Wine in Sacred Places

In Which I Discover Phenomenal Cabernet from Mosquito Fleet Winery

Do you have those sacred places on earth where you feel at home, or somehow closer to heaven because of the beauty of the place? Is it a beach, a mountain, a cute small town? Hood Canal, WA is one such place that holds a special spot in my heart. My great-grandparents built a cabin out on a piece of property right on the water, and it’s still standing and in the family! It has been a huge part of my life, from childhood through parenthood. It’s been a refuge, especially during the pandemic when we were isolating and being careful. A place to fully relax and be.

Hood Canal

My sacred place… Hood Canal

In recent years, every time my husband and I would drive out for some down time at the cabin, we would pass by a tasting room in Belfair with “Mosquito Fleet Winery” printed in elegant script across the building, tempting us with the prospect of delicious wine. A wine-tasting room to me is like an iPad to a kid – very very hard to resist! 🙂 Every time we passed it we said to ourselves, “We’ve got to stop in there sometime.” But with young children in tow, and often on a tight schedule, it just didn’t happen.

Mosquito Fleet Winery SignageWell, we finally DID stop in – last summer, I believe. Our kids were with us but they are older and better able to handle the occasional wine tasting with Mom and Dad every once in a while. It’s not like it takes all day to sip 5 or 6 wine pours… it’s good to learn some patience and that the day is not just about what they want to do. The people working at the tasting room were very kind and even gave the kids some popcorn and juice for a snack.

I should pause a second and give you a quick bit of history on the winery’s name. And I must say, it’s nice to have a Washington state winery pay tribute to local history rather than donning an awkward mock French name like Château Belfair or Domaine du Canal. 🙂 Also, while there are literal fleets of mosquitos at Hood Canal (I wish they didn’t love me quite so much – must be the wine in my bloodstream?), the name has no connection to that ecological fact. 😉

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Mosquito Fleet refers to the fleet of various steamboats that transported people and cargo throughout the many waterways of Washington state, from the inlets of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, from the 1840s until about the 1950s. Mosquito Fleet Winery honors the spirit of bringing people together through their wines. I love it!

Anyway, hubby and I each did a tasting and enjoyed the wines presented. We wound up going home with a gorgeous bottle of Mosquito Fleet Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2019. To me, this was a standout wine – the kind of excellent Washington Cabernet Sauvignon you can pull out and enjoy with an equally excellent steak dinner, or simply to savor uninhibited. Perfect for Memorial Day BBQ fare, I may add.

Here are the details of this particular wine:

Mosquito Fleet Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

Divine wine from Hood Canal: Mosquito Fleet Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

355 cases produced
13.8% ABV
95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc
From the winemaker: “A beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of blueberry, blackberry and anise. It has a beautifully full mouthfeel with nice, juicy acids and beautifully rounded out tannins that linger. It was aged predominantly in new French oak barrels which lend a nice aroma of oak and elegance.”
My impression: superb fruit, rich yet elegant, appealing texture, noteworthy balance – a wine of outstanding quality! ❤

Mosquito Fleet Winery prides itself on producing wines that are “hand-crafted with time-tested ‘Old World’ winemaking techniques of centuries past. This small lot, labor intensive approach helps produce memorable wines and memorable times for any occasion.”

As someone who just purchased a very disappointing bottle of cheap-sad-crap-red from the grocery store for our latest excursion to the Canal (I’ll blame the economy, whether I’m justified or not), I understand and appreciate the effort that goes into crafting fine Cabernet Sauvignon using the best fruit, the best winemaking techniques, and new French oak barrels. There is such a difference, and while I can’t afford to drink higher-priced wines every day (let’s be real, I don’t drink wine every day), if I want to experience real pleasure from a wine, I usually have to spend a bit more. But it’s well worth it. There truly is nothing like a truly fine wine. Truly. 🙂

Hood Canal is a beautiful place to relax and unwind, especially with a visit to Mosquito Fleet Winery thrown in. Go try it sometime. Maybe it will become one of your special places. ❤

Drinking wine at Hood Canal

Full disclosure: this was not Mosquito Fleet Cab, rather, ’twas a bland and mediocre substitute, but I was still determined to enjoy my time at the beach! 🙂

Let’s toast to those who made the greatest sacrifice on this Memorial Day 2023. ❤

American Flag and MoonSpecial thanks to Jacquie for your assistance in answering my questions!

Nat Geo Wines of the World


Sparkling Rosé Cake with Candied Roses for Mother’s Day

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. 

