Review of Washington Wines Blog
February Wine and Food Pairings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:30

Wines to go with Winter Stews


During the winter months, what better way to eat than with a hearty stew? There are all kinds of recipes for stews, so choose your favorites and pair them with these suggestions from the February and recent issues of the Review of Washington Wine.


Beef Stews - For these, I prefer a hearty red such as a Syrah, a "Rhone style" red or a Malbec.

2008 Buried Cane "Heartwood" Red, Columbia Valley (Feb.)

2009 Amavi Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Feb.)

2008 Cuillin Hills "The Dungeon" Red, Washington (Feb.)

2009 Cave B Syrah, Columbia Valley (Feb._

2009 Five Star Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley (Feb.)


Lamb Stews - Merlot or "Bordeaux style" blends work well here.

2008 Northstar "Stella Maris" Red, Columbia Valley (Feb.)

2008 Matthews Claret, Columbia Valley (Feb.)

2008 Northstar Merlot, Columbia Valley (Feb.)

2009 Convergence Zone "Storm Front" Red, Red Mountain (Feb.)

2008 Forgeron Cellars Merlot, Columbia Valley (Jan.)

2008 Kontos Cellars "Alatus" Red, Walla Walla Valley (Dec.)


Veal Stews - These call for a medium-bodied red such as a Sangiovese, Tempranillo or Grenache.

2009 Hollywood Hills Grenache, Horse Heaven Hills (Jan.)

2009 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope (Jan.)

2009 Robison Ranch Cellars "Combine" Red, Walla Walla Valley (Dec.)

2009 Nefarious Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard (Nov.)


Vegetarian Stews - If there are a lot of legumes and root vegetables, an earthy Cabernet Franc is suitable, if the dish is spicy, try a Mourvedre or Syrah.

2009 Spring Valley "Katherine" Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley (Feb.)

2009 Hollywood Hills Mourvedre, Horse Heaven Hills (Jan.)

2009 Don Carlos Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley (Jan.)

2009 Tertulia Cellars Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley (Jan.)

2008 Saviah Cellars Cabenet Franc, Walla Walla Valley (Dec.)

2008 Coeur d'Alene Cellars "MO" Mourvedre, Washington (Dec.)


Steelhead - A Winter Salmon Alternative


During the winter months, most salmon is frozen from previous months' catch. But there is a wonderful alternative in steelhead trout. Steelhead is very similar to salmon, essentialy a salmonid species that spends its life cycle in fresh water instead of going out to sea. Today, wild steelhead is caught only by sports fishermen. But farm raised steelhead from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest provide plenty of flavor. They are high in beta omega fats (the good kind) and are easily pan broiled. I use my mixture of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, marinating about 1/2 hour ahead.

With pan broiled steelhead, any of the wines for veal stew, above, will work nicely. Cabernet Franc can also do well.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 21:31
How I use the U. C .Davis 20 Point System
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 25 January 2012 00:27

It has been over a year since I last summarized in September 2010 the 20 Point System I use in rating wines in the Review of Washington Wines. Since then, many new subscribers have signed up. And it occured to me that I should update my explanation of how I use this system in my Review of Washington Wines to show what it means.


Initially, when I started the Review of Washington Wines in December of 2008, I was going to use the 100 point scale as it seemed to be the one most widely understood by wine consumers. But in talking with Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery, he convinced me to do otherwise. Chris pointed out that almost no one will buy a wine that gets 85 points, even though, using school grading, that would be a B and hence very good. As an alternative, I turned to the University of California Davis 20 Point System for evaluating wines for my Review of Washington Wines.


The Davis 20 Point System was commonly used in evaluating wines until the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator came along with the 100 point system. The Davis faculty experimented with 100 points in the 1940's, then came to the conclusion in the late 1950's that a 20 point system provided more precise results. The Davis System assigned points on a form with the following standards.


Clarity (2 points) - Brilliant, neark sparkly, clear with no haze or particulates.

Color (2 points) - Approproate color for varietal/type and age.

Bouquet (4points) Distinct varietal characteristics, balanced bouquet ("corked" is a defect here).

Total Acidity (1 point) - Proper balance, appropriate for varietal/type and age.

Sweetness (1 point) - Appropriate sweetness, well enhanced/well balanced.

Body/Texture (2 points) - Appropriate body for varietal/type and age.

Flavor/Taste (2 points) - Complex flavors, appropriate for varietal/type and age.

Acescensy (Bitterness) (1 point) - Well balanced, no perceptible bitterness.

Astringency (1 point) - Appropriate levels of tannin for the varietal/type and age.

