Wine Cabinet

The following articles are a delight to research and write. My primary focus is on the wines, wineries, and winemakers of the Pacific Northwest.

However, I often take writing side trips to the wines and beers of other areas of the world, especially Italy, because my genealogy is Italian on both sides of the family, eg., both mother and father.

I value readers inputs, and will endeavor to respond to e-mails and letters. E-mail me at

Following is the Index of my articles.  Click on the titles and it will take you to the article

Willamette Valley by the Glass Pours Into Summer


Controlled Appellations

Eleven Winery, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Enological, or Wine, Society Chapters are now found in many areas throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Origins of Alicante Bouchet

The Origins of Father’s Day

Pairing Wine with Food

Pommery Brut Royal NV French Champagne

The Puget Sound Wine Cellar Fine Wine Shop, Port Orchard, WA.

Riesling Wines for Mother’s Day

Rose' Wines

Some of the Best Ways to Learn About Wine


Travelling Washington State Appellations

What=s the difference between aroma and bouquet?

Wine Customs and Traditions


Wines for Christmas and New Years Celebrations

Wines of France's Languedoc Region

The Wines of Navarra, Spain

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Text and Photography by Nick Tomassi

The traditional wine for celebrations such as wedding anniversaries or New Year=s Eve, is Champagne. Historians tell us that the name >Champagne= is derived from the Latin term campagna, originally used to describe the rolling, open countryside just north of Rome, in Italy’s Campania Region. In the early Middle Ages the name Champagne became applied to the Champagne Province in northeast France.

Sparkling wine made in the Champagne Province of France is called Champagne. Made anywhere else, even elsewhere in France, it is properly called Sparkling Wine. Reims and Epernay are noted as the two towns in the Champagne Province with the reputation for producing the best Champagne.

France’s Champagne Appellation has some of the strictest, most exacting standards for growing, producing and labeling in the entire wine world. The best Champagne and Sparkling Wine is normally made with one or more of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Blancs is made from Chardonnay grapes only. Blanc de Noirs is made from the black grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Rose’ is made by adding a small amount of local still red wine to white champagne.

There are different levels of sweetness: Natural is dryer than Brut, Brut has no perceptible sweetness, Extra Dry is slightly sweet, Demi-Sec is sweet, and Doux is very sweet. Most Champagne lovers prefer the Brut, but my favorite is the Extra Dry, with just a hint of sweetness. It goes well with seafood and fowl. With higher acidity, more delicate flavor, unique palate tingle and lower alcohol than most table wines, Champagne and Sparkling wines are some of the most versatile wines to accompany food.

The method of production is important. On labels, look for the words Methode Champenoise, Methode Traditionnelle, or Traditional Method. Also look for the words AFermented In this bottle@, not to be confused with the statement “Fermented in the bottle”, which refers to the transfer method. (So much for reading the fine print.) Quality producers in America and other countries emulate the standards, apply the traditional production methods and, out of respect and in deference, leave the Champagne name to the originals.

Two other production methods are Charmat and Transfer. They are less expensive to produce, and provide a lesser product; the bubbles are much larger, slower moving, and don't last very long. It has been reported that one of the reasons for headaches from Sparkling Wine is the large bubbles. Sparkling wines produced by these methods usually occupy the lowest shelves in supermarkets.

The Methode Champenoise process involves many specialized steps in both viticulture and enology and has taken centuries to evolve. This evolution came about through the contributions of scores of unknown inventors, innovators and workers in the world of wine. Modernization and refinement of the "traditional" sparkling wine process continues to this day, although its beginnings are in antiquity.

Around the 1690s, a Benedictine monk named Frere Dom Perignon made some very significant developments as cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers in Epernay, France. These include harvesting  selectively over a period of days rather than all at once; he invented the Coquard or "basket" wine press and used it to make the first "Blanc de Noir"; blending wines of different vineyards and varieties to achieve better balance between their individual characteristics.

Finally, although corks had already been used by the Romans as closures for wine bottles, and the seagoing and trading English had corks and made sparkling wine several decades earlier than the landlocked Champagne area, Frere Perignon has been credited with the idea of using string to secure these stoppers in the bottles, thus retaining the sparkle for long periods of time.

His celebrated remark "I am drinking stars" brought him great fame, but Frere Dom Perignon did not, in fact, "invent" Champagne. There is even a possibility he may have uttered his phrase, not out of jubilation, but rather from remorse. It is fairly certain that Frere Perignon long attempted to find a way to remove or prevent the bubbles, before he accepted and embraced them. His innovations of selective harvesting and blending probably were experiments towards this end.

There are hundreds of Champagnes and Sparkling wines available in West Sound. Here are a few I have tasted over the last 15 years, and recommend in the Non Vintage (NV) Brut, Extra Dry, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noirs and Rose’ categories:

French Champagne:

Pommery Rose’ ($70) and Pink POP Rose’ ($14) (375ml), Brut ($42)

Dom Perignon $120

Veuve Clicquot Ponseden $40

Perrier Jouet ($50)

G. H. Mumm ($43)

 Sparkling Wines:

Except for very special occasions, French Champagne is normally very pricy, so most usually opt for the less expensive Sparklers in the $10 to $20 range.

Domain Ste. Michelle, Washington ($10)

Prosecco, Italy Frizzante (slightly fizzy) and Spumante (fully fizzy) ($15-$20)

Mumm, Napa ($20-$25)

Segura Viudas, Spain ($18)

Freixenet (Fresh-a-net), Spain, Cordon Negro ($11)

Delmas Blanquette de Limoux, Languedoc, France ($11)

For Red Wine lovers, there’s Australian, Sparkling Shiraz: Paringa, ($10), Fox Creek Vixen ($19), Hardy’s ($20), Shingleback ($21), and Greg Norman Estates, Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay ($15)

Remember, Sparkling Wines are at their finest served cool (45 to 55 degrees) but not iced. Pour into a champagne flute that is cool but not chilled.

For a detailed description of the process of making Champagne and Sparkling Wine, visit

 Visit Nick Tomassi’s Web site:

Willamette Valley by the Glass Pours Into Summer

Long Days Mean Ample Time for Pinot

Portland, Ore. (June 22, 2010) -- Summer sun sheds a special light on the Willamette Valley’s many warm weather gatherings, from cycling the back roads of the Dundee Hills to playing bocce ball at an Italian themed winery.

The Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) is extending its promotion, Willamette Valley by the Glass, into the stretched-out days of summer.  Participating wineries will greet the extra daylight with a host of wine-centric educational and recreational events.  Celebrate Fourth of July weekend with a wine country barbecue or pack a picnic of your own to enjoy in the shade of towering oaks and evergreens.  Run a half-marathon that meanders through vineyards and reward yourself with a glass of Pinot Noir, the region’s finest export.

“The Valley really comes to life during the summer months, with each winery embracing the warmer days in its own unique way,” said Sue Horstmann, Executive Director of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.  “And despite being less than an hour from Portland, wine country feels a world away.” 

The WVWA includes 181 area wineries and tasting rooms within Oregon’s famed and fertile Willamette Valley, stretching from Portland to Eugene.

Below is a listing of group and AVA (American Viticulture Area) events in the Willamette Valley.  Visit and individual winery websites for additional event details.

Dundee Hill’s Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon (July 11, 2010)

Run through Oregon’s oldest American Viticulture Area, alongside old vines and hazelnut orchards.  The race begins in Dundee and winds through the scenic hill country beyond.  Post-race celebration features 30+ world-class Dundee Hill’s wineries, local food and music.  For more info visit:

Discover McMinnville AVA (August 14, 2010)

Discover the wines of the McMinnville AVA in the beautiful new Maysara Winery Barn.  12 participating wineries of the area will be showcasing wines paired with delicious appetizers and samples from local, artisan food purveyors. Tickets are available for $25 pre-purchase online or $35 at the door.  Raffles for wine, touring and gift baskets will be available with proceeds directed to Juliette’s House Child Abuse Intervention Center.
For more info visit:

Dundee Hills Wine Experience (August 26, 2010)

The Dundee Hills takes over Portland, setting up shop near the Rose Quarter at Leftbank Annex.  The pre-war industrial building will host many of the AVA’s renowned wineries, on hand to pour lesser known varietals like Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer in addition to their famed Pinot Noir.  For more info visit:

Chehalem Mountain Winegrowers’ “Explore Tour & Taste” (September 4-6, 2010)

Revel in the pre-harvest excitement this Labor Day Weekend as many wineries and tasting rooms from the Chehalem Mountain AVA open their doors to extensive tastings, pairings and seminars.  Home to the acclaimed Ribbon Ridge AVA, this region is home to 150 vineyards and less than 20 miles from Portland.  For more info visit:

Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon (September 5, 2010)
The heart of the Willamette Valley in Oregon will be the site of the newest WVWA sponsored Wine Country Half Marathon produced by Destination Races < Held on Labor Day weekend, various wine and food themed activities begin on Thursday in Portland, culminating with the race and Wine & Music Festival on Sunday.  The inaugural Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon will feature a rural a USATF certified 13. 1 mile course starting at beautiful Stoller Winery and finishing in the town of Carlton.  Over two dozen of Oregon's top vintners will be pouring at the Wine & Music Festival, along with other culinary partners.  Most events are open to the public.  For more information and registration visit: <>


AWhat is the proper way to store wine that you intend to hold for some time?@

Right after moving from Bremerton to Silverdale in 1998, a reader e-mailed me and asked if I knew anyone who was interested in a 50 bottle wine cooler he wanted to sell. I called and asked him where he lived. Kathy and I drove to his house that day, checked out the cooler, and brought it home. We soon discovered it would hold only 45 bottles.

