Washington Wine Region: Yakima Valley AVA

Our next Washington AVA is actually it's first, Yakima Valley.  It was founded in 1983, 1 year before Columbia Valley AVA, which encompasses it.  Most of the state's wine history resides in this valley, started by an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine named Charles Schanno.  He used cuttings from an Oregon vineyard to start his own vineyard in 1869.  The torch was later passed to William B. Bridgeman, a Seattle attorney who brought about legislation, respect and modernization to Washington wine.  He drafted irrigation laws and planted his first vineyard in 1914.  After Prohibition he started Upland Winery (known today as Upland Estates) and helped create the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center which became essential to expansion of Washington wine.  The valley exploded in the early 1980's and the AVA was created!  Now let's get to more facts and some of my favorite wineries:

The Valley is shadowed by the Cascade Mountains to the west which create a rain shadow effect, making irrigation critical to vine survival.  The Yakima River runs through the region on it's way to connect with the Columbia River and flow east.  The climate is cooler there with the growing season taking up half  the year.  Along with a loam soil, which allows for drainage and contains many nutrients , the conditions make an ideal spot to plant Chardonnay, which is the most grown varietal in the region.  Other varietals include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Riesling.  The region produces around 40% of state wine and contains one third of the state's vineyards.  In addition to wine, the region produces alot of fruit like cherries, peaches, pears, plums, apples and almost 80% of all hops grown in the US- yay beer! 

Three different AVAs reside in Yakima Valley: Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills.  Each of these smaller appellations contain unique character which sets them apart.  They also create borders for the Yakima Valley, making a temperate climate.

Some excellent wineries are in the valley and are centered around three towns: Yakima, Zillah and Prosser.  A few of my favorites are Côte Bonneville, Hogue Cellars, Covey Run and Kana Winery.  If you make your way out to Washington be sure to stop at these spots along with the many other great wineries and vineyards!

World's Best Nachos Paired with Wine and Beer

It was a leisurely Sunday night off of work, and I was very hungry after my

WSET Advanced


class.  I began to judge what I was in the mood for, and homemade nachos sounded great.  I have to explain: I have been making nachos at home for a long time, adding to the recipe every time.  They have come to be known as "Kitchen Sink" Nachos.  Then I started to think of what beverages I wanted to pair with them, and the plan was hatched.  Now let us get to the recipe.

Here is what you are going to need:

1/2 lb. ground beef, 1/2 lb. ground pork, 1/2 diced white onion, 4 cloves chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, 3 sliced serrano peppers, 1 diced tomato, 4 chopped scallions, 1 cup sliced black olives, 1/2 can refried black beans, 1 sliced avocado, 4 oz. cream cheese, 8 oz. package shredded mexican cheese, 2 oz. sour cream, 1 lime, your favorite salsa (I use

Old El Paso

), your favorite hot sauce (I use


), and your favorite tortilla chips (I love Chicago local

El Milagro


Next, take your onions, garlic, and 2 peppers, along with some olive oil, and pan sear them in a frying pan.  Then, throw in your beef and pork- you want to use pork because the meat gives the mixture much more flavor.  Season it with chili and cayenne powder, and finish off with half a squeezed lime and some of the cilantro.  Then drain the liquids from the pan.

Prep a baking pan with a layer of chips topped with refried beans, cream cheese, and half of your mexican cheese.  Then top it with the meat mixture and the rest of the cheese.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit, and throw in the nachos for 15 minutes.  Then top it with avocado, olives, tomato, scallions, olives, sour cream, salsa, the rest of the peppers and cilantro, more squeezed lime, and hot sauce.  Strap on the feedbag and eat!

Now for choosing a beverage.  Beer works great, but make sure you use a lager or ale.  They are light enough to be refreshing, and not overtake the chips.  I chose

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Commodore Perry IPA

.  It has a medium weight, good bitterness, and a nice fruit-sweet finish.  Excellent for the nacho spice.  Wine is a great companion for this as well, but make sure you go with a weighty white.  Varietals with a touch of sweet fruit like riesling, pinot gris, or chenin blanc work well.  The 2007 Hogue Genesis Riesling was on sale, so I went for it.  The full lime citrus, honey, and vanilla also worked well with the nacho spice.  These beverages washed the nachos down perfectly- before you knew it, I was on the couch Al Bundy style getting ready for the season finale of HBO's

Big Love


These beverages work well with all mexican food.  Try out the recipe and post your comments!