Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Walla Walla Wines Win In California

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest wine competition of American wines in the world. It is held every year in January. This year the judging of the wines took place in Sonoma County, in Cloverdale, on January 9-12.

Fifty-five professional judges from all over the United States, representing trade, education, media, retail, and restaurants spent the week evaluating 3,800 wines entered by 1573 wineries from 20 states. It is an old and highly regarded wine competition.

Winning wines were awarded bronze, silver, gold, and double gold. The following Walla Walla wines placed, and with a varied range of retail prices - from $15 - $50 :

Gold

Helix - Reininger 2004 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $22

Silver

Glen Fiona Winery 2002 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $30
Glen Fiona Winery 2004 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $15
Pendulum (Long Shadows Winery) 2004 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $25
Reininger Winery 2003 Seven Hills Vineyard Carmenére, Walla Walla Valley, $45
Reininger Winery 2003 Ash Hollow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $32
Spring Valley Vineyard 204 Frederick, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Three Rivers Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $19
Three Rivers Winery 2005 White Meritage, Columbia Valley, $19
Woodward Canyon Winery 2003 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon,
Columbia Valley, $44

Bronze

Dusted Valley Vintners 2005 Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, $32
Dusted Valley Vintners 2005 Stained Tooth Syrah, Columbia Valley, $24
Dusted Valley Vintners 2005 Viognier, Yakima Valley, $20
Glen Fiona Winery 2002 Claret, Columbia Valley, $30
Glen Fiona Winery 2002 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $30
Spring Valley Vineyard 2004 Nina Lee, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Three Rivers Winery 2004 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $19
Three Rivers Winery 2004 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $50

Congratulations!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Are You A Closet Chardonnay and Merlot Drinker?

According to the US Dept of Agriculture and the Washington Wine Commission somebody is drinking a lot of Washington State Chardonnay and Merlot. Whoever you are, it is time to come out of the closet. We know you're in there.

If you work in a tasting room or even visit a tasting room, eventually you will hear a haughtily claim of, "I don't drink white wines" or "Anything red, but Merlot."

Here are the facts:

National rank:
Washington State - 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States (18.0 million gallons of wine production and 30,000+ acres of wine grape acreage):

Leading red varietals (in order):
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese

Leading white varietals (in order):
Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier

And the most interesting fact --
Ratio of red to white:
47% red / 53% white

So -- who is drinking these wines that people turn their nose up at? Somebody is drinking Chardonnay and Merlot. Come out - come out - where ever you are! Show us your Merlot stained teeth and your beer can disguised to hold your Chardonnay.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Trio Vintners

Winemakers, Denise Slattery, her husband, Steve Michener, and partner, Tim Boushey have brought their talents and ideas together to form Trio Vintners. Not only are they a trio coming together to form a winery, but one of the trio of wineries established at the new Port of Walla Walla winery incubator village.

Tim Boushey has over 20 years of home and commercial winery settings. Steve Michener is a long time lover, writer and student of wine, as well as home winemaking. Denise Slattery brings her marketing and communication talents to complete the team (check out Denise’s blog Wine Matters in Walla Walla to keep in touch with their progess).

Starting with the 2006 crush, it is their first year of operation and Denise says the Port is awesome and she loves being there. This trio of graduates, from the Enology and Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College, are very excited to apply their knowledge and skills to their new venture.

Their goals are to work with lesser-known varietals and while their home is at the Port, production will be under 1,000 cases (annual). In Spring of 2007, Trio Vintner’s doors will be opened permanently. The trio will release a Riesling and a Syrah. Riesling will be Trio Vintner’s primary white and slightly off-dry. " No Blue Nun style!", according to Denise. Also to be released will be a unique Rose' of Sangiovese and Mourvedre. Zinfandel was crushed in 2006 and they look forward to watching it "grow-up."

Trio Vintners are anxious to open their winery doors on Piper Avenue in the Spring and I am anxious to try that Rose'! Best wishes to their success!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Incubator Wine Village

Piper Avenue, at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, is the new home to a row of three buildings that have taken shape as wineries. These "painted lady" colored structures of apricot, sage green and mocha are incubators for newly bonded wineries. When I think of incubators my mind's eye goes to a picture of a mother hen sitting on top of her soon-to-be hatched eggs and that is exactly what this exciting new project is all about.