Mother’s Day is Sunday, and here in the Puget Sound area of Washington we are looking at forecasted highs close to 90 degrees! I’m perspiring just thinking about it. This is no time for dry reds that are going to overheat Mom (although, of course, it’s your mom, get the lady what she wants). Time to present her with a chilled, refreshing, bubbly beverage, of the pink variety since this is a female holiday, after all – sparkling rosé! Treat Mom like the queen she is with All Queens Rosé Brut. Bonus points if you get her outside, have her put her feet up somewhere comfortable, and bring her a glass of this chilled wine. What an amazing child she raised! 😉

Here are the details of this scintillating wine. As you can see, the name and label make it very giftable and cute.

All Queen Brut Rose

The Ultimate Mother’s Day Beverage

All Queens Rosé Brut California

  • $15/bottle at Total Wine
  • Sparkling Wine from Lodi, California
  • Lovely light/medium salmon pink color
  • Brut (dry – no sweetness or residual sugar)
  • Light body, 11.5% ABV
  • High acidity
  • Aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, peach, tangerine

This wine is befitting a lavish Mother’s Day brunch. Try it with Eggs Benedict and a whole host of other delicious foods. It’s very difficult to screw up pairing this wine with other foods – in fact, sparkling wines are extremely versatile (kinda like moms) and go better with more foods than practically any other wine style out there (say, wha?).

If you really want to go over the top, and win the Child of the Millenium award, whip up this pretty in pink cake using 1 cup of your sparkling rosé. It’s picture perfect for Mother’s Day or any springtime/feminine occasion, such as Easter or a bridal shower. This cake is moist, fluffy, very tasty, and baking it will make your house smell like a French pâtisserie (ooh la la).

I think edible candied flower petals make anything look utterly posh, so don’t be shy and use the recommended candied rose petals on top; they are delicious and will wow Mom. I have also used candied violet petals on a lemon cake, yum! (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)

To all the mothers out there, a very Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for mothering well. Take a moment to have your cake and drink it, too. You deserve it. ❤

Sparkling Rose Cake with Candied Rose Petals

“Eat Me!”

Sparkling Rosé Cake with Candied Rose Petals
Adapted from a recipe by Kevin Lee Jacobs |

Chef’s Notes
1) If you don’t have the large capacity Bundt pan as I did not, pour into a regular Bundt pan about 3/4 way full, then use the rest of the batter for cupcakes or a smaller cake pan.
2) Since my Bundt cake fell apart upon turning out from the pan (alas, it happens), I took pictures of the cupcakes that I made from the same batter.
3) We don’t use artificial food coloring so the natural food coloring I used to make the cake batter pink is extremely light.


  • A large-capacity Bundt pan (10 1/2 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), generously sprayed with cooking spray (I use sunflower oil)


The dry ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt

The wet ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract (I did not find this in my local grocery stores, easiest to buy from Amazon) (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)
  • 1 cup All Queens Brut Rosé at room temp (or other pink Champagne, Prosecco, or sparkling wine)
  • Optional: pink or red food coloring

The glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Candied Rose Petals (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)


  • Center the oven rack; preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy — about 5 minutes. At medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, and the vanilla and strawberry extracts.
  • At low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the sparkling wine, beginning and ending with the flour. At medium high speed, quickly beat in the (optional) food coloring.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter up against the sides, and away from the center (this encourages a level surface during baking). Bake until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean — about 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and the vanilla extract. Add more water as needed to achieve a thick but pourable glaze. Drizzle the glaze generously over the cake.
  • Before glaze sets, adorn cake with candied rose petals.
Sparkling Rose Cakes with Candied Rose Petals

The trick is not to eat them before Mom has a crack at them.

Time to stock up for warm weather wine drinking!
Take 10% off your purchase of 6+ bottles with code TAKE10

Say “Kia Ora” for International Sauvignon Blanc Day

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I trust you’re all set up now with your Mexican vino and Prickly Pear Margaritas for today. 🙂 But did you know that today is also International Sauvignon Blanc Day? Goodness gracious me, so it is. Better slap a blog post together! 😉

It’s been a while since I’ve chatted with you about Sauvignon Blanc, hasn’t it? I’m surveying my long list of wines to share, and this is one that MUST be shared. Absolutely MUST! In case you didn’t read that clearly, MUST. SHARE.

This is for all my friends and readers who belong to the white wine cult branch of Sauvignon Blanc. 😉 I’m probably more in the red wine cult branch of Cab/Pinot/Merlot type thing, but Sauvignon Blanc is a solid choice for utter white wine devotion.

