Couple of Winos

Washington wine ~ one couple's journey

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These Wines Were Made For Walking

April 29th, 2014 · Wine

WineWalkTake a stroll to these

local Wine Walks


Issaquah Wine Walk

Fri. May 2nd ~ 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Enjoy the final Issaquah Wine Walk Series of the season Friday May 2nd! The finale’ is bigger and better than ever. New venues, live music and lots of wineries. Enjoy art happenings, snacks and local boutique wines poured in various tasting locations up and down Front Street. CLICK HERE to get your $25 advance ticket price and save $5!


La Conner Wine Walk

Sat. May 3rd ~ 5:00 – 8:00 pm

Taste many of the finest Washington State wines while strolling thru Downtown La Conner’s local wine shops! Enjoy this walking tasting tour through La Conner, one of Washington State’s most-loved getaway destinations! CLICK HERE to get your $20 advance ticket price and save $5!


Kent Wine Walk

Fri. May 16th ~ 5:00 – 8:00 pm

Taste scrumptious wines from ten Northwest wineries while strolling around local shops! Benefits revitalization efforts of Downtown Kent! Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased by emailing Barbara Smith at

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Winery Profile: Kiona Vineyards and Winery

March 25th, 2014 · Wine

Kiona (the “i” rhymes with pie) is the original Yakama Nation Native American name for the Red Mountain area. Translated, it means “Brown Hills.” Like its namesake, Kiona Vineyards and Winery has a very interesting history.

John and Ann Williams pioneered Red Mountain and planted Kiona’s first vineyards in 1975 with Jim Holmes (of Ciel du Cheval fame). John and Jim were engineers in nearby Richland when their interest in wine and viticulture led them to purchase land on Red Mountain in order to plant a vineyard.

John and Jim began to explore the area and first found the “Experimental Station” doing work with growing wine grapes in Prosser, under the direction of the now legendary Dr. Walter Clore.  Results from some of Dr. Clore’s experimental viticulture had just been published.

“Hey, we’re only 10 miles away,” Holmes remembers the two future wine industry leaders concluded.  “We can do this. We thought we would grow grapes just for fun, and maybe haul them to Seattle and sell them to home winemakers.  We had no idea there were really worthy wineries that would use these grapes.”

KionaAs far as John Williams and Jim Holmes were concerned, the plan was perfect. It was an 84-acre patch of desolate sagebrush and cheatgrass nestled between Red Mountain and the Yakima River. They did their research, of course, and as far as they could tell, the area was perfect for growing grapes. It had south-facing slopes, incredible hezel silt loam soil, and temperate sunny weather conditions. It didn’t matter that they had to bring electricity in from 3 miles away or dig a well on their own dime. They were going to plant a vineyard, and it was going to be good.

John Williams remembers, “We’d researched it and knew there was water about some 500 feet deep. We were at 550 feet and close to the end of our cash, and we hadn’t hit water yet, and the well driller asked us how far we wanted to go. We asked, how much money have we got left? We drilled about five more feet and hit the water.”

Turns out it was a great decision to drill just a little further. With the water now flowing, the partners decided to go ahead and plant four acres each of three classic varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Employing what one of John’s children would jokingly call “slave child labor” more than 30 years later, the first grapes were planted on Red Mountain in 1975. The first fruit was ready in 1978, but only two years would pass before Kiona Vineyards became Kiona Vineyards and Winery and produced the first wine under the name in 1980.

Fast forwarding a few decades, the Red Mountain AVA is recognized as one of the world’s premier grape growing areas, renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah of unmatched intensity and depth of character. Kiona Vineyards and Winery operates as a three generation family winery with over 300 acres under vine.

Tasting Room Open Noon to 5:00 Daily

Visit them at

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Knight Hill Winery’s Roundtable Red Wins

December 2nd, 2010 · Wine

A classic battle happened in our home a few days ago.  We pitted a California 2007 Zinfandel against a Washington 2009 red blend.  What showed through was a classic California vs Washington wine smack-down.

The Zinfindel was Trader Joe’s 2007 Coastal Zinfandel.  Which, for the price, is not bad.  It starts off with an explosion of fruitiness and then falls off the coastal cliff from which it came.   It’s a Zinfandel that doesn’t last, so you just need to keep drinking it in order to avoid the poor finish.