In Bremerton we had a nice big, cool basement, so I had made a wood cabinet that held about 130 bottles. Here in Silverdale we have a single story home with a 30-inch crawl space, and room for wine is considerably reduced. I gave our kids the homemade cabinet and stored the wine in the crawl space.

The grandkids had a ball crawling around under the house searching for wine for me. However, when I had to crawl around searching for wine for dinner or a party, I soon discovered that was not my cup of tea (or should I say glass of wine).

The wine collection had been growing steadily, but I put off getting a bigger refrigerated cabinet because of the expense. Costco had a simple metal wine rack for about 170 bottles for $75 that fit in a closet in our bedroom, but it wasn=t refrigerated. A lot of my clothes went to a spare bedroom.

However, summer of 2002 the temperature in that closet, normally in the mid 60's, climbed to over 80 degrees and stayed there for almost a month. After a week of that I stuffed as many of our best wines as possible into our two refrigerators, with Kathy=s blessings. Now I had to seriously consider a larger refrigerated wine cooler. The alternative was to reduce the wine collection back to 44 bottles .... NAH!

After a lot of research in wine magazines and on the internet I finally settled on one from the Wine Enthusiast web site, It=s advertized to hold 260 bottles, with three stationary and seven sliding shelves. After assembling and loading, using both sliding and fixed shelves and some creative arranging, I discovered it held only 180 bottles.

When I called the supplier they admitted that the only way to get in 260 bottles was to stack them eight deep on the three fixed shelves. Bad idea. The lesson here is not to take the advertisements for wine cooler bottle numbers at face value.

The other lessons I give my wine class students are: Ideally, wine should be stored HORIZONTALLY, in a DARK, cool or TEMPERATURE controlled, VIBRATION FREE environment.

HORIZONTAL:  When the bottle is horizontal so that the cork stays wet, the cork expands and stays expanded, preventing the wine from escaping and air (oxygen) entering.  Premature contact with oxygen will cause the wine to turn to vinegar. Upon opening the bottle, the cork should not be wet much beyond the first one-eighth inch.

DARK:  Wine exposed to light, especially sunlight, ages more rapidly than when stored in a dark place.

TEMPERATURE: Heat also ages wine quickly, so a temperature-controlled environment is preferred. One can use a cool, rather than a temperature controlled-environment.  Also, a reasonably constant temperature  (50-60 degrees F) is preferred to one which varies greatly.

VIBRATION-FREE: Experts disagree on the effect of vibration on wine, and offer differing opinions. Since most wine is trucked from wine-making regions or from distant importers in the States, wine should be allowed to rest for a few days when brought home. It=s thought that the vibration during transport unsettles the wine=s characteristics, and it needs a few days rest to return to it=s optimum state. At home, don=t store it under a staircase, as vibrations are said to spoil any fine wines by causing it to age prematurely.

Go the top of the page

 Some of the Best Ways to Learn About Wine

Novice oenophiles often ask how one should go about learning about wine, also asking if cost an indication of quality. The second question is easier to answer: not normally. In my experience some of the better wines are a bit more expensive, but many $10 to $35 wines are just as good as those $60 and up. You have to shop around.

Learning about wines is a lifelong adventure because they change from year to year. Four things to do are: read, take classes, attend wine events, and sample a wide selection of wines. This includes visiting local wine shops which have tastings. The phone directory has at least one shop in Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island. Call to find out when they have tastings.

An article in a previous issue of this magazine listed two wineries and a number of these wine shops in the West Sound. These are excellent places to taste and shop for wines. The proprietors are probably the most knowledgeable people locally, and it=s well worth the time to get to know them.

They are more than willing to help you make a selection when you tell them the kind of wines you=re looking for. They=re usually willing and able to discuss the characteristics of their various wines.

Wine distributors and sales people usually visit the shops on a regular schedule to provide wine tastings of their products to the owners in an attempt to induce them to order their wines. If you happen to walk into the shop during one of these tastings, you might be persuaded to try a taste. This is a sales tool for both the sales person and the proprietor.

That being said, readers should know that there are also wine stewards at some of the supermarkets who can assist in selecting wines. Look for at the East Bremerton and Port Orchard Fred Meyer. There=s also a wine steward at the Gig Harbor Freddies.

Novice oenophiles are sometimes embarrassed or reluctant to walk into a fine wine shop or approach a wine steward in a store. My experience is that there is nothing these experts enjoy more than helping customers and educating them about their wines.

We also have about thirteen wineries on the Olympic Peninsula and Islands that provide tastings for little or no cost. Try Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery or Eleven Winery on Bainbridge Island, or Hoodsport Winery in Hoodsport.

There are about 50 wineries to explore in Western Washington=s Puget Sound and Islands. The more adventurous might be willing to take a trip to the Eastern Washington Wine Country to sample wine there. If you go east, I recommend purchasing the wines that can only be found at the winery, since most of the wines from those wineries are available locally.

The wine tasting and evaluation process is relatively easy to learn, but too long to explain in any satisfactory manner in a column like this. That=s better learned at wine classes which are offered in Seattle and here at the Kitsap County Park & Recreation Department. For information:

Briefly, the basic process includes learning to identify the color, aromas, flavors, body and finish of each varietal or blend of varietals. It just takes practice, practice, practice.

 Nick Tomassi teaches wine- and beer-appreciation classes. E-mail:,

Go the top of the page

The Wines of Navarra, Spain

Navarra is an ancient and independent kingdom that has been at the crossroads of European history for more than 1,200 years-and has played a role in history that is far larger than its geographic size. Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees between France and Spain, Navarra shares a role in the history of both countries, while still retaining its unique character as part of Spain.

Under Roman rule in the first Century A.D., Navarrans were governed with a light hand and were ­able to retain their Basque language and culture while gaining Roman architecture as well as the Roman city of Pamplona, today the capital of Navarra. In the early eighth Century, while most of Spain was being conquered by the Moors, Navarra managed to fend off a Moorish foothold in the region. Navarra was thrust into fame when Charlemagne and his Frankish armies successfully conquered the region. It was during this time that the legendary knight Roland fought his epic battle that has been immortalized by the Chanson de Roland (one of the oldest known works of French literature). Roland was killed and Charlemagne defeated by a guerilla band of Basques during this battle at the Roncevaux Pass between France and Spain. Often thought of as a battle between Christians and the Muslim Moors, this was actually a fight of Christians against Christians-Franks against Basques who were unhappy with their treatment at the hands of Charlemagne.

Charlemagne's retreat from the region in the 780s did not last long. He and his armies later returned to northern Spain and extended Frankish rule into the south. Within the territory he captured, called Marca Hispanica, Charlemagne created a province which acted as a buffer zone between his empire and the Muslims in the south-making Navarra an important frontier between Islam and Christianity.

In the eleventh Century, Navarra became an incredibly powerful Kingdom under King Sancho III, gaining control of all of Christian Spain. During the Crusades, Navarra and its capital, Pamplona, became an important gathering point on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Twelfth century guidebooks recommend the wine of Navarra to pilgrims making the journey. Along with Canterbury, Santiago de Compostela is one of the great pilgrimage routes in Europe. This steady traffic of religious visitors from all over Europe gave Navarra exposure to many different cultures and traditions, including contact with winemakers in the major wine regions of France.

After the death of King Sancho III and divided rule by his sons, the 12th Century brought new alliances--Princess Berenice of Navarra was the wife of the legendary Richard the Lionheart, King of England, and that marriage created a strong tie between the two kingdoms. French rule came to the region in the 13th Century and was maintained for the next 300 years. King Henri of Navarra became King Henri IV of France. Perhaps most importantly, it was King John II of Navarra who arranged the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castilla, a marriage that not only succeeded romantically, but also created the political union that became imperial and now modem-day Spain.

 The region today remains an autonomously ruled Kingdom within Spain. Navarra's capital, the lovely city Pamplona, is famous for its festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls through the ancient historic center. San Fermin is the social expression of a local culture. In this week-long festival, the city comes alive with hundreds of thousands of people, all celebrating a history and shared experience that goes back more than a thousand years. And while the early morning running of the bulls is the signature event of the San Fermin Festival, it lasts only a few minutes. Far more time is spent in parks, plazas, and streets of Pamplona, singing the traditional songs of Navarra, dancing to the sounds of the traditional bands, and drinking the rich wines of the region.

 For more information on the wines go to the TASTING NOTES section of this Web site.

