Monday, October 20, 2014

The Book

If you have ever written a book, then you will understand. This is one of the reasons why I took time off from the blog so I could put my energy into "The Book." 

It consumes you. Even when you have reached a "writer's block," it still consumes you, as you sit and stare onto the computer screen, and keep telling yourself you are working. You pass up invitations to socialize with friends, because you know all of a sudden you will feel energized to crank out a few paragraphs only to find that you got nothing done, while everyone was eating and drinking well - - as you sit at the computer and stare into the screen. 

Then all of a sudden you wake at 5:30 am and put in a productive day while finally tearing yourself away from the keyboard at 10:00 pm. You take a half-hour break and sit back down and continue to pound the keys until it's 1:00 am. Now you think you are going to do the same the very next day because you feel so energized like the bunny, only to find when you wake up a few hours later, your shoulders, wrists, and ass - - hurts. 

You start sweating all the deadlines: marketing plan deadline, author bio deadline, black and white photo deadline, color photo deadline, photo caption deadline, and finally manuscript deadline. And wouldn't you know, while trying to make the other deadlines, it kept you from taking care of the most important - - the manuscript deadline. Another day will pass and you act rather smitten with yourself thinking you got it, and the next day, sure enough, panic sets in. All of these feelings go up and down. Up and down. Up. Down. 

So you finally reach the day you send in the complete manuscript and you tell yourself you are going to  celebrate and crack open your best bottle, but instead - - you are too pooped and the thought of opening a bottle seems like too much work. Now comes the days when you think you are going to relax, but you don't. You fret about when are you going to see the grueling edited pages and when you finally see the edits,  you rather sigh with relief as they are not as bad as you thought.  

There are two stages of editing, a total of 15 days, before you finally sign off on that "Approved for Print." In other words, signing my life away.  Then more panic sets in as you think, "I should have written this. I forgot to write that. Oh dear, so-and-so is going to be pissed off at me ... " 

Here is what Winston Churchill said about writing a book, Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

He was right and if I didn't know better I would have thought he was truly writing about me. 

And then the monster showed up via e-book form. It was the final edit before I send the "Approved for Print" form.  There it was in all of its glory with page numbers, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), index, photos, captions, and a color photo insert - - the centerfold, so to speak.  It was overwhelming and more than I could take. I sat my iPad down and didn't look at the book again until the next day. The truth? I didn't want anyone to read it - - ever. It was mine and I didn't want to share it.  

I finally made peace with the book. I "killed the monster." Did the last of the editing and signed the form. Away it went. The book is now out of my hands until November 18, the tentative day of the release. It will be soon be "flung out to the public." In the mean time, I have been deluged with emails from the publisher, from the pre-sales rep, sales rep, commissioning editor, the copy editor, and now the publicist ... What? A publicist? That's the most surprising and am trying to keep track of all of their requests. 

So here is the latest from the History Press:

Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History will be released (If all goes according to schedule), mid-November with a retail price of $19.99.  It is part of the History Press's American Palate series. 

I have been assigned a sales rep who will market and sell to independently-owned retail (independent bookstores, wineries, museum gift shops, boutiques, etc.), national and corporately owned retail (Barnes & Noble, Costco, National Parks Service gift shops , etc.), and online outlets such as, 
as well as Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon.  In addition to traditional print outlets, books will also be available as an ebook for sale via Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Apple’s iBookstore (iPad). Of course you can order it direct from History Press

Pre-sales are available on most online book stores, and eventually I will also have the book available here. 

Will I ever write another book? With all of my groaning, you would think that I was working on Volume II of War and Peace. It's too early to tell if I will write another book, but I think I can do it - - I think I can kill the monster.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Love on the Rocks: The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater

Was it a Frenchman’s folly the day young French vigneron Christophe Baron ventured across the Washington state-line and made a discovery that reminded him of the famed cobblestones of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region in France?

