Posted on Sep 9, 2016 | 0 comments
I first met Joel McNelly, co-founder of Capstone Cellars, at Esther Shore Park in Vancouver, Washington. He was pouring wine at a wine festival. Joel was very animated and excited to share his knowledge with me. As our conversation ended, he offered to sell me a small wine barrel and advised me to not start making wine commercially because, as he put it, ‘the way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large fortune.” I took it as a joke, but soon realized he was right, as I ignored the advise and plunged ahead with our own winery. We became fast friends and over the years have shared our experiences together.
Capstone Cellars was established in 2003 by Roy and Sandy Bays and Joel and Cathleen McNelly. The men worked together at Longview Fibre and together dreamed of having a winery. The plan was that Joel would build a building on his mother-in-law’s property and the winery would lease it and Roy would buy the initial winery equipment. Roy would be the winemaker/chemist and Joel would be in charge of sales and operating many aspects of the business. Joel became an expert in barrel selection. I think Joel knew every barrel cooper in the world and his selections helped make Capstone wine a favorite. Another big factor in their success was a relationship they forged with famed Yakima vineyard manager, Dick Boushey. Boushey fruit was highly sought after by every winemaker in the state. The Bays/McNelly partnership worked primarily because the couples all had defined roles and unique skill sets and they tried to stay out of each others way. Of course, there was the inevitable healthy tension in decision making, that occurs in any creative endeavor, when it came time to blend the wine, or how many barrels they would buy for the upcoming harvest.
I came out to their Pacific Way winery for crush a few times and saw first hand the energy and intensity of their work, Roy mixing up the yeast and testing the must, and Joel directing the crush pad with numerous volunteers.
The wives were also very involved. Sandy kept the books, religiously making sure that all compliance issues were handled and Cathleen’s sense of style and hospitality added an elegance to events and wine tastings held at the winery and in the community. They all were focused on the goal to craft small lots of premium, complex wines that were distinctive. They won many gold medals for the wines over the years which proved the consistency and attention to detail in their winemaking. Over the 13 years, they crafted many fine wines including their flagship Sangiovese. They were able to coax out the black plum, bright cherry and crushed herbs that is so sought after in this variety. They also made merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, several excellent red blends, and a some white wines. Of note, their lovely viognier.
Recent events, including health issues, a desire to spend more time with family and friends, and just plain old fatigue, led the couples to decide to get out of the business. Fortunately, Roy’s daughter, Debbie Bays Luchau and Kirk Raboin have stepped up to purchase the winery and keep the vision going. In a recent conversation with Debbie, she told me that she and Kirk were motivated in part by a desire to ‘keep the legacy of Capstone Cellars alive.” That legacy includes being the first commercial winery in Cowlitz County, but more importantly, helping raise awareness of the joy of the wine life-style, including the work involved in making a quality product. Another part of the legacy is a commitment by Capstone Cellars to contribute to the community by hosting fundraising events and raising the quality of life in our area. Their plans include moving the winery to their property in Rose Valley and taking the winery to the next level of growth and quality. I can’t wait to see what they do.
Posted on Aug 8, 2016 | 0 comments
It’s time to renew your N.Y.F. (not yet famous) membership or join as a new member. A warm welcome to our new members so far: Bob and Pat Reistroffer, LeeRoy and Melissa Parcel, Gary Lindstrom, Stacy Dalgarno, Odine and Michael Husemoen, Daniel Compton, and Tom and Peggy Renaud. Thank you so much to all of our new wine club members! It’s not too late to join, but time is running out. September 1st is the deadline, so I encourage you to sign up today. You can sign up here by clicking on the wine club tab or sign up at the winery. Our wine club members are our ambassadors. You are the ones who recognize the value of what we bring to the community. There is no fee to join and you get a case of our best wines next year. Other benefits include discounts on bottles of wine all year plus invitations to our hosted wine club events.
I visited Yakima Valley this week to check out the grapes. It looks like harvest will be fairly normal, maybe a bit early for some varietals. We are still lining up some grapes and I’m happy to announce that we will be making Durandel with new Sangiovese from Elephant Mountain Vineyard. The vineyard is located in the Rattlesnake Hill AVA. I’m excited to work with Joel Hattrup and his crew at this highly-sought-after vineyard. We will need some help this year during harvest, which should last into October. If you are around, let me know and we will put you to work. It’s really fun and you will learn so much about the winemaking process.
