Thursday, January 22, 2015

Malbec: Henry Earl Estates 2012

Oh the joy of Malbec. It's that dark purple inky little grape with a French and Argentinian lineage, that often finds its way into my glass.  And like many Malbecs before, the 2012 Henry Earl Estates Malbec also found its way into my glass - - until the last drop. 

Who is Henry Earl Estates, you ask? The owners of Henry Earl Estates are Dick and Wendy Shaw. They chose to honor both of their fathers, Henry Shaw and Earl West, and
especially Dick and Wendy's focus on Shaw Vineyards, their property in the very prominent Red Mountain AVA in Washington State.

In 1981, Dick Shaw first started the vineyards with 100 acres near Mattawa, WA. He would meet Wendy and together they planted more vines, approximately 300 acres. At that time, Wendy formed a harvesting business, and now Wendy and Dick have around 2,200 acres planted in Eastern Washington. These acres include 420 acres on Red Mountain. They have also taken on partnerships with Quintessence and Obelisco Vineyards.  In 2014, Henry Earl Estates opened their tasting room, Main Street, Walla Walla.  Their winemaking team is Charlie Hoppes (Team Red) and Victor Palencia (Team White). Surely, these names must ring a bell? 

I could go on and on about the wonderful, Bohemian-like, charming and cozy environment (looks like the inside of my house) of Henry Earl Estates tasting room, but that shall be saved for another time. Let's focus on the Malbec, shall we?  

Flat out - - this Malbec is on my list of favorites.  The nose was floral and it was smooth as silk on the palate, especially the second night after opening. The first night the tannins left me a reminder they were there.  The next evening, the Malbec really showed itself off with
the violets, cola, dark blackberries, and just a hint of graham cracker and spice.  The oak was kept to a minimum so it didn't distract from the essence of the fruit. It's a rich and luscious wine that I would recommend pairing with sticky barbecued western or Asian-style ribs, "elevated" burgers, and grilled vegetables.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Welch's Commercial: Talking Grapes

Children of the Concords  
The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day. Somewhere in that television viewing, there are several commercials. Commercials have a way of either enticing us with their goods or just numb our brains. I know when and if I watch a channel dependent on an onslaught of commercials, it is my time to either start or finish working on a meal for me or the dogs, take a bathroom break, or get caught up on a home or work project. I am mostly a movie person when it comes time to turning on the TV, so I do try to keep the commercials limited. 

In the mean time, I think producers and writers of commercials really need to do their homework about what they are trying to sell. Sure - possibly about 2% of the viewing public may see flaws in what the commercials are spewing. The example of one I just caught recently was a commercial about grape juice. 

First of all, Welch's grape products are trying to sell some juice. In their new advertising campaign, "Just Hangin,'" they are promoting heart healthy juice featuring a bunch (literally) of talking grapes. No problem there. Welch's has been stomping grapes since 1869. In fact, back in the 1960-70's in the Walla Walla Valley, we grew Concord grapes that were contracted with Welch's.  This age old juice company is also trying to cash in on the heart health benefits of their grape juice by making comparisons with red wine as per the Mayo Clinic. 

Absolutely, if I was a part of their advertising team, I would do the same comparisons. But really - - when you have a bunch of grapes having a conversation, like a bunch of Concord grapes talking to a bunch of Merlot grapes, you really should use an authentic bunch of Merlot grapes and not a bunch of Thompson Seedless Red grapes. In fact, I am not even sure if the so-called "Merlot" are even real grapes.  The pedicels (stalk) looked a little plastic, to me. Shame on you Welch's. You thought you could get that past a bunch of wine geeks? 

Oh well, at least these talking grapes are an improvement from those commercials that use to feature those obnoxious and coquettish "Children of the Corn" or in Welch's case, "Children of the Concords." 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wineries: Family Friendly or Friendly Families?

Can wineries and wine blogs be "family friendly?"  Why yes, they certainly can be family friendly. However, there is no unwritten "rule" that claims wineries need to be family friendly, nor should there be expectations of wineries, and even wine blogs should be family friendly. After all, at least in the majority of the United States the drinking age of alcohol is 21 years and older.