Go the top of the page

Wines of France's Languedoc Region


The Languedoc region is named for the ancient language which once thrived there.  “Oc” is the word for yes in Occitan, the language spoken in medieval times across southern France and parts of Italy and Spain. Oc’s northern cousin, “oïl” eventually became “oui” – the word for yes in modern French

The Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL), announces the launch of its new PR and marketing campaign in the US.  Languedoc is France’s wine frontier, where local AOC regulations allow greater freedom to forward-looking winemakers to experiment than in most other French wine regions. A new AOC has recently been created to simplify the wines for consumers and to present a new face to the market.  Working with Benson Marketing Group, the integrated wine marketing agency with offices in Napa and New York, Languedoc, South of France will broaden their exposure within the United States and make the public aware of the quality, variety and value the region has to offer.


With a long history of quality production, the Languedoc, South of France is mixing tradition and innovation to produce some of the most exciting wines available today.  As the largest wine region in France, Languedoc is blessed with some of the best growing conditions in the country. 

An auspicious blend of soil, wind, sun and the Mediterranean Sea produce naturally healthy vineyards where pesticides and other chemicals are rarely needed. In fact, nearly 70% of all France’s organic viticulture can be found here in the Languedoc. The result is wines that wrap an enticing character in a voluptuously smooth mouthful.  Kim Marcus of Wine Spectator has hailed the wines of Languedoc, South of France as “some of the most exciting quality-to-price ratios to be seen on better wine lists, both in the United States and France… Many are enthusiastic about offering these reds and whites because of their distinctive flavors, solid structures and exceptional value.”  (August 31, 2006)


Most recently, a new Languedoc AOC was created to encompass all the wines of the region (provided they meet its requirements) and simplify matters for the consumer by creating a single identity for Languedoc wines. Over the next few years it will take the place of the older Coteaux du Languedoc AOC.

The new Languedoc AOC forms the center of what can be thought of as the Languedoc “daisy”.  The “petals” of the daisy that radiate out from this center are the more specific AOCs named for their unique terroirs.  These include Clairette du Languedoc, Corbières, Faugères, Saint Chinian, Minervois,Roussillon, Picpoul de Pinet, Pic Saint Loup, Grès de Montpellier, Terrasse du Larzac, La Clape, Pezenas, Terres de Sommières, Terrasses de Béziers  Though varietally labeled wines are also available, it is the AOC wines that show Languedoc at its best.


To show the American market all that Languedoc, South of France has to offer, the region will sponsor a Languedoc Ambassadors Tour in February, 2009.  A selection of wines will be chosen by an independent jury of American wine professionals and press to be “ambassador wines” of the region, exemplifying the ripe, accessible style of these wines.  The Ambassadors will then be featured at trade and press events in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Ross Wassermann, or (212) 808-6550

History tells us that Blanquette de Limoux, the world's first sparkling wine, dates as far back as 1531. At the time, the monks of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Limoux, were producing a somewhat unusual white wine in their cellars. Inside its glass flask, with a cork top - very rare for wines at this time - it acquired a natural sparkle. This was the forefather of the brut which is tasted today at the world's most prestigious tables.

Two exclusively white grape varieties: Mauzac and Chardonnay form the basis of the blend for Blanquette de Limoux. Mauzac, the growth's traditional variety, gives body and aroma. Chardonnay, its irreplaceable partner, reinforces the bouquet, the freshness and the finesse. The result is a dry, creamy-textured, full-bodied wine with a fine yeasty character present in the aroma.

Languedoc wines you will enjoy:

Delmas Blanquette de Limoux, France NV Brut $11; Blend: 80% Mauzac, 20% Chardonnay; Style: Champagne; light straw color; A dry, creamy, full-bodied sparkling wine with a fine yeasty character in the aroma, and toasty green apple & lemon flavors; long, full finish. (Alc. by Volume: 12%)

Chateau d’Aussieres, France 2003 Corbieres Rouge $29; 100% Syrah; Style: dry red; dark red color; aromas and flavors: leather, meaty, stone fruits; full body; caramel, chocolate finish. (Alc. by Volume: 13%)

Ch. de Lancyre, France 2003 Pic Saint-Loup Coteaux du Languedoc $33; 100% Grenache; Style: dry red; dark red color; aromas and flavors: chocolate caramel, berry, bramble fruits, blackberry; medium body; finish. Food Pairing: romanian cheese. (Alc. by Volume: 13.5%)

Ch. Rene Rostaing, France 2005 Puech Noble Coteaux du Languedoc $29;  Blend: 90% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre; Style: dry red; deep red color; aromas: Bacon fat, cherry, and incense, with hints of with cardamom and mint; flavors: Jellied cherries pungently laced with juniper, resin, bacon, and brown spices; medium body; a salty-smoky meld of meaty and mineral elements gain prominence in the finish. (Alc. by Volume: 13.5%)

Go the top of the page

Pommery Brut Royal NV French Champagne

" ... What we need is a wine that is as dry as possible but is not harsh ... it has to be mellow, velvety and well blended ... Make sure that it is subtle more than anything else." Bold, decisive and confident in her choices, this request by Madame Pommery was met when the Pommery Chef de Caves created the first Brut in the history of Champagne, the Pommery Nature 1874.

An unprecedented success at a time when sweet Champagne was en vogue, this new Brut style was a revolutionary concept. Today, the Pommery style is expressed in the Domaine's flagship non-vintage Brut Royal Champagne. "Delicate with a cheerful lightness" not only describes the style of Brut Royal, but also the renowned House style of Pommery.

Lively and fresh on the nose, an attractive hint of citrus fruits; on the palate the same bright freshness, resoundingly dry but mellowing out into a balanced supple fruitiness. Finally, a clean finish which leaves behind a pleasant taste and desire for more.

·         Brut Royal, the flagship wine of Champagne Pommery

·         A blend of 35% Chardonnay, with equal parts Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

·         Very low dosage, resulting in wines with both freshness and finesse, delightfully dry and deep­flavored

·         Aged 3 years

·         Suggested Retail Price: $42.00


 By Nick Tomassi

Published in West Sound Home and Garden Magazine, Winter 2008 Issue

Recent studies have tried to answer the question, AAre wine and chocolate heart-healthy?@ Some results are supportive, others are not. Comments from friends and readers are similar; some believe they are, some don=t. Wine lovers and chocoholics like myself tend to take the more positive view because the aromas and flavors are so uplifting. And no, I don=t know how one gets picked to participate in these studies.

That said, below are some recommendations on the wines that will pair deliciously with chocolate. The first wine that comes to mind is Port, named for Oporto, the second largest city in Portugal, from where the wine has been shipped for over 300 years by English wine merchants.

Port is a >fortified= wine, made by adding 150 proof clear grape spirits while the grape juice is fermenting. This results in a sweet wine with an alcohol content that ranges from 18% to 20%.

There are two broad styles of Port wine, cask aged and bottle aged. There are a number of sub‑styles: Ruby, Tawny, Aged Tawny, Vintage, Colheita meaning 'harvest' or 'crop', Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Single Quinta (farm) Vintage, Crusted (Blended from several vintages) and Garraferia (Reserve).

Ruby port is the simplest and least expensive style. Aged in bulk for two or three years, it is blended, filtered and bottled young, and retains a deep ruby color. A good ruby has an uncomplicated mulberry and strawberry fruit aromas and flavors, and is a good, warming drink.

An excellent Ruby Port to try is the Cockburn (Coh-burn) NV Fine Ruby Port ($15). Made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca Portuguese grapes, it has a deep ruby red color. The aromas and flavors are of red fruits like strawberries. This excellent Port has a rich, fruity taste, a  full-body and a lively finish. Pair it with main courses like smoked ham, roast duck with an orange glaze; all types of cheese, especially blue types like Stilton, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola; desserts such as apple pie and chocolate cake. It’s especially good with dark chocolate.

Try this dessert for four to serve with Ruby Port: make a sauce by combining one tablespoon sugar, one tablespoon orange juice, and one-half cup Ruby Port; stir to dissolve. Place a slice of pound cake on a plate. Spoon sauce over the pound cake, top with whipped cream and canned apricot halves.

The term Tawny is applied to wide range of very different styles. In theory, tawny implies a wine which has been aged in wood for so much longer than a ruby that it loses color and takes on an amber‑brown or ‘tawny’ hue. In practice, much of the tawny is made from lighter colored grapes, and vinification techniques may be adapted to produce paler colored wines.

Some excellent 10 year old Tawny Ports to try are Dow’s ($33), Graham’s ($34.50) and Smith Woodhouse($31). These are each reported to have a golden amber color with rich, bright fruit aromas and flavors, with hints of nuts, and full-bodied with a long finish. Dow, Graham and Smith Woodhouse also have 20 year old Tawny ranging from $46 to $56. Suggested food pairings with Tawny Ports include creamy cheeses, custard-based desserts and dark chocolate.

Cockburn also makes a number of Tawny Ports: NV Fine Tawny ($12), NV Special Reserve ($16), 1996 Anno (LBV) ($20), NV 10 Year Old Tawny ($30) and NV 20 Years Old Tawny ($50Look for these at most wine shops. Check the local wine shops for more selections.

