Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

Yakima

(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

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When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

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Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

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For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

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Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

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The Ides of March/Shrimp & Radicchio Salad

I have been part of a Supper Club for over a decade and we have slowed down the past couple years. But, we are coming back to life! So last month we were able to catch up with a very fun theme – the Ides of March. How did this come about? Somebody RSVP’d on this day, so why not make that the theme, even though the event didn’t take place on that day.  So, anything you brought had to have an ‘I’ in it – black bean dip, skirt steak, pizza. You get the drift.

It was funny, because I thought awhile on this, because so many things I was thinking about didn’t have the letter ‘I’ in them. I was out running on the Sunday morning of the dinner with a friend who cooks a lot and we were talking about this and I was bouncing ideas off of her. I’m making this sound like I’m making a major life decision! She told me come the end of this 12 mile run – ok, worst case scenario, it’s ‘Mel’s Recipe’.  Thanks, score!

Well, I ended finding a great one – Shrimp and Radicchio Salad. I think I was pretty covered there. It was so simple. I also happened to have all the ingredients already, too, except for the radicchio. I had both raw and precooked shrimp and I opted for the precooked, which made it so much easier. Made it a no-cook meal. The tang in the dressing/marinade was awesome. And that’s what was great. You just marinade the shrimp and then toss them all together with the salad.

Ingredients

1⁄2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1⁄2 lb small shrimp, cooked and drained
1 head leaves lettuce, shredded (used a big of mixed greens)
1 head radicchio, shredded
1 cup cherry tomatoes

Directions

Combine first five ingredients (olive oil – mustard) in a bowl.  Stir in shrimp ***I just put all those ingredients in a ziploc and then added the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. In a large salad bowl combine lettuce and radicchio, pour shrimp and dressing on top. Toss add tomatoes and toss again.

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Also, at the dinner, we had pizza, dips (both appetizers and desserts) and quinoa. And of course some wine.

Smokin’ It

I love seafood, I love smoked seafood. So on my weekly or bi-weekly trip to Trader Joe’s I of course swung by the demo station. Had a bite of what they were serving (I think it was a egg salad). And at the station, they had a stack of Smoked Trout. While I have had their (and others’) vacuum packed/sealed stuff, this one was canned. Think of a sardine can, with a pull-top lid. It’s farm raised (not my favorite), skinless and in canola oil.

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So I grabbed some and used it on a salad.  Simple arugula, tomatoes, kalamatas, hearts of palm and baby Brussels sprouts. Just delicious blend of flavors. So as long as you’re not totally against the farm-raised, this is great stuff to have on hand. Stack it in the cupboard with the tuna and the other stuff and you’re good to go.

Getting Nuttier

Pretty much my favorite place to do grocery shopping is Trader Joe’s. Well, that is because there isn’t a Wegmans close by (DC residents, have you heard the latest rumor about the Fannie Mae building on Wisconsin Ave and them looking at the space??).

Anyway, there is of course point-of-purchase stuff at TJ’s and one I opted to grab recently was their Mixed Nut Butter. It’s a blend of Dry Roasted & Salted Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts & Pecans. Sounds great. I’m just not a huge fan of the Brazil nuts, but I’ll eat them. It doesn’t say smooth anywhere, which is cool, too.

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The flavor was ok, but it was almost too many flavors fighting with each other. When you buy mixed nuts you can taste each one on its own. I also love chunky nut butter and it was a bit too smooth, for me. Not much salt in it, though salt was an ingredient. Not something I’ll buy again, but glad I tried it. Price was $5.99, I think. Not cheap, especially for the size. Totally worth the test.

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Beer, basil & bread

Beer, basil & bread…sounds like some kind of heaven to me.

So when I was making a dinner menu for the other night I decided that I really wanted to bake some bread to pair with the pork tenderloin I was craving. A recipe I had used a long time ago popped into my mind and then it was a matter of finding it…Basil Beer Bread. It’s from an issue of Real Simple in 2006! What’s great about this recipe is that you don’t have to think too far ahead because the stuff doesn’t have to rise.