Yes, there are certainly wineries that are family friendly, especially those with large outdoor areas making it the perfect setting for a family picnic. However, if you are not sure about the grounds and space, it is always best to call ahead as some wineries don't have the area for when a toddler gets antsy, is getting ignored, and wants to run around and act like - - well, - -  a toddler. There are also safety issues to consider such as displays of wine bottles, barrels and other potential dangerous tools of the winery trade. Unfortunately, when I was working the tasting rooms, many moons ago, I was often the "baby patrol" for very thoughtless parents who were not -- "parenting."  

Ambiance and respect for other visitors of the wineries needs to be considered, especially for the other guests who left their darlings with grandma, or paid a babysitter to watch their children so they could have an adult date or weekend. I have certainly been in this
situation when I was raising children. I paid many a babysitter for a much needed adult dinner date with the hubs only to have the people next to us have a rambunctious youngster crawling under our table, screaming and kicking the back of our booth, and other "childish" antics while the parents ignored their child. In that case, I could have brought our own kidlets knowing at least they would have behaved - - or else. 

It's important that parents should know when to surrender to the baby who doesn't know any other way to express his/her feelings of being hungry, tired, or uncomfortable with wet pants. Parents, at that point should be thoughtful to other visitors, and most of all thoughtful to their baby that it is time to take the baby home, instead of dragging the poor little one to another winery. 

In reading  reviews of wineries I often come across a parent who is upset that a winery did not provide juice for their spawn. After all, the wineries main goal is to sell wine. Would you like fries with that, too?  In today's litigious society, besides consumers with self-diagnosed allergies to certain foods, it becomes a liability to appease everyone, other than what the wineries are there for - - to taste and sell wine.  It's bad enough when adults come into the tasting room announcing their allergies to "sulfites" and how they can "only drink white wine," while not understanding there is just as much sulfites in white wines, as there are in red wines. It should be the responsibility of the parent to pack the proper drinks and snacks and not expect the wineries to do that for them.

When it comes time for children and wine, I think there is a time and place. Being wine drinkers and raising two children, Sunday dinners were a special time when our kidlets had to clean up a bit, show their best manners, and we dined using our best china, grandmother's silver, and our wedding crystal. The kidlets had milk in their wine glasses and once in awhile they even got a jigger of wine mixed with a bit of water. This was our way of prepping the kids to appreciate nice dining. I think family outings to wineries can be a great time, but the parent really needs to emphasize the importance of manners and of their environment - - period. 

Now you can write to me and call me a "baby hater," and blabber on that drunken and loud adults are worse then crying children - - yeah, yeah, yeah, and yes I agree, but nothing is worse than the parent who ignores the crying baby or the toddler who is acting like a toddler because they need their parent. It's not the children's fault, after all ... 

I am reminded a few years ago when an older male wine blogger wagged a parental pointer finger at a young woman wine blogger because her writing was a bit on the sexy and suggestive side in the way she described the wines she reviewed. The "male-parental-pointer-finger-wagger" felt the woman-authored wine blog wasn't family friendly. After all, he boasted that his granddaughter, at the age of three, was learning how to read and to become a wine connoisseur. Who knew the three year-old could also read? In that case I hope grande-pa-pa also kept the kid away from The Bible, especially Song of Solomon 7:2 "Your navel is perfectly formed like a goblet filled with mixed wine ... 

And speaking of finger pointing ... For what it's worth? This blog, in particular, doesn't really care if you think it is family friendly or not. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Rant, Report, and a Recommended Read: Women of the Vine

Anytime there is a book or an article that features a group of women, especially women in the wine industry, I am drawn to such. This must be due to I was raised by one of the first feminist in the 1950-60's, and that feminist was a man - - my dad. He believed that women, especially little girls, should learn how to bait a hook on their fishing pole, gut a fish, learn how to climb a tree, pump a tank of gas, and swing a hammer; and they could do all of this in a dress, if they wanted, and still look fabulous. He supported my mother to go back to college when my younger sister was three years old. In our house I grew up watching that cooking, house and lawn work was a partnership, to which my parental units often did together. Dad starched and ironed up our little pink gingham ruffled dresses better than mom. Dad also included my sisters and me when it came to learning how to ferment fruit at a young age - - thus our "science projects." 

