Friday, December 30, 2005

The Wrath of Grapes

Hangover Day is this weekend. I won't be one of those suffering from the wrath of the grape. I won't be suffering from the wrath of the potato or malt, barley and hops either. It doesn't mean that I won't be taking a nip of something. Maybe a martini out of a new potato vodka and I have a bottle of Malbec from Argentina that keeps calling my name. It's just that I have learned my lesson or so I think I have.

There are several preferred remedies for hangovers and there is even a new pill that will thwart off hangovers so there will be no need to nurse one. For remedies there is always aspirin, acetaminophen, Alka-Seltzer, "hair of the dog..."(Mmmm - Bloody Mary's extra spicy!), B-12, sports drinks (I swear by this one - high in electrolytes, will help replenish what the kidneys have excreted during drinking), exercise, black coffee and lots of water.

So now that you have the aching head under control, what about the empty stomach? I have a solution for you - something big and greasy that will stick to your ribs - - biscuits and country sausage gravy with a side of hashbrowns and more gravy. Then take a nap and follow the above preferred remedies - - repeat, lather and rinse - - wait it out and in a few days you will feel like new.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

~December Cooking With Washington Wines~

I am a bit late posting this recipe. Hey, the holidays and trying to manuever with a clipped wing has a way of slowing one down. This recipe is a family favorite and I can only take credit for part of it. That part being the addition of the Gewurztraminer sauce and the presentation of the pie. This yummy pear pie recipe comes from Davis Orchards located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon which is about 10 miles from the SE Washington state border.

Every fall and through the holidays this pie comes out of my oven a lot. It is a easy pie and a favorite of mine to serve for company. Use your favorite basic pie crust recipe (No graham cracker crust!) and if you want to make it less rustic looking and more "refined" use a tart pan instead. You can even make this pie into a crostada and use phyllo or puff pastry if you want. What is important is the filling.

Pear Custard Pie

Enough sliced pears to almost fill a 9" pie shell
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. mace (Very important! Do not skip this tasty part of this recipe. Worth the time to search it out at your favorite spice counter.)

Peel and slice pears; sprinke with lemon juice. Cream together butter & sugar. Beat in flour, eggs, vanilla & salt.Pour over pears. Sprinkle lightly with mace.Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) 45 minutes or until filling is set and lightly brown. Cool, top with whipped cream (optional).Best if served same day as baked.

If you decide that you need some extra decadence to add to this wonderful pastry, try a Gewurztraminer reduction sauce. Also a good way to use up some of those white off-dry wines

Start with a bottle Gewurztraminer or a Late Harvest Gewurz will work perfectly. About a cup of sugar (or less depending on wine and taste). Place the wine and sugar in a saucepan. Mix well and bring to a watchful boil. Reduce to about a large cup of sauce. Let cool and drizzle over pastry.

There are several excellent Gewurztraminers in the Walla Walla Valley. Forgeron Cellars, Canoe Ridge and Three Rivers to name a few.

Treat yourself and guests to this wonderful recipe. Make it a New Year's resolution.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Washington state adds another viticulture region.

The Wahluke Slope, a isolated tract of land in SE Washington, will soon be designated the state's eighth federally recognized wine grape growing region. The area borders the Columbia River and the Saddle Mountains. Also east of the Hanford reach National Monument. The award by the ATFB will be awarded January 6, 2006. The name, Wahluke or "Watering Place" was given by the Native Americans who settled in the area. The new appellation has a total of 81,000 acres and features more than 20 vineyards, one winery and two wine-production facilities. At this time it represents 20 percent of Washington's wine-grape acreage.

The grapes from Wahluke produce very tannic and intense wines.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Balboa Winery

We were at Beth and Shawn's (good friends and neighbors) having a wine tasting. Good wine and good food. Beth made wonderful (and very rich) stuffed mushrooms filled with a cream cheese mixture that had a tang of cayenne pepper. Also, on the bar was hummus, Italian dried salami, olives, baguettes, brie, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

Steve and I brought two bottles and Beth and Shawn presented two bottles from their wine collection and the tasting began. Beth pulled from their collection a bottle of wine with a screw top. The green avant-garde label was printed "Balboa Winery" Cabernet Sauvignon. Beth said she received it in a gift basket and thought it was unique looking and after much discussion of "where in the hell did that wine come from and who is Balboa? - - Rocky ? -- Vasco the Spanish conquistador?", we finally took a taste.

After taking several sips, the four of us kept passing the bottle to look at the label. Huh? This is a Cabernet Sauvignon? It was pleasant enough. Not funky, but a mouthful of cherry juice and little to zero tannins. It was difficult to believe that this was a Cabernet. Not tannic, little body, and fruit forward. A nice wine for the beginner, a spaghetti Wednesday dinner or paired with burgers.

We continued our search on who was the brave person (winery) in the Walla Walla Valley to put out a screw top and such a light wine. This Cabernet was not your typical Walla Walla big tannic monster. After a little searching, we found out that Balboa is coming from Beresan Winery. How did we conclude? They share the same address.

If Balboa Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $8-10 or even less, it would be a good wine to have around the house for the every day sipping and I would buy it. If it sells for more than $10, then it deserves to be beheaded for treason, just like it's predecessor - Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
Cheers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Vicodin and Wine

Last year in December comedian George Carlin entered re-hab for Vicodin and wine. I am here to say I won't be entering re-hab.

A few days ago I took a tumble. A tumble down a few stairs. First I knocked the wind out of my body and as I caught my breath I discovered I bruised my chin, bruised and scraped my shins and most of all, my vanity hit me two different ways. One being my poor right hand was positioned (thank goodness my boobs cushioned the hand or else it might have been broke) and twisted in front of my face to protect the face and the teeth, and my arm all twisted and out of alignment. The second way vanity set in was all I could think about was thank goodness I was not wearing a skirt or it might now be over my head. What a lovely sight- - not.

To make a long story short, x-ray, drugs, PT, arm splint and kindness is the remedy to being back to my old self. When I filled the prescription for Vicodin I had to ask if mixing wine would be a problem. I was invited to a wine tasting at some friends and my sweetums and I were so looking forward to it. The pharm said no. No, that it wouldn't kill me, but it might make me extra sleepy. It didn't. Just helped rid of the pain. Three days later I am off the Vicodin. Makes my skin itchy and my stomach nauseous. It did the same thing to me two years ago after major surgery. Itchy skin, sick stomach and the inner me screaming to rid of this body. So I will suffer through the pain and just drink wine.

In the mean time, I do not see a re-hab center in my future (aint we the last to know?) and my blog writing may be limited. Can only type half-assed for so long until I get tired. But I do have some Walla Walla Valley wines to discuss that we tasted the other night - - Pepperbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Forgeron Zinfandel, and a Balboa.

Balboa? Where did that wine with a screw cap come from? Huh?

More about Balboa later, but nothing more about Vicodin.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Secret Santa Knows If I Have Been Naughty Or Nice!

At our law office (my real job) the support staff decided to do Secret Santas. This means that you draw names and the chosen name gets little gifts for a couple of weeks. There is no doubt that my Secret Santa has been watching me. I thought this was such a cute idea and wanted to share it.

In a gift bag was a split of Merlot and several little wrapped boxes full of goodies. In each little gift box was a happy hour goody - a bag of chocolate cashews, a package of Havarti Dill cheese, a bunch of grapes (this made me laugh to see a bunch of grapes in a gift box) and a bag of crackers.

I am ready to party at my desk! Do you think anybody will notice the Merlot in my coffee cup?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Holiday Barrel Tasting

I honestly cannot remember how many of these events I have behind me, not counting the Spring Release weekend. Maybe six? Usually I do not look forward to them - meaning long hours on my feet, getting five minutes to shove a meal into my pie hole while standing, and often it is more than the two days. A couple nights before there are various parties for owners, employees and special customers - all of these key people are needed to keep your winery open and alive.

