The Yakima Valley is one of my favorite wine regions. We visited a few years ago and were enamored by the wine and the people.
This month I’m leading the intrepid writers of the Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) group on a virtual trip to the Yakima Valley AVA. You can read my preview post here.
With the help of Wine Yakima Valley, many of the writers received wine from different wineries that source from this Valley. While you may expect to see Cabernet Sauvignon, I expect you will find our writers wrote about a variety of wines sourced from all over this valley. You will find links to each of their pieces at the end of this post.
We will be gathering on Saturday, March 13th to discuss this region, its wines, soil, climates, and people. You can join us by heading to Twitter at 8 am Pacific time (11 am ET) and using and following #WinePW.
*The wines in this post were received as media samples. All opinions are our own.
I received two wines, both from wineries outside the Yakima Valley AVA, but who source from the Valley. The Yakima Valley is revered fruit, so this is unsurprising. But these wines each have stories, one deeply tied to the history of this Valley.
They also have another thing in common. These wineries are not solo operations. They are groups of people, friends of like minds, who came together over their love of wine. Together, they did the hard work and founded a winery. Here are their stories.
Pearl and Stone Wine Co.
Pearl and Stone Wine Co. is located in North Bend, Washington. If that name sounds familiar, it might be from the famous cult classic TV show that was set in this place some 30 years ago. This is the town that David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” was set in.
The town sits 30 minutes from Seattle in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley. It’s a small town of around 7000 people at last count.
Erika Ribary, Laurie Wesorick, and Wendy Stone were teachers at Fall City Elementary School in North Bend. They would gather with their husbands, Paul, Rob, and Chris (respectively), typically over a bottle of wine.
In 2013 they were celebrating Paul’s Birthday and they decided they should make their own wine. Collectively, they had the knowledge to put together a winery, Chris is the VP of Marketing and Communications for the Washington Wine Commission. Paul owns a commercial construction company and Rob works for Microsoft.
They bought some equipment and sourced fruit from Two Blondes Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Chris Camarda, the Winemaker for Andrew Will Winery, owns Two Blondes Vineyard and pointed them in all the right directions. It’s never a bad start to get your initial advice on starting your winery from one of the 50 most influential winemakers in the world. Chris Camarda worked with them for their first 5 years, while they got their legs under them.
I had a chance to speak with Chris Stone about how they got started:
“…I have been working in the WA wine industry since 1999 and had made a couple of barrels over the years with colleagues/friends, so I knew enough to be dangerous, but was smart enough to recognize what I don’t know. Rob and Paul both work in other industries and brought other skills. Enter Chris Camarda to teach us how to not mess things up!”
What’s in a name?
Well, the name is a composite anagram of their names Pearl is P for Paul, E for Erika, A (for and), R for Rob, and L for Laurie. Stone is Chris and Wendy’s last name. So “Pearl and Stone Wine Co.” It has elegance don’t you think? There is also a symbolism that they have found in these names with Stone representing a “strong foundation, and a grounding sense of place” and Pearl representing “something of value – there is nothing more valuable than friends and family”.
In November of 2019, they opened their tasting room in Downtown North Bend. It sits catty-corner to the famous Twede’s Café, the real-life version of the “Double R Diner” on Twin Peaks, home of Twin Peaks cherry pie and “A damn fine cup o’coffee!”. Of course, the tasting room was just getting ready for its first peak season, when COVID hit. They are open again at a smaller capacity with a few tables for tasting.
Pearl and Stone Wine Co. 2017 Mailbox Peak
47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon.
13.3% abv – $36 SRP
This wine is sourced from Two Blondes & Pollard Vineyard
Two Blondes is located in Zillah Washington and is owned by Chris Camarda. This 30 acres site sits at about 1150 feet in clay and loam soils. The vineyard is planted to multiple clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec, all own-rooted.
Pollard is owned by Robin Pollard, the former executive director of the Washington State Wine Commission. This vineyard is planted to an experimental dense planting method with 2400 plants per acre (normally you plant about 1700 per acre). The soil here is sandy loam with a subsoil of limestone.
