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Northwest Cellars Blog

Award-winning wines and custom wine labels. Wine. Now it gets personal.

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Posted on in Educational

by Ben Hilzinger


As I write this, I am sitting at Monkey Trench Studios in Bremerton, Washington listening to some drum tracks I recorded earlier this morning. Being a studio drummer has certainly taught me a lot about patience, perseverance, and humility…especially humility. I will never be the best drummer, nor will I ever come close, but I still hold my own. I look at wine the same way. When I was younger (I’m now the ripe old age of 26), I wanted to be the smartest wine guy in every room and wanted everyone to know it. Oh, being young and naive. At the end of the day, however, there will be times when I am, and there will be times when I am not. In the extremely rare occasion that I am, I try not to boast my knowledge to make others feel weaker. I am assuming that everyone reading this right now is super cool and won't ever use wine to reign over anyone else in a social or professional setting. You’re way better than that, right? My point is this; wine was not intended to be a platform for expressing superiority, but it certainly seems like that these days and it’s completely ridiculous. Here are a few reasons to prove my stance:


1) Wine is just juice. Albeit, fermented juice. But, even though this needs no explanation, wine snobs seem to forget this simple fact all the time.


Step 1: Grapes have juice.

Step 2: The juice is extracted and forced to hang out with yeast.

Step 3: The product of that meet n greet is what we call wine.


Essentially that's it. I love everything about wine just as much as the next guy, but come on!…why make it out to be more than it is?  


2) There will always be someone who knows more than you. You can take this as motivation to always keep learning (which is great!), but in the context of this rant, I’m telling you this to save you from looking like an ass. I am no expert on wine, nor do I claim to be, but, like drums, I can hold my own. I remember many instances of older gentlemen walking into my tasting room, acknowledging my age, and immediately treating me like an inferior in front of their company. Quickly, I’d answer all their questions and show them age doesn’t always dictate knowledge in anything, especially wine. Ultimately, they came across looking like arrogant, ignorant jerks when they didn’t need to. People!…just drink and be happy.


3) Why wouldn’t you encourage people to feel more comfortable with wine? This is the one that baffles me the most. As a wine drinker, I LOVE geeking out with other winos. The easiest way to get the people around you to become winos it to get them excited about wine. Duh! Why on EARTH would you choose to make them feel dumb and alienate yourself? Unless you like drinking by yourself (which I don’t mind it from time to time), making everyone feel stupid around you in regards to wine is only going to leave you sad, alone, and angry at the world. Don’t do that to yourself.


4) Sometimes when you shut your mouth, you learn more. Could anything be more true? When your head isn’t exploding with arrogance, things can finally fit inside. The art of “sticking a sock in it” is the best, and sometimes only, way to learn what other people have to offer. No one likes a know-it-all. Become a learn-it-all.


I’m glad I got that off my chest. If nothing else, pass on these thoughts to your next friend who steps out of line when talking about wine. Lets call it “crossing the wine line.” Love it, appreciate it, enjoy it…but don’t use it as a device to elevate your ego to diminish others.


At Northwest Cellars, we go out of our way to make sure you simply have a good time. Whether you’re a guest in one of our tasting rooms or drinking a bottle with friends, we want you to feel welcomed into our family and always know you’re one of us.


Drink Northwest Cellars. Cheers!

Tagged in: About wine

Posted on in Grapes

by Ben Hilzinger


With our own Bob Delf, or Bobby D, as I lovingly refer to him, recently returning from a well-deserved vacation to South America, I thought I might as well write a little bit about a grape booming in popularity from that part of the world. This grape is one of my favorites of all time, Malbec. If a follower of my blogs, you might remember a recent post about The Wine That Changed It All (For Me) "Sauvignon Blanc". This, while being true, is not the whole story. As with most wine drinkers, I started out only drinking sweet white wine. When Sauvignon Blanc came into my life, I was finally able to respect and understand the dryer whites. I did not, however, develop my taste for ANY red until drinking my first glass of Malbec. It took the inky, raisiny, tannic, and bold palette of this grape to open my eyes that not all red wines taste the same. I will forever be grateful to Malbec for drastically changing my life’s direction and now I’ve found the perfect excuse to ramble on about our relationship! Thanks Bobby D for taking a holiday!

Bob tasting in Argentina


Although I did technically say Malbec was from South America, specifically Argentina, that particular association is still a relatively young one. Malbec is originally a Bordeaux red grape variety where its most-planted area is the Cahors region of South West France. Needing a longer growing season and more sun than its friends Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec never quite gained the immense popularity in the viticulture world, but it is still a cherished addition to many of the world’s best red blends. With its inky red, intense profile, any wine missing a little mid-palate pizazz is a damsel in distress waiting for this powerhouse grape. As a standalone grape variety, Malbec tends to be relatively all-over-the-place in consistency (not quality), but maybe thats why I’m always drawn to it. As humans, we are always changing and you never know what side of the bed you’re going to wake up on. Its this shot-in-the-dark acceptance when buying different Malbec from different producers that keeps me young, or maybe it ages me more, who knows. Some stress is good, right? Anyways...

Now, with acreage of Malbec declining in France, Argentina has somewhat branded the grape as its very own local celebrity. In most restaurants, if there’s only one Malbec by the glass, its most likely from Argentina. This, however, does not mean they produce the best version of this grape. Argentinian Malbec tends to be softer, and more silky than its French counterparts. Oddly enough, it seems to have more ageing potential as well. I guess it really depends what you like. After all, thats what this is all about right?

Bob might not want me to pass on his ultimate assessment of his “wine experience” abroad (by the way, I tend to agree with him most of the time), but I’ll just paraphrase his words in a very politically correct way as to not piss anyone off…”Let’s just say Washington makes some damn good wine…”.  That being said, Malbec from this part of the world (Washington) is quickly taking a lot of buzz away from Argentina.

Here at Northwest Cellars, we couldn’t be more proud of our most-recent releases of this favorited varietal. Our 2010 Malbec sourced from Phinney Hill and Verhey vineyards was rated 91 point by The International Wine Review. WIth its dark ruby, violet tinge, our Malbec has incredible character in a polished package showing very pure black and blue berry fruit with an earth note. It’s velvet in texture with deep fruit, fine tannins and a hint of graphite adding nuance on the finish. Our 2011 Malbec, sourced solely from Verhey vineyards, is beautifully balanced and aromatic, opening with just a whiff of smoky bacon, mulling spices and dark cherry on the nose. Concentrated flavors of black and blue berries, a touch of cherry cola and black pepper along with lively acidity and soft tannins on a lingering finish will keep you coming back for more!

I could go on forever about this amazing grape, but I think I’m gonna stop and go pour a glass for myself.

Drink Northwest Cellars. Cheers! 

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