Category Archives: wine

For Your Eyes Only . . .

Judd Wallenbrock, Humanitas Wines Founder with Kit Paquin Gilbert, Jessup's Director of Hospitality & Membership.
Judd Wallenbrock, Humanitas Wines Founder with Kit Paquin Gilbert, Jessup’s Director of Hospitality & Membership.

Last night Ken and I had the opportunity to attend a gathering of the 20/20 Club which is a winery membership club which supports sight-health organizations and meet Founder & Owner of Humanitas WinesJudd Wallenbrock, who created Humanitas Wines to help give back to the community charitably  He said that “One day the light bulb clicked on, and inspired by companies such as Paul Newman’s Own, . . . a vision was born to make wines ‘so good’ they could change the world – both in the quality of the wine & the quality of life the sale of the wines could create for those less fortunate.

The 20/20 Club is the vision of Dr. Vance Thompson, ophthalmologist and co-owner of The Good Life Wine Collective.which specializes in small-lot, handcrafted wines sourced from the Napa Valley’s finest vineyards including.Jessup Cellars, Handwritten Wines and Humanitas Wines.  As part of the 20/20 Club membership launch, and mission to support sight-health, people are encouraged to join the wine club and receive 40 bottles of wine throughout the year, of which 20% of the cost of each shipment will be donated to SightLife.

SightLife CEO, Monty Montoya with Kara Petry, SightLife Donor Development Manager.
SightLife CEO, Monty Montoya with Kara Petry, SightLife Donor Development Manager.

SightLife CEO, Monty Montoya along with his wife, Tiffany, were there to greet guests and join in the wine tasting. In case you didn’t know, SightLife is our amazing local corneal eye bank and is the only non-profit global health organization solely focused on eliminating corneal blindness in the U.S. and around the world.  SightLife works in partnership with surgeons and health organizations in more than 29 countries. Along with their global eye bank partners they provided nearly 17,000 corneas for transplant in 2013; over 17,000 lives changed for the better!

Some of the ZINO Society guests joining us at the wine tasting were Tina & Peter Weiss, Ina & Ira Dauberman, Katherine Kitzmiller, Ann Rogers, Ken Battie and Ram Dutt.

Sightlife at tableJoining the 20/20 Wine Club and listing SightLife as the beneficiary helps change more lives because there are over 10 million people with corneal blindness still waiting to have their sight restored. With our help, we can help them see the world through new eyes.  For anyone interested in becoming a member, email and let them know that you are joining to support SightLife.

What fun I had with my friends, the “Media Mavens”!

Pam Pearson, Cathi Hatch, Nicole Vogel

Yesterday, Nicole Vogel, Founder and Publisher of SagaCity Media (Seattle Met Magazine, Portland Monthly Magazine plus 25 other magazine publications) and Pam Pearson, General Manager of Q-13 FOX TV and JOE TV in Seattle and NW 32 TV in Portland joined me at my home to taste wines together for our new Virtual Vino LIVE online shows.

Brian Calvert & Cathi

It was a blind tasting (though our moderator, Brian Calvert, kept saying that “We were blindly tasting . . .” which was not true!) of three separate Sauvignon Blancs.  Our job was to taste each wine, select a favorite and then try to guess the retail price of each wine without yet seeing what it actually was.  We each selected charities of choice and a portion of sales made to online viewers of the wines that we tasted are donated to the charities which we choose.  Yesterday, we chose Junior Achievement of Washington and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra

It is also a good deal for the wine buyer because they get an automatic 20% discount from the retail price and it is great for the wineries because they have a chance to introduce their Northwest wines to some potential new buyers.

Nicole, Cathi, ZiZi, Pam

Most importantly, we had a wonderful time while tasting some delicious, affordably priced wines together.  The show is focused on showcasing wines at a retail price of less than $75.   Brian, whose role is to explain the show’s format and move the process forward and keep us on track was hard-pressed to get a word in edgewise since we were having so much fun together!  This started before we had even tasted one sip of wine.

If you would like to see the 30 minute Sauvigon Blanc show or even just a portion of it, you can go to Virtual Vino LIVE Sauvignon Blanc Show.  Do let me or our “behind the scenes producer” Blaine Millet know what you think and be sure to share this blog post with anyone else that you think might want to support the charities and buy wine.

