Cellar Notes: Holiday 2018


Well, that went fast! Wasn’t it just summer? As I write this, harvest is winding down. The heat of June got things rolling in a hurry, then things leveled a bit to bring things back down to ‘normal’. It has been a pretty much picture perfect harvest in just about everyone’s opinion. Many producers are proclaiming that the fruit which they are seeing may in fact be the best they have ever seen. No real weather issues this year at all and none in the immediate forecast. A little frost here and there, but we expect that and welcome it this time of year.

As many of you are aware, nationwide shipping rules changed this year for retailers such as us. Until we got things ironed out last month, shipping wine out of state pretty much came to a standstill. However, we can now ship to even more places than before, with one HUGE asterisk. PLEASE PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY SHIPPING NOW!!!! Did I say that loud enough for everyone to hear? We no longer have the ability to ship ‘next day’ or ‘two day’ outside of Washington state, as we now have to have all our wines consolidated first, so plan on three weeks to get wines delivered. I know many of you will want to wait until the last minute to ship your gifts, but if you do, you will likely not be on time for the big day this year. One more time. PLEASE ALLOW WAY MORE TIME FOR SHIPMENTS DURING THE HOLIDAYS.

As we prepare for the craziness of the holiday season, we are also preparing for our annual and much anticipated ‘Compass Wines Holiday Advent Calendar’. An email a day from December 1-24 with some incredible values, big ticket gift items, special package deals, instant wine cellar case lots and the like. However, you must be on our email list to receive these offers. We always give priority to our mailing list and email list members in terms of announcements and special offers. If, and I really mean ‘if’ there is wine left after an email offering, it may end up on our web site or on line, but often these wines are sold out before the general public even knows that we have them. If you have not yet added your name to the email list, you may want to do it now, while you are thinking about it. I had the good fortune to be in Italy for harvest this year and found all sorts of cool wines, many of which may show up in time for these 24 days of goodness. Don’t miss out.

Our annual holiday party and storewide sale is on December 1 this year. This very well may be the most impressive lineup we have ever had for this event. In addition to the spectacular line up of wines, including such stars as Roederer Champagne (remember that insane tasting last holiday season?) and the return of Quilceda Creek, we will have former Husky and NFL star Damon Huard in the house with his wines, and MAYBE former Cougar and NFL star Drew Bledsoe with his wines. He may need to be out of town that weekend, but even if he is, his gifted winemaker Josh McDaniel will be here. Call it a post-Apple Cup smack down. See the back page for all the details and also information on special hours through the holiday season. This is a free event, but we do ask that you bring some non-perishable foods or cash to donate to the local food bank, so that those in the area can have a festive holiday as well.

Bring on the Apple Cup!

Gobble Gobble Gobble and Ho, Ho, Ho!

Doug, Will, Laura, Sandy, Shelly, Chris and Theodore (remote, as usual)



Ontanon White Tempranillo 2017 $10.99

When folks think of Spain, they most often think of Tempranillo driven reds, like the El Pico also featured in this newsletter, just keep reading. However, all that is Tempranillo is not red. This is a rare white version. In 1988, amongst all the glorious red clusters of fruit, some mysterious white grapes appeared in a vineyard within the Rioja appellation. After years of study and propagation, the legal authorities of the region proclaimed that this was in fact a naturally occurring mutation of the classic red grape and allowed this new white clone to be propagated and bottled as ‘Rioja’. Rare as hen’s teeth, but well worth tracking down, if you can find it. Brilliant and lively in the glass, it has the character of green apples, lemon pie and slightly green papaya, notes of flowers and ocean breezes in the nose and a delightfully refreshing and mouthwatering finish. Surprise all your snobby wine friends who think they know everything about wine with this one. Perfect with all those oysters and clams which get slurped up this time of year.

Chateau L’Ermitage Costieres de Nimes 2015 $9.99

The famed northern and southern regions of the Rhone valley in France both get lots of play in the press and media, and the Languedoc, to the west of there also sees a fair amount of attention. However, some of the best values coming from that location are in the smaller, lesser known regions and Costieres de Nimes is one of our favorites. On the western edge of the Rhone valley, right up against the city of Nimes, sits this small appellation, which makes it stylistically kind of a Rhone/Languedoc hybrid, even though technically, it falls under the category of the former. This gem comes from the fabulous 2015 vintage. It is mostly Mourvedre, with the remainder being Syrah and Grenache. Smoked meat, dried herbs, pepper, lavender and strong, black tea. Rich and full bodied, but with that grace which ‘old world’ wines are known for. Drinks way better than many of the more famous Rhones at twice the price. A classic winter warmer for roasts and stews. Cassolette anyone?

