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Friday, Sep. 11, 2009

Great Northwest Wine Lists: Results of 11th annual 'Herbies'

As the Great Depression showed, folks drink in good times and in bad. And that was when alcoholic beverages were illegal.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in this economic climate, Northwest wine often is the carrot to lure patrons into restaurants that hope for better days.

Alas, Pacific Northwest restaurants continue to suffer from this deep recession, as Ron Zimmerman of The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Wash. - this competition's namesake - explains in his annual sidebar for the 11th annual Great Northwest Wine List Awards, affectionately nicknamed "The Herbies" after we retired eight-time winner The Herbfarm in 2008.

Sadly, a number of restaurants that showcased regional wines shuttered their doors in cities such as Boise and Walla Walla.

But then there's The Ocean Crest Resort. This delicious destination in the tiny coastal town of Moclips, Wash., repeats with the Best Northwest Wine List. "The Herbie" is theirs for the second straight year.

The level of commitment wine director Stephen Pavletich receives from management remains remarkable. And support from Northwest vintners is apparent by looking at his growing lineup of winemaker dinners for 2009-2010. See the series at winepressnw.com/calendar.

More restaurants seem to embrace discounting wines on "half-price night" as an incentive for diners to come through their doors.

As more people in the Northwest strive to keep their dollars local and support small businesses, we're seeing restaurants promote their use of local products and see local wines as a key ingredient. Executive chef Frank Magaña of Picazo 7Seventeen in Prosser, Wash., continues with his master plan. Nearly all of his wines are made in the Yakima Valley, which is why he moved his business from Seattle.

And in times like these, tableside service is more important that ever.

Jeff Moore, wine director at Wildwood in Portland, noted, "I've noticed that people are still willing to take a chance on something new and different as long as it's by the glass. And we allow them to taste before purchasing if they are unsure."

A growing number of Northwest restaurants use table-top placards and small signs as point-of-sale elements and to help tell the story of regional wines. Some go even further.

"We have used table tents to promote Washington wines in the dining room and at club events," said Scott Nelson, food and beverage director at The Spokane Club. "We also encourage word-of-mouth specials from the service staff. Washington wine selections are used on the daily menus and paired with fresh sheet items. Our club magazine Signals includes an ongoing article featuring Northwest wines."

And then there's the other end of the spectrum. This summer, I came across a struggling young bistro along a Columbia Basin highway. The chef shows imagination and skill with the menu, yet no wines were available.

"I don't see how they can make it," one restaurateur told me. "They are missing out on a lot of profits, and it's not fair to their servers, either. What about their tips?"

So as you can see, there's work to be done in Northwest restaurants. As the customer, your words and dollars carry all the weight. Don't be shy to compliment, cajole and question.

Each year, we use the wine list awards to determine candidates for future restaurant features.

Best Northwest Wine List

The Ocean Crest Resort, Moclips, Wash.

Program: It's 34 pages of fabulous and famous Northwest wines at moderate prices. Among the star-studded lineup are Alexandria Nicole, Argyle, Beaux Freres, Barnard Griffin, Coeur d'Alene, Dunham, Leonetti, McCrea, Mission Hill, Owen Roe, Quilceda Creek.

Policies: Do you want your Chardonnay served at 50 degrees or 65 degrees? They give you the choice. Taster flights of dessert wines, a thoughtful concept, served on a three-stem "wine tree."

Pressings: Coastal ties show with listings for Cadaretta (owned by Hoquiam family), Walter Dacon (Shelton), Westport (Aberdeen).

4651 Highway 101, Moclips, WA, 98562, 800-684-8439, oceancrestresort.com

Outstanding Northwest Wine Lists

Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, Bonneville, Wash.

Program: Mouthwatering and intense tasting notes. Each wine includes name of its winemaker.

Policies: Columbia Gorge producers first and foremost on list. Several wines from each winery represented.

Pressings: Map of Columbia Gorge wineries available to visitors.

