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.