The name for this wine comes from a famous old trail, which has been a rite of passage for Washington hikers. The old trail was straight up the mountain, but a new easier trail has now been put in. At the top, you find not only amazing views, but a Mailbox, decorated and stuffed full of treats and treasure from other hikers.
Upon opening my nose first picked up notes of a cedar forest. It caused me to close my eyes and picture a forest. Red berries and spice followed with notes of darker fruit, and bramble. Hints of walnuts, dried fig, and eucalyptus rounded out the nose.
* After further research, I found that the forest I was picturing, looks much like the Mailbox Peak trail.
Eight Bells Winery
Eight Bells Winery is located in the Roosevelt neighborhood of North Seattle. This Urban Winery is the collaboration of 3 friends, brought together first by the sea, and then by wine.
Tim Bates, Andy Shepard, and Frank Michiels had each been making wine at home. The three came together in 2009 to move their production out of their garages and into an old building about a mile from the University of Washington. The winery has a tasting room that is open on the weekends (currently only on Sunday). They primarily sell Direct to Consumer, through their wine club, tasting room, and online.
This is a winery that you don’t trip over, it’s off the beaten path, but it is well worth searching out. During the pandemic, they have done “Pick ups in the Alley” to great success.
Most of their fruit is sourced from Red Willow Vineyard with additional fruit from the well-known Boushey vineyard. These are wine-growers who take pride in producing excellent fruit that others can turn into wine. When winemakers get their hands on this fruit they work to make these growers proud.
The bottle we received was the 2014 David’s Block. It is no longer available, and I feel lucky to have received it, but…the 2015 and 2016 vintages are available now and you should check those out. But on to the story behind this wine.
Red Willow Vineyard, Mike Sauer, and David Lake
In the 1970s after finishing college, Mike Sauer married into the Stephenson family. As the new son-in-law, they handed him a parcel to manage and farm. With the help of Dr. Walter Clore, he began planting wine grapes.
David Lake was the Winemaker for Associated Vineyards. He and Mike began working together and he encouraged Mike to plant many Bordeaux varieties as well as Syrah and others. Being familiar with the way vineyards were planted in Bordeaux, he and Mike planted a block to multiple varieties and clones as they would in Bordeaux. This block was named David’s Block and this is the block where our wine from Eight Bells comes from.
Eight Bells David’s Block
This wine is a field blend from David’s Block. Frank Michiels described David’s Block for me: there are rows of multiple clones of Cabernet Franc, then Merlot, Petite Verdot, Carmenere, and then 12 rows of Cabernet Sauvignon with 10 different clones. The north end of the block is Malbec, which they no longer use in the blend, but it was in the 2014 vintage that I received.
I will admit, that on our visit to Red Willow, we did not get to see David’s block. Jonathan wanted to show us as much as possible on our way to the Chapel to catch the sunset and David’s Block is set further away on a separate road. Luckily Frank had a photo to share.
Let’s talk for a minute about the complexity of this. Yes, in the finished wine, but also as a grower and a winemaker trying to choose when to harvest. Until speaking with Frank Michiels, I had not really put together the how complicated a field blend actually is.
The fruit for this wine is picked all at once. So you have different varieties that ripen at different times, as well as multiple clones which add more ripening variation to the mix. Now, you have to go out, taste all that fruit and pick one day, one time for your harvest.
From there, all the fruit is co-fermented. There is no blending of different lots. The vineyard and mother nature are in control. The blend stays the same, they are picking the same rows from the same vines each vintage. What those grapes do within that specific year, is what makes this wine slightly different from year to year.
This may seem counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t it be easier to have the block all the same to give you more control? Why yes, but the thing is, that each year, each of the clones will ripen differently. Some clones are better in warmer weather, some cooler. The idea, as Frank explained is that they balance to give you a more consistent wine, from year to year.
Eight Bells 2014 “David’s Block”
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malvec, 7% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Carmenere and 3% Petite Verdot.
