Monday, September 25, 2006

26 Brix

It was the evening of the Walla Walla Frontier Days Demolition Derby. We could have hung with the pseudo cowboys and ate corn dogs for dinner, but we chose to dine at 26 Brix instead (like the two should be compared?). Having a quiet dinner, just the two of us, with a few glasses of good wine and impeccable service was alluring to us. Don't get me wrong, I love finding a reason to wear my cowboy hat and lots of mustard on my corndog, please. But this evening, we wanted to share our day's events with each other while sipping good wine and not having to stop and check the stove. We wanted to be spoiled and we wanted excellent service. We knew that 26 Brix would be an excellent choice.

Located in the historic Dacres Building, we found ourselves very comfortable in this cozy, yet elegant restaurant. We started our dining event with a cheese appetizer plate and glasses of local rose' and Semillon. I chose a very delicious and crisp Sangiovese rose' from Waterbrook Winery and Steve chose the L'Ecole #41 Barrel Fermented Semillon. Once I saw the compote of figs and slices of Manchego on the plate of cheese, I couldn't get beyond two of my favorite flavors - salty cheese and figs. I was in heaven with my glass of rose, sweet figs and Manchego.

For entrees, Steve chose the seared sea scallops. The scallops were layered on herb toasted brioche with heirloom tomato tartare, watercress puree with a Meyer lemon cream sauce. My choice was the fillet of Alaskan halibut. The top of this very adequate piece of fish was layered with a crispy potato like-gratin. It sat on a bed of roasted yellow and red beets and English peas with a fava bean and arugula pesto. Both plates were artistically designed -- almost too pretty to eat.

I told my handsome dining partner to surprise me with the dinner wine. Steve chose a white-wine blend to go with our meal. A proprietor's blend named "Serience" from Washington winery, Zefina. The blend was 50% Viognier and 50% Roussane. It had just enough acidity, and plenty of floral notes, to match the seafood.

Dessert followed - - you didn't think we would pass that up, do you? We chose the "three-stone fruits on almond cakes" and a basket of New Orleans style beignets -- light little cushions of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. Yum! With our dessert, Steve chose a bottle of Chateau Graves Sauternes - a well known white dessert wine made in the commune of Sauternes located in the southeast corner of the Graves region of Bordeaux, France.

We left 26 Brix feeling relaxed, pampered and a bit giddy. I didn't miss the county fair corn dogs at all this year.

The Anniversary of Riedel at Dunham Cellars

Does the shape of the wine glass really make a difference in the taste of the wine? I sure think it does. The thickness of the glass lip to the size of the bowl - - it all makes a difference. Since I purchased my first Riedels, I can honestly say that I see the difference when using other wine glasses. I love my Riedels!

Ninth generation, Claus J. Riedel, of the Riedel glass-making family re-invented the wine glass. His father, recently released from his forced post-war employment in the USSR, started the family business again in Austria. The genius behind the Riedel as we know it, took two forms.

First, Claus changed the wine glass from colored and cut glass to a newer style. His glasses were plain and unadorned. Since he no longer used cut glass, the stemware could be thinner and long-stemmed. The art was the glass itself in it's simplistic form. Museums and collectors saw his glasses as works of art; the Museum of Modern Art in New York placed them in their collection.

The second form, Claus Riedel pioneered the study of the effect of shapes on the way humans would perceive wine, and other alcoholic beverages, through their senses. Working with professional wine tasters, Claus discovered that the professionals felt wine tasted better in the Riedel glasses. Compared to other wine glasses, they could taste and smell more of the nuances and depths of the wine in the Riedel glasses.

In celebration of Riedel's 250th Anniversary Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla is proud to host Maximilian Riedel. September 30, 2006 at 6:30-9:00 pm, it will be an evening of of wine and glassware education like nothing you have ever experienced.

Mr. Riedel, 11th generation Riedel and inventor of the "O" glass will walk you through a tasting using varietal specific stemware with Dunham Cellars' wines. Please book early as space is limisted. Dunham Cellars is one of only two locations in the Northwest that Maximilian will be visiting this year. $110 per person includes 4 Riedel glasses, Riedel booklet, wine for tasting, and an appetizer to be enjoyed after the tasting.

Monday, September 18, 2006

~ Andy ~

Andy Miller, one of our local wine personalities, died September 8, 2006 following an illness. Born February 28, 1961, Andrew W. Miller became involved in the Washington state wine industry as a young man. He was employed by Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodenville and eventually his love of wine brought him to Walla Walla. Andy proclaimed that Walla Walla was the "cutting edge" of the wine industry.

I had the opportunity to work with Andy at Forgeron Cellars in Walla Walla. Andy was our Hospitality Coordinator there until his death. I was impressed with his knowledge of the vineyards and the wines of the Walla Walla and Columbia Valleys. "Hospitality Coordinator" was the perfect title for him as he made the guests of Forgeron Cellars feel very welcome and special. Andy had a great smile and I took much pleasure laughing with him.

Andy's loved ones have requested donations be made to the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance in Andy's name. An appropriate honor for Andy because of his love and dedication to the valley and it's wines.

There will be a celebration of Andy's life at his home at 231 N. Bellevue Ave in Walla Walla on Saturday, September 30th at 4:00 pm.

Friday, September 15, 2006

September Cherry Pick

They love this wine! And why not? It is from the Walla Walla Valley, afterall!