For starters, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the noble grape varieties (it can be grown in a wide range of places and always exhibits specific characteristics, no matter where and how it is grown), traditionally hailing from France. It is planted all around the world, and excels mightily in New Zealand, especially in the prime region of Marlborough. Wines are typically light bodied, with high acid and moderate alcohol.

This Sauvignon Blanc serves as a great introduction to New Zealand Sauv Blanc as a genre (like California Cab or Argentine Malbec, places famous for excelling at certain varieties) and also stands squarely on its own as an outstanding wine. The reason I haven’t tried a lot of other NZ Sauvignon Blancs is because this one is so incredible and irresistible I keep returning to it. Why bother with anything else?

Here are the deets on this beguiling wine, the Kia Ora Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:

  • $17/bottle at
  • 13% ABV, light body, crisp and refreshing
  • FLAVOR EXPLOSIONS (caps intended!) of passionfruit, kiwi berry, lime, grapefruit and herbs
  • Mouthwatering acidity
  • “Reflects the ultimate New Zealand flavor profile”

I tasted this wine at Total Wine one time and I commented to the gentleman pouring that I’d had it before and loved it. He said his wife loves it so much they buy it by the case. I believe it!

Fun fact: my grandmother lived in New Zealand for part of her childhood on a sheep ranch. She always wanted to go back to visit, but never got the chance. I figure this is one small way I can honor her memory of this beautiful, vibrant land. That and watch Lord of the Rings whilst quaffing this Sauv Blanc (hey, there’s a Friday night idea).

According to Wikipedia, kia ora is a Māori greeting which means “have life” or “be healthy”, wishing the essence of life upon someone. So, kia ora, readers! 🙂

Happy International Sauvignon Blanc Day! Any favorite Sauvignon Blancs you would like to share? Comment below!

Mexico: Land of Cerveza, Tequila, and… Vino?

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

In which I try a red and a white wine from Mexico….

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and our cherished Mexican restaurants are about to get CA-ROWDED. (A little trick of mine – eat at an Irish pub on Cinco de Mayo and eat at a Mexican restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day). After all, for most Americans, it’s about the spirit of the celebration, not the actual date, right? 😉 Yep, hasn’t failed me yet.

After fantasizing over chips n’ guac for a moment, I stopped to ask myself if I had ever had any MEXICAN WINE before. No, I don’t believe I have, I concluded. So self and I went to and searched for Mexican wine, and then ordered some.

Pack your bags and grab your sunglasses and sandals, we’re heading south of the border for a quick tour! This is for those of us who prefer wine over cocktails, and are curious enough to try a different Mexican beverage. It’s not Cinco de Mayo without Margaritas, claro que sí, but just for fun, since this is a blog dedicated to having fun exploring wine, let’s try some Mexican vino together.

(To whet your appetite, I do have a delectable Margarita recipe coming your way later this week. Watch for it, it’s a beauty!)

Wine #1: L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc 2021
L.A. Cetto Chenin Blanc

  • $11/bottle at
  • 12% ABV
  • Estate bottled/Valle de Guadalupe/Baja California, México
  • Pale yellow with greenish hues
  • Light body, oily texture
  • Strong, refreshing acidity
  • The nose is lovely and highly aromatic. Aromas and flavors include: honeysuckle, peach, yellow apple, pear, honey, banana, melon

Something I did not know about Chenin Blanc is that it maintains a strong level of acidity, even under warm growing conditions. Normally grapes grown in warm climates develop higher levels of sugars than acids.

This would be stellar with fish tacos or pollo a la crema. I tried it with jalapeño-pickled green beans, brie cheese, and whole grain crackers to cure late-night grumbling stomach woes. Great flavors and pairing!

I was surprised by this little Chenin Blanc – it was very nice!

Wine #2: L.A. Cetto Zinfandel 2020
L.A. Cetto Zinfandel

  • $11/bottle at
  • 13% ABV
  • Estate bottled/Valle de Guadalupe/Baja California, México
  • Medium ruby with magenta tint
  • Light body, medium acidity, dry
  • Tannins are soft, gentle, in the background
  • Moderate finish
  • The nose is really lovely. Initial aromas: peach pie, cinnamon, juicy fresh strawberry, red cherry, watermelon, rhubarb, lemon blossom, pepper, clay. After several days of being open, it showed strong hibiscus, cranberry, and cherry.

My guess before I even tried this was that it would be highly similar to a California red – full body, higher alcohol, lower acid, off dry/residual sugar, and moderate tannins.

Here is what I discovered: this Mexican Zinfandel was absolutely nothing like any other Zinfandel I’ve ever had before. Not even Italian Primitivo, which is genetically similar to Zinfandel.

