Parties, dinners, gifts.
Those are all part of the holiday season, and a good bottle of wine addresses each of them nicely.
But for a truly distinctive Sky Valley occasion or gift, make that a local bottle.
Here are three local vintners currently offering bottles that pair particularly well with holiday meals, or that would work wonderfully in a wine gift basket for a hostess or discerning friend.
It’s been just five years since the Miglino brothers started their first barrel of wine in a Monroe winery off Wagner Road.
The winery, named Martedi, or Tuesday, in honor of the big Italian family’s Tuesday night dinners, grew so fast that it could actually have moved into larger digs within a couple of years. But so much did the family love Monroe that they held off as long as possible, until a year ago settling into a Woodinville business park.
Now the big warehouse room is stacked floor to ceiling with purple-stained oaken barrels redolent of winemakers’ yeast and the tang of fermenting grapes, and for Joe Miglino, that represents the realization of dream he formed as early as 1983.
“I was studying to be an actor in New York City and I worked at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center. And to be a waiter there, you have to take a wine class. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn,” said Joe. “And I realized that developing my palette was the most important thing to me.”
He worked at the International Wine Center in New York, and became a teaching assistant there, a post he held for years.
“Then I tasted a 1983 Columbia Winery Red Willow Cabernet and I said, ‘Yaki-what?’ and I became aware of Washington wines,” he said.
Excited by the budding wine industry of Washington, he moved to this state in 1988, and within 10 years, had cajoled his three brothers into joining him.
His brother John shared his interest in wine.
Their family can trace back to the 14th Century at least in a small rural town in Italy, and the family emigrated to the United States at a time when most immigrants from Italy made wine as a matter of course, just as families in those days also regularly made their own cheese and bread.
So the brothers were aware that their grandfather made wine, but neither of them had ever given it a try.
But in 2007, they got an opportunity to help a winemaker in Poulsbo set up a winery, and then, when his laborers couldn’t make it up from Mexico, they also helped him make the wines.
That vintner encouraged the brothers to start their own winery, and when a friend who owned land in Monroe offered them space, they got licensed in 2008 and got started.
Two of the vintages they created that year went on to win awards at the 2011 Seattle Wine Awards, including a double gold for their 2008 Syrah.
Now, in time for the holiday season, the Martedi Winery has some bottles available that are perfect for turkey dinners, or just for a bit of winter cheer.
The two most recommended bottles are a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2009 Syrah.
“This was almost four years in the barrel,” said Joe of the cabernet. “I just felt it kept developing in the barrel. We just released it. It goes well with roasts and meats, but it’s not as much of a pairing thing as people just drink it because they like it.”
John is very enthusiastic about the syrah.
“We have the 2009 Syrah for Thanksgiving. We don’t release wines on a calendar, we release them when they are ready,” said John. “Our 2008 Syrah won a double gold at the Seattle Wine Awards in 2011, and I think our 2009 eclipses it. It’s got a beautiful fruit up front without being overbearing, and it’s got a very pleasant, round mouth-feel.”
The brothers are also planning to release a dry Riesling in time for Christmas. To learn more about Martedi wines, and to plan to visit the tasting room, call (425) 418-4999 or visit www.martediwinery.com.
As is true of a surprising number of local vintners, John Olsen started out his career in wine at Boeing.
That’s because 30 years ago a group of wine-making Boeing engineers and other employees started a group called the Boeing Wine Club, and to date, that club has spawned about 20 commercial wineries, said John Olsen, the owner of Monroe’s Trombley-area winery Alia Wines.
“I became aware of the club in ’92 and tried some of the wines, and thought, ‘Wow, these people make pretty good wine,’” he said. “So I started learning in 1993.”
At the peak of the club’s activities, they were buying about 100,000 pounds of grapes a year, on a par with the state’s midsized wineries, he said. That gave them access to the very best grapes, coveted varietals from the Yakima Valley that today are very hard to get.
Olsen’s early wines were encouragingly successful; one year at a wine competition in Puyallup, of 72 red wines, his wines took a 1st, 2nd and a 13th place.
Until 2004, Olsen made wine with a number of partners, both active and silent; then in 2005, he took the plunge and went commercial by himself.
“We are a pretty tiny winery,” he said. “I joke that we make in a year as much as St. Michelle spills in a weekend. We do 200 cases a year or so.”
Though he doesn’t make a lot of wine, he does make a wide variety, and at any time might have cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, sauvignon blanc, malbec, syrah, viognier, and raspberry wine available.
“I’d classify our winemaking as out-of-control home winemaking,” he said. “We make a lot of different wines but in relatively small batches. Most are one to two-barrel quantities, about 20-50 cases each.”
Those wines are available at several Snohomish outlets, including downtown wine shop Blanc and Rouge, and are the featured wines at French Creek Manor.
Olsen said that, although tradition might dictate that white wine goes with poultry, that’s not a rule.
“Turkey would go well with a white, but for a traditional dinner, I would recommend a pinot noir,” he said. “I recommend cab franc, a lighter merlot, or a chardonnay if you’re into white.”
To learn more about Alia Wines or to arrange a tasting for up to 12 people, visit www.aliawines.com or call (360) 794-0421.
Sky River Mead
Although Washington is gaining a reputation nationwide as a prime source of grapes, Sky River Mead, founded in Sultan in 1997, doesn’t use them.
Rather, the bottler creates wines of another ancient traditional source; that of honey.
Mead is a honey wine, brewed throughout the middle ages in England, Europe, Africa and Asia, and some believe it to predate wine, as it may predate cultivated crops.
Mead comes in a wide variety of forms, from thick, flavored Ethopian brews to malty beer-like beverages, but at Sky River Mead, the libation takes the form of a fine wine, ranging from sweet to very dry.
Last year, Sky River Mead joined many other local wineries in the Woodinville winery district, where the company runs a small tasting room.
On offer this holiday season are a sweet, a semi-sweet and a dry mead. The sweeter meads are comparable to a German Riesling, and pair very well with salty cheeses for a dessert plate, or as a stand-alone aperitif. Dry mead works very well with spices such as ginger and curry.
Sky River Mead has raspberry and blackberry honey wines this season, both of which pair well with roasted meats and rich desserts.
And new this year is a Solas honey wine, which is a “true mead” made entirely of honey and aged in whiskey barrels. It, too, pairs well with rich foods and desserts.
Sky River Mead is sold at wine stores and larger groceries throughout the state, but to visit the winery and buy directly from the source, call (425) 242-3815 or see the website at www.skyriverbrewing.com.