While the match with a sweet wine like Port is great, one of the neat things about pairing chocolate and wine is that many of the same dry red wines that complement your dinner course can slide right over to a chocolate dessert.

Some full-bodied dry reds that are enjoyable with food and chocolate include the 2006 Hogue, Prosser, Wash. Cabernet Sauvignon ($9). This is a nicely balanced wine that emphasizes the vibrant, fresh fruit of Washington State. Aromas of ripe plum, cherry and a hint of leather are followed by palate-pleasing flavors of cherry, strawberry, cocoa and cinnamon. The wine finishes with subtle oak notes of vanilla and coffee. Pair with grilled beef or barbecued ribs, and continue tasting it with something chocolate like chocolate cake.

There’s also Cline Cellars, Sonoma, Calif. 2006 Cashmere Red ($17). This wine has a smooth blend of 63% Grenache, 22% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre. Its dark berry red color and cherry, raspberry and chocolate aromas and flavors are a perfect match to chocolate pudding, chocolate cake or a box of Whitman Sampler chocolates. (Well, maybe not the WHOLE box…..!)

Think about the main flavors in these wines - berries, cherries, plums - have you ever tasted a chocolate cake with these flavors that didn’t taste good? And then there’s chocolate candy. A favorite chocolate candy to pair with wine is the sweet, Hershey Dark Chocolate bar. Remember, however, that while dark chocolate is heart healthy, it is also high in calories.

Several Washington wineries now make Port including Tefft Cellars, Hinzerling, Thurston Wolfe and Wind River, sold mostly at the wineries.

Hoodsport Winery=s Red Wine and Chocolate Event is usually held in February on President's Day weekend each year and features their famous Raspberry Wine Truffles and Chardonnay White Chocolate Truffles. Visit their Web site:

 Nick Tomassi teaches wine- and beer-appreciation classes. E-mail: Website:

Go the top of the page

Wines for Christmas and New Years Celebrations

Readers ask about red wines, especially soft red wines, to have for Christmas and New Years celebrations. Soft meaning smoother and less tannic than the big Cabernet Sauvignon or Australian Shiraz. That brings to mind some of the wines we've enjoyed in the past and plan on selecting among for pairing with our holiday dinners. And most are easy on the budget.

Saint Laurent, Malaga, WA. 2004 Lucky Red ($15). A blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Syrah and 21% Merlot. This dry red blend has a dark, ruby red color; cherry, currant, vanilla and black tea aromas and flavors, with hints of clove. It s a medium-full bodied wine with a smooth, mouth- filling finish. Food Pairing: red or white meat or rich pasta dishes in a meaty, spicy tomato sauce.

Covey Run, WA. 2004 Lemberger, Quail Series ($9). 100% Lemberger. A dry red in a deep red color with bright purple hues. Fresh cherry, red berry and plum aromas and flavors. It has a medium body, fresh acidic structure and soft tannins on the finish. Pairs well with beef, pork or chicken, best barbequed.

Georges Duboeuf, France 2007 Beaujolais Nouveau ($11). 100% Gamay. A medium-dark red color, it has raspberry and red currant aromas and flavors, a medium body and a smooth, bright finish. Pairs nicely with turkey, roast ham or other holiday fare.

Kendall-Jackson, Santa Rosa, CA 2003 Meritage, Vintners Reserve ($12). A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Dark cherry-red color, it has espresso, dark chocolate, pomegranate and black cherry aromas and flavors. A medium bodied wine with balanced finish. Pairs well with tri-tip steak.

Osborne, Spain 2005 Solaz Merlot Tempranillo ($9). A blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Tempranillo. This dry red wine has a brilliant cherry red color with aromas and flavors of jammy red fruit. It is a medium bodied wine with a balanced, flavorful finish. Food Pairing: red or white meat, rich pasta dishes, aged cheeses and fatty fish.

Jean-Luc Colombo, France NV Cotes du Rhone Les Abeilles ($11). A blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre. It s a dry red wine with a red-purple color. The red fruit, leather and spice aromas are followed by licorice and spice flavors. A medium bodied wine with a soft, balanced finish. Will pair with turkey, roast ham or other holiday fare.

Cooper Mountain Winery, Beaverton, OR. 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve ($45 ). Style: dry red;100% Pinot Noir; medium dark red color; aromas of pine, cedar, and fresh forest berry fruit; flavors of blueberries and plums; medium body; balanced finish with nice acidity. Food Pairing: goes with many dishes. Those who enjoy wines made with 100% Organically, Biodynamic and Estate grown grapes, will like this one.

Rosemount Estate, Australia 2006 Pinot Noir, ($10). 100% Pinot Noir. A bright red color with purple hues, this Pinot has strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors with hints of rose petal, a medium body and a velvety soft finish.

Go the top of the page

Pairing Wine with Food

by Nick Tomassi

Published in West Sound Home & Garden Magazine for Fall, 2008

One of my favorite things to do with wine is to pair it with wife Kathy=s wonderful meals. I=ve learned that it=s better to ask what she=s planning for dinner before deciding on a wine.

In the past, we were advised that > wine goes with red meat and white wine with white meat.= That no longer necessarily holds, especially for those who prefer red over white or white over red. For example, a light bodied white is not necessarily a very good match with a big steak because the food would overpower the wine. And a full-bodied red usually isn=t suggested for fish or shellfish because the wine would overpower the food.

Three basic things to keep in mind: One – pair the wine you like to drink with the food you like to eat; two - if you intend to cook with wine, use the wine you intend to drink with the meal; and three - each person’s palate is different, and the suggestions herein are based on the author’s palate.

Chardonnay is the traditional white wine of France=s famed Burgundy region. It can be made in a range of styles, from light‑bodied, crisp and fruity to rich, round and buttery. Washington State Chardonnays are often on the crisp, delicate end of the spectrum, although full, rich renditions are also made.

Pair characteristic aromas and flavors of citrus, apple and pear, with hints of vanilla from oak and butterscotch with simply prepared fare, especially chicken, seafood or shellfish.

Sauvignon Blanc is a lighter‑bodied, crisper and zestier dry white alternative to Chardonnay. Traditionally clean and crisp with aromas of herbs, melon, citrus, with hints of spice and oak it pairs well with shellfish, pastas in cream sauces, seafood and chicken dishes.

Among the world=s most interesting grape varieties and wines, Chenin Blanc is still underappreciated in the United States. Made in a range of dry and sweet styles, Chenin Blanc produces fine table, dessert and sparkling wines.

Its delicate aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, pear and melon, sometimes with a slight spritz suggest pairings with mild cheeses, lighter seafood and poultry dishes, and cream‑based pastas.

Gewurztraminer is a variety exalted in the Alsace region of eastern France. It also flourishes in Washington State. It's wonderful either as a dry or slightly sweet wine. Its medium‑bodied, slight sweetness has fresh, floral aromas of grapefruit, green apple, peach and lychee fruit, with fruity grapefruit, melon and peach flavors. This is the perfect Thanksgiving dinner wine; also superb with Asian and other spicy foods.

Morio Muscat is a cross of Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. Usually sweet, without being too heavy or unctuous, it is an ideal summer wine. Its seductive aromas of ripe tangerine, kiwi, clover and meadow flowers, and fresh, succulent flavors suggest serving with fruit, mild cheeses, pastries and lighter desserts.

Riesling is one of the world=s noble grape varieties. It has a long history of making fine, classic wines in Washington State. The distinctive aromas of honeysuckle, nectarine and peach, with fresh, fruity flavors exhibiting a pleasing balance of sweetness and acidity call for mild cheeses, seasonal fruits, roasted white meats, ham, and spicy dishes.

Pinot Noir is the grape from which France’s famous Burgundy wine is made. It is also blended with Chardonnay to make French Champagne. The tasting notes are not as obvious as on many wines. A young wine might have the aroma of red fruits such as strawberry or raspberry, possible coffee or mocha. As the wine matures, there could be a more pungent aroma of black truffle (earthy).

This wine is extremely food compatible. It compliments strong cheeses, heavy sauces, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled salmon with Pinot Noir sauce, risotto with mushrooms or Penne with caramelized onions.

Many wine lovers consider Cabernet Sauvignon the King of red grapes.  It is the cornerstone of the great red wines of Bordeaux, France, and is equally important in Washington State, where it produces distinguished wines with rich cherry, berry and chocolate‑y flavors.

Its wonderful flavors of dark berries, mint and spice, with firm tannins and superb balancing acidity call for red meats, game, and flavorful sharp cheeses.

Merlot is another classic red variety from the Bordeaux region of France. It has become immensely popular in the U.S. due to its rich fruit and soft tannins. Washington State Merlot is renowned for its sweet cherry aromas and rich, full‑bodied flavors.

It is dark and silky‑textured, with flavors of cherries, plums and smoke, balanced by supple tannins that suggest pairing with pasta, lamb, prime rib, roast pork and other rich, hearty fare.

Lemberger is a little‑known, but excellent red varietal that white wine lovers enjoy, as well as those who enjoy soft red wines. It has a purple hue and is loaded with grape aromas and flavors like plum, raspberry and cherry; it has a soft, silky texture on the palate. Great with everything from seafood to steak. A great barbecue wine!