1252 E. Cascade Dr., North Bonneville, WA, 98639, 509-427-9711, bonnevilleresort.com

Bridgewater Bistro, Astoria, Ore.

Program: Approach Tony Kischner developed at Shoalwater near Long Beach, Wash., continues here. Pinots from Oregon. Big reds from Washington. Riesling from Idaho.

Policies: Glass pour/half-liter sheet has 20 from region, including two by Stimson Estate.

Pressings: Charles Smith pops up twice among Walla Walla-built Syrahs.

20 Basin St., Astoria, OR, 97103, 503-325-6777, bridgewaterbistro.com

Brix 25, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Program: Passion abounds. Based on its size, this swanky little spot offers perhaps most thoughtful, well-written list in Washington.

Policies: Each bottle on regular list is 50 percent off on Wednesdays. Monthly winemaker dinners.

Pressings: Adventure awaits with up-and-comers such as Barrage, Corvus, Efeste, Guardian, Ransom, Stafford Hill, Substance.

7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, WA, 98335, 253-858-6626, harborbrix.com

Burgundy's at the Spokane Club, Spokane, Wash.

Program: Historic club overlooking Spokane River taps into nearly every local winery, including five sparklers by Mountain Dome.

Policies: Magnum of Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cab ($105) shows reasonable pricing.

Pressings: Goes into Oregon for Pinot Noir, Idaho (Coeur d'Alene Cellars) and B.C. (Gray Monk).

1002 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, WA, 99201, 509-838-8511, spokaneathleticclub.org

Raincity Grill, Vancouver, B.C.

Program: English Bay destination among Northwest leaders in evolution of "100-mile menu." Won Wine Press Northwest's first Best Northwest Wine List award in 1999.

Policies: Pioneer in 2-ounce wine flights. "Points of interest" in B.C. are Laughing Stock and Vincor; Oregon, it's Sokol Blosser and Mystic; Washington, it's the Eroica project and Quilceda Creek.

Pressings: GM Brent Hayman, who judges West Coast wine competitions, among B.C. wine industry's first supporters.

1193 Denman St., Vancouver, B.C. V6G 2N1, 604-685-7337, raincitygrill.com

Salish Lodge & Spa, Snoqualmie, Wash.

Program: Of the 1,800 entries in 11,000-bottle cellar, 65 percent are Washington, with Oregon and a few B.C.

Policies: No corkage in Attic Lounge on Mondays. Corkage for magnum is $70. Promotes half-bottles.

Pressings: Prior to The Herbfarm's reign, this was Northwest's top list. Few bargains, plenty of history, including Columbia's 1979 Millenium.

6501 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie, WA, 98065, 800-272-5474, salishlodge.com

Steelhead Diner, Seattle

Program: Pike Place Market continues to amaze with perhaps the most concentrated and eclectic list in region.

Policies: Only Washington and Oregon wines sold here.

Pressings: Co-owner/chef Kevin Davis now controls list.

95 Pine St., Suite 17, Seattle, 98101, 206-625-0129, steelheaddiner.com

Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, Wash.

Program: Washington fills most of the 600-label cellar. Solid selection of Willamette Valley Pinot. B.C. and Idaho stickies round-out regionality.

Policies: Growing show of support for Chelan and Wenatchee wineries.

Pressings: Don Elsing schedules winemaker dinners year-round now. You can dine among 5,000 bottles.

604 Patterson Lake Rd., Winthrop, Wash., 98862, 800-572-0493, sunmountainlodge.com

Best Washington Wine List

Veranda Bistro & Bar, Chelan

Program: Campbell's Resort on Lake Chelan changed its restaurant name, but this remains our favorite Washington list for the sixth straight year.

Policies: As Lake Chelan wine industry expands, George Van Over continues to localize his list.

Pressings: Prices ridiculously close to retail. Woodward Canyon 2000 Artist Series Cab, $49? Come on!