The Red was Knight Hill Winery’s Roundtable Red.  We picked this one up on our honeymoon and were under strict instructions to let it sit for at least 6 months before opening it, as it was bottled the week before we purchased.  We made it seven months  🙂 and were pleasantly surprised by it’s balanced, subtle nature.  Very little fruitiness but, as Lisa put it, “full of all the wine flavor that isn’t fruit.”  It’s smooth, no big flavors up front, a bit of a peak in spice by the mid, with a nice long lasting, full-structured finish.

While we’re not the most experienced winos in the world, this felt like a great example of the differences between California and Washington wine.  When I think California wine (and I’m not talking the high end stuff), I envision huge fruity flavor with a light color and consistency, along with big sugar content.  Where as I see Washington wines, again not the high end stuff, with more subtle fruit, less sugar and a more complex and lasting flavor.

That’s why when it comes to bang-for-your-buck wines, I think Washington wine are a step a head simply because the flavors last.  California’s cheaper wines offer good flavor but poor finish, which means you can’t sip and enjoy them all night.  You have to chug them to keep enjoying.



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Chinook Winery Cabernet Franc 2007

November 26th, 2010 · Wine

Chinook 2007 Cab Franc

Smooth, bold, with fruitiness that is bigger than old world standards, but not quite as fruity as other Washington Cab Francs.

The Chinook 2007 Cab Franc describes its grapes as coming from the Yakima Valley AVA, between the Horse Haven Hills and the Yakima river.  This puts the vineyard on the north side of the hill, near the river and likely in a zone that is more moderate in temperature and light exposure than the Walla Walla or Red Mountain Cab Francs.  In this case, it shows with subtle fruit flavors, by Washington standards, with a very rich and silky feel through-out.  After trying Palouse’s much fruitier Cab Franc, this one leaves me a bit wanting.  It’s still good, but if I had to choose one, it would definitely be the Palouse winery Cab Franc.

– Dan

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I Think I’m In Love … Or maybe it’s just the wine

November 25th, 2010 · Wine

For wine novices (like me), choosing a wine is like playing roulette.  We place our bets on a color (red or white), a specific number (year or vintage) or sometimes on a range of numbers (blends).

We pick a wine, give it a ‘spin’ and hope we get lucky, right?

Well, it finally happened.  I got L-U-C-K-Y.  And not only that –  I straight fell in love. <cue violins and chirping birds>

We saw each other across a dimly lit, converted-garage.  I sized up the bottle, giggled at its name (“Dynamique” – how pop star of it), then had myself a taste.

Wow! That’s all I could say.  Wow!

This was a Cab Franc like no other (I say this because I’d had no other Cab Franc).  Luscious and full-bodied only begin to describe this beauty.  And, oh the sweetness! When I stopped in at Vashon Island’s Palouse Winery, I was just looking for a little fun.  I didn’t expect to find the real thing.

So, the nePalouse Wineryxt question wasn’t, “Should I buy a bottle?’  It was, “How many bottles should I buy?”

Needless to say I bought three, cashed in my chips and went home a winner.

That was the beginning of the end.

Like all whirlwind romances, the first couple weeks were amazing.  We drank each other up.  Enjoyed every drop.  Always wanted more.

But soon, Dynamique started running out on me.  I saw it coming, but didn’t restock fast enough.  And besides, she could be replaced, right?  There were other Cab Francs in the world, and what can I say, I’m a gambler.

Soon, I was trolling the wine isles for some stand ins.

In my search for another pure Cab Franc varietal, I could only find about three or four of them (and, yes, this was at local grocery stores, where – admit it! – most of us get our wines).  As far as Made in Washington ones go, I found bottles from Cor Cellars (2008, Columbia Valley), Bonair Winery (2008, Yakima Valley) and Chinook Winery (2007 Yakima Valley).  Opting for the Chinook, I took it home to party.

This is where I wanted to say, “OMG, it was like Palouse all over again!” But it wasn’t.

Mind you, it wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t “Wow!”  It was subtle and smooth, but where I was expecting Pow!, I got Putt.