Thanks to the bottling crew
Thanks you Gary Lindstrom, Nick Seaver, Gary and Marge Kooiman for helping bottle the 2015 Dolcetto and the 2014 Olifont. We had fun. I hope to see you at the winery soon. Marc
Posted on Jul 24, 2016 | 0 comments
We are in a major growth spirt. This is good news for our enterprise. However, growth has a downside. We need to raise capital to get to the next level. I have invested a ton of money to get us to this place. People tell me everyday how much they appreciate the winery and tasting room. Here is an example of what people are saying,
“We were lucky to start our relationship with Roland wines at an LCC event when we met Marc and Nancy. The wines are wonderful . . .enjoyable to explore and exciting to discover. Very quaffable and now we buy by the case since a few bottles are never enough! My husband enjoys the Dolcetto while I am drawn to the reds with their layers of flavors. It is always fun to experience the new releases as Marc and Nancy always have great events that are full of great wine, food and conversation!”
– Lisa Matye Edwards
To raise capital for growth, we have considered many different option. We have thought about our values as a business and have decided to rally our friends and fans to help us, rather than dealing with institutions. So we are asking you to consider two ways that you can get involved.
First, quit one of your current wine clubs and join Roland Wines N.Y.F. (not yet famous) wine club. If you don’t belong to a wine club, now is your chance. This is the first time in 8 years that we have opened it to new members. Join at the winery or online at www.rolandwines.com
Second, We are seeking $50,000 to buy some new equipment and grapes for the 2016 harvest. We are offering a limited opportunity for several individuals to invest in something that has value and growth potential right here in Longview. We will offer a competitive return on investment each year and you will be a part of our success. I don’t know about you, but I have been less than satisfied with most of my investments. Is there risk? Yes, but not much because we have great wine and it is selling out! Call me at 360-846-7304 for details
No matter how this fund drive goes, we will continue to bring you great wine and experiences right here in Longview. We only hope that we can extend this experience to more friends in the future. Thank you so much. Marc
Posted on Jul 6, 2016 | 1 comment
How to Navigate food and wine pairing:
The question of what wine and foods go together is confusing for most of us because there is so
much contradictory information out there. I spend a lot of time reading food and wine magazines
because I believe that food and wine go together and food without wine is like cookies without
milk. As I pour over the articles, I start to feel as if the experts somehow have magical powers
to know the perfect pairing; consequently, I feel like I must rely on the experts’
recommendations. However, logic tells me that they can’t know everything because there are
literally infinite combinations of food and wine that might pair perfectly.
The other problem that pairing presents is that you and I have limited resources and availability
to foods and wines that might possibly pair well. So what are we to do? First of all, skip Google
and start experimenting. After all, your meal is not the Last Supper.
What makes a good pairing? Simply put, it is a combination that makes the food and wine taste
better and the only way to know is to try it. To ease your fear, I believe if you follow a few rules
(rules are meant to be broken) you will get it right most of the time.
The five main characteristics in wine are sweetness, acidity, tannin, fruit, and body. If you keep
this in mind it will make your pairing selections simple. Forget the hundreds of flavor
characteristics that the experts talk about and that most of us can’t even begin to taste. If we
focus on the foods flavor, then we can pick a wine that might match that flavor. The first thing we
will get right away is that the red-wine-with-red meat and white-wine-with-chicken rule is not
very useful because both red wine and white wine can express one or more of the five flavor
groups. Before I give you a few examples to guide you, remember that it is the flavor of the food
that is more important than the type of food.
General pairings with some common and classic dishes:
For dishes that are spicy (think blackened steak or fish, Tai food, chili, spicy red sauces) go with
wines that have body acid and matching spice like Gewürztraminer (white wine), Zinfandel,
sparkling wine, and Cote du Rhone reds that tend to be lighter bodied with higher acid.
For dishes that are sweet, like chocolate, cream based sauces, rice, ripe fruit, or brie cheese, go
with a wine that is fruity like Merlot or a Riesling
For dishes that are savory like lamb, charcuterie, Italian cuisine go with a dry white wine like
Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir or an Italian Dolcetto
For foods that are fatty and heavy like steak, go for a tannic red like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Salmon is a difficult pairing, but maybe an oaky Chardonnay could stand up to the strong flavor.
But don’t take my advice and don’t be afraid to try pairings with whatever wine you have in the
house. If it makes the food taste better, you are just as good as the experts.