310 Cases produced – 14.5% abv – $38 SRP
Notes of Red currant, sour cherry, bramble, and berries mix with anise and eucalyptus with secondary notes of tobacco, walnut, vanilla, and spice. It has wonderful acid and is elegant and smooth with fine integrated tannins.
This is the 40th Anniversary of the first vineyard designate wine in Washington. David Lake did the first in 1981 which was a Red Willow vineyard designate. We celebrate with them by taking it a step further into a block designate from this beautiful and historic vineyard and thank Eight Bells for being the caretaker for the wines of this block.
Oh my goodness…maybe we should talk pairings? This is Wine Pairing Weekend after all!
Charcuterie platter with Duck Rillettes, morello cherry preserves, black walnuts, cornichons, parmesan, manchego, Iberico ham, blackberries, and raspberries
When I spoke with Chris at Pearl and Stone Wine Co. I asked if he had a favorite pairing. He mentioned duck with cherries. We found duck rillettes, duck legs cooked down in their own fat almost like a confit. It makes a delicious spread and with the morello cherry preserves was amazing with both wines.
Roasted beet and shallot salad with black walnuts, mixed baby greens, and beet greens
We enjoyed this elegant salad with the charcuterie platter for lunch. This salad was a beautiful pairing with the wines. The earthy notes in the beets and their meaty texture give depth to the dish allowing it to stand up to a fuller-bodied red wine.
Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak with Bok Choy and Leeks on Couscous
This was our dinner pairing. Okay….originally I was going to do this with grilled fennel, rather than the Bok Choy, but the store was out of fennel. It is fine for the recipe, but not so fine for the wine. The Green notes in the bok choy just didn’t sit well with the wines. The meat was great, the couscous was great, but if you want to pair this dish with a Bordeaux style blend, ditch the bok choy and go with fennel. Or…go without the green completely and top the whole thing with a red wine sauce made from the pan drippings.
The skirt steak was delicious and was great with the wine. It marinates for 30 minutes and then sears quickly to top the dish.
Recipes are listed below.
The #WinePW Crew on the Yakima Valley!
Yes, this post is long…and you know what? I only touched on two of the wineries making wine from the Yakima Valley AVA! I want to thank Wine Yakima Valley for sponsoring this month’s Wine Pairing weekend event.
There are more amazing wines, wineries, and people for you to discover in the Yakima Valley and the writers with #WinePW have worked hard to share a few with you!
Check out the pieces below by my Colleagues. You’ll note that several of them had so much to say about these wines from the Yakima Valley that they had to divide it into two posts!
Don’t forget to join us on Saturday Morning March 13th as we chat about the Yakima Valley and its wines on Twitter. Just follow and use the hashtag #WinePW to join the conversation.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
- Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
- Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
- Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
- Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
- Martin with ENOFYLZ Wine Blog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
- David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
- Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
- Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
- Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
- Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”
This is an elegant salad that is perfect for pairing with a bottle of red wine. The earthy notes in the beets and their meaty texture give the depth to the dish that makes it stand up to a fuller-bodied red wine. The beets and shallots roast easily in aluminum foil with olive oil allowing you to easily update the recipe for as many plates as you need.
- 1/2 cup of mixed baby greens
- 1/2 cup of torn beet greens
- 2 medium red beets
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 4 shallots
- ¼ cup black walnuts
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 tbs Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 cup of olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Clean and scrub your beets
- Place each beet in the center of a square of aluminum foil
- Drizzle with olive oil and wrap
- Place directly on the middle rack in the oven to roast for 45 minutes
- Place a pan on the rack beneath them to catch any spills
- Once these are in the oven, clean your shallots and slice off the root end
- Toss the shallots in olive oil and wrap them in a foil packet.
- Place these in the oven with your beets to roast for 30 minutes
- Make the vinaigrette
- In a blender combine the garlic, finely chopped shallot, red wine vinegar, honey, and white pepper. Blend. Open the center of the lid and drizzle in the
olive oil slowly while the blender is going. Set this aside (I like to put it in a jar so that I can shake to remix if needed)
- When the beets and shallots are done, removed them from the oven and the foil and let them cool.
