nelson Mandela was elected president. It was a crazy, interesting 4 months, that I topped off with a trip to Cape Town and the surrounding wine country — without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. South African wines have a special minerality that you’ll get a hint of in both of these wines. Delicious and great value, both!

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Ashbourne

Ashbourne 2016 Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay
Walker Bay, South Africa // Reg $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59
Tim Hamilton Russell founded Hamilton Russell Vineyards in 1975, looking for a cooler, maritime plot in Hemel-en-Aarde (on the coast southeast of Cape Town). His son, Anthony Hamilton Russell took over in 1991 and still runs the winery today. Ashborne, founded by Anthony in 1996, is a 64 hectare property (pictured above) on the eastern border of the Hamilton Russell estate.

Tasting Notes: This unique blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc & 20% Chardonnay tastes uncannily just like both grapes — fresh, vibrant, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, rounded out and enriched with unoaked Chardonnay. It’s refreshing, great with food, delicious! Drink now to 1 year.

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Boekenhoutskloof 2017 Wolf Trap Red
Franschhoek, South Africa // Reg $12.99 | Mixed Case $10.39
The Boekenhoutskloof farm was established in 1776, located in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley. Vineyards were planted in 1993 including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Semillon & Viognier. (Estate vineyards pictured.) Boekenhoutskloof has developed into a Syrah specialist, making premium wines under their main label. Boekenhoutskloof also makes The Chocolate Block (a Syrah based blend that has been one of South Africa’s most successful wines in recent years) and in 2003 launched the Wolf Trap, a line of Rhône blends.

Tasting Notes: Syrah 91%, Mourvèdre 8%, Viognier 1% — Similar to a Rhône blend but a little more rustic, brambly, with aromas of violets and ripe plums and flavors of dark berries with a note of licorice & sweet tobacco. A lovely little wine and simply killer for the price! Drink now to 2 years.

I hope these wines give you a little hint of the great land of South Africa and the delicious wines coming out of that region. Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, June 12 for your pickup tasting.

Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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May 2019 // Burger Wines

Burgers — beef, bison, a roasted portobello mushroom or a delicious homemade black bean burger! The wine protocol is basically the same: reds should be juicy (not too heavy or tannic or oaky), whites are more flexible (zingy to round to off-dry… all good) and rosé is a you-can’t-mess-it-up-sure-shot!! Hope you enjoy our two selections. Happy grilling!

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Réserve de Générac 2018 Costières de Nîmes Rosé
Southern Rhône, France // Reg $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
Tasting Notes: Syrah/Grenache blend. Raspberry and red currants on the nose. Flavors of summer raspberries and cherries. Finishes with a note of white pepper and lingering hillside herbs. Refreshing acidity makes this a delicious, flexible food wine. Drink now to 2 years.

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This is a beautifully made co-op wine, thus the great price. It is this year’s new vintage, straight off the boat. The vineyards for these grapes (pictured below) have large smooth stones from alluvial deposits (from the Rhône and Durance Rivers) on a clay-limestone subsoil. They also sometimes have amazing beehives!!

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Altos Las Hormigas 2016 Malbec Clásico
Mendoza, Argentina // Reg $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
In 1995, Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini and entrepreneur Antonio Morescalchi (both Italian) made a trip to Argentina to checkout the budding wine region. They were deeply wowed by the vineyards thriving in the high altitude and dry climate of Mendoza. As well, they liked the cultural influence on the wines. They went back to Italy, found investors and headed back — deciding to only cultivate Malbec (unlike other start-ups at the time interested in more internationally known grapes such as Cab & Merlot.) Their bet was a good one. Today, Argentina is world-renowned for their Malbec. Pictured are estate vineyards (1,300 meters above sea level) during the February 2019 harvest with the Andes in the background.

Tasting Notes: 100% Malbec. Fruity nose, full of raspberries, fresh plums & soft spiced notes. Medium-body, lovely juicy fruit with light tannins on the finish. You know what to pair it with!! Would be great with other foods off the grill as well — chicken, sausages and more. Drink now to 2 years.

Both wines are great to kick off spring with burgers of every sort off the grill! As well, both are perfectly good sipping wines for an evening on the patio. Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, May 15 for your pickup tasting.

Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

 

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APRIL 2019 // Spring in France

The weather has starting warming up. Trees are budding. Forsythia is in bloom. Spring is here! This month we have selected two French wines with spring dishes in mind! Both wines are excellent food wines in general, but specifically, the Viognier would be a wonderful choice with asparagus (which can be tricky with wine) and other spring vegetables (green beans, fava beans & more). The red wine is a Merlot/Cab blend from Bordeaux and would be an excellent selection with lamb, but it’s flexible with food and would be delicious with legumes, mushrooms, root vegetables, cheeses & more. Hope you enjoy!

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Haut de Mourier 2016 Viognier
Languedoc, France // Reg $15.99 | APRIL SALE 25% OFF = $11.99
Tasting Notes: 100% Viognier. Bouquet of apricots, peaches, floral notes & a little spice. Flavors of peach, apple, pear, lavender and honey. Round and soft, fresh and balanced with good acidity. Enjoy with spring vegetables (asparagus!) as well as spicy foods (Asian dishes in particular) and dishes with smoky notes — smoked trout, smoked nuts, smoked meats and more. It’s a great food wine in general. Drink now to 3 years.

The Bouix family is on their fifth generation of winemakers. They own and harvest their own vineyards in the village of Nages-et-Solorgues, just southwest of Nîmes (in the Southern Rhône, so the estate is located just over the border in Languedoc). They work 12ha of Viognier, 8 of Merlot, 2 Syrah and 1 Cinsault.

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Château des Gravières 2014 Graves Rouge
Vignobles Labuzan_Chateau des Gravieres Graves_Thierry and Denis LabuzanBordeaux, France // Reg $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
Château des Gravières is located in the village of Portets in the AOC Graves. Its vineyards stretch along the left bank of the Garonne River, making up some of the best gravel terroir in the appellation. It has enjoyed the care and attention of the Labuzan family for 7 generations. Current owners (and brothers) Thierry (winemaker) & Denis (viticulturist) Labuzan pictured. One of their estate vineyards is pictured above. Current estate is 45 hectares.

Tasting Notes: 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Garonne gravel on 30-year old vines. The nose is full of rich, ripe red cherries with flavors of black cherries, summer plums, baking spices and integrated tannins. Enjoy with lamb and other roasted meats, cassoulet, aged & aromatic cheeses and mushrooms dishes.

Viognier and Bordeaux red blends are standbys for me as flexible & delicious food wines, and both of these wines are great value for the money. Hope you enjoy! Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, April 10 for your pickup tasting.

Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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MARCH 2019 // Monastrell (Mourvèdre)

Your March club features the grape varietal: Monastrell. This grape is indigenous to Spain, but gained its notoriety through the ages as a component of Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blends in the Southern Rhône. This month, though, we’re going back to its roots — Spain — where it is regularly showcased as a single varietal wine. Thick-skinned, this grape needs powerful heat to ripen, and it gets that in both Catalunya and even more so in Jumilla where the resulting wine is fuller-bodied and bolder in flavor. Both of these wines are wonderful examples and quite different from one another. Hope you enjoy!
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Juan Gil 2016 Monastrell
Jumilla, Spain // Reg $16.99 | WINE CLUB $15.99 | Mixed Case $12.79
Jumilla is an inland subregion in the greater area of Valencia. Intensely hot summers, long, cold winters, almost no rain and dry, stony ground are the conditions that (while strenuous) are perfect for this grape.

Juan Gil Jiménez built the original winery in 1916. His son and grandson, Juan Gil Guerrero and Juan Gil González, improved and consolidated the winery. Today, the fourth generation manages the daily operations focusing on the technological advances available in winemaking today. Estate Monastrell vineyards pictured above. Estate Monastrell pictured top.

Tasting Notes: Explosive aromas of ripe currant, red berries and smoked notes. Rich, powerful and voluminous — a huge mouthful of crème-de-cassis. Silky, juicy fruit in the middle with a a long spicy well-balanced finish. The winery encourages you to enjoy this wine with paella, stewed meat, stewed vegetables, mushrooms, poultry, smoked seafood, blue cheese and roasted & grilled red meats. Versatile! Drink now to 3 years.

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Bodegas Maset 2016 Monastrell
Catalunya, Spain // Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
The Monastrell for this wine comes from winelands in the greater region of Catalunya (estate Monastrell vineyards pictured above), southwest of Barcelona. It’s not nearly as hot and dry as Jumilla (much milder in winter) and subsequently, this wine is not as full-bodied nor as fruity and doesn’t have as much oak to manage the tannins. Alcohol at 14% versus 15.5% is notably lower.

Tasting Notes: Rich dark cherries on the nose. Complex flavors of black raspberries, black berries, balsamic and toasted oak. Enjoy with venison, roasted meats, squash, polenta and spicy dishes. Drink now to 3 years.

Bodegas Maset is a large, family-held estate in Penedès. Their primary production is Cava, but they have a whole host of red and white whites from vineyards throughout Catalunya and Rioja. Estate Monastrell pictured above.

This was a fun club to do, and we hope you enjoy trying this varietal if you haven’t already. Your wines are ready for pickup at your convenience. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, March 13 for your pickup tasting. Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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FEBRUARY 2019 // Valentine’s Day in Northern Italy

We’re going to the Land of Love for two Valentine’s Day selections: — a Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige (Italy’s northernmost region, where there’s a castle ruin on every hill top – see photo above from our trip there in 2013) and a beautiful Barbera d’Asti from Piedmont (not as mountainous as Alto Adige, but just as romantic — hills, fog, hazelnuts, truffles). Enjoy these wines with the one you love… or as a yummy everyday selection in the next couple weeks.
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Weingut Castelfeder 2016 Pinot Grigio 15er
Alto Adige, Italy // Reg $18.99 | WINE CLUB $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Without a doubt, the loveliest Pinot Grigio that we sell at the shop — complex, with deep minerality and beautiful flavors of pear & apple. The grapes from this wine come from the “15er” vineyard with vines from 10-50 years old. Aged 5 months on lees in tanks prior to bottling. Wonderful with fresh water fish, scallops, vegetarian dishes, roasted chicken, salmon, you name it… a terrific example of Pinot Grigio! Drink now to 3 years.

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A little about from whence it came… Alto Adige was a part of Austria (Südtirol) until the end of World War I when it became a part of Italy. When we asked Ines Giovanett (daughter of proprietor Günther Giovanett) how much connection she has to Austrian culture (outside of speaking German as her first language), she said with a smile: “I wear a dirndl; I eat knödel!” So there you have it! Pictured above is the church in the village square of Cortina, where the winery is located. Ines’ grandparents (founders of the estate) still live in a little house on the property. Günther spends most of his time working on local commissions to promote wines from Alto Adige, and Ines and her brother, Ivan (now the winemaker), run the everyday operations of the business.

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Luca Ferraris 2017 del Martin Barbera d’Asti DOCG
Piedmont, Italy // Reg $15.99 | WINE CLUB $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
100% Barbera. 9 months in French oak; 3 months in the bottle, unfiltered. A beautiful nose of violets, herbs and spices with a palate of silky fruit — ripe black raspberries, macerated cherries — enhanced by notes of spice and balanced acidity. Enjoy with game, roasted pork, pasta dishes and more. A very flexible food wine. Drink now to 5 years.

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Luca Ferraris (pictured) is the winemaker and proprietor of the business his grandparents started in the 1920’s. Today, Agricola Ferraris makes its name with the lesser-known Ruchè grape from the small DOCG Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato. (We carry two of his Ruchè wines, so ask about them if you’re curious.) They have grown into the largest family-owned agricultural company in the seven municipalities of the Ruchè-growing region. Currently the estate produces about 130,000 bottles of wine (about 50,000 of Ruchè) from 18 vineyards covering 25 hectares.

