Lummi Island Wine Tasting March 23 ’13 Toast to Spring!

Signs of Spring

It is comforting to see the days growing longer, and to feel the sun growing warmer. On our daily walk to Legoe Bay with the dogs today the perceptible warmth of the sun was the perfect offset to the chlll in the air and the cool breeze off the water. Global warming or no, spring seems slow in coming this year. Yes, daffodils are out, and Indian plum is feathering into early leaf. But at mid-day when I check the temperature, it is still often curiously close to 40. And though I think we may have had some moments over fifty, the spring so far seems a but reserved, a bit stingy almost, as if to say, “well, you had a mild winter after all, so stop complaining.” Meanwhile, all around us, Spring builds up like an inevitable pressure that will not be denied.

As for this picture–for about ten years from ’85-’95, when I was mostly a full-time potter, I was a member of a little cooperative gallery in Laconner. We would take turns opening the shop on weekends, and though none of us made much of a living at it, it was a good thing to do and a good place to be, and I have lots of fond memories of it, from the pile of notes from third graders who watched/helped me do a raku firing, to conversations with iconic local artists like Guy Anderson and Robert Sund, and rambling conversations with visitors who occasionally write years later saying Laconner was a life-changing moment. My working theory was that the good vibes came from all the negative ions (the good kind!) that got stirred up by all that water churning through the slough each time the tide changed. And in case you are not from around here, or for some other reason have not ventured to Skagit Valley this time of year to see the tulips, then I highly encourage you to do so!  more info


Baer Winery
About the time we were getting into the wine business in the mid ‘ots’ we visited Woodinville with friends who took us along to the first or second release party (’02 vintage I think) for Baer Winery in Woodinville. As I recall, it was a wintry day in February, with cold rain and some snow on the ground, and the release event was in a couple of big tents put up for the occasion. We had a lovely chat with the young winemaker, Lance Baer, about his vision and passion for wine, and admired some of the few hand-etched magnums he had commissioned. Sadly, Lance passed away quite suddenly in 2007, and the family took over the task of making the vision a reality.

In the last few years Baer has achieved global recognition as one of Washington State’s rising stars of the wine world. Their 2008 Ursa earned an extraordinary 95 point score from Wine Spectator, which also rated it #6 in its “Top 100 Wines of 2011.”

As it turns out, we drank a bottle of the 2009 Ursa (there are a very few left) last night, and it was absolutely delicious! I haven’t tasted the 2010, and there are no reviews out yet, but our annual case of it arrived today, so we will offer a little taste of it for you with our tasting this weekend. Judging from the trend of the past several years, it should be pretty tasty, despite its youth. This wine is becoming something of a Washington “cult” wine, so if you like it, don’t expect it to wait for you to make your move!





Graziano (10)So, it’s important for you youngsters not to confuse this grape (graciano) with the charismatic middleweight boxer of the 1940’s, Rocky Graziano, himself not to be confused with the somewhat more famous heavyweight champ of the era, Rocky Marciano, later even further immortalized by his national chain of Red Lobster restaurants! But those are several other stories, which you can explore on your own. What I can tell you is that back in the fifties, Rocky G followed up on his noteworthy boxing career with a modest acting career, with regular appearance on many variety shows of the era (WAY before talk shows!). All in all, a pretty likable guy (but watch out for that right hand!)

More to the point, graciano is one of the lesser known grapes of Rioja (no, it’s not all tempranillo!) Graciano is thought to be native to Rioja, where it has long been used to provide color, density, and aroma to blended Rioja red wines (much as Petit Verdot is used to deepen the color of cab blends in California). Typically, it makes up less than 15% of Rioja blends when it is used at all. Graciano is both low-yielding and susceptible to mildew, making it a risky investment, so acres in production have been declining. Fortunately, it is considered by some to be the most interesting and complex of Rioja grapes, showing lots of dark fruit, deep inky-red/black color, and rustic, sturdy tannins. In short, it can be quite intense! This week we will be tasting a very inexpensive version that serves as a nice introduction to the varietal.


Mt. Baker Vineyards Mountain White

From time to time we taste through the current releases from Mt. Baker Vineyards, our only really well-established neighborhood winery. Located in Deming, a short drive east of Bellingham on (hello, where else?) Mt. Baker Highway, MBV owner/winemaker Randy Finlay has been making wine for over 30 years. There’s hardly a varietal he hasn’t explored. And although most of the fruit for Mt. Baker wines comes from Eastern Washington, estate vines right here in Whatcom County produce small quantities of several light-bodied, aromatic, and flavorful grape varietals like muller thurgau, siegerrebe, chasselas, and madeleine angevine.

With a bit of chardonnay from Eastern Washington vineyards, Mountain White is the perfect wine for Early Spring. Slightly sweet, fragrant, and crisp, and only $7 a bottle it is an incredible bargain…come by and taste it this weekend!

Wine club special: Get six or more for only $6 each!!!


This week’s wines:

Mt. Baker Mountain White ’10 Washington $7
A blend of several varietals grown just up the road in Deming, this fragrant, off-dry, light wine is easy to swallow…and a perfect toast for Spring!

Ventisquero Carmenere ’10 Chile $10
Glass-staining purple. Smoke-accented aromas of black and blue fruits and violet, with a peppery topnote. Juicy and light on its feet, with a seamless texture and good clarity to the fresh blackberry and blueberry flavors.

Casarena ‘505’ Malbec ’10 Chile $12
Bright medium ruby-red. Subtly complex aromas of dark berries, plum, lavender, pepper and flinty minerality. Seductively smooth in texture, with a restrained sweetness and good vinosity to the middle palate. Nicely rich, firmly structured malbec with broad, dusty tannins and very good length.

Rio Madre Rioja ’11 Spain 90pts $10
Inky ruby. Spice-accented aromas and flavors of black and blue fruits and cola, with notes of dark chocolate and licorice. Concentrated and powerful on the palate, with a spicy note building with air. Intense licorice, blackcurrant and bitter cherry notes linger on the spicy, youthfully tannic finish. Outstanding value here; there are very few all-graciano Riojas made, and they all cost a lot more than this one.

Baer Ursa ’10 Washington $35
42% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon
Once again delivers with generous ripe fruit flavors – notes of fresh plum, red cherry, and blackberry, with hints of vanilla and savory roasted thyme. Well-integrated and balanced, with a polished, lifted finish.

Wine Tasting

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