Monday, March 31, 2008

aMaurice Malbec - 2005

I bought this particular bottle of wine back in November during the Fall Release weekend. You know, Fall Release? The weekend in November when Christophe of Cayuse invites his list to Walla Walla to pick up their futures and those of us who are not on the list take advantage of it in other fun ways? And it was - - a fun and very memorable Saturday for me. I tasted so many great wines! And one of those wines was a 2005 Malbec from aMaurice. It was a beautiful day, too. The sun was shining and there was a gorgeous view of the mountains from the winery.

The bottle has been sitting on top of the dining room wine rack and every time I walk by it beckons, “Yoo-hoo! Look at me! Unscrew me and pour me into a glass!” It finally got the best of me last Wednesday. I rationed it for three evenings and with every day, it became more interesting and just as tasty as the first night I opened it.

A beautiful inky plum color with a nose of dark fruit. It reminded me of a huckleberry coffee cake from a favorite family recipe made with the berries we picked during vacations in Montana. On the first evening I opened the bottle of aMaurice Malbec, the wine ended with a graham cracker finish. The next evening the wine seemed more intense with the same flavors, but with dark cocoa added. The third and final evening, the wine remained to be full bodied but with a pleasant bit of spice at the end. For me, I felt this wine, even on the third day, had all of the components that I enjoy in a red wine. Have you ever been sad to see a bottle of wine empty? And it wasn’t about the alcohol, it was all about the pleasure of the taste - - to the last drop.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Beloved Budo Kun Gone Wild In Walla Walla!

If you have been following the recent tawdry headlines in the wine blogging-smut rag aka as Wine.ing 20, then you are aware of the recent sex sting operation that landed three well-known wine mascots in jail, - Australia's own Little Penguin, the Yellowtail Kangeroo and Los Angeles based Domaine547's beloved Budo Kun. Budo Kun recently made headlines for going above and beyond, giving awards to loser wine blogs who weren't cool enough to be nominated for the American Wine Blog Award. (Hell no, we aint sore losers!) Shock, dismay, angst and a whole hell of a lot of hand wringing has run through the wine label critter community. After hearing the news, the authorities assisted Domaine's other mascot, Cheese Wedge into protective custody safe from the exploitations of Budo Kun. In the past, Budo Kun has made threats to Cheese Wedge with a cheese slicer and a fondue pot. But charges were dropped last year when Budo Kun tried to smother Cheese Wedge into a Kraft plastic single wrap and forced the little Swiss into a package of processed cheese.

In the mean time, Budo Kun has escaped police custody! It was a fiery shoot-out, but on-lookers reported Budo Kun never lost a drop or popped his cork. The news of Budo Kun has made the wine blogger's Twitter community, all a twitter, reporting Budo Kun sitings. He was recently seen in a taxi, leaving a party from a jet ski at the deserted island of Alcatraz. Later he was seen in a posh tanning salon with Britney Spears eating a Carl Jr's Double-Decker Bacon Lard Chili-burger (hold the lettuce, Britney's on a diet) and a mayonaise-banana milkshake. After dining, the two were seen arm in...in...ummm...well pants at a disco.

!!! News Flash!!! - the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman reports that Budo Kun was last seen brandishing a gun from the top of Walla Walla's local landmark, the Marcus Whitman Hotel. It looks like our little Budo Kun has put on a bit of weight. He has taken on the size of King Kong Kun and seen in several downtown Walla Walla tasting rooms. Yup, those big tannic monster Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignons will pack on some weight in a bottle in a matter of no time! What is next for Budo Kun? Will the local authorities capture him and stick him in the Washington State Penitentary in Walla Walla and make him peel Walla Walla Sweet Onions for the rest of his life?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Taste of the Terroir" at the Marcus Whitman

A total of six Winemaker's Weekend events are planned for the 2008 Winemaker's Dinner Series to be held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. The first event will be the weekend of April 18-19, featuring the "Women of Walla Walla Wine."

I was thrilled, and of course felt humbly honored to be invited to the "Test-Fire Dinner" that was held at Chef Bear’s table last week. It's true I am a woman, but I am no winemaker. The dinner was like a dress-rehearsal for the "Women of Walla Walla Wine" Winemaker's Dinner and definitely an exciting sneak-peak for me. Included in the wine event will be wines from Walla Walla women winemakers; Mary Tuuri Derby and Dawn Kammer from DaMa Wines, Marie-Eve Gilla from Forgeron Cellars, Holly Turner from Three Rivers, Ashley Trout from Flying Trout Winery, Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane from Bergevin Lane Vineyards, and Jill Noble from Couvillion Winery.