Happy Valentine’s Day! We hope you enjoy these February selections. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, February 13 for your pickup tasting. Hope to see you then!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

 

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JANUARY 2019 // Cooperativa Agricola Cincinnato

The region around Rome is known as Lazio, and these two new J. Strecker (direct import) arrivals are wonderful examples of wines from this area — lesser-known indigenous varietals (Bellone & Nero Buono) showing off the wonderful work coming from this area. I’m just flat out psyched about these wines!

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First a little on Lazio, Cori and this co-op:
Located an hour southeast of Rome, the ancient town of Cori (with urban structures dating from the 5–6th centuries BC) is set among the olive groves and vineyards in the foothills of the Lepini Mountains. The village of Cori is pictured above; the winery, also located in Cori, is pictured below. As you can imagine, this town is permeated with ancient and medieval history. The winery gives the two wines in this month’s club the symbolic names of Castore & Pollùce in honor of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

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Using the stamp: CINCINNATO MCMXLVII, Cooperativa Agricola Cincinnato was formed by a group of local farmers on the 13th of June 1947, with the purpose of processing and selling their own production. They named themselves in honor of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who led the Romans in battle against the Aequi in 458 BC. Following his victory, he refused honors and public offices in Rome, preferring to return to his land, which is said to have been in this area of Lazio.

Cincinnato currently has 550 hectares of land (100 of which are certified organic), and 130 member families committed to growing native grapes. The winery is also renowned for its environmental efforts including organic methods in the vineyards, a solar power system for independent power generation, and local distribution using natural gas-fueled vehicles.

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Cincinnato 2017 “Castore” Bellone

Lazio, Italy // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
100% Bellone. This white grape is grown in volcanic-clayey soil in the hills around Cori. It’s a brilliant straw yellow color with a delicate fruity nose, full of yellow peach & hawthorn. Fresh with mineral notes on the palate, it’s a delicious refreshing sipper (while you cook) or enjoy it with pasta and seafood dishes. Drink now to 2 years.

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Cincinnato 2016 “Pollùce” Nero Buono

Lazio, Italy // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
100% Nero Buono (vineyards pictured). Similar to the Bellone, the vineyards are located on the lavic hills around Cori. Aged for 12 months in stainless steel tanks then refined in bottle for 6 months before being released. Ruby red in color. Intense, fragrant nose full of red fruits — strawberries, red plums, bing cherries. Faint notes of leather and earth bookend the pleasant fruitiness of this wine. It’s not too acidic nor too tannic. Wonderful to sip and equally delicious with food. Enjoy with Bucatini all’Amatriciana, dishes with Roman gnochi, artichokes, oxtail stew and more. Drink now to 3 years.

Happy New Year to old and new members alike! We wish you all the best for 2019 and a lot of fun with this wine club! If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, January 16 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

 

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DECEMBER 2018 // Winter Reds

These reds have fireplace written all over them. They are rich, fuller-bodied red blends to give you strength and solace as we head towards the darkest day of the year!

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It wasn’t on purpose, but it happens that both bottles are from the Old World, in fact both wines are from the Iberian Peninsula — one from Aragón (in between Barcelona and Ribera del Duero in north central Spain) and one from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. They are both terrific values at $15 (which is the special wine club price). Enjoy with food or as sippers by the fire.

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Bodegas Langa 2016 Frenesi Red Blend
Calatayud, Spain // Reg $15.99 | WINE CLUB $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Founded in 1867, Juan and César Langa Gonzalez are the 5th generation of the Langa family to run this winery. Their vineyards include 100-year old vines, and their name is emblematic for winemaking in the area. In 1967, their family was a founding member of the DO Calatayud, and they are historic members of the Cava Board of Aragón. Estate vineyard pictured.

Tasting Notes: Aside from being certified organic and a beautiful bottle, the wine is killer! A blend of Merlot, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz, the nose has a minerally character with spicy overtones such as cinnamon, pepper and clove. Dense body with good tannic strength and silky fruit. Enjoy with all kinds of meats, stews and game. Drink now to 3 years.

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Alves de Sousa 2014 Vale da Raposa Reserva Red
Douro Valley, Portugal // Reg $18.99 | WINE CLUB $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Domingos Alves de Sousa and his son, Tiago, run this family estate, and I think their work is out of this world! Tiago has visited Seattle before. Hopefully he’ll come again. He’s a lovely guy. Estate vineyards pictured.

Tasting Notes: A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Touriga Franca, enjoy violets and pine tree on the nose. Bold, rich flavors of cherries & plums with layers of dark chocolate and espresso. Delicious with roasted poultry, beef, lamb, charcuterie and hard, strong cheeses. Drink now to 5 years.

We wish you all the best this holiday season! If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, December 19 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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NOVEMBER 2018 // Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving_Turkey_imagekindcom_orange turkey
This month’s club features two wines that would be great with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Here goes:

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La Farra Prosecco Brut
Veneto, Italy // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99

Prosecco is bubbly made in the Veneto region of NE Italy, and this beautiful Prosecco is made by the Nardi family (vineyards pictured). Brothers Innocente & Guido are passionate viticulturists who both studied at the oldest oenology school in Italy: Scuola Enologica di Conegliano. Their sister, Adamaria, runs the business.

La Farra is comprised of 20 hectares of vineyards located along “Prosecco Road” in Farra di Soligo deep in the area that produces DOCG Prosecco Superiore: Conegliano Valdobbiadene. This prime location allows the winery to produce superior quality grapes which best combine the floral scents associated with the land of Valdobbiadene and the flavors typical to those of Conegliano.

Tasting notes: Crisp Gala apple with a little note of citrus and fine persistent bubbles. Soft and delicate. Perfect for your Thanksgiving toast and maybe even better with your dinner. The acidity in bubbly pairs beautifully with sweet, salty and rich foods… sounds like roasted dark turkey meat with gravy, cranberries, stuffing and sweet potatoes. This prosecco could even manage some marshmallows if they were involved. Drink now to 1 year.

Laudun Cotes du Rhone Villages_FB_harvest
Domaine Les Espérières 2015 Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge

Southern Rhône, France // Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99

So what exactly is a Côtes du Rhône Villages wine? Côtes-du-Rhône wines are the most basic wines (white, red & rosé) in the Rhône region. Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages is an additional AOC region INSIDE of the Côtes du Rhône region and a step up on the pyramid (so to speak). These vineyards are higher ranked, and the wines tend to be a little more complex. Next up on the pyramid is Côtes du Rhône Villages + [the name of the village]. At the pinnacle of the Rhône pyramid are the Cru-Villages wines where just the village is named. There are 17 crus, with Hermitage & Cornas (in the Northern Rhône) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas & Vacqueyras (in the Southern Rhône) being a few you might recognize.

Tasting notes: 70% Grenache / 30% Syrah. This red is lighter in body. Fragrances of wild strawberries and raspberries framed with light spice. Fresh, full and silky flavors of wild fruit and garrigue (low growing shrubby herbs common on rocky Mediterranean terrain). This wine would be wonderful with roasted turkey and the fixin’s MINUS the marshmallow. That level of sweetness would make this wine go tart. Consider yourself forewarned! Drink now to 3 years.

Thanksgiving is next week, so we will have both wine club wines open (5 total) for your pickup tastings on Tuesday & Wednesday, November 20 & 21. If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at Thanksgiving (or any time thereafter), stop by on one of those two days. Hope you enjoy this month’s club!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections
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OCTOBER 2018 // Chile

This month’s club features two reds from the Colchagua Valley (pictured above) in central Chile, an east-west oriented valley with the capital city of Santiago to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes Mountains to the east.

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Francisca Bravo is our local Chilean importer and, as a landscape designer, she has an emphasis on natural and minimal intervention wines from award-winning winemakers in her home country. Both of this month’s wines come from Puente Austral and winemaker José Ignacio Maturana (pictured below). Here’s a great video> of him, showing off his family’s vineyards and giving you his perspective on winemaking. I hope you enjoy these wines! I think they are fabulous, especially for the price.

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Puente Austral 2014 Reserva Privada Carménière

Colchagua Valley, Chile // Reg $12.99 | Mixed Case $10.39

Almost exclusively grown in Chile, Carménière was originally used as a blending grape in Bordeaux. It is medium in body, full of plums and red and black fruit with a notable herbaceous, green peppercorn flavor. This wine is a little lighter in body with a nose of black cherries and plums. Fruity, round and full of flavor with good acidity and soft tannins. A very flexible food wine, you can enjoy it with spicy dishes including spiced meats off the grill and vegetable dishes including herbal, slightly bitter veggies such as kale. Drink now to 3 years.

Puente Austral 2014 Gran Reserva
Colchagua Valley, Chile // Reg $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59

70% Cabernet Sauvignon / 30% Syrah. Elegant aromas of ripe red fruits with mild undertones of black pepper & tobacco. A fuller-bodied wine with firm tannins. Nice long finish. Perfect for meat dishes: roast beef, burgers, steak or an Argentinian chorizo steak. (That’s what the winery recommends!) Drink now to 3 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, October 17 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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SEPTEMBER 2018 // Spain

This month’s club features two reds from Spain — a Cab Franc from Calalunya in northeast Spain (near Barcelona) and a Tempranillo-Syrah blend from Méntrida in central Spain (near Madrid). Both of these wines are unbelievable deals for $15. Hope you enjoy!

Maset_sheep in vineyards_square
Bodegas Maset 2016 Cabernet Franc
Catalunya, Spain // Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Bodegas Maset has produced quality wines & cavas for over two centuries in the DO Penedès region. It is situated between Barcelona & Tarragona, bordered in the north by the Montserrat Mountains and in the south by the Sitges and Tarragona coast. The composition of the land is varied, ranging from clay-limestone areas to sandy soils. The climate is mild in the winter and hot in the summer, without being extreme. Both photos above are from the Maset estate. In the top photo, you can see them using sheep for weed control and fertilizer!

Specific to this wine, the winery says: “At the foot of the Pre-Coastal Range, under the majestic cliffs and mined gorges on limestone rock, one of our most delicate, aromatic varieties is cultivated. An environment scented with Mediterranean pines, rosemary and precious red orchids. An isolated site where Cabernet Franc vines benefit from a cooler climate (Mediterranean with continental tendencies) ideal for their development. These characteristics provide us with a wine with a unique identity.” Tasting Notes: Red and blue fruit mélange. Deep, complex, elegant. The balance of fruit, acidity & tannins is phenomenal. Absolutely killer for the money. Drink now to 3 years.

Tavera_vineyards_square
Bodegas Tavera 2016 Tempranillo-Syrah
Méntrida, Spain // Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
DO Méntrida is a wine region in the province of Toledo, about 45 minutes southwest of Madrid. Bodegas Tavera was established in 2005 by the González López family who has a history rooted in generations of wine growing tradition. Their oldest vines were planted in 1921.

This blend of 55% Tempranillo & 45% Syrah comes from sandy-clay soils with an average loose consistency. The soils are poor in nutrients, but they retain the available moisture well. The climate is continental (long hot summers & cold winters) with extreme temperature variations over the course of the year. Tasting Notes: Complex aromas of blue and black berries with a faint smoky note. A pure delight on its own, it shines even more with food. The winery says to pair it with light appetizers and delicious mini tapas and light cheese. Drink now to 3 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, September 19 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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AUGUST 2018 // Château du Grand Caumont

Located in the Corbières region of Languedoc-Rousillon, Château du Grand Caumont is one of our most beloved J. Strecker direct imports. The Cuvée Tradition and Cuvée Impatience (both red blends) were on our very first shipment in 2011 and have remained favorites at the shop ever since.

Grand Caumont_entrance gate

The estate is currently run by Laurence Rigal, who inherited it from her mother. With 100 hectares of planted vines within the 140 hectare estate, Château du Grand Caumont is one of the largest wine estates in Corbières. The rugged stony clay-limestone soils of the terraced vineyards create excellent filtration for the vines. Their red blends often contain Carignan, which gives the wines from this region their je ne sais quoi …minerality? herbs? It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted within the deep, dark, fuller-bodied fruit.