Ingredients

Olive oil for the baking sheet
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan — I used Manchego
1 12-ounce bottle beer, preferably ale — ok, total side note, somebody brought non alcoholic beer to a party at my place once. It’s been sitting around for awhile. Finally got to get rid of some of it here!
flour for the work surface
1 cup chopped or torn fresh basil

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Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Oil a baking sheet. In the bowl of a standing mixer on low, or in a large bowl using a spoon, combine the flour, yeast, salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

Add the beer and mix just until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the basil and knead gently just until incorporated. Shape the dough into a round loaf and transfer to the prepared sheet.
Bake until the loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Turn the loaf onto a wire rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

The loaf is heavy! Definitely not light and fluffy but totally delicious! Paired perfectly with the tenderloin and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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Cheapskate Roasting?

So I really wanted a roasted bell pepper recently. And ok, I don’t have a gas stove (grrr) and I didn’t feel like throwing the pepper in the oven for awhile. So I decided to have fun in the kitchen. I love to cook, so why not play more.  The pictures explain it all. I had every single fan on in my kitchen and brought in two others and had them on at top speed. Also had several windows open. I did not want the fire alarm to go off or any neighbors to wonder. In the end, the pepper was perfect!

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Avocado Tool

There are way too many kitchen tools out there, some of which you never use. But, sometimes you do find some that are great.  Got this avocado one in my stocking a couple years back that I love. There are 3 sets of ‘teeth’ to help with cutting — long, a bit wide on the bottom, then small at the top.

You can use the small one to puncture the skin and start cutting the avocado in half. Then you can use the long side to continue the cutting process.

I will then usually slice the avocado crossways (both ways to make cubes) while it’s in the skin. I’ll make this happen with both the small end with the 3 teeth, then go onto the long side (I seriously just have fun with this thing — sometimes I’ll use the wide bottom). I’ll chop with the wide bottom if I don’t want a clean cut.

Then you can use the wide bottom to scoop the avocado/good stuff from the skin to start making guac. Or, to remove it for whatever other purpose you have for the avocado.

The tool then works well to mix the avocado if you’re making guac — as a spoon or masher-like thing.

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(yes, the teeth are facing away from what I was cutting, but it was all for photographic effects)

Mark’s Kitchen

A new (to me), local place I visited recently is Mark’s Kitchen in Takoma Park, MD (right near the Metro). They are a great neighborhood place with a menu that contains every type of food you could want. As they say —

Welcome to Mark’s Kitchen, a small neighborhood restaurant with an amazingly big menu full of so many choices that everyone can easily find something that will make them happy. Mark’s Kitchen is a very friendly place—it’s vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, carnivore-friendly, kid-friendly, traditional family-friendly, alternative family-friendly and everyone else-friendly. A full meal or a light meal, a complete breakfast—most of which is available all day long—fresh juices, craft beers, wines, wonderful milkshakes, great ice cream desserts. That’s Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma Park institution since 1990.

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It took me a long time to read through the menu and decide on what I wanted. Do I go for a basic sandwich, do I get some breakfast for lunch or do I go crazy? Well, I decided to go for a unique salad, because they had some great sounding Asian cuisine. And, my friend went pretty basic.

My choice was the Seaweed Salad —  wakame, hijiki & kombu seaweed, avocado, cucumber & sliced lemon on a bed of mixed seaweed w/ our own no-fat, no-oil lemon ginger salad dressing or our spicy sweet & sour chojang sauce.

My friend opted for the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich — smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill havarti cheese, veggie bacon, red onion, capers, lettuce, & tomato.

That salad was amazing! I had never had so many different seaweeds. What’s funny is that I don’t really care for seaweed when it’s the crisp stuff that wraps sushi (rolls), but when it’s finer/chopped/in salad form, it’s so good! There was some great dressing or marinade to it and the avocados, bring ’em on!

My friend said the sandwich was quite good, just what a club should be.

We were there at lunch time — service was a bit slow. It was tough to get our water filled and the glasses at the table weren’t huge, so that was the one downside.

Will definitely check Mark’s Kitchen out again.