104 W. Woodin, Chelan, WA, 98816, 800-553-8225, campbellsresort.com

Outstanding Washington Wine Lists

Anthony's Pier 66, Seattle

Program: Woodinville influence shows with Chateau Ste. Michelle, DeLille. House wines by Hogue.

Policies: VP Lane Hoss' motto, "Every month is Washington Wine Month at Anthony's restaurants."

Pressings: Prices for Côte Bonneville Chardonnay ($100) and Quilceda Creek Cab ($185) stick out.

2201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121, 206-448-6688, anthonys.com

Anthony's at Columbia Point, Richland

Program: Ste. Michelle's Eroica, Thurston Wolfe's PGV, Tucker's Gewurz, dry roses by Barnard Griffin and Chinook earn perennial placement.

Policies: "Best of season" glass pours available as flight of tasters. Featured whites paired with in-season fish.

Pressings: Wine manager Eric Zegzula been with company for 20 years.

550 Columbia Point Dr., Richland, WA, 99352, 509-946-3474, anthonys.com

Bon Vinos Bistro and Bakery, Sunnyside, Wash.

Program: Yakima Valley producers take center stage.

Policies: List of featured wineries in 2009 has Airfield, Bonair, Milbrandt, Steppe, Tucker, Upland Estates and Wineglass.

Pressings: Favored spot of winemakers for morning coffee/lunch. Chef Roger Hazzard does winemaker dinners, caters to wineries.

122 N. 16th St., Sunnyside, WA, 98944, 509-837-3936, bonvinosbistro.com

Burgerville Salmon Creek, Vancouver, Wash.

Program: Pilot program by Portland-based fast-food group offers seven glass pours, all Northwest.

Policies: Two-drink limit. No drive-thru sales. Most expensive is $9.

Pressings: A to Z, Eyrie, Maryhill, O'Reilly, Ponzi, Tyrus Evans all chosen by Bay-Area sommelier Christine Tran.

13301 N.E. Highway 99, Vancouver, WA, 98686, 360-573-8223, burgerville.com

CG Bistro Wine Bar, Prosser, Wash.

Program: Big supporters of nearby Airfield Estates, Coyote Canyon, Fidelitas, Kiona.

Policies: One page with focus on wineries within 30 miles. Of 14 wines by the glass, 13 cost $6 or less.

Pressings: Restaurant formerly known as Common Grounds.

364 Chardonnay Blvd., Prosser, WA, 99350, 509-786-3840, cgbistro.com

Dragonfly Bistro & Lounge, Leavenworth, Wash.

Program: Affordable regional wines, more whites than reds are hallmarks at this new Asian eatery. Most glass pours at $7.

Policies: Multiple placement for Boudreaux, Chateau Faire Le Pont, Chelan Estate, Jones, Okanogan Estate, Vin du Lac. Pinot from Oregon includes Adelsheim and Lachini.

Pressings: Co-owner Troy Whalen managed Barking Frog in Woodinville.

633 A-Front St., Leavenworth, WA, 98826, 509-548-7600, dragonflyleavenworth.com

Picazo 7Seventeen Wine Bar & Restaurant, Prosser, Wash.

Program: List dominated by Yakima Valley producers. Nearly every wine featured by wine director Trina Cortez as glass pour is made in Prosser.

Policies: Corkage is $25 for Californians. It's $15 for other wines.

Pressings: Arrive early for Industry Night Wednesdays.

717 Sixth St., Prosser, WA 99350, 509-786-1116, picazo717.com

42nd Street Cafe, Seaview, Wash.

Program: Undercurrent of values from likes of Barnard Griffin, Capstone, Chinook, J Christopher, Kestrel, Woodward Canyon and projects by Peter Rosback.

Policies: Motto seems to be "Nice wines at fair prices." Thursday is Rewards Wine Club Night.

Pressings: Mount Baker Vineyards, whose owner has a beach house nearby, earns placings on list.