As Baron was roaming the countryside between Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater, OR, he couldn’t help but take notice of the ancient rugged bed of the old Walla Walla River. The land was scattered with acres of stones the size of an apple. From the days of the local orchard pioneers, such as A. B. Roberts and Dr. Nelson Blalock, the stony beds were known for its orchards and vineyards from the mid-1800s, to the Depression era. Since that time these 10 acres had been neglected and dismissed through the years. While local farmers saw land that could not be used due to traditional farming methods for such as row crops of wheat, peas, and even onions, it was Baron who saw potential that only a vigneron from France could distinguish at the time of Walla Walla’s budding wine region. While this Oregon land was designated within the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area as appointed by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, wine produced from the unyielding earth would eventually show its characteristics, which are distinct from the other areas of the Valley's AVA. 
Cayuse Vineyards in Oregon

The ancient land, strewn with cobblestones, is similar to that of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region in France. The village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (which translates as “The Pope’s new Castle”) France, and is one of the most renowned European wine appellations. Cobblestones have been noteworthy through time for providing proper drainage, yet restricting nutrients, which pushes the grape vines to struggle. Their struggle limits the vines’ yield, while concentrating and enhancing the flavor of the grape. The function of the rocks assists in retaining the heat from the sun and releasing its heat during the night, therefore producing a faster ripening of the wine grapes. 

Baron founded his Cayuse Vineyards in Milton-Freewater, OR, in 1997, and since then, other winemakers from the Walla Walla area have followed.

Oregon's soil gained its current profile when the Missoula Floods ravaged Eastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon, more than 13,000 to 15,000 years ago. These powerful floods would cover the Valley at least 35 times. As the flood waters would recede, leaving behind layers of sand and silt, the Walla Walla River would force its way back, replacing the area with rocks of all sizes, from pebbles and smooth cobbles to rounded, worn boulders that were produced from the basalt of the surrounding Blue Mountains. The secret these stones bring to the finished wines flavors is unlike grapes sourced from the Blue Mountain foothills or northern vineyards in the designated Walla Walla Valley AVA. The wines of Cayuse, as well as other wines from the stony area, are known for their savory and meaty flavors, and often with “gamey” notes. Many Francophile wine lovers find these local wines, such as Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre, to have very similar flavor components as those produced in France. 

Due to the noteworthy differences of wines produced between the cobblestoned area in Northeastern Oregon near the state borders, a newly proposed AVA was submitted to the TTB in 2014. “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” will be a sub-appellation of the existing Walla Walla Valley AVA. The proposed area will encompass 3,767 acres or 4.9 square miles. Dr. Kevin Pogue, geology professor at Whitman College, submitted the proposal in February 2014. Pogue also owns and operates VinTerra, a vineyard site and terroir consulting and marketing company. Pogue had been approached by a group of vineyard owners and winemakers who thought “the rocks” deserved its own American Viticulture Area. After they group asked Pogue to write the petition he said he would do it if he had total control on the boundary lines and could draft them to correspond as closely as possible to the limits of the area's rocky soils. 

 “I wanted the AVA to be controlled by the terroir as much as possible, free from the influences of marketing and politics that have strongly affected the placement of the boundaries of many, if not most AVAs,” says Pogue. 

The group agreed and the proposed area includes the already 250 acres of vineyards, known for Syrah and other red Rhone-style wines. The proposed petition names 19 wine producers that have vineyards within the proposed AVA. Four of the 19 wine producers are Cayuse Vineyards, Don Carlo Vineyard, Watermill Winery and Zerba Cellars,already have winery facilities within the proposed AVA. 

Wineries with vineyards include Beresan Winery, Buty Winery, Cayuse Vineyards, Charles Smith Wines, Delmas Wines, Don Carlo Vineyard, Dusted Valley Vintners, Figgins Family Wine Estates, Proper Wines, Otis Kenyon Wine, Rasa Vineyards, Reynvaan Family Vineyards, Riverhaven Cellars, Rôtie Cellars, Saviah Cellars, Sleight of Hand Cellars, Watermill Winery, Waters Winery and Zerba Cellars. At this time, the establishment for “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” AVA is in the current state of TTB Regulatory Timeline of waiting on the final ruling. Pogue expects the “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” to be official in December of 2014. 

 Yesterday’s pioneers of the orchards and vineyards would have never believed the acclaim and the love of the wines that these old rocks would assist in producing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Long Strange Trip ...

To quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it's been.”

It truly has been, but it sure feels good to dust off this little blog. The last four years have been an interesting journey. While I am happy to close the chapter of being in wine retail, I am certainly glad I did it. I made connections with so many wonderful and talented people (and even some not so wonderful people, but came with good lessons); and the lessons in imported wines and wine politics were invaluable - - and most important, I learned we have to take these detours in life to get us back on track. 