Brian with the Show Producer
& Man Behind the Camera, Blaine Millet

Also, my little Yorkshire Terrier, ZiZi keeps putting in a fleeting appearance throughout the show.  How many times did you catch a sighting of her?

Day #4 and Final Day of our Walla Walla Spring Wine Adventure

Chuck Reininger, Reininger Winery

We awakened to a sunny day!  Twelve wineries down with just TWO to go.  As we departed Walla Walla, we drove to Reininger Winery where we were greeted by Owner, Chuck Reininger and treated to a wine tasting and tour in his beautiful winery just off of old Highway 12.  Reininger has long-term contracts and buys most of his grapes from vineyard owners throughout the area.  As a result, he had several one-of-a-kind wines available from various vintages which we had a chance to learn about.  One of the wines which we purchased which I am looking forward to opening is a 2004 wine named “Anomaly”.  Following the tour, we picked up our bag lunches for the road and journeyed on to Red Mountain.

Wine Adventure Group at Hedges Family Estate

Dear friends, Tom & Anne-Marie Hedges, Hedges Family Estate owners were there to greet us when we arrived at their winery on Red Mountain.  We first went on a tour of their new kitchen under construction on the first floor and then went upstairs to see their Wine Library and their private living area that has a sweeping view of the vineyards and valley.  As we stood on the balcony, we felt like we had been transported to Europe with old-world architecture and landscaping reminiscent of a French chateau.  Definitely a magical place!

Anne-Marie had laid out a beautiful charcuterie selection of meats and cheeses in their private tasting room and we enjoyed tasting Tom’s wine which is a Red Mountain Cabernet blend and then Anne-Marie’s wine which is a 2009 Syrah blend named “Descendants Liegeois Dupont”.  I loved Anne-Marie’s Syrah blend so we purchased several to bring home with us to drink later.

Douglas Howe

Robin Du Brin & Ken Hatch

Douglas Howe and Ken decided to take control of Robin Du Brin’s stylish sun hat and happily modeled it for the group.  Personally, I have to say that it looked MUCH better on Robin!

With Tom’s offer of a 30% discount for everyone in our group, there was quite a frenzy of wine buying.  In addition to the wine they had purchased for themselves throughout the trip, Eric and Vladlinna departed with four cases of wine and two wooden wine boxes that Joe Sasenick purchased at Hedges but didn’t have room to transport since he and Betty were riding with Bonny & John Midby.  I was rather impressed that I was able to fit SEVEN cases of wine (both John & Sarah Rindlaub’s wine and our wine) in the trunk of my Porsche Panamera!

We arrived home tired and ready to give up wine for at least a few days.  But now, a week later, the question is where should we go and which wineries should we visit for our next wine adventure.  Thoughts, anyone?

Categories: wine Tags:

Day #3 of our Walla Walla Wine Adventure

Norm McKibben, Pepper Bridge
Aboard our “Coach”
Norm McKibben & Adventurers in Pepper Bridge tank room

A week ago today, we once again boarded our coach with our first stop being the Pepper Bridge Winery.  Owner, Norm McKibben, was there to greet us as we arrived and took us on a personal tour of his squeaky clean, gravity-flow winery.  He shared some great stories about wine making, but my favorite was the story about the woodpecker that scared him in the middle of the night when he was creeping down the stairs in the tank room trying to find an intruder.

Mike Reynvaan

Diane, Lillian, Ken, Cathi
Jim, Sam, John

From there, we went on a beautiful drive through rolling vineyards and valleys to our next stop which was Reynvaan Family Vineyards.  Owners, Gale and Mike Reynvaan, were there to host our group for a wine tasting lunch in their small boutique winery.  A favorite wine we tasted there was one named “The Contender”, a Syrah that is sold out now and only available to purchase as 2009 futures.

Billo Naravane, Rasa Vineyards
Rasa Vineyards

After lunch, our next stop was Rasa Vineyards, a new winery that I not yet experienced suggested by our good friend, Kathleen Schafer, where we met Owner/Winemaker, Billo Naravane and tasted a variety of his wines.  His story is interesting because he was an MIT graduate specializing in applied mathematics and computer science with a very successful business when he decided that he wanted to open a winery.  His parents, who are very conservative East Indians, believed that their sons should only become engineers or doctors and discouraged artistic and creative thinking as Billo, and his brother and Co-Owner of Rasa, Pinto, were growing up.  Billo, with long straight black hair that reaches to his waist and who is absolutely brilliant, finally convinced his parents that he could be unhappy for the rest of his life working in computer sciences or happy doing something that he really wanted to do, so he went back to school at UC Davis and got degrees in Viticulture and Enology simultaneously.  He now also plays classical piano for fun and appears to be having a wonderful time running the winery.