4201 Pacific Way, Seaview, WA, 98644, 360-642-2323, 42ndstreetcafe.com

94 Stewart Restaurant, Seattle

Program: Newcomer to Pike Place Market settles on producers, offering red and white from many of them, such as Coeur d'Alene Cellars, DiStefano, Seven Hills, Two Mountain.

Policies: Chef/owner Celinda Norton tastes and recommends each bottle on menu. Sunday nights feature no corkage.

Pressings: Prosser's Airfield Estates, Alexandria Nicole and Desert Wind make short list of glass pours.

94 Stewart St., Seattle, WA, 98101, 206-441-5505, 94stewart.com

Solstice Wood Fire Cafe, Bingen, Wash.

Program: Only five minutes from Hood River, and list is sourced not far beyond that range. Of 12 wineries represented, 11 are from Columbia Gorge region. Most also available as glass pours.

Policies: Tasting flights of three are $6. Take a bottle home? It's discounted 20 percent.

Pressings: Live music/local wine tasting last Friday of each month.

415 Steuben St., Highway 14, Bingen, WA, 98605, 509-493-4006, solsticewoodfirecafe.com

Valley Cafe, Ellensburg

Program: Gregory Beach made commitment to pair his cuisine with Washington wines in 1981.

Policies: List is 90 percent Washington. Month's featured winery includes public tasting with winemaker on first Friday. Corresponding table tents full of wine info/prices.

Pressings: Created information kiosk for wine tourists. Wine shop in adjacent deli.

105 W. Third Ave., Ellensburg, WA, 98926, 509-925-3050, valleycafe.org

Visconti's Restorante Italiano, Leavenworth, Wash.

Program: More than half of the 500-plus list is Washington, which includes 100 entries from the Columbia Cascade region.

Policies: Affordable pricing of local wines.

Pressings: This year, Washington Wine Commission recognized co-owner/chef Daniel Carr with its Winemaker's Choice Award for industry support/staff training.

636 Front St., Leavenworth, WA, 98826, 509-548-1213. viscontis.com

Visconti's Restorante Italiano, Wenatchee, Wash.

Program: Daniel Carr's original restaurant sticks a bit closer to the Wenatchee-area wineries. Back-loaded with big Washington reds.

Policies: Nice snapshots of older vintages from Walla Walla legends.

Pressings: See how Woodward Canyon's Barbera and Dolcetto stack up vs. their DOC counterparts.

1737 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA, 98801, 509-662-5013, viscontis.com

Best Oregon Wine List

Cascade Dining Room at Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, Ore.

Program: Sixth time at the summit of Oregon wine lists. It's loaded with big Washington reds, too. Helpful food pairing tips with glass pour offerings.

Policies: Two dozen wines by glass. Sun spot logo on list notes wineries employing biodynamic/organic practices.

Pressings: Executive chef Leif Erickson celebrates 30 years at helm.

The Cascade Dining Room, Timberline Lodge, OR, 97028, 503-622-0700, timberlinelodge.com

Outstanding Oregon Wine Lists

Alloro Wine Bar & Restaurant, Bandon, Ore.

Program: World-class golf transformed this quaint coastal town. Witness Tree and other Oregon Pinot Noir lead Northwest offerings.

Policies: Corkage is $20, $50 if bottle already on list.

Pressings: Abacela, an hour's drive inland, is spotlighted.

375 Second St. SE, Bandon, OR, 97411, 541-347-1850, allorowinebar.com

Anthony's at the Old Mill District, Bend, Ore.

Program: Washington-based restaurant group leans toward Willamette Valley in this Oregon mountain resort town.

Policies: Chehalem, Four Graces, R. Stuart's Big Fire among "Oregon's 3 Ps" - Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.

Pressings: Intrigue added with Panther Creek's Melon, a rare variety, and Sokol Blosser's ever-popular Evolution series.

