Stems and Legs

Food, Wine and Beyond

A day In Gig Harbor – The Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival preview

A day In Gig Harbor – The Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival preview 1728 1296 celo4life

The Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival is less than two weeks away. While I’m preparing for a great night of food and wine, I decided to take an early trip to Gig Harbor to learn all about the town….. in 6 hours no doubt 😛 (long story there). For this trip, I invited Kara Smith Weber along to tour the city with me. There are two ways you can get to Gig Harbor (depending on where ya live). If you’re like me and live near the Seattle area, you can do one of the following:

The Freeway Route

Driving to Gig Harbor can either be convenient or a hassle, depending on traffic volumes. The drive, past Tacoma to Highway 16, isn’t very interesting until you get to one of the most historic bridges we have in our state:

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

History says construction workers, who worked on the bridge in the late 1930s, nicknamed the bridge ‘Galloping Gertie’ for the upward movement the bridge made. This would be the same movement that caused the bridge to collapse only 4 months after it opened in July of 1940 due to a high wind storm. It would take 10 years before the bridge was replaced, mainly due to the US involvement in WWII. But, good things did come from this incident. It spurred a series of studies and research technology which is still use to this day.

In 2007, the second bridge was completed (the picture you see before you) and has helped ease increasing traffic flows and cargo traffic. If you’re traveling eastbound, you will have to pay a $4.00 toll (cash or charge), but if you have the “Good to Go” pass, your toll is reduced to $2.75. For more information, check out the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolling page. Also, if you’d like to read more on the history of the bridge, check out the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Wikipedia Page.

The Scenic Ferry Ride

On a nice summer day, this is the best way to go

The Fauntleroy Ferry

The Fauntleroy Ferry is a nice way to travel to Gig Harbor and may save you time when traffic volumes are heavy. Make sure you plan ahead though because wait times can reach an hour during peak hours. The ferry travels from the Fauntleroy Terminal direct to the Southworth Terminal or makes a stop at the Vashon Island Terminal in route.  Crossing time for the ferry is roughly 40 minutes, then you’ll have a short 15 minute drive to Gig Harbor. The round trip costs is $22.90 for the car and driver, passengers are $5.30 round trip. If you decide to go this route, here are the websites you’ll need to plan your trip:

Fauntleroy to Southworth ferry schedule
Fauntleroy to Southworth fare information

Since it was a nice day, Kara and I decided to take the ferry roundtrip and enjoy the sunshine. Here are some photos from our journey:


Gig Harbor – A Town With Historical Charm

Historical known for its boat building, fishing, and logging, Gig Harbor is home to around 6,500 residents. When we arrived, we couldn’t help but notice its historical charm and attraction. Before you head to Gig Harbor, you should check out The Gig Harbor Guide. It will tell you everything you need to know about where to stay, eat, and play. They’re also very helpful in suggesting places to visit while you’re in town.  Our first stop was the Harbor History Museum to see the official site of the Gig Harbor Wine and Food Festival. Unfortunately, they weren’t open to the public yet and are currently under construction for their September 18th grand opening. So we made our way to our next destination.

Water to Wine

I was really impressed by their diverse selection of wines from around the world, including a surprising selection of wines from Greece and Croatia. I met with one of the workers at the wine shop and he told me a little about the wine shop and the history of the town. One of the things we learned was some of the early settlers of Gig Harbor were from Croatia and Norway and wine was a natural fit for the city. After looking around for a bit, I decided to purchase a few bottles from different regions around the world.

If that wasn’t enough, Water to Wine also offers daily wine tastings so you can try out various wines before you buy them. A great feature for wine drinkers on any level. If you’d like to learn more about Water to Wine and its many offerings, you can visit their website.

Morso Wine Bar

After buying a few wine bottles at Water to Wine, we went next door to visit Morso Wine Bar. Morso is the latest in high quality restaurant offerings Gig Harbor has to offer and is one of the many participants in the Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival. Their focus is on the customer creating their own food and wine experience by enjoying various small plates of food and pairing them with great wines from the bar. We spoke with general manager Kristin Wells who told us a little about the restaurant and the creative genius behind it.

Morso is mostly open from 5PM – 10PM, but they’re in the process of opening up for lunch time. Although we haven’t had a chance to eat there, I do suggest you check it out and experience their concept for yourself. After looking at their menu, I will definitely be back. In another blog entry, I will share my experience with you.

Gig Harbor Farmers Market

On our way back to the central part of the city, we stopped off at the Gig Harbor Farmers Market in Skansie Brothers Park to check out the happenings there. The Gig Harbor Farmers Market is open every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday in three separate locations: Skansie Brothers Park (Wednesday), Kimball Drive Park and Ride (Saturday), and O’Callohan’s Pub & Grill (Sunday).  The hot item of the day was raspberries from a local farm. The quality was second to none and we were unfortunately stuck out of luck when we learned they were sold out for the day. But I did pick up some nice flowers for Kara and bought a very nice onion for myself. Here are pictures of other items that we saw that day.


They also had a very unique marine exhibit too. Check out this craziness!


After touring the farmers market, we decided to grab a bite to eat. The only problem is, most of the fine dining in historic downtown, isn’t open for lunch. Something to keep in mind if you’re visiting historic Gig Harbor during the week. But we did find something that was rather appetizing and when done right, you can’t go wrong

Spiro’s Pizza & Pasta

When all the fine dining is closed, Spiro’s came to the rescue. If you want something reasonably priced for Italian food, I would definitely suggest Spiro’s. While Kara had the Chicken Chop Chop Salad, I had the Spiro’s Special (the picture above). This pizza had a surprisingly light crust on the bottom that was very flavorful with a load of toppings in the middle: Pepperoni, Canadian Bacon, Mushroom, Black Olive & Green Pepper. They also have a nice selection of pastas that I was looking to try.