Bonny with Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery
Bonny, Eric, Vladlinna, Betty, Joe, Ann

We returned to the hotel and actually had time for an hour’s nap before walking across the parking lot to Seven Hills Winery for a tasting and tour with owners, Vicki and Casey McClellan.  Their winery is located in downtown Walla Walla in the historic Whitehouse-Crawford building. Built in 1904 as a woodworking mill the building was transformed in 2000 to house Seven Hills and the Whitehouse-Crawford restaurant. The renovation was carefully planned and carried out to preserve the working character and emphasize the architectural charm of the building. We were able to view the wine barrels aging in a high-ceilinged room with an unusual clerestory atop letting in natural light.  They share the building with Whitehouse-Crawford, the restaurant and the location of our final dinner of the trip.

After the tasting, we walked around the corner to the restaurant entrance where we were seated in a private room.  The dinner was fantastic with choices of beef, halibut or chicken and we consumed wines from most of the previous stops on our ZINO Society Walla Walla Spring Wine Adventure.  I loved receiving a signed copy of Steve RobertsWine Trails of Walla Walla book signed by our entire Wine Adventure group.  And to conclude the evening, Judith Kindler and I announced a few recognition awards.

  • Best Conversationalist:  Joe, the Coach Driver followed by Joe Sasenick (actually a distant 2nd)
  • Leading Financial Best Friend:  John Rindlaub
  • Biggest Couples’ Antagonist:  Kyle Johnson
  • Most High Maintenance Couple:  Sam Baker and Jim Rose
  • Sexiest Couple:  Newlyweds, Diane & Paul Birkeland 
  • Most Useful Wisdom and Advice:  Paul Birkeland 
  • Best Vocalist and Entertainer:  Mark Soltys
  • Most Stylishly Dressed:  Jamee Nunnelee
  • Best Shoes:  Betty Sasenick
  • Most Unseasonably Dressed:  Ken Hatch (gale force winds, no jacket and a bright yellow aloha shirt!??)

Our Walla Walla Wine Adventure – Day #2

Chris Figgins, Sam Baker, Jim Rose
2011 Walla Walla Wine Adventurers at Leonetti Cellars

On the second day of our ZINO Society Walla Walla Wine Adventure, we awakened to cloudy skies and cold winds.  Once we boarded our coach, we departed for a vineyard tour of Figgins Family Wine Estates and Leonetti Cellar.  When we arrived at the vineyard, winemaker Chris Figgins was there to greet us and we had a spectacular view of the rolling hills covered with grapevines.  Though it was visually spectacular, it was freezing outside and there were gale force winds so we didn’t last long outside the coach and decided to go straight to Leonetti Cellars and continue our conversation inside.  Somehow Ken had missed the location of where we were spending the weekend (maybe thought Hawaii instead of Walla Walla??), so showed up in a bright yellow aloha shirt without a jacket.  Brrrrr!!

After our winery tour, it was a delight to meet Chris’ sister, Amy, in the tasting room, where we enjoyed tasting several Leonetti Cellars and Figgins wines over lunch.  Though several of us were already on the Leonetti allocation list, this was one stop where our group could not buy wine, but were able to sign up to be added to the waiting list for Leonetti, the list for Figgins and for their new Lostine Cattle Company grass-fed, free-range beef.

Darcy Fugman Small

 After lunch, we were off to Woodward Canyon Winery where we were greeted by owner, Darcy Fugman-Small and treated to a private wine tasting in their beautiful, new VIP wine tasting room.  This was new since my last visit to Woodward Canyon and several pieces of original artwork from which wine labels had been made were hanging on the walls throughout.  We missed seeing Rick Small this time since he had just had a flat tire while driving back to Walla Walla from Seattle.