475 SW Powerhouse Drive, Bend, OR, 97702, 541-389-8998, anthonys.com

Celilo Restaurant and Bar, Hood River, Ore.

Program: Columbia Gorge focus includes Cathedral Ridge, Erin Glenn, Pheasant Valley, Phelps Creek, Quenett, Syncline, The Pines 1852, Viento, Wind River.

Policies: Corkage starts at $20. Jacqueline Carey ensures rotation of Pinot Noir glass pours.

Pressings: Leads region with Northwest half-bottles. Sister property to Sixth Street Bistro & Loft, a past Match Maker.

16 Oak St., Hood River, OR, 97031, 541-386-5710

Geiser Grand Hotel, Baker City, Ore.

Program: Pinotphile Barbara Sidway continues to offer Northwest wine culture to Eastern Oregon frontier.

Policies: Constant themes are Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Meriwether sparklers, Precept and Williamette Valley wines by Jason Bull.

Pressings: Annual springtime wine appreciation weekend features Wine Press Northwest's Eric Degerman.

1996 Main St., Baker City, OR, 97814, 888-434-7374, geisergrand.com

Gracie's, Portland

Program: New restaurant in Hotel deLuxe features Northwest cuisine in setting reminiscent of "Golden Age of Hollywood."

Policies: Established Willamette Valley producers such as Bergström, Chehalem, Cristom priced below most "foreign" offerings.

Pressings: Abacela gains placement with its Spanish varieties Albariño and Tempranillo. Adelsheim's Auxerrois ranks among its offerings of "Whimsical Whites."

729 SW 15th Ave., Portland, OR, 97205, 503-222-2171, graciesdining.com

Jory, Newberg

Program: High-end Allison Inn & Spa, set to open Sept. 25, named its restaurant after what USDA deems as Oregon's state soil type.

Policies: Oregon wines dominate. Pinot Noir listed by appellations. Big reds from many Washington standouts.

Pressings: Refreshing array of half-bottles, handful of Northwest roses.

2525 Allison Lane, Newberg, OR, 97132, 503-554-2525, theallison.com

Paley's Place Bistro and Bar, Portland

Program: Kimberly Paley keeps it fun with Abacela (Albariño, Tempranillo), Adelsheim (Auxerrois), Bunnell (Grenache), Love & Squalor (Riesling), ZanZibar (Sauvignon Blanc), yet serious with a dozen Willamette Valley producers of Pinot Noir.

Policies: Wine Wednesday flights paired with special items from kitchen.

Pressings: Wonder if they've ever done wine pairings with PaleyBars?

1204 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR, 97209, 503-243-2403, paleysplace.net

Riverside Grill, Hood River, Ore.

Program: Best Western property with Italian focus denotes Columbia Gorge wines - more than 20 - with asterisk.

Policies: Affordable/local. Glass pours range $6-$10. Most bottles from $25-$52.

Pressings: Eco-friendly house wines by Viento's Rich Cushman come from local vines, stored in stainless steel, require no bottles, boxes, labels, corks.

1108 E. Marina Way, Hood River, OR, 97031, 541-386-8924, hoodriverinn.com

Urban Farmer, Portland

Program: Year-old steakhouse promotes sustainable/organic/biodynamic practices. That explains Chehalem, Elk Cove, Evesham Wood, Soter and spotlight of Brick House. Nice slice of Walla Walla reds includes Long Shadows.

Policies: Argyle bubbles by the glass. Day's featured red/white is $5 per glass.

Pressings: Restaurant in atrium lobby on hotel's eighth floor.

The Nines Hotel, 525 SW Morrison St., Portland, OR, 97204, 503-222-4900, urbanfarmerrestaurant.com

Wildwood, Portland

Program: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Columbia Valley reds complement regional cuisine. Domaine Drouhin, Ken Wright contribute several to half-bottle list.

Policies: Wine director Jeff Moore lists Europeans to provide "fuller appreciation of our local artisans."