The other reason why I am drawn to wine women articles and books, is that I appreciate women authors and writers whose focus is the wine industry. It is my opinion we don't see enough women wine writers being celebrated, and perhaps is the reason why we do see so many women take up wine blogging. We certainly don't see many articles in wine magazines, such as the Wine Spectator, written by women. But then again, I was once told the reason why there aren't many-to-zero women writing for the Wine Spectator is due to they haven't found any women writers who were qualified enough ... and I shall leave it at

that. Ahem. So, let's chat about the book, my original point before I got on my soap box - - 

The author of the book, "Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste, and Enjoy Wine" is Deborah Brenner with a foreword by Gina Gallo.  It is an enjoyable read about twenty women in the wine industry who share their stories, wine tips, pairings, and their expertise. Many of the names I recognized from Dr. Ann Noble, Andrea Immer Robinson, Merry Edwards, Leslie Sbrocco, to name a few.  

Deborah Brenner is the founder and CEO of Women of the Vine Cellars, a wine company who unites and celebrates women winemakers under one brand. These wines are limited in production.  Like many women, and I can relate, after a painful divorce Deborah left the corporate life to pursue her passion and the life she wanted to live - - make wine. Deborah's weakness is potato chips. I can relate there again, as potato chips and bubbly makes for a perfect pairing - - okay, now where was I?  

Deborah Brenner, Author

A student of the vines could certainly get behind this book as it takes the reader through a journey of, not only the personal stories of women in the industry, but technical terms and the winemaking process - from vine to bottle. It shares information about the "Wine Aroma Wheel," an invention by Dr. Ann Noble. It gives a brief outline on how to prepare your own wine aroma tests from red to white to sparkling wines, and even defects in wine. Also, there is a Glossary of Wine Terms for the novice, or even the professional who needs a refresher course on wine terminology. 

Reading the personal stories of these women in the wine industry are rewarding, as we read not only about their successes, but they also share candid stories of their failures and the time honored dilemma of balancing their careers, parenting, and family. Many even give their own tips of their favorite food and wine pairings. It tickled me to read the beginning of each wine woman's story, as each chapter started with a quote - - and recently I authored a wine book of my own, each one of my chapters started with a quote, as well. Quotes leading a chapter have a way of setting the stage. Photographs of each woman of the vine were included. 

There was only one thing I was disappointed in - - but then again, maybe it is just me - - considering where I live and all - - where were the women of wine from Washington State and Oregon?  Back on my soap box - - the book didn't specify in the title, "Women of the California Vine." After all, Washington State ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind California. It's neighboring Oregon is also distinguished in the winemaking world. While the two states may not produce mass quantities like California, when it comes to overall quality, both Washington and Oregon are known for producing world class wines. While reading through the book I expected at least one or two women of the vine from Washington and/or Oregon. So I was left asking, "Where was Kay Simon, Marie-Eve Gilla, Holly Turner, Ashley Trout, Melissa Burr, Veronique Drouhin, and Lynn Penner-Ash?    

Okay, off my soap box - - overall, if you love wine and enjoy reading women biographies like I do, or even considering getting into the wine business, I recommend and can get behind this book. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Small People ...

"Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine." - Fran Lebowitz, Writer and Humorist 

When I heard this quote a few years ago, at first I was offended. Hey, I love talking about wine and I don't think I am "small" other in height of 5 feet 2". I try to keep a very open mind when it comes to social matters, new ideas, and generous about change, but I am also far from perfect.  A few weeks ago, this quote popped up again in an article I was reading. Once again I thought about it and I think I finally get it - - I think.  

Now I understand this is done with classic Lebowitz humor, but it does carry some significance. First of all, I need to clarify the majority of the people I know in the wine industry, or other wine lovers who talk about wine are not "small people."  The majority of the winemakers I know have earned their badges. They are adventurous, generous, hard working, love to gamble with Mother Nature, and roll along rather bravely with whatever cruel hand she deals them. 