We "test fired" the menu and sampled seven courses with wine pairings giving Chef Bear, and hotel owner Kyle Mussman, an opportunity to work out the presentations and make notes about the dinner. Chef Bear said a "test fire dinner" such as this is useful for the wineries because it's often rare for the winemakers to preview a menu for a culinary event and be a part of the process. And being at the Chef's Table also gave us an opportunity to view the courses being prepared.

I definitely had my favorites. I don't want to tell all and should leave some surprises, but some of the highlights for me was Dama's elegant Chardonnay, a fried celeriac latke (oh yum!), "Intuition" - a black and smoky red blend from Bergevin Lane, melt in the mouth slices of pork, Forgeron's classic Zinfandel, and the dessert was a match made in wine-heaven for Three River's Late Harvest Gerwurztraminer. And will all of my favorites make it on the final list? I guess you will have to make reservations to find out!

Another event that you cannot miss is the Long Shadows Vintner's Winemaker's Dinner scheduled for the weekend of May 1-3. Kyle shared with me that not only will the dinner include Long Shadow's resident winemaker, Gilles Nicault, but also Napa Valley's Randy Dunn and Philippe Melka, John Duval from Australia and Armin Diehl from Germany. This is HUGE people! This is "wine-historic" to have some of the most famous winemakers in the world sitting at your dinner table. If you are a true wine aficionado then you cannot miss this event!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Winery Dogs of Walla Walla

If you love dogs and you love Walla Walla wines, then this is the book for you! It is a delightful tail-waggin' hardbound book produced and published by local business woman, Barb Whatley. The beautiful full color photos in the book are by acclaimed local photographer Timothy Hall.

Winery Dogs of Walla Walla features 77 very photogenic "woofs" of many breeds in their favorite environment - Walla Walla wineries! And with each dog is a story of how they came to live and work with their winery-humans at 47 of the Walla Walla Valley wineries. Total, there are 128 pages of full color photographs and also including vineyard scenes from the valley.

If you want to unleash this book and bring it home with you, contact me or Barb for more information.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The W5 Weekly Sniffs & Sips

You may have noticed something new on the sidebar of this blog, "Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine - Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman."

"The W5 Weekly Sniffs & Sips" - just a few short one-liners about up-and-coming news from around the Walla Walla Valley and also wine news from outside of the Valley that is of interest to the Walla Walla wine industry. These snippets may not be the full news, but often just a tasty amuse-bouche.

I promise to do my best to "sniff" out the Walla Walla wine news, so that you can "sip" it in.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Budo-Kun Wine Blog Black List Awards!

So, I may be wearing a big "L" on my forehead because I was rejected from every category in the 2008 American Wine Blog Awards, but that's okay. It's tough trying to explain to the judges that there is such a town they loved so much they named it twice - - Walla Walla. And yes, Walla Walla makes wine! But what do you expect from California judges?(I'm kidding Tom. Smoochies.)

In any event, I may be a loser when it comes to the AWBA, but I am a winner when it comes to the Budo-Kun Wine Blog Black List. I am an "Official Reject!" And I want to thank all of the little talking bottles and cheese wedges from Domaine547 who made it possible for me to accept this award. You love me! You really love me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Four Wine Questions For: Paul Gregutt

Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine will be celebrating its third year and I thought it was time to start a new blog feature. From time to time (hopefully once a month) you will see a new feature, “Four Wine Questions For” or in short, "4WQ4." Each “Four Wine Questions For” article will feature a four Q & A with a well-known person in the wine industry.

I am very excited to introduce my first interview. Paul Gregutt is a familiar face who has been covering the Washington State wine industry since the mid-1980’s. He is the wine advisor for the Seattle Times newspaper as well as wine advisor for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and Yakima Herald. Paul is a contributing editor for The Wine Enthusiast and writes the Pacific Northwest section of Tom Stevenson's annual Wine Report. He is also the author of Northwest Wines: A Pocket Guide to the Wines of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. And most recently authored a new book, Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide. This book has received applause from wine industry peers such as Oz Clarke, Eric Asimov, Natalie MacLean and others. If you love Washington wines or want to learn more about this exciting new wine area, this is the most comprehensive book on the topic.