Syrah is a rising star in Washington State. It is the great red wine grape of France’s Rhone Valley, where it is often blended with other varieties to produce big, tannic wines with peppery, earthy flavors. (The Australians call it Shiraz.)

This is a smooth, rich red wine with savory cherry and black fruit aromas and undertones of smoke and tobacco. Mild tannins produce a clean, firm finish. Serve it with grilled sausages; pepper‑crusted steak, lamb and game dishes.

 Go the top of the page

The Origins of Alicante Bouschet

It is highly probable that you have never heard of, let alone tasted, Alicante Bouschet. If you like a good story, this wine fits the bill. You may wonder if it is Italian, French or Spanish. If you picked French, pour yourself a glass. "Bouschet" is actually the surname of the man who bred this variety back in the early 1800s. But, if it sounds suspiciously Italian to you, that is because it also grew in Calabria in southern Italy and this was the grape of choice for Italian immigrants home winemakers, particularly during Prohibition. They grew up with wine at the table and didn't let an ill-advised law stop their cultural tradition.

Agostino Coppola, Francis Coppola's grandfather, was a home winemaker and crafted his table wine in the basement of his Lexington A venue apartment. Trainloads of grapes would come from California and neighborhood families would divide them up. Francis fondly remembers stories of his father and uncles shenanigans trying to steal the grapes-only to end up with bottoms as red as the grapes. So a few years back, Francis asked Corey Beck to see if good quality Alicante Bouschet could still be found. After combing the Central Valley, Beck found 300 acres of 85 year old vines that were low yielding, deeply concentrated in color and loaded with rich, jammy fruit. This is a wine for drinking, not for aging-it is smooth, medium bodied, richly textured and long on the finish. Aromas of raspberry, blueberry, cinnamon, dark chocolate and violets explode from the glass followed by flavors of red plums, cassis, cranberry and spice. Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Magenta Label Alicante Bouschet 2007 is a wine steeped in history and memories.

Go the top of the page

What=s the difference between aroma and bouquet?

 Got an e-mail the other day from a friend who wrote, "I've formed a new group called Alcoholics Unanimous. If you don't feel like drinking a glass of wine, you ring another member and he comes over to persuade you." Oh boy! Other more serious correspondence asked a variety of questions, the answers to which might be informative to readers.

 Q: What=s the difference between aroma and bouquet?

A: Bouquet refers to smells from winemaking, like yeast and oak from oak barrels. Aroma means smells from the grapes that are picked up from what the French call >terroir= (tare-wah), which is the term for the natural environment of any viticultural site.

 Jancis Robinson=s AThe Oxford Companion to Wine@ explains that terroir is the combination of climate as measured buy temperature and rainfall; sunlight energy at the site; topography including altitude, slope and aspect or direction the slope faces; geology - the soil=s basic physical and chemical characteristics, and hydrology or the soil-water relationship. (More than you wanted to know?)

 If you tend to mix up bouquet and aroma, you'll be frowned upon by the two people in the world that think this is important. So use >Nose=, and that=ll cover both.

 Q. What is meant by the >tears= in wine?

A. It=s a wine that makes you cry - only kidding. Tears are the rivulets of wine that slowly glide down the glass after swirling the wine, also called legs. They=re related to surface tension differences between water and alcohol. The more alcoholic the wine, the slower the legs go down the glass and the more defined they are. This doesn’t indicate a better wine, just a more alcoholic one.

 Q. What=s the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?

A. Syrah and Shiraz are made from the same grape. The only difference is the style in which it is made. When you see >Syrah=, you can expect a more subtle style of wine, reminiscent of what you would find in a French wine from the Rhone region of France.

 When you see the word >Shiraz=, you can pretty much count on the wine being made in the Australian style, which means big, bold fruit, and probably a strong sense of oak.

 Q. What does the term >Reserve= on a bottle label signify ?

A. In Europe, Reserve is a legal term with very strict rules about quality and ageing. In America, it often doesn’t mean much. In the best sense, some wineries use it for their best grapes; to a few it might mean more oak; still others slap it on their bottles indiscriminately. So rather look for the word >Estate Grown=, meaning grapes grown in the vineyards owned by the winery.

 Wine Tip: passed on from daughter Tracy! Save your corks. No, I'm not suggesting making trivets or cork boards (though great ideas) but to use them as mulch around outdoor potted plants or around shrubs. I use them in my garden and I believe the cork mulch saved many of my plants during our last icy blast. Besides they look cool and they're not in a landfill.

 Go the top of the page

Rose' Wines

by Nick Tomassi

Published in West Sound Home & Garden Magazine for Summer, 2009

 Rose= wines are often called the 'summertime wines'. 2003 was the 30th anniversary of the invention of the rose= wine labeled White Zinfandel. In the USA, it was 1973, at Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena, California where owner Bob Trinchero, seeking to give his red Zinfandel more color and flavor, used an old French trick called saignee, or "bleeding."

 Immediately after the grapes were crushed, he bled away some of the juice to make the remaining juice more concentrated as it soaked on the skins. A friend suggested that Trinchero also save the saignee juice. He vinified it, but customers complained that it was too dry, so he sweetened it. Then his consumers loved it, and white zin was born.

 Rose's exploded in popularity, making up 24 percent of all varietal wine from California by the 1990s before falling back a bit recently. Critics bashed it, and all blush wines, as too bland, too simple - wine for people who don't really like wine. Not necessarily true.

 Trinchero believed that since wine critics are trained in classic fine wine, they don't come to grips with the everyday enjoyment of everyday wine. He said that even in Europe, what most people drink is vin ordinaire from plastic, screw-top bottles. He has introduced millions of Americans to the pleasures of wine drinking. Trinchero has taken his white zin from 550 cases that first year to 4.8 million in 2002.

 It is thought that the first rose= wines probably came from Greece in ancient times. The Greeks even had a myth for the practice of adding water to wine, therefore diluting the color of red wine. According to the myth, Amphictyon, son of Deucalion and Pyrrah, ordered the wine mixed with water at meetings of his councilors to dilute its strength and therefore cut down on drunkenness and quarrels.

 So we can assume, mythologically speaking, that rose= was born in ancient times. In reality it was probably a  far more practical happenstance like a rushed fermentation on the skins, leaving only a little color, but obviously an appealing color to the artistically inclined Greeks.

 Rose=s can be made from any red grape - Grenache, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel even Cabernet Sauvignon.

 Some you might enjoy:

Chateau Ste. Michelle, WA. 2006 Dry Rose=, Nellie=s Garden ($13). Grape Varietals: 96% Syrah, 1.5 Grenache, 1.5% Viognier, 1% Mourvedre. A dry Rose= with a light red color, it has aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry raspberry with hints of spice, a medium body and balanced finish. Great with spring and Summer BBQ=s.

 Twin Finn, CA. 2006 Sunset Rose= ($10). Just absolutely made for Summertime sipping! This 100% Sangiovese, off-dry Rose= wine has aromas of rhubarb and vanilla and strawberry flavors. A medium bodied wine with a nicely balanced finish.

 Pietra Santa, CA. 2005 Rosato ($15-$20). An off-dry Rose= from 100% Sangiovese grapes, it has aromas of rose petals and summer fruit like its flavors of ripe strawberries and peaches. The 14.8 percent alcohol gives it a medium body and a crisp, refreshing finish. Pair it with seafood and lighter cuisine, but also delicious on its own.

Go the top of the page

Wine Customs and Traditions

A search of the internet and some of my many wine books led to the source of some of the wine customs and  superstitions from the past that persist today.

 The clinking of glasses when offering a toast is a long observed custom. In the past, superstitious drinkers worried that demons would take their souls if they drank too much. To protect themselves, they clinked their glasses together hoping the noise would scare them off.

 The tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow of a ship before its first or maiden voyage dates back to pre-Christian pagan rites. Sailors who wanted protection from the sea gods anger implored the goddess whose image jutted out from the prow to assure their safety.

 According to historians, the custom was started by the Vikings, who used human sacrifices to appease the gods. Before the ships were sent down the ramps into the sea, slaves were tied to the rollers. Their blood was caught then sprinkled over the prow to appease the gods and protect the sailors from enemies. In time this gory custom was replaced by the less gory tradition of breaking a bottle of red wine on the prow. Sometime later, Champagne became as the sacrifice of choice.

 The custom of pouring wine into the host's glass before filling the guest's dates back to medieval times when assassination was a popular way to dispose of enemies. One of the easiest ways was to serve the victim the poisoned wine. As a show of faith the host poured a few drops of wine into his own glass to drink first.

 Others believe the custom came about as a way to make sure any stray pieces of cork would be deposited in the host's glass. (This is something I do routinely.)

 However, the Italians observed this custom long before corks were invented. They topped wine bottles with oil to seal the neck of the container, much the same way that a glass of jelly is sealed today with paraffin. The oil was poured off before the bottle was presented to the host, who then poured a few drops into his glass to make sure oil was not floating on top of the wine.

 Spilling wine. The superstition that spilled wine threatens health and safety originated in ancient times when it was believed that the juice of the grapes represented blood and contained its own spirit. If the wine was spilled, it was a warning that an evil spirit would take over the culprit's spirit.

