Food & Drink

Turn to Whatcom wineries for holiday beverages

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Are you ready for the holidays and red wine season? Look no further than Whatcom County for plenty of good red wine choices and white wines as well.

We’re fortunate to have a number of talented winemakers who source their grapes from vineyards across the state and then produce the wines here at home. Nearly all of the county’s wineries have tasting rooms that are open to the public, and their wines are easy to find in local grocers and wine shops.

Mount Baker Vineyardshas a number of newly released red wines that are currently available. Among my favorites is the easy-to-drink Proprietor’s Limited Release 2012 Tempranillo (about $16), a lighter-body-style red with dark fruit flavors and a soft finish.

Also notable is the winery’s Non-Vintage Hierarchy Red (about $24). Four Rhone varietals – syrah, grenache, counoise and mourvedre – combine to produce a lovely, Northwest pinot noir-style wine with earthy undertones, a splash of bright red cherry and just the right amount of tannic structure.

And the Proprietor’s Limited Release 2012 Malbec (about $20) also is a winner. Complex aromatics of berries, toasted walnut and meadow grasses lead off with blackberry flavors and nuances of black pepper and caramel. Nicely balanced with vibrant acidity and supple tannins, it’s an excellent Washington malbec at this price.

At Dynasty Cellars, winemaker Peter Osvaldik shifts gears with his first dessert wine, the Amabile 2013 Late Harvest Zinfandel (about $18 for 375 ml). It’s a stunning effort, with gobs of black plum and cherry fruits and some wonderfully grippy tannins that balance the sugar content to produce a lengthy, almost chewy finish. Try it with a slice of cheesecake, a swirl of caramel sauce and salted pecans.

Another just-released red comes from Coach House Cellars in their 2012 Syrah (about $30). Ultra-dark cherry and berry flavors are capped with a mind-numbing 15.9 percent alcohol content that makes the wine borderline port-like. This big, full-bodied syrah could be perfect for after-meal sipping in front of the fire.

And just because it’s red wine season doesn’t mean you should completely abandon white wines this time of year.

Served well-chilled, the Dakota Creek Winery 2013 2nd Bottling Chenin Blanc (about $22) makes a refreshing leadoff wine. Mouthwatering melon, peach and pear flavors, tangy acidity, and a steely, mineral-like finish highlight this tasty white from winemakers Ken and Jill Peck.

For chardonnay lovers, the Vartanyan Estate Winery 2012 Heavy Oaked Chardonnay (about $22) is a must. Winemaker and owner Margarita Vartanyan exercises a deft touch with eight months of American oak aging that doesn’t overwhelm the wine’s lovely baked apple and tropical fruit flavors. There’s also a prevailing toasty, nutty quality that’s accentuated with a round, creamy finish.