After brief stops at Brix 25○ & The Inn at Gig Harbor (which I’ll tell you about in my final blog post), our last stop on our tour was at a nice wine shop within a stones throw of The Inn at Gig Harbor

The Wine Studio

Our final stop in Gig Harbor was The Wine Studio. We met with the owner, Diana Beck (another participant in the wine & food festival), who guided us through a nice wine tasting of 6 wines across the board (which I’ll tell you about in a future blog entry). The Wine Studio specializes in value wines from around the world. They offer wine tastings twice a week and every Wednesday night is ladies night. Ladies enjoy a special tasting and 10% off bottle purchases. The Wine Studio is another wine shop I suggest you check out if you’re ever in Gig Harbor, especially if you’re looking for a good value wine.

Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival Preview

Now that you’ve heard a little bit about the town, let me tell you about the inaugural festival. The festival will feature great culinary talent like Fabio Viviani from Top Chef 5 and Craig Haslebacher who defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America. These two will battle it out in a cook off. There will be book signings from some very notable authors, like Joe Piscatella. Lots of great food will be on display from fine restaurants like Morso Wine Bar (who I mentioned earlier), Brix 25○, and more. And who could forget, the wine! One of my favorite wineries, Camarderie Cellars will be there along with Delille Cellars, Obelisco Estate Wines, my good friends at DiStefano Winery and many more. This event is jammed packed with all sorts of cooking demos, great food, beer & wine, and so much more.

I really hope you have the opportunity to attend this year. It’s definitely setup to be a great festival. After the event, I’ll share my festival experience, tell you more about the town, and give my final review and thoughts. Until then, I will see you at the festival!

Behind the Numbers

H.R. 5034 update: Behind the numbers

H.R. 5034 update: Behind the numbers 800 1132 celo4life

Behind the Numbers

A short time ago, I wrote my, “H.R. 5034 – The Bill of Greed“, blog entry that received a lot of positive comments from many of you. Today, I have decided to go even deeper and break down the numbers so everyone has an idea where we are in all of this. As I was doing my research for this update, I was surprised by many things which I will share with you all. For now, let’s go behind the numbers!

Behind the Numbers

Image key (for the slow folks) Democrats= Democrats = Republicans

Acronym Key: NBWA = National Beer Wholesalers of America  WSWA= Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America

H.R. 5034 Political Contributions Research, Election Status & Polling Data Report

Please keep in mind that all of the figures presented are as of June 23, 2010. On June 23, 2010, there were 121 co-sponsors from the House of Representatives. Out of those 121:

Democrats 79 42

This is very important to note because traditionally, both the National Beer Wholesalers of America and The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America support Republicans. However, since the Democrats have held the House in the past few years, the money has trended towards the Democrats. But in the grand scheme of spending, Republicans still dominate the dollars.

Top 10 pay outs from NBWA (Career)

The following lists are the top 10 highest paid members of the House of Representatives who have signed onto the bill by the NBWA & WSWA. While the money may not seem very large, keep in mind, this is money that’s accounted for. As we all know, there are ways to get around contribution limits.

  1. Democrats Rep Boyd, Allen [FL-2] – $75,000.00
  2. Democrats Rep Pomeroy, Earl [ND] – $69,750.00
  3.  Rep Diaz-Balart, Lincoln [FL-21] – $69,500.00
  4.  Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] – $68,200.00
  5.  Rep Mica, John L. [FL-7] – $58,500.00
  6.  Rep Simpson, Michael K. [ID-2] – $55,000.00
  7. Democrats Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] – $53,200.00
  8.  Rep Miller, Gary G. [CA-42] – $52,500.00
  9.  Rep Diaz-Balart, Mario [FL-25] – $50,042.00
  10.  Rep Capito, Shelley Moore [WV-2] – $50,000.00

Top 10 pay outs WSWA (Career)

One thing you’ll notice here, is that the money contributed isn’t nearly as much as the NBWA, but these members of the House are still influenced by the money.

  1. Democrats Rep Dingell, John D. [MI-15] – $26,000.00
  2. Democrats Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY-10] – $24,574.00
  3. Democrats Rep Boyd, Allen [FL-2] – $22,592.00
  4. Democrats Rep Pomeroy, Earl [ND] – $20,500.00
  5. Democrats Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1] – $17,500.00
  6. Democrats Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1] – $15,800.00
  7.  Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] – $14,000.00
  8.  Rep Shuster, Bill [PA-9] – $12,000.00
  9. Democrats Rep Murphy, Patrick J. [PA-8] – $11,500.00
  10.  Rep Diaz-Balart, Lincoln [FL-21] – $9,500.00

Top 10 Combined Payouts (Career)

  1. Democrats Rep Boyd, Allen [FL-2] – $97,592.00
  2. Democrats Rep Pomeroy, Earl [ND] – $90,250.00
  3.  Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] – $82,200.00
  4.  Rep Diaz-Balart, Lincoln [FL-21] – $79,000.00
  5. Democrats Rep Dingell, John D. [MI-15] – $73,000.00
  6.  Rep Mica, John L. [FL-7] – $58,500.00
  7.  Rep Simpson, Michael K. [ID-2] – $58,500.00 (tied for 6th)
  8.  Rep Diaz-Balart, Mario [FL-25] – $57,042.00
  9. Democrats Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] – $55,292.00
  10.  Rep Miller, Gary G. [CA-42] – $55,000.00

Payouts for 2010 Session

NBWA:  Democrats $1,444,370 – 51.3% $1,372,842 – 48.7%

WSWA: Democrats$249,648 – 68.7%  $113,750 – 31.3%

Total: Democrats$1,694,018 – 53.3% $1,486,592 – 46.7%

Average: Democrats $21,443.27 – 37.7% $35,394.05 – 62.3%

Do you see what I mean when I say that Republicans dominate the money? Although these organizations have given less to Republicans this session, the average contribution is much more significant.

