“I Vant to Drink Your…….WINE!”

October 10, 2008

On Saturday, October 25, and Sunday, October 26, enjoy great wine, costumes, pumpkins, wine discounts, and fun during a themed weekend in eastern Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) appropriately called Hallowine. According to the group’s funky press release, “Chills and thrills await you on the haunted trail. Stop in at each of the wineries to discover what treats they have available, or what ‘costumed persona’ will serve you. There could be wine-bar witches, pirates talking funny, or vampires dribbling wine (not blood) down their chins as you approach the tasting bars. But don’t be afraid. ‘Ve only vant you to taste our vines!’ Best news is there is no charge—Hallowine is complimentary to the public.

Here are some of the supernatural occurrences at the Rattlesnake Hills wineries during this special weekend:

Bonair Winery’s staff will greet you in their scary best for some wonderful Hallowine specials.  Come in costume for a fiendishly good deal. During the month of October enjoy a sampling of our wine and table grapes, fresh from our estate vineyards. Our fall tapas menus will continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the month of October.

 Eaton Hill Winery will have “the HalloWine works” during this special fall weekend – costumes, pumpkins, soup and their award-winning wines. Stop in 10 AM – 5 PM.

 Masset Winery will host some of the best, big pumpkin carving you’ve ever seen for HalloWine. Internationally known artists will provide the carvings – you’ll have to see these up close to believe they weren’t carved from fire and brimstone! See them in action on October 17 & 18, and again on November 1 & 2. The carved creations will be on display from mid-October through Thanksgiving. For a preview, visit www.masterpumpkinscultor.com

Joie Wines Wins for Canada’s Best Value Aromatic White Wine

October 8, 2008

A press release from our friends Heidi Noble and Michael Dinn, owners and winemakers at Joie Wines on the Naramata Bench of the Okanagan, British Columbia, brings the most welcome news that their “A Noble Blend” 2007 has been declared the Best Value Aromatic White Wine in Canada, import or domestic, at the 2008 International Value Wine Awards.   Special mention was also accorded the Joie Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2007 and the Joie Riesling 2007 with both being singled out as Judge’s Choices. 

This recognition comes on the heels of the Joie “A Noble Blend” 2006 finishing as a finalist for 2007 Canadian White Wine of the Year at the 2007 Canadian Wine Awards.

Heidi’s recipe for Claybank Farm Lavender Biscuits is featured on page 232 of Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining, paired with a dessert wine–Elephant Island’s Apricot Dessert Wine from the Naramata Bench. 

Since its inception in 2004, Joie Wines has won numerous awards and been recognized consistently as one of the top producers of aromatic white and Rosé wines in Canada. The winery focuses exclusively on the grape varieties of Alsace, Burgundy, and Champagne which excel in the cool-climate desert of the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.

Joie to the world!

Tantalizing Tango

October 6, 2008

After seeing Chef Michael Bruno in action at the Sunset Supper in August, preparing his classic Paella in a giant paellera (paella pan) for the crowd of thousands, we were inspired to visit Tango to sample through more of his Spanish-inspired menu. 

Beet Salad and Blue Cheese Soufflés shine at Tango.

We began with one of the Hot Tapas, the truly inspired Queso Azul–mini fallen blue-cheese soufflés (pictured in front of the bottle of wine)–a heady combination of sweet and savory thanks to the addition of a thick Port Wine Syrup and a chunky fruit compote. YUM!

This paired nicely with our selection from the Ensaladas and Sopas (Salads and Soups) section of the menu. Beet Escabeche proved to be lavish slices of pickled beets circling a hearty quinoa salad studded with grape tomatoes and fresh veggies of the season, all drizzled with walnut vinaigrette. 

After such generous starters, we opted to share one of the larger plates from among the Frutas del Mar. Grilled Tuna was perfectly grilled to medium rare (important with this meaty fish, so that it doesn’t turn into a baseplate!) and served atop sautéed baby bok choy with a red grape and tomatillo relish. We were struck by Chef Michael’s interesting combination of flavors and cuisines, and lauded his generous use of fresh vegetables.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of the stunning Muga 2004 Reserva, a hearty blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), and Mazuelo (a varietal new to us). As it promised in the wine list’s tasting notes, the wine was “voluptuous, intense, and spicy with complex silky-ripe fruit and an impressionable finish.”