This was quite different from the dark, inky Zinfandels I’m accustomed to; it lacks the complexity, full body, and moderate tannins. I don’t know if that is an issue with the grapes or the winemaking. Truth be told, even though Zinfandel grapes produce dark, rich wines, their skins are actually rather thin, which should translate to lighter bodied, less tannic wines.

This wine was interesting in that it was so unusual from what I’ve typically experienced in Zinfandel. It does develop more complexity after a few more days of being open, and good on it, it is quite long-lasting without suffering the ill effects of extended bottle opening.

Treat this Zinfandel like a light, juicy, fresh red, and it will make you happy. This Zinfandel could be muy complementario with chile verde. I haven’t tried it, but if you do, let me know if it worked. 🙂

In conclusion, I personally preferred the Chenin Blanc overall, but I would recommend trying both (at only $11/bottle, they are each an easy way to explore Mexican vino). The Zinfandel was fine; it was just unusual for Zinfandel and that was why I had a hard time comparing it. But if you can treat it with an open mind, especially if you’re not a huge California Zinfandel fan, you might actually enjoy this wine. L.A. Cetto also makes a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon. also offers another label from Mexico that is spendier and from a different region, which I have not tried.

Have you ever had Mexican wine? Comment below!

Nat Geo Wines of the World

Drink 96 Cedars for Arbor Day

Planting trees is good work. So is making wine. Happy planet, happy humans. As a nod to Arbor Day this coming Friday, I found the perfect wine for you to enjoy: Auclair Winery 96 Cedars Washington State Red Mountain Red Wine. This wine is an homage to the exceptional grapes of Washington State (specifically the Red Mountain AVA) and to the trees that keep our Evergreen State verdant and beautiful.

I bought this delicious Bordeaux-style red blend a few years back at Costco for around $20/bottle. The 2016 vintage was comprised of 38% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot. A large part of the reason I bought it was I got the chance to taste it in the store, along with another Auclair wine they were pouring. I wish more stores did in-store tastings; it’s effective and leads to increased sales. My notes from the time declare, “Very, very good! Will buy again.”

Let’s have the winemaker share with us about this bargain bottle from the 2019 vintage:

Auclair Winery 96 Cedars Washington State Red Mountain

The ultimate Arbor Day wine: Auclair Winery 96 Cedars Washington State Red Mountain

“This wine is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, all grown on Red Mountain. The nose starts out with rich dark fruit, a floral element and some nice interesting spice notes. Allowing this wine to open up (and it does need time!) will bring depth and structure to complement the rich, dark fruit. The palate is rich, and full with dark plum, rich cherry, blackberry liquor, vanilla, and spice all show up for your enjoyment. The finish is dark, smooth and very, very long. This wine is structured and can be laid down for some time or you can enjoy it young in its youthful fruit forward stage.”

So why is this wine called 96 Cedars? For Earth Day 2007, Charlie and Debbie Auclair purchased 100 cedar saplings for planting on their property: “4 were planted at our home. 96 were designated for our mountain lot. Little did we know the work we had signed ourselves up for! This wine is dedicated to those trees and the work we put in that day planting them. Enjoy!”

My brief search on leads me to believe they no longer carry it, but I could be wrong. Your local Costco warehouse might also prove otherwise.

You can sample 96 Cedars and other fantastic looking wines at Auclair Winery’s Woodinville tasting room by arranging an appointment here.

Your best bet is to purchase directly through Auclair Winery.

And purchase it you should! 🙂

Budget-Friendly Organic Wines for Earth Day

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Have you ever wondered about organic wines? Are they really that much better? Are you doing right by Mother Earth by buying organic wine? So many questions, and more than I can unpack here today, but I’ll do my best to skim the surface and give you a couple good organic wine labels to look for.

When I eat certain organic produce I usually taste a difference with better flavor. But price is also a factor in my food choices, as is size/yield (anyone ever seen those super tiny mandarin oranges? I just can’t bring myself to buy those). Lots of variables to consider with no cut and dry answer, and everyone has their own unique needs and situations.

It’s smart to recognize all things are not necessarily as they seem, and it’s worth investigating some facts about organic practices before buying whole hog into the organic religion. This article from Tiffany at frugal food/healthy living blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs has some interesting information on what “organic” actually means (as it pertains to the United States Department of Agriculture, not necessarily other organizations/countries) and how allowances in practice vastly differ from what is portrayed through their marketing claims.

While there is a lot of debate and controversy over conventional vs. organic farming practices, one thing (I think) we can all agree on is the need to care for the earth and not just decimate the soils supporting our beloved crops. Amen?