Total Payouts

NBWA Total (Since 1989):

$21,490,595 Democrats $7,048,035 – 32.8% $14,421,310 – 67.2%

WSWA Total (Since 1998): 

$2,249,416 Democrats$957,699 – 42.6% $1,291,717 – 57.4%

Further Analysis

Over the history of the NBWA & WSWA, they have traditionally given more money to Republicans than Democrats. This could mean Republicans may be more receptive to their causes or it could just mean that since they controlled congress in recent years, they figure their money is better served on that side of the aisle.  If you also look at the average contributions, more money is given to Republicans than Democrats. I am willing to bet that it may be easier to sway Democrats to take their name off as a co-sponsor if the opposition can make a more convincing argument. This is where we all come in. The letters we write to our House Representatives help, but you can also attend their town hall meetings and try to get your voice heard there. Most of these town hall meetings tend to be about the most controversial issues, but if you get a chance to ask a question, make sure to bring this up. That’s how the word can spread further, especially if there are camera crews present 😉 There is, of course, another way: Lobbying! We all hear about the bad parts of lobbying, but there are people who lobby for good causes like ours. There are efforts on-going, but we need a whole lot more.

Should We Be Concerned Yet?

Here are some facts that may allow you all to breathe a little bit easier:

  • 9 of the co-sponsors on this bill are currently behind in the polls.
  • 2 of the co-sponsors are retiring at the end of the year
  • 2 of the co-sponsors are running for other offices and will be out at the end of the year
  • 2 of the co-sponsors are running for senate and are way behind in the polls
  • 1 of the co-sponsors has lost their nomination and will be out at the end of the year
  • 1 of the co-sponsors is running for governor and is essentially out at the end of the

The number of House members signing this bill may seem dangerously close to the numbers needed to bring it to the floor, but with this piece of data, we can eliminate a few people.  As a reminder,  The House of Representatives is voted on every two years, so every co-sponsor is up for re-election. The polling is still early so some of these folks can still catch up in the polls. Many of these folks will be so consumed with their campaigns and other activities that this bill will get pushed further and further behind. While we can’t rely on this, this will give us more time to prepare our arguments, craft our attack strategies, and make sure this bill never gets passed!

Here is another interesting fact. Out of all the co-sponsors, only House Democrats Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] & Rep Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [FL-20] have not taken money from either side yet have co-sponsored the bill. It’s very unusual in this political era, but it may be something specific to Florida. I think people should target these two members and see why they agreed to co-sponsor the bill. Maybe they can be convinced to take their names off the bill.

Final Thoughts

We all have been sending letters to our own members of congress, telling them to stop H.R. 5034, but maybe we should start targeting people who have co-sponsored the bill. An effective strategy may be linking our efforts with a cause they believe in. For example: Respecting the constitution and how it wasn’t designed to protect monopolies, but the will of the people. As we you and I know, choice in the marketplace is the will of the people and that should be respected. Do your research on these representatives and make your case. Another suggestion is for the H.R. 5034 opposition to team up with folks from other causes that may have a similar interest. That’s how you grow a movement and defeat a bill. You may not agree with the other sides ideals, but you may have common ground on this issue and may be able to gather their support. Another suggestion, and probably the most important one, is to team up with those who enjoy spirits. Remember, wine is only a piece of the iceberg. H.R. 5034 is also targeting the direct shipment of spirits and the spirits community stands to lose if this passes as well. If we all team up, we can grow our movement and increase our chances of defeating this bill. Finally, keep up the pressure and don’t let up! Keep writing letters, making phone calls, attending town hall meetings, and make your case. Also, talk to those who may share your interests, but may not know about the bill.

In my next blog entry on this topic, I will update you all on the polling data and the money counts so you can target your efforts.

June 3, 2010: Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up @ Purple Wine Bar, Part 2

June 3, 2010: Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up @ Purple Wine Bar, Part 2 1316 1600 celo4life

As I mentioned at the end of Part 1, we’ll now focus on the remainder of the Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up covering wines from  Pomum Cellars, William Church Winery, Patterson Cellars, and Matthews Estates.

Pomum Cellars

Pomum Cellars

Pomum Cellars is another winery in Woodinville I have yet to visit, but based on my conversation with the winemaker, I’ll be stopping by very soon. Pomum had two wines at the event:

Pomum Cellars 2005 Shya Red (video link – fast forward to the 10:50 mark for the review)

Unfortunately, I do not have tasting notes for this wine, but we have something a little bit better. Gary Vaynerchuk, the star of Wine Library TV and Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ., reviewed this wine on his show and gave it great reviews. Here is a link to the episode: Wine Library TV review on Pomum Cellars 2005 Shya Red (fast forward to the 10:50 mark)

My take: I really wish this one was still available. If you’re into wines that have a great earthy quality, this is the one for you.  Great earthy flavor and an excellent blend that can stand-alone, but it would be a shame not have it with a meal. If you happen to find someone who has it, convince them to open it 😉

Pomum Cellars 2008 Riesling

Washington State is one of the few places on Earth that excels at growing the classiest white grape of all: Riesling. This fact has been well-known in the State for decades and as a consequence some of the oldest vinifera plantings happen to be Riesling. One of the finest old vine Riesling vineyards is the excellent Upland Vineyard near Sunnyside. Approaching 40 years of age, these vines have become entrenched with their environment and therefore yield some the best expression of Washington State Riesling available. Our 2008 Riesling is made with the utmost respect for the fruit. Our goal is to best convey the vines’ complex story without any obstructions. This means no oak, fining or cold stabilization was used during winemaking. Aromas of citrus, apricot and nectarine are followed by noticeable minerality and a long finish that is perfectly balanced by the excellent acidity. This wine is ready to enjoy on release and may even evolve further in the bottle for a few years. One hundred and twenty-five cases produced.