Sure, there are a few "Vanity Labels" out there. They are often people who do not live in the valley, but seem to think the natives are just "hill-folk," and they (the vanities) will often sashay in with their wine (that someone else produced), and mark it up to an extreme price - - and why? The answer has been, "If Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Christophe Baron of Cayuse can price their wines on the high-end side, then so can I." 

Is this what you mean by "small people," Fran Lebowitz? For the record, Gary and Christophe earned their stripes by  working in the "trenches," so to speak and can claim their prices since their wines are at a demand. 

There's a certain type of wine consumer who claim they are wine connoisseurs, but tend to limit themselves when it comes to exploring wines.  They have put limits on their wine tasting to either: 1.) Largest and fanciest wineries (because that means a fanciful built winery's wines have to be good, right?) or 2.) The consumer will only go to wineries where wines consistently get scores of 95 and above (because these consumer's think their palates are the same as Parker, Steiman, Laube, to name a few ...) and 3.) Newbies who will only visit wineries who produce just red wine while they ramble on and on  they hate Merlot, but ramble on and on about their prized bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc.  

Is this what you mean by "small people," Fran Lebowitz? It seems to me that if you tout yourself as a wine connoisseur, then your mind should be open, instead of closed, to being adventurous about wines. Who knows when the small garagista you ignored may be the next highest scoring wine and now you won't be able to have one of their rare and limited treasures in your cellar, let alone bragging rights of stating to your friends, "I knew them when ..."

I try to tell people all the time not to limit their palate if they are truly a wine lover.  An example: I am not a huge fan of Semillon. I prefer it when blended with Sauvignon Blanc or even  when paired with food, but for me to request a glass of Semillon I won't do it. However - - when out tasting and if there is a sample to be poured of Semillon, I always-always-always try it. One never knows that someday I may encounter a Semillon that I will truly enjoy. Dammit, I don't like that chocolate wine crap either, but I sampled it, and kept an open mind. Conclusion. I like chocolate. I like wine. I just want to keep them separate.

Now there are a faction of folk who need to polish up their manners. Name dropping is tedious. Okay, so you don't have to keep bragging over and over to the tasting room staff that the winemaker is your very best friend or you dated Robert Mondavi's neighbor's sister's housekeeper's fourth cousin, either. When there is a crowd of visitors at a winery and in line to taste, don't keep blabbing and hogging the winemaker or attendant pouring the wine. Step aside and let others have their turn. If you are invited to attend a very special event and you are also in the wine industry, leave your bragging at home. Don't schlep your ribbons, trophies, diplomas, etc and try to make the event all about you. Create your own event during your own time and then make it all about you. 

Is this what you mean by "small people," Fran Lebowitz?  People with no manners? 

There are also wine bloggers and wine writers whose main objective is to slam other wine bloggers and wine writers. It's been done. Enough. We get it. You are self-loathing so you take it out on others. 

Is this what you mean by "small people," Fran Lebowitz? All I know is if I owned a winery, I wouldn't want these kind of bloggers/writers to rate my wine when the preceding paragraphs were all about trashing (bordering slander) wine bloggers and writers, and especially trashing their innocent family and loved ones. Not cool. Unfortunately we also have wine bloggers who go on wine blogging junkets and abuse the hospitality of wineries by not attending the scheduled functions, preferring strip joints instead.   

I think for the most part that if you are a wine loving "fly on the wall" and you listen to a group of professionals in the wine industry or a group of educated wine geeks, you are in for some of the best conversation you will ever have. If you listen you will learn a lot about science, romance, weather, growing conditions, plant biology, and even get in touch with your own palate.  The conversation is hardly coming out of "small people." Perhaps Fran needs to extend her group of wine people she has been hanging around.  

Thursday, December 04, 2014

A Deep-Rooted History: Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend

It's been asked if I will be around this weekend and the answer is, "Yes!" However, I won't be around to taste and take notes, but I will be around to sign books, Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History. The good news is that you can find me at various wineries signing my new book, giving you an opportunity to taste the wines of where I will be located - - and yes, the book will be for sale at the following. 

First stop: Tero Estates and Flying Trout Wines tomorrow, Friday from 3-5 pm. Owner/partner of Tero Estates, Jan Roskelley will also be on hand to sign her photos that are in the book. 