Here are two wines I picked out to spotlight in honor of Earth Day. Both use organic grapes and both are very reasonably priced at under $14/bottle. I have tried both Natura and Bonterra brand wines in the past and very much enjoyed both (I originally tried a Natura Carmenére and an unknown red from Bonterra).

Bonterra Merlot 2021

Bonterra Merlot 2021

Bonterra Merlot 2021

  • $11.49/bottle at Total Wine
  • Organic grapes from California
  • 13.7% ABV
  • Deep ruby with blue tint, fairly opaque
  • Aromas: blueberry, plum, black cherry, fig, bay leaf, savory meat, cinnamon, dusty cocoa
  • Medium or Full Body, juicy, plush wine with well-integrated tannins
  • Moderate mid-palate
  • Moderate finish

Natura Malbec 2020 Emiliana Vineyards

Natura Malbec 2020

Natura Malbec 2020

  • Organic grapes from Rapel Valley, Chile
  • $12.99/bottle at
  • Full body, 13.5% ABV
  • Medium ruby color but lighter around edge, more red tint (no blue)
  • Medium acidity
  • Dry
  • Soft, gentle tannins
  • Aromas/flavors: red fruits (currant, cranberry), black cherry, pepper, braised tomato, earth, leather, spice, gravel, herb, mineral
  • Moderate to long finish

I’ll admit I wasn’t overwhelmed with these particular two wines, but that could be due to my changing tastes and expectations. I wouldn’t say either was a bad wine at all – they just lacked layers of complexity. They do improve after being open for a day and getting a little love from oxygen. And I think they would do well with some pizza or other food to accompany and improve them.

Still, if you would like to drink organic wine in a budget-friendly price range, these are worth checking out. Both labels also make several other varietals. See other Natura wines here and other Bonterra selections here. Wines that are available through my affiliate link can be found here.

A cool feature at is that you can filter your search for “green” wines, which includes organic/biodynamic/sustainable wine producers. Check out their other organic offerings here.

Organic wines offer a product that purportedly benefits the land, crops, and our bodies. When you purchase an organic wine, you’re encouraging farmers to continue using organic and sustainable growing practices. And it’s nice to know that drinking an organic wine does not mean you have to pay a premium, unlike with other organic products at the supermarket. 🙂

Are there any organic wines you enjoy? Let the rest of us know in the comments!

Red Purists, Take Note: The Allure of Australian Chardonnay

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

This Aussie Chardonnay May Make You Rethink Your Red Wine Only Allegiance

Most wine drinkers fall into the two main camps of red wine drinkers and white wine drinkers. While some are “all or nothing” red or white drinkers, I’d venture to say many of us prefer one camp over the other, but we don’t exclusively identify with just that one type of wine (ahem, politics, anyone?).

I myself prefer red wine over white. It’s usually much more interesting to me and also the health-promoting polyphenols are found in the reds, not the whites, so it’s for that reason also.

However, Chardonnay is a white wine that surprises me at each new encounter and causes me to question my red-wine-only preferences. It is such an intriguing grape, expressing itself in the glass in countless different ways. I’ve become fascinated with it lately, and my goal is to become better acquainted with it. #winegoals

Chardonnay is a noble white wine grape that is grown all over the world and does well in a variety of climates. It can be aged in oak barrels, which impart notes of vanilla, coconut, etc. or in stainless steel tanks, which do not impart any flavors and allow the wine to express itself in an unadulterated fashion. Some Chardonnays undergo malolactic fermentation, a process whereby malic acid is converted to lactic acid, and this results in the unctuous, buttery notes you sometimes get in a Chardonnay.

Penfolds Max's Chardonnay Adelaide HillsIn keeping with my little Aussie theme this week, I’ve got a wonderful Chardonnay for you (not Yellow Tail). 😉 This Australian Chardonnay I tried recently made me weep with ecstasy made me stand back and take note of how serious and attention-worthy some white wines can be! It’s from the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia. Penfolds notes that it is “A contemporary style Chardonnay, fresh and finely structured. This wine delivers pure fruit flavours balanced by bright, crisp natural acidity and complexity afforded from time in barrel.” According to Wine Folly: The Master Guide (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases), some Aussie winemakers are – get this – bridging the gap between the two style camps of oak-aged Chardonnay and stainless steel Chardonnay, and combining the two in their bottles of wine. A great idea I can get behind because the wine it yields is outstanding!

Here is the scoop on the Penfolds Max’s Chardonnay 2018:

  • $20.99
  • Pale straw color
  • Full body, 13% ABV
  • Modest acidity
  • Aromas/flavors: stone fruits, baked apple, lime, grapefruit, rose, white flowers, balanced by compelling minerality
  • Moderate finish, good warmth and acidity on the finish

So, whether you fancy white or red, look around for this Chardonnay when you want a wine that is beautiful, strong, elegant, and endlessly intriguing.

How about you? Do you have an Australian (or any) kind of Chardonnay you love? Do tell!

*Unfortunately this particular wine is out of stock at the moment on 😦

But when I asked for some other similar recommendations, these were mentioned. 🙂

Please note I have not personally tried these yet, but they sound great and are in keeping with the style of the Penfolds Chardonnay. Until then, keep your eyes peeled for this wine or try the following!

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023: A Review

On Friday, March 10th, I got up early and hit the road to make the journey down to McMinnville, Oregon, where the 30th Annual McMinnville Wine + Food Classic was taking place. I had not been since 2019, so the absence had definitely compounded my excitement.

This event goes for three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and is a fundraiser for St. James School in McMinnville, OR. You can purchase tickets for as many days as you like. They even offer shuttle service from downtown McMinnville to the Museum.

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

There are tons of wineries, but also distilleries, cideries, meaderies, breweries (all the eez). There is obviously food, and a handful of artisans and crafters. You can peruse all of the 2023 participating vendors here.

I tried numerous pours of wine. I would have loved to have tried some other alcoholic products but stuck to my original plan (maybe next year).

Your ticket purchase includes two tasting tokens. At most places, one token is equal to one pour, but for certain specialty and library wines, two or even three tokens might be required. I wound up purchasing 15 additional tokens, and that was MORE than enough. Having an additional day or two to try more wines would be ideal but I could only attend one day.

Tasting tokens for the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

Tasting tokens for the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

I obviously was not able to try every single wine and winery at the festival, but out of the ones I did, here are five wineries and their wines that stood out to me, and that you would not be remiss in checking out. Please note that at some of these vendors I only tried one pour, so this is based on the limited amount I tried that day. I also would have loved to have purchased more bottles but, alas, budgets. 🙂

  1. Denison Cellars 2019 Björnson Vineyard Pinot Noir: This wine really captivated me. Their Pinot was elegant, complex, expressive, beautiful. I sure wish I could have tasted their full line-up but I was trying to spread my tasting tokens out to try more wineries. Time to plan a private tasting at their vineyard in Salem! From the tasting notes: “The resulting wine is deep ruby in color and displays aromas of black cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry. With hints of cola and all-spice, the ripe, velvety tannins provide structure for rich, mouth-filling volume. Flavors of dark red fruit persist into a lingering finish.” $48/bottle. *Of special note for Oregonians: FREE LOCAL DELIVERY for those in Yamhill County, Salem, and Portland with any 3+ bottle purchase. I cannot wait to return and taste more of their wines.
  2. Patton Valley Wines 2018 Lange Vineyard Pinot Noir: Patton Valley has been a brand for over 25 years, but at the moment they are a nomadic winery with no permanent tasting room. I think that’s cool because I’m sure it allows them to save a ton of money and put that towards great winemaking; plus it’s a chance to get creative and have some fun, different tasting options. This was a delicious Pinot Noir I decided to take home as well. $55/bottle. According to the tasting notes, it has a “lush red fruited nose” and a “broad and silky palate.” This is a winery whose offerings you must try if you’re into specific Pinot Noir clones from particular Willamette Valley area vineyards. Visit their website to order wines and to learn where they are pouring.
  3. Domaine de Broglie 2019 Clone 777 Pinot Noir: Established in 2019, Domaine de Broglie is a more recent newcomer to the Dundee Hills AVA. This estate is owned by Francis Ford Coppola and was previously Vista Hills Vineyard. At the 2023 McMinnville Wine Competition, this showstopper wine took home Best of Show, Best Red Wine, and Double Gold! Uh-huh. Here are the tasting notes, you’ll see why: “Aromas of mushrooms, cedar, and forest floor mingle with sweeter aromas of vanilla coffee. A savory, well rounded palate counterpointed with notes of strawberries, red fruit, and salted caramel. An outstanding wine, showcasing the range of expression found in Oregon Pinot Noir.” $62/bottle, 100% Pinot Noir. This wine is music in a glass! This is the indulgence bottle. I did take this beauty home. (I also recall a tried a very enchanting Chardonnay).
  4. Rue Cler 2019 Rocks Syrah: Oh, wow! This is one I will be buying in the future, so intriguing and delicious. $48/bottle, sourced from Noble Rock Vineyard in Milton-Freewater, OR. From the tasting notes: “Black fruit takes a backseat to savory meats, crushed violets and brine…. Huckleberries and wet stone give great acid that lingers on the finish…. Decant to discover layers of earth and umami in your glass.” If you like wines with savory flavors and plenty going on, you’ll love this! Side note: I did not try their Walla Walla Syrah, but one of my tasting companions did and she kept going back for more sips. 🙂
  5. Siltstone 2021 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: What I especially enjoyed about Siltstone Wines was they make a very good, very drinkable Pinot Noir for $24/bottle. You’re greeted with aromas of cherry, red fruit, and vanilla spice on the nose, and flavors of cherry cola and plum on the palate. The wine is medium-bodied with balanced tannins and a soft smoky finish. As much as I love ultra-fine, premium Pinot Noirs, I just can’t afford them all the time, and I’ll bet you can’t, either. And while $24 for a bottle of wine is a lot for many people (especially right now), when you look at overall pricing for good quality Pinot Noir, you’ll see that it’s very difficult to find GOOD stuff like this in this price range. This is a bargain for lovely Pinot Noir. I also would love to try more of their wines someday.