My take: MaryCatherine and I both found this to be a very nice wine. MaryCatherine picked up hints of vanilla when she tried the wine while I picked up a bit of citrus fruit. This is a very smooth and easy drinking riesling that I would definitely pick up. You can find this wine at Village Wines, Pete’s Wine Shop, Esquin, at Pomum Cellar’s tasting room for about $18

William Church Winery

William Church Winery

William Church Winery is a winery we’ll be paying a visit to in the coming weeks/months. Their selection for the evening is one that opened the floor to a fun and spirited debate 😉

William Church Winery 2009 Viognier

Our award-winning Viognier has gained a reputation for its beautiful aromatics, rich flavors & incredible balance. The heat in the summer of 2009 resulted in a concentrated wine full of ripe tropical and honeysuckle notes and rich flavors of pear & apricot. It’s the perfect summer deck wine that has the acidity to keep it fresh and inviting while less than 1% residual sugar rounds out the flavors. A long slow fermentation helps retain the beautiful aromatics this grape is known for. Everything you’ve come to expect from our Viognier and more.  Serve with gourmet cheeses, seafood or try it with your favorite spicy Asian dish.

My take: If you notice in the description, it suggests that you can enjoy this “with your favorite spicy Asian dish.” This is where the debate comes in 🙂 It is my suggestion that this wine can be enjoyed with habanero bbq ribs or another spicy blend of bbq. The representative from William Church wasn’t so sure. So, what we’re going to do is make this wine and my ribs as part of our next food and wine pairing challenge! As far as the wine goes, it has a light sweetness to it and I picked up hints of pear flavor on it. You can find this wine in grocery stores & wine shops throughout the Puget Sound or at William Church Winery.

Patterson Cellars

Patterson Cellars

Patterson Cellars brought two wines to the event which includes a grape that’s on the rise in Washington.

Patterson Cellars 2009 Chardonnay

Straw colored, with lush pineapple, honeydew and nectarine followed by a bright acid finish. This Chardonnay has depth and balance with a hint of toasty oak and a crisp fruit finish.

My take: The nose on this wine was a bit unique and it kept drawing me. I’ll need to revisit this wine so I can tell you more about it. At the time I tried this one, I couldn’t tell if it was crisp or had a little bite to it. Currently, this wine is only available in the tasting room.

Patterson Cellars 2009 Late Harvest Roussanne

This dessert wine was made from Roussanne that was left to hang until mid November, this extended hang time allowed the fruit to dehydrate and concentrate the sugars. The fruit was whole cluster pressed, after pressing, the sugar was 38.5 Brix, the fermentation was carried out for four months in once used French oak barrels using Sauterne yeast. The fermentation was stopped when it was determined there was a proper balance of sugar and alcohol. 11.5% alcohol, 9.2 g/L TA, 3.51 pH, Residual sugar 18%. Enjoy the aromas of dried apricots, mango, and honeysuckle, followed by flavors of pear, nectarine, and honey, firm acidity with a long peach finish.

My Take: This is just an excellent wine throughout. I find myself wanting to include this in a dessert, whether in the baking process or just putting it on top of ice cream. This wine is available in wine shops, select grocery stores, and in the tasting room.

Matthews Estates

Matthews Estates

Our final wines of the evening were the most fun. The representative from Matthews Estates provided us with a taste test that you won’t find in most tastings. They brought two wines and had us try a bottle that was opened between 5 – 10 mins and 1 hr 30 mins  – 1 hr 40 mins. The results were surprising:

Matthews Estates 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

“A pale golden hue, with notes of pineapple and honey. A quick swirl releases additional aromatics of ripe peach and melon, plus a hint of flint. The palate is bright and vibrant, exhibiting lush minerality and a balanced silky texture.” – A.M.

At 5 mins: When we tried the bottle that was open for 5 minutes, we felt the wine was fairly light and had a taste of stone fruit.

At 1 hr 30 mins: When we tried the bottle that was open for an hour and a half, we enjoyed the wine a lot more. It was a bit more subtle on the nose, the taste was more smooth and it just got better as it opened up. One other interesting fact is that this wine tastes a lot better in an enclosed wine glass vs a wider glass. Keep that in mind when pouring this for friends.

Matthews Estates 2007 Claret

Deeply colored, dark garnet to the rim. A super-ripe nose of currants, blackberries, black cherry, plum and licorice. A touch of spice in the background, with a hint of vanilla bean. This wine is thick and rich, with super-fine mouth-coating tannins and the texture of fine dark chocolate on the finish. A Claret unlike any we have produced to date.

At 10 mins: At 10 minutes, we couldn’t really taste the fruit in the wine. It felt confined, tight, and/or not very open. The nose of the wine did smell good though.

At 1 hr 40 mins: The 1 hr 40 minute bottle had a lot more depth and a nice smokiness to it. It really came alive with more time to breathe

Overall, we learned a few lessons from this test. The first thing we learned was never judge a wine by your first taste. Sometimes a good wine needs time to breathe and open up as wines evolve over time. What you taste at one moment will taste different the next. Had I tasted these two wines at their early points, I may not purchase them. Knowing what I know about them now, I would highly suggest them.  You can pick these wines up online or at their tasting room.