Once I get caught up in the crowds I forget about my tired feet and cannot remember why I don't enjoy them. I look forward to my favorite customers and friends dropping by. With pride I show them around and have them sample our "harvest." To keep me entertained, I store conversations and small events in the back of my memory banks. The conversations or one liners from some of the not so favorite type of customer which rarely change from year to year.

Me saying to customer: "Gosh, as much as we would like to accomodate you we don't stack discounts. Our computer doesn't recognize them."

Me thinking: "Oh forget about all of those discounts. Why don't we just give you a key to the winery so you can help yourself to as much free wine anytime you want? Can I come over and clean your toilet, too? Really. I don't mind."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "No problem. It's easy to see how we get mixed up."

Me thinking: "Ahem - and earlier you were telling somebody on the phone that the manager was your best friend so you could get a special deal and now you don't remember what your best friend looks like. Do I look like a 5'9" tall redhead, you poser?"

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to new hot shot industry person who brings his friends in to dazzle them with his self importance: "Really, that is amazing! I did not know that Washington state sells more white wines than red wines."

Me thinking: " You effing idiot. I know about you and I also know that you finally got your first job when you were 36 years old because your folks called in some favors. Tell your brilliant wine data to the wine association. Do your friends know that your self named title of "Distributor" really means that you are the delivery person?"

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer who claims the Cabernet Sauvignon is bad because of the sediment (tartaric crystals): "Your friend is right. This doesn't mean that the wine is bad. If anything, this is a good sign. It shows that the wine has been treated with a gentle touch and not been overly fined and filtered. In Europe these crystals are accepted and appreciated as a sign that the wine is a natural one and you will be rewarded with all of the complexities that the wine diamonds indicate.

Me thinking: "Shut up you little freak. Listen to your friend. He obviously knows wine more than you do, you little whiney-pee-pants. Now lower your #%&%# voice."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Gosh, I am really sorry. We are not equipped to give out rainchecks for sold out vintages."

Me thinking: " What do you think vintage means and where do you propose we get these 2002 grapes at? Now mark an "L" on your forehead and get out of here."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Wow. Good question. I am not sure when we'll produce a sweet white Zinfandel with a screw top that sells for $6.99."

Me thinking: "When hell freezes over."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "Thanks for coming in. It was good seeing you and please come back."

Me thinking: "It's about time you asshole. It's now 6:15 pm. I thought you would never leave. We close at 5:00 pm and you show up at 5:20 pm, beg to come in for one minute, you ate the last of the food and drank more than your share of free wine, and you didn't buy a damn thing. What do you think we are - your own personal happy hour?"

But I don't say that. I just smile and chalk it up to another year. I can hardly wait for next year because I wouldn't miss this event for the world!
Cheers!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Holiday Barrel Tasting Is Here!

The 10th Annual Walla Walla Valley Barrel Tasting is here! Some festivities will start tonight. Various wineries will have parties and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance will be hosting a opening night winemaker reception at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College Campus.

Each winery seems to participate in their own special way offering a variety of different features including food, music, art, wine dinners, and more which adds to this festive time of the year. Macy's will have their annual Christmas Parade of Lights on Saturday evening.

Not sure what the weather is going to bring us, but last night we had snow in the valley. The passes through Snoqualmie may be slow moving. In spite of the weather, those who venture out will have a great time.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jelly Belly Wine

The secret is out why Ronald Regan kept a cannister of Jelly Belly jelly beans on his presidential desk. He was creating wine flavors from jelly beans since he couldn't drink on the job and had to say "No" to drugs. Hey, I'm kidding. Or am I?

I wish I could take the credit for this discovery from WineX Magazine. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! If you want a taste of the grape at work without having alcohol on your breath, here is the perfect solution. Check out the Jelly Bean Wine Bar for some tasty "wine" recipes. Here are a few of my own creations:

Imagine this - - it's 3:30 pm, you're still at the office, but want to start happy hour early. You're thinking about how soothing a hearty Merlot from Washington state would be. Combine the following Jelly Belly flavors (Note that the same recipe can be used for French Merlots):

Cherry + Plum + BlackBerry + Dr. Pepper + Licorice + Bertie Botts Dirt + 1/2 Buttered Toast

If you only know about over-oaked, over manipulated Merlots from California and haven't a clue about full bodied Washington Merlots and the rich soil the grapes are grown in, then you will like this recipe:

French Vanilla + Chocolate Pudding + Cherry + Plum + Raspberry + Strawberry + Dr. Pepper + two - Buttered Toast. Wait - make that three Buttered Toast and wash it down with a glass of water.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

College Cellars

Last weekend I had the opportunity to taste a couple of wines from College Cellars at the "The Walla Walla Institute for Enology and Viticulture. Stan's students are doing wonderful things at the College Cellar. I tasted one of my favorites (and rare) - Lemberger. It was fruit forward with a mouthful of strawberries. A long jammy, yet peppery finish which makes for a very food friendly wine. Also a light wine for those winter afternoons in front of the fireplace. A great price at $12.00. I had to buy one. If you like Lemberger, I would recommend to grab this wine ASAP. Not much left.

Also available for tasting a 2004 Syrah of Rose'. I know a secret about this wine - the enology students added a bit of Chardonnay. Not sure why and therefore I had in my mind I was not going to like it. I was fooled. What a great picnic wine! I was immediately impressed. Perfectly dry and yet forward like a fruit salad. I loved this wine for what it was. Since it is a bit on the nipplei erectus (Latin for "cold") side for a picnic, this would be a nice addition to the holiday entertaining cheese plate. Sante'!

Friday, November 18, 2005

~November Cooking With Washington Wines~

It seems to be a standard that when a person asks "What kind of wine shall I serve with the Thanksgiving turkey?" Everyone answers, "Pinot Noir."

Instead of posting a turkey and cranberry kind of recipe for November, I chose salmon instead. I think a Pinot Noir would hold up wonderful with this recipe that was created by Bruce Hiebert, owner of Patit Creek Restaurant. The sauce and salmon recipe is famous in Cordova, Alaska where it was used by the Copper River Fishermen’s Co-op's annual barbecue.

If you can find a Pinot Noir in Walla Walla (At this time we are letting the Willamette Valley have the Pinots. Aren't we generous?), good luck. K-Vintners had one, but I was suspicious of it being "bootlegged." No, not really bootlegged as illegal, just not of this AVA. Since it is November - "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!" A Beaujolais Nouveau would also pair very fine with this dish.

Instead of the above - let's get adventurous. I think that the ingredients combined make a topping that’s slightly sweet but also acidic, which matches spicy wines such as rose'. Yellowhawk Cellars has a spicy 2003 Rosato made with 84% Lemberger, 8% Barbera, 8% Sangiovese. Also their 2002 Sangiovese would be tasty, as well. Since the salmon is going to be grilled, which adds a smoky kick to it, how about a Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley? There is also Marie-Eve Gilla's Zinfandel from Forgeron Cellars - at this time the only Zin in the Valley. Basically there is such a huge variety of wines from the Walla Walla Valley that would pair lovely with this recipe. It would be like a kid in a candy shoppe having to pick just one.

Butterflied Alaska Salmon with Copper River Barbecue Sauce
A long simmer gives the sauce its flavor and smooth consistency, so start it about two hours before you are ready to grill.
The Sauce:
1 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste (optional)
The most important ingredient - The Salmon:
4 pounds Alaska salmon (king, sockeye, or coho) fillets, butterflied 1-inch thick
Canola oil for grill

In a medium (2- to 3-quart) skillet, sauté the onions and celery in the oil until they are translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for up to two hours.