Overall Quality (4 points) - Wines of "noble" quality with distinct and distinguishing character (It is here that there is room for subjectivity. Wines that are "charming" with some special character get 3 points. Typical or unexceptional wines get fewer points.)


The scores are totaled for a given wine to obtain the following ratings:


17 - 20 points - Wines of outstanding characteristics having no defects.

13 - 16 points - Standard wines with neither outstanding character or defect.

9 - 12 points - Wines of commercial acceptability with noticeable defects.

5 - 8 points - Wines below commercial acceptability.

1 - 5 points - Completely spoiled wines.


This system became standard usage throughout the 1960's and 1970's. This, interestingly, coincided with the breakout years of high quality California wines, with the emergence of wineries such as Heitz Cellars, Robert Mondavi, Freemark Abbey, Chappelet and others. Up until that time, most wines were "standard" or "commercial."


One interesting thing about the U.C. Davis System is that wines scoring 17 - 20 points are considered "wines of outstanding characteristics having no defects." This must mean that some wines are more outstanding than others. This is what the 17 - 20 point range means to me:


17 points - Very good, above average wines.

18 points - Exceptional, fine wines.

18.5 points - A step higher, more complex and nuanced.

19 points - Outstanding wines with much complexity.

19.5 points - Great wines that show extraordinary character.

20 points - Wines that are not only flawless, but possess superlative depth and complexity.

Occasionally (but not often) I will use a + to indicate a wine which is a notch above its point level in complexity.


The beauty of the 20 Point System is its simplicity which reduces (but does not eliminate) the influence of subjectivity in the evaluation process. Wines get rated on the basis of their overall balance and total performance. It also reduces the bias of the 100 point system toward awarding to only a small percentage of wines scores above 93 points. Most 100 point scale ratings peak out at about 92 points, so there is a range of 89 - 92 points for most Recommended/Highly Recommended wines, with 93 or more points becoming a sort of Holy Grail that wineries strive for.


A final comment is about the high number of wines receiving 18.5 or more points in my Review of Washington Wines, with a fair number of 19 points or more scores and even a few 20 points. The reason for this is that these wines are just that outstanding. Washington wines are becoming of age, and more truly exceptional wines are being produced. These, however, are just the ones at the top. There still are many more wines that are simply good or of standard quality (16 - 17 points). My goal with the Review of Washington Wines, is to bring to consumers' attention the wines that are the most exceptional ones.


Last Updated on Friday, 26 September 2014 14:10
Wine News / The 20 Point System
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 19:12

The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance / Alaska Airlines Promotion


The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance has teamed up with Alaska Airlines for a promotion that wine lovers should take notice of. The promotion includes:

A 20 percent discount on round trip Alaska Air flights to Walla Walla

No baggage handling fees for up to one case of wine checked (must be packed in approved shipping boxes)

Tasting fee waivers at over 75 wineries, plus discounts at restaurants and businesses

For more information, go to: www.wallawallawine.com/flyalaska


The Robison Ranch Cellars Winemakers' Dinner at Nell's Restaurant


On Sunday, January 15th, Nell's Restaurant on Green Lake in Seattle teamed up with Robison Ranch Cellars in Walla Walla for a winemakers' dinner. The event for 69 people was sold out and was a great success. The dishes, prepared by owner/chef Philip Mihalski were perfectly paired with six Robison Ranch Cellars. Winemaker Brad Riordan gave excellent presentations of his wines. For pictures of this event, go to the Review of Washington Wines Facebook page. The menu:


Passed Hors d'Oeurves with 2010 Spofford Station Vineyard Semillon

Cumin Crusted Mahi Mahi with Hearts of Palm, Frisee and Satsuma Orange Vinagrette with 2010 Pinot Gris

Hedgehog Mushroom Risotto with 2009 Blue Mountain Vineyard Combine

Ahi Tuna with Fingerling Potatoes, Savoy Cabbage and Leek with 2009 Blue Mountain Cabernet Franc and 2008 Walla Walla Valley Merlot

Braised Lamb Shoulder with Polenta and Rapini and Rosemary Jus with 2008 Spofford Station Syrah

Chocolate Banana Tart with Lustau East India Solera Sherry


The U.C. Davis 20 Point System


For the benefit of newer subscribers, I would like to emphasize that the 20 Point System is quite different from others, especially the 100 point systems. Do not multiply scores by five to get equivalent 100 point scores. The 20 Point System valuations do not translate directly to another scale. For an explanation of how the 20 Point System works, go to my September 7, 2010 blog. To find it, go to the bottom of this page, then scroll back to page 14 where you will find that posting.







Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 01:04
More Best Buys for 2012
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 18:55

In my blog of December 30, 2011, I listed some wines that were reviewed in 2011 to look for as Best Buys. Here are several more that I have picked up in the Seattle area.


2010 Willow Crest Estate Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley ($8.99 at Esquin - Regular $12)

Brilliant greyish gold colored, this wine offers a ripe nose of pear, Crenshaw melon, lilac and honeysuckle. The white fruit flavors are fresh and vibrant, imbued with a stony minerality. The back picks up notes of hazelnuts, grape skin and grapefruit, counterpointed by a touch of creaminess on the finish. 17.5+/20 points.


2009 Willow Crest Estate Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley ($11.99 at Esquin - Regular $15)

This wine displays a brilliant ruby color and an attractive nose of blackberry, cherry, anise and rosebuds. The medium bodied flavors are direct, yet interesting, with notes of earth and minerla, cola, squeezed cherry juice, licorice and milk chocolate. It holds together well through the back and on the quaffably moderate tannin and acid finish. 17.5/20 points.


2010 Northwest Wine Academy Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, Seymour Vineyard ($10.99 at Esquin - Regular $12)

This comes from the enology school of South Seattle Community College. Brilliant gold colored, it offers attractive pear-apple and citrus aromas, with scents of apple blossoms and acacia flowers. The medium bodied flavors are bright and true to variety, accented by notes of Misoula Flood minerals, poached apples and toast on a faintly honeyed, citrus-tinged finish. 18/20 points.


2008 Sagelands Malbec, Wahluke Slope ($8.99 at Esquin - Regular $15)

This is an amazingly goood Malbec for the price. Deep purplish colored, it shows an intense varietal nose of raspberry, blueberry, mulberry, cracked pepper, and even a hint of violets. On the palate, the wine is chock full of red and blue fruit flavors, with notes of licorice, roasted coffee beans, and Wahluke scorched earth. The back picks up touches of mocha, semi-macerated berries and toasted hazelnuts, followed by a chewy, savory moderate tannin finish. This easily beats any Argentina Malbec for under $10. 18/20 points.


2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Merlot, Columbia Valley ($23.99 at Esquin - Regular $30)

This wine displays a brilliant ruby color and a typical varietal nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, tobacco and rubbed sage. The dark medium-full bodied flavors are thick and ample, with notes of licorice, chocolate and coffee beans. The back picks up touches of mocha and toast on a silky moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.


2009 Pour Me Red Wine Blend, Columbia Valley ($17.99 at Metropolitan Market - Regular $22)

This hononymically named blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 28% Merlot was created for Metropolitan Market and is an excellent value. Deep ruby colored, it emits a rich nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis and rose petals, with hints of mint and eucalyptus. The dark fruit flavors are solid and well put together, showing notes of licorice, chocolate and pencil lead, followed by a squeeze of red currant juice, and touches of nougat and dried cherry on a sweet-dry tannin finish. 18/20 points.

2005 Novelty Hill Merlot, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($19.99 at Metropolitan Market - Regular $30)

This is a fine choice in a red that is approaching maturity. It displays a deep garnet color and rich aromas of blackberry, plum and cassis, with scents of dried roses, sandalwood and smoldering incense. On the palate, the flavors are well extracted, with intermixings of chocolate, French roast, earthy minerals and pencil lead. The back reveals a maturing roundness, integrating notes of mocha, semi-dried berries, toasty oak, dried orange peel, and softening tannins, all leading into a long lightly spiced (cardamom, clove) finish. 18.5/20 points.


The following wines come from the State's largest winery. Evidently, economies of scale enable Chateau Ste. Michelle to deliver high quality-price ratios. They can be found at various supermarkets and retailers.


2010 Ch. Ste Michelle Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($10.99 on sale - Regular $15)

This is a Chardonnay that overdelivers in terms of price and quality. Brilliant gold colored, it offers an expressive nose of apple, peach, citrus, apple blossoms and acacia flowers. On the palate, the flavor components are in the right places: white fruits, with a hint of tropicality, stony minerals, moderate oak, and a slight creaminess from sur lie barrel aging, all melding together nicely. With this crowd-pleaser, who needs Kendall-Jackson? 18+/20 points.


2009 Ch. Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" Merlot, Columbia Valley ($15.99 on sale - Regular $20)

Deep ruby colored, this wine displays rich aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, black roses, cigar box and spiced incense. The dark fruit flavors are well saturated, imbued with licorice, dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans and mocha. The back reveals sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, cinnamon bark and pain grillé, followed by a satisfying ripe tannin finish. 18+/20 points.