So my love affair with Cab Franc won’t be as easily maintained as I thought.  No late night bottle calls.  No chance encounters at PCC.  No, Dynamique is classy like that and is only available direct from Palouse.

That’s okay though.  She’s worth it.

– Lisa

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Andrew Will Wine – Update

December 26th, 2009 · Wine

Lisa got me a bottle of Andrew Will for Christmas. Details straight from Andrew Will‘s site:

2006 Ciel du Cheval
We were right to hold this wine back from it’s usual release date in the early fall. Already, it is starting to show the startling balance and beautiful austerity which are the hallmarks for Ciel du Cheval wines. Each year, we experience the paradox of perfectly ripened Merlot and Cabernet Franc in this warmer Cabernet site. This year is no exception. This wine has an almost obsessive appeal. For me the difficulty in describing the qualities in the wine is best overcome if the wine is seen as something magical and taken for that.
WINE & VINTAGE 2006 Ciel du Cheval
37% Cab Franc
40% Merlot
4% Petit Verdot
Titratable Acidity .51 grams per 100 ml
pH 3.91
Alcohol 14.5%
COOPERAGE Taransaud new French
Cases/750ML 1262
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An Ode to Andrew Will Winery

November 18th, 2009 · Wine

I hate you Andrew Will Winery. You have ruined all wine for me, I’ve tasted your beauty and cannot go back.

No longer will the $12 wines impress me with their flavor for you have crushed them with your big bold Bordeaux style. The fruity aromas, the smooth finish, and the velvety texture has your Ciel du Cheval 2003 taunting me, lingering, and begging me to drink more. But I must be strong, I must resist your temptation. I must forget you so that I can move on, and drink other wines.

And so I am, good bye Andrew Will Ciel Du Cheval I will miss you.

– Dan

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No such thing as a free pour anymore

October 1st, 2009 · Wine

Oh how times have changed.

In just the year and half since Steve Robert’s WineTrails of Washington was released, many of the listed free wine tastings are no longer free.  Surprised? I guess I shouldn’t be.  Dissappointed?  Definitely.

And before I’m accused of defaming the entire book, please note, that couldn’t be farther from the truth!  WineTrails is a great book for any wine lover looking to explore Washington wine country near and far.  With over 30 detailed and easy to understand wine trials mapped out, even the novice wine hound can piece together a stellar weekend – or week long – excursion.

But if you want to accuse me of being cheap, go for it.

I just have a hard time walking into a winery that has yet to prove itself to me, and handing over five to 10 bucks a pop.  I think at least one free taste is called for.  Then – after seeing that this winery does in deed value the effort that I made even making it out to their establishment – I would love to support them.

But, until that catches on, my only advice is to call ahead (the phone number are given) to verify tasting fees.  A couple weekends ago, Dan and I hit up the southern Woodinville wine trail (pg. 138) and were faced with more wine fees than feebees.

Among the southern Woodinville wineries now charging for wine fees, although listed as “complementary” in WineTrails, were Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia Winery and Facelli Winery.  We even checked out a couple North Woodinville Wineries, and found that DeStefano, Mark Ryan, Red Sky and Edmonds wineries also now charge for wine tastings (most refundable with wine purchase).

But just when I wonder how wineries can justify charging upwards of $10 for a one or two 2 oz. tastings, I have to look no further than Woodinville’s Saintpaulia Vintners.  They’ve closed their tasting room altogether.

“Economicaly, it wasn’t making sense,” said Paul Shinoda, winemaker and proprietor of Saintpaulia Vintners.  “There are so many tasting rooms in Woodinville and I was just outside that in the warehouse district and it just didn’t attract the traffic that I needed.”

Okay, fine. <insert pouty Lisa here>

I just hope, after all my tastes, I have enough money left to buy a bottle.

– Lisa

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Wine Tasting – Maryhill Winery

August 4th, 2009 · Wine Experiences

Maryhill Winery has been the winner of numerous wine awards over the years, but none makes you want to drive three hours out of your way to a winery quite like Winery of the Year.  And this year Maryhill was named just that by Seattle Magazine.