Heat your grill to medium-low, leaving the lid open, and brush the butterflied salmon with canola oil. Place the salmon on the grill and close the lid. Grill the salmon for 5 minutes. Gently flip the salmon with a spatula and baste it generously with the barbecue sauce before closing the grill’s lid. Grill the salmon for 4 minutes, then check for doneness with a fork. If the fish is no longer translucent in the center, remove it from the heat and transfer the cuts to a serving platter. If the fish requires more grilling time, close the grill’s lid and re-check the salmon every 2 minutes until it is done. Serve the cuts with warm barbecue sauce on the side.
Yield: 8 servings
Sante!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Smokin' Syrahs

Last month Michael Franz of Wine Review praised the State of Washington "poised to become America's premier source for Syrah." Including, "Washington's Syrahs generally show a little more character and a few more nuances than California's"

Franz said, "...for any state to surpass California in vinous achievement with a major grape variety. My recent tastings of Washington Syrahs have certainly made a believer out of me."

Several wineries from Walla Walla received Franz's recognition: Amavi Cellars, Bergevin Lane, Canoe Ridge, Dunham Cellars, Forgeron Cellars, Isenhower, Reininger, Sapolil, Three Rivers Winery, and Waterbrook. I noticed that Preston Winery was included in his list. Although, Preston's winery is located in the Pasco area, it has a tasting room downtown Walla Walla.

Hmmm - I noticed that K-Vinter's "K-Syrah" was not listed. It's one of my favorites, especially his Morrison Lane Vineyard Syrah.

Patit Creek Restaurant

Nestled at the east end of Dayton, WA, about a half mile from the heart of their downtown, is one of the best kept secrets for the last 25 years. Those many cars who daily drive by Patit Creek Restaurant on the highway may not realize that the cozy, yet colorful cottage is the home of one of the only 4-Star French restaurant east of the Cascades as noted by traveler's guide, Northwest Best Places.

Owners, Bruce and Heather Hiebert certainly have a recipe for success. The main ingredients are unpretentious atmosphere, excellent service (because both owners are always there) and the freshest and finest cuisine. People drive for hours to dine there. No mixes, pre-breaded food, or margarine will be found in their kitchen. Sauces, soups and salads dressing are from scratch including one of my favorites -Danish Blue dressing. The Hieberts purchase produce from local growers and grow a lot of their own vegetables, herbs and flowers. The flowers from their garden not only adorn the table but garnish the plates - - all edible.

I personally like the decor. Kind of funky, very cozy and very comfortable. About 10 tables. Maybe seating for 30? Heather has a wonderful collection of black-and-white photos of classic actors and actresses from the 1930-40's on the walls. I have seen people dining at the restaurant in their celebratory best or in their hunter's plaid. But most important. Let's get to their menu.

Let's start with a few examples of the appetizers - chevre cheese-stuffed dates or smoked salmon cheesecake has been my personal favorites and often been served crackers hand made by Heather. Escargot is offered and while I avoid snails, I have dined with several friends who have raved about them. The entree menu includes such dishes as filet mignon poivre verte with green peppercorns, cognac, and cream; and sautéed duck breast with red wine, currant, and port demi-glace, lamb chops, saffron-curried mussels, glazed elk-medallions, and shrimp scampi.

My favorite is the medallions of beef ala Hiebert. It's topped with a rich mushroom demiglace. The meat cuts like butter. It pairs so perfect with a local Cabernet Franc. That's another thing - their extensive wine list that supports the local wine industry. Wines from the Walla Walla Valley showcase the list.

It doesn't matter how full I am at the end of my entree, I am going to find a spot for dessert - - all made from scratch personally by Heather. From fruit pastries to chocolate tortes. Presentation always lovely.

I have had the wonderful fortune to dine at the Hiebert home a couple of times because of a good friend we have in common. Yes, the food was even more amazing and their beautiful gardens and home (behind the restaurant) is an extention of what the public sees while dining at their restaurant. After a couple of invites from the Hieberts to their home, of course I wanted to invite them to my home for dinner. However, I felt a bit intimidated. I mean, cook for these two people who have mastered the art of fine cuisine and entertaining? Especially Bruce who many people have acclaimed his skills in cooking meat and being one of the best in the NW. Let me just say that Bruce had several helpings of my Cuban ropa vieja and commented how good it was to have someone else cook for him. That's my claim to fame with my culinary skills.

Now that I have told you all about the wonderful merits of Patit Creek Restaurant. I send you best wishes in getting a reservations. Call ahead of time. Call (509) 382-2625. 725 E. Dayton Ave, in Dayton. Patit Creek is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Friday, dinner only on Saturday. No last minute phone calls. Again - call ahead of time and it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Franc-ly Speaking About Cabernet Franc

A grape that is often blended and rarely sold as a single varietal, it would be a safe bet to say there is a large majority of wine drinkers who have yet sampled the Cab Franc alone. Cabernet Franc is grown mainly in the Bordeaux region. It is a variety which bears small bunches of thinner-skinned, earlier-ripening black berries. Cab Franc has a lower acidity, when compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields are similar, although Cab Franc normally buds and ripens somewhat earlier. Growers appreciate it because it is not demanding vine.

Cabernet Franc wine, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon wine, is a bright and shiny red color. It brings strawberry and blackberry aromas, but compared to it's cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is the less herbaceous, less tannic, and more fruitier.

There are a few Cabernet Francs being bottled in the Walla Walla Valley. Cougar Crest, Tamarack, Buty and last, but far from least is Walla Walla Vintners. My bottles of Cabernet Franc from Walla Walla Vintners, I treat like a precious child, a gold holy grail and I often check in with them to see how their day is going.

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc is rich. Often jammy, full oak, with a mouth full of blackberries and chocolate. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this wine is with the Medallions of Beef Hiebert from Patit Creek in Dayton, WA. (I won't get started on this fork tender, melt in your mouth entree. I will save it for Patit Creek's very deserving blog.) We try to continue the enjoyment of this WWV Cabernet Franc with one of Heather's rich chocolate desserts.

Although, Preston Wines (also the third licensed winery in the state of Washington) isn't located in Walla Walla, they recently have taken space down town Walla Walla and now have their own tasting room. Two months ago I remembered I had a 1997 Preston Winery Cabernet Franc stashed away and we enjoyed it during dinner. It had aged beautiful. Silky with lots of dark fruit showing through. It was an industry trade and as soon as the bottle emptied, I had wished I had traded a couple more bottles.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Taco and Wine Tasting

In the city of Walla Walla (not including the county of Walla Walla) taco trucks are popping up all over like a frozen corn tortilla on a hot greased griddle. There are at least a dozen that I know of (sometimes they move around a lot so it's hard to keep track.) I never know which one to check out. One person will tell me to stay away from a particular one, while another person will tell me it's the best one in town. Prices are reasonable - $1.00 to $5.00. So far what I have had was delicious! The sauces were the best.

Visitors from Seattle Dining (and other Seattle visitors to the valley) thinks the best taco truck in the valley is La Monarca. It's on Rose street, between 11th and 12th. The old milk truck sits in a gravel parking lot. You will spot it by the Monarch butterflies painted on the truck. Some friends have mentioned that the one by Jefferson Park on Ninth Street is the best and former college student friends have mentioned that the truck parked by John's Wheatland Bakery on Isaacs street is the best. Which one to choose?

There was Dora's at the local worm ranch. Yes. Worm ranch. A place where you buy bait. Dora recently moved to a fancier spot - at the golf course. Now called "Casa Dora." Dora's will never be the same. Good food, but the bait ambiance lost and compromised.

Someday I am going to spend a couple of days checking out all the taco trucks and make my notes. Friend Jamie thinks it would be fun to visit many of the taco trucks and do some local Walla Walla wine pairings with some of the favorites. I am ready!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cow-bernet? ~ Moo-lot?

Crush is just about over in the valley and much of the red wines have been fermented and pressed. Now what to do with all of those grape skins? Sometimes the grape skins are used as fertilizer or used as decorative "bark" about the flower beds like at Woodward Canyon Winery. The word is that we have some contented cows in Walla Walla valley because they have been dining on skins of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wine grapes.

Local restaurant 26 Brix restaurant is serving cuts of beef that has been raised on red wine skins (pomace). The restaurant is working with local farmer and vintner Lynne Chamberlain of James Leigh Cellars who feeds her Angus cattle meals of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape skins. Lynn mixes the grape skins with grain, hay, wheat, soy, molasses, rolled corn and flax for a natural diet and without growth-hormones, antibiotics, chicken litter or fish meal. The word is that the beef doesn't necesarrily taste of wine, but there is a richness unlike other beef.

26 Brix offers on their menu a steak salad with baby frisée and tomatoes and one of their popular dishes has been the “Cow-bernet Burger” with melted Point Reyes bleu cheese from pastoral shores of California. A blend of the rich and fertile Walla Walla valley with the rising tides of the ocean of Point Reyes Station is definitely intriguing. Maybe one could say - - spiritual!

So -- what's next? How about if we feed the cows Pinot Noir grape skins so we can have instant Boeuf Bourguignon?

Monday, October 31, 2005

~~Happy Halloween~~


Dracula: "This is very old wine. I hope you will like it."
Renfield: "Aren't you drinking?"
Dracula: "I never drink... wine."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Basic Juice Ten Buck Wine Juice

Check out Basic Juice. Beau Jarvis, founder of Basic Juice, wine enthusiast and sommelier, is asking wine friends to imagine they are in a wine shop and to their surprise they only have $10 on them! Oh no! What wine are you going to buy for only $10 bucks? Beau tags various wine blogs and ask them this question and we answer back. For extra points food pairings are encouraged.

Here is what I listed:

House Wine made by the Magnificent Wine Company. It's a bargain at $8.99. A red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Merlot (32%), Syrah (9%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). It's rich, full bodied with a mouth full of blackberries. For my extra points, I would pair this wine with a big ol' burger topped with grilled Walla Walla onions and local morel mushrooms.

Hell, maybe I would stand out in front of that wine shop and sing for an extra $10 bill. Then I would buy a second bottle of House Wine and pair it with a dessert of brownies topped off with Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.

How about you? What is your favorite 10-Buck-Washington-State-Gem? Can you do it? Tell me about them in "comments."

Sideway Miles Should Spend the Day with Stan Clarke

Any oenophile who saw the movie, "Sideways" remembers that Miles loved Pinot Noir. They will also remember how Miles felt about Merlot.

"If anybody at this table orders Merlot, I'm leaving! I am NOT drinking any #@&#@ Merlot!!!"

Any oenophile (or viticulture/enology student) who knows Stan Clarke can almost hear him say, "If anybody at this table orders Pinot Noir, I'm leaving. I am not drinking any Pinot!" And let it be known that Stan Clarke has planted and managed several Merlot vines and produced a lot Merlot. So there Miles Raymond! Spend a day with Stan and you might change your tune.

The first time I met Stan Clarke was in January of 2002 at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla. We were the first group of students for the Institute and Stan was our new instructor. I suppose we were pioneers, really. We were using various empty classrooms at the Ag building, but there were hopes and dreams that we would soon have a beautiful new structure to hold our viticulture and enology classes, along with a working winery. Stan was driving a commute of about 90 minutes to make it to his new job and sometimes in the winter would stay over in a camper before he moved to Walla Walla county. Stan left a teaching job of pre-teen boys with behavior problems and learning disabilities to come to Walla Walla. I bet Stan thought it was a relief to leave behind that for a group of adults. Heh. I often wondered if there were days Stan thought some of us weren't too far behind the pre-teen boys.

Before we knew it, Stan had us grafting rootstock, we were learning to root from cuttings, pruning vines and planting our own vineyard of Merlot. Who was this man that was full of enthusiasm and eager to share everything he knew about the wine business?

A graduate of University of California-Davis and Bachelor of Science degree in viticulture and a Master’s degree in teaching from Washington State University. Stan is a highly respected viticulturist and served as a grower relation’s manager for Chateau Ste. Michelle, general manager of Covey Run Vintners, and a winemaker and general manager of Hyatt Vineyards. Stan has also authored weekly articles on grapes and wines, judged various wine competitions, and served in 1987 as the president of the Washington Wine Institute (the precursor to the Washington Wine Commission).

Just about everybody in the State of Washington who is involved in grapes and wine knows Stan Clarke. I discovered that while attending the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers (WAWGG) with Stan and other students in the Viticulture Student Leadership class. Everybody was talking to Stan or calling out to him and greeting him like he was a celebrity. Perhaps he is a celebrity. I am convinced that Stan knows everything in the industry and I have often referred to him as my "Wine Guru." On the small chance he can't answer a question, he knows who can. Stan is a patient man, enthusiastic about the wine industry and enthusiastic about his students.

As an example the encouragement that Stan Clarke shows his students is the recent story written by Timothy Egan*, for the New York Times, about Victor Palencia. A former student of Stan's and now a 20 year old winemaker for Willow Crest Winery in Prosser, WA.

I think Jack would have had a lot more fun traveling Napa Valley with Stan Clarke than Miles Raymond.

**The NY Times article is written by Timothy Egan. Egan is a third-generation westerner who was inspired to write "The Winemaker's Daughter", after living in Italy for a year. The novel is about the harsh realities and ecological challenges of turning water into wine. Egan also a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his part in a series on Race in America and he has worked for the last fifteen years as a national reporter for the New York Times. He grew up in Spokane and now resides in Seattle.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

~October Cooking With Washington Wines~

Treat your pork chops nice. Love them up a little with some Sauvignon Blanc.

I will admit - I do not drink a lot of white wines. Once in awhile a Chardonnay and only if it's not over oaked and made more of the white Burgundian style. I adore Viognier, but prefer to save it for special occasions. Viognier is truly the nectar of the Gods. Semillon and I do not get along, no matter how I try. I wonder if it's the fact that Semillon is normally low in acid? No way am I a fan of late harvest Semillons, either. However, I might drink a Semillon if it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and paired with a meal. L'Ecole No. 41 has a Barrel Fermented Semillon that is blended with Sauvignon Blanc. That bit of Sauvignon Blanc adds a crisp touch and really brightens the Semillon.

How do I feel about Sauvignon Blanc? I l-o-v-e it! I enjoy that very grassy, lemony and aggressive wine. How do I feel about Fume' Blanc? Pfffffttttt! Do not over oak the Sauvignon Blanc Mr. Mondavi!

So far in Walla Walla wine country there are a few Sauvignon Blancs. Woodward Canyon has an excellent Sauvignon Blanc (but what isn't excellent that has the Woodward Canyon label?), Waterbrook 's Sauvignon Blanc with a skoosh of Viognier blended in and an excellent value. Three Rivers Winery has a elegant white Meritage (63% Sauvignon Blanc).

Don't settle for your basic "shake and bake" pork chop. Let your pork chops feel the love and definitely try this recipe.

1 red bell pepper
6-8 large flat mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsps olive oil
4 pork chops
1/2 cup plain flour
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2- 3/4 cup of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Grill or bake the red bell pepper until the skin blackens. Place in a paper bag and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove the stem, seeds and interior ribs and cut into strips. Keep warm. Cut the stems from the mushrooms and wipe the caps clean. Slice. Finely chop the garlic. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan and add the mushrooms. Stir, then add the garlic. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until the mushrooms soften and exude moisture. Stir in salt and pepper, then put on a plate and keep warm. Don't wash the pan unless food is burned on. Save all of the little drippings and brown bits. That equals flavor!

Remove excess fat from chops. Season the flour with salt and pepper and press the chops into it to coat. Heat a little more oil in the pan and lightly brown the chops on both sides. Add the chopped herbs, stir for a minute or so, then drizzle in the wine. Part-cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, adding more wine if necessary (Of course! Adding more wine is always necessary!). Don't overcook; the meat is ready as soon as it releases clear juices. Remove the chops to warm plates and keep warm. Put mushrooms back in the pan and stir, check seasoning, then carefully fold in roasted red bell pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chops and top with lightly chopped Italian parsley. Serves four. Serve with the same Sauvignon Blanc.

Now, aren't you glad you were nice to your pork?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Waterbrook 2004 Melange

My family loves this stuff. At our family events we will often have a bottle or two to share. Every vintage of the Melange we have tasted has always been an elegant wine. Can't beat the price either for a wine that gets good reviews. We watch for it to go on sale at Super-One Food Stores/Huckleberry's/Rosauer stores in Walla Walla and Spokane. Often $9.99 - $12.00. I found it at $7.99 at Cost Plus - World Market once.

An unusual blend of 40% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Sangiovese, and 8% Syrah. And a very soft and smooth wine with bright flavors of plum, currants, cherries, and vanilla with a bit of cigar box going on. A good example of an excellent Walla Walla table red with an excellent value.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday

The weekend is almost here. The sun is shining and I want to get out in it. Enjoy the funny.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Board Walk of Wine

Shawn Dore, wine director for "Borgata", casino, hotel and spa in Atlantic City (new casino features a 15,000 bottle wine cellar) recently visited Washington State. She expressed some of her favorite Washington wines - out of the nine wines she expressed, four of them were produced in the Walla Walla Valley:

Forgeron Cellars, 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (I own a bottle);

Long Shadows, 2004 Poet's Leap Riesling, Wahluke Slope (I own a bottle);

Reininger, 2002 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (I should get a bottle);

Woodward Canyon, 2002 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon (I should get a bottle).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

10th Annual December Barrel Tasting

If you want to visit the Walla Walla Valley during the December 3-4 Holiday Barrel Tasting, you had better have your lodging reservations in ASAP. In fact, you might be too late. Visitors to the Valley will taste samples of future releases straight from the barrel and be the first to enjoy the wines of a new vintage. Each winery seems to participate in their own special way offering a variety of different features including food, music, art, wine dinners, and more which adds to this festive time of the year.

It is really a beautiful time in the Valley. Downtown Walla Walla is looking its holiday best. Besides Holiday Barrel Tasting, there are other special events such as The Macy's Christmas Parade of Lights, Holiday Open House at the Kirkman House Museum, and musical performances at Whitman College's Cordiner Hall and Walla Walla College.

Friday, December 2 is the opening night winemaker reception at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College Campus. This event is included in the purchase of a "Premier Pass" ($60.00). Premier passes entitles holders to waived tasting fees at select wineries or discounts on wine purchases at other participating wineries. Only 300 Premier Passes will be made available.

A "Backstage Pass" will also be offered for $35.00. This pass entitles holders waived tasting fees or special discounts to pass holders at participating wineries. Both passes can be purchased through the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grape Stomp

This weekend, October 8-9, is the 20th Annual Italian Heritage Days in Walla Walla. One of the popular events have been the "Grape Stomp." A competition with prizes going to the top three teams squishing the most amount of grape juice. This year the "Stomp" is sponsored by Ste. Michelle Wine & Estates. One year my sister was part of a team. Caren wore the "purple badge of honor" besides slipping on her butt a few times. Other events include, bocce' ball, biscotti bake-off, red pasta sauce contest and of course the food!

It is only fitting to celebrate the rich Italian heritage in the Valley. In the late 1800's, the first Italian farmers came to the Walla Walla Valley and began developing truck gardens. Out of some of those gardens came the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion and the first vineyards in our region. Fort Walla Walla Museum tells the story of our first vineyards, including a small working vineyard that is managed as if still in a time warp of the late 1800's. The grapes are Cinsault and were also known to the Italians as "Black Prince." One summer, I "managed" the vineyard under the guidance of wine guru, Stan Clarke. Did we make wine? No, the birds got to the grapes before we did. Cin cin!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Is Your Zinfandel Red Or White?

Amongst the 63 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, there is only one Zinfandel being produced and I have been working for that winery since their first 2001 vintage (we are now selling the 2003). In fact there are very few Zinfandels in Washington state. At this time I know of the following: Maryhill Winery, Portteus Winery, Barnard Griffin, Kiona Wines , Thurston Wolfe Winery, besides Forgeron Cellars. Selling a Zinfandel in Washington state has indeed been an education for me. An education while I try to educate.

This is not the first time that Walla Walla has had a Zinfandel in their valley. Over 100 years ago, the Italian settlers planted Cinsault (also known to them as Black Prince) in the Walla Walla valley, but also vines of Zinfandel, sent from California, were planted. Wines were made for home consumption, trading and some sold to the soldiers at Fort Walla Walla. In 1955, the grapes froze and the dead vines removed.

Believe it or not I am not one of those die-hard Zin drinkers. Oh sure, I enjoy a well made Zinfandel and often buy several bottles when I find one, but I did find on visits to Northern California, home of great Zins, later begging for a Cabernet Sauvignon. I always appreciate the Zin lovers that visit the winery and will admit I even appreciate those who do not understand the history of Zinfandel - they give me great stories. Here is often a typical conversation about Zinfandel.

Tasting room customer: "Ohhh...I see you have a Zinfandel. I love Zinfandel. "(I pour the Zinfandel in the tasting glass) The following responses will often happen:

"What did you do to make it red?" or;
"No. You must not have heard me correctly. I said Zinfandel. You poured me a red wine."

Sometimes I will hear:
Tasting room customer: "Naaahhh...I hate that pink crap."

This is when I must go to work and educate. I proceed with the story of Sutter Home and their pink creation, which often leads me to the processing of red v. white wines. Crush, pressing, fermentation, pressing of grape must, etc. Some customers will look at me like a light bulb just went on behind their eyes, while a few others look at me with distrust. For awhile I found myself saying, "red Zinfandel", but it was the only way to get the point across, as redundant as it seems. It's been difficult, but I am trying to respect this wine they call "White Zinfandel." It has converted some Americans into drinking wine and is the third-largest selling varietal wine in the US supermarkets. However, I tell many people, they are not "allowed" to drink it forever. I suggest White Zin drinkers to move beyond and experiment with other wines.

At a former winery in the Walla Walla Valley, where I was employed, a timid young woman came into the tasting room and she whispered to me, "This is my first visit into a tasting room winery and I plan on spending the day here in Walla Walla visiting their wineries. Can you give me any tips so I will at least look like I know what I am doing?"

I answered, "Yes. First and foremost, do not ask for any White Zinfandel."

One evening, at a dinner meeting with a group of local women. I overheard them dissing the Walla Walla Valley Wine industry and commented that the local wine industry would make more money if they were to start producing a White Zinfandel. Horrors! I spoke up with, "In our lifetime we will never see a White Zinfandel come out of our valley." They looked at me with distrust. Why is that? Why are people not believing me about White Zinfandel? Could it be that they see nothing but the fighting varietal line-up at the local supermarkets and if the supermarkets sell a lot of White Zin, then so shall Walla Walla wineries? Am I wrong, or does it seem like there is a mentality that supermarkets are the authorities on wine?

Recently, I have had the same question being asked by customers, and a good question at that. Why are there so few Zinfandels in the State of Washington? Here is my answer. First of all, the wine consumer has to remember that the State of Washington is still a young wine state in comparison to California. We are only 30+ years old. We immediately planted lots of Merlot and later Merlot's cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, followed. Also, the other reason is the Zinfandel vine itself - high maintenance and does not particularly favor our cool nights.

Please do not get me wrong. I love pink wines. They are pretty and romantic looking. I love the color of pink, but if I want a pink wine, I'll drink a French Rosé, Italian Rosato or a Spanish Rosado, including beautiful Rose' styles from the Walla Walla Valley made by local French winemakers. There are also California wineries such as Lazy Creek or Navarro from Anderson Valley and recently tasted a Kim Crawford Rose' from New Zealand I sipped this summer paired with shrimp and avocado salad and fresh strawberries - -

But if I want Zinfandel, I'm drinking the real thing. Give me a redundant red Zinfandel!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Zinning in Walla Walla

Did you know that there is only one winery in the Walla Walla Valley that produces a Zinfandel? Since vintage 2001, Forgeron Cellars has been producing a Zinfandel and their 2003 Zinfandel is now available.

The Zinfandel grapes come from the Alder Ridge Vineyard, which is one of the oldest established vineyards in Washington state. Alder Ridge Vineyard is a steep slope rising 1,000 feet from the bank of the Columbia River on the Washington side. It's proximity to the river also makes it one of the warmest vineyard sites, as well as providing air drainage and the cooling effects from the river.

Now, about that Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel - how does it taste? In one word - YUMMY! It is rich with a spicy aroma on the nose and the color of blackberry jam. Warming flavors of cherry cobbler, spices, and brown sugar on the palette and finishes with a bit of spice and caramel.

This is not your typical cherry pop, 15%+ alcohol Zinfandel from California, either. There is a richness and subtle spice to this Zinfandel that makes it such a food friendly wine. Therefore, it deserves to be paired with a spicy meal. Barbequed ribs and chicken (I would toss some of the Zinfandel in the marinade) will awake the tastebuds with this lovely wine. With the fall season here, I see in my future a pork roast with cranberries, sage and a side of yams and of course, enhanced with this elegant Zinfandel.

Only 320 cases produced - get it now. Consider this bit of knowledge one of my best kept secrets.


Friday, September 23, 2005

2005 Harvest Update

The 2005 year has been good to us here in the Walla Walla Valley. We've had a successful mix of cool weather, mid-summer showers, and our usual lengthy and warm late summer. The rumor is that Mother Nature and Bacchus have teamed together to produce some of the finest looking grapes ever to appear in the valley vineyards.

In the future I would recommend to keep an eye on the Walla Walla Valley's 2005 vintages.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wine Matters

Yes it does! Wine matters, especially here in Walla Walla, and now you can tune in to KWCW 90.5 FM (Whitman College) beginning this evening at 5:30 - 6:00 pm (PDT) to listen to talk show "Wine Matters" with co-hosts Denise Slattery and Steve Michener.

Tonight's guest will be Caleb Foster of Buty Winery. So please tune in and discover what's happening with Caleb Foster and Nina Buty Foster at their winery. Remember, 2005 crush is underway here in the Walla Walla Valley and you can listen to KWCW 90.5FM online.

So pour that glass of wine, relax and tune in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

~September Cooking With Washington Wines~

Walla Walla Valley wineries are known for producing elegant, yet bold Merlots. With the 2005 crush underway, it's time to dust off a few bottles of that Walla Walla Merlot you have kept stashed away and have a dinner party. If you don't have any Walla Walla Merlot in your wine stash, it's time to get some.

Check out Lecole No. 41, Northstar Winery, Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Vintners, and Waterbrook to name a few of the excellent Walla Walla Merlots. Merlot reduction is a versatile sauce that will enhance salmon (my sister grills a Alder planked salmon that screams for this redux), prime cuts of beef or even add wild mushrooms to this redux and top over garlic mashed potatoes.

Walla Walla Merlot Wine Reduction Sauce

1 (750-milliliter) bottle Walla Walla Merlot wine
2-3 shallots, quartered (or 1 small onion, quartered)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine (Yes the whole bottle. Don't you dare drink a drop.), onions (or shallots), celery, carrots and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid out, removing vegetables and bay leaf. Return the liquid to the pan, over medium heat. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, until the butter is incorporated, being careful not to let the sauce separate. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve, whisking occasionally. Yields: about 2 cups

Now, what wine to pair with dinner? Of course, the same Merlot!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wine Quote

I saw a wino eating grapes... I was like, dude, you have to wait.

Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Holy Grapes Batman!

Crush is starting any day now for the vineryards and wineries in the Walla Walla Valley. Grapes are all over the place!

If you are looking to make your own wines contact Grapeland Supply . They have available "U-Pick" wine grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot available by the row or block.

Prefer to wear your grapes instead of drinking them? Relax with a facial from Face~a~Peel in the Walla Walla Valley. This organic spa treatment is made from grapes, including peels and seeds.

How about being a walking billboard for Walla Walla? Check out Gotta Go Embroidery located at their new spot on Main Street, Downtown Walla Walla. There are no sour grapes there.

Trivia - speaking of Batman. Did you know that Adam West, from the popular 1960's TV hit "Batman", hails from Walla Walla? Yes! Holy Hometown! West was born William "Billy" West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington and graduate of Whitman College.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Amavi Cellars

Earlier this spring, I had an opportunity to visit Amavi Cellars. The name, Amavi, is a combination of the Latin root words, "am" (love) and "vi" (life). The winery's objective is to capture the best of love and life in every bottle of their wine. Their pursuits being: Love, Life and Wine (Amor, Vita and Vinum). Their pursuit is my pursuit.

Amavi's tasting room is a reconstruction of a 1890's log cabin that was relocated from Montana. The tasting room is very warm and friendly. I felt that the warmth and friendliness came from not just the structure, but from the staff as well.

Amavi is the sister winery to the very prestigious Pepper Bridge Winery which is also located in the Walla Walla Valley. Both wineries share the same winemaker, Jean-François Pellet, and estate vineyards, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Les Collines. However, they utilize different vineyard blocks and winemaking styles. Having tasted the wines, there is quality in the bottle but at an affordable price.

Last night I was able to sit in on a wine tasting of the 2002 Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon. 2002 happened to be an exceptional year for the Walla Walla Valley. This 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 1% Malbec. An award winner with critical acclaim from a couple of food and wine magazines, this wine is very aromatic with flavors of dark fruit, a chocolate finish (a very creamy mouth feel) and spice. The spice we tasted is still under scrutiny, though. Was it spice or a teeny bit of brettanomyces? The taste of brett seemed to waft in and out through the wine, which made it very interesting. I think this is a wine that can lay down for a few years and yet very approachable now. A great buy at $25.00. Let's put it this way - no matter if it was spice or brett - I would never turn down a bottle.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Wine Bowl

I HATE BOWLING!

Two weeks ago one of the local bowling alleys, Bowlaway Lanes, hosted their first annual "Wine Bowl." The deal was that all of the local wineries were invited to attend. The winning winery team would get a trophy and their poster hung in the alley for a year. My partners from Forgeron Cellars , Anne, Jamie and Sharyl, co-erced me there with promises of dinner before. I got my dinner but they still dragged me to the bowling alley while I protested and screamed all the way.

When we arrived there was only one other team! What is going on here in Walla Walla? Are there no other wineries who like to bowl? Is there other normal people like myself who think that bowling is boring and kind of cheesy? The other winery that showed was SYZYGY and their team was represented by Dave, Gregg, Sarah, and Meredith. It just so happened that Dave and Gregg were members of a bowling team. Oh-my. How - con-veeen-i-ent!