Vladlina & Eric

Judith, Kyle, Douglas & Allen Sh
Barrel Tasting

This turned out to be our most exhausting day because we visited FIVE separate wineries and met with the owners and/or winemakers of SIX wineries.  Our next stop was Long Shadows Vintners where owner Allen Shoup, had just flown over for the day to greet our group and take us on a personal tour of the winery.  What an impressive winery, both in the public areas replete with Chihuly blown glass art pieces and chandelier and in the cavernous tank room and barrel room where the wine is produced and aged.  In addition to tasting each of the nine various labels that Long Shadows produces in conjunction with winemaker partners, we also had the opportunity to barrel taste and then to purchase a new Rose called Dazzle and a new Bordeaux blend, bottled but still unlabeled called Shoup.  Because we stayed at Long Shadows a little longer than planned, when we returned to our hotel, there was only time to change clothes before it was time to re-board the coach for our next stop.

Douglas, Ken, Joe and Charles Smith

Joe, the coach driver pulled into the driveway next to Charles Smith’s charming home for our visit to K Vintners and in addition to Charles, we were greeted by three small dogs and Charles‘ beautiful wife.  We entered a very small tasting room and tasted a delicious Rose and his famous Syrah before it was time for us to depart for our last stop of the day.

Kathleen Schafer at aMaurice Cellars

We arrived at àMaurice Cellars just as the sun was setting and were greeted by good friends, Kathleen & Tom Schafer, Lillian & Anthony Bay and their son, Stephen.  The Bays were assisting the Schafers with dinner that evening featuring their new rotisserie business.  It was a fantastic dinner featuring lamb meatballs and Dolmades appetizers and petite chickens cooked on the new rotisserie and served with Moroccan accompaniments.  Though I billed it as “Advanced Wine 101 “ in our trip brochure, it was much more than that and we were entertained after dinner with complex wine knowledge by Greg Harrington, owner and winemaker at Gramercy Cellars and Anna Schafer, daughter of Tom and Kathleen and winemaker at àMaurice Cellars.

Anna Schafer, aMaurice Winemaker

Greg Harrington, Gramercy Cellars

As we rode back to the hotel, we all agreed that it had definitely been a very full day!

Our Walla Walla Wine Adventure-Day #1

 Gordy Venneri, Owner/WinemakerWalla Walla Vintners  Myles Anderson, Walla Walla Vintners Owner  Paul & Diane Birkeland This past weekend has been a non-stop adventure for 24 ZINO Society members and friends as we ventured to Walla Walla for an insiders’ wine tour and tastings.  We managed to meet the winemakers and owners of 14 different… Continue Reading

Helping Keep Gilda’s Club Door Wide Open

It was a great party at the Chihuly Boathouse on Thursday evening to raise money to keep the doors open at Gilda’s Club Seattle.  Gilda’s Club, which offers a broad, community-based program of social, emotional, and educational support for cancer survivors, has been struggling with reduced contributions as have many non-profits during the past year… Continue Reading

Categories: wine Tags:

Celebrate Spring!

 Doug McCallum, Spike Anderson  Last evening, we joined friends Carol & Spike Anderson, Arlene Wright & Beni Turan, and Jan Rogers & Lloyd Osborn at the home of Joyce & Doug McCallum for a “Celebrate Spring!” dinner party. The McCallums have a feature in their home that I covet – TWO kitchens and TWO refrigerators;… Continue Reading

Categories: wine Tags:

Fine Food and Wine In the Shadow of the Fremont Bridge

Rick Fisher, Cathi Hatch, Cindy Hales, Lisa Mikesell, Damien Wilson Last evening, ZINO Society produced a lovely Master of Wine Monday at Ponti Seafood Grill in Seattle.  See my earlier blog posting here describing the setting and ambiance of Ponti.   Ponti’s Rich Malia, owner, Alvin Binuya, Chef, and Brian Siry, Manager partnered with ZINO Society Wine Professional… Continue Reading

Fashion Show Attire!

Leslie Chihuly & Elizabeth Roberts Last evening, I went to a Women’s Cocktail Party at Elizabeth Robert’s beautiful home in Washington Park.  The hardest part of the evening was figuring out what to wear since the invitation specified “Fashion Show Attire”.  Once appropriately(?) attired, Toni Hoffman and I carpooled to the party and when we arrived,… Continue Reading

Categories: wine Tags: