Saturday, August 25, 2018

Barking Frog at Willows Lodge Wine Dine Experience

Barking Frog at Willows Lodge Wine Dine Experience

Our final culinary dining experience during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour was dinner at the Barking Frog restaurant in the Willows Lodge resort.

Barking Frog is the fine dining establishment in the Seattle wine country suburb of Woodinville, home to, reportedly, over a hundred wine tasting venues.

Once again, it was a delight to have son Ryan along with us for the trip to share the experience.

We scored a dinner reservation from local Somm and wine room manager at one of the premier tasting rooms.

Barking Frog have an excellent wine list but we took one bottle BYOB, that son Ryan obtained from the Library collection at Long Shadows cellars, a 2004 Pirouette Bordeaux Blend.  This label was one of the wines we tasted and acquired at Long Shadows, one of their Vintners Collection Winemaker Series featuring world class winemakers collaborating to showcase the best art of the possible from Washington State vineyards.

Pirouette Bordeaux Blend is crafted by Augustin Hunneeus, Sr and Philippe Melka, noted for Napa Valley leading wine labels. We hold this wine in our cellar back at home but had not yet tasted this vintage. We also hold many other Philppe Melka labels from his own Melka brand as well as many others for which he is consulting winemaker.

Like we did for our other culinary ventures this week, we chose the Price Fixe tasting menu to follow the chef's suggestion for the pairings and courses.

Here were our course selections:

  • Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
  • Heirloom tomatoes with basil, urfa biber, cherries/buratta and noble xo
  • Asparagus with farro fries, parmesan tuile, spring herbs and lemon tarragon aioli
  • Atlantic Sea Scallops with artichoke, fava beans, cipollini onions, onion soubise and porcini nage
  • Beef  ribeye  w/ whipped potatoes,  asparagus and sauce chasseur
  •  For the final course, Linda had the Vanilla Bean Creme' Brulee and I had the Trio of Sorbets
From the winelist we ordered a sparkling wine starter and a dessert wine for the finale.

What a treat, our second Inniskillin Ice Wine in as many weeks!  Ryan had the Sauterne which, while wonderful, was not a match for the Inniskillin. 

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine 2015
Château Roûmieu-Lacoste Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2015

Our Dinner Plates:

Hudon Valley Foie Gras

Heirloom tomatoes with basil

Asparagus with farro fries

Beef Ribeye

Seattle Wine and Dine - Washington State Wines Tasting in Woodinville

Seattle Wine and Dine - Washington State Wines Tasting in Woodinville

We traveled to Seattle for a multipurpose trip including exploring the Seattle Culinary scene and to visit the Washington wine (tasting) area of Woodinville. We had several superb dinners and then ventured to the wine country where we targeted a select group of producers that we know to produce or that were recommended to us for their premium high quality labels. All in all it was a spectacular trip having several outstanding culinary dinners including extraordinary wine and food pairings. 

Washington State wines are coming of their own achieving new heights in quality and recognition. The number of  Washington wineries has increased 400% in the last decade and has grown proportionally as a tourism industry. It is the nation's second largest wine producer. Interestingly, the area is geographically located on approximately the same latitude (46ºN) as some of the great French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Washington State wine growing areas are now officially recognized in 14 federally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), also commonly known as appellations.  The vineyards producing wine grapes in the fourteen different appellations lie in the Columbia Valley river basin that cuts through the center of the state from North to South and then turns west separating Oregon from Washington as it heads to the Pacific.

American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are geographical wine grape growing regions in the United States. Their boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and established at the request of wineries or other petitioners. Washington State currently has 14 AVAs.

Since the vineyards and their producer wineries are several hours from any population centers, producers have created a wine tasting mecca in the Seattle outer suburb of Woodinville, north and east of the city. Several dozen producers have tasting rooms in freestanding venues and in several commercial centers that in any other locale across the country could be mistaken for neighborhood strip malls or regional outlet malls.

According to the Willows Lodge website, where they promote their wine tasting and tour weekend packages, there are 115 wineries or tasting rooms representing every Washington State appellation in the Woodinville Wine Country. 