While bowling, we drank some great wines and even ate "bowling food." I discovered that bowling food is different than winery food. There were no imported cheeses, fine imported Italian smoked meats, French style baguettes or dipping sauces of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It had been years since I had a baloney and cheese sandwich cut into triangle squares - just like mom made for our school lunches. Surprisingly, the sandwiches paired okay with the lovely wines of Forgeron Cellars and SYZYGY. Hmmm...I suppose that one could look at baloney, processed cheese food slices and Wonder bread as just another level of imported smoked meats and imported cheeses and a baguette - a bowling level (okay, I will try to get my nose unstuck and lowered a bit).

Anyways, to make a long and painful story short - the team of SYZYGY won. But due to their kindness and the kindness of Bowlaway Lanes, we "tied." The group poster of both teams will be seen at the Bowlaway Lanes and my little trophy will be displayed with pride on top of my wine rack. Okay. So maybe bowling and the atmosphere of a bowling alley isn't so bad afterall. Will I show up next year? Probably, but will I continue my protesting and screaming? Probably. I can't disappoint my partners Anne, Jamie and Sharyl. They expect it of me.
Thanks Dave, Gregg, Sarah, and Meredith of SYZYGY for the excellent time and for being such great opponents. Also, many thanks to Bowlaway Lanes for their hospitality!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Seeing Red!

Last weekend I had an opportunity to taste two Walla Walla red wines. One of the wines was a red table and the other a blend (I don't think they consider theirs an RTW).

The red blend came from SYZYGY - 2003 Red Wine. A floral nose and there seemed to be a background of vanilla. There were cherries and black fruit on the palate and a long wonderful finish. This wine deserved better than the baloney and cheese sandwich I was nibbling on (Hey I was at a bowling alley. Wha'daya expect?) The percentage of this smooth and delicious blend is 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah. SYZYGY red wine sells for $20.00.

The red table wine (RTW) came from the esteemed Woodward Canyon. I don't have the blend percentages that went into the wine, but it is definitely a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. While this wine was elegant, there was a real "meatiness" to it and a wine that you can give some age to. I happened to be noshing on pieces of Spanish Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, along with some cashews and dried prunes. The strong pungent cheeses and the rich dark fruit paired very nicely with this full bodied wine. Woodward Canyon RTW sells for $17.00

I often tell people that Walla Walla Valley makes some of the best table wines and blends around. The table reds are always an excellent value for the quality.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Winery Incubator

It is official - the Port of Walla Walla, with a $1 million state grant, will start plans to build a winery incubator to assist new and upcoming wineries in the valley. The "village of wineries" will be four to five small buildings located at the airport area. Construction will start this winter with a goal for the first tenants to be moved in by June - just in time for the 2006 crush. The winery tenants will be on a six-year plan and after that period is up, they will move (and hopefully move forward) to provide room for other new wineries.

Like The Walla Walla Institute for Enology and Viticulture, this is another progressive and important asset to our valley inspired by Dr. Myles Anderson, who is also Director of the Institute, as well as co-owner of Walla Walla Vintners.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

~ August Cooking With Washington Wines~

We are just a couple of weeks away from harvest and crush. Now is the time to pluck some grape leaves (with owner's permission, of course, and pesticide free) from your neighborhood vineyard. A vegetarian recipe with an authentic flair. Enjoy stuffed grape leaves (dolmathes) with the area wines. Very versatile to pair with either white or a very fruit forward red wine. A Syrah or Counoise from Morrison Lane would accent the spice in the stuffing. Many thanks to my sister-inlaw, Rita for the delicious recipe.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 jar grape leaves or use blanched fresh leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups broth

STUFFING:
1 1/2 cups half cooked rice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Use the best leaves to be filled with the stuffing & the remaining can be used for lining the pan and between the layers. Drain leaves and rinse well with hot water. Cut off stems. Shiny side of leaf down, put about 1 tablespoon of stuffing on each leaf. Fold opposite ends towards the center, then roll up. Cover bottom of heavy deep skillet with leaves & arrange the rolls in it in layers, separating each layer with leaves. Add the mixture of broth, lemon juice, & tomato paste. Put a plate on top of the top layer to weight it down. Cover the pan. Cook over low heat 1-1/4 hours, or until tender.

Serve hot with plain yogurt or cold with lemon wedges. These little packages of goodness would make a wonderful appetizer served with feta cheese and kalamata olives on the side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Walla Walla - 2005 Wine Destination of the Year

Once again Sunset Magazine gives accolades to Walla Walla. – naming the area 2005 Wine Destination of the year.

Sunset Magazine has been very supportive of the Walla Walla Valley and has showed the abundance of the Valley to their readers. In their March 2002 issue, they named Walla Walla's Main street as being the best in the West and recently in the April 2005 issue, they celebrated us as the new food and wine destination featuring fresh menus with foods from the area.

Walla Walla was one of three finalists for the award and last week was named the winner of Wine Destination of the Year. Winners were nominated and chosen by a 17 member judges panel that were comprised of wine journalists, sommeliers and wine retailers.

Walla Walla’s wineries have already made a $100 million economic impact on the area. Although more than 60 wineries operate, there is much more to the Valley than wine. Visitors to the Walla Walla Valley will discover the historic downtown, a developed art community, sophisticated dining, and home town friendliness. Welcome to Walla Walla!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

2005 Harvest For Washington State

The Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers (WAWGG) has released the lastest crop estimate for the 2005 vintages in Washington State. Remember these predictions are just what they are - predictions, but WAWGG believes that Washington will have a record crop for 2005. The largest crop recorded in Washington state was in 2002 and 115,000 tons of wine grapes were crushed. Here are the WAWGG numbers (2004 numbers in parentheses):

Bearing acres: 27,800 (27,457)
Crop estimate: 124,563 tons (107,000)

At this time, while many of the red varietals have taken on their purple hue, they have not technically finished the verasion process as the brix is not what it should be for harvest. Of course the Chardonnay will change from the color green to - um - well- the color green, but will eventually take on a softer and plumper feel to the touch and become an opaque green. The prediction for harvest is in about three weeks.

For the past 10 days, a huge fire has been keeping a community of firefighters busy in Pomeroy, an Eastern town about 67 miles from the Walla Walla Valley. Friday night I went outside after midnight to see if I could get a glimpse of the meteor showers. The sky was very hazy from the east making the natural light show difficult to see (saw about five shooters). The smell of smoke in the night air made me wonder how it would effect the grapes. Could it be that we may not have to use any heavy toasted oak barrels for the 2005 vintage?

The truth is that the winds have been shifting the smoke in another direction, so it appears our 2005 harvest will be safe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WhoopemUp Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg

Where is Waitsburg you ask? Waitsburg is almost a one horse town in Eastern Washington, but don't take that one horse for granted too long, because before we know it there will be two horses.

Located in Walla Walla county with a population of 1,200, Waitsburg is a leisurely and pastoral 20 mile drive from the city of Walla Walla. In a couple of years we are going to see Waitsburg's Main Street come alive and The WhoopemUp Hollow Cafe has already made a home there. A dream that has come true by Waitsburg resident's Ross Stevenson and Leroy Cunningham, found the perfect partnership with Bryant Bader and his wife Valerie Mudry. Reaching out to the wine tourists, their style is built on a Mississippi and New Orleans menu with very affordable prices. I cannot seem to get beyond the catfish fillet and red beans with Tasso ham, but my mouth has watered looking at plates of oyster and catfish Po' Boys and pumpkin stuffed ravioli. This cafe has a gift for making a chunk of iceberg lettuce look and taste like fine dining served on 1950's vintage luncheon plates and freshly made dressings served on the side. And of course, the wine list features many great wines from Walla Walla.