Those were all the highlights from the Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up. We had a great time trying all the wines and I look forward to visiting each of these wineries and/or having them at one of our events very soon!

Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival

2010 Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival – An introduction

2010 Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival – An introduction 180 430 celo4life

Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival

Stems and Legs is proud to announce that we have accepted an invitation to cover the inaugural 2010 Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival on August 7th, 2010 featuring Top Chef 5 fan favorite Fabio Viviani! Leading up to the event, I will introduce you to Washington’s historic maritime city and everything it has to offer. I really hope you enjoy this multi-part series.

In the mean time, if you would like to learn more about the event, please visit

The Wine Shoppe

Wine Shoppe at Hawks Landing Napa Valley wine tasting

Wine Shoppe at Hawks Landing Napa Valley wine tasting 604 604 celo4life

The Wine Shoppe

On June 10, 2010, I attended a Napa Valley wine tasting hosted by Tracie Hogan, owner of The Wine Shoppe at Hawks Landing and Redmond Ridge. The Wine Shoppes host wine tastings at both of their locations: Thursdays (Hawks Landing), Fridays (Redmond Ridge) and Saturdays (both locations). In a future blog entry, I will tell you more about The Wine Shoppes’ offerings.

Today’s tasting featured two wines from Pahlmeyer Wines and one from Signorello Vineyards. Before I tell you about these wines, I would like to note that all the wines I tasted had at least 1 hour to breathe.

Pahlmeyer Wines

Right now, I would like  familiarize yourself with Pahlmeyer Wines. Here is an excerpt about Pahlmeyer from their website:

1972…a year for new thought and tradition-reversing headlines, world-wide: the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional. Nixon opened relations with Communist China by sitting down for a chat with Mao Zedong. George McGovern, presidential hopeful, upset time-honored conservative notions by abandoning shirt and tie in favor of a white turtleneck.

That same year, while finishing law school, Jayson Pahlmeyer was at the starting gate of his grapes-to-wine quest. He and John Caldwell, a good friend and fellow wine explorer, had developed a penchant and a deep admiration for the Bordeaux style of grape growing and winemaking. Their shared wine palate and nose led them on investigative trips to the famous French vineyards where they acquired cuttings from the five classic Bordeaux varietals. Back in California with their Bordeaux cuttings, they began their grand experiment. For the complete story, click here

While I’m not familiar with Pahlmeyer wines or the Napa Valley region in general (except for the many stories I’ve heard), this was an excellent way to start. I tried two really great wines from Pahlmeyer that will cause you to change your misconceptions about red (merlot) or white (chardonnay) wine.

2007 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Chardonnay – $70

This wine features complex layers of ripe white peach, toasty vanillins, citrus, lemon curd and graham cracker crust. It is full-bodied with rich viscosity and perfectly balanced with lively acidity. The long finish leaves a juicy impression.” — Erin Green, Winemaker

Wow! If you’re one of those people who always says, “I don’t like chardonnay!”, this is one that will make you change your mind. This wine has a lot of depth and character. The nose on this wine is very pleasant and draws you in. When it hits your palate, the fruit just remains on your tongue and makes you beg for more. If you’re looking for very versatile wine that can stand-alone or for your next dinner party, this is the one!

2006 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot – $90

“This is a concentrated wine with extractive notes of dusty cocoa, black cherry and generous spice accented with cassis. It is
perfectly balanced and the flavors are seamlessly integrated. The tannins are big, dark and supple and the finish goes on and on.”
— Erin Green, Winemaker

I tried this wine before and after it was decanted and found that it was a bit better after it was decanted. This wine has a great nose and doesn’t have that bite you find in most Merlot wines. Throughout this wine, I could definitely taste the black cherry as it lingered on my palate.  Overall, this is a great wine and tastes better with age! I would be very interested to see how this wine does in a few years. Maybe a few bottles will end up in my cellar 😉

Signorello Estate

Before I tell you about the final wine of the evening, here is an excerpt on Signorello Vineyards from their website:

Ray Signorello Jr. began his journey as winemaker and vineyard owner in the Napa Valley during the mid 1980’s. Ray, born in San Francisco, California, moved to Vancouver, Canada where the Signorello family continues to maintain a home. Ray divides his time between Napa, San Francisco, Vancouver and business related travel. Ray’s father, Ray Sr., initiated the vineyard project during the mid 1970’s by purchasing the 100-acre estate located on the Silverado Trail in the beautiful Napa Valley. Ray Sr. worked side by side with Ray Jr., establishing the winery’s reputation for excellence until his passing in the fall of 1998. For the complete story, click here

2006 Signorello Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – $50

Our signature wine is a deep, dark red color and opens to raspberry, anise, chocolate and vanilla. The lush, full-bodied palette continues with flavor of red berry, cedar, leather and hints of tobacco. This wine’s incredible balance and long finish is accentuated by its integrated tannins and round, lush flavors. Enjoy with chocolate, cheese, Filet Mignon, NY Strip steak, Flat Iron steak or venison. Drinkability: Now to 2022.

This wine has very deep color and a nice nose where I picked up hints of vanilla. I also found it had a nice spice/smokiness to it. Maybe it’s the tobacco, but since I’m not real familiar with it (non-smoker), I can’t be for sure. As the tasting notes suggest, I would pair this up with your favorite steak or other forms of beef. Maybe a london broil would be great for this or some beef ribs! Another great wine that can stand-alone and or be paired with your favorite meal. If you do decide to purchase this wine, would suggest decanting this wine first and then putting it back into the bottle just in case you pick up sediment from the wine. Just something I observed at the tasting that I thought I’d pass along to you all.