Check out Paul’s future appearances with book signings and especially those in the Walla Walla area. And now on to "4WQ4:"

W5: What's the most interesting development you've seen in the Walla Walla wine industry over the past five years?

PG: I think that far and away the most interesting and important development is the maturation and exploration of vineyards in Walla Walla county. I remember when the total Walla Walla vineyard consisted of an acre behind the Figgins house and something called 7 Hills located rather inconveniently in Oregon. There was no significant planting in Walla Walla for many years. And without that intimate connection to the land, it is rather amazing that the earliest pioneers – Leonetti, Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole, were able to establish a meaningful AVA. In the last five years not only have some of the most important vineyard sites (such as Pepper Bridge and Spring Valley) come of age, but exciting new sites such as Upland and Loess have been established. Of course, the founding of Vinea, with its dedication to sustainable farming and renovating the land, is another important facet of the evolution taking place. And still more, even bigger projects are in the development stages, that will continue to expand and explore the existing boundaries of the Walla Walla AVA. As these vineyard projects are translated into actual wines, a meaningful assessment of the appellation will surely lead to the establishment of more precise sub-AVAs. I think that there are easily at least four sub-AVAs that already look pretty obvious, and possibly as many as six could evolve in the next decade or so. I would also hope to see an expansion of the basic Walla Walla AVA as far north as Prescott and Waitsburg. There is land up there just begging for vines to go in.

W5: Walla Walla has attracted several French-born winemakers -- Marie-Eve Gilla at Forgeron, Serge Laville at Spring Valley, Gilles Nicault at Long Shadows, Christophe Baron at Cayuse, Christophe Paubert at Canoe Ridge, and Virginie Bourgue at Cadaretta (new winery) and not to forget Michel Rolland's involvement at Long Shadows as well. Do you see the emergence of a French style in Walla Walla wines as a result of all these French ex-pats or is a style that's both distinct from France yet related to it emerging?

PG: Hey let’s not leave out J-F Pellet at Pepper Bridge, an honorary Frenchman who happened to be born in Switzerland! Yes, the appeal of Walla Walla to so many different, talented, and highly educated European winemakers is a tremendous asset in so many ways. I was so impressed with this trend that I devoted an entire chapter of my book to it. As for an emerging French style, I don’t think it’s quite that – it’s more of an emerging French approach to all facets of winemaking. I think one of the most striking examples of this is Christophe Baron’s early exploration of The Rocks. Being French, he saw the land differently than it had been seen before. He was looking at the same dirt, but he saw vineyard potential where others had not. And I think that was because he is French. Marie-Eve Gilla, with whom I just met last week, has a meticulous eye for vineyards also, and a particular interest in developing wines from some of the cooler sites. Virginie Bourgue is in Western Australia at the moment, part of an experiment in a cross-cultural exchange with another emerging wine region that favors a more moderate, European style. That is, wines with racier structure, higher acid, more minerality, less oak and far less alcohol than the California fruit-bombs that have dominated the New World for the past two decades. Tastes (as well as climates) are changing now, and the fact that these very talented French and European winemakers are moving to Washington – and particularly to Walla Walla – is not an accident. They see something special here, and they will certainly be a terrific asset to the future development of the wine industry here.

W5: How much larger can the Walla Walla wine industry grow, do you think? Is there a limit somewhere that will inevitable be reached?

PG: I think that the real limits on growth are 1) the cost of land and 2) the availability of water. I think that the AVA will likely run out of land suitable for vineyard development (which must include water rights) long before the global market is saturated with Walla Walla wines. That is not to say that some individual wineries will not fail along the way; this is a very competitive business. But the overall growth will continue until all the good vineyard sites are developed, or until it becomes too expensive to do any more. That same answer holds true for the entire state. Land prices and water rights are the defining issues. It used to be thought that climate was the limiting factor for Washington viticulture, but I think we can put that one aside for good. This is, after all, the perfect climate for wine... =[:-)

W5: Many of us know that you and your wife, Karen bought a 120+ year-old cottage in the small farming community of Waitsburg, located in the county of Walla Walla. Perhaps some people may envision Paul Gregutt as "cool wine-writer guy" (which you are) who counts his collection of fabulous wine living a glamous city life when at your home in Seattle. Waitsburg is quite the extreme from the Seattle area. So who is Paul Gregutt when he is at his cottage in Waitsburg?