While I was selling wine, so many other things brought me back to this blog. The opportunity to write a book about the history of Walla Walla wines was one of them. Yes. I wrote a book and if all goes according to plan, the book will be released by the holidays. We are currently in the editing stage with paging and print scheduled in a couple of weeks. 

The blog, Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, will be changing its mission, a bit. It won't be 100% Walla Walla all the time. I will throw in a few posts about imported wines, as well as some wine politics, once in awhile. There may even be a few rants about the art, skills, and politics of wine blogging. I will write about what moves me at the moment.

For now, all I can say is, "It feels good to be home." 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

She's Back!

You didn't think I could stay away, did you?  Stay tuned ...

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Swan Song

Someone once told me that many wine bloggers keep in their line-up of posts a "swan song" just waiting for the publish button to be hit. Well, I just hit mine.     

It's time. It's time to take a sabbatical at least through the summer, or maybe longer. I am tired and perhaps you're tired of reading this blog. 

Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine has been a big part of my life since 2005 and I may still be one of the longest running wine blogs in Washington State. Originally it was just intended to be a personal diary of my thoughts and tastings about the local wine industry. Long story short, who knew anyone was reading what I had to say? 

It's been one hell of a wonderful ride. The people I have met, the experiences I have had, I could have never imagined any of it the day I published my very first blog. And it indeed changed my life.
Nine years later I am still blogging, but need a rest and a new project or two.  For the moment I do not know what to say anymore about wine or the wine industry that hasn't already been said, or as I ponder it all - - why should I say anything about a wine? You don't need points and scores. The true lover of wine should be their own judge. They should open their minds, become adventurous, expand their palate, taste and explore wines for themselves.  

Last year the archenemy to wine bloggers, the HoseMaster of Wine wrote a few thoughts that really stuck with me. Typically Ron is relentless with satire regarding the wine industry and especially wine bloggers. I have even been his target a few times. But this time, in his blog of "The Golden Age of Wine," there were some comments that really resonated.
What amazes me is how wonderful and entertaining and fascinating wine itself is, whereas wine writing is, with few exceptions, dreary, pedantic, insipid and repetitive. Perhaps that’s because so much of it revolves around descriptions of aromas and flavors we, as humans, are poorly equipped to perceive, much less express. Wine outmatches us. I can summarize an awful lot of people in a few concise phrases. Describing Chave Hermitage, however, seems beyond my capability. And everyone else's. - Ron Washam, HoseMaster of Wine
Later in a comment to me, he said:
But what I intend is to talk about wines that move me. And even after all these years and all those wines, there are wines that can still move me. - Ron Washam, HoseMaster of Wine
This is how I have been feeling, lately. Wine outmatches us. I am feeling outmatched. 

Like anything we love, there have been high and low moments when it came to my experiences as a wine blogger. I can honestly say, the moments have been mostly "high."  

A high moment when a winemaker would bring me a bottle of their wine to sample. For me it meant they valued what I had to say about something they put every bit of their blood, sweat and tears into. It was more than a high moment, but an honor.

A moment is high when Walla Walla tourists reach out to tell me they are fans and read my blog. I am always humbled, and often surprised, when someone reaches out to say they are reading my words. The first time a tourist searched me out, I became speechless and tearful. Verklempt is the word.

A high moment came when Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor and James Molesworth, Senior Editor, both of the Wine Spectator; confronted me online, separately, about something they read on my blog that they did not agree with and chastised me. Believe it or not, truly a high moment. 

A high moment for me, but certainly not a pretty one, when I held my breath, stamped my feet and threw a hissy fit to get the organizers of Wine Bloggers Conference to not hold the 2010 conference in California or even Seattle, Washington but to listen to me and to trust me and to hold the conference in Walla Walla. So far, it has been the most attended wine bloggers conference. 

The highest moment came for me last summer when it was announced that I was up for a wine blog nomination for Best Wine Writing along with nominees such as Alder Yarrow of  Vinography, one of the internet's most highly rated wine blog and Randall Grahm, author, eccentric wine visionary, founder and winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard. 

