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Columbia Winery introduces new wines, tasting room renovations

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

In 2012, California-based E. & J. Gallo Winery bought Columbia Winery. Now, Columbia has just released its latest 2012 wines.

The Chardonnay, Red Blend, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that were released earlier this month will only be available in the Northwest until later this year — a way to "pay homage and recognize Columbia’s roots," said Kristina Kelley, director of public relations for Gallo.

Columbia’s roots go back to 1962, when 10 friends — six of them University of Washington professors — founded Associated Vintners to focus on making table wines with European grapes. In the 1980s, the company changed its name to Columbia Winery and opened a tasting room in Woodinville, one of the first wineries here.

Columbia’s four newest wines represent changes in winemaking and sourcing. Winemaker Sean Hails said he sourced fruit from the Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope for these wines.

"They’re wonderful everyday food wines," Hails said.

The 2012 Chardonnay has flavors of apple and pear that are stronger than the oak flavor, Hails said. He also experimented with different yeast strains and cooler fermentation for this Chardonnay.

The Composition Red Blend uses a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from 2010 and 2011. Hails said he plans to release similar Composition blends every year.

"Moving forward, it’ll be the same idea from a blending standpoint," he said. "It gives me some flexibility and a place to play."

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Hails said, is "varietally correct. You definitely know it’s Cabernet." It has good acidity and is good to drink with food, he added.

The 2012 Merlot has cherry and dark fruit flavors, with notes of spice and mocha, Hails said.

The wines aren’t the only thing that’s new at Columbia; the tasting room will begin renovations this week, said John Sportelli, senior manager of Columbia Winery.

When the renovations are done, Columbia will have a new private tasting room and an educational room where customers can learn more about the winemaking process. The tasting room will also be repainted for a high-energy look, Sportelli said. (The tasting room will still be open during the two to three weeks of renovations.)

Educating customers about the blend of art and science that goes into winemaking is one of Columbia’s main goals, Sportelli said.

"Our focus is on education when a customer comes in ...and we want to do it fun," he

explained. "We give you as much information as you want."

Columbia has also introduced new packaging and a new logo in the hopes of targeting a new audience.

"We’re looking at the consumer that’s really a foodie enthusiast ... the customer that enjoys a good food and wine pairing," Sportelli said.

To that end, Columbia’s tasting room has a chef on staff who prepares foods, such as unique flatbreads, to accompany the wines.

"It’s good to drink wine, but it’s at its best when it’s served with food," Sportelli said.

Village Theatre’s acclaimed 'Les Misérables’ opens in Everett

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Les Mis photoAfter receiving glowing reviews when their production opened in Issaquah in November, Village Theatre’s latest musical production Les Misérables, directed by Steve Tomkins, moved to the Everett Performing Arts Center on January 10.

The good news is that additional shows have been added February 5 through February 9. With the addition of more performances, it becomes the longest running production in the history of Village Theatre.

Also of note is that the production just last week won a Seattle Times Footlight Award for one of the top mainstage musicals of 2013.

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name has been wowing audiences since first opening in 1985. Since then, over 60 million people in more than 40 countries have seen it on stage.

Set in France, the musical begins in 1815 when France is in political upheaval, and convict Jean Valjean is on the run. Hunted relentlessly by the policeman Javert for breaking his parole, he must leave his past behind and keep his vow to raise the young orphaned Cosette. But with revolution in the air and Javert closing in, Jean Valjean has no choice but to fight for his life and sacrifice everything to protect the people he loves.

Friday’s opening night performance did not disappoint, even when the rotating stage floor malfunctioned during Little Cosette’s first scene, causing an almost 18-minute delay in the performance.

That stage floor – picture a giant Lazy Susan hidden smack dab in the middle of the stage – was just one part of what made this production soar. Envisioned by scenic designer Scott Frye, the floor, along with the complex set, meant the cast could walk while remaining center stage, the props could enter and exit seamlessly, and it allowed the audience to see both sides of the epic battle scene. It is probably one of the best executed set designs I’ve ever seen on stage.

Also soaring were the voices of the cast, especially Jean Valjean’s Greg Stone, Javert’s Eric Polani Jensen, and Enjolras’ Steve Czarnecki. Those three men’s voices poured out into the audience like a fine tawny port on a cold winter’s night.

Stone is a Seattle native and attended the University of Washington. He has played the role of Valjean on Broadway and he starred in a national touring production for a year and a half. He made his Village Theatre debut in 1993 in the lead role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, a role he credits as his breakout role that jumpstarted his career, according to an interview published in the musical’s program.

