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Blissful Blends and Perfect Pairings

Blissful Blends and Perfect Pairings 
Local chefs offer pairing suggestions for some of the region’s best blends.

Wine blends tend to be complex and, when assembled properly, nothing short of blissful. As you may know, blended wines have been available for quite some time, usually in the form of table wines, which were often at the bottom of the price scale. That is no longer the case, as today’s blend trend is evidenced in the premium wine lists of wineries, restaurants and tasting rooms throughout the region. Our local wineries do red blends very well. There is an intriguing and almost mysterious quality about blends that proves a winemaker is truly a liquid artist.

Here are just some of our region’s finest:

Townshend Cellars T3
(Columbia Valley, $17.95)

For almost 20 years, winemaker
Don Townshend has been producing
solid wines, but red blends may just be what he does
best. Although Townshend’s T3 is one of
the most popular Spokane Bordeaux style
blends, Townshend’s Vortex has recently
been stealing some of that award winning
spotlight. The ever-popular T3 is made
from wines produced in different years,
with non-vintage blends of Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot, with a smaller amount
of Cabernet Franc. T3 is a balanced wine,
slightly jam-like, with tastes of black cherry
and a hint of vanilla. This is a full-bodied,
fruit forward wine.

Downriver Grill Day Cuisine Chef
Shawn Wheeler recommends pairing
Townshend T3, which is on their wine list,
with their Puttanesca, a dish made with Italian sausage,
capers and kalamata olives in Sicilian tomato sauce,
topped with fresh parmesan and basil.
Nodland Cellars, 2006 Private Blend
(Walla Walla, $35.00)

Nodland wines are made in very small
lots. This handcrafted blend is a unique
variety, which contains large percentages of
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet
Franc and very small, yet precise amounts of
Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere chosen carefully
by Tim and Tracy Nodland. Expect
to taste ripe, juicy plums and cracked black
peppercorn, Bing cherries, licorice and dark
chocolate along with a hint of vanilla. Layers
of fruit and exotic spice provide a long finish.

Chef David Blaine of Latah Bistro
recommends pairing Nodland Cellar Private Reserve
from their wine list with his Idaho Rainbow
Trout with hazelnut-sage pesto, crimini mushrooms
and roasted potatoes.

Whitestone Winery, 2007 St Vincent
(Whitestone Estate Vineyards – Lake Roosevelt, $23.00)

Whitestone Winery’s Pieces of Red is a
smooth and trusty red blend, but St. Vincent
may be Whitestone’s best blend yet.
Whitestone’s estate vineyard is located on
the shores of mighty Lake Roosevelt where
they carefully nurture Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
and other varieties to produce superior
tasting wines with extraordinary flavor.
Winemaker and owner Michael Haig crafts
this elegant blend in the grand tradition of
Bordeaux, focusing on creating a well-balanced
wine. He believes it’s the winemaker’s
job to not screw up what Mother Nature
has already done. Well, he succeeded with
St. Vincent, combing Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot and Franc for this remarkable blend.

St. Vincent pairs brilliantly with Cajun dishes,
as demonstrated at Whitestone’s annual
Cajun in the Cab event held in the summer at
their vineyard. This is a traditional Cajun boil,
featuring fresh seafood and andouille sausage
flown up from New Orleans served with red
beans and rice.

Arbor Crest, 2005 Dionysus
(Columbia Valley, $45.00)
A highly acclaimed wine, Dionysus is a
blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc and small amounts of Malbec
and Petit Verdot. Aged for 36 months, it has
alluring aromas of maple sugar, cedar and
black raspberry, which unfold on the palate
as plum, nutmeg and black cherry. Winemaker
Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels gave
this thoroughly seductive wine the name
Dionysus to complement the exceptional
Dionysus vineyard and to acknowledge the
mythological namesake, the Greek God of Wine.

Winemaker Mielke-van Loben Sels
suggests Dionysus as a wonderful compliment to any
heavy meat dish, such as beef tenderloin marinated
in a red wine morel sauce.

Barrister, NV Rough Justice
(Walla Walla, $20.00)

Rough Justice, the popular and value
priced red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah, hails from
some of the finest vineyards in Walla Walla.
It has a complex, smoky nose of dark jam
fruits, mouth-filling silky tannins and a long
finish. Greg Lipsker and Michael White,
two attorneys-turned-winemakers look back on
Barrister Winery as the little hobby that
thankfully got out of control. Barrister
recently developed Wine and Dine - No
Corkage Fee, where participating local restaurants
will waive the corkage fee for their
patrons who bring one bottle of Barrister
wine, purchased at the winery, to the restaurant
on the day of purchase. Ask for a
Wine and Dine card at the time of purchase
and check the current list of participating

Executive Chef Brian Hutchins of
Luna recommends pairing Rough Justice, from their
wine list, with their Kobe burger with applesmoked
bacon, heirloom tomatoes and blue

Laurie L Ross is the author of local wine blog, Sip of Spokane (

As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine October/November 2010
Liquid Libations


Bonnie Clark said…
Thank you for this, Sip. I love pairing wine with food. The right pairing not only compliments the food but the right food compliments the wine. And, it is an ever revolving challenge, as the wines changes from year to year, making for more experimenting! Can't beat that!

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