 To avoid the threat from the evil spirit, the spiller rubbed the wine behind his ear using the middle finger of the right hand (don't go there). The area behind the ears was believed to be invulnerable, and the right middle finger the proper digit with which to undo evil influences.

Go the top of the page

Riesling Wines for Mother’s Day

 Mother=s day is Sunday, May 11 this year, and a good wine gift would be a Riesling wine such as the Wine of the Week Chateau Ste. Michelle WA. 2006 Riesling from their Cold Creek Vineyard.

 Appreciation for Riesling wine in general is not now, nor has it ever been, as enthusiastic as one would expect. Its lack of popularity has confounded its winemakers about as much as its history.

 The Riesling vine is said to be traced back to Germany and the year 1435. Throughout the history of Riesling there are numerous writings about this grape from 1552 to 1721. Most of these writings come from Germany and describe the Riesling grape growing in the Rhine valley.

 By the end of the 19th century Riesling was the dominant grape variety in the Rheingau region of Germany. But the early 20th century saw a rapid decline in the acceptance of the wine that appears to have lasted until recently. This prompted Germany to reserve land especially for growing the grape, and now the Riesling grape is treated as a national treasure in Germany.

  The first reference to this grape in Australia was in 1820 in New South Wales. Riesling Wine means different things to different people and in Australia the word Riesling actually refers to any sweet wine variety. Stricter laws have been enforced recently, so when you see Riesling on the label you are in fact getting a wine made from Riesling grapes.

 Washington State appears to be bringing back Riesling and its acceptance has been increasing. I know that when I have the urge for a sweet wine for dinner, I look in my wine cabinet for a Riesling. Right now I have three new releases of Chateau Ste. Michelle WA.2005 Riesling, Columbia Valley ($10.00), and 2006 Riesling, Cold Creek ($14) 2006 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley ($10.00) and one Owen Roe OR. 2002 Riesling ($12). Good ones last a long time.

 Over the past few years our wine tasting group has had the pleasure of tasting a number of 2005 Washington State Rieslings including those from Avery Lane ($7), Hogue ($9) and Hogue Genesis ($16). There is also a Dry Riesling from Covey Run ($8) and Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling ($9).

 A Dry Riesling is made from grapes that have full ripe flavors, but not too much sugar. The resulting wine has a very slight perception of sweetness. On the other hand, a Late Harvest Riesling has a rich, fruity sweetness that might go well with the natural sugars of roasted pears in a free-form tart.

 I=ve also tasted 2005 Australian Rieslings from Banrock Station ($5), Emu Wine Company Tasmania Riesling ($20) (Tasmania is an island125 miles south of the eastern side of the continent, being separated from it by Bass Strait), and had a wine tasting party that included a Hardys Stamp of Australia Riesling 4 ltr box ($18).

 Happy Mother=s Day to all.

Go the top of the page

The Origins of Father’s Day

 Happy Father=s day! Father's Day was created as a day for children to honor their fathers. Of the recorded origins, the one I like best was said to have begun in Spokane, Washington.

 Ms. Sonora Smart got the idea of having a Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909. After the death of her mother, she and her siblings were raised by their father, William Jackson Smart. Ms. Smart wanted to tell her father how special he was, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane on his birthday, June 19, 1910.The National Father's Day Committee was formed in New York City in 1926. A Joint Resolution of Congress recognized Father's day in 1956, and in 1966 President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. Thus, Father's Day was born in memory and appreciation by a daughter who believed that her father and all other fathers should be honored with a special day.

 Many people think flowers are just for women and are a feminine present. However dad's appreciate the gift of flowers too because they are a loving and thoughtful gift.

 Traditionally fathers are given the gift of white or red roses, though some may prefer more macho plants or flowers that a florist can recommend. If you wear a flower on Father's Day you should wear a red rose if your father is alive or a white rose in memory of him.

 Of course, my idea of a great Father=s Day gift for a living dad would be a bottle of wine - surprise! - and a big hug. Either a red or a white wine is appropriate. Wife Kathy suggests a bottle of Port for red, and I believe a bottle of Viognier is fine for white.

 I really enjoyed the Wine of the Week. Other excellent Port selections include Cockburn=s, Spain 1998 Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Porto ($20), and Hardys, Australia NV Tawny Port ($13)

 For white try Wattle Creek Winery, CA. 2005 Viognier ($31). Aromas of white peach blossom, stone fruit and hints of toasted oak; flavors of nectarine with hints of lychee. It has a medium body, nice length, crisp, clean finish. Food Pairing: chevre or other white cheeses.

 Other Viogniers to try are Cline Cellars, Sonoma, CA. 2004 ($10), Victor Hugo Winery CA. 2004 ($17), Clautiere Vineyard CA. 2003 Estate Viognier ($23)

 Washington wineries showing Viogniers at Taste Washington include Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2006 ($18); Bunnell Family Cellar 2006 ($22); Caterina 2003 ($20); Chatter Creek  2006 ($20); Coeur d=Alene Cellars 2005 ($18); Coyote Canyon Winery Estate 2006; Nefarious Cellars 2006 ($16); Seia Wine Cellars 2004 ($17); Vin du Lac Winery Viognier 2005 ($17.99); Whitman Cellars Viognier 2005 ($19) and Willis Hall Viognier 2005 ($19.99)

Happy Father's Day to all.

Go the top of the page

Eleven Winery, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Nick Tomassi

Eleven Winery is one of the new, small, family-owned wineries in Washington State, owned by Matt and Sarah Albee. Meeting Mr. Albee at the winery, I found a tall, slim young man with a look that you would expect of a professional bicycle racer, which in fact he was, racing against the best of them, including Lance Armstrong, on the French and Italian circuits.

He explained that the winery gets its name from a bicycle racing term that relates to his approach to the winery and to winemaking: AOn a typical modern road bike the smallest cog in the rear cluster has eleven teeth, and it's the one that produces the maximum gear ratio. Therefore, when you're at the point in the race when it's all or nothing, when there's no choice but to put every ounce of strength and determination you've got into the pedals no matter how much you're already suffering, when you have to give it absolutely everything you've got, you use The Eleven.@

All riders on the team get salaries from their sponsors plus share in prizes. Top riders get endorsements, from places like clothing companies, etc. Albee said that in Europe one can make a living at bike racing, but he reached the limit of his potential before he could earn a living at it. 1998 was his last year of racing.

Originally from Whidbey Island, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Harvey Mudd College, in Southern California. He said he just fell into a job working for a software company when he moved to the Bay Area from Boulder Colorado, mainly for bike racing. A lot of top riders leave Boulder during the winter to train in warmer locales. He believes that in the midst of some mind numbing research for the software company, an epiphany struck and a voice said "you should try winemaking."

The Albees met in 1995 at his sister=s wedding. She=s from Victoria, and went to the University of British Columbia the same time as his sister, and maintained their friendship. He met her a few times over the years and they hit it off. In 1996, e-mail addresses facilitated correspondence. Sarah moved to the Bay Area where he was working, A..and that was that.@

Albee and soon-to-be-wife Sarah had become interested in wine and spent some of their leisure time exploring California wine country. He went to a small local winery where they make some great wine and offered to help out. He met the winemaker, Dane Stark, at Page Mill Winery, a small winery near where they lived in Menlo Park, California. Stark was just a couple years older than Albee, running a winery that his father had started in 1976 in a cellar he dug out under their home.

Stark said >sure= and he was hooked instantly from the very first day. AI knew that was what I wanted to do. I told him I was going to be his apprentice and he was going to teach me everything that he knew. That was in 1999, about three weeks after Sarah and I got married. She had no idea what she was getting into! She thought she married an ex-bike racer but it turned out that she had married a winemaker. I feel like winemaking chose me, not I chose it.@

It was September, and small winery owners are eager to accept offers of volunteer help with the harvest. Within a few days he was standing atop the crush barrel dumping 30-pound boxes of grapes into the crusher/destemmer. Then and there he knew that little >voice= was right. He started going to the winery in the morning before work. After a few days, Stark suggested that he make a barrel of his own wine right then, while the grapes were still available. Albee found the grapes to make a barrel of Chardonnay in 1998, and continued helping out at the winery after harvest ended.

He became an apprentice to the winemaker, and over the next three years, spent as much time as possible working at the winery, learning how to make great wine. Using Page Mill facilities and his own label, he produced one barrel in 1999, four barrels the next year in 2000 and twelve barrels in 2001. Having reached the limit of space available, he knew that if he was to continue to grow and be in the wine business, he needed to find a place of his own.

After spending three seasons as an apprentice winemaker, the Albees moved to Bainbridge Island in 2001 to be closer to their families and start a family of their own, in addition to starting their own winery. They now have two sons, a five and a one year old, and a winery making 1,000 barrels a year. Mrs. Albee is also employed as a software designer for a small design company.

The Albees searched all over Puget Sound to find a location with good character, a good place to raise a family, a somewhat rural area in order to have a substantial business out of the home and within commuting distance of Seattle for work. The Bainbridge Island location met all their requirements.