Three new wineries will make this bright spot their home during a six-year nonrenewable lease. After the six years (or hopefully before), the soon-to-be established wineries will be able to be on their own and once again, three new start-up wineries will make the incubator village their new home.

At this time, all three buildings are full. Devin and Debra Stinger plan to open their Adamant Cellars this spring. The Stingers hail from Portland, Oregon and have been making wine in their basement for about six years. Established winemaker Virginie Bourgue Lodmell, formerly of Bergevin Lane winery, and her husband, Andrew Lodmell, owner of Lodmell Vineyards bring their talents to a new venture. Trio Vintners, a winery owned by Denise Slattery, Steve Michener and Tim Boushey started the 2006 fall crush at their new incubator home. Boushey, Michener and Slattery are all graduates of the Enology and Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College.

The shell buildings come with a modern HVAC system and outdoor crush pads. Tenants will supply their own wine processing equipment and machinery and of course, barrels. The largest rooms – a processing and barrel storage area, along with an office and restroom, leads off to an entryway to each winery building with an entry of a garage-type door. Funding for this $1.1 million project came from a $985,000 Washington State grant and a Port of Walla Walla contribution of $153,000.

From Port of Walla Walla - Photo by Donna Lasater

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

~January Cooking With Washington Wines~

January is one of those cold winter months when I love to bake and cook comfort foods. One of my favorite things to do on a dreary Saturday afternoon is bake hot fresh scones. At the stroke of four o'clock, those who are in the house are forced to stop what they are doing and join me for tea. Never had an argument, yet.

Believe it or not, scones are not only a tradition from England but also in the state of Washington. Scones were first introduced in 1915 at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. I am told that this recipe I adopted is similar to the popular Fisher scones that were created by the Seattle-based Fisher Flour Mills in the early 1900's. It later became known as the Fisher Famous Fair Scones. I found my recipe in one of the early Tacoma-based Jeff Smith cookbooks and have been using it now for over 15 years.

If you want to make it a high tea, then by all means bring out the sandwiches (don't forget to trim the crusts) of cucumber, smoked salmon or even egg salad topped with caviar or sliced almonds. Great-Grandma's pretty china tea cups are always in order (I believe in dusting them off and enjoying them. Otherwise, the next time they will get used is by the person who bought them at your estate sale. Same with your crystal wine glasses and linen napkins. Use your pretty items!). And last but not least, after the last spot o' tea, serve small aperitif glasses of your favorite Washington state late harvest wines - Canoe Ridge, Forgeron Cellars, Isenhower Cellars, and Three Rivers to name a few.

Scones

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder (Use fresh! When was the last time you bought new?)
2 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of milk

If you are a lover of raisins or currants, you may add about a 1/2 cup. I like to plump the raisins first with very warm water or for a kick, soak them in a bit of warm rum. Be sure to drain the raisins well and pat dry. Add the raisins immediately to the flour/shortening mixture, but omit the 2 Tablespoons of milk - very important!

Sift all dry ingredients together. Gently work shortening with fingers or gently with a pastry cutter until the flour/shortening mixture until it takes on a look of corn meal. Add milk to mixture and form. I find the success to flakey scones is to handle the dough gently and as little as possible. Don't knead! Turn the dough out on a floured board and divide the dough into two equal parts (easier on the dough). Pat or gently roll the dough into 1" thickness. I cut them out into round biscuit shapes or you may cut each equal part into wedge shaped pieces like a pie. Bake about 15 minutes at 450 degrees on an ungreased baking sheet.

Serve warm and split them gently half way. The only way to serve a scone is with butter and lots of berry jam. In the summer I make freezer jam out of Klicker strawberries. If available raspberries and blackberries make delicious freezer jams, too. If you want to keep with English tradition, clotted cream is wonderful on the scones, as well. However, clotted cream isn't something that we can just run to our grocery store and find, so I make my own. The clotted cream recipe I use isn't a traditional one where you would spend days separating whey, but one that you can whip up with simple ingredients.


Clotted Cream

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream - room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream - room temperature
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar

One hour before serving, pour the heavy cream into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Whisk in the sour cream and sugar; continuing to beat until the mixture is very thick. Place in refrigerator and chill until it is time to serve. You can make this ahead of time and it should last 4-6 hours in the refrigerator.

Cheers!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Precious Memories and Red Wine - How They Linger

Last week I decided it was time to go through some of my "library" wines and open a few. I am reminded of an older couple I was visiting with one day. In the past they had been great collectors of wine. As they started reaching their senior years they stopped collecting as much and now mostly buy wines that they are going to enjoy now. Their reason was "why should we age wines that we may not be around to enjoy?" Not that I plan on going anywhere soon - -

Some of my bottles of wine bring back memories. I can often remember who I was with or even the conversations in the winery and what brought me to purchase a particular wine. A bottle of Three Rivers Sangiovese - 2000 is such a wine. A good friend and serious wine drinker, Julie from Chicago (aka "Jules de Lago the Toast of Chicago" if you're a Bette Midler fan) was in Walla Walla visiting during the Christmas holidays. She will never live down how she pronounced Syrah in her charming Chicago accent in the Three Rivers tasting room. We later had a good laugh over it. To even the score, Jules will remind me from time to time the mortified look that came over my face when she asked for that glass of "Sear-ah." We bought our wine and later headed over to Walla Walla’s beloved Pastime Café (a precious memory for over four generations) for dinner. Even Jules, a vegetarian, could not resist a taste of the crispy almost-charred pepperoni rounds my sister Caren and I ordered on the side with our lasagna. Jules said it brought back memories of her mother’s fried salami sandwiches in Chicago.

Earlier last week I opened that bottle of Three Rivers Sangiovese - 2000. The grapes were from the Pepperbridge vineyard. I was surprised at how smokey the nose was, but I could still taste the essence of plums it had when I first tasted it in December of 2001. What impressed me the most was the finish - it lingered and lingered with bursts of nutmeg.

Mid-week I opened a bottle of Forgeron Cellars Merlot - 2001. I remember where I was when I first sipped this dark Merlot. It was my first day on the job at the tasting room in August of 2003 and it was also the first day of this release. I am happy that I have a few extra bottles of this vintage tucked way. It is deep in cherry flavor, yet very smooth - velvety. And much like the Three Rivers Sangiovese, this Merlot had a wonderful long finish. It lingered of vanilla and rich dark cocoa.

Friday evening, I opened a bottle of Woodward Canyon’s second label - Nelm’s Road. It was a bottle of Merlot - 2002. No particular memories tied to this wine. I had just made chicken Parmesan from scratch with radiatore pasta and looking for a red to pair. I closed my eyes and picked from the red section in my wine closet and there it was! It turned out to be an excellent choice, too. The nose was interesting and almost difficult to describe. It was very yeasty with a hint of tomatoes. A sip of the wine brought out a mouthful of cherries with undertones of almond. Again, the finish went on and on - a lingering finish that hinted of chocolate covered cherries.

Besides all three wines being from Walla Walla, what they all had in common was the finish. Each wine showcasing how well they were crafted and the quality of grapes. There are more memories to uncork in my wine library.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29 has arrived! I haven't participated lately as some of the subjects have not pertained to the Walla Walla Valley wines. This month, Jack and Joanne of Fork & Bottle are hosting WBW and the subject they have chosen is Biodynamic wines. This time I have the perfect wines!

South of Walla Walla, France native Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards discovered an old orchard bed that was completely covered with cobblestones. The stones were the size of a small apple. This land, which reminded Baron of the terroir from the Bordeaux region, had been home to the Cayuse who were local Native Americans. The Cayuse lived on this ancient stone river bed that was known as the Walla Walla River. The early French-Canadian fur traders in the Walla Walla area referred to the tribe as the Cailloux (plural for "stone" in French). Thus the Cayuse were known as "The People of the Stone" and now a very fitting name for Baron's wine.

Baron planted his first vineyard, in the Walla Walla Valley, in 1997 and now owns a total five vineyards (approx. 41 acres). All of the vineyards were planted with a crow bar and are biodynamically raised. He began using biodynamic practices in 2002. The reason behind this practice was not about marketing and trends, but an issue of what Baron thinks is his duty to protect the planet.

In Washington state, Christophe Baron’s Walla Walla vineyards were the first to be farmed and certified as using biodynamic methods. The limited production Syrahs (Cailloux, Bionic Frog, Coccinellee, En Chamberlin, and En Cerise) are typical of old world style with layers and layers of earthy and dense dark fruits. Exotic spices appear with a smooth and lingering finish. While the tannins from the Cayuse Syrahs seem soft on the tongue, the majority of them can be cellared up to 11 years. Could both of these qualities (soft tannins and long cellar time) mean a better grape?