- Turn the oven down to 350
- Cut the beets into wedges
- Slice the shallots in half and peel off the petals
- Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes (give them a shake ½-way through).
- Place your greens in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
- Add a tbs of the vinaigrette and toss
- Plate with the greens topped with the beets, shallots, & walnuts
- Drizzle a little more of the vinaigrette on top.
You can peel your beets when they come out of the oven and have cooled a bit if you prefer your beets peeled.
The vinaigrette makes enough that you will have some left for later (or for another dish, I used mine in my cous cous for dinner!)
A blend of pearl couscous cooked with saffron and marjoram and quinoa form the bed for this dish. The grains are tossed in a vinaigrette. This is topped with bok choy and leeks braised in a balsamic mixture and finished off with a balsamic marinated skirt steak.
- 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs dry red wine
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs fresh rosemary chopped
- 2 tbs brown sugar
- salt & pepper
- 1 lb beef skirt steak
Seared Bok Choy and Leeks
- 1 leek chopped
- 3 bunches of baby bok choy
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic chopped
- 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs balsamic reduction
- 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbs water
Vinaigrette for cous cous
- 1/2 tbs Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 shallot finely chopped
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary chopped
- 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
Couscous Quinoa blend
- 1 pinch of saffron
- 2 sprigs of marjoram
- 4 oz of Pearl Couscous
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup of cooked Quinoa
- Make the marinade
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl
- Cut the skirt steak in half
- Place the steak in a zip lock bag, pour the marinade over it.
- Marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator
- Make the Vinaigrette
- Combine all ingredients except the oil in the blender and pulse until mixed
- Drizzle in the oil, blending to emulsify
- Store in a jar in the refrigerator for later
- Make the couscous
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
- Dry the saffron in a dry skillet over low heat
- Remove the boiling water from the heat, add the saffron and marjoram. Cover and steep 10 minutes
- Toast the couscous in a dry skillet for 3 to 4 minutes
- Remove the saffron and marjoram, and return the water to a boil
- Add the couscous, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes
- Drain under cool water. Toss with olive oil and quinoa.
- Sear the skirt steak
- Remove the skirt steak from the marinade (discard the marinade)
- Heat a cast-iron skillet on high for 3 minutes
- Add olive oil and the skirt steak. Press the steak into the pan with tongs to get complete contact.
- Sear 2-4 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the meat. (internal temp of 130 degrees F)
- Transfer to a cutting board to rest
- Make the bok choy & leeks
- Remove the outer layer of the leeks and cut into 2-inch sections, discarding the green at the top. Slice the sections in half lengthwise and then into 1/4 inch strips
- Slice the bottom off of each baby bok choy so the leaves separate. Cut each in half
- Heat a large skillet over med-high heat add the olive oil and garlic, cooking until the garlic is fragrant (30 seconds)
- Add the balsamic, reduction, Worcestershire sauce, salt, lemon zest, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the leeks and stir. Cover and cook for 3 minutes
- Add the bok choy and stir. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Assembling the Dish
- Toss the couscous with the vinaigrette
- Make a bed on the center of your plate top with the bok choy and leeks
- Slice the skirt steak on a 45-degree angle, against the grain
- Place the steak on top.
*Make sure to discard the marinade for safety, it may now contain microbes from the raw meat.
The remaining sauce from the bok choy may be drizzled on top of the meat.
Amount Per Serving Calories 609Total Fat 43gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 30gCholesterol 74mgSodium 208mgCarbohydrates 27gFiber 3gSugar 13gProtein 27g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Sources, Resources and further reading
More on the Yakima Valley from Crushed Grape Chronicles (this is just the tip of the iceberg!)
- Red Willow Vineyard, an iconic vineyard in Yakima Valley Washington
- Chardonnay: Nuances in expressing site – an example from the Yakima Valley
- Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with JB Neufeld
- Red Mountain AVA Yakima Valley Washington
- Wine Yakima Valley
- Seth Kitzke on Kitzke Cellars, Upsidedown Wine and so much more.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.