Czarnecki, making his Village Theatre debut with this production, was breathtaking on stage when he sang in "Red and Black" and "Do You Hear the People Sing." It is understandable why he was selected as the under/study for Valjean.

Strong, solid performances abounded with Fantine’s Beth DeVries, adult Cosette’s Alexandra Zorn, Marius’ Matthew Kacergis and Eponine’s Kirsten DeLohr Hellend, whose performance of "On My Own" was stellar.

Rounding out the performances were the hilariously gauche Thénardier, played by Nick DeSantis, and Madame Thénardier, played to perfection by Kate Jaeger. A special mention must also be made for the children’s roles, which were beautifully performed.

The 14-person orchestra, led by conductor R. J. Tanicioco, also deserves star billing, as the musical’s mood transitioned the theatre effortlessly from heart-pounding and goose-bump producing ensemble performances like "Master of the House" and "One Day More" to the poignant performances like "I Dreamed a Dream" and "On My Own."

Costume designer Cynthia Savage’s attention to detail was evident in every outfit worn on stage. Over 200 costumes were required to outfit the cast.

Adding to the layers of complexity on stage was the lighting done by Tom Sturge. With a flick of a light change, the mood shifted from light to dark, golden to stark, warm to frigid.

The musical’s running length is approximately three hours. Everett Performing Arts Center is located at 2710 Wetmore Avenue. For tickets, visit Village Theatre’s website: www.villagetheatre.org.

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Ensemble. Les Misérables Production photo.© 2013 Tracy Martin. Property of Village Theatre.

Precor debuts new exercise technology at CES

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

PrecorWorkout-tracking software and HDTV-enabled cardio equipment are among the products Woodinville-based Precor exhibited last week at CES, an international consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. This year was Precor’s first time at CES, the show at which the VCR, CD player, plasma TV and Blu-Ray disc have been unveiled in past years.

Precor launched Preva, a networked fitness platform, in April 2013. It lets exercisers set goals and track their progress by logging in on Precor treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and Adaptive Motion Trainers or by using an iPhone app.

"They can literally go anywhere in the world — we have over 20,000 of these units [with Preva] in 56 countries," said Brent Brooks, vice president of networked fitness at Precor.

He explained that Preva uses "gamification," similar to earning levels in a video game or participating in an airline mileage program, to motivate people to exercise. Exercisers can set duration, distance or calorie goals.

"Once people have taken the time to establish a goal, they’re twice as likely to work out," Brooks said.

While Precor equipment tracks users’ workouts automatically, they can also manually enter activities like strength exercises using the mobile app. The workout information can also be linked with Microsoft HealthVault, a service that records other health data such as nutrition and medical records.

People work toward badges for certain accomplishments, such as exercising for a total of 10 hours. Other badges, such as the one for burning as many calories as you would burn walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, are kept secret until the user earns them — which gives the user a "surprise and delight factor," Brooks said.

"Really, at the heart of Precor is a desire to help people reach their goals, whether they’re exercisers with fitness goals or operators with business goals," Brooks explained.

Mike Williams is the co-owner of Gold’s Gym in Woodinville, which has several floors dedicated to Precor cardio equipment. He strives to help gym members meet their goals, and Preva can make it easier for them to work out. For example, users can set up a workout program for themselves with a certain speed and incline, and repeat that workout without having to set up the machine again.

As a business owner, Williams likes how Preva lets him track usage of the machines (though not individual users.) That helps him figure out why certain machines wear out more quickly, why certain machines aren’t getting used and which types of equipment to buy more of.

Gym members also appreciate all the entertainment options offered on Precor’s equipment with P80 touch screens. They can choose from a variety of TV channels, how-to exercise videos, music videos of different genres, movie trailers and Internet browsing.

"We all know that running, ellipticals, biking can be tedious and boring," Williams admitted. "The entertainment helps distract people. Personally, I like it because then I’m not watching the clock."

And Precor plans to add even more entertainment options to its exercise equipment, Brooks said. At CES, the company announced integration with DIRECTV, which will give exercisers access to more than 100 HD channels, such as CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Food Network and HGTV. Exercisers no longer have to rely on shared, wall-mounted TVs for entertainment.

"We’re able to integrate the fitness experience and the media experience," Brooks said.

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Photo by Briana Gerdeman At Gold’s Gym in Woodinville, a man runs on a Precor treadmill with a touch screen that allows users to log in and track their workouts. The software, called Preva, is designed to motivate exercisers.

Parkour coach teaches students to run, climb, play

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

ParkourFrom Seattle to Mumbai, the world is full of places to play outside for parkour coach Cordelia Storm.

