I am so glad that I’ve been working on socializing Vegas; it made introducing him to Lucca (D’s new puppy) much easier. Puppies, by nature, are pesty, wild and all over the place. Anti-social dogs have a hard time getting along with puppies. Lucca was everything a puppy was supposed to be, and Vegas put up with it for about 30 seconds. Then he gave her a quick growl and said something in dog lingo that must have mean, “Back off junior.” Lucca kept her distance after that but followed him everywhere he went and barked at him non-stop. After about an hour they were actually pretty good together. She wasn’t attacking him and he wasn’t protesting to her being too close. Truthfully, they did better that I thought. They had a chance to hang out again today and it was obvious that Lucca was nowhere near as ready to give Vegas his space…and Vegas didn’t really seem to mind. He and I went to D’s to visit with them briefly before meeting up with a group of small dog owners and taking a walk in Clark Lake Park. Vegas does better and better each time I take him to something like this. And Lucca – wow – she did great! She was even off leash for the last half of the walk. She’s a little over 3 months old and is well on her way to being a great little dog. If I have any advice to give people it’s to expose your puppies to as much as possible as soon as possible. I believe it’s much easier to expose a puppy to new things and make those new things fun than it is to try and teach a dog that is already scared (like Vegas) that new experiences are fun and safe. Please know, I’m not saying people shouldn’t adopt shelter or rescue dogs. I love seeing the results of the rehabilitation work that I’ve done with Vegas. Honestly, it’s very rewarding and I’m glad I was able to be a good home to a dog that had a tough start in life. That being said, it’s also a lot of work….worth it, but a lot of work.
I’ve been playing around with sangria recipes in search of just the right one for summer. Red wine sangria can be to strong or too heavy and white wine sangria can be too sweet. So I took a few things from each and came up with a recipe of my own. The club soda makes it seem like a wine spritzer, hence the name…
Seattle Sunset Sangria Spritzer
Makes 4-6 drinks depending on size
- 1 bottle of dry rose (can substitute dry white wine)
- 1 cup white grape juice
- 2-4 tsp. of very fine sugar (to taste)
- splash of club soda
Fruit – use any or all as you see fit and depending on what’s ripe
- (1) thinly sliced apple
- (1-2) sliced oranges or tangerines
- (1-2) thinly sliced peaches or nectarines
- (1-3) sliced limes and/or lemons
- (handful) white seedless grapes cut in half
- (handful) raspberries
- (5-10) sliced strawberries
- (3-4) pineapple rings (canned is just fine)
- mint sprigs for decoration (optional)
Mix everything but the club soda together and put it in the fridge for at least a 1-2 hours. If refrigerating longer than 5-6 hours, don’t add the strawberries unless you’re okay with them breaking down a bit. The flavor is just fine but they aren’t as pretty. And if refrigerating overnight, have some fresh fruit to add the next day as garnish.
To serve, fill glass (I use tumblers) 2/3 full with sangria, add a splash of club soda, mix and add ice. Add any garnish (mint, fruit, etc.) and serve.
What a great day in Woodinville. Dad, Vegas and I hit TEN wineries yesterday and each one was (as usual) friendly and full of great wine. Even Vegas had a good time. One of these days I’ve got to take his picture while we’re there…I’m just so distracted by the wine that I keep forgetting. Here’s a run down of where we were:
- Cuillin Hills – We started with one of my favorites. The winemaker (Derek Des Voigne) is a blast, as is his brother who we saw later at Des Voigne Cellars. And the wines are not only fantastic, but really well priced. There aren’t many “screaming deals” here but just about everything is priced under $30. The news here is not only the new releases, but the birth of a new wine club! I think I might actually join this one; dad is a member everywhere else so I guess it’s my turn. My favorite wines – Cab Franc, Riff Raff, Claret, Shackled.
- Smasne – There are several wineries in this tasting room and all of them have the winemaker (Robert Smasne) in common. There is a huge line up to taste here. We were very selective b/c we knew we had such a full day. Very good wines, very good prices…in fact, we found the “screaming deal” of the day. A case of his Rose for $50! I was planning to buy that anyway so when I heard of the sale I gladly bought a case. So perfect for summer. My favorite wines – Rose (two kinds), Riesling (two of them) and the Cabs – all of them.