Pressings: Glass pours with names such as Dominio IV's Technicolor Bat and Dusted Valley Boomtown Cab practically sell themselves.

1221 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR, 97209, 503-248-9663, wildwoodrestaurant.com

Best B.C. Wine Lists

Sooke Harbour House, Sooke, B.C.

Profile: Repeat winner Sinclair Philip has similar tight regional food/wine focus as that of The Herbfarm. Half of the province's 125-plus wineries here.

Policies: Expect to have B.C. wines and Vancouver Island ingredients in each course of your three-hour meal. Last Saturday of each month features wine tastings.

Pressings: Philip reigned as president of Slow Food Canada from 2003-2007.

1528 Whiffen Spit, Sooke, B.C., V0S 1N0, 250-642-3421, sookeharbourhouse.com

Outstanding B.C. Wine Lists

C Restaurant, Vancouver, B.C.

Program: Fish-based cuisine loads up on bubbles and crisp whites.

Policies: Never fewer than 30 wines by glass. Wines sorted by variety, then price, served in Riedel. More than 175 half-bottles.

Pressings: Sister property of Nu, Raincity. JoieFarm co-vintner Michael Dinn served as sommelier here.

2-1600 Howe St., Vancouver, B.C., V6Z 2L9, 604-681-1164, crestaurant.com

Nu Restaurant + Lounge, Vancouver, B.C.

Program: Blue Mountain, Burrowing Owl, Jackson-Triggs, Joie, Poplar Grove constant themes. Gehringer Brothers shows up for dessert.

Policies: Farm-to-table theme at False Creek hot spot includes provincial vino.

Pressings: Herder 2006 Pinot Noir, Mission Hill 2004 Oculus, 2004 Osoyoos Larose among B.C.'s best-ever, says sommelier Sara Bannerman.

1661 Granville St., Vancouver, B.C., V6Z 1N3, 604-646-4668, whatisnu.com

O'Doul's Restaurant & Bar, Vancouver, B.C.

Program: Calvin DesChene's list inside jazz-loving Listel Hotel runs deep with Blue Mountain, Burrowing Owl, JoieFarm, Kettle Valley, LaFrenz. Wine-by-glass list features tasting notes/food suggestion.

Policies: Markup policy no more than double retail. Several B.C. wines available in 375 ml. Sumac Ridge Steller's Jay Brut available by glass, half-bottle or bottle.

Pressings: Restaurant name a tribute to baseball great Lefty O'Doul, whose career included managing the Vancouver Mounties in 1956.

1300 Robson St., Vancouver, V6E 1C5, 604-661-1406, odoulsrestaurant.com

Best Idaho Wine List

Brick 29 Bistro, Nampa, Idaho

Program: Idaho's industry at center stage with more than 20 in-state wineries represented, including hard-to-find reds from Fraser Vineyard.

Policies: Only two Idaho wines, Cinder Syrah and Williamson Cab, priced north of $40. Take a bottle home at 15 percent discount.

Pressings: One of the Northwest's top values, Pend d'Oreille's Bistro Rouge, is $25.

320 11th Ave. S., Nampa, ID, 83651, 208-468-0029, brick29.com

Outstanding Idaho Wine Lists

Nectar Wine Bar & Bistro, Moscow, Idaho

Program: Walla Walla, Idaho easy to find on list at young operation just blocks from University of Idaho campus.

Policies: Co-owner Brett Woodland not shy about introducing guests to Palouse-area wines.

Pressings: Honey-based products made by family members used/sold here.

105 W. Sixth, Moscow, ID, 83843, 208-8882-5914, moscownectar.com

The Orchard House, Caldwell

Program: New family-style restaurant in wine country focuses on surrounding wineries - 18 of them - with bottles on display.

Policies: Slogan reads "Proudly serving Snake River AVA Wines." No wine listed for more than $34. Featured winery is $5 per glass of white, $6 per red.