There is a lot of talent going on in that kitchen. Bryant was the former day chef at "Bill's Off Broadway" located on Pine Street in Seattle and before he left was known as one of the best soup makers in Seattle. He was also a former chef at the nationally known "Campagne" restaurant and the "Limelight Cafe" in Seattle. Valerie Mudry, pastry chef and chocolatier, was formerly with "The Fish Club" restaurant in Seattle and is known for her award winning desserts. Her desserts are not only decadent, but every plate is a work of art. The pecan chocolate tart is served warm with Southern Comfort ice cream on the side. The scent of warm chocolate waffs around the table.

Hosts Cunningham and Stevenson can be seen visiting with guests and they make you feel like an old friend. They are a wonderful asset to the community and a inspiration to others who see the charm of the old western brick buildings on Main street. So when it is time to dine, why settle for less when you can "sup at the Whoopem Up!"

Monday, August 01, 2005

August - Washington Wine Month

The annual Washington Wine Month at Washington state liquor stores starts today. Last year I picked up some great buys. This year about 184 wines will be available and on sale. I will be haunting the aisles again, like I did last year, picking up good buys.

Friday, July 29, 2005

House Wine

It may be a simple label reminiscent of the late 1970's generic black and white labels, but I guarantee you this wine will still stand out amongst the fanciest of labels. "House Wine", by the Magnificent Wine Co., is an offshoot made by Charles Smith, proprietor/wine maker at K Vintners. Priced under $10, this is one of those great table red bargains from Eastern Washington that pairs well with easy entertaining foods or a great every day sipping wine.

The varietals used are Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Merlot (32%), Syrah (9%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). While this wine is very fruit forward, there is still a deep earthiness to it. Burgers, portabellos or even a bite of a rich Scharffenberger chocolate bar is going to hold up to this well structured red. Silly me, I paired it with a deep fried Cajun spice injected turkey breast and the finish of the wine softened with a rich caramel feel on the tongue. Hey, it worked! This is a great wine for a great price. Stock up now, it isn't too early to think about those winter evenings of entertaining that are ahead of us.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Walla Walla Wineries to Watch

This is the second year for "Washington Arriving Vintners Event" (WAVE) sponsored by Washington Wine Country, a nonprofit association of Eastern Washington businesses promoting wine-related tourism. This years event was held in June at Hedges Winery on Red Mountain. Awards were given to Walla Walla's Dusted Valley Vintners as the trade and media "Winery to Watch." Nicholas Cole Cellars was voted the favorite consumer's choice. Basel Cellars Estate also won awards.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Secret is Out!

Walla Walla hit the big time - - an article in the New York Times was printed last week, "The Tastes of Walla Walla, Secret No More" by R.W. "Johnny" Apple, Jr. It gave Walla Walla a glowing report about our fine wine and food. It was a very well received article about the valley.

You can read it here (Free Registration Required)

Corrections were made to the article.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Green Gables Inn

I never thought I would see the day that Margaret and Jim would sell their beautiful bed and breakfast, but the day is here.

Margaret and Jim Buchan, owners of Green Gables Inn, are selling the B&B business and the three gabled, craftsman mansion that was built in 1909 by Roland and Clarinda Green Smith. At one time the mansion served as a home for young women who were studying nursing at Walla Walla General Hospital. The Buchans purchased the house in 1990 and immediately began restoration work. They opened Green Gables Inn for business in January 1991. Not only did I stay at Green Gables Inn, but would later assist Margaret for several years. I even played the role of innkeeper when the Buchans would leave town to take their much needed vacation. It was a lesson learned that there is no rest for the innkeeper who believes in excellence.

Early in the business it was mostly weekenders, Whitman College parents and a few traveling business people. Besides word of mouth and returning visitors, the boom in the local wine industry has assisted in the busy growth of the business.

There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that is carved in wood above one of the two fireplaces in the large sitting room (see picture). It was there before the Buchans purchased the home:
"The ornaments of a house are the friends that frequent it."

Those words were to become the house's destiny and truly a tribute to the hospitality and detail that the Buchans put into their B&B. It is my opinion that it is going to be hard to fill the inkeeper shoes that Margaret and Jim wear.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The World Needed Another Wine Blog

On June 14, 2005 I created my first entry for my new blog. The title of the new entry was What The World Needs Is Another Wine Blog. I pointed out that there is actually a Wine Blog Watch and wondered how long it would take for my new wine blog to get noticed by the wine blog watch.

It took 41 days. Not a bad turn around on the big world wide wine web.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Spring Valley Vineyard

This week the Washington wine giant, Ste Michelle Wine Estates announced they will acquire Spring Valley Vineyard in the Walla Walla area. For over 100 years, the Corkrum family has been farming the area known as Spring Valley. Shari Corkrum Derby and husband Dean Derby, along with Dean's brother Gaynor Derby, have been dedicated to producing high quality wines. They credit the quality to the soil and separate microclimates that allow the individual blocks of vines to develop their own distinct characteristics for their estate wines. This 1,000 case winery may be small on production, but they are big on taste.

Spring Valley Vineyard labels are as distinctive as their wines. The labels are portraits of family members who farmed the same land. Label names like Uriah, Frederick, Muleskinner and Nina Lee tell the story of rich family history. My favorite label is the "Nina Lee." Not only is it a beautiful label, but the Nina Lee is a delicious 100% Syrah that has blackberry and licorice notes with a hint of spice showing through. Nina Lee, a tribute to the spirit of women, met Frederick in 1928 while performing Vaudeville at a local theatre. They married and sucessfully faced the great depression together. In 1957 Frederick died and Nina Lee decided not to depend on anyone else but herself, so she continued to operate the ranch on her own. Nina Lee died after 21 years of successful farming. The labels and wines will be added to the Ste. Michelle wine portfolio.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates from Woodenville, WA will purchase the winery, brand names, and all wine in bottle and barrel. The company will lease the 40-acre vineyard on a long term basis and the vineyard will remain under the ownership of the Corkrum-Derby family.

Have you ever visited the Spring Valley Vineyard tasting room in downtown Walla Walla? If Gaynor Derby is pouring, you are in for a treat. Wearing his cowboy hat with a salty sense of humor, he typifies what good old hospitality is all about. Gaynor's pride in his grapes beams into every glass he pours. My hopes are Ste. Michelle will realize the value of hometown hospitality. Pride and hospitality are just as important to the Walla Walla wines as the grapes that go into them.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Stained Tooth Society

The last couple months, while schlepping spit buckets and screwing corks behind the tasting room bar, I have had several customers talk about some great wines from a friendly new winery in the valley - Dusted Valley Vintners. What I know about Dusted Valley Vintners: it was founded by some self-named "Cheese Heads" from Wisconsin and their wine club is called, "The Stained Tooth Society." Their sense of humor alone sounds worthy of a visit.

Last night was "girl's night out." We decided to do potluck and bar-be-que. You have to understand our evenings. They are often filled with a lot of wine, chocolate, and maybe a carrot stick and a chicken chest to keep us honest. To my delight, there was a bottle of Dusted Valley Vintners 2003 Columbia Valley Viognier (Thank you Jamie). Finally, an opportunity to sample what this new buzz was about.

The first taste made my left eyebrow rise with interest. The nose was floral and the taste was very fruit forward with a bit of honey. Maybe honeysuckle? The wine had just enough acid that it paired perfect with the shrimp salad, fresh fruit and avocado slices I had on my plate. It is also a wine that would enhance a cheese plate. I was impressed. Tough to do. You see, I am a finicky fan of Viognier and I have been spoiled. I have tasted the best Viognier in the valley made by Christophe Baron at Cayuse Vineyards. It's tough to look back (also Cayuse Viognier isn't easy to come by), but Dusted Valley's Viognier is worthy of me telling people about it - and I will.

The next weekend that I am not pouring wine for the masses, I will venture out and see if I can stain my teeth on the rest of their wines - - of course I will report back.
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