So -- what sets the Cayuse wines apart from others? Is it solely the talent and skill of Baron's wine making (with a Champagne lineage), the cobblestones in the vineyard, the soil fertility before or after the biodynamic methods? I honestly do not have the answer. What I can answer is Christophe Baron's wines are like no other, especially his Rhone-styled wines. They are dramatic, elegant and sexy. I believe it is the combination of all of Baron's gifts.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lowden Hills Estate Viognier - 2005

Viognier is my favorite white varietal. I love this grape! However, I can get a bit persnickity about it as I think there are very few exceptional Viogniers and some can be -- just -- eh -- mediocre. The mediocre can often start out like a traditional Viognier, but often end either very acidic or just doesn't go anywhere. To me the sign of an outstanding Viognier is one that lingers and that is exactly how I would describe the Viognier from Lowden Hills - it lingers like airy cotton candy on the tongue.

Jim and Sonja's Lowden Hills Estate (Win Chester) Viognier - 2005, was one of the wines I served for a small birthday party the other night. As guests walked in the door they immediately received a glass of this wine. I did this for a reason, as I knew some of them would turn their noses up at a white wine and I was determined they were going to try something new -- a treat. Those who were fortunate enough to be related to me also received my lecture of "...if you are going to be a wine connaisseur you need to learn to drink whites..." Everyone commented that the first thing they smelled were the pears and all agreed on the elegance of this wine. My goal for the evening was accomplished.

The nose was very aromatic of pears and honeysuckle. The flavors were rich in pears, peaches with a hint of orange. As one of my guests (also a fan of Viognier and not a relative) described and summed up the finish of this Lowden Hill's wine -- "it is a gift that keeps on giving."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Paul Gregutt's Best of Washington State Wine - 2006

Let's start the year right by celebrating some of Washington's best wines. Every year, the top 100 wines of the world are profiled in the two most-read wine magazines, the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast. This means that thousands of wines are reviewed every year with a chance to make a list. Paul Gregutt decided to compile a top 100 Washington wine list for his weekly wine column in the Seattle Times. There are so many wonderful wines from our state, and of course many from Walla Walla. This would be a tough task to choose who is going to make a list, but a pleasurable one if you get to taste all of these wines.

Gregutt elected to choose one wine per winery and the range of wines are from the Olympic Peninsula to the Columbia Gorge, from Walla Walla to Spokane and all within. His rankings were not done strictly by Parker-esque-numbers, but he also factored in quality and costs. I like his way of thinking that if a $8 or $15 bottle of wine delivers quality then it is just as valuable as the $100 bottle. At this point of time, many of the wines on his list may already be sold out. (Note: Walla Walla wines are highlighted in red.)

Paul Gregutt's Best of Washington State Wine 2006
1. Quilceda Creek 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($95)
2. Cayuse 2003 Armada Syrah ($65)
3. Fielding Hills 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
4. Betz Family Winery 2003 Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)
5. Cadence 2004 Camerata Red Wine ($50)
6. Andrew Will 2002 Annie Camarda Syrah ($58)
7. Mark Ryan 2004 Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Vineyard ($42)
8. Columbia 2005 Gewurztraminer ($12)