Pressings: Winemaker dinner series. Ideal breakfast stop for wine tourists. Buy a bottle of Ste. Chapelle sparkling Riesling at brunch for $12.

14949 Sunnslope Rd., Highway 55, Caldwell, ID, 83607, 208-459-8200, theorchardhouse.us

The Sandbar River House, Marsing

Profile: Davis Creek joins all-Snake River lineup at 42-year-old establishment.

Policies: Remains perhaps Northwest's least expensive wine list. More than 30 wines available, but none more than $29.95.

Pressings: Try the frog legs with the Koenig Pinot Noir.

18 Sandbar Ave., Marsing, ID, 83639, 208-896-4124, sandbarriverhouse.com

ERIC DEGERMAN is managing editor of Wine Press Northwest. Email him at edegerman@winepressnw.com.

The economic storm

WOODINVILLE, Wash. - I was down at our local bistro for a burger when I overheard the next table say, "Someday I'm going to try The Herbfarm, just once, to see what it's like."

Well, that pretty much sums up the year. And what a difference a year makes!

When I penned a few words for this column last year, the Olympics were just over.

Overhead some economic clouds swirled around. But no storm had struck the restaurants and wineries of the Northwest.

That all changed.

For us, at least, the recession began late last October. Other than the fire that burned our place in 1997 - and the "big dipper" after the psychic wounds of 9/11 - this economic era has been the most sustained challenge we've faced.

For most restaurants, especially those in "fine dining," the recession staunched the normal tide of guests. Business entertainment all but ceased. Overnight, all bets were off and our place - and others with whom I talked - found it impossible to forecast sales, which often fluctuated wildly from day to day.

The sudden clamping of the credit markets dampened dining demand not only for food, but also, of course, for wine.

Those who continued to dine out, dined less. And, often as not, they ate a tier or two down on the restaurant "pyramid." Sales of top-end wines fell as more guests sought "value wines" or switched from a bottle of wine to wines by the glasses. Or a glass. Or no glass at all.

But while the economy frowned, the quality of the wines of the Pacific Northwest smiled, reaching an all-time peak. Prime Northwest grapes are now as good as any area of the world. Viticulturists and winemakers know more than ever how to coax the best from our bright and distinctive grapes.

Despite our viniferous golden age, the recession has put to rest the notion that there's an endless and unlimited market for $50 and $100 bottles of wine. The opening of new wineries positioned to create "only ultra-premium" wines will slow.

Surprisingly, the bright side for many wineries during this past year is that tasting room sales have not declined, and in many cases have actually increased. Odd as this seems, it is probably because more people are dining and entertaining at home, searching for a bond and story between the winery and their table.

As we emerge from this recession, I'm pleased to report that The Herbfarm cellar is strong and intact. It was tempting to draw the inventory down, but it was sobering to realize that so many bottles could never be replaced. Having a 25-year retrospective of Northwest wines and 25,000 bottles of aging wine is a good feeling and an exciting benefit for our guests.

Another big project for us this year has been our "100-Mile Dinner" theme. For this we decided that every molecule of food and wine had to be sourced from a 100-mile radius of the dining room. No problem, you say? I said everything. What about salt? Or pepper, baking powder, yeast, oils, flour, acids and, yes, wine? Or more specifically, grapes and vineyards that lie within the circle? The bulk of Washigton grapes are more than 100 miles from our base here in Woodinville.

Starting in early spring, we rededicated our attention to the Puget Sound AVA, Lake Chelan, the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and the very western end of the Yakima Valley. Let me just say that the old maxim about the food and wines of a region going together still rings true. Over several months, we found outstanding wines from all of the above areas, terrific matches to an exciting meal crafted only from ingredients in the big circle emanating from our farm and restaurant.

Come, dine, and explore with us. Follow our daily adventures on Twitter.

Until next time, I'm @herbguy.

- Ron Zimmerman, Co-Proprietor, The Herbfarm