Recently I have loved reading the wonderful reviews from magazines like the Wine Spectator regarding the Merlot's from Washington state, and especially those from the Walla Walla Valley. The scruffy embodiment of discontent and wine snobbery from the Merlot-hating-Sideway-Miles, did some damage and thank goodness we can prove that this piece of cinimotography fiction was really umm...uhh...fiction!

Northstar Walla Walla Valley Merlot - 2003, received 92 points from the Wine Advocate and 91 points from the Wine Spectator. Also the San Francisco Cronicle gave it their three stars saying -"Waves of flavor-luscious black plum, black raspberry, chocolate, vanilla and brown spice in this big yet balanced Merlot."

Northstar Winery is located in the Walla Walla Valley. They are dedicated to the production of ultra-premium Merlot and considered among the world’s best, showcasing Washington state's star grape -- Merlot.

~ September Cooking With Washington Wines ~

You might think that a white wine would be the best pairing for a chicken dish, but not always. This particular chicken recipe is rich, spicy, and fruity. It can handle a Merlot or a blend of Merlot from the Walla Walla Valley. In fact, I would suggest North Star's Stella Maris - Columbia Valley Red Wine 2003. This wine typifies the Walla Walla appellation, with it's full bodied and concentrated flavors. A unique blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 4% Syrah.

Turn this easy Moroccan recipe into a theme night or dinner party. Have a CD of Moroccan music on the charger to create an exotic mood with candle light, low tables for eating and lots of pillows for sitting and lounging. Serve light appetizers of spiced nuts, marinated olives, crudite, and interesting tapenades or savory vegetable jams. Be the perfect host by providing perfumed rose water and hot towels for your guests to wash their hands with before dining - - well, you are going to be eating with your fingers, aren't you?


MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH DRIED PLUMS

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/3 inch thick
1 cup (about 6 ounces) pitted dried plums
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sliced green onions
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Couscous (follow directions on package)
Lemon wedges
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Place chicken in skillet; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until browned, turning once. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Stir in broth, carrots, dried plums, cumin and cinnamon. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove cover; cook and stir 10 minutes or until chicken centers are no longer pink, carrots are tender and sauce is slightly reduced. Stir in green onions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over hot couscous with lemon wedges. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Will serve four people. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Taste Everything Once

Taste Everything Once is a great blog for foodies and also Spokane's source for food and restaurants. Jennifer and her team cover everything from taco trucks, the "bean" scene, and fine dining to the best college-town cheeseburger and local farmer's markets. The food photography is sinfully colorful and delicious looking. They often make me hungry.

TEO has a Wednesday Spotlight column which features chefs and other food lovers. I am flattered to be in their Wednesday TEO Spotlight column. She called me a "wine goddess" - heh-heh-heh.

If you live in the area or planning a visit to Spokane, definitely check out TEO. Thanks Jennifer!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Firehouse Red - Tamarack Cellars

We love it! The evening after Steve and I opened a bottle of Firehouse Red he was downtown at Vintage Cellars the next day and bought several more bottles. Firehouse Red is a great blend of Columbia and Walla Walla Valley grapes - 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 2% Sangiovese, and 1% Carmenere.

Tamarack Cellars "Firehouse Red" has been noticed by Robert Parker. It was rated 61 in the Wine Spectator's list of top 100 wines in the world for 2004. That's a pretty good endorsement, huh?

Just like Tamarack Cellars tasting notes say, it is so good that it is difficult to separate all the flavors. We noticed the longer it sat opened the more interesting tastes came about. Full and lush with all of the my favorite flavors. I picked up chocolate covered cherries, vanilla, apple-pie spices and at the end of the bottle (and my glass) definitely lots of caramel came through. This is really an ultimate food wine that you could pair with most anything. I think the next bottle I open I will let it sit for an hour before tasting. Yum!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Out With the Old, In With the New...

I always look forward to the Labor Day weekend. It is a reminder that my favorite season, Autumn, is on the way. It also means I will be spending less time outdoors and more time writing. Crush has started! Lots going on in the valley. For some wineries, crush started last week.

It seems I am slower than usual to post anything. This week has been a test of my character and endurance as it is a wine-free week for me. My only drink, besides water, is Pepper MD vintage 2006 - a unique little blend of caramel color, phosphoric acid, assorted artificial fruit and spice flavors, but most of all -- caffeine! This is also a week of meager fare - dining on salad, Top Ramen and an occasional boring chicken-chest. You see -- last week I went a bit over-the-top when it came fine dining and good wines. But would you decline invitations to three different dinner parties given by three different French winemakers? Of course not! Then there was the fabulous dining experience at 26 Brix...

As soon as I recover from one (only one?) of the seven deadly sins, I will report every delicious morsel and decadent drop of Bacchus nectar that I had during the Labor Day weekend. Sante!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Waterbrook Sangiovese Rose'

Summer will soon be another memory, so in the mean time I am trying to taste as many roses as possible.

Waterbrook Winery's 100% Sangiovese Rose', from the Candy Mountain in the Columbia Valley, was one of those lovely pink wines. Sangiovese is my favorite grape to make a rose'/rosato out of. Rarely flimsy and always heady with fruit and floral nuances. The deep strawberry flavors of this beautiful pink wine didn't surprise me, but flavors of rhubarb sorbet and the elegant finish of ruby red grapefruit did. A very bright and crisp wine that was pure joy to sip while I dined on an artisanal cheese plate with candied hazelnuts and figs.

Aged and fermented in stainless steel tanks, this classic dry rose is the ultimate summer sipping wine and yet still pairs perfectly with picnique foods.