PG: We discovered Waitsburg after a rather long and frustrating search for property in Walla Walla. We had driven up and down every dirt road we could find that led east, south and west, but somehow had not gone north. Krista and Mike Davis invited us to join them for dinner at a new restaurant that had just opened in the spring of 2005. That was the Whoopemup Hollow Café. We returned to Waitsburg the following month and started poking around. We looked at every house on the market, and picked the absolute worst-looking, ugliest wreck in the entire town. I give Karen full credit for that. I thought she was out of her mind. But we loved the little town, and the house was sitting on a nice lot, and so we took the plunge. It was probably the luckiest and best decision we’ve ever made. Who am I when I’m there? Well, I’m a more relaxed guy, that’s for sure, who finds time to yak with the neighbors, who is on a first-name and friendly basis with the mayor, most of the city council, most of the business owners and the publisher of the town paper. I have lots of time to sit on my porch and play guitar, and I feel good about being part of a community where your vote, your presence and your actions really make a visible difference. I still love the city life, and feel very fortunate, as does Karen, that our businesses are structured so as to enable us to live this dual existence. For me in particular, it is a tremendous asset to live half time in wine country. I don’t believe I could be an effective wine journalist living exclusively in the city.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eastern WA Meets Down Under WA

Last year, wine writer Paul Gregutt toured Western Australia wine country and conceived the idea for WA to meet WA - a winemaker exchange between the Wine Industry Association of Western Australia (WA) and the Washington Wine Commission (WA). It will be the first ever region-to-region winemaker exchange program. Both areas of WA share more than the same acronym, as they are both cool-climate regions dominated by boutique producers making ultra-premium wines. Also, both regions make up less than four percent of their nation's wine production. Washington State and Western Australia are known to produce higher acidic and more refined wines. And like all countries in the southern hemisphere (south of the Equator) the seasons in Australia are opposite from ours. Australia's crush is in February/March and of course, ours is September/October. The time differences really makes for ideal circumstances for each winemaker.

Virginie Bourgue, winemaker for Walla Walla's new Cadaretta Winery (formerly of Bergevin Lane), will be the first winemaker from Washington State to be part of the exchange. Bourgue is currently in Western Australia with winemaker Larry Cherubino from The Yard Winery/Cherubino Wines. And Cherubino will join Bourgue at Cadaretta in Walla Walla during the 2008 Washington crush this fall. For both winemakers, this will be their first visit to "The other WA."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring Forward

A small gift to celebrate the extra hours of sunlight - the trailer for the new movie, "Bottle Shock." Set in the 1970s, based on the story behind the birth of the Napa wine industry that culminates in the triumph of California wines over French wines at the 1976 Paris Tastings - also known as, like the story from Greek Mythology, The Judgement of Paris (and we aint talking Paris Hilton's day in court, either). Starring the ever crushworthy Bill Pullman (Sleepless in Seattle and While You Were Sleeping) who plays the California winery owner and Alan Rickman who plays...well...Alan Rickman and Harry Potter's Professor Snape. But Rickman's character is the British wine merchant who sets up the historical tasting and no matter what part Rickman plays, he is one of the best.

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water." - Galileo Galilei


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #43

Today's WBW theme was chosen by Joel Vincent of Wine Life Today and the theme is "Comfort Wines." Joel asked that we choose a wine, any wine that we love to unwind to and what makes the experience special and relaxing for us.

I had to stop and think about it for a minute because there are so many wines that I love to relax with, but the one wine that kept coming back to me was Waterbrook Melange - - and why is that? I started to think back about the many times I sat down to a glass of Waterbrook Melange and most of the time there was family involved. Many a trip to Spokane with my sister to visit my "kidlets" for the weekend. The routine was this: once settled at my daughter's house on the South Hill, down the block we go to the local market and we hit the wine section. Usually the first wine we saw - - Waterbrook Melange and always at an affordable price. It's always like old home week for us when we see it out of town. It's like our security blanket. Later in the weekend we usually shop at our favorite store in Spokane, Cost Plus World Market and stock up on their fabulous buys of wine, incense, candles, imported soaps, silk pillows, cool kitchen gadgets, imported pastas, spices and chocolates and usually one of the first wines we see and often at a special sale price - - Waterbrook Melange. After a shopping spree and stocking up on Melange, there is hardly any room in the car for us! Looking back, Waterbrook Melange came out at baby showers and christenings, family backyard gatherings and even a family camp-out in Montana - - Melange seems to find it's way to our table.