Posted on Jun 13, 2016 | 3 comments
A few years ago my wife and our two oldest grandchildren went to France and one of our first stops
was the little village of Antibes on the Mediterranean. It was one of the best vacations of my life. I
remember touching down in Nice and listening to the Dave Matthews song ‘You And I”
“Wanna pack your bags, Something small
Take what you need and we disappear
Without a trace we’ll be gone, gone
The moon and the stars can follow the car
and then when we get to the ocean
We gonna take a boat to the end of the world
All the way to the end of the world
Oh, and when the kids are old enough
We’re gonna teach them to fly”
When we rented the little flat on the sea, the owner said there would be a bottle of wine waiting for
us, “just make sure you leave one when you depart”. The bottle turned out to be Provencal Rosé. The
only Rosé I ever had before this was sweet and not particularly good, but this bottle was as good as
any wine I had ever had. As I recall, it was dry and full flavored, and made out of grape varietals I
had never heard of before – Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tibouren to mention a
We were now on a quest to try as many Rosé wines as we could find during our trip. I lost count half
way through the trip, but I did discover a new passion that carries on today.
There are two ways to make Rosé. The traditional method is to pick red grapes early in order to get
a lower alcohol content and fresh crisp acid in the finished wine, crush the grapes whole and leave
the juice on the skins just long enough to pick up the right amount of color and flavor. The other
way is to make Rosé as an after product of regular red wine making. The grapes are picked when fully
ripe with the intent to make red wine and the juice is bled off. In France, this is called saignée
(bleed). The remaining juice is made into a concentrated red wine. I’ve tried both methods but
prefer the traditional.
There is no doubt that we are on the verge of a Rosé revolution here in Washington state. The
combination of incredible variety, low prices ($10-20), and versatility in food pairing makes Rosé an
up and coming staple in our wine culture. Northwest Rosé is made from almost any grape variety.
The most common is Sangiovese, Syrah, and Pinot noir. Look for those made from Grenache and
the Southern Rhone varietals mentioned above.
Here’s my picks of Northwest Rosé. Unfortunately most are not available in our local stores, so look
at Trader Joe, Zupan’s, or New Seasons and stock up.
Syncline 2012 Rosé, $18
Syncline, the flagship winery in the Columbia Gorge AVA, was one of the first Washington
wineries to produce a great rosé. It is a blend of Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache. Full of
strawberry cream and spice.
Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $13
This wine tastes great with almost any food. A perpetual winner at the San Francisco
International Wine Competition.
Trust Cellars 2012 Rosé, $18
This is made from Cabernet Franc giving it more complexity than most rosé but is still light
and fruity with tropical fruit flavors of kiwi and pineapple.
Charles and Charles Rosé Columbia Valley 2013 $12
This wine is widely distributed and is a great value. It is full of strawberry, herbs, and
watermelon sure to delight your senses. 72% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon,
6% Grenache, 3% Cinsault, 3% Counoise.
Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Rosé Dundee Hills 2013 $20
This is made as a rosé from the start. Whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel
the 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé is brimming with ruby grapefruit, guava, and floral notes.
Posted on May 16, 2016 | 0 comments
One of my first experiences wine tasting was when my Mom and Dad took us to Chateau St. Michelle 30 years ago. Was I ever surprises to see how massive an operation it was and I can remember how impressed I was with all the stainless steel, hoses, and barrels all glistening and pretty. It made a big impression on me thinking this is a French chateau right in my back yard!
Over the years I have visited many wine regions including the Willamette, Yakima, Columbia, Napa, Sonoma Valleys. I get giddy just thinking about meeting new wines and winemakers. I prefer tasting rooms located right at the vineyards and wineries. You never know when you will connect with someone who is willing to give you a grand tour of the property, or my favorite, the cellar and wine cave.
Here are some do’s and don’t that will make your experience the best it can be.
Do: research the region online so you can eliminate wineries that focus on wines you aren’t interested in.
Don’t: don’t skip smaller lesser known wineries.You may find a jewel and avoid the crowds. Do: Pick 3 or 4 wineries per day it visit so you can enjoy the experience and engage the staff
with questions. You will learn a lot.
Don’t: don’t act like you know a lot about wine even if you do. Wine people will notice your interest and you may find yourself tasting from barrels.
Do: buy the wines you like.
Don’t: don’t buy the wines you don’t like, but be polite about it. Some of my friends will buy a
‘sympathy’ bottle just because they had a good time and want to support people who are trying.
Do: drink plenty of water before and after to hydrate before you head out. Wine headaches are often a result of dehydration, not from sulfites or red vs white wine.
Don’t: drink too much. If you like reds just taste the reds skip the others. Wine tasting is not a way to get free wine, it a venture of discovery.
Do: be confidant about your palette. There is always someone who can taste ‘road tar’ in the wine. Who cares? Swirl, smell, taste and enjoy.
Don’t: don’t apologize about your lack of knowledge. Good tasters listen and learn.