Grand Caumont_vineyard workers

The two wines in this wine club are second labels for the estate with grapes sourced from vineyards within Languedoc, but outside of AOC Corbières. Details below. Hope you enjoy!

Map_Sud de France_Languedoc

Domaine du Grand Caumont 2017 Syrah
Vin de Pays d’Oc, France // Reg $14.99 | INSIDER $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
Per the map above, vineyards marked Vin de Pays d’Oc IGP can be located throughout Languedoc in areas that are not further specified as AOC vineyards. These grapes are grown in a Mediterranean climate where it’s very windy and dry in the summer. The vineyards have alluvial soils. This 100% Syrah is light and smooth with a little spice on the finish. Delicious with red meats, grilled meats, boneless rolled loin of lamb, duck with cherries, blackberry or raspberry tarts. Drink now to 3 years.

Domaine de Mougin 2017 Rouge
Vin de Pays de L’Aude, France // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
IGP Vin de Pays de L’Aude is more specified, located in the area northwest of Minervois. It’s also very windy with very dry summer periods. The soils are composed of gravel and clay-limestone on terraces. This red is a crazy, rich blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan, Cab, Merlot & Marselan. The grape varieties are vinified separately, then blended at the end of winter. The wine should be served at 15-17°C, so slightly chilled in summer. It’s full of red (strawberry) and dark berry fruits with the special herbal note from the Carignan. This wine is fuller-bodied than the Syrah, but it has similar pairings: red meat, grilled meats and red fruit-based desserts. Drink now to 3 years.

I am dee-lighted with these wines, and I hope you are, too! If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, August 22 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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JULY 2018 // Italy… North & South

This month features two summer picks from Italy. The first is a quaffable white from Soave, located about half an hour due east of Verona, and the second is a red from Puglia, Italy’s heel of the boot.
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Franchetto 2015 Soave “La Capelina”
Veneto, Italy // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
The grape is Garganega, but its known by the name of the DOC: Soave. On the east side of Soave is the village of Terrossa, where the Franchetto family has lived for over a century. Antonio Franchetto continues his family’s long history of cultivating the traditional grapes of these lands (harvest pictured). His daughter, Francesca, is the winemaker, whose training includes “Magis certification” in support of sustainable farming techniques.

Franchetto_harvest

Tasting notes: Citrus blossoms and warm apple aromas with flint, ripe lemons, apricot and elderflower on the palate. The Franchetto family says you should enjoy this wine with fish-based first courses, risotto with peas, pumpkin or fish, soppressa veneta and white meat main courses. Drink now to 1 year.

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Palazzo Malgara 2016 Primitivo di Manduria
Puglia, Italy // Reg $15.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
This wine comes from a co-op that makes a line of great value, single varietal wines from Sicily and Puglia. Robust, ripe blackberry, plum skins and cassis with subtle black pepper and rich body. Related to Zinfandel, but Italian style- a bit more acid. Perfect for pairing with burgers, grilled chicken, pork chops off the grill or just sit in some open summer air and enjoy! It’s a great, versatile example from Southern Italy! Drink now to 2 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, July 18 for your pickup tasting! Hope you can make it.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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JUNE 2018 | Bordeaux & Burgundy …sort of

Bordeaux_French vineyards in the Bordeaux wine region of Blaye_Michael Clarke

We don’t often find wines from these two appellations that fit our budget for this club. This month we’re featuring a white blend from Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers and a red from Beaujolais. Beaujolais is often considered a sub-region of Burgundy, but technically it’s not. We said Burgundy for the purposes of this wine club, because if we said Beaujolais you’d groan as you conjured up memories of the Kool-Aid like drink released under that name. Beaujolais-Villages is the intermediate classification of wines from this area — lighter in body, full of flavor (currants, blackberries), low in tannins, higher in acidity. 100% Gamay. Wonderful food wine. Beloved in France. Enjoy!

La Galante_vineyards

Château La Galante 2016 Entre-Deux-Mers
Bordeaux, France // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Entre-Deux-Mers is the sub-region between Bordeaux’s Left Bank (Garonne River) and Right Bank (Dordogne River). Almost exclusively whites are produced in this area, and usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon. This wine has a small amount of Muscadelle added in for a little bit of spiciness & fullness. Citrus aromas, lemon peel on the nose. Flavors of fresh citrus- lemon and grapefruit. Delightfully refreshing yet soft. Enjoy with shellfish, seafood, grilled pork, salads, paella, light pasta dishes. Château La Galante is the property of Monsieur Christophe Pinard. Drink now.

Wine Folly_Beaujolais with submap

Chevalier Clerget 2014 Beaujolais-Villages
Beaujolais, France // Reg $23.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
I love this wine, but no matter what I say, Beaujolais is associated with the punch-like drink released on the first Thursday of November each year. Please note: this wine is a totally different animal. Full of currants and strawberries on the nose. Flavors of bright black raspberries, juicy strawberries, black currants. Soft tannins and delightful acidity. Enjoy with roasted chicken, pastas, baked brie. Drink now to 2 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, June 20 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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MAY 2018 | Wines for Spring

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art credit: Mona Anastas, owner of Two Owls in Madrona

The sun is out. The evenings are warm. The gardens around Seattle are at their height of bloom and beauty. If you aren’t sitting in some fresh air enjoying a glass of wine, you should be! And this month’s wines are excellent selections to do just that. Hope you enjoy!

FR_Minervois_Chateau Riviere_Michel & Philippe Agnel
Château Rivière 2017 Minervois Rosé
Languedoc, France // Reg $13.99 | Mixed Case $11.19
Located in the heart of Minervois, Château Rivière has south facing slopes with clay-limestone soil. For five generations the Agnel family has consistently produced this elegant and expressive rosé. A blend of Grenache & Syrah, it’s full of intense raspberry, strawberry & red currants with faint fresh herbs and a little white pepper on the finish. Fleshy. Delicious. Never met a food it doesn’t like. Drink now.

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Nottola 2016 Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG
Tuscany, Italy // Reg $16.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Located in the picturesque countryside of Montepulciano, Nottola was founded in 1992 by Cavaliere Anterivo Giornarelli with the dream of making the highest quality local wines. Enjoy flavors of blueberries, black currants, black raspberry & mixed berries, elegant tannins and expressive hillside herbs. The blue notes in this wine make it a perfect pair with cured meats and pork dishes. Think sausage pizza with the fixings! Medium in body & smooth, it’s a pleasure to just sip as well. Drink now to 2 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, May 23 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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APRIL 2018 | Southern France

If you have a look at the French Mediterranean, vineyards are not far away — Provence is directly on the sea, with Southern Rhône just to the northwest, and Languedoc-Rousillon runs from Montpellier down to the Spanish border. This month’s wines are selections from two of these areas. Both wines are well-crafted, but they are made by co-ops as opposed to independent vignerons. This is one way that the little guys can scale… and it’s to your advantage! Increasingly we’re seeing bio-dynamic certification from co-op vineyards. And without a doubt, these wines are great value for the price. I hope you enjoy both selections. I think they’re great!

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Louise Dubois 2014 “Ma Belle Réserve” Côtes du Rhône Rouge
Southern Rhône, France // Reg $16.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
100% certified organic Syrah/Grenache from vineyards near Roaix. (Above is the one and only photo we got from the producer for this wine!) This little jewel is full of ripe fruits aromas with figs and spicy notes. A fuller-bodied wine than some Rhône table wines with a long finish. Enjoy this wine with stews, roasted meats including chicken, and meats off the grill including burgers! Drink now to 2 years.


Château d’Hautpoul 2013 Grand Réserve Minervois Rouge

Languedoc, France // Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
This wonderful wine was named after the Fortress of Hautpoul, the ruins of which now sit above the village of Mazamet in the heart of Minervois, a sub-region of Languedoc known for the meaty flavors of Carignan (an often used grape). This wine, however, is a Syrah/Grenache blend (just like the first wine), so it’s a smoother festival of dark fruit — blackberry & black currant, a hint of licorice & silky tannins with a full, textured body. Perfect paired with red meats, game & specialties from the south of France: confits, cassoulets and more. Drink now to 3 years.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, March 21 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

 

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MARCH 2018 | North Central Spain

Langa_garnacha in hands
Winefolly_Spain Wine Map_Rioja & Calatayud circled
Spring is here! The transition from winter to summer is delightful- and the food and wine we enjoy even more so. Enjoying warm cooked stews may still be on your menu, as well as fresh vegetables, starts and imported fruits. Hearty reds and rich whites still play a big role in early spring pairings. This month, we focus on North Central Spain- the wines are rich, but not baked like Southern Spain. The fruit is fresh and managed meticulously.

Langa_estate entrance

Bodegas Langa
Cataluyd is south of the Rioja region, west of Penedes. The Los Yermos vineyard can be found between the mountain range La Sierra de Armantes and the River Ribota, near the town of Torralba de Ribota . The stony material and clay originating from La Sierra de Armantes, means that the soil on which these vines are grown is ideal and has been used for vine growing for many centuries.

Langa_Chardonnay_2014 harvest_square

Bodegas Langa 2016 Mítco Chardonnay
Calatayud, Spain // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
100% certified organic and biodynamic. Bright fresh fruit- apples, melon, guava with hints of herbs, honey and toasted oak. Pair with poultry, stews, rustic, hedonistic cheeses and pasta dishes. Drink now to 2 years.

Alvia_estate entrance_square

Bodegas Alvia
The winery, located on the Camino de Santiago, uses a traditional handmade process to make Rioja wines, using grapes from their own vineyards, with some vines over 100 years old.

Bodegas Alvia 2015 Mileto Joven
Rioja, Spain // Reg $14.99 | Mixed Case $11.99
Fresh black raspberry, black currants, and soft summer cherries layered with simple earth notes. Delightful. Drink now.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, March 21 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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FEBRUARY 2018 | Tuscany… Land of Love

February holds Valentine’s Day, so we always try to find wine club wines to suit the mood… and what could be better than Tuscany! Located in the central region of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Tuscany is a coastal region with endless rolling hills dotted by country roads and villages. The climate is warm with coastal notes, yet inland areas vary and create unique winemaking areas.

MAP_IT_Tuscany_winefolly

Tuscany is not only a wine region but a cultural cuisine hub for Italy. Tuscan cuisine is based on simplicity and utilizing local ingredients to add character. It’s a fertile area, producing most of its means to a delicious, bountiful end!

Tuscany_Santa Lucia_harvest 2013

Santa Lucia
The Scotto family has owned vineyards in Maremma (the southern most tip of Tuscany) and has been producing wine since 1898, but Luciano Scotto (the current owner) didn’t began bottling under the brand Santa Lucia until 1980. Since then, the winery has grown, thanks to the passion and love for Maremma given by Luciano to Lorenzo and Luca, his sons. They grow Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese (red grapes) as well as Vermentino (white). Pictured above is their 2013 harvest.

Santa Lucia “Brigante” Vermentino
Reg $17.99 | INSIDER $10.99 | Mixed Case $8.79
100% Vermentino produced in stainless steel tanks. Golden hues with aromas of candied lime peel and brine. Bright lemon acidity with olive oil and minerality in the balance. The richness of earth hides the saline components. Vermentino was made for seafood. Here are some pairing ideas> Drink now.

Andreucci_Flavio Andreucci_v2

Tenimenti Andreucci
Located in Pienza, southeast of Siena in the heart of the Tuscan wine region, this small family winery has had a vineyard in the region for over 200 hundred years. The unique wine label honors the family’s legacy by including a copy of a bill of sale from Napoleon, who the Andreucci family supplied wine to. Today, Flavio Andreucci (pictured above) labors to produce the best quality wine combining modern technology, superb vines and a remarkable terroir.

Andreucci “Giobatti” Chianti Colli Senesi
Reg $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
Chianti Colli Senesi means Chianti from around Siena. The blend is primarily Sangiovese with a touch of Canaiolo Nero. Aromas of black cherry, orange peel and dried violets. Macerated cherry and plum including the skins with a balanced tannin approach. New World for Chianti, but not missing the character. Try this wine with your favorite salumi, ragu or a grilled steak. Drink now to 3 years.