Parkour is a sport of efficiently overcoming obstacles in any environment by running, jumping and climbing. Combining and refining those movements allows parkour practitioners, or traceurs, to run up walls, jump precisely between rails and balance on narrow ledges.

"I tell people it’s like how you used to play as a kid — if you’ve ever climbed a tree or played "ground is lava," you’ve done parkour. Everyone’s done parkour at some point of their life, just most people stop," Storm wrote in an email interview. "The goal of parkour? To play, to train. Parkour is a lot of things to a lot of people –some people like to push their limits, some people like to feel like a kid again. Everyone has their own reason for it."

Storm, 24, who grew up in Woodinville, now teaches parkour at Apex Movement, a parkour gym in Boulder, Colo. She’s traveled to Calgary, Alberta, to coach a women’s-only parkour workshop, and last summer, she spent a month teaching parkour at a homeless youth shelter in Mumbai. I met her when I took one of her classes at Parkour Visions, a gym in Seattle.

Storm began practicing parkour about six years ago. At the time, she was a film school student with no athletic background, but she was intrigued by a short documentary she saw about parkour.

"I was interested in the way they described it — almost like a meditative practice, of learning your limits with grace," she recalls.

She began taking classes at Parkour Visions, and later, started training outside on her own and with friends.

"It was the most supportive community I had ever been a part of, and in the past I was really intimidated by sports since I never considered myself very good at them," she wrote. "But the constant encouragement never made me feel ‘bad’ at parkour. I recognized that some people were better than me, but I never felt they were competitive about it."

As a coach, she tries to emulate that same supportive environment. When she started coaching parkour three years ago, she had to learn to plan training sessions that weren’t too easy or too hard for students of different levels — "challenging but still fun." She tries to incorporate positive reinforcement, encouraging students through small, repeated successes. She also draws on a scientific understanding of biomechanics and how the body works.

Parkour has filtered into popular culture, with stunts in movies like "Casino Royale," an MTV series called "Ultimate Parkour Challenge" and a comedic appearance of so-called "hardcore parkour" on "The Office," as well as a wealth of user-created videos on YouTube. Those appearances bring attention to the sport, but often portray it as dangerous or risky.

Storm said parkour stunts in movies can be inspiring, but there’s a "misconception about parkour and the way media portrays it." The sport promotes training safely in order to be able to keep playing and practicing for the rest of one’s life.

"Parkour is really for anyone — the youngest and oldest students ever at Parkour Visions have been an infant and 96 years old," she wrote. "Parkour is taught progressively — and if you’re smart about it can reach anyone’s level. If you can play, you can do parkour. Also, all parkour is taught from the ground, up. So some big jump you see in the movies has been practiced thousands of times at ground level over the years of that practitioner."

Storm reflected that parkour has made her stronger physically, but the biggest changes were mental.

"My confidence in myself has increased. I’ve definitely changed physically with more muscle definition, but I find that’s not really my goal anymore," she wrote. "When I first tried parkour I was looking for ways to stay fit and slim down (I actually had an eating disorder), but slowly overtime I learned to train not to look better but to be better at moving … I learned to love to play in my body, not to love it for its appearance."

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Photo by Kellen Fujimoto Photography.

Cordelia Storm, a parkour coach, vaults over a concrete barrier at Gasworks Park in Seattle. The goal of the sport is to efficiently overcome obstacles by running, jumping and climbing.

Looking back and updating some 2013 stories

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Sometimes you read (or in my case, write) a story and wonder later if there’s anything new that’s happened since the story was published. Here’s a look back at some of the stories we brought to you in 2013 with updates:

My first assigned story when I began as features writer for The Woodinville Weekly in April was about Woodinville native Laura Pyles, a pastry chef at Seattle’s Joule and Revel, who was garnering national attention after being named Food & Wine magazine’s People’s Choice Best New Pastry Chef on the West Coast.

Since then, Pyles left Joule/Revel in October and partnered with Josh Henderson (known for Skillet, Westward and Hollywood Tavern) to open up a new bakery café in Sodo next year. "The spot will be called Parchment and will specialize in sandwiches built on hearty breads, unique pastries, local beer and wine, and seasonally inspired dishes," Pyles wrote in an email.

"The breads will be handmade and will showcase spent grains from nearby breweries. We will be open for breakfast and lunch along with an evening happy hour during the week along with brunch and lunch on the weekend," she added.

Parchment will be located just south of the Starbucks corporate headquarters. Pyles will be the executive chef when it opens.

