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Wine Scene: Pairing Sleeping Dog Wines with pizza

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A note from regular wine columnist Barbara Glover, executive director of Wine Yakima Valley: The summer season is usually fast-paced and a bit crazy. Hectic schedules often require a quick, easy meal — but don’t skip the wine! This pizza and wine pairing recommendation is from guest blogger Jennifer Martin of Vino Travels ~ An Italian Wine Blog. She offers a great suggestion of picking up a pizza and opening a bottle of wine when things get crazy. Be sure to follow her for more inspiration, recipes, and food pairings.

Yakima Valley is a land rich in agriculture known for its abundance of wine grapes and fruit. Vines have been in existence in the Yakima Valley since 1869, originally planted by French winemaker Charles Schanno. The vines originated from the Hudson’s Bay Co.

The winery: Sleeping Dog Wines

Sleeping Dog Wines in Benton City is a small-production winery averaging about 300 cases annually. Larry Oates, owner and winemaker, started winemaking as a hobby in 1992 and has been commercially producing since 2002 with his wife, Joyce, and their “sleeping dog,” Jett. They started with merlot, syrah and malbec. Larry’s approach is to allow the grapes to express themselves. He holds onto the bottles for about six to 10 years before release, as he feels this shows the best expression of the grapes. Hence the name of the vineyards; he believes in “letting the sleeping dogs lie.”

The wines

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Larry and sample a few of his wines made from Italian grapes plus a carmènére. Larry sources the grapes from his neighbor Bob Buoy at Buoy Vineyards, which features south-facing slopes over the Yakima River. Sleeping Dog’s signature style is robust wines showing intense berries.

2012 Sleeping Dog Wines Dolcetto, $28: Made of 94% dolcetto and 3% each of Montepulciano and merlot, these grapes are grown in neighboring Buoy Vineyard. Another client of Buoy Vineyard was going to purchase the grapes from this small block, but it didn’t pan out, so Larry decided to work with the grapes. Garnet in color, this wine shows aromas of red cherry, which also show up on the palette. Dry, medium-bodied with good acidity and smooth tannin, the wine is balanced, showing a hint of vanilla.

2014 Sleeping Dog Wines Montepulciano, $34: According to Larry, this was the first Montepulciano planted in Washington. The vines were planted in 2006. Made from 100% Montepulciano also grown in the Buoy Vineyard. American oak beans were used during primary fermentation. This wine was also aged in stainless steel with French and Hungarian oak staves. Dark ruby red in color. An intense nose of dark fruits. Blackberry, black cherry and plums on the palette. A hearty wine with high acidity. Luckily, I received two bottles of this wine; I’d like to see how this wine does with time in the bottle as it seems to have aging potential.

2015 Sleeping Dog Wines Carmènére, $35: Made from 100% carmènére. American oak beans were used during primary fermentation, and it was aged in stainless steel with French and Hungarian oak staves. Dark ruby with a hint of purple. Green bell pepper and white pepper on the nose. A full-bodied wine with good acidity with moderate tannin. Full of flavor with a lengthy finish.

The pairing

Life has been a little crazy of late, so I did take a short route this week — but who doesn’t love pizza and wine? To be honest, it was a fun weekday night sampling these wines with some delicious sausage and ricotta pizza. My favorite pairing of the three was the dolcetto.