Hope you enjoy these wines with some good food and a good kiss!

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, February 21 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

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JANUARY 2018 | Treasures Around Bordeaux

Over the last two decades we have seen an expansion of Bordeaux wines that are affordable. We have also been cursed with some “Bordeaux” labeled wines, but they were nothing of the sort. Thankfully over the last decade, France has been proactive! Investment in lesser-known areas around Bordeaux has allowed us to see new regions with amazing wines (in their own right, not just knock off Bordeaux) come on the international scene.

MAP_FR_South West France_Wine Folly

As you know, we are big fans for Bergerac (top section of the orange). The area is riper and bolder than Bordeaux, and this month’s featured producer even more so! On a 38 hectare estate just southwest of the town of Bergerac in France’s Dordogne Valley, winemaker Pascal Cuisset (pictured below – a character!!) uses the assets of the land & climate along with new winemaking technology to produce beautifully full wines in the Bordeaux style with traditional Bordeaux grapes.

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Château des Eyssards 2014 Cuvée Prestige Rouge
Bergerac, France // Reg $19.99 | INSIDER $16.99 | Mixed Case $13.59
This red is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc. Bright red ruby in color with aromas of red berry fruits, plum, black cherry and a hint of cedar & dried herbs. Well-balanced, with firm tannins on its velvety body. Flavors of bright raspberry & red cherry. A touch of black pepper spice lasts through the long smooth finish. Enjoy with a richer meal such as steak, lamb or cassoulet. The tannins in this wine will do a great job of cutting the fat for a perfect pairing! Enjoy now to 3-4 years.

For your second treasure, we’re featuring a wine from Côtes de Duras (most southern section in orange on the map) in the region Sud-Oest or South West France. Berticot is a co-opertiave in the area doing excellent work, and we are pleased to help them expand their US market! Berticot represents 118 winegrowers spread across 1000 hectares of land (55% of the AOP Côtes de Duras). The co-op has a cellar equipped with modern equipment, capable of making 50,000 hectoliters of wine. It has become a renowned brand in France, Europe and awarded in all top competitions.

Berticot_castle

Secret de Berticot 2016 Sauvignon
Côtes de Duras, France // Reg $13.99 | INSIDER $12.99 | Mixed Case $10.39
This white is an excellent winter wine as it’s a littler bit fuller than traditional Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy lovely citrus flowers on the nose. Flavors of fresh citrus- lemon, lime, grapefruit and litchi notes. It’s a delicious food wine. Enjoy with pastas, poultry, shellfish & fish dishes. Drink now.

If you would like to taste your wines prior to enjoying them at home, stop by on Wednesday, January 17 for your pickup tasting! Hope to see you then.

Let this be a year of expansion and exploration! Happy New Year!

Cheers,
Jens Strecker, Owner
Portalis Wine Shop & J. Strecker Selections

Food+Wine Archives

Posted 6/8/2012
BBQ Chicken & Wine

roastchicken

It’s finally June! That long awaited month that finally signals the start of summer, warmer weather, sun drenched days, and outdoor parties. Possibly poolside if you happen to be so lucky. Food wise, this means one thing: Barbeque. I’m not going to get into the barbeque competitions that seem to be so frequent in the more southern states, but instead focus on one of the most prevalent fowl on a menu in American: chicken. There really is nothing more delicious than a heaping plate of charcoaled bird after a long day in the sun. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a few options for pairing wines depending on what marinade or sauce you end up leaning towards. And for you vegetarians out there just use the marinades for mushrooms, haloumi cheese, or tofu. Cheers!

Huli Huli Chicken
My father spent quite a few years living in Honolulu, and ended up leaving the islands with a deep nostalgic connection to this recipe. So naturally, this is done at my house every summer. The recipe for the correct Huli Huli sauce is dangerously disputed, but if you ask a true Hawaiian something like this might be the ending recipe ingredients (I’ll leave it up to your own discernment as to how much of each is added): soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, pineapple juice, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, Worstershire sauce, hot sauce. Marinate for an hour or more, then grill and serve. Now, what to pair this delightful dish with… In order to compliment the sweet, spicy flavors of the chicken, try a Gruener Veltliner. These wines have lots of complex spices & peppery notes that are perfect with sweet/savory sauces (like Huli Huli). Try: Glatzer 2010 Gruener Veltliner from Austria; a perfect example of this kind of wine. ($16.99).

Basic Barbequed Chicken
Now on to the classic: basic barbequed chicken. As with Huli Huli, everyone has their own secret recipe for perfect grilled chicken. I think the best recipes include saltiness, some sweetness, garlic, and fresh herbs. This is of course not including the barbeque sauce (I’ll get to that momentarily). With this kind of chicken, a lighter, smoky flavored red wine such as a Zinfandel is absolute perfection. Try: Klinker Brick Winery 2009 Zinfandel ($21.99 at Portalis)

Traditional Barbeque Sauce
Finally we move on to grilled chicken with barbecue sauce: a favorite American dish, bursting with all sorts of flavors, and given multiple recipe variations. Of course, there is no ‘correct’ barbeque sauce for chicken. But we can help you pair any delectable finger-lickin’ sauce with the right wine. Since this dish is such a classic, an Old-World classic Southern Rhône blend of Grenache & Syrah would be the perfect pairing. Look for wines with intense notes of blackberry and other jammy fruit flavors. One great option we sell here at Portalis is: Le Gravillas 2009 Plan De Dieu ($17.99 or $16.99 for Insiders).

Cheers & happy grilling!

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Posted 5/7/2012
Asparagus

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Asparagus is a wonderful vegetable that is prolific throughout the Pacific Northwest region. This means that for us lucky eaters, we can munch our way through tons and tons of the slender green stalks until mid-summer. However, it is quite a difficult vegetable to pair with wine. There is no “go to” asparagus friendly blend roaming the vineyards waiting to be poured next to a plate of this freshly picked verdure. There are solutions to this problem however, and they can be found throughout the world.

Firstly, asparagus is such a delicately flavored crop that it needs to have complementary flavors in the wine paired with it. Something too fruity or too oaky would quickly overpower it. A very dry, crisp, mineral-y white is a perfect accompaniment, especially if the wine has a lot of acidic grapefruit and/or grassy flavors going on. This means looking to the old world for whites.

First off- Entre-Deux-Mers; one of the regions just slightly outside of Bordeaux and literally ‘between-two-seas’ (the Dordogne and Garonne rivers to be more precise…). The grapes that are generally planted here are Sauvignon, Sémillon, and the more difficultly cultivated Muscadelle. Expect to get a refreshing & dry white with a blend from this area. Perfect for asparagus spears.

Next up: Sancerre. Produced using Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this AOC region in the Loire Valley of France is known for its delicate, aromatic, dry whites. Sitting opposite another well-known wine region (Pouilly-Fumé) these delicious wines have been known for being food-friendly since the early 1970s. Un-oaked whites are perfect for asparagus as they don’t bring added heavier flavors to the lightness of the vegetable.

Another option would be to pair asparagus with Pouilly-Loché, from the Burgundy region of France. Known for producing elegant and dry whites, Chardonnay grapes are the only allowable varietal in this region. Wines from this region are described using such words as ‘gingerbread’ ‘grapefruit’ and ‘roasted hazelnuts’, much richer in flavor than other asparagus paring choices, but still light enough not to overpower the flavors. This particular wine would be best paired with asparagus in a hollandaise or cream sauce. A richer dish, but one that still preserves the flavors of those earthy green spears!

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 4/13/2012
Bacon and Tempranillo

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I hold a very special place in my heart for cured meats. In particular, porcine cured meats. I mean, who honestly doesn’t like bacon? I’ve heard vegetarians say that the hardest part of giving up meat is that wonderful crispy, fatty, meaty, salty combination that only bacon is capable of creating on your palate. Now, the question is: what wine to pair with this culinary delight? Bacon doesn’t necessarily emit the air of refined taste, yet everyone enjoys it. There must be some common denominator beverage that eliminates boundaries of epicurean snobbery and brings experimental foodies together with the most basic 5-minute rice chefs. The answer lies in Spain.

It wasn’t until I began researching this article that it suddenly became maddeningly clear: bacon is just like Parma ham. Well to those who are die-hard Americana bacon patriots, no it is not the same. But if you compare the aging, the animal it comes from, and the final result: very respectable comparison. Spain even went the extra mile and created a chain ‘Museo del Jamon’ or “Museum of Ham” to better promote their well-loved pork product. They love their ham as much as we love our bacon.

And what grape do the Spaniards absolutely love? Tempranillo. Not only does it pair well with Parma ham, it also goes well with just about anything. Personally, it is one of my go to wines when I can’t think of anything to pair with my dinner because the flavors mesh well with day-to-day meals.

So here are my top suggestions for wine pairings with bacon (Note: probably not the best weekday breakfast idea…)

Bodegas Casto Pequeno 2006 Cotoval

Celler De Capcanes 2008 Mas Donis Montsant

Bodegas Ontanon 2008 Rioja Crianza

Lan Rioja 2003 Rioja Gran Reserva

Bodegas Rauda 2010 Ribera del Duero Tinto Joven

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 3/19/2012
Bistecca Fiorentina

Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite food has been steak. Rare steak. I hate to ostracize all you vegetarian blog readers out there, but a beautifully seared steak brings tears of joy to my eyes. This also makes me consider myself as a kind of steak connoisseur. Which is why I have decided to post about one of my most memorable steak meals: BISTECCA FIORENTINA.

bistecc

Bistecca Fiorentina is a giant cut of wonderful Tuscan beef. My introduction to this magnificent meal was outside of Tuscany, in Viareggio. A giant platter was brought to the table, weighing in at about five pounds. At first, I was appalled that cheese had been added atop my steak without my permission (I am a steak purist you see). However, not one to give up steak, I dug in. The bistecca was sprinkled with delicious Tuscan olive oil, on a bed of spicy Arugula, topped with generous chunks of parmigiano reggiano cheese. The intermingling tastes of all these traditional Tuscan ingredients were overwhelming. Each complemented each other, the sweet olive oil with the salty cheese, and the nutty/spicy leaves accentuated the fatty tender beef.

The only accompaniment necessary to complete this meal was of course, Chianti. Any wine made from Sangiovese would of course been acceptable since that grape produces superb wines that pair wonderfully with beef (ex. Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Super Tuscans…) Not only does Tuscany specialize in this variety of grape, but Sangiovese tends to be slightly salty & brightly acidic. This complements the rich, fatty, buttery meat of beefsteak.

Although there are probably no Tuscan cows roaming the Pacific Northwest region, there are still plenty of amazing cuts of meat available here at home. PLUS, we here at Portalis have an amazing array of Tuscan wines for you to take home and try yourself. Here are a few we carry:

Nottola 2009 Tre Pezzi

Fattoria di Felsina 2007 Chianti Classico

Nottola 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Tenuta Vitanza 2006 Brunello di Montalcino

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Posted 3/5/2012
Celebrating Razor Clams

It’s March! And that means the opening of Razor Clam season here in Washington State. A meaty, sweet, buttery crustacean this wonderful native of our area is very versatile in cooking. It can be prepared a variety of different ways, and because of this can also be paired with many different types of wines!

I am most familiar with being served this delightful sea creature lightly pan-fried. It’s a wonderful classic way to show off the flavors of this shellfish. For this particular preparation, I would drink a nice dry white wine to cut through the grease of the dish. A Sancerre would be a perfect accompaniment (try Roche de Lune 2009 Sancerre).

Another way to prepare razor clams is with a basic tomato, white wine, & garlic sauce, served with pasta and topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Basic, delicious, and brings a hint of Italian home cooking to a traditional Northwest delicacy. Try using a drier white wine in this recipe (or use this to pair with the dish after cooking) like Saviah 2010 Star Meadows Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc blend.