Saturday I will be at Walla Walla Vintners from 10:30 am - Noon along with my forward and afterword authors, Myles Anderson and Nick Velluzzi. There you can get three signatures in one! 

Saturday afternoon, join me at Forgeron Cellars from 1 - 3 pm. This is my old stomping grounds. It will be wonderful to be back with my Forgeron Cellars wine homies. 

It was great fun to do my premier book signing at Henry Earl Estate Wines, this last Tuesday.  Thank you to Kasee of Henry Earl, and Betsy from Fresh Marketing and Events

Future book signings (so far): 

Book & Game in Walla Walla - Saturday, December 13, Noon - 3:00 pm
Cheese Louise in Richland, WA  Saturday, December 20, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
Fort Walla Walla Museum "Lecture Series & Book Signing" - Thursday, February 26, 2015

And yes, I am happy to personalize books upon requests. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's finally here. What took you so long? Wines of the Walla Walla Valley: A Deep Rooted History

It had been in my brain since I was about seven years old,  I was going to write a history book about Walla Walla. Growing up, next door to our house was a wheat field and nearby the field was a road sign that said, "Welcome to Walla Walla. Cradle of Northwest History." I would often stand in front of the sign and stare at it. 

One summer when I was in 4th grade,  my aunt (a 4th grade teacher) left her classroom library at our house for me to spend the summer reading through many of the children's classics. When the other kids were out swimming, I stayed in my room and read. I wanted to become a writer. 

In the 6th grade I would write "romance" stories in spiral stenographer notebooks about Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer and icon, Annette Funicello. Her adventures were usually of her hanging around soda shops, movie theaters, library, and riding horses. 

In junior high, after I scored an "A" on my journal about the travels of a glass pop bottle, I knew I needed to continue to write. 

In high school an English teacher allowed her visiting teacher's assistant to unfairly accuse me of plagiarism on a "magazine" story, although she could never produce the proof of the story I supposedly "plagiarized." The TA told me I would never become a writer, let alone get anywhere in life. She called me a failure. Years later, I would shudder when I thought about that experience and hoped that no child would have the accuser as a teacher and the TA's place in the world needed to be an assistant librarian at a state prison for hardened criminals - - if best. Also, I never looked at the English teacher with the same respect, but I knew I needed to continue to write. 

In my early adult years, I would jot down a few childhood memories or things I remembered about my dad and grandfather - such wonderful memories. 

There was an "unhealthy minded" co-worker who always  bitched at the boss that he needed to quit giving me files to work on because I "did not know how to write." She wanted the work instead. Great. No skin off of my nose. Let her do the work. Well, my other co-workers had fun with her the day my first magazine article came out. All through the office you could hear comments of, "Too bad Catie doesn't know how to write ..." But I knew I needed to continue to write, as the "unhealthy" co-worker was the one with the problem.   

Oh, I am not a perfect writer. Over all I can spell, but become befuddled with commas. I like to get creative with words and syntax, which some editors enjoy, but the serious do not. When I die, I want to be remembered as a quirky "Wordsmith." I can be long-winded. Sometimes my adult dyslexia kicks in and I will struggle, but it is important that I keep writing. I will always continue to write, even when I stop having an audience. 

In spite of my faults, I feel my words are either dripping with "sarcastic wit" or very heart felt. I like to give my words a "full circle" feel to my blog posts, magazine articles, and now my book. After all, history does have a way about repeating itself - - it becomes "full-circle." Life is full-circle.

In 2005, I started this wine blog. I had no intention of anything other than a place for me to keep my wine notes and stories.  I had no clue anyone was reading. 
In 2006, I started writing my notes for my book. The table of contents were drafted, as well as the first chapter, with other notes and quotes scattered about. I continued to write with no direction or goal of a publisher or deadline. 

In 2013, I was contacted by a commissioning editor to write the story of Walla Walla and her wines. I signed the contract to write a history book a few months later.

Writing a book has been a journey, with many stories to tell even when it came time for the book to be released with a few disgruntled souls who wanted to slow or stop the presses, while ensuring they would be in the book and it would be only with glowing remarks - - of course. 

Today my history book, Wines of  Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History was officially released.