Albee said, AA place like this with a big garage in the Bay Area was too expensive to buy, it would be a multi-million dollar estate down there. I grew up on Whidbey Island and Sarah=s from Victoria, so this is home for us. We came back here and found this place which was a fixer-upper. I spent a year fixing up and we re-financed it and used the additional money to create the winery. Sounds like starting a winery in your garage is the official way to do it in Washington State.@

The winery has a sizeable garage on the north side of the house, with no direct sun exposure. Albee believes that one of the great things about making wine in the Northwest is you don=t have to have active heating or cooling systems for the winery, just really good insulation.

Albee=s background as winemaker includes a couple of courses at UC Davis. He was not especially impressed with the quality of instruction, since he had come from one of the top technical colleges in the nation, with a physics degree. AHaving a really strong science background helps a lot.@

Their wine can be found in their Tasting Room, Town & Country, Walt’s Market in  Lynnwood Center and Winslow Way Café on Bainbridge Island; Olympic Wine Shop, Central Market and Mor Mor Bistro in Poulsbo; Silverdale Market, Silverdale; Wine Seller, Wild Coho Restaurant, Café Nola and Madoka in Port Townsend.

Future Plans: At 1,000 cases now, that=s about all the space available now. After both kids are in elementary school they=ll consider expanding. Albee said, AAt sometime in the future when we=re profitable, we=re thinking about changing business model to Newman=s Own, where all profits go to charity. Sarah and I would like to give something back to our community.@

Eleven's Wines

Tasting through Eleven=s eight wines I found them all excellent, and four really stood out. I especially enjoyed the 375 ml, 2006 Pinot Gris Port, ($19). A white Port with a huge, creamy mouthfeel accompanied the Pinot Gris aromas and flavors of ripe honeydew melon with hints of citrus. Should go great with creamy desserts.

I found pear, tropical fruit and melon aromas and flavors, with just a hint of vanilla in the 2005 Pinot Gris, Oregon ($17)

I was also really impressed with the 2005 Malbec, Windy Ridge Vineyard/Horse Heaven Hills ($27). It has a full-bodied, creamy mouthfeel with cherry, blackberry and spice aromas and flavors.

The 375 ml, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Port ($21) was especially smooth, not too sweet on the palate, and should be excellent paired with slightly sweet dark chocolate.

Visit their Web site for information on the 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Artz Vineyard/Red Mountain ($14), 2005 and 2006 La Primavera, Dry Rosé ($19), 2004 La Ronde, Yakima Valley (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah) ($21) and 2004 Syrah, Alder Creek Vineyard/Horse Heaven Hills ($25).

Eleven Winery is located at 12976 Roe Rd NE., Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, and open by appointment only (call 206.780.0905). Their Tasting Room, 278 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, WA. 98110 (206.842.4669). Hours of operation are12 - 5 Wednesday through Sunday (Saturdays from 11); Closed in January. Visit the Web site:; e-mail:

Go the top of the page

The Puget Sound Wine Cellar Fine Wine Shop, Port Orchard, WA.

By Nick Tomassi

The people associated with the wine business are very enthusiastic about their product. Whether they are the owner of a winery, the winemaker overseeing the making of the wine, the vineyardist growing the grapes or the owner of a fine wine shop selling the best wines they can find, they have one thing in common – they are very passionate about the subject of wine, and love to share their knowledge about the wines with which they are involved.

Drop in and spend some time with any of them and find out for yourself. It’s one of the best ways to learn about wine! This magazine has a list of wine businesses in Kitsap County. The Washington Wine Commission provides a free brochure listing the wineries licensed in Washington State. Find a copy in just about any store selling wine. Or visit

The fine wine shops in the Kitsap County area are no exception. Most have at least one day each week when they have tastings of the products they sell. The tastings are a way to discover which wines appeal to your pallet, and are normally modestly priced. Depending on the price of the wines, a tasting of three to five wines can run from five to twenty dollars.

A visit to the Puget Sound Wine Cellar in downtown Port Orchard finds owners John Ready, and wife Ann, available to introduce you to their favorites. Visitors will enjoy the visit because they both have a great sense of humor.

John lived in Walla Walla about a year and started drinking red wine there in the late 90s. Sitting around having dinner with friends and drinking wine in the Fall of 2007, someone mentioned that the Puget Sound Wine Cellar was for sale. They thought owning a wine shop would be kind of fun but didn’t have the resources at the time.

Ann still had a house in England, so they decided to put it on the market, and it sold. They realized they now had the resources and the wine shop seemed like someplace they would like to be. From a dinner conversation of “Oh that’s interesting” they went to “Wow! We can do this if we want to.”

In December, 2007, they contacted Mr. Dennis Lei, the then owner, worked out a deal that made both of them happy, and the place changed hands. The Readys have some retail experience and both enjoy wine. They believed they should be able to put things together and make the shop a thriving business. They know the retail business part. They knew they needed to learn more about wine business part .

There is a rather large learning curve concerning wine. Ready joked that after being open less than two months, the biggest thing he learned was, “I need to eat breakfast. That took about three days because of the vendors coming in early in the day and pouring wine to taste, so I need to eat breakfast.”

The previous owner, David Lei, named the business but they kept the name because it’s appropriate and there was no reason to change it. They like the location because it has more positives than negatives.

Ready said, “Parking is an issue at times, but I don’t know what would be a better location. We think downtown works really well and that the city is going in the right direction, as far as looking at condos, and stuff like that. As that happens, business in the downtown area will get nothing but better.

Between Amy’s Restaurant, the 110 lounge and ourselves we call ourselves the progressive end of Port Orchard. The Marina is right here and the Farmer’s Market there gets a lot of traffic, so we get a lot of walk-in traffic. I would expect to be, if not this location, then someplace downtown for the next few years.”

Looking ahead, Ready wants to work on learning more about Italian and French wines because he doesn’t have enough information on them. They have a good Italian Distribution Company, Bianco Rosso. Mr. Tyson Manzin will work with the Readys to help develop a good Italian section with reds such as Chianti, Super Tuscans, Amarone and Valpolicella, Barolo, Brunello and others at reasonable price points. Also some good Italian whites like Soave, Arneis and Pinot Grigio.

The Readys are working with Pete Lehan from Noble Distributors to get more information on French wines. There’s a lot of information about Left Bank and Right Bank wines that they need to learn about so they can pass it on to their customers.

They believe that wine lovers are going to come to a fine wine store like this to get answers to their questions, so they need to be knowledgeable about them. The objective would be for the Readys to be able to say something about each of the wines they sell.

The store is being set up to display the wines by varietal. The high end, Port and dessert wines are in one area. The center area will have predominantly Northwest wines, featuring them. They have a section from the southern hemisphere, South America (Chile and Argentina), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Then a European section with  France, Spain, Portugal and Germany in addition to Italy.

There is also a plan to have wine tasting classes. Ready thinks there are enough people in the area who would support it, would come wanting to learn something about wine and have wine experiences and come back to the store and use their knowledge to explore other things on the shelf. He is also planning on joining the Kitsap Wine Society (KWS) and is interested in having a tasting for them.

Their vacations and other fun things they normally do will now be focused on wines they want to learn about and possibly stock. They will visit wineries and bring that experience back to the store. They’re looking at Argentina this winter, and have a couple of friends capable of opening the doors and taking care of customers while they are gone.

When they go to Amie’s Restaurant, next door to the wine shop, it’s fun to take a bottle of wine to enjoy with what they’re having. It kind of fits in with their life style now, matching wines with the food they eat.

The wines they promote in the store are Washington State wines in general, especially Fort Walla Walla Cellars, Abeja, Reninger, Helix and Januik. Some other favorites include J.C. Cellars who makes a very nice single vineyard Iron Hill Zinfandel. Also, Latitude 46, which has a couple of nice red blends.

Mrs. Ready’s favorite is the Italian Amarone. She also loves Port wines and enjoys them with chocolate. She is an excellent cook so they make a special effort to match her meals with the wines they enjoy, for example, crab with the Spanish Albarino white wine.

Favorite wines also include the Mercer Estates wines from Prosser, Washington and Bethel Heights from Salem, Oregon.

Mercer Estates 2007 Sauvignon Blanc: $15

Winemaker Notes: Ripe pear, herb and melon aromas and flavors are complimented by a nice oak spice balanced with bright Sauvignon Blanc characteristics and a mouth filling finish. Pair with chicken dishes, fish, oysters and lighter fare. It also makes a great aperitif wine. (12.5% Alcohol)

Bethel Heights 2007 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley $17

Winemaker Notes: The aromatic profile first reveals minerality and lemon rind, but gentle swirling unfolds tropical aromas of mango and passion fruit. The flavor profile has Asian and Bartlett pears, green apple and cantaloupe.

This fine wine shop also has an extensive refrigerated area devoted to beer. Ready joked that, “Beer guys are crazy!” He said, “Just like wine people, they taste the malt, the hops, etc., to see how it’s crafted. They enjoy experiencing beer the same way people enjoy experiencing wine.” He currently has a cooler for about 100 different microbrews and plans to eventually have enough space for over 200 different microbrews.