Now a recipe for razor clams on the lighter side: grilled razor clams with citrus vinaigrette. Lemon & garlic especially compliment the flavor of razor clams.  Try this dish paired alongside a Spanish white like the Bodegas Casto Pequeno 2010 Chamelin Rueda.

One last way to cook razor clams is to try preparing a dish using asian-cuisine inspired ingredients. One complimentary flavor is Thai chilies and coconut milk. Try making a kind of stir-fry using these ingredients and a bit of Thai basil or lemongrass. Try pairing this with something like a von Hoevel 2007 Oberemmeler Huette Riesling Spaetlese.

Cheers!
Kyle

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Posted 2/10/2012

Sticky Toffee Pudding is Back!


It’s not often that Chef Tracey gives her recipes away, but this one appeared in our Holiday Book of Recipes in 2010 and so I didn’t think I’d be giving away the farm if I posted it one more time:

CHEF TRACEY’S STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
Pudding: 2 cups diced dates, 2¼ cups water, 1½ tsp baking soda, 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp salt, 6 Tbs unsalted butter (softened), 1 cup granulated sugar, 3 large eggs
Sauce:  ¾ cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, 1½ cups dark brown sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, ½ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 inch square baking pan (2 inches deep), knocking out excess flour. In a 2 quart saucepan, simmer dates in water (uncovered) for 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and stir in baking soda. (Mixture will foam.) Let mixture stand at room temp for 20 minutes. In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, ginger & salt. In a stand mixer beat together butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating after each addition until just combined. Add date mixture with a spatula and stir batter until combined. Pour batter into baking pan. Set pan into a larger baking pan and add enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. (This water bath insulates the cake so that it doesn’t heat up too quickly, causing the center to rise & crack.) Bake in middle of the oven until tester comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from water bath & set on a rack to cool. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Add the brown sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream & vanilla. Simmer sauce until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Then serve warm pudding with warm sauce over it. I like to garnish with brandy whipped cream or the ice cream of your choice.

If you decide that’s just too darn much work, head on in to Portalis, warm up, & enjoy the Sticky Toffe Pudding paired with Smith Woodhouse 1994 Colheita Tawny Port.

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted January 9, 2012

Chef Tracey is a Celebrated Chef!

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Celebrated Chefs is an exclusive cookbook and dining program that unites the area’s best restaurants in support of non-profit organizations. The cookbook features our Chef Tracy Stoner Crannell with her very own Quail with Sweet Potato Bacon Hash & Shaved Brussels Sprouts recipe (pictures above as well as in the Celebrated Chefs cookbook).

Celebrated Chefs is an exciting program designed to raise money for non-profit organizations all year long. Through this innovative program you can lend valuable support to important causes by dining at participating restaurants. HOW IT WORKS: Once enrolled, Celebrated Chefs restaurants donate 5% of your dining bill to your designated cause. No special cards or identification is required. You simply pay your bill with the AMEX, VISA or MasterCard you enroll as part of your membership and the 5% donation from the restaurant is automatic! There is no cost to participate.

Chef Tracey is in very good company. Check out the other local chefs who have been honored by this organization as well as the details on how to participate and donate money to your favorite cause while dining out!

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted October 16, 2011
The Magic of Chorizo

chorizo

I am a huge fan of chorizo, using it regularly in my cooking.  There are 2 kinds of chorizo: Spanish chorizo which is an air-cured pork sausage similar to salami. Spanish chorizo always has elements of paprika making it either sweet or spicy.  The other type of chorizo is Mexican chorizo which tends to be much spicier/hotter and it’s a raw pork sausage with the consistency of ground beef that must be cooked prior to eating.  I love using Mexican chorizo at home when I’m making homemade tamales and corn empanadas.  At the wine bar, though, I use Spanish chorizo exclusively and usually sweet as opposed to piquant.  It’s flavorful and adds a nice richness, especially to foods that can be one-dimentional with wine (such as seafood), transforming them into more complex, multi-dimensional dishes where different types of wine can be appropriate and equally delightful.  The process I use when adding chorizo to a dish is to render out the fat from the sausage by cooking it on low heat in a sauté pan with olive oil or butter, which creates a nice, flavorful, pretty orange-red sauce, which I then add to potatoes, eggs, white beans, mussels, shrimp, clams, white fish and as a topping on tarts.

Currently I am serving TROUT with chorizo potato hash.  We have this paired with the Château Barbanau 2010 Côtes du Provence Rosé, but it would be equally lovely with the Zuaso Gaston 2008 Rioja Crianza or the Pelassa 2009 Langhe Nebbiolo, both mediuem-bodied Old World reds.  Trout is normally a white wine fish; thus, the chorizo opens it up to rosé and red … but if you’re in the mood for white, by all means!  White would be delicious, too.  Try: Cave des Grands Cru Blancs 2009 Pouilly-Loché, a white Burgundy that is a classic food wine.

Happy cooking!
Chef Tracey
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Posted September 18, 2011
Wine Pairings for Scallops

scallop

This scallop preparation was actually inspired by the seasonality of the fava beans and Chef Tracey’s idea that fava bean purée would look so pretty, green & delicious topped with sweet, rich, scallops.  To that combination, she added microgreens (a peppery, bitter edge) and preserved lemon vinaigrette which is a nice tart accent to the richness of the scallops.

We have this dish paired with the Cave des Grands Cru Blancs 2009 Pouilly-Loché, a beautiful, soft, Burgundian Chardonnay which beautifully handles the varied elements of the dish. Pan-seared scallops are easy and delicious to make at home, but I’m guessing it will be a simpler preparation that what Chef Tracey has on offer her, maybe just the scallops with a nice side salad or on a bed of rice or pasta with a little butter, garlic, wine wine & parsley.  Here are several delicious pairing suggestions for this type of evening fare:

Try Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley: Château du Hallay 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine or Chateau de Bigotière 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine are both excellent for scallops, oysters and light fish.  Another delicious option is Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley.  It traditionally has nice fruit, balanced by a characteristic minerality.  Try: Domaine de La Croix Bouquie 2009 Touraine or take it up a notch and try: Roche de Lune 2009 Sancerre.  Another delicious option, especially if your preparation is in any way spicy, would be Riesling.  Try: Domaine Moltès 2009 Riesling Réserve from Alsace or Moenchhof 2007 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Kabinett from Germany.

This dish has about 1 more week on the menu, so don’t miss it!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted September 4, 2011
Duck & Faugères

duck

Last year around this time Chef Tracey put duck on the menu for the very same reason as this year:  the cherries.  The sweet, richness of the fruit
with its little tart edge balances the richness of the game.  This year she chose to add arugula into the duck/cherry mix as the bitter of
the arugula, the sweet of cherry, the tart of the pickled onion and the crunch of the cornbread crouton provide enhancing flavors and textures to the duck.  Every component of the salad has an important role in balancing the dish. Chef Tracey is beaming about this dish and we’re beaming about the wine pairing.  Domaine Les Fusionels 2008 Faugères is a J. Strecker direct import and it’s perfect for this dish.  Faugères is an AOC in Languedoc-Roussillon on the southwestern side of the French Mediterranean.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache & 40% Syrah, with a nose of cherries & strawberries followed by aromas of coffee, cocoa & a violet floral note.  The wine has beautiful body and length and pairs perfectly with this cherry duck preparation.  Hope you can stop by and partake …it’s delicious!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted August 10, 2011
Pairings for the Great Northwest Delicacy

salmon

Salmon from this part of the world is one of our great local treats, and as you know, the different preparations greatly change the flavors, texture and overall experience of eating salmon.  With that change, goes a change in wine as well:

Grilled salmon is probably the classic home preparation, as you can experience the rich, oily, fishy flavor with a nice crunchy crust.  The classic pairing for grilled salmon is Pinot Noir, a lighter red with fewer tannins which doesn’t overpower the fish and its cherry, earthy flavors pair beautifully.  New World Pinot Noir with its fuller flavors of baked cherry pie and campfire smoke are especially nice.  Try: Siltstone 2007 Pinot Noir Guadalupe Vineyard (OR) $30.99 | INSIDER $28.99 or Jules Taylor 2009 Pinot Noir (NZ) $22.99.

Poached salmon is less common, but it shouldn’t be.  It’s easy and the result is a tender, milder, refreshing dish requiring a white wine pairing.  We recommend French Chardonnay for this as it’s a rounder wine, intended for food pairing, but it’s crisp and refreshing, not at all heavily oaked.  Try: Domaine Laroche 2007 Chablis $25.99 | INSIDER $23.99.

Smoked salmon is another common way to enjoy salmon.  For ease, many people purchase the salmon smoked but there’s not reason you couldn’t make it at home.  Smoked salmon is the richest, oiliest preparation of all.  It’s usually served in small quantities on appetizers or as a little treat. Pair with sparkling wine as the acidity cuts the fat and balances the palette.  If you are celebration, try: Aubry NV Champagne Premier Cru $45.99, or take a down a notch and go with a Cremant from Burgundy: Cave de Bissy NV Cremant de Bourgogne $21.99 | INSIDER $19.99. Or you can go the
opposite direction and pair with a buttery Chardonnay, in this case pairing like flavors.  Try: Frank Family Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay $35.99 or Shannon Ridge 2009 Chardonnay $25.99 | INSIDER $15.99.

Sashimi! There aren’t that many parts of the world where you could go to the market and get yourself sushi-grade salmon for dinner at home.  It’s easy, it’s light, and it’s a great summer preparation.  Pairing is a little tricky because of the soy & wasabi. Bubbly is probably the best pairing, try: Casteller NV Cava $13.99.  You can also do with a Riesling Kabinett (not too dry) or a Gruenerveltliner (light and dry, but not too dry).  Try: Moenchhof 2007 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Riesling Kabinett $27.99 | INSIDER $22.99 or Forstreiter 2009 Gruener Veltliner Kremser Kogl $15.99.

Here’s to the good life in the Northwest!

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Posted June 17, 2011
Delicious Desserts!

dessert

When I was a little girl one of my favorite things in the summer time was to walk up to the local Rexall where they made fountain drinks to order with the coca-cola & vanilla or cherry syrup along with the best vanilla malts ever.  Can you tell what my favorite was??  Last year I did a homemade ice cream sandwich, and I had that in the back of my mind when I spotted the beautiful strawberries in the market and before long I had my inspiration.  Strawberries and malted vanilla ice cream – a match made in heaven. And I like chocolate with my strawberries, thus the chocolate cookie. This dessert is equally as delicious as the Peach Upside-Down Cake, but it’s not as flexible with the wine pairings.  For this one, you need to go with the Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato  ~ $8.50. It’s light & fruity and goes beautifully with our little Americana dessert.

Already developing a following (one regular came in for it 3 times this last week!) we don’t have much to say our Peach Upside-Down Cake with homemade Amaretto Ice Cream except YUM! There’s a fleck of cardamom in the cake that winks at the amaretto in the ice cream and then the ooey-gooey cake.  Really, it’s delicious.  Perfect dish for an array of dessert wines, too.  For something a little lighter, try: Domaine des Bernardins 2009 Muscat de Baumes de Venise / Southern Rhône, France ~ $9 or the Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato / Barossa Valley, Australia ~ $8.50.  Go exploring with a glass of the Badia di Morrona 2005 Vin Santo / Tuscany, Italy ~ $10.  Several liquors would go beautifully as well, try: Leriche Armagnac / Lannepax, France ~ $7 or the Boulard Grand Solage / Calvados, France ~ $8.