I didn't need to win the ultimate award.  Just the fact of being nominated beside such well known and respected people was enough for me. Unlike Newt Romney, I had no acceptance speech prepared, because I knew there would be no need for it. Ultimately when the winner was announced, I was relieved I didn't have to go up to the stage and speak to a crowd of over 300 people. Just being at the conference, hearing the claps and supportive shout-outs from the audience when my name was called out, and seeing my name on the screen during the awards presentation clutched my breath. That was enough for me.  

Later that evening of the awards, in the hotel elevator there were three young women who were not with the conference, but looked at my name tag and screamed. They "knew" me and read my blog. As we got to their floor and as the door slowly closed, I heard one of them scream, "Oh my gosh, we met the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman!"  That moment was better than any award.

My memorable low moments? (Que the Saturday Night Live Debbie Downer sad background audio, "Wah-Wahhh,") "She has a little blog. She writes a little blog." Yet, I never heard the same spoken about any of the male fellow bloggers. I never heard anybody talk about their "little" blogs. I often wondered if I should be seeking a pat on my little head, as well. 

Another low moment came when I was dismissed of my wine writing duties and was told I was being replaced with someone "younger, hip, and more knowledgeable about wine." Even I was anxious to read this prodigy's writing, until I discovered her only "published" article was a short-term blog about college dorm life. Why wasn't I just told they were cutting budgets and the kid was willing to work for free? 

These low moments are when it hits you and you question yourself and become critical of your work and  - - like the song, "The ol' gray mare ain't what she use to be." It's moments like these when I remembered one of my favorite movies, "All About Eve" starring Bette Davis. So, you don't understand the parallel of the movie and this blog? Look it up, youngster.

Last summer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, I spent a lot of time by myself looking for answers and listening to the professionals of print and publishing. Unlike past wine blogger's conferences, I didn't do much socializing. I wanted to soak up information. I also looked at the young and enthusiastic faces who were ready to make a name for themselves in the wine blogging/writing world. I sat quietly and listened to them. Many informed me they were the ones who were going to make ka-billions in the wine writing world - - and I must have been at the conference visiting my wine blogging young-adult child, right?

I didn't have the heart to tell them they wouldn't become a mega-star or make their millions on wine blogging, but I wished them well. You don't go into wine writing, and especially wine blogging, to make tons of money or to fill your wine cellar for free. You do it out of love - - passion. You do it because you are eager to share your information with others. Those who share their love and the passion for their craft are the ones who will succeed.

So, what am I going to do since I will no longer be blogging and how long will I be gone?  At least through the summer I am going to give the blog a rest. Possibly even until the end of the year - - or longer.

In the mean time, one of my new projects, I have been inspired to research and write the next "great American novel." I just signed a contract with The History Press to be a part of their new book series, "American Palate." Please watch for the release hopefully in September 2014.

I have another vehicle to keep my mind and keyboard alive, whether anybody reads it or not.  Chronicles of Catie"Rants, Raves, Reminiscing, and a few Recipes ..." However, there won't be much wine speak and postings are rather sporadic. When I am not on the keyboard, I want to take advantage of my newest project, a 1967 vintage Fireball camp trailer and sell some cool shit (home decor and fashion accessories) out of it and even do some glamping. I also want to walk along the rivers and find rocks - agates, jasper, fossils - - and more rocks. 

If anything, I would like to think that in some small way this blog contributed to getting the word out about Walla Walla wines and it contributed to the wineries of Walla Walla learning about wine bloggers, as well. In the mean time, I will be in search of that wine that outmatches us. Perhaps someday I will be back to tell you all about it. 

As Margot Channing said in the movie, All About Eve, "Slow curtain, the end."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

One of a Kind: Waitsburg Cellars

He's a wine writer, critic, author, innkeeper, musician, and all around Renaissance man, so it shouldn't have surprised anyone when Paul Gregutt announced a new milestone and title in his life, creator of his own line of wines. The wines were first previewed and released in March.

Waitsburg Cellars is a winemaking project between Paul and the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest, Precept Wines.  Paul has been given access to their vineyards, winemakers and their facility.  The goal is to create affordable, yet interesting wines that will showcase the  strength of our vines in Washington State. Paul will be hands-on with the wines.