This event is a great way to get acquainted with a variety of fantastic Willamette Valley wineries all under one roof, and a great excuse to do something fun with your friends.

Have you been to the McMinnville Wine + Food Classic? If so, what did you try and like there? Comment below!

McMinnville Wine + Food Classic 2023, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

Definitely the best dressed guest! Photo courtesy Eagle Eye Droneography.

At First Blush: Evoke Winery Heralds First Day of Spring

A Perfect Springtime Sipper: Evoke Winery’s Blush Wine

At last, it’s the first day of spring! Release the doves and explode the confetti! Seriously, give yourself a pat on the back for getting through the winter. Western Washington has it pretty easy weather-wise compared to many other parts of the world, but the increase in daylight hours and sunshine so far has been more than welcome.

Sure, spring brings its fair share of rainy days for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a new season; one of freshness, greenery, new growth, colorful and sweet-smelling flowers. Clearly, we need a wine to match the fast-approaching debut of daffodils, cherry blossoms, and tulips. And I cannot think of anything that epitomizes spring better than Evoke Winery’s Talk Flirty to Me Blush Wine.

Yes, you heard me correctly, I said blush wine. And why not? When was the last time you had a blush wine, or, have you ever even had a blush wine? I remember the bygone era when my parents kept boxes of Franzia White Zinfandel (blush wine) in our basement fridge.

And no, blush wine is not rosé. Read on for the juicy details….

Rosé wine can be made in a range of styles from dry (no sweetness on the palate) to sweet (where, obviously, you taste sweet). Pretty much all wine grapes, even red ones, have white flesh inside, not red (Alicante Bouschet is a notable exception). So a rosé wine is made by allowing the red skins to impart some color (longer time contributes to more intense color) to the grape juice, but then the skins are separated from the juice and do not ferment with the juice as it becomes wine (otherwise it would be red wine).

Blush wine, on the other hand, can have pink color like rosé, but instead of being dry it is sweet, with stronger fruit flavors and softer texture. Blush wine in particular is a good route to go if you are just starting out in wine (it’s sweet, aromatic, approachable) but experienced wine drinkers should not overlook the vernal charms of blush wine, either.

To be honest, I am not a huge rosé fan. There have been some standouts, but they generally leave me annoyed, because I see the pink color and naturally expect some sweetness, then I’m let down by drinking dry white wine with pink color. It messes with my brain! Blush wine is more my cup of tea (er, glass of wine).

I love “serious” wine – wine that offers up so many aromas, flavors, and textures you have a lot to ponder as you consume it – but I also really love it when people have FUN with wine and get creative with names and descriptions. Case in point: Evoke Winery, based out of Hood River, Oregon (which used to be called Naked Winery years ago – see my post on their Chardonnay from back in the day or their Oh! Orgasmic Barbera). I love their motto – “Northwest Wines for Fun People.” They can be silly with their wines because what is in the bottle, truth be told, is SERIOUSLY GOOD WINE. No need to try and impress or come across as serious – the wine speaks for itself.

According to their website, “Evoke Winery is an Oregon-based winery with a big personality – and a little something for everyone. From full-bodied reds (like our Penetration Cabernet Sauvignon) to the best-tasting rosé wine (like our fan-favorite Our Cliché Rosé), it’s our mission to make feel-good wines for whatever the times.”

Those words couldn’t be more true. Check out their wide selection of wines, there really is something on here for every palate.

Evoke Winery has three tasting rooms in Oregon (Hood River, Bend, and Seaside) and one in Vancouver, Washington, which just opened a few days ago. Lots of great options and excuses for getting out and seeing what the fun is all about.