For myself personally, this was a great introduction to Napa Valley wines and I look forward to learning more about the region!

June 3, 2010: Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up @ Purple Wine Bar, Part 1

June 3, 2010: Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up @ Purple Wine Bar, Part 1 1316 1600 celo4life

The other day, I received an invitation  to attend the Woodinville Wine Country Tweet Up at Purple Wine Bar in Bellevue, WA. I was surprised and honored to receive the invitation, considering that I’m relatively new to the scene. I didn’t know what to expect, but I love surprises :D.

When I arrived at the event, I was greeted by Cynthia Daste, executive director for Woodinville Wine Country. Around the table was a collection of bloggers from around the area and representatives from various wineries. After some initial introductions, I took my seat at the table and started on a whirlwind tour of 15 different wines. For this entry, I will introduce you to each winery & the wines I tasted, where you can find them (if available), and a few of my personal thoughts on each. So without further adieu….

Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter Cellars is a winery I have yet to visit, but has been on my early list of wineries to check out in the Woodinville area. It was fitting that they would be present at the event so I can learn a little bit about their wines. Although they only had one wine at the event, it was enough motivation for me to want to try all their wines!

Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Abracadabra Rosé
Beautiful electric pink in color, aromas of ripe strawberries abound with more subtle notes of peaches and orange blossoms. On the palate is beautiful fruit backed up by deliciously crisp acidity.

My Notes: This wine was just released on June 1, 2010 and is a great addition to the collection of wines at Brian Carter Cellars. The wine had the kind of creamy finish that you’ll find with some rosé wines and had a very nice flavor. This is definitely a wine I could enjoy on many occasions and is one to pick up this summer. The current price is $20 and you can either pick this up online at Brian Carter Cellars, buy it at their tasting room, or limited retail shops.

Dusted Valley Vintners

Dusted Valley Vintners

Dusted Valley Vintners is another winery I have yet to visit, but is high on my list of wineries to check out. Their lone wine at the event was one of my top picks out of all of the wines throughout the night!

Dusted Valley Vintners 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon V.R. Special
The blood, sweat and tears that went in to growing this wine are dedicated to the loving memory of my Grandpa Vernon Rhodes. He was a truly amazing man. This Cab takes its name from his miraculous chocolate chip cookie the “V. R. Special”. I bet you wish you could dunk one in a glass of this wine right now. Rest easy Grandpa Rhodes. We love you!

This Cab has a beautiful bouquet on the nose, great fruit and silky tannin on the palate, and a lingering finish that will keep you wondering for minutes.

My take: This is a wine that has a lot of heart & soul and I highly recommend picking up a bottle. I found this wine to have a great earthy quality and it brought on visions of pairing this with smoked salmon or a dish that involved some sort of cream sauce, like pasta. This wine is only available at their tasting room and goes for $53.

Woodinville Wine Cellars

Woodinville Wine Cellars

Prior to this event, I had the pleasure of tasting four of Woodinville Wine Cellars’ wines and was really impressed by their depth and drinkability. So it was nice to revisit two of the four wines I had at a previous wine tasting which are currently in my wine cellar.

Woodinville Wine Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc
After a long warm summer, we harvested amazing fruit from our two Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. The Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain is in a warmer region infusing the grapes with wonderful full-bodied tropical tones, while Stillwater Creek Vineyard is a cooler climate giving the wine more classic notes such as grapefruit, green apple and star anise. Together, they make a wonderful, balanced combination.

The nose has nice tropical tones as well as white peaches and mineral. Vibrant acidity washes over the palate with flavors of honeydew melon, and grapefruit. Citrus notes mingle together — reminiscent of biting into a cold green apple. A great complement to seafood, chicken, or your favorite soft cheese.

Woodinville Wine Cellars 2007 Little Bear Creek Red Wine
The fourth release of our favorite “entry-level” red, goes back to the 2005 Bordeaux style – predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon blended with hints of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. With aromas of red cherry and raspberry followed by huge red and black cherry flavors, this sweetly fruited, lengthy wine has the most “bang for the buck” yet. Bring this wine to your next dinner party or wine tasting and be the star.

My Take: The Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine for the summer time that should be enjoyed on your deck, boat, beach, etc. Make sure to enjoy this wine with a lot of friends because its great for parties. This wine is available at their tasting room for $18 or you can find it in retail wine shops around the area. The Little Bear Creek is a clear winner and at $20, is a steal. This wine goes down smooth and is great to bring to social gatherings or dinners. Since it’s in my cellar, you know I recommend it 😉

DeLille Cellars

DeLILLE Cellars

Another winery on my hit list is DeLille Cellars. I’ve been hearing many great things about the winery and have received many requests to invite them to a future wine tasting.  Their lone wine of the evening is a varietal that is starting to create some buzz in Washington and is turning out to be one of my favorite whites:

Doyenne 2008 Roussanne (DeLille Cellars)
This wine is so complex this year, we found ourselves trying to one-up each other with notes on the nose and palate. The trademark lime and floral notes on the nose are surrounded by subtle hints of sweet green tea, white pepper, hibiscus and chamomile flowers, wet stone and capsicum. On the palate, this wine has a balanced mouthful of lime, honeydew melon, Bartlett pears, and the aforementioned flowers and spices. The acidity perfectly supports the broad body of the wine, and echoes in the long and complex finish.

