THANKS TO VACCINES, this year’s holiday season should see safer celebrations and festive family gatherings, which should result in more Northwest wine being shared as 2021 gets put to bed.
In a growing number of communities throughout the region, some of the best dining options will be at a restaurant inside a local winery. Praise be to most anyone who chooses the life of a restaurateur, especially in these politically charged times, but to operate a winery and a commercial kitchen requires an extra helping of moxie.
Diners who are members of the wine club know they will enjoy at least some of the wines on offer, but expect a few fun surprises and special dishes built around particular wines, so there will be opportunities to explore.
Craig and Vicki Leuthold credit the bistro operation at each of their four tasting rooms for sustaining Maryhill Winery through the pandemic. And in Grays Harbor, it is founder/owner/chef Kim Roberts who develops the menu at Westport Winery Garden Resort’s Sea Glass Grill. Twice, she’s earned a ranking among the Top 5 of USA Today’s Winery Restaurant list.
Now, diners also can order craft cocktails that pull from the Ocean’s Daughter Distillery, which plays off the theme of the Roberts family’s new nonprofit International Mermaid Museum.
Making a case for Thanksgiving
A smoked turkey with gravy, gluten-free stuffing, cranberry sauce, a full day of football and maybe a nap add up to a relaxing holiday that’s more enjoyable with a great wine.
Westport Winery nonvintage Rapture of the Deep sparkling cranberry wine, Washington, $31: Mark Bosso’s winemaking helped launch Orenda Winery in Carnation, and he’s proven a quick study with the berry grown for the nearby Ocean Spray plant. It’s fun, frothy, impeccably balanced and pairs with turkey, pork, hearty plant-based proteins and beef dishes such as the prime rib encrusted with Dijon-garlic rub at the winery’s Sea Glass Grill.
Mt. Hood Winery nonvintage Van Horn Estate Vineyard brut cuvée, Columbia Gorge, $52: Hood River native Rich Cushman produces gold medals for a number of Gorge clients. This methode Champenoise is heavy on orchard fruit and brings plenty of zing for a variety of appetizers, including clam dip.
Cinder Wines 2020 dry viognier, Snake River Valley, $25: Ste. Michelle alum Melanie Krause goes dry with her viognier, which is floral, tropical, and capped by lime and Mandarin orange. If your Thanksgiving table includes some Asian fare, here’s a match.
Huston Vineyards 2020 Huston Estate grüner veltliner, Snake River Valley, $38: Third-leaf fruit, which means the vines are just 3 years old, provided Gregg Alger with what is believed to be Idaho’s first commercial bottling of this white Austrian grape that’s on the rise in the Northwest. It’s an exciting effort that hints at star fruit, tangerine and chamomile.
Alta Cellars 2020 chardonnay, Lake Chelan, $30: This deliciously elegant chardonnay shows that Brock Lindsay is as committed to this recently acquired brand as he is to the Succession Wines label he built from scratch.
Coyote Canyon Winery 2020 Coyote Canyon Vineyard roussanne, Horse Heaven Hills, $21: Rancher/grower Mike Andrews delivers the grapes to his winemaker, Justin Michaud, for a Rhône-inspired white blend rich with Pink Lady apple and ripe banana flavors. A tangy dose of lime adds balance and complexity.
Amelia Wynn Winery 2020 marsanne, Yakima Valley, $28: Bainbridge Island winemaker Paul Bianchi’s deft touch with Rhône varieties is repeated with this rich and fascinating delivery of pear, cinnamon, sliced almond, beeswax and apricot pit that’s ideal with prawns.
Lagrioth Winery 2020 Double D Vineyard mourvèdre rosé, Columbia Valley, $24: Sustainable farmers/winemakers Chad and Jeana Steiner make a remarkable splash with their very first offering — a gorgeous pink from the proposed Rocky Reach appellation near Chelan. It hints at bubble gum balls in the nose, followed by banana, melon, Rainier cherry and white pepper.
Bethel Heights Vineyard 2019 estate pinot noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $32: The Casteel brothers left Seattle in the 1970s to become winegrowers near Salem, and this fresh, juicy and plummy effort shows that their children have not dropped the baton.
Barrister Winery 2018 cabernet franc, Columbia Valley, $33: Long ago, these winemaking attorneys in Spokane’s Cork District stamped cab franc as their signature effort. They’ve used fruit from venerable Bacchus Vineyard to load up on blue fruit. With moderate tannins, refreshing acidity and a finish that includes roasted red pepper and Tahitian vanilla, this pairs with prime rib or sausage.