Pipers Creek Nursery owner Alan Hensley enjoyed new fans to his plant nursery that specializes in Northwest native plants after the story ran in May. This fall, he chose to relocate the nursery to 7324 NE 175th Street in Kenmore where he hopes to be open by mid-February.

The nursery will be in a smaller retail space, and Hensley is teaming with 192 Brewing and The Lake Trail Taproom to create "The Beer Garden" with planted containers and display gardens this spring. "Washington beers and NW native plants. A natural combination, local beers, local plants and a good time," Hensley wrote in an email.

It was tragic news when the community learned a young father, John Norman, was killed in a construction accident on May 11. What made his story heartbreaking was learning he left behind a toddler daughter, Cadence, and his wife, Breanna, who was pregnant with their second daughter. He’d been hard at work using every spare moment building their dream home on a lot next to his parent’s house in Woodinville.

KIRO Radio’s Ron & Don Show asked the community if they could come together to help finish the family’s home by Father’s Day.

"There were so many people who came forward, and so many small businesses that gave us everything we needed, and more," family friend and donation coordinator Mike Barter said recently.

Because of issues in getting a septic tank system permitted, installed and approved, Breanna and her two daughters – Abigail was born in September – finally moved into the home on December 15. "Just in time for Christmas!" Barter said.

The community’s heartwarming generosity allowed Breanna and her family to move into a home, not just a house. Barter gives much of the credit to Ron & Don Show producer Libby Denkmann. "Libby was an angel. She wouldn’t let the story die."

Kid chef and Woodinville resident Amber Kelley had a great year after her recipe was selected to represent the state of Washington for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. She attended a luncheon at the White House where she discovered she would be sitting next to Mrs. Obama during the luncheon in July.

Then, she found out she was a finalist in a contest to become the next Food Tube star on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel.

Since the Jamie Oliver contest, Amber has been invited by Oliver to become part of the Food Tube family. Oliver helps promotes her videos, which helps her videos to be seen by a larger audience. She now has over 50,000 views on YouTube, according to her mom, Yohko Kelley.

The young chef also went on a family trip to Japan for two weeks, where they did some filming. They are producing a series of videos called "Amber in Japan" on YouTube. The first episode, titled, "My Favorite Foods" is online.

For more information on Amber’s upcoming events and activities, visit her website www.cookwithamber.com.

By far, the best part of my job as features writer for the Weekly has been meeting and interviewing fascinating people. Ron Alessandrini and Mike Osterling fit that bill when I visited their home and toured their garden, both of which are garnering national attention, in August.

Since the story ran, freelance writers for Sunset and Better Homes & Gardens magazines have submitted stories for publication consideration, a vintage clothing club hosted a party with 50 guests dressed in period attire in October, they are already planning their annual summer garden party in July, and will be hosting a large wedding in their garden next August.

In July, Twisted Café owner Julio Ortiz, at the urging of his customers, started serving Cuban fare for dinner, which gave Northshore diners another cuisine option when dining out. The response has been so favorable that Ortiz officially changed the name of the restaurant to the Twisted Cuban Café & Bar in early December.

Now, the restaurant offers a full Cuban menu for lunch and dinner. They are keeping a few of their old deli sandwiches on the lunch menu, including the Twisted Cuban and Monster sandwiches. The restaurant has also switched to a full-service dining experience including full bar service at both lunch and dinner.

Their new hours are Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight.

In August, construction was in full progress at the iconic Hollywood Tavern across from Columbia Winery. In addition to the tavern receiving a reincarnation, a new headquarters for Woodinville Whiskey was being built adjacent to the tavern.

Since then, the tavern opened on November 12 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. serving a modern twist on classic pub fare, paired with cocktails using Woodinville Whiskey’s product, and a few of the classically cheap beers the tavern was known for in its heyday.

Meanwhile, Woodinville Whiskey’s new distillery is now slated to open in February.

We learned in October Starbucks’ Evenings Program was coming to their Woodinville store on NE 175th Street. On December 6, over 100 people attended the grand opening.

"Many customers are enjoying the wine and food offerings together, and popular pairings include the Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling with the Truffle Macaroni & Cheese or the Amavi Cellars Syrah with the Chocolate Fondue," a Starbucks spokesperson wrote in an email.

After January 1, they will begin a regular calendar of events, ranging from partnerships with local Woodinville wineries and book clubs, to the Knitting Night they have in the works for the end of January. "Any community members interested in partnering for an event can simply stop in and ask for the store manager, Holly, or reach out to the store over the phone (425) 398-8099," the spokesperson wrote.

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