First off, you cannot help but to notice the lovely, and very personable, black and white wine label. The goal of Paul and Karen Gregutt's label was to create their own Old World wine label, like those from days past of family crests and clan shields. Each symbol on the label represents the unification of their lives, from the music notes and book which focuses on their music, film, and book writing accomplishments to the rose symbol which represents Mrs. G's beautiful gardens of heritage roses.  Of course, the grape vines and wheat shafts speaks for itself, especially if you are familiar with the area.
Contrary to what is usual and almost traditional here in the Walla Walla Valley, it's welcoming to see a line-up of wines where four of the five wines are white varietals and only one red - - and an unusual red blend, at that.  Paul refers to the line-up of white wines as "The Aromatics" and has chosen not to write his own wine tasting notes. Instead we are to "fill in the blanks."  Here's my filler list.

Waitsburg Cellars “Cheninières” Old Vine Chenin Blanc - 2012, sourced from the Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley, yet very reminiscent and cleverly named after the dry Savennières from the Anjou region or "Middle" Loire Valley in France. This old vine wine has deep aromas of a flowering orchard. On the palate, summer stone fruit of ripe peaches and almost-ripe apricots with a lingering finish of citrus shining through. Pair with seafood salads - - and make sure that sea food is grilled to bring out a hint of the two-year old oak.

Waitsburg Cellars “Chevray” Old Vine Chenin Blanc - 2012
It is rare to see a Washington State Chenin Blanc on the shelves, but I am oh-so happy to see not just one, but two! The Chevray is very traditional of the Old World Vouvrays from Loire, but also sourced from the Snipes Mountain. The honey gold color brings forth aromas of Asian pears and peaches. On the palate, more peaches, a bit of honey and a finish of wet stones. Something tells me that this wine will also have that wonderful rich aging ability that seems to be a quality of many well-made Chenin Blancs. A wonderful picnic wine with fruit, cheese and a loaf of bread.  

Waitsburg Cellars Old Vine Pinot Gris - 2012, sourced from the Yakima Valley. Easy drinking! Aromas of an apple farm and hints of rain.  Honeydew, muskmelon, pears and apple, with just a hint of citrus are on the palate. This is a summer porch sippin' wine, but easy to pair with some favorite summer menus, as well.  

Waitsburg Cellars Old Vine Riesling - 2012, Columbia Valley or Mosel? Aromas of orchards and rose gardens. On the palate a nice balance of sugar and acidity with flavor notes of peaches, Asian pears, and a touch of wet slate. Clean. Crisp. Something tells me that this wine will also age quite nicely, perhaps eventually taking on those old Riesling notes of petrol. I would take advantage of this wine and use it to enhance any of the flavors and spices of Thai and Chinese cuisine.

Waitsburg Cellars “Three”  - 2011, a unique, but elegant red blend from three winemakers, three vineyards, and three grapes - - a blend of 64% Merlot, 20% Malbec and 16% Mourvedre. I am happy to see that Merlot takes up the larger percentage, as there is nothing like a Merlot from Washington State. It's almost difficult to describe this wine as it is very complex, yet there's no conflict as each grape seems to meld and enhance each other. Violets and roses on the nose with a hint of patchouli. A palate of bramble berries, cherries, currants are mingled with cocoa, espresso, rich dark earth, a hint of Grand Marnier and lingering spicy finish of vanilla and cracked black pepper.  The food pairing with this wine is almost endless.

Last year when the majority of these grapes were harvested, we saw more than once, a blue moon, so the moon on the Waitsburg Cellars label is very symbolic and with hopes we will see a few more blue moons with every harvest. And last but not least, the "One of a Kind" on the banner is the official slogan for the little community of Waitsburg, in Walla Walla County, where Paul and Karen has made their forever home. The town, like the wines, are every bit - - one of a kind.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesday

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Soutirage

Soutirage is French for racking.  Racking or soutirage traditionnel is a traditional method in wine production of moving wine from one barrel to another using gravity rather than a pump that we are so use to seeing being used in modern wineries.  

Soutirage was developed in the Bordeaux region of France in the 19th century when there was no electricity to power pumps, of course.  This Old World method of racking, moving the wine from barrel to barrel, helps clarify the wine by removing sediment, as well as enhancing the aromatic qualities. 

Many estates in Pomerol and Ste. Emillion still employ this labor-intensive method. Check out the video below. Ryan Raber, winemaker for Tertulia Cellars in Walla Walla shows a fine example and description of  Old World racking.