Wineries visited and wines tasted:

Chateau St Michelle, Woodinville

Fine dining restaurants where we dined during the trip:


Guardian Cellars Tasting Visit Woodinville

Guardian Cellars Tasting Visit Woodinville 

Another stop in our Woodinville wine tasting tour as part of our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour was a visit to Guardian Cellars. This was another as yet undiscovered producer that was suggested as a worthwhile stop in the area. While perhaps not at the level of the premium Long Shadows selections, or the Fidelitas or Mark Ryan premium labels, Guardium produces some very respectable quality wines that represent high QPR - Quality Price Ratio selections. 

Unlike many of the Woodinville winery tasting rooms that are sited in strip malls or commercial centers resembling an outlet mall, Guardian is housed in their own freestanding building in a quaint yellow cottage/home with a wrap around porch, ideal for casual wine sipping.

The Guardian story is interesting and storybook. Founder Jerry Reiner was a Seattle law enforcement officer and amateur winemaker on the side. After graduating from Univerity of Washington with a degree in organic chemistry, and the police academy, he worked as a volunteer apprentice at Woodinville wineries - Mathews Cellars, Mark Ryan and Baer, assisting friends with harvest or in the tasting rooms. 

Jerry met Jennifer shortly after she started working as a reporter for the Seattle Times newspaper. After a courtship, Jerry the cop and Jennifer the reporter got married. Four years after Jerry's graduation, they started Guardian Cellars producing a Bordeaux-style blend, a Cabernet and a Syrah. Upon opening the Guardian Cellars tasting room in November 2007, all of their 350 cases were gone by the end of the day. When the 2005 vintage was released months later, their entire production was gone in just a few days.

Today, Jerry, protege Joel, and the Guardian team produce 16 different wines under the Guardian label and a second label, Newsprint. This year's production exceeded 10,000 cases. While he is still a cop, he continues to make wine as head winemaker. Like Jerry, Jennifer also still has her “day job" as a reporter for KOMO (ABC) TV. When not working, or tending to their two daughters, Josephine and Jillian, she works in winery promotions, and hospitality where she can often be found pouring wine in the tasting room on the weekends

Fruit for Guardian wines is sourced from leading vineyards in Central Washington Columbia Valley - from sandy soils of Conner Lee Vineyard, in the Columbia Valley; west to the petrified tree fossils lining the soil in StoneTree Vineyard, in the Wahluke Slope; and southeast to the loam soils of Red Mountain.

 As I have written in these pages pertaining to several of the Washington State, Woodinville producers, many of their wines are crafted from fruit sourced from major vineyards. The wines are distinguished by the handicraft of the winemakers in the making of and blending of the wines. A few have Estate vineyards while many source their grapes from the same vineyards year after year under long term contracts. 

The Conner Lee Vineyard is in the Columbia Valley AVA near Othello, Washingon, and dates back more than 35 years to the early 1980's, the early days of Washington wine grape production. Conner Lee is planted in in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and Viognier grape varietals. These grapes are used in the Guardian flagship Bordeaux blend label  'Gun Metal', since the very start of the winery.

The 250 acre StoneTree Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA was planted in 2000. The name of the vineyard is derived from the petrified tree fossils found in the surrounding hills. The vineyard is located on a rolling sloping hillside northwest of Mattawa, Washington, surrounded on one side by the Columbia River and on the other by the Saddle Mountains. Guardian considers StoneTree as their 'go-to' vineyard as a primary source for their fruit.

The Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA lies on the southwest slope of Red Mountain, and is considered the source of some of Washington’s finest grapes. Klipsun was named one of the Top 25 Vineyards in the World by Wine & Spirits magazine, Klipsun primarily grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Nebbiolo. The 120-acre estate was founded in 1982 by Patricia and David Gelles and was acquired by the Terlato Wine Group of Chicago in early 2017.

The Obelisco Vineyard, planted in 2006 in the Red Mountain AVA, produces classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for several of Washington's top premium producers. 

The Quintessence Vineyard, also in Red Mountain, while a newer vineyard, is also a well known source for several top producers and well known labels. Guardian works closely with the Quintessence vineyard team to grow the perfect grapes according to their plans and expectations. Guardian has a long term arrangement to source 22 acres of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from blocks planted in 2011. These blocks are known for fruit-driven dusty-red tannin characteristic so common in the best Red Mountain fruit.

Guardian wines are labeled with whimsical names befitting the marriage of a policeman and a beat reporter, with a sense of humor, producing wines together, Confidential Informant, Chalk Line, Rookie and Alibi.