Waterbrook Melange, produced in the Walla Walla Valley, is a vintage red blend that has been around for almost a decade. Usually a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah; it has a very smooth velvetty style that goes down very easy and yet, not complicated. I don't have to think about this wine, it just makes me relaxed. And it pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It's dense, dark, like a mouth full of chocolate, cherries and dark berries with a long finish of caramel - - like a Rolo candy. And if you care about points, the Wine Spectator has been good to this wine.

Now you might think this seems odd, but everytime I taste Waterbrook Melange it tastes like Autumn in Walla Walla. And don't ask why or what Autumn tastes like, but there must be something about the taste that seems to trigger a special moment or event in that time frame. And perhaps that's it - - when I have a glass of Melange I am finally taking a break and often relaxing with family. Autumn seems to do that to me, it forces me to start slowing down.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Food & Wine Magazine - Terrific Washington State Reds

The March issue of Food & Wine Magazine has an article named,Terrific Washington State Reds and following up with their Twenty Top Bottles. Senior Wine Editor, Ray Isle tasted a total of 105 red wines from Washington State. And in that total included Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Syrahs and Blends. Obviously to choose only 20 wines was a difficult task and as the article states, "one of the most difficult selections he’s (Isle) ever had to make" And to quote Food & Wine, "Across the board, quality was remarkably high—a testimony to how exciting Washington state wines are right now."

Duh - last year after Long Shadows of Walla Walla won Food & Wine award for Winery of the Year, Lettie Teague, Food & Wine’s executive wine editor said "...she has admired the incredible ambition of this project...to prove the potential of Washington wines." The potential? Ya think? Like I commented last time. Where've ya been Lettie? Washington's wines have long passed the "potential." They are here and making quite a statement!

The article also mentions that Washington state is no doubt the best source in the US for Merlot, in spite of the negative publicity the Merlot grape has been given. The comment about Merlot makes me happy to read. For the last eight years I have been up against a group of peers from San Francisco who flamed me to burnt embers everytime I mentioned a fabulous Merlot from WA state. Comments were made like, "And did you pair your Merlot with tater tots? Why are you drinking wine that is only meant for blending?" Hmmph...they must not have thought highly of their California Merlot. But lately I have noticed when I mention drinking a great Merlot from WA, I don’t hear a peep...perhaps they are now eating their crow with a great Washington State Merlot?

Here is a small list of the Twenty Top Bottles as I will just list those from Walla Walla, but please check out the remainder of the list. It's quite a price range from $75 - $15, again showing quality doesn’t always have to lighten the purse:

Reininger Walla Walla Merlot - 2003
Pepper Bridge Walla Walla Merlot - 2005
Amavi Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005
Fort Walla Walla Cellars Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005
Gramercy Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah - 2005
Waterbrook Mélange Red - 2005

And listing the star selections (drum roll):

Tamarack Cellars Columbia Valley Merlot - 2005
Woodward Canyon Old Vines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pemco Profile #96 - Walla Walla Wine Wine Woman Woman

At the beginning of their ad campaign, I wonder if Pemco Insurance knew there really was such person when they originally created Northwest Profile #96 - Walla Walla Wine Wine Woman Woman - for their radio and internet commercials, "...the only person who would pair a wine with an onion..." Next to Profile #76 - The Super-Long Coffee Orderer guy, the Walla Walla Wine Wine Woman Woman made me laugh so hard I was in tears!

Even if my "character" wasn't in this ad, I would still think this is one of the most clever insurance ad campaigns I have seen in a long time (tired of lizards and cavemen), but the amusing thing is that the majority of these Northwest Profiles, I feel like I know! Especially the coffee order guy, socks and sandal guy, and 50 degrees shirt off guy. Anyways, I thank Pemco Insurance and their "Northwest Profiles - A Helpful Guide to the People of the Northwest" campaign for giving me a link and a good laugh. I am flattered. (do I get a free Walla Walla Wine Wine Woman Woman t-shirt?)

The ol' gray mare...

You remember the words to the song. To sum it up - the brain still thinks young, but the body is having trouble keeping up. An example - it reads like a Mastercard commercial:

Take one Friday evening;

Over 20 bottles of wine (including a vertical of six with the recent vintage right from the barrel and also including two bottles of wine yet to be released) and somewhere in there was a bottle or two of Champagne;

One large wheel of French raclette;

Two raclette grills and all the fixin's;

Two bottles of cognac;

Toss in two French winemakers;

Priceless - but one still pays a price come Saturday morning. 'bucks beans sure are noisy when they hit the grinder.