My take: This wine is great from the moment you smell the wine to when it hits your palate and goes down your throat. Very flavorful and balanced. Lucky for you, you can pick this wine up at QFC’s, Wholefoods, Metropolitan Markets, PCC’s, various wine shops, or you can either purchase it online through the winery or go to the winery! The price is $32 a bottle, but it’s well worth it.

Page Cellars

Page Cellars

We end part 1 with Page Cellars, a tasting room I have visited before. When you visit the tasting room in Woodinville, you’ll be greeted by a very friendly and knowledgeable staff. For the event, they presented us with a wine that currently resides in my cellar:

Page Cellars 2009 Sentimental Blonde Sauvignon Blanc

Unfortunately, there are no tasting notes available for this wine, but I can tell you that it’s a blend of 80% Sauvignon blanc and 20% Semillion. When my friend MaryCatherine tried this wine, she described it as girly. I kind of laughed and asked what she meant. She described the wine as having a flowery nose to it and I got what she meant 🙂 This wine doesn’t have much sweetness to it, but it does have a lot of flavor & depth. This is another wine that you can enjoy during the summer months or whenever you feel like drinking a white wine. This wine is available at QFC’s, Albertson’s, various wine shops, or online & at their tasting room

So that’s all for part 1. Coming up in part 2, we’ll go through the rest of the wines that include Pomum Cellars, William Church Winery, Patterson Cellars, and Matthews Estates.

Food and wine pairing challenge #1: Peach Cobbler

Food and wine pairing challenge #1: Peach Cobbler 500 375 celo4life

Image for the food and wine pairing challege

Welcome to the first of many food and wine pairing challenges. The focus of my food and wine pairing challenge is to take things I love to make or enjoy eating and have you pair them with your favorite wine(s). I’ve been thinking about introducing this segment for a while so I thought tonight was as good a time as any.

This week’s challenge is my peach cobbler. I’ve been making peach cobblers for about 4 years now and I just love it. I thought about this recipe for some time now and wondered what wine I could possibly pair it with. That’s where you come in 😉 I would like you to pair my peach cobbler with a wine you think would go good with this recipe.

Easy Peach Cobbler

Courtesy of Food Network™

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 50 min
Servers: 6 to 8 servings

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup milk
4 cups peeled, pitted and thinly sliced fresh peaches (5 to 6 medium peaches)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Several dashes ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg (optional)

Preheat over to 375 degrees.
Pour the melted butter into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, the baking powder, and the salt and mix well. Stir in the milk, mixing until just combined. Pour this batter over the butter but do not stir them together.

In a small saucepan, combine the peaches, lemon juice and remaining cup of sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Pour the peaches over the batter but do not stir them together. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg if desired.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Serve warm or cold.

When it’s all done, it should look like this:

finished peach cobbler

For this challenge, please list your suggestions in the comments section of my blog. Over the next few months or so, I will try out your suggestions and list my favorites. The ultimate goal is to have fun, but in the future, I may have prizes for the winners 😉 Maybe you’ll even win one of my peach cobblers!

H.R. 5034 – The bill of greed

H.R. 5034 – The bill of greed 689 426 celo4life

Before we begin, I thought it would be a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the issue presented before us. Like I always say, to know is to understand. So here are a few links on H.R. 5034 – Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010 also known as The Bill of Greed:

House Resolution 5034 (The Library of Congress Website)
Palate Press’ analysis on H.R. 5034
Stop HR5034 (Official Opposition Website)

Note: After multiple Google searches, I cannot find anyone who supports this bill besides the 121 tools in the House of Representatives who co-sponsored the bill (as of June 22, 2010) and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

The short legal version (if there really is one), this bill aims to do a few things: Amend the Wilson & Webb-Kenyon act, alter the commerce clause in relation to the states regulation of alcohol, reverse the burden of proof from the states to the consumers in relation to legal challenges, and a few other things.  The short non-legal version, this bill aims to stop direct shipments of wine to consumers by wineries & online wine & spirits shops, increase tax revenues for the states, and apparently protect little Timmy & little Sarah from obtaining alcohol.

There are many reasons why this bill is ridamndiculous, but here are a few:

  •  The National Beer Wholesalers Association, who wrote the bill, feels like you should be protected from the evils of direct shipments of wine because little Timmy or little Sarah (your underage drinking children) may go online and order a case of wine (cheap or expensive) and drink their asses off. I don’t know about you, but when I was under 21, I didn’t care about wine. Wine was the last thing we thought of when we were at high school or college parties. So for them to make this argument is very weak! Just ask any kid/young adult between 16 – 20 to name which types of alcohol they would drink at a party and I guarantee only 5% will even mention wine (not including wine coolers).
  • Although the sponsors of the bill and the NBWA say that this will not end direct shipment of wine, this is exactly their intent. The states are worried about all the legal challenges that have come from the Granholm v. Heald case and the costs associated with defending their discriminatory practices against out-of-state products. But more importantly, they’re concerned about tax collection.  The NBWA is only concerned about controlling the market and protecting its market share.
  • Although the states and alcohol wholesalers say this bill will not discriminate against out-of-state products, this is exactly what will happen. Remember the tax collection issue? If you control the flow of alcohol between what the state brings in and what the wholesalers bring in, you’ll have better control over tax collection. With direct shipments, the tax is applied at point of origin instead of where it’s shipped. That’s mainly because you open yourself to the possibility of taxing the same item multiple times before it arrives to the consumer. An issue consumers have fought since the declaration of independence. So in their minds, the best way to control the tax revenue stream is to kill the practice all together.