The wines we tasted:
  • Angel Sauvignon Blanc 2017
  • Newsprint Chardonnay 2016
  • Chalk Line Washington State Red Wine 2016
  • Gun Metal Washington State Red Wine 2016
  • Alibi Red Mountain Red Wine 2016
  • The Rookie Red Mountain Red Wine 2016 
  • Confidential Source Columbia Valley Red 2016
  • Newsprint Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Newsprint Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc 2016 

We tasted and acquired several of these wines to bring home and look forward to returning for more and will keep a keen eye out for these labels to appear here in the Midwest in distribution.

Fidelitas Red Mountain Wine Tasting in Woodinville

Fidelitas Columbia Valley Red Mountain Wine Tasting in Woodinville tasting room

Another one of the highlights of our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour was visiting the Fidelitas tasting room in Woodinville. We first discovered Fidelitas wines when one of the winery representatives visited Naperville several years ago and we acquired their wine as a result. According to my records and wine journal, this occurred back on Oct 5, 2005 at Binny's Naperville. At that time, hosted by Chris F of Binny's, we tasted and I acquired Fidelitas Optu Columbia Valley Red Wine 2002. We enjoyed that half case from 2005 through 2015. Hence, I was familiar with Fidelitas and eager to get reacquainted with our visit to their Woodinville tasting room. 

Fidelitas is the project of Charlie Hopps, early pioneer and leader on the Washington State wine scene dating back to its early days in the early 1980’s. It began with Charlie fermenting berry wines from a family vineyard near his in-laws in Pasco, Washington. He developed a love for wine and attended the renowned Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California – Davis, graduating in 1988 with a degree in Agricultural Science and Management with a emphasis in Viticulture and Enology. After graduation he returned to Washington and worked for Mike Januik at Snoqualmie/Langguth winery. After some time in Walla Walla at Waterbrook Winery, he rejoined Januik in 1990 as a member of the winemaking team at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.

In 1993, Charlie became the Head Red Winemaker where he managed Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Canoe Ridge facility near Paterson, Washington. There, he had gained experience making a large number of wines, learning and improving the art of making fine wines in Washington. He had the opportunity to work with the legendary Antinori family from Italy on a joint venture producing the Col Solare label from1995 through 1998.

In the winter of 1999, he left Chateau Ste. Michelle to venture into making his own wine. Working with the startup of Three Rivers Winery, he was winemaker from 1999 through the 2002.  During that  time, he started Fidelitas in 2000. The first vintage was a Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot blend named Optu. It was this wine that we first acquired from the 2002 vintage release from that initial introduction to Fidelitas. This wine is still in the Fidelitas portfolio today, as the Red Mountain Bordeaux-style blend.

In 2007, Fidelitas purchased land in the Red Mountain, AVA and planted a small three-acre vineyard.  There they built a tasting room. and added an additional ten acres that were planted in the spring of 2015 with red Bordeaux varietals. Since that first Red Mountain Fidelitas in 2005, production has continued to expand.

In 2012 vintage, they released Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Working with other top growers in the Red Mountain AVA, Fidelitas produces vineyard designated wines from Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, Blackwood Canyon Vineyard, and Quintessence Vineyard, as well as blends and varietal wines from throughout the AVA.

Today, Charlie is consulting winemaker for several other wineries throughout the region.  2017 marked his 30th vintage making Washington wines. In Charlie Hoppes name "Washington's Top Malbec Maker" by the Andy Perdue of the Seatle Times.

He and his wife, Terri, have four adult children who are working and going to school around the U.S.  Their son, Will, recently joined the team at Fidelitas. Will worked in the operations since he was 13. After getting his degree from University of Portland, he went into the wine business working for Nicolas-Jay, a Willamette Valley Pinot-producing startup. Joining Fidelitas, he heads up the Woodinville tasting room. In 2019. he will join Charlie working in the cellar for the harvest, as they build a multi-generational winery.

We tasted the following wines in the tasting room:

Fidelitas Optu Red Mountain White Wine 2015
Fidelitas The Canyons Vineyard Red Wine 2015
Fidelitas Red Mountain Malbec 2015 
Fidelitas Red Mountain Merlot  2015
Fidelitas Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

This is the Fidelitas 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Red Mountain Quintessence Vineyard. It is produced in the 'Old World' style, aged in 96% New French Oak.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, with notes of tobacco leaf and hints of olive undertones against the firm structured but balanced black berry and subdued blue berry fruits accented by notes of dark chocolate with a lingering moderate tannin finish. 576 cases were produced.