I decided to put a lemon tart on the menu when meyer lemons hit the scene a month or so ago. I love meyer lemons because they are a little bit sweeter than regular lemons (almost to the point of being a little tangerine-y) and they are much juicier than regular lemons, producing almost twice as much juice. When I saw them in the store, it dawned on me that I had never made a classic lemon tart at Portalis and so there it was … my next dessert: Meyer Lemon Tart with Moscato.  For this tart I chose to use a shortbread crust as opposed to a pie dough crust because I wanted to offset the nice creamy texture of the lemon curd, and shortbread is much crunchier than pie crust.  I chose to top it with whip cream (instead of meringue) as a personal preference because I love the richness of the cream with the tartness of the lemon curd and then the crunch off the cookie gives you multiple layers of textures and flavors that balance beautifully!  For the wine?  Jens wasn’t too happy with me on this one as the acid in lemons makes wine pairing tricky, but the answer is Moscato.  Try it with the Il Conte D’Alba NV Moscato D’Asti (Piedmont) ~ $8 or the Two Hands Moscato (Barossa Valley).

Cheers,
Tracey

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Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011
Halibut Cheeks, a delicacy

halibut

I made the decision to put halibut cheeks on the menu as halibut is in season and this little delicacy is such a sweet & tender treat that I couldn’t pass it up. Halibut cheeks are more expensive than our normal entrée, but it’s worth the splurge.  Halibut cheeks literally are the cheeks of the fish, so the quantity is limited and that’s why they are a premium.  But they are such a delight – more like scallops in texture and flavor than halibut filet. The sweetness of the cheek goes really well with the sweetness of the sweet pea (which is also in season).  The dish is topped with meyer lemon vinaigrette, which balances the dish, giving it a tangy, citrus note.

Wine pairing?  We have it paired with the Cave des Grand Cru Blanc, our new direct import from Burgundy.  It’s a beautiful, round food wine (100% Chardonnay) with notes of pineapple, apricot & spice.  Delicious!

Cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Posted May 22, 2011
Pairings for our House Pâté

pate

What makes Chef Tracey’s pâté so delicious?!  Without giving her culinary technique away, there are three elements which make this pâté addictive: black truffle paste, marsala wine, and – yes – butter, adding earthy, sweet & rich components respectively.  Food pairings for this pâté range from Tracey’s homemade cherry mostarda (a candied fruit concoction but with a tart edge from the vinegar & mustard seed) which is a classic Italian accompaniment to cheese, but works well with the pâté as the sweet & tart components of the mostarda pair well with the earthiness of the truffle in the pâté.  Cornichons or other pickled vegetables also pair well as the acid in the vinegar cuts the richness of the pâté.  Wine pairings can also be as varied.  Smoother medium-bodied wines such as the blends from Southern Rhône are classic pairings as the red fruits and earthiness of the wines marry well with the pâté (try: Domaine Brusset 2009 Les Boudalles Côtes du Ventoux).  For something a little more juxtaposed, try an off dry white (such as: Schoenheitz 2007 Pinot Blanc Val St. Gregoire) or even a dessert wine (such as: Domaine Des Bernardins 2009 Muscat De Beaumes De Venise), the classic salty/sweet combo that American (and this case Europeans!) love.  As well, you could pair a nice, dry Cabernet Sauvignon as the tannins in the Cab cut through the fat in the pâté (try: Owen Roe 2008 Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon).

You can enjoy our house pâté each week during Happy Hour (and Thursday all night) as a regular item on our $5 menu.  As well, it is a standard component on the charcuterie plate which is always available on the bar menu.

Enjoy & cheers!
Julie

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Posted April 25, 2011
An early sign of spring: Fava Beans

fava

Spring has been late coming this year, so I’ve been walking through the market looking for ANY sign of spring produce-wise, and today I finally saw something that gave me hope: fave beans and couldn’t resists the purchase in anticipation of spring.  Fava beans are a little bit of work because you have to pull them out of the pod, then blanche and peel them – a 3-step process – but well worth it because of their buttery texture offset by a slight bitterness and a lovely, nutty finish.  Fava beans are originally from North Africa, but you find them in across Mediterranean cuisines.  There are many preparations: a very simple salad of fava beans with lemon, olive oil & pecorino cheese. They can also be cooked and pureed into a nice creamy texture which is a great accompaniment to fish.  They can also be added to risotto to accompany meats such as lamb.  I am going to serve them with fregola (Sardinian pasta rolled into little balls) instead of risotto with an onion soubise as a side dish to lamb rib chops topped with a lemon mint gremolata, again a Mediterranean flair.  This makes a nice introduction to an early spring menu.  Try this paired with:  Château La Mascaronne 2004 Côtes De Provence ~$8 per glass.

Cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Posted April 5, 2011
What’s different about Roman Gnocchi?

gnocchi

You could be a pretty well-traveled, sophisticated foodie and still be surprised when your Roman gnocchi showed up at the table and was not reminiscent of a potato dumpling, so here’s  little refresher on gnocchi.  The most common gnocchi is made from mashed potatoes, egg yolk, flour & salt, and is rolled out & cut into bite-sized pieces, boiled and served with melted butter & parmesan. (You know that one.)  But my trusty Menu Mystique (Krohn, 1983) also tells me that gnocchi can also be made from semolina or from white cornmeal. Clearly Chef Tracey knew that, as she is dishing up Gnocchi alla Romana which is “said to originate in Rome. The gnocchi are made from coarsely ground durum wheat, which the Italians call semolina.  White cornmeal or farina can be substituted. To prepare the gnocchi, milk is brought to the boil and, after adding a dollop of butter and a pinch of salt, the semolina is slowly poured into the milk, which is stirred constantly until all has been absorbed. The batter is poured out onto a flat baking sheet, left to cool, and then cut into small rounds and placed in a buttered ovenproof dish. Then, covered with melted butter and grated Parmesan cheese, the rounds are baked until crisp and brown.”  And then, in Chef Tracey’s case, they are topped with a delicious veal ragu and paired with Marchesi Mazzei 2007 Badiola Toscana Rosso.  It’s rustic, fulfilling, delicious!  Stop by and try it out!

Cheers,
Julie

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Posted March 20, 2011
A World of Desserts 

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When you make something as yummy as last year’s Sticky Toffee Pudding, the pressure’s on to come up with another dish that can stand up in people’s memory to this dessert that they came in (over & over) especially for.  When I asked Tracey how she came up with the idea of a Tres Leches Cake, she said she had been thinking for a month or so about what she could serve that would be warm & ooey, gooey, yummy like the Sticky Toffee Pudding when the idea of the Tres Leches Cake came to her.  The goat’s milk caramel is not traditionally served with this cake, but it is a standard in Mexican markets for sweet tamales and other Mexican dishes.  The Tuaca whip cream is a wink at the brandied whip cream that Chef Tracey served on the Sticky Toffee Pudding, but more importantly the alcohol in the cream balances the sweetness of the dessert and cuts the richness a bit as well.  It’s a masterpiece!  Try it with the Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximénez & a cup of coffee. 

In Chef Tracey’s former life, she ran huge hotel kitchens.  With huge hotel kitchens come pastry chefs and subsequently, she never had a lot of experience making desserts.  At first she was a little shy about this and didn’t stick her head out much, but over the last (almost) three years, she’s gotten over that.  This time it’s Baklava with pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts & citrus honey. Today we think of this dessert as a Middle Eastern specialty (and it is… I can remember when Jens and I were in Syria in 1997 they had bakery after bakery with nothing but beautiful pyramids of baklava) but with its nutty sweetness, it pairs perfectly with the flavors of Pedro Ximénez, the sherry grape from southern Spain.  Try it with Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximénez.  Delicious!

There’s really not much to say about the Mango Ginger Upside-Down Cake with Homemade Coconut Ice Cream except maybe to have an esoteric argument about which one is better … the cake or the ice cream.  The cake is ooey-gooey, fruity with that little sting of candied ginger.  The ice cream is made from fresh coconut that Chef Tracey seeped for several days to get the flavor. And then there’s the wine pairing.  For heaven’s sake, don’t forget the wine!  The Two Hands 2009 Brilliant Disguise Moscato (Barossa Valley) is for me the hands-down favorite.  Light effervescence with mild flavors of apricot, pear & pineapple.  Really, it’s enough to make you moan (which I did, audibly, and then I ordered it for some long-time customers seated down the bar, so that they, too, could moan, which they did, audibly).  You also wouldn’t go wrong pairing it with the Domaine des Bernardins 2007 Muscat de Baumes de Venise, a lovely little aperitif or dessert wine from France’s Southern Rhône Valley.  It’s not at light as the moscato, but the apple/pear flavors would be delicious with the dessert.  And, I’m sure Gina (who’s Gina?) would give a nice argument for the Villa Artimino 2005 Vin Santo Di Carmignano.  She would tell you (and happily show you) that in Tuscany, Vin Santo is served as a digestif after espresso, but its nutty, caramel flavors would be a perfect match with the cake as well.

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted February 27, 2007
A Magical Wine Pairing

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Chef Tracey has an amazing way with food.  Working out of her dollhouse kitchen she creates extraordinary dishes that are elegant & seemingly simple yet complex.  Tastes role across your tongue hitting different parts of your palette; flavors and textures come together in the finish to create one whole and incredible bite.  And Chef Tracey is never afraid to experiment.  All of which is exemplified in her latest dish: Ravioli homemade with duck, currents, pine nuts & vanilla-infused sweet potato sauce.  First you taste the homemade pasta which wraps the rich duck confit meat.  The richness of the duck is broken and enhanced with pops of sweet dried current and dense earthy pine nuts.  As you enjoy the savory duck the sweetness of the sweet potato sauce starts to come through and finishes with warm vanilla notes.  It is a unique and superb dish.  But what to wine to pair with it?

Deciding on wine pairings is always a fun part of tasting one of Chef Tracey’s new menu items.  Sometimes finding the right wine for the dish is a snap: classic flavors call for a traditional wine pairing.  And sometimes it can prove to be a bit of a fun challenge.  Flavors in the dish can make the wine taste more acidic or alcoholic or dry; unbalanced.  On the flip, the wine can make the dish lose all its taste, completely washing out its entire flavor.  But when you hit the right combination, food and wine can come together seamlessly each contributing their own flavor profiles & enhancing each other so you don’t know where one ends & the next begins and it is all greatness on your tongue.  This is exactly what happened with the duck ravioli.  The layers of flavor in this dish made finding a wine that complimented all of them, a challenge.

First we thought pinot bianco; our glass pour, Cantina Terlan 2009 Pinot Bianco, was given a try, but the rich meaty flavors along with the sweetness and the vanilla brought out never before seen dirty earthiness in the pinot bianco.  Along with a biting finish of acidity.  It’s a great, light, slightly sweet Italian white, but with the ravioli it was a no go.

So then, what about a red?  A barbera?  Northern Italian barbera have lively acidy, bright red fruits and a medium body.  They are great to drink alone or with food however the barbera and the ravioli did nothing to help each other.  The sweet potato puree brought out the acidity of the wine and over-powered the fruit notes causing the wine to lose all its ripe juicy flavor and deliciousness.

Next a kabinett reisling was suggested, the sweetness of the kabinett would hold up to the sweetness of the sweet potato and vanilla.  This suggestion was taken to the next level with a suggestion of kabinett gewürztraminer.  BINGO.  A match made in heaven!  There is nothing more to say than the round texture, the sweetness, the light hint of acidity of the wine perfectly harmonized with the richness and sweetness of the duck ravioli.  Both flavor profiles coming together, enhancing each other where you didn’t know where you food ended and your drink began.  It’s truly magical to try the duck ravioli with sweet potato sauce and vanilla with the Anselmann 2008 Gewürztraminer Kabinett.

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Posted Sunday, January 16, 2011
Mushroom Season & Homemade Pasta Zen

fett

The Northwest features a nice lineup of native mushrooms in the fall & right now they look beautiful!  Morels – the most sought after & the most expensive (as they are extremely weather sensitive & can therefore be scarce) – are available both spring & fall and are rich, meaty, earthy in flavor. Chanterelles are lighter yellow in color & look like little golden chalices. They are more delicate in flavor with a light fruity fragrance. Pompom mushrooms, a native of Canada, are white, fluffy & spongy and look just like little pompoms.  When cooked, the flavors are reminiscent of sautéed veal.  Cultivated mushrooms (such as Crimini & Bunashimeji) are also available, are usually more reasonably priced & can add nice flavors & textures to your dish.