Here is my take on all of this. I think this bill is completely flawed and self-serving. The NBWA already has a huge market share/monopoly in this country. Why should the laws be changed because they can’t adapt to a changing environment? This is greedy on their part and the laws shouldn’t be changed just to further their cause. The states are another issue. They always use the guise of protecting children in cases like this in order to scare the public into agreeing with their opinion. In reality though, this is only about tax revenue and they could care less if little Timmy or little Sarah gets their hands on some product. As long as they collect their share of the tax revenue, they don’t care. And speaking of children, let’s talk about the issue of children potentially obtaining wine or spirits via direct shipment. I tested a few websites that offer this to consumers and did you know that before you even put in your credit card, you’re served with multiple disclosures stating that you must be 21 years of age or older and that the person signing for the alcohol also must be so? This will also be verified at the time of delivery. So, if minors actually get their hands on alcohol by tricking the system, whose fault is it really? Based on the amount of disclosures and declarative statements, I think the wineries and online stores have done a sufficient enough job. This alone is enough to defeat this part of the bill, but if they really wanted to be smart about it, why not add an age verification system to the process where the consumer enters their driver’s license number/ID number into a secure database or some other form of age verification? That’s a simple fix to the system if it’s really a concern and in the 21 century, this technology is readily available. However, we all know, this isn’t the issue. It’s all about the Benjamins!

In closing, although I don’t think this bill will see the light of day,  I would like to encourage you to write your fellow congressman and make sure your opinions are heard! These are the issues that many of us Americans overlook because they’re not sexy or dramatic like healthcare. These are the kinds of bills that you have to keep your eye on because even it gets defeated, they’ll try to sneak it into a much larger bill that is very important in order for it to pass. Without your voice, politicians may think you don’t care about the issue and vote with the wholesalers. So speak out, educate others on this issue, and make your voices heard!

One deal I could not pass up! My introduction to Chateau O’Brien Winery & Vineyard

One deal I could not pass up! My introduction to Chateau O’Brien Winery & Vineyard 500 334 celo4life

While I was in Miami for the Winter Music Conference, I decided to make a last-minute side trip to Washington D.C. I can tell you right now, most people wouldn’t even attempt to do this at the last-minute. However, I missed my flight (Sorry @DivaTink) and I wasn’t ready to come back home yet. So, off I went to visit our nations capital.

When I checked into my hotel (Hyatt Reston Town Center), I decided to check my surroundings and find some food. Just outside of the hotel was a nice wine shop, Market Cellars. Not knowing anything about Virginia wine, I decided to inquire inside. I met a really nice lady who works during the day at Market Cellars. She told me about some of the wineries in the area (just an hour away from Reston, VA) and the Virginia wines she carried. Although I didn’t have a car on this trip, I decided to take a map of the vineyards in Virginia for future reference.

After touring around Reston Town Center and resting in my hotel, I decided to head back to Market Cellars to make a purchase. I walked in just as they were about to close and I met a really nice guy who worked in the evenings. We had a great conversation about the wine shop and I was pleased to hear that they carried a few Washington wines from Walla Walla and Red Mountain. Since I was focused on buying a Virginia wine, I decided to ask for a suggestion. The wine shop worker pointed me to a deal I could not pass up!

My Introduction to Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint

The wine shop worker told me a story that happens once in a blue moon. Market Cellars decided to make a purchase of Chateau O’Brien’s Northpoint Red wine which sells for about $19 – $24 a bottle. When the delivery was made, he was a bit confused because he received this bottle:

Chateau O’ Brien at Northpoint 2006 Northpoint Red ‘Cellar Collection’

The wine you see before you is Chateau O’Brien’s reserve wine which retails around $39 a bottle. So you can see the confusion when you pay $14 – $16 wholesale for a wine that retails for $39. He told me that he would’ve priced the bottle closer to the retail price for the Northpoint Red Cellar Collection bottle, but since he got it for the wholesale price for the Northpoint Red, he decided not to get greedy and just price the bottle above the wholesale price for the Northpoint Red. This was one deal I couldn’t pass up and I immediately purchased this bottle for $19.99 + tax. Talk about a steal of a deal. Here is the information on this wine:

2006 Northpoint Red ‘Cellar Collection’

The 2006 Northpoint Red Cellar Collection is the premier release of our Estate Red Blend. Grown exclusively on the 2 acre site of the Northpoint Vineyard, this proprietary Bordeaux style blend features a distinct and unique flavor representing the true terroir of this picturesque mountainous climate and soil. 

Steep, rocky, extremely well-drained soil, combined with aggressive viticulture practices, result in ripeness levels attained far beyond expectations for typical Virginia red wines.

42% Merlot shows through gloriously, characterizing full varietal expression of a grape that is usually left wanting in Virginia.  Accompanied by 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, and 14% Malbec. 

2006 offered its challenges, specifically in terms of a defoliating frost in mid-October, which dropped all the vine’s leaves.  But the terroir and viticulture associated with the Northpoint site produced exceptionally ripe grapes that were ready for harvest when the season came to a rapid halt.

Unfined and unfiltered, some sediment may be in the bottle, occurring naturally.  For best appreciation, a gentle decanting and aeration will provide optimum expression of flavor and body.

I only have one bottle of this wine, so I won’t be able to tell you if I like it or not right away. I will, however, contact Chateau O’Brien and see if we can obtain some wine samples of this and some of their other wines to see if we can do an exclusive blog entry and (coming soon) segment on my new wine tasting show! Stay tuned 😉

All moved in!

All moved in! 1728 1296 celo4life

The other day, I finally moved all of my blog entries from Facebook to Word Press. It would’ve gone faster, but life tended to get in the way 🙁 Now that I’m all moved in, the real work begins. New adventures to write about, more tabs to add, etc. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!