It’s a long journey from the ‘traditional’ wine regions of Washington, but I’m glad we took the time.  Maryhill Winery sits perched on the very edge of the Columbia River Gorge.  Overlooking a miniature version of the Grand Canyon gives this winery wow factor.  I hate that term, but it truly makes you feel you are somewhere special.  Maryhill’s patios overlook the vineyards that surround the winery and add to the feeling that this is a great place for wine.  I’ve never been to Tuscany, but the patios are exactly what I imagine it would look like.

Walking through the eastern patio and into the tasting room, we were immediately greeted by a friendly face.  Kelley would eventually pour our wine, but at first we avoided the bar to take inventory of all the tasting room had to offer.  The grand wine bar made the largest impression on me, it looked majestic and fit for a king to drink at with its highly polished wood and brass.   Upbeat violin music was dancing in the background, enticing you to talk, enjoy and drink lots of wine.  I was amazed at how the music struck the perfect balance of allowing you to talk normally, but keep the atmosphere lively.

After looking over the random wine nick-knacks we landed ourselves at the bar.  Kelley greeted us again and began to pour our wine.  She was informative without us having to ask 20 questions and was generally a great help.  I do wish they were less pushy about their premium tasting and wine club; it seemed obvious she was on commission.   The wine itself was good, but not amazing and is appropriately priced.

Overall our wine wine experience was good and friendly.  Were Maryhill closer to home I could see myself spending entirely too much time sipping wine on their patios.


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Wine Tripping ~ Sleeping Dog Wines

June 13th, 2009 · Wine Experiences, Wine Tours, Wine Trips

Down a long, dusty Benton City road, Dan and I found the kind of wine experience we didn’t even know we had been looking for.

There was no large, air-conditioned tasting room.

No wrought iron chairs to lounge in or panoramic vineyard views.

Just a man in his garage, ready and willing to share his love and tales of Washington wine making.

His dog was there too.

Aurora – THE dog of Sleeping Dog Wines – greeted us excitedly, as she does all visitors (when she’s not ‘Sleeping’).  And while Larry didn’t exactly start barking or jumping up and down on us, his excitement to greet visitors was evident too.

“You must be Dan!” said Larry Oates, founder and sole winemaker of Sleeping Dog Wines.

Larry had found us online and had exchanged emails with Dan, persuading us to visit his winery.  What we found there redefined my notion of ‘winery.’

First, it’s a garage.  But not the dark, dank, wood-beam kind of garage you had back home.  No, this one is loved.  Probably because it has a greater purpose – that of wine making, sharing and enjoying.

We quickly learned how Larry got his start in the winemaking business (what he calls, “The Puppy Years”), how often he walks the vineyard (twice a day with Aurora) and how many acres he has (“We’ve got four, but we don’t have any grapes”).

The source of Larry’s carefully selected grapes is actually just across the small dirt road from his home, in Buoy Vineyards.

Since 1992, Larry has been walking Buoy vineyards, at first procuring whatever grapes were left after harvest.  Ten years later, he began purchasing select grapes that he personally taste-tests until his palate – and his refractometer – determine the grapes are good for the picking.

His winery team is, well, less of a team, and more of a trio.  It’s him, his wife Joyce, and of course Aurora.  Together, they produce 500-600 cases a year, but no, they couldn’t possibly do it alone.  It’s only with the help of devout friends, family and fans that Sleeping Dog Wines make it from bushel to bottle.

All it takes is a call out to his mailing list, and people come from all around to help with the crushing, the pressing and ultimately, the bottling.  These volunteers are compensated with a homemade feast, a bottle of wine, and the glory of knowing they helped produce some great Washington wines that are enjoyed all across the state and as far away as Washington DC.

So while our trip to Sleeping Dog Wines didn’t exactly land us in the trendiest of tasting rooms, I couldn’t have asked for a better wine experience.  What Larry does with only a few hundred feet of space is a showcase all its own and there’s something priceless about visiting a wine maker with such a welcoming rapport, that almost an hour into the visit, you realize you haven’t even started wine tasting yet.

But what’s the rush?  As we learned from Larry’s philosophy with wine, the process should be just as sweet as the product.

To learn more about Larry, Joyce and Aurora’s adventures in winemaking, and where you can get your paws on some of their wines, visit their website at

– Lisa

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