We bought this wine and carried it home. 

RM 93 points. 94 Points, Jeb Dunnuck

Fidelitas "The Canyons" Vineyard Red Wine 2015 

The Canyons Vineyard Red Wine is named for the deep ravines that cut through the vineyard site. This is a blend 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, and 12% Merlot, aged in 80% New French Oak. 360 cases were produced.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, notes of black berry and hints of black raspberry and cherry, herbs and spice with nice full tannins on the long finish. 

RM 91 points.
 We acquired this and carried it home.

Fidelitas Red Mountain Malbec 2015

Charlie Hoppes was name "Washington's Top Malbec Maker" by the Andy Perdue of the Seatle Times for this wine.

Fruit for the Red Mountain Malbec is sourced from three unique vineyard sites within the AVA; 56% Kiona Heart of the Hill Vineyard, 24% Scooteney Flats Vineyard, 20% The Canyons Vineyard. 
This was aged in 22% New American Oak, 9% New French Oak; 552 cases were produced.

Dark garnet colored medium bodied, bright red raspberry and cherry fruits with notes of herbs and hints of spice, white pepper and minerality with balanced acidity on a subdued finish. 

RM 89 points.

Fidelitas Red Mountain Merlot 2015

While this is 100% Red Mountain Merlot it is sourced from five different Red Mountain Vineyards - 44% Red Mountain Vineyard, 24% Red Heaven Vineyard, 16% Scooteney Flats Vineyard, 8% Kiona Vineyard, 8% The Canyons Vineyard. It was aged in 32% New French Oak, 32% New American Oak. 575 cases were produced.

Charlie Hoppes has noted, “Washington’s original reputation for great wine is based on Merlot”. 

This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright rich vibrant berry fruits with bright acidity and smooth soft lingering tannins on the finish. 

RM 90 points.

The Fidelitas vineyard is in the Red Mountain AVA, the smallest of the fourteen Washington State appellations. Red Mountain is gaining distinction from producing some of the top wines from the State. It is known for a wide range of grape varietals, most notably Bordeaux varietals.

According to the Fidelitas website, the Red Mountain AVA is unique, characterized for the following reasons.

A Southwestern Facing Slope

The southwest slope of the Red Mountain AVA provides the vineyards in the region with a directional aspect to the sun that is ideal for prolonged sunlight exposure and warmth. These highly desirable conditions allow for a ripeness in tannins that is recognized as a primary characteristic of Red Mountain fruit.

Warm Summers and Winters

Red Mountain experiences more growing degree days than any other region in the state.  The high latitude (N 46*) and topography contribute temperature swings experienced during the growing season, with daytime temperatures averaging 90 °F and night time temperatures dropping below 50 °F. These heat accumulation days create ideal temperatures for highly marketable grapes, exhibiting ripeness and concentration.  The cooler evenings help to retain acidity levels which allows for the exceptional balance and structure found in Red Mountain grapes, and the wines crafted from them.

Low Rainfall

Red Mountain gathers less than 10 inches of rain per year, requiring irrigation in the vineyards.  The use of drip irrigation provides ideal grape growing conditions through canopy management. Additionally, Red Mountain vines experience dramatically lower mold and mildew pressure compared to most other vineyard regions.

Smallest AVA in Washington State

Red Mountain is the smallest recognized American Viticultural Area in Washington State, with 4040 acres.  Of that, about 2700 acres have been determined plantable, and only 1500 is currently under vine. Red Mountain is defined by natural borders, with the ridge of the mountain to the north and the Yakima River to the west.  Red Mountain resembles a growing region more like the Old World, where one can see each block of each vineyard from a single vantage point.

AVA Specific Soils

The predominate soils of Red Mountain are not found anywhere else in the state.  Wine blown Loess (Warden, Hezel, and Scootenay) were brought in by pre-historic floods.  The high alkalinity and calcium carbonate content of the soil, along with its granular consistency, allows for each vine to form a well established root system. In soils with this composition, root systems are able to reach deep to obtain the necessary nutrients and moisture.

Consistent Winds

The prevailing winds come out of the Southwest and are notable for their frequency and velocity. The regular gusts of warm air flow through the AVA’s vineyards during the growing season, keeping the grape clusters small and concentrating the flavors of the fruit - which contributes to their richness and intensity