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In our last column we looked at the wines of Chile in South America in honor of the Summer Olympics. Now we go to Mendoza, Argentina, which is a short plane ride from Santiago over the snow capped peaks of the Andes Mountains.

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As the seasons are reversed this time of the year, you can see skiers in the Las Lenas and Bariloche resorts as you pass over. When you arrive there’s no question you’re in wine country. More than two-thirds of all Argentinean wine comes from this area.

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There’s a working vineyard just outside the front door of the airport, and large wine storage casks adorn the entrance road. Located in the foothills of the Andes, Mendoza has a continental climate, semi-arid desert conditions exist. Mendoza gets a lot of sun. With minimal rainfall, irrigation is essential.

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Seven stunning white wines using Puget Sound grapes impress The Seattle Times’ reader wine-tasting panel with their alluring aromas and flavors.

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WE ARE IN a time in which exploration of lesser-known wines is encouraged. And perhaps no Washington wines are further “out there” than the cool-climate varieties grown in the Puget Sound American Viticultural Area.

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While siegerrebe, madeleine angevine and müller-thurgau don’t exactly roll off the tongue like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, these wines can be absolutely stunning. That’s what The Seattle Times’ reader wine-tasting panel discovered during our most recent event at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle College.

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Abruzzo , montepulciano and trebbiano were barely considered grapes in the wine world. Because they were treated as an afterthought, and, of course, also due to the style most producers fashioned these varietals in, no one thought of them as more than ingredients in bulk wine. Masciarelli had other ideas: He was certain that both of these grapes, if planted properly, treated well during the growing season, and not over-manipulated in the cellar, could produce world-class, vineyard-driven wines. Masciarelli, who had started at his father's winery in 1978 before departing to found his own in 1981, set out to do just that. It’s fair to say Abruzzo has never been the same. The quality charge he led has been felt throughout the region, with other producers following his example.

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— who died of a heart attack in 2008 at the age of 53 — achieved his goal by setting a high bar for both montepulciano and trebbiano. His wines have been highly regarded, receiving, among other honors, numerous Tre Bicchieri awards from Gambero Rosso — the highest rating an Italian wine can receive in the country. The true mark of his success can be seen both in the growth of his brand and the influence on others to push the envelope.

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I was in Abruzzo recently and had the chance to taste through the portfolio with Luigi Valori, who has been the winemaker since Masciarelli's passing. Valori also has his own label, Valori, which is distributed in partnership with Masciarelli. Two things were most apparent about him: his passion for winemaking and the influence, both personally and regionally, he credits to his late patron.

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J. Lohr Estates 2014 Riverstone Chardonnay ($12): Bright, full, with the unmistakable cool-weather characteristics of the Monterey wine-producing region. It's actually paler than most Monterey chardonnays, but still brassy in color. You'll get hints of stone fruit and vanilla. Acidic, slightly toasty, holds its flavor well. Full and rich in midpalate. Oaky, but not too much.

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It’s been hot, hot, hot, people. Humid, too. And the nights offer no respite. In other words, it’s the season of patio pounders.

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What constitutes a patio pounder? It’s a category that’s easy to define on the most general level: an uncomplicated but well-made wine, usually consumed chilled. It’s light and refreshing on the palate and has a low enough alcohol content that you can drink a few glasses without getting giggly. Monster zinfandels, butter-bomb chardonnays and brawny Napa cabernets need not apply. They’ll all be welcome back when things cool down.

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A huge fire in Monterey County keeps getting bigger, but so far growers of the county's best-regarded wine grapes say the wind is keeping their vineyards safe.

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However, the Soberanes Creek fire, which has blazed through 57,000 acres is not yet close to being brought under control. The state declared it 45 percent contained as of Sunday morning. On Monday night, US Highway 1, a major coastal road, was to be closed in both directions near the epicenter of the blaze in Big Sur.

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is an important grapegrowing area, with much of its fruit ending up in bottles labeled Central Coast . Monterey has the most white-wine grapes of any county in California, according to the US Department of Agriculture. It also has the second-most Pinot Noir grapes of any California county, behind only Sonoma, and is fifth overall in red-wine grapes.

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