- Red Sky – We stopped to do a wine club pick up here and were (thankfully) quickly escorted to the back/barrel room because the lobby was packed. We sipped the new wines with the winemaker (Carol Parsons) and avoided the crowd up front. The wines and the people are always so nice here. Dad is especially fond of the girl behind the tasting bar that speaks German with him; Michelle I think is her name? My favorite wines – Sunrise (with a new screw top!), Serendipity, Merlot Rose, Bordeaux Blend.
- Barrage – The is one of (if not the only) winery that does not do blends. The winemaker (Kevin Correll) likes to make varietals. And I like to drink them. This tasting room is very laid back, super friendly and LOVES dogs. They usually have their dog, a Chocolate Lab named Murphy, hanging around greeting people. Vegas is not a fan, but he’s getting used to bigger dogs so visiting this tasting room often is good for Vegas…and Vegas’ mom. Ha! But I must admit, I was so busy talking about dogs while I was here that I somehow managed to pick up someone else’s bag when I left! The lovely Merlot that I paid for turned into a Chardonnay from a completely different winery by the time we got home. Bummer! My favorite wines – Merlot, Cab Franc, Double Barrel Cabernet. UPDATE! I sent Kevin an email to apologize for basically stealing somebody’s wine. He told me that they’d realized it right after we left and since we were nowhere to be found, he put my wine off to the side for me and bought a replacement one from the other winery for the other customers. Great customer service and a great guy!
- Patterson – This place is another one of those little gems that has great pricing and super wines…and the people – oh so much fun! There isn’t a wine snob for miles. The tasting room has a couple great windows that look into the barrel room. Quite often the winemaker (John Patterson) and/or his dad (Jack) can be found doing barrel samples back there. If you ever have the chance – do this – I’ve never had a wine I didn’t like. My favorites – WoodsLake Sangiovese, BDX, Recession Red, Volterra Red
- Des Voigne – Finally, the new San Remo (Sangiovese) is out! It was well worth the wait; the wine is excellent. No real surprise there, it’s wonderful every year. Heck, everything in that place is good. The winemaker here (Darren Des Voigne) is the brother to the winemaker at Cuillin Hills. There must be something in the genes – these boys know what they’re doing, know how to have a fun atmosphere in their tasting rooms and know that wines don’t have to cost a small fortune. And have I mentioned the labels here yet? All jazz inspired and gorgeous! My favorite wines – San Remo (Sangiovese), Emcee (Merlot), The Duke (Zin Blend), Montreux (Syrah).
- Alexandria Nicole – It’s so hard not to go into this place every time I’m in the Warehouse District. The winemaker (Jarrod Boyle) makes some terrific wines and the people in the tasting room really treat customers like family. I almost expect them to call out my name when I walk thru the secret passageway into the members-only area in back…kind of like “Norm!” in Cheers. Kathy is always back there and always quick to greet us with a smile, a hug and a glass that she’s willing to fill with anything we desire. The tastings back there aren’t done by a set list; they’re done by what you want to try. Believe me, it’s hard not to ask for one of everything! My favorite wines – Cab, Rock Star, Syrah, Merlot.
- DiStefano’s – This was one of the first wineries I fell in love with in Woodinville. Because they aren’t in an area with a bunch of others, I don’t always get out to see them. I was glad we had to pick up wine for some friends; what a great excuse to go in and enjoy their wines. Their tasting room is so pretty and really holds a lot of people. Speaking of people, the ones working behind the tasting bar are so friendly and so knowledgeable about their wines. My favorite wines – Sogno (Cab Franc), Syrah, Cab, Merlot.
- Bookwalter – This is a relatively new tasting room in Woodinville. It’s located right behind Hollywood Schoolhouse and has a huge space for tasting. One of the things that sets them apart from other wineries is the literary theme that can be found in the titles of their wines. In addition, they are very nice, have super wines and have started a great wine club (I think they call it a book club – ha!) with nice discounts. Yes, dad joined. My favorite wines – Couplet (Riesling), Subplot (Blend), Foreshadow Merlot.
- Mark Ryan – What luck, we were there for the first day of business in the new tasting room! Rock star winemaker (Mark McNeilly) is open for business behind the Hollywood Schoolhouse. The tasting room is big and bright and was full of people when we were there. There is a $10 tasting fee which is one of the highest, but is fully refundable if you buy a bottle. Trust me, you’ll find something you like. I love, love, love his wines; I just can’t often afford them. That being said, when I want to splurge on a really special bottle, it’s usually one of his – the Long Haul in particular. My favorites – Long Haul, Dead Horse (don’t be fooled by the name), Red Dissident.