2009 Ch. Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($15.99 on sale - Regular $20)

This is a tasty, fruit forward young Cabernet, sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope. It exhibits a purplish color and attractive aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, tobacco and dried roses. The flavors are generous, yet focused, with notes of licorice, Swiss chocolate, espresso and earthy minerla. The wine picks up semi-macerated berries, mocha and coffee bean on a plush textured back. Moderate tannins and acids make it approachable, yet would benefit from six months or more aging. 18.5/20 points.


2008 Ch. Ste. Michelle Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, Canoe Ridge Estate ($18.99 on sale - Regular: $23)

Deep ruby colored, this offers enticing aromas of blackberry, mulberry, cherry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses and sandalwood. The flavors are deep and supple, with the minerality of the Horse Heaven Hills terroir, as well as licorice, bittersweet chocolate and cola. The penetration continues on the back with squeezed berry and currant juices, touches of mocha, dried cherries and savory herbs an spices, followed by balanced fruit acids and tannins on the finish. 18.5/20 points.







Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 23:03
January Food & Wine Pairing Recipes
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 05 January 2012 21:10

Recipes from Flying Trout and Tero Estates


Ashley Trout has sent me these recipes which pair beautifully with Flying Trout and Tero Estates wines.


Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Figs, Bacon and Gorgonzola cheese

Prepare pizza dough and let rise until ready to use. For the toppings, use one large Walla Walla Sweet onio, 2 tsp. fresh thyme, two bay leaves, kosher salt, four thick bacon slices cut into 1/4 in batons. Saute the onions, thyme and bay leaves in butter intil golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and put onions in a bowl. Add the bacon to the pan, stirring until brown. Form dough into a round on a floured surface, then add toppings plus quartered Mission figs and 3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola and drizzled olive oil. Place pizza on baking stone, sliding back and forth quickly to keep dough from sticking. Bake at 350 degrees until brown, drizzle with more olive oil and dust with cracked pepper.

Pair with 2009 Flying Trout "Cutthroat" Red Blend, Columbia Valley


Roasted Chicken with Plum Sauce

Rinse one whole chicken and cut away excess fat. Pat dry. Place in shallow baking dish and rub with softened butter. Season inside with salt and pepper outside and inside. Stuff with garlic and lemon. Tie legs together and set breast side down, then let sit 30 minutes.

Prepare plum sauce from 3/4 cup good quality plum jam, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 1 tablespoon honey, one teaspoon finely chopped garlic.

Roast chicken 20 minutes. Brush plum sauce all over chicken. Turn breast side up return to oven at 375 degrees. Continue to roast 60-65 minutes, brushing with additional sauce and basting with pan juices every 15 minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear when knife tip is inserted. Temperature at thigh without touching bone should register 160-170 degrees. Let rest 10 minutes, serve with side of plum sauce.

Pair with 2009 Flying Trout Old Vines Malbec, Konnowack Vineyard

Amanda's Pork Tenderloin

Take a pork tenderloin and butterfly it by slicing lengthwise almost all the way throug, then open the meat up like a book. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Evenly distribute a mixture of 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, four fresh figs, small diced, leaving about 1/2 inch of space on the edges. Roll the tenderloin back up, encasing the stuffing with the meat. Using 5 or 6 toothpicks, secure the meat back together at the edges. Wrap evenly with 3-6 slices of bacon, secured if needed with toothpicks. Place on preheated grill for about 20 to 25 minutes, until there is just a trace of pink. Watch throughout the cooking process as flareups may occur, and rotate the meat to crisp the bacon and tenderloin evenly. Let rest 10 minutes when done. Serve with pomegranate vinagrette.

Pair with 2008 Tero Estates Windrow Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley


Blueberry-Blackberry Pie

Bake a pie made with 4 cups fresh blueberries and 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, sugar and cinnamon, topped with lemon juice in a crust made from scratch.

Pair with 2008 Tero Estates Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard

More Wine and Food Pairings

Here are some pairings I have found to work well.


Grilled Flank Steak

I use a marinade of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon each of coriander and cumin and 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger. Marinate for 2-3 hours and then grill.

Pairs with:

2009 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Dist. 83 Red, Horse Heaven Hills

2009 DeLille Cellars Doyenne "Aix" Red, Red Mountain

2008 Helix by Reininger "SoRho" Red Blend, Columbia Valley


Grilled Lamb Chops

2009 JM Cellars Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley, Margaret's Vineyard

2009 Obelisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain

2009 Convergence Zone "Squall Line" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain


Grilled Ahi Tuna

I use the same marinate as for the flank steak above, but omitting the ginger.

2009 Hollywood Hills Grenache, Horse Heaven Hills

2009 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope, Rosebud Vineyard







Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2012 23:05

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