Trothe 2018 cabernet sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $190: This stately new project by the Andrews family grabbed early headlines for its acceptance of cryptocurrency, but this inaugural effort comes with the structure, dark purple fruit and classic Horse Heaven Hills minerality to stand the test of time.
Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2019 estate bottled chenin blanc ice wine, Red Mountain, $50: A pocket where cold air settles allows Red Mountain’s first winery to consistently produce this sticky dessert. There’s a sense of winter in the glass, joined by baked spice, apples and honey. As a treat, serve it with French toast.
Making a case for Christmas
Whether it is prime rib, a bone-in ham or a Christmas goose that commands the dinner spotlight, gift yourself a special bottle or two under the tree. If possible, plan ahead and decant your reds one to two hours before serving. And consider putting those reds in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before plating dinner. Too many Americans drink their reds too warm and their dry white wines too cold. Target just below room temperature for bold reds, around 55 degrees F for rosé, and 45 to 55 for whites.
3100 Cellars 2016 Whitewater sparkling wine, Snake River Valley, $36: Hailey Minder pays homage to the 3,100 miles of whitewater in Idaho, and these bubbles using Champagne varieties show classic notes of fresh-baked goods and lemon zest.
Cave B Estate Winery 2020 cuvée blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $27: Freddy Arredondo, a classically trained chef, plays off the facial powder elegance of the Ancient Lakes with this white Bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc (60%) and sèmillon that exhibits Key lime, melon and apricot notes. Think of linguine and clams in an herbed butter sauce.
Kiona Vineyards 2019 estate Artemisia Red Mountain cuvée, Red Mountain, $30: White wines aren’t common on Red Mountain, but this three-generation winery pays tribute to the indigenous sagebrush with a refreshing blend of roussanne, chenin blanc and viognier that hints at peach, orange blossom and talcum.
Ste. Chapelle Winery 2020 Panoramic chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $26: Idaho’s largest winery, owned by Seattle-based Precept, offers one of the Northwest’s best examples of chardonnay. It’s elegant and full with enough brightness to enjoy as a welcoming wine or with that turkey dinner.
Palencia Wine Co. 2020 albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $22: Two sites in the Columbia Basin noted for aromatic white varieties, Evergreen and Spanish Castle, are taken to another level by Victor Palencia, who preserves the brilliance and minerality that make this Spanish grape ideal for shellfish and tapas.
Cedergreen Cellars 2018 gamay noir, Yakima Valley, $27: For a second straight year, Kevin Cedergreen’s charming take on Beaujolais earns a spot at our table, especially with poultry, pork or paté on the menu. It’s remarkably layered and juicy, as crushed strawberries and raspberries, cherry pipe tobacco, violets and fennel carry along notes of cured meat.
Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2018 pinot noir, Willamette Valley, $28: Cooling coastal breezes through the Van Duzer Corridor allow rising star Rachel Rose to offer a rich and rewarding pinot that’s loaded with black cherry, plum juice and sweet baking spices that call for a thick slice of glazed ham.
Basalt Cellars 2018 G•S•M grenache • syrah • mourvèdre, Columbia Valley, $34: Rhône-inspired blends have earned a following in the Northwest, and winemaking pharmacist Rick Wasem in Clarkston, Washington, continues to burnish his reputation with GSMs. There’s cured meat, cola, wet stone and earthiness from the syrah; bright cherry and blood orange via grenache; and body from the mourvèdre.
Martin-Scott Winery 2017 Needlerock Vineyard Montepulciano, Columbia Valley, $32: Mike Scott’s breathtaking vineyard overlooking the Columbia downstream from Wenatchee is home to this grape rarely seen beyond the town in Tuscany it’s named for. It’s full of creamy cherries, velvety chocolate and coconut shavings. Enjoy with a rib-eye alongside linguine in a pomodoro sauce.
Woodward Canyon Winery 2019 Old Vines cabernet sauvignon, Washington state, $99: Walla Walla Valley pioneer A.P. Woodward would be proud to have his visage on the bottle where there’s a blend of historic sites Champoux and Sagemoor. Inside, it’s unbelievably approachable and elegant, with layers of cocoa, black currant and dark cherries.
Quilceda Creek Vintners 2018 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $200: London-based Decanter magazine gave the Golitzins a perfect 100-point score for this age-worthy yet approachable red, and historic Champoux Vineyard provides layers of crushed cherries, plum, nutmeg and light toast.