It was time. The boxes were almost all unpacked. The prints were on the walls. The new patio furniture had been purchased and (painfully) assembled. Hell, there were even new wine glasses. It was time to throw a party.
The theme was a blind tasting of Cabernet Francs. My group of friends and family have these parties a few times a year and usually there is some kind of theme (Washington Merlots, $10 Cabs, Bordeaux blends, Syrahs, you get the idea) and we all bring a wine of our choosing and hide it in a paper bag so as not to be influenced while we taste everything. At the end of the blind tasting, the wines are revealed and we talk about which ones we all liked best…and least. There are always surprises on both ends of the spectrum. More often than not, the most expensive bottle does not win. This time I decided to add a couple twists. Instead of wine, I had everyone bring the food. Boy did that ever cut down on the pre-party prep and stress! In turn, I supplied all the wines. As usual, they were disguised during the tasting (I even got overly-crafty and covered them with wine inspired artwork) and we all took notes about what we liked and why. The other twist was that I also gave them a list of possible wineries that the wines came from. So along with looking at the color of the wine, analyzing the nose, discussing the finish, etc, etc., etc. – they also had to take a guess at what winery it might be from. Now some of you out there might be thinking that we are all very sophisticated and have amazing pallets to be able to do something like this. I assure you, that is not the case. There was a four way tie at the end – all four people had managed to guess one correct winery. Even my dad (who’s pallet far surpasses any of ours) only got one right. It was neat to have everyone else see that even he couldn’t pick them out. It was basically a guessing game and fun to see how close (or far) everyone was from guessing right. During the tasting (6 wines total) I also had trivia questions – wine related of course – and even handed out prizes! I think I probably had more fun than anyone; what a blast to plan it and put it all together. I was sad to see it end but so very happy that I was home and didn’t have to drive anywhere. I think I was in my jammies 10 minutes after the last car was out of the driveway. I can’t wait to start planning the next party…a true housewarming party complete with grilling (still need to buy a grill) and lawn games. Glad a I have over a month to get ready for that one.
Here are the Cabernet Francs that we tasted and a few comments on each. Let me preface by saying that we did not have any bad ones in the bunch – thank God. I did take the added precaution of opening up and tasting all the bottles before everyone got here, just in case something was corked.
Here’s the list – in the order we tasted them:
- Hollywood Hills (WA) – Lighter style than the others, a good one to start with. Nice (but soft) nose, good fruit, very little tannins, nice smooth finish. Most ranked it about an 8.
- NW Vine Project (OR) – Little darker in color than the first wine, but still lighter than most. Fantastic nose – smelled like juicy berries and a fairly long finish…one person even put “Must Have” on his tasting notes. Rankings ranged from 7 3/4 to 9
- Wente (Santa Cruise, CA) – The one had an earthy nose, and really stood out from the others in this way. Good taste and finished with slight tannins, not a fruit bomb kind of wine, although there was hints of fruit in the finish. Rankings ranged from 7 3/4 – 8 1/2.
- Kennedy Shaw (Rattlesnake Hills, WA) – Comments on the nose ranged from chocolate to violets and berries and someone even detected oak. It was the darkest and biggest of the wines we’d had up until this point and had a great, lingering finish. People loved it. Most ranked it at an 8 or 8 1/2.
- Cuillin Hills (WA) – Fruit, fruit and more fruit on the nose – comments were “juicy” and “jammie.” Didn’t taste like pure fruit though, nice hint of spice, especially on the finish. Mild tannins, did not overpower everything else that was going on. This one was the favorite of more people than any of the others and this was the first bottle emptied when we went back to drink more of our favorites. Rankings were either 8 1/2 or 9. If there was an “overall winner” then this was it.
- DiStefano’s (WA) (Their Cab Franc is called “Sogno”) – A classic and a well loved Cab Franc year over year. The notes mentioned berries and plums in the nose and moderate tannins on the nice/longfinish. I was stunned that the whole group didn’t know it immediately, but I believe only one guessed it correctly. However, I was not stunned that everyone rated it very high. Most ranked it 8 – 8 1/2.