9. Stephenson Cellars 2003 Syrah ($28)
10. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2003 Ethos Syrah ($29)
11. Soos Creek 2003 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
12. Chaleur Estate 2005 Blanc ($33)
13. Abeja 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
14. McCrea 2003 Boushey Grande Côte Syrah ($42)
15. Gorman 2004 The Evil Twin ($50)
16. Matthews 2004 Hedges Vineyard Syrah ($50)
17. Dunham 2004 Lewis Vineyard Syrah ($75)
18. Leonetti Cellar 2003 Reserve ($100)
19. Boudreaux Cellars 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($80)
20. J Bookwalter 2005 Riesling ($16)
21. Syncline 2004 Milbrandt Vineyards Syrah ($22)
22. Owen Roe 2005 Sinister Hand Red ($24)
23. Buty 2005 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay ($30)
24. Januik 2003 Syrah ($30)
25. Syncline 2004 Cuvée Elena Grenache-Mourvèdre-Syrah ($35)
26. Kestrel 2003 Co-fermented Syrah ($37.50)
27. Spring Valley Vineyard 2004 Uriah ($40)
28. Basel Cellars 2004 Syrah ($42)
29. Pedestal 2003 Merlot (Long Shadows) ($45)
30. Robert Karl 2003 Inspiration Reserve Red ($45)
31.
Bergevin Lane 2003 Jaden's Reserve Syrah ($55)
32. Woodward Canyon 2003 Old Vines Dedication Series #23 ($75)
33. Rulo 2004 Syrah ($19)
34. Morrison Lane 2003 Syrah ($29)
35. Chandler Reach 2003 Monte Regalo ($22)
36. Seia 2004 Clifton Hill Vineyard Syrah ($23)
37. McCrea 2004 Ciel du Cheval Mourvèdre ($28)
38. Latitude 46 N 2004 Syrah ($28)
39. Hightower 2003 Merlot ($28)
40. Baer 2003 Ursa ($29)
41. Novelty Hill 2003 Syrah ($29)
42. Sineann 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
43. Alder Ridge 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
44. James Leigh 2003 Spofford Station Merlot ($32)
45. Isenhower 2004 River Beauty Syrah ($32)
46. Bunnell Family Cellar 2004 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah ($33)
47. Stevens 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
48. L'Ecole No 41 2004 Ferguson Commemorative Reserve Red ($45)
49. Walla Walla Vintners 2003 Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)
50. K Vintners 2003 The Creator ($55)
51. Townshend 2004 Viognier ($10)
52. Canoe Ridge 2004 Oak Ridge Vineyard Gewurztraminer ($13)
53. Sagelands 2003 Merlot ($13)
54. Three Rivers 2005 Meritage White ($19)
55. Wineglass Cellars 2002 Boushey Vineyard Syrah ($23)
56. Seven Hills 2003 Syrah ($25)
57.
Waters 2004 Interlude Red ($25)
58. Nota Bene 2003 Miscela Red ($26)
59. Beresan 2004 Syrah ($29)
60. O• S Winery 2004 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($30)
61. Saviah Cellars 2004 Une Vallée Red ($30)
62. Doyenne 2005 Roussanne ($31)
63. Woodinville Wine Cellars 2004 Ausonius ($35)
64. Sheridan 2003 Syrah ($38)
65. Walter Dacon 2004 C'est Syrah Magnifique ($38)
66. Northstar 2003 Syrah ($40)
67. Forgeron 2004 Boushey Vineyard Merlot ($46)
68. Fidélitas 2003 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)
69. Bonair 2005 Dry Gewurztraminer ($9)
70. Columbia Crest Grand Estates 2002 Shiraz ($11)

71. Arbor Crest 2003 Merlot ($15)
72. Alexandria Nicole 2005 Viognier ($16)
73. Chinook 2004 Semillon ($17)
74. Cedergreen Cellars 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($18)
75. Chatter Creek 2005 Viognier ($18)
76. San Juan Vineyards 2004 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay ($19)
77. Andrew Rich 2004 Cabernet Franc ($20)
78. Helix by Reininger 2004 Syrah ($22)
79. Brian Carter Cellars 2004 Oriana White ($24)
80.
Couvillion Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
81. Animale 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26)
82. Harlequin 2003 Cuvée Alexander ($29)
83. Maryhill 2003 Proprietor's Reserve Cabernet Franc ($32)
84. C.R. Sandidge 2004 Stone Tree Red ($34)
85. Gamache Vintners 2003 GV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

86. Barons V 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($48)
87. Pepper Bridge 2003 Merlot ($50)
88. Barnard Griffin 2005 Rosé of Sangiovese ($8)
89. Balboa 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)
90. Willow Crest 2003 Syrah ($16)
91. JM Cellars 2005 Viognier ($20)
92. Vin du Lac 2005 LEHM Dry Riesling ($21)
93. Zerba Cellars 2004 Merlot ($28)
94. Maghee Cellars 2002 Merlot ($28)
95. Col Solare 2003 ($70)
96. Hedges 2005 CMS White ($11)
97. Apex II 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($11)
98. Covey Run 2003 Merlot ($9)
99. Columbia Crest Two Vines 2003 Chardonnay ($8)
100.Snoqualmie Vineyards 2003 Syrah ($11)