Maryhill Winery 2017 Gunkel Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve Vintage Port, Columbia Valley, $40: Portuguese varieties grown near his cellar on the edge of the Columbia Gorge give Richard Batchelor the control to create notions of fig, black currant, roasted coffee, dark chocolate ganache and star anise. Toss another log of cherry wood on the fire, and sit back with a plate of Stilton and toasted filberts.
Making a case for New Year’s Eve
The pandemic has changed how many have approached food and wine on Dec. 31, but make sure there are bubbles galore available. It’s important to pace consumption, and if there’s a sit-down dinner, the fare often isn’t as heavy. The morning after, there’s plenty of football and more grazing.
Mellisoni Vineyards 2020 Bollicine Dry Bubbly muscat canelli, Columbia Valley, $60: This beautifully tropical aperitif features co-winemaker Donna Mellison on the label and uses the Italian word for bubbles to toast in an Asti spumante fashion.
Sawtooth Winery 2020 Classic Fly Series chenin blanc, Snake River Valley, $24: This lovely white native to the Loire Valley is finding favor again in the Northwest thanks to efforts such as this alternative to chardonnay, a path that includes lychee, ruby red grapefruit and apple pie and lends itself to chicken salad.
Cristom Vineyards 2019 Louise Vineyard chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, $55: Eight vineyards factored into these 49 barrels under the watch of Steve Doerner, the Gerrie family’s winemaker from the get-go in 1992. This is a classic yet balanced reserve-style with notes of brioche, apricot, lemon oil and baking spices.
Callan Cellars 2020 Boushey Vineyards grenache blanc, Yakima Valley, $25: Storied grower Dick Boushey holds up his success with this white Rhône as an example of climate change, and Lisa Callan captures the grape’s essence with fresh Bosc pear, honeysuckle, cardamom and Meyer lemon zing. Think of Mediterranean-inspired dishes featuring fish or lamb.
Left Coast Estate 2020 white pinot noir, Willamette Valley, $24: It’s not a rosé, but instead pinot noir made as white wine. Consumers now understand this approach, and no one in the Northwest does it as well and on the scale as the affable Joe Wright. Enjoy with salmon, oysters and grilled asparagus.
Seven Hills Winery 2020 dry rosé, Columbia Valley, $22: This is a product of founding winemaker Casey McClellan’s final vintage at this downtown Walla Walla icon, and he doesn’t disappoint in his traditional approach using cab franc. Its shade of color is ideal, as is the array of melon, nectarine and juicy citrus that pairs with almost anything.
Mt. Hood Winery 2018 Gunkel Family Vineyards grenache, Columbia Valley, $34: The Columbia Gorge’s stunning versatility is on display via Rich Cushman, and this expression is remarkably drinkable, with wild strawberry, cinnamon, tobacco and moist earth notes. Play with dishes that incorporate Indian and Asian spices.
J. Christopher Wines 2018 Basalte pinot noir, Willamette Valley, $30: Germany’s Ernst Loosen, best known in the United States for the 20-year-old Eroica riesling project, has owned for more than a decade this brand made famous by Jay Somers. Timothy Malone’s return as winemaker and the fractured basalt soils combine for a drink of creamy blue fruit, attentive acidity and earthiness with a minty finish.
Kiona Vineyards 2019 estate bottled lemberger, Red Mountain, $17: In the Williams family’s enduring tribute to the late Walter Clore, this lively Austrian red is the ultimate tailgate/barbecue buddy, and a bargain at that. Its medium body carries blackberry, cherry, Choward’s Violet Mints and smoky bacon in a juicy manner.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2018 Clifton Hill Vineyard Single Vineyard Series cabernet sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $42: Ripening is never a problem here, so Canadian winemaker Kendall Mix extracts this into a classy and classic blend of cassis, black plum, tobacco and eucalyptus with a briny bite and robust structure.
Northstar Winery 2018 merlot, Columbia Valley, $41: Ste. Michelle built this brand specifically for merlot, and erstwhile brewer David “Merf” Merfeld uses three of the state’s top sites — Klipsun, nearby Shaw and StoneTree — to match those expectations. It’s redolent of clafoutis, strawberry jam, baking spices and mint, and worthy of filet mignon or a rack of lamb.
Koenig Vineyards 2019 riesling ice wine, Snake River Valley, $26: This viscous nectar of glacéed apricot and apple pie by Greg Koenig stands alongside the best from British Columbia, and judges have likened previous vintages to a spendy German trockenbeerenauslese.