Evoke Winery Talk Flirty to Me Sweet Blush Wine

Stop it, you’re making me blush!
Photo courtesy Evoke Winery

So on to the wine at hand:

  • Evoke Winery Talk Flirty to Me Sweet Blush Wine Columbia Valley 2020
  • $28/bottle
  • 13.5% ABV, Residual Sugar 6
  • Varietals used: Viognier, Muscat, Petite Sirah
  • Aged 3 months in stainless steel
  • Medium body, semi-sweet
  • Soft and dreamy, low acidity
  • I got aromas/flavors of strawberry, peach, and orange blossom. Heavenly!
  • Evoke says: “Evokes notes of marmalade, peach rings, and hitting your data limit.”
  • Evoke also suggests pairing this with strawberry shortcake or rhubarb strudel à la mode.

This wine smacks of springtime perfection. Just writing about it is making me thirsty!

Happy First Day of Spring, readers! Go try some Talk Flirty to Me Sweet Blush Wine and share it with your favorite flirty people IRL.

Special thanks to Shelly at Evoke Winery for your enthusiasm and help answering my questions! 🙂 

Out of the Shadows, Ex Umbris Syrah

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here is an Irish blessing for you:

Remember to Forget

Always remember to forget
The things that made you sad.
But never forget to remember
The things that made you glad.

That is something I handle well with wine… I never forget to remember the wines that made me glad. 🙂

While today’s wine is not Irish, it’s made by a gentleman named David O’Reilly at a winery named Owen Roe (I’m guessing there’s some Irish there). 😉

Since it is still Washington Wine Month, it’s only fitting I introduce you to another of my tried-and-true go-to wines (wow, that was a heckuva lotta hyphens): Owen Roe 2020 Ex Umbris Syrah Columbia Valley.

The first time I had Owen Roe wines was at a now defunct wine bar in Fremont. This was among my earlier wine tasting experiences and I just loved every single Owen Roe wine I had, and took home most of them, including the Ex Umbris Syrah. Ex Umbris is Latin for “out of the shadows.”

Here were my tasting notes on the 2010 Ex Umbris:

“Virtually flawless Syrah. Delectable. I want more!”

And, amazingly, I still share those same sentiments in 2023!

According to the winemaker, Ex Umbris was first made in 2002 “… after a wild fire struck the vineyard’s surrounding hillsides. The residual ash and smoke resonated in the Syrah grapes, creating a very memorable wine.” Thus they produce this Syrah every year in keeping with the style of the first vintage. Just to be clear, this does not mean you taste wildfire smoke, not at all.

This is one of my all-time favorite Syrahs, Washington or otherwise. I keep going back to it because it is consistently great and at a very comfortable price for such a high quality wine. Everyone I’ve recommended it to or gifted it to has loved it. And the wine doesn’t lie – winemaker David O’Reilly carefully selects only premium Syrah grapes from top Washington vineyards in Columbia, Yakima, and Walla Walla Valleys for this wine.

Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah wine

I love the script on the label. Brings back memories of taking calligraphy in middle school.

Here are the details and my impressions of the wine:

  • $17.47/bottle at Total Wine, slightly less at Costco, $21.00 at winery
  • Deep ruby color
  • Full body, 14.1% ABV, mostly dry
  • Aromas/Flavors: Plum, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, pepper, clay, floral
  • Lush, full fruit flavors, touch of spice, vanilla on the palate
  • Soft yet strong background tannins that offer good support in the wine
  • Good, balanced presence of acidity
  • Long-lasting, gentle finish

In sum, this is a fantastic introductory teaser to the epic level of quality that Washington Syrah can achieve.

I really need to do a road trip and visit their tasting room in Wapato, WA. Not only do they specialize in Washington reds like Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc., but also in Oregon reds like Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. Some of the best of both states, and my top favorite types of wine. But alas, when? Think I’ll go pine away for now….

Anyway, you can purchase Ex Umbris Syrah at Total Wine and certain Costco locations, and obviously through the winery itself. In fact, if you’re a really big fan, you can purchase a case of Ex Umbris directly through the winery and each bottle comes to about $12.42/bottle (before tax, etc.). Unbelievable! (Sadly, this option is sold out at the moment). 😦

So for those of you who prefer red wine to green beer, Guinness, or Bailey’s, raise a glass of Ex Umbris Syrah and proclaim, Sláinte!

1. Cavoto, Erin, “50 Best Irish Blessings to Read Aloud on St. Patrick’s Day”, The Pioneer Woman, March 1, 2023, accessed March 15, 2023,