This Time Last Year – Part 23: A wine tasting in Bellingham

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 10 2016 – LA to Birch Bay

I am flying Alaska Air on a 737 to Seattle and a prop plane to Bellingham in Washington State in America’s north west. I am not charged for my luggage as I’ve come off an international flight – even though that was yesterday. I am expressed through security. My port side window seat has leg room and I can fold down my tray and read a magazine without reclining. But I’m not reading because the view out the window is commanding my attention. The flight is following the arc of the Cascade Volcanoes and I am on the lookout for Mt St Helens but there are so many volcanic cones with even some Ngauruhoe and Taranaki lookalikes from the air. The easiest volcano to pick out, however, is Oregon’s Crater Lake.

Flying over the Cascade Volcanic Arc – the big Crater Lake on the left.

Seattle fascinates me from the air. It is a port but I never realised how far from the ocean it is. Puget Sound is dotted with islands and mini fiords. And everything is such a dark green.

Jenise and Bob are at Bellingham airport to meet me. We met through Robin Garr’s Wine Lovers Page, specifically his Wine Lovers Discussion Group last century. It was that era’s social media. Chatting online about wine was great but to meet up in person at an ‘offline’ was the ultimate thing. In the year 2000 Robin had been invited to judge at the Sydney Top 100, then sponsored by Air NZ, so arranged to stop off in The Land of the Long White Cloud on the way. An offline in Wellington was arranged through the WLDG forum. Bob was in Australia for work and Jenise was with him. Being so close, they ‘popped over’ for the weekend.

In 2013 Neil and I spent three nights with Bob and Jenise at their home just south of the USA/Canadian border on the water’s edge at Birch Bay. I wrote to Jenise and asked if I would be welcome again. Well, here I am :-)

On the water’s edge at Birch Bay

The Dorks of York are having a tasting tonight. They are a group of wine lovers that meet up in the Bellingham suburb of York. Some work in the industry. Their knowledge of wine is extensive. And like every passionate wine lover I know, they are always keen to learn more.

Jenise had previously written to me: “They’ve offered me/you the opportunity to choose the theme. Give it some thought.”   “Gosh,” I replied, “Um, perhaps the best of the Pacific North West, or maybe wines I haven’t tried before – plenty of scope there.” Well that’s virtually what the tasting turned out to be.

Looking at the wines in my suitcase I decide to take the Mercouri Estate white as the reds from Naoussa I felt needed decanting and won’t show their best in a paper bag tasting.

Our host for the evening put the wines in paper bags and serves them blind, and randomly – according to colour.

We started with the whites and the pinks:

  • Gramercy Cellars Picpoul 2014 from Washington’s Columbia Valley
  • Squadra Bianco 2014, a blend of Catarratto and Grillo grapes from Sicily
  • Mercouri Etate Foloi 2015, a Roditis / Viogner blend from Katakolo, Western Peloponnese Greece
  • Les Clos Perdus Blanc L’Année 2014 – a blend of Macabeu, Grenache Gris and Muscat from the Côtés de Catalanes appellation in the Languedoc-Roussiilon region of France
  • Jean Veselle Brut Rosé de Saignée a Bouzy – pink Champagne
  • Locus Rosé 2015 from Washington’s Yakima Valley made from Cinsault, Grenache & Mourvedre grapes

First set of six wines – my contribution the Mercouri Estate from Greece, 3rd from left.

Then onto the reds:

  • Cascade Cliffs Nebbiolo 2012 from Washington’s Columbia Valley
  • Kelly Fox Wines ‘Mirabai’ Pinot Noir 2014 from Oregon
  • 7 Fuentes 2013 from Tenerife in the Canary Islands made from Listán Negro and Tintilla grapes
  • Monte Xanic ‘Limitada Edicion’ Syrah 2011 from the Valle de Guadalupe in Mexico
  • Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas 2013 from the southern Rhone Valley, France

Second set of five wines

  • Delas Ventoux 2014 from the Rhone Valley in France
  • Domaine Philippe Gilbery Menetou-Salon 2012, a Pinot Noir from the Loire
  • Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 1989 from Washington’s Columbia Valley
  • Chateau Rozier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2004 from Bordeaux in France

Last four wines of the tasting

Quite simply an amazing tasting with new regions and new varieties for me.

I’m going to sleep well tonight. In fact I think I doze off in the very comfortable back seat of the SUV as Bob drives us safely back to Birch Bay.


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