Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Columbia Crest Shiraz – Grand Estates 2006 and Two Vines 2005 – Washington

We’ve generally believed that many high-volume production wines vary little from year to year. We’ve been buying these two Columbia Crest Syrahs for several years, but when we opened these last two bottles they tasted a bit “different” from what our taste buds remembered. So we judged them again, and only later went back to see our postings about the 2003 Grand Estates and the 2003 Two Vines (the only vintages we’ve published online).

The 2005 Two Vines wine was tight and earthy. We didn’t finish it the first night, and it definitely softened and “improved” the following evening. On that second evening, we opened the 2006 Grand Estates wine (about $3-4 more expensive). It was certainly more integrated, and this time Francesca liked the Grand Estates wine better – the last time we reviewed these, she preferred the Two Vines.

The significant difference from the older vintages is that these newer ones are more earthy and less fruity. That could be from the grapes and growing conditions from the different years, or it could also be an intentional stylistic change by the winemaker.

We’d certainly buy either of these Syrahs no matter what the vintage year on the label. These are still solid Washington state Syrahs, and they remain on our House wine list, despite the slight changes in these latest vintages. Change is not a bad thing – these wines are just as good, just different.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rhubarb Apricot Chutney & Chardonnay

It’s spring, and rhubarb is busting out in the garden. We’ve been trying to find other uses for the tart plant than simply in the ubiquitous Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. So we created a chutney.

Last night, we had this chutney with quinoa, a piece of rockfish, and a mixture of roasted garlic, pearl onions, and shallots. We paired the meal with a Barnard Griffin Chardonnay.

Barnard Griffin Chardonnay 2007 – Washington
Still another winner from Barnard Griffin. Nose is distinctly of apples, with floral notes, violets, mints, herbs. The taste has a nice medley of crisp green apple, lemon, a hint of earthiness, maybe even eucalyptus? Does it make any sense to say it’s light but has a little weight? Just enough acid keeps it from being dense and overly creamy. Yes. $10 on sale, usually $14.


  • Cut rhubarb stalks (the leaves are not edible) into 1/2-inch pieces, making about 2 cups
  • Coarsely chop about 1/2 cup onion
  • Quarter dried apricots to make about 1 cup
  • Put about 1/2 cup vinegar and maybe 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan
  • Add all the onion and half the rhubarb (this portion of rhubarb will cook down to almost a paste)
  • Add spices of choice – we used a home-made Garam Masala (Indian spice mixture), but ginger, cinnamon, or such would be good
  • After about 10 minutes of cooking, add the apricots
  • When the apricots soften (maybe another 10 minutes more), add the other cup of rhubarb (you might need to add a bit more vinegar if chutney looks too dry)
  • Cook until the second round of rhubarb begins to soften, but stop cooking while the pieces are still whole
  • Chill immediately