Chef Tracey had made homemade pasta at other restaurants, but never at Portalis until last fall when she put her homemade fettuccine & seasonal mushrooms on the menu. She had been talking about putting pasta on the menu for some time, dreamily talking about how there’s something about the softness of the dough and the kneading & handling of the dough that is very relaxing and takes her to a sort of pasta zen-land.  She said that when you’re rolling pasta, the rest of the world just goes away and you just work on getting the dough to be the exact texture you want it to be.  When I asked her about the pasta per se, she said that her dough is egg yolk rich (imagine that) with a little semolina to add texture to the dough. She smiled when she told me that the richness of the egg yolk in her dough balances beautifully with the earthiness of the mushrooms, making for a luscious combination.  [Note: This dish was in such demand that we moved it to HOUSE FAVORITES thru Nov/Dec and it will be back, so keep your eye out.]

In the new year, Tracey has moved on to her next homemade pasta: Linguini, which she is serving with Manila clams & a white wine, herb, butter sauce.  This is different than most clams over linguini as it’s a brothy dish as opposed to the cream-based dish you usually see. Not surprisingly, it’s delicious!  We’ll just have to see if it gets such a following that it becomes a house favorite, too.

Stay tuned …Chef Tracey is already working on her ravioli!

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Posted Thursday, January 06, 2011
SEASONAL FOOD NOTE: Lower the Cut Round 2

The holidays are busy for us and so we always wait until January to celebrate with the Portalis team and it is subsequently also when I take on my biggest cooking challenge of the year … making dinner for 20+ people, all of whom are into food & wine (yikes!).  I hold it dear to my heart that I’m a good hobby cook.  I love cooking & can whip up a mean multi-course dinner for 4.  But 20+ is a whole different ball game & I’ve had a couple of downright mediocre results through the years.  In 2009 & 2010 I took a break from cooking and made easy-way-out-but-fun meals (such as fondue), but this year I’m going to cook again and I’m determined to wow them.

As I was thinking about what I could cook that would be yummy but doable, I remembered a recipe from the very first Food+Wine post (titled Seasonal Food Note: Lower the Cut) made in early January 2009.  It was a recipe for Pork Stew with Hazelnuts.  It’s affordable, it’s uncomplicated and there are no last minute flourishes required to pull off a delicious, fulfilling, wine friendly meal.  So here goes.  Party is next Monday.  I’ll let you know how I do.

In the meantime, if you decide to try this meal at home (which I highly recommend; I’ve made it several times at home), here’s the recipe as well as some wine pairing suggestions:  Pork Stew with Hazelnuts ~ Sautee chopped leek (or onion), carrot, celery.  Put aside.  Brown a pork shoulder roast (approx. 2 lbs) in olive oil.  Add 2 cups stock and 1 cup red wine, such as an inexpensive blend from Spain or southern France.  Lower the heat and simmer for approx. 3 hours or until the meat is nearly tender.  Add back in sautéed vegetables and a cup a freshly shelled, slightly broken up hazelnuts and cook another 20-30 minutes.  Serve as is, over mashed potatoes or over a cooked grain such as quinoa.

What to pair? The beautiful thing about slow cooked meats is that they are satisfying & pair beautifully with a range of well-priced wines.  The key: don’t overpower the food, so go with more medium-bodied wines such as:
Siegrist 2007 Dornfelder (Pfalz, Germany)
Reg $19.99 | INSIDER $17.99 | Mixed Case $14.39
Lan 2005 Rioja Reserva (Rioja, Spain)
$19.99 | Mixed Case $15.99
Evening Land 2009 Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR)
29.99 | Mixed Case $23.9

Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2011 hold good things for you including lots of good food & delicious wine!

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Posted November 08, 2010
Thanksgiving Soup

sooop

Every year I make a pumpkin soup.  Two years ago it was a traditional pumpkin soup with cream & nutmeg.  Last year I did a Thai curry pumpkin soup with a lime crème fraîche & cilantro.  Being that I like bold flavors & with the cooler weather setting in, I started thinking about one of my personal favorite soul foods – mole.  I find the spicy, sweet richness of the sauce soothing & I started thinking that the layers of flavor in pumpkin soup (sweet, spicy & salty) would work beautifully with the base flavors of mole (gaillo peppers, honey, cinnamon, clove, chocolate & peanuts).  Once I had the soup/mole, I thought a spicy homemade marshmallow would be a nice twist on the sweet element traditionally enjoyed at Thanksgiving, such as candied sweet potatoes. For the salty crunch of the garnish, I topped the dish with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds.  I am super happy with this dish!  It’s fun, it’s delicious, and yes, it is soothing!

The only trick is that it’s not the easiest dish I’ve ever given Jens to find a pairing for, but as usual, he came thru.  Try it with Helfrich 2005 Gewurztraminer Steinklotz Grand Cru ~ $9 (with spicy flavors of lychee, rose petal & apricot yet still dry) or go with a sweeter beer: Regenboog ‘t Smisje Dubbel ~ $4 (brewed with honey & dates)

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Posted Tuesday, September 07, 2010
The Magic Behind Steak & Cab

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Why does a T-bone or a big, marbled, grilled to perfection rib eye go so well with Cab?  Well, it’s not Cab per se, it’s the fact that the tannins – that mouth-pulling, slightly bitter, dryness in the finish of the wine – cut through the fat in the meat, creating balance on the palate.  As it happens, Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape with a lot of tannins.  In case you’re a little vague when people use the word tannins (which in the wine world is interchangeable with the term dry), tannins are a naturally occurring chemical compound found in certain plants and are easily detectible in foods such as tea, grape seeds & grape skins, walnuts, etc & are a natural preservative, allowing wine to age without going bad. That’s why Cab is a wine (for example from Bordeaux & California) that often has a drink date many years out.  But does it have to be Cab to be the perfect match for steak?  Nope.  Other tannic wines work beautifully to offset the fattiness of the beef as well, for example Argentine Malbec with its leathery, tarry, smoky flavors tends to have a nice tannic finish as does the smoky, bacony flavors of Pinotage (South Africa) and a great number of Spanish wines, such as Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero.

Chef Tracey has a nice pepper steak on the menu right now (pictured above), so come try it out with any of the following more tannic glass pours available in the wine bar:
Owen Roe 2008 Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon (WA) $8
Sangre De Los Andes 2008 Malbec (AR)  $8
Neil Ellis 2008 Pinotage (SA) $9.50

Or better yet, open a bottle of any of the following on Wednesday (all night) or Sunday (6-8pm with dinner) & get the bottle at the retail price (no $15 dollar corkage):
Luigi Bosca 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva (AR) $22.99 (~$4.80/glass)
Beckmen Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) $26.99 (~$5.60/glass)
or be a rebel and try the Wine Spectator 95 pointer:
Neyers 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) $56.99 (~$11.99/glass)

Cheers!
Julie

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Posted Sunday,  August 22, 2010
A Little Lesson about Alaskan Black Cod

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Alaskan Black Cod is, funnily enough, not in the cod family.  In the Pacific Northwest it is generally just called Black Cod. In other parts of the US it’s known as Sablefish.  To make things even more confusing, in other parts of the country there’s a fish called Black Cod which is a member of the cod family, fished from the sub-Antarctic Seas. This fish is still fatty as it comes from cold waters, but it has not the quality nor the richness of our local Alaskan Black Cod.

Alaskan Black Cod is my favorite Pacific Northwest fish because of its beautiful, buttery, rich texture (I do like my butter!) and I chose to do this fish with Chinese long beans with a honey soy glaze.  We had been serving the beans on the Thursday’s $5 menu to rave reviews and I thought they would be the perfect accompaniment to the rich yet mild flavors of the fish.  The fish itself is a very flexible fish to pair with wine; it would even pair well with a classic, buttery California Chardonnay, a wine not easy to pair with food.  However, the Asian flair of the sweet/salty beans requires a wine with a little off-dry quality to it.  On the menu, we’ve paired this wine with the Weingut Hiedler 2008 Loess Grüner Veltliner.  If you’d like a bottle, go for the P. Ginglinger 2009 Pinot Gris (Alsace) or a German Riesling, try Karthaeuserhof 2007 Eitelsbacher Karthaeuserhofberg Kabinett on sale for $38 from $57. (Shop price: Reg $41.99 | Sale $22.99 | Case $18.39)

Cheers!
Tracey

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Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Delicious Summer Fare: Duck with Raspberries

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I was looking through The Art of French Cooking and thinking about how raspberry duck is a French classic that Julia Child brought into the American household with the printing of her now famous cookbook.  As I was reading, it occurred to me that local Washington raspberries are in peak season & look beautiful right now and I was immediately inspired to bring back the dish, but with a new twist.  We’re serving duck breast with raspberry sauce, farro, mushroom, pistachio & wilted arugula. The light fluffy grain & the earthiness of the mushrooms offset the richness of the duck and the tartness of the raspberries. It’s delicious!

Of course It’s even better with the right wine.  We’ve paired it with Apolloni Vineyards 2007 Laurine Pinot Noir (OR), but it would also be great with the Qupé 2007 Syrah (CA).  A classic Rhône pairing would be wonderful, too. Try a nice table wine such as Ogier 2005 Côtes du Rhône Caves Des Papes or for a richer, more complex wine, try the Chateau De Saint Cosme 2007 Gigondas.  (Bar specials on Wednesday & Sunday include no corkage options!)  Hope you can stop by and try this seasonal dish.  I’m very happy with it!

Cheers,
Chef Tracey

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Posted Thursday July 8, 2010
PORTALIS STAFF SUMMER BEER PICKS

Finally summer is here and in the warm summer evenings wine is great but beer is better!  I went around and asked our staff their favorite beer or beer style they like to drink in the heat of the season and here’s what I found…

Gina: Unibroue La fin du Monde
“A great balanced beer; creamy, citrus & not too fruity. plus its 9% alcohol…get your beer on!”

Karli: Stone Pale Ale
“One of my favorite styles is Pale Ale, its smooth, not too bitter, but still has enough of a bite to refresh you.”

Tracey: Regenboog Vuuve Whitbier
“A rich beer with great spice – ginger & citrus”

Sky: Radeberger Pilsner
“Light, crisp and refreshing. Nothing better on a hot day served ice cold.”

Jens: Ayinger Jahrhundert
“Refreshing and light Bavarian summer lager.”

Ross: Delirium Tremems
“Belgium gold ale, rich with a subtle spice and sweetness.  Great beer for summer, on its own or with food.”

Beer pairs great with most items on the menu and in particular we suggest:
BBQ BEEF BRISKET with jicama coleslaw & a cheddar chive biscuit, or our
SALT ROASTED SHRIMP with rice, corn, scallion, crema, cotija cheese & avocado lime sauce
MANILA CLAMS with chorizo, sherry & butter
And always, of course, our CHARCUTERIE PLATE featuring our house pâté.

Cheers!
Gina

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Posted Friday, June 18
Wines for July 4th Celebrations!

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Our dear Chef Tracey is marrying her Sammy (former Chef at Quinn’s, current chef at Oddfellows Café) on this coming Fourth of July and we’ll be whooping it up with them at Sam’s parents’ farm outside of Bellingham, celebrating the occasion with traditional grilled Fourth of July fare, lots of beer, lots of wine (vino verde, rosé & the C.G. Di Arie Zin, if you must know), fireworks and then much to our daughters’ delight, everyone will camp out at the farm so that celebrating can continue – safely – late into the night and with much gusto as we wish Tracey and her Sam all the best in their (official) life together.