Nicolas Idiart Loire Valley Pinot Noir 2016 $9.99

From maybe the best vintage we have yet seen for red wines in the Loire Valley, 2016 (thank you global warming), comes this remarkable Pinot Noir value. Nicolas Idiart got his training, and most of his sales experience in Bordeaux and selling for high end Bordeaux producers, but has found his love of winemaking in the Loire valley. He works with various producers in the valley to craft fantastic values wines from appellations all over the Loire. We had great success with one of his earlier vintages, but this 2016 is cut from a different cloth. Explosive notes of strawberry, tomato leaf, fresh mown hay, alfalfa and just a tinge of barnyard. Beautiful balance and impeccable structure for a Pinot Noir priced like a jug wine. Pretty much a slam dunk if you are having salmon this holiday season. It will also pair beautifully with that ham or turkey you were planning on roasting this year. Another Pinot Noir pairing of note is roasted pumpkin or winter squash. We all here at Compass Wines love a great Burgundy, but none of us can afford to drink them every day of the week. This is as close as you can come to those without even breaking a ten spot and it would fool many a Francophile. A ridiculous value.


El Pico Tinto La Mancha Tempranillo 2016 $9.99

Spain is on a big time roll in terms of this newsletter. We never plan things like this, it just happens sometimes. We taste countless wines for each newsletter, then start narrowing down based purely on what we liked the best and how the selections relate to previous newsletters in terms of varietals. We try to avoid having the same grapes represented back to back. We kind of broke our own rules this time with two Tempranillos. One white and one red. This is the red one. Our buddy from Bellingham, Basi from Casa Ventura Imports brings this one in. 100% Tempranillo (the traditional and most planted red in all of Spain), aged in stainless steel for a minimum of three months, then bottled to capture the freshness and liveliness of the grape. Easy going and flat delicious to drink by itself, it will also pair with those red meats you really want this time of year. Cherry, cranberry, raspberry, clove, allspice and just a kiss of lavender. Perfect  on the table for your holiday meals, or also the perfect wine for my famous ‘Ballard Glogg’

Ballard Glogg Recipe

Mix together one bottle each of Ruby Port, red wine (see above) and Aquavit in a non-aluminum saucepan, with a handful each of raisins, blanched whole almonds and cinnamon sticks. Warm to hot and steamy, but DO NOT BOIL. Serve in mugs and remove all machinery and sharp implements from nearby and don’t even think about driving, swimming, opening oysters or using power tools for a while. Awesome with herring, smoked salmon, lutefisk and fruitcake.

Torre Oria Macabeo Cava NV $8.99

Every year at this time, we search for a delightful bubbly for all the festivities which will be taking place between now and New Year’s Day. This year, we found a delightful Cava at a fabulous price to fill this slot. Cava is to Spain what Prosecco is the Italy and Champagne is to France. This is a very food friendly version, so it has just a kiss of fresh pear and melon to go with all those tingly and scintillating bubbles, a zippy and crisp finish and a price which makes it all the more a party wine. Yes, we do love real Champagne, but this time of year, one also needs a sparkler in the fridge which can be used for cocktails, Mimosas, punch or in a flute all by itself and dropping a Ben Franklin for a daily drinker just doesn’t cut it. A delicious bottle here and a pretty package for gift giving as well.

Baron Fuente Brut Tradition Champagne NV $28.99

When you need to step it up a bit from the bubbly above, a real Champagne is the way to go. However, it is rare these days to find the real stuff for under $40 a pop. However, we found one this year that is not only a stunning bottle of wine, but comes in way under budget as well. Baron Fuente is not a household name, which is a great thing, in reality. Brand recognition costs lots of money and what these guys save in marketing dollars, gets passed on in terms of way better pricing. A rare bottling in that the blend is 70% Pinot Meunier and 30% Chardonnay, resulting in a rich and supple style, with a creaminess to go with the zippy acidity and minerality. Gorgeous mousse and extremely elegant. This Champagne drinks way above its price and is a simply stunning value. When you show up at that party, when everyone else is bringing ‘Kirkland Signature’, imagine how cool you will be?

Upcoming Events


Annual Holiday Open House and Sale

Saturday, December 1 10:00-6:00


This is the biggest event of the year and the lineup is arguably the best we have ever put together. The doors open at 10:00 and until 6:00 everything in the store is at least 10% off the regular price with many items marked down even more. The tasting starts at 11:00 and goes until 5:00, and is free, but we are hoping everyone will kick in some food or cash for the local food bank instead of a tasting fee (suggest $20 per person). We will donate 100% of the proceeds, as we always do. We expect a huge crowd, so please plan on carpooling if possible.


The schedule is as follows:



W.T. Vintners





Passing Time with Damon Huard

Doubleback with Josh McDaniels and maybe Drew!



Roederer Champagne

Quilceda Creek


Breadfarm will be here with all their tasty baked goods and Rhonda Gothberg with her memorable goat cheeses as usual. Rosario Resort from Orcas Island will be providing all sorts of tasty treats as well. This is always a free event, but we ask that everyone who is tasting wine to please bring some nonperishable foods, or cash for the local food bank. Not everyone gets to play like this during the holidays so we just want to spread the good cheer a bit around town to those who are less fortunate.


Special Holiday Hours

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22 closed

Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24 closing early at 3:00

Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25 closed

Boxing Day, Wednesday December 26 closed

New Year’s Day, Tuesday, January 1 closed

Wednesday, January 2 closed

Please also double check whenever we get snow as I like to keep my employees safe and if the roads are bad, we do not ask them to take any risks and may not be open.