We left Tango more than satisfied and sated and only rued not having room for one of Seattle’s all-time best desserts: El Diablo. This “bittersweet cube of sinfully rich dark chocolate graced with cayenne, spicy almonds, cocoa nibs, and burnt meringue, finished with a tequila caramel sauce” promises to make even the faint of heart shout, “Òle!”

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Harvest Report

October 4, 2008

A press release from the venerable Washington winery boasted an “outstanding start to Washington’s 2008 wine-grape harvest and ‘stunning’ fruit at top vineyard sites including the inaugural vintage at Col Solare.” The release went on to describe a “perfect” ripening season, full crop yields, and restrained sugar levels.

“We are starting off with a bang, not a whimper, and everything looks great,” said Doug Gore, Senior Vice President of Winemaking and Vineyards at Ste. Michelle, which began harvesting Chardonnay from the Columbia Crest estate vineyard on September 10th. “Although we started picking about 10 days later than past vintages, we are quickly ramping up and the fruit is ripening with great flavors. If the weather holds, it’s a harbinger for a really great year, especially for red varietals.”

Red Mountain is home to Col Solare, Ste. Michelle’s joint venture winery with Marchesi Antinori of Italy. 2008 marks the first harvest at the 28-acre Col Solare estate vineyard, planted in 2007. An inaugural half ton of Merlot was picked on September 16th, to be followed by limited quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, and Petit Verdot.  The vineyard is scheduled to come into full production in 2010.


Top Pot’s Pretty-in-Pink Doughnuts

October 2, 2008

A couple of sunny Saturdays ago, Spencer and I took the entire day off (lately, a rarity for us) and played tourists in our own downtown Seattle. One of our favorite special treats of the day was savoring something as simple as a Top Pot Doughnut while sitting outside the stylish store in Belltown.

Here’s my sweet treat, all pretty in pink (icing) and topped with fluffy coconut. The cake part reminded me of “crullers”–handmade German-style doughnuts–we used to get from the Amish farmers of Lancaster County at our local farmers’ market in suburban Philadelphia when I was a girl.

Poof–and it was gone!

Top Pot Doughnuts make both eyes and tummy smile.  

Roasted Duck with Honey-Cranberry Sauce

October 1, 2008

Pumpkins sit atop a farmer\'s table at the Yakima Farmers\' Market during the autumn months.

Roasted Duck with Honey-Cranberry Sauce

Varietal: Merlot

Serves 4

Duck and red wine make a natural pairing, and when you throw one of my favorite ingredients into the mix—dried, sweetened cranberries (sometimes referred to as “craisins”)—the “wow” factor goes up incrementally. This original recipe I created for my Wine Press Northwest food-and-wine-pairing column is easy enough for everyday dining, yet elegant enough for company. A touch of balsamic vinegar adds a complex sweetness, while Dijon mustard gives the sauce a subtle punch. Try the duck with a berry-rich, yet mellow Merlot. In the nose and on the palate, when quaffing Merlot, look for both sweet and black cherries, blueberries, and plums followed by musky hints of cigar box, chocolate, and leather. A whiff of mint or cedar/wood and a soupçon of sweet spices, such as nutmeg or cardamom, may also be present in these luscious, velvety wines.

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 whole boneless duck breasts, split and trimmed of excess fat and nerve tissue

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed or frozen orange juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the cranberries in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. With the tip of a very sharp knife, score a criss-cross pattern at 1/4-inch intervals across the skin side of the duck breasts. (Do not cut all the way through into the meat.) Season the duck breasts on the flesh side only with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of allspice over the flesh side only of each breast.

3. Heat a large, ovenproof skillet (nonstick works well for this) over low to medium-low heat. When the skillet is hot, arrange the breasts skin side down without crowding. (Don’t add any extra fat; the fat rendered will be enough to cook the breasts.) Cook, draining the melted fat if needed, until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and brown, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Turn the breasts, cook 1 to 2 minutes, and transfer to the oven. Cook 5 to 6 minutes more (for medium rare).

5. While the breasts are cooking, make the sauce. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat and add the wine, honey, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar. Stir until the honey dissolves and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.

6.  Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the cranberries and discard the liquid, then stir the cranberries into the sauce. Cover and keep warm until serving.

7. When the duck breasts are done, remove from the oven and transfer (skin side up) to several thicknesses of paper towels to drain any extra fat. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing each breast on the diagonal into even pieces.

8. To serve, arrange the sliced duck breast in the center of a dinner plate. Spoon the sauce and berries over the duck and serve immediately.

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