If you are also planning on a festive Fourth of July celebration and you need delicious yet affordable wines to go with your summer fare, here are Jens Top 10 BBQ Wines, all on sale thru Sunday, June 27:

Zin is the perfect red wine choice to balance the spicy sweetness of BBQ sauce:
C.G Di Arie 2007 Zinfandel (CA)
Reg $15.99 | Sale $13.99 | Case $11.19
Ridge 2008 Three Valley Zinfandel (CA)
Reg $26.99 | Sale $23.99 | Case $19.19

This is the quintessential food wine.  It goes great with everything!  Try it:
Celler Tomas Cusine 2006 Vilosell (SP)
Reg $18.99 | Sale $16.99 | Case $13.59

Rosé is refreshing and it’s a cooler when eating spicy foods.  Goes great!
Triennes 2009 Rosé Provence (FR)
Reg $17.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79
Domaine Saint Roch Les Vignes 2009 Rosé (FR)
Reg $14.99 | Sale $12.99 | Case $10.39

Here are some fuller-bodied whites that will be able to handle the richness of grilled meats:
William Church 2009 Viognier (WA)
Reg $22.99 | Sale $19.99 | Case $15.99
Mulderbosch 2009 Chenin Blanc (SA)
Reg $15.99 | Sale $13.99 | Case $11.19
Shannon Ridge 2007 Chardonnay (CA)
Reg $25.99 | Sale $15.99 | Case $12.79

Here are some local reds that are big & fruity, but not tannic; therefore, they won’t increase the heat:
Owen Roe 2008 Abbot’s Table Wine (WA/OR)
Reg $23.99 | Sale $21.99 | Case $17.59
Syncline 2008 Subduction Red (WA)
Reg $19.99 | Sale $17.99 | Case $14.39

Happy Fourth of July!  Have a fun & safe one!
Julie & Jens

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Posted Sunday, May 23
LAMB & FATTOUSH TO CELEBRATE SPRING!

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With warm weather here (at least some of the time), I thought fattoush would be a lovely way to celebrate spring! Fattoush is a traditional Lebanese salad consisting of fried or toasted pita bread, generally mixed with seasonal vegetables (usually tomato, cucumber, onion & mint), which is then tossed with a vinaigrette made of lemon, olive oil and sumac (a Middle Eastern spice which gives the salad its sour taste; sumac can generally be found in Indian or Middle Eastern markets.)  Traditionally, this salad is a way to used up day-old or stale pita bread which soaks up the vinaigrette and makes a very nice, refreshing salad … delicious on its own or with grilled meats.  I chose to serve it with a yogurt marinated lamb kabob and Jens paired the dish with the Pencarrow 2008 Pinot Noir from New Zealand.  Sounds like an usual combination, but the cherry fruit flavors and campfire smokiness pair beautifully with the meat and don’t overwhelm the salad.

Lamb loin chops have always been my favorite lamb dish because every time we went to my grandmother’s (just north of Baltimore) she would serve lamb chops.  Her art was to cut off the fat and then pan fry the chops in their own rendered fat, the rendering of which would make the whole house smell sweet & floral. Nostalgia aside, I like this cut because it’s less gamey than the leg or the shank. And this is a quick preparation as the meat is tender.

Lamb shank is less expensive and requires long, slow cooking with acids (such as wine) to help break down the meat and make it fork tender.  I like braised lamb osso bucco (a classic Italian dish which is red wine braised shank served with a saffron risotto) better than veal because of the richness of the meat and the flavor that the meat imparts into the stock.

Leg of lamb (which is a traditional Easter dish in my home) is the gamiest cut of lamb and my favorite way of preparing it is whole grain mustard, white wine and rosemary marinade (marinate overnight) and then oven-roasted the next day (approx 3 hours on 350 degrees), served with roasted potatoes & asparagus and covered with the pan juices.

Enjoy & cheers!
Chef Tracey

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Chocolate & Wine Pairings

If you missed my Chocolate & Wine Pairings class where we used the beautiful masterpieces from Cadeaux Chocolates‘ (pictured left) chocolatier, Janet Shimada, here’s a quick overview …

As with food, when pairing wines with chocolate, match lighter-flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines, and more “intense” flavored chocolates with more full-bodied wines. When pairing wine with chocolate, you can look for wines with have the same flavor profile as the chocolate (nutty, cherry, other fruit, mint, etc.), or look for contrasts. Most experts would recommend “sticking” with fortified wines (ports), because the sweetness of the wines match well with chocolates. But there is more behind it. Let’s take a journey beyond fortified wines.

Milk Chocolate
Milk chocolate has a higher percentage of sugar, and a smaller percentage of chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate). In addition with its higher milk content, milk chocolate is a milder, sweeter product with fewer aromas and flavors.  Wine pairing suggestions: a Tawny Port (try: Quinta De La Rosa 10y Tawny Port) is the ultimate match. Its nutty, caramel flavors highlight the milk chocolates’ own flavors and intensify the overall chocolate flavors.

Semisweet Chocolate
Dark chocolate with 50% to 69% cacao has strong, complex flavors, with notes that are nutty, spicy, floral, earthy, fruity, and/or caramel. The aftertaste is balanced, not too sweet. Wine pairing suggestions: fortified fruity wines like Banyuls and Ruby Ports (try: Niepoort NV Ruby, Quinta De La Rosa Finest Reserve) have cacoa and chocolate aromas and flavors as well as cherry, raspberry or other berry fruit, and are classic companions with chocolate. Vintage Ports should be matched with caution: The high sugar and alcohol content can overwhelm the chocolate. Banyuls and nonvintage Ports have softer, rounder tannins than vintage Ports and pair better with chocolate.  Another classic choice is Cabernet Sauvignon (try: Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or Sparkman Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon) or Bordeaux (try: Château Pibran Pauillac or Château Pichecan Margaux). It brings out the fruity-peppery-grapey notes in the chocolate. Zinfandel brings out chocolate’s spicy notes. Tawny Ports, which have nutty, tobacco and leather notes, also make good pairings.

Bittersweet Chocolate
The most intense, richly-flavored dark chocolate is 70% to 100% cacao. Bittersweet chocolate can have bitter, roasted, fruity, earthy, woodsy, ashy and/or nutty notes. The same wines will match bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.

Chocolates with Caramel or Toffee
Wine pairing suggestions:  Hungarian Tokaji, with notes of apricots, butter and caramel, pairs well with buttery salt caramels. Young Madeira (try: Broadbent Madeira 5y old) has classic caramel and toffee flavors and good acidity to pair with that kind of chocolate. Buttery caramels and toffees pair well with buttery wines. Mersault from a ripe year, with rich, lush fruit and low acid or a rich buttery Chardonnay from California (try: Shannon Ridge Chardonnay) complements the brown sugar and caramel flavors as well as the cocoa flavors of the chocolate. The nutty bouquet of a dry Oloroso Sherry complements the nuts in toffee. It’s also great with salt caramels. Sauternes, a rich sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux, has honey, apricot and peach notes, also pairs well with caramel and toffee chocolates. The chewiness of the candy stands up to the viscosity of the wine. Tawny Port enhances the nutty notes of toffee, and to a lesser extent, caramel.

Chocolates with Cinnamon and Ginger
A spicy, dry Zinfandel (try: Four Vines Maverick Old Vines Zinfandel) or a sweet Late Harvest Zinfandel (they can almost be port-like) are good options to complement the spicy notes of chocolates with cinnamon and ginger.

Chocolates with Coconut
Brachetto D’Aqui (try: Giacomo Bologna), a light sparkling dessert wine from Piedmont, with typical aromas and flavors of strawberries and roses, is a great match with nuts and coconut. Sauternes or a Late Harvest Semillon or Moscato from Australia (try: Two Hands) are other options.

Chocolates with Coffee Flavors
Chocolates with espresso, mocha, coffee bean and other coffee flavors. Oloroso sherry or cream sherry (coffee, nutty flavors) or Australian Shiraz (try: Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz), with dark fruit, mocha, coffee, espresso flavors.

And last … Chocolates with Nuts
Including hazelnuts, almonds, and other nuts and pralines. Wine pairing suggestions: nutty Tawny Ports are the perfect match for chocolates with nuts. Sherry that is not too sweet is a good companion to almond-based chocolates, ideally a Pedro Ximinez with its almond aromas and flavors, or a well-rounded Fino. Cream Sherries match well with hazelnuts. Lighter nuts like pistachio can be served with Sauternes. Other options would be Brachetto D’Aqui and Cabernet Sauvignons.

Cheers & Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jens

A memorable evening with Sophia Bergqvist, co-owner of Quinta De La Rosa


Tuesday, January 26th we had the honor of hosting Sophia Bergqvist, co-owner of the Quinta De La Rosa Estate in the Douro Valley and a delightful and dynamic guest for our customers to get acquainted with.

Her story is a fascinating one: The Bergqvist family has been making port since 1815 and Quinta De La Rosa was bought as a christening present for Claire Feuerheerd, Sophia Bergqvist’s grandmother. Sophia’s great-grandfather Albert Feuerheerd once owned one of Porto’s biggest shipping companies but due to the economic downturn in early 1930s, he was forced to sell his company to Barros. The La Rosa estate was kept and run by Claire and her husband Eric Bergqvist, during which time (1933 to 1987) the grapes of the La Rosa estate were sold to the well-known port manufacturers Croft and Sandeman.

In 1988 Sophia and her father, Tim Bergqvist decided to restart the family business and launched Quinta De La Rosa as a top quality port producer. In the early 1990s the Bergqvist family started making Douro red wines, which got a big boost in 2002 when Jorge Moreira became their leading winemaker. From then on Quinta De La Rosa has been producing outstanding ports and Douro Tintos, both of which we had the pleasure of tasting:

Quinta De La Rosa 2007 Vale Da Clara Red Wine
Reg $13.99 | Case $11.19
This table red is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz from nearby vineyards with a higher altitude, above the Douro Valley, than Quinta De La Rosa. The wine is medium-bodied with good structure, acidity, and an attractive freshness. Mainly aromas and flavors of blackberries and blackcurrants with some earthy tones.

Quinta De La Rosa 2006 Douro Tinto
Reg $22.99 | Case $18.39
Same blend than above but the grapes come mainly from the Lamelas Vineyard at La Rosa which was planted by Tim Bergqvist over 20 years ago. This red is medium-bodied, very elegant with a round, balanced structure. Very aromatic with lovely red fruit flavors, especially strawberries, raspberries and white cherries, with a touch of lime. This wine is lighter and fresher in style.

Quinta De La Rosa 2005 Tinto Douro Reserve
$44.99 | Case $35.99
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, Touriga Franca and many others. The grapes are coming from Sophia Bergqvist’s finest vineyards. Big, full-bodied, with expressive fruit, like blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, with herbal and earthy notes. Beautiful structure, complexity, elegance and acidity. Fine tannins on the finish. Up to 5 years.

Quinta De La Rosa NV Tawny Port
Reg $15.99 | Case $12.79
This tawny is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Roriz. The vines are all estate grown and the wine is aged in old oak 550 liter barrels. A fantastic Tawny for the money. Toffee, caramel and nutty flavors with great acidity. Beautiful, long finish.

Quinta De La Rosa 2003 Late Bottle Vintage Port
Reg $31.99 | Case $25.59
Same blend as above. This Port comes from an excellent, generally declared vintage year which was perfect for LBVs as well. It is an enormous, but elegant LBV with aromas and flavors of cocoa, chocolate as well as cherry, raspberry and other berry fruit, and soft tannins on a long finish. This LBV were matured in large wooden casks (also called “tunnels”) for 4 to 6 years and bottled in 2007.

Quinta De La Rosa 2004 Vintage Port ~ WE93/Top 100 Cellar Selections
Reg $69.99 | Case $55.99
Same grapes as above. This Vintage Port was definitely the star of the tasting (and sales). A Port of highest quality, wonderful length and impressive depth. Full-bodied, with great concentration and excellent texture.  Beautiful aromas and flavors of dark chocolate, cocoa, dark berries, raspberries, and black cherries. We will taste that again in 30 years.

It was a great tasting and a pleasure to have Sophia with us.   Enjoy these wines!

Jens Strecker
Owner, Portalis Wines
jens@portaliswines.com