Mr. Ready is originally from Seattle, and part of his family goes back to old Silverdale. His family  travelled a lot because his father, an engineer, moved about every two years building nuclear power stations throughout the U. S. On his own in the late 1980s he began doing Information Technology work for Safeway, doing all the maintenance on their computers. This took him to Walla Walla in the late 1990s where he gained an appreciation for wine.

It was on a trip to Seattle in 1998 that he met his future wife, Ann, through a mutual friend. He moved back to Seattle, they began dating, and were married in April, 2000. They moved to Port Orchard because they were driving through there a few years ago and thought it would be a good place to live, so they bought a house there.

Mrs. Ready is originally from Leicester, England, has been in the U. S. since 1982, and still has a lovely English accent. She has a background in accounting and worked at Macy’s corporate office in Seattle until May, 2000.

Ready has an e-mail system to send out a newsletter to his customers. If you are interested in being on the list, use the contact information below and tell them.

Contact Information:

Owners: John and Ann Ready

Business: Puget Sound Wine Cellars

Address: 120 Harrison Ave., Port Orchard, WA.

Phone (360) 895-9463

Hours of Operation: Winter - Tuesday through Friday 11a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 p.m. in the Summer)

Wine Tasting: Saturdays 2 to 5 p.m.


Go the top of the page

Enological, or Wine, Society Chapters are now found in many areas throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Grapes and settlers spread across Washington State in the early 1800s, but a big wine event didn't take place until 1910 when the first annual Columbia Valley Grape Carnival was held in Kennewick, WA.

 Today's world-wide acclaimed fine Washington State wines, and over 500 wineries, really began with what is now Chateau Ste. Michelle=s commercial plantings in the 1960s and 70s. Seattle wine enthusiasts started meeting in the 1970s to learn more about wine and promote its enjoyment with food. In 1975 they created the Enological Society of the Pacific Northwest. In 2004 they changed the name to the Seattle Wine Society.

 Enological, or Wine, Society Chapters are now found in many areas throughout the Pacific Northwest. Each chapter is individually registered with the State as a non-profit organization with 501-C7 status.

 Beginning our couple membership with the Seattle chapter in the 1990s, we transferred our membership to the Olympic Peninsula Enological Society (OPES) chapter when it started in the Sequim area in 2002. But we were concerned about the long drive to both chapters after wine tasting.

 So in January, 2003, I conned good friend Ms. Mary Earl, owner of Grape Expectations fine Wine Shop in Silverdale, into helping us start the Kitsap Wine Society (KWS). Flyers with membership applications were distributed along with my wine class flyers, and the response was immediate.

 By May there were 40 charter members signed up and we soon had ninety members. A preliminary Board of Trustees applied for and were granted non-profit status with the state, elections were held for board members, and our chapter was on its way.

 The Kitsap Wine Society is non‑profit organization run entirely by member/volunteers, whose goals include educating members about the wonderful world of wine, bringing together wine lovers to share good wine, good food, and conversation about both.

 The group ranges in experience from what some might describe as wine snobs to neophytes, all wishing to learn more about wine. Members live on the Kitsap Peninsula of Washington State, that is, between the Tacoma Narrows and Hood Canal Bridges.

 Most chapter Web sites have links to the other chapters, so you can get the most up to date information at the Web site of the chapter you=re interested in. There is a small yearly membership fee which entitles one to attend the meetings of any chapter as a member. Monthly meetings are educational wine-food events for which a small fee is charged.

Visit the KWS Web site, to become a member. the Web site also lists location, times and costs for future events. Membership information is also available from the Membership Chair, currently Ms. Mary Earl, at 698-0522.

Go the top of the page

Controlled Appellations

Research on the World Wide Web revealed a lot of interesting historical information on this subject. It looks like most, if not all, winemaking countries have an appellation control system.

A controlled appellation is a geographical‑based term used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown. Rules governing appellations depend on the country that produces  the wine. And the controlled appellation designation takes on different but similar names in the language of each country.

The world's first vineyard classification system is said to have been introduced by the Hungarians in Tokaj‑Hegyalja, Hungary in 1730. At that time vineyards were classified into three categories depending on the soil, sun exposure and potential to develop Botrytis cinerea.

A royal decree by the Hungarian crown in 1757 established a closed production district in Tokaj (Tokay). The classification system was completed by a national censuses in 1765 and 1772.

The world's second oldest appellation control was introduced in Portugal in 1756 pertaining to port wine which was produced in the region of the Douro valley. Rioja was classified as a Denominacin de Origen in 1925 and sherry in 1933.

In1935, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture, was created to manage the administration of the process for wines in France. In the Rhone wine region Baron Pierre Le Roy Boiseaumari, a trained lawyer and winegrape grower from Chateauneuf‑du‑Pape, successfully obtained legal recognition of the "Cotes du Rhone" appellation of origin in 1937.

The AOC seal was created and mandated by French laws in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Prior to 1935, despite the fact that the INAO was yet to be created, champagne enjoyed an appellation control by virtue of legal protection as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891).

The treaty stated that only sparkling wine produced in its namesake region and adhering to the standards defined for that name as an Appellation d'Origine Controlle could call itself champagne. This right was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles following World War I.

There are currently over 170 viticultural areas that have been established in the United States by the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau and over 100 are in California. The first recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) was Augusta, Missouri, in 1980. The First in Washington was Yakima Valley in 1983. Puget Sound was fifth in 1995.

Thought for the day: Men are like fine wine, they start out as grapes; and it's up to the women to squeeze the heck out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

Some interesting and delicious wines to taste:

Wattle Creek Winery CA. 2004 Sauvignon Blanc ($17); 100% Sauvignon Blanc; a pale yellow color with streaks of green. Aromas and flavors of citrus, fresh grapefruit and lime. It has a medium body and a crisp, clean finish. Food Pairing: freshly shucked oysters, most, if not all, shellfish.

Clos du Bois, 2006 Pinot Noir (California) $15

A classic 100% California Pinot Noir, it has aromas of black cherry, blackberry and strawberry, with hints of rose petal, vanilla, and roasted oak. Flavors include Bing cherry and strawberry. It has a medium body, an elegant structure and a beautifully balanced finish. Nick Tomassi

 Drylands, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) $15

Great aromas and flavors of gooseberry and passion fruit with hints of citrus, and a long, crisp, balanced finish. (Unoaked.) Nick Tomassi

 Waterbrook Winery, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (Washington) $22

A stylish blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. A ruby red colored wine with aromas of currants and dry figs, and hints of oak. Flavors include ripe plums, and currants with hints of blackberry and spice. Hints of blackberry and spice linger on the finish. Nick Tomassi

Magnificent Wine Co.  Originals, 2006 Pinot Noir (Washington) $20

A 100% Pinot Noir wine in a purple-red color, it has strawberry and violet aromas and flavors, and a smooth, velvety finish. Nick Tomassi

Go the top of the page

Travelling Washington State Appellations

 The Washington Wine commission recently reported that Washington State is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States. Their data shows 19 wineries in 1981, over 460 in 1997, and 500 now. There are 350 grape growers working 30,000 acres to produce more than 20 grape varieties, with a ratio of 57 percent red to 43 percent white.

 It would be next to impossible to visit every single one and taste their wines unless you spent a lot of time each year devoted to winery tours. And even then the numbers seem to be expanding so rapidly that you may never catch up - horrors!

 Over the past 15 years we=ve managed to visit about half the wineries in each appellation, usually with friends and family. We selected one appellation at a time and visited as many of the wineries as possible over a three to four day weekend.

 A discussion of AAppellation@ is cause for a column all by itself. Briefly, in her book, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Master of Wine Jancis Robinson writes that an appellation is a delimited geographical area recognized establish a distinctive identity for the wines produced within it.@

 Washington State has nine appellations, the closest being our own Puget Sound Appellation established in 1995. Our appellation currently has about fifty two wineries including twelve on the Olympic Peninsula from Port Angeles to Olympia. More on this in the future.

 Another good way to taste your way around Washington would be to attend events like Taste Washington which is held each year, usually in March or April. This year their Grand Tasting was held on April 15th at the Quest Field Event Center in Seattle.

 The event showcased about 200 wineries each presenting two to four wines, and 60 Puget Sound restaurants serving one or two heavy hors d=oeuvres.

 Prior to the event, the wineries and restaurants get together and decide what food to pair with which wine. Hors d=oeuvres from each restaurant were paired with the wines from two or three wineries and these were placed along side.

 After sampling a number of the restaurant=s food offerings without wine, (lunch), I managed to taste through the wines of about fifteen wineries in three hours, with the food pairings offered.

 Tasting this number of wines at this type of event requires one to spit the wine into the dump buckets provided and dump the rest of the wine. However (there=s always an however), there=s often some wines  that I consider a sin to spit and dump.

 The $85 general admission cost was well worth it because the food and wine pairings were outstanding. And that=s a lot less expensive than traveling to most of our appellations. (Looking at the map of attending wineries again I noticed that I missed the dessert wine area, Darn! I=ll look forward to next year!

Go the top of the page


Go the top of the page