Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Release Weekend: D' Vine Wine Tasting Etiquette

Listen up Wine Tourists!

Ya know, you weren't the first ones to "find" Walla Walla. Lewis & Clark got here way before you ever did. Same with Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisnhower (my grandma's cousin) and even Richard Nixon. However, you're the lucky ones as we now have lots of tasty wine to offer you - - perhaps that's the reason why Lewis, Clark, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nixon never came back - - if they only knew?

We love you. We really do and we want you to enjoy yourself so you will come back. In fact, Walla Walla Spring Release Weekend is this weekend, May 2-4. Always the first weekend of May, this is the time for wineries to present the “fruits” of their hard labor. Recent news from other wine regions regarding limousine-riding bacchants taking advantage of free alcohol, will hopefully bring to our valley some insight on how to avoid these incidents, ensuring that both the tourists and the wineries have memorable, safe and successful events. One way of preventative medicine are tasting fees. Fees can assist the wineries overhead, as well as weed out the bacchanal from the oenophile (and it’s okay for two people to share one glass and pay only one tasting fee). There really aren’t any “rules” when it comes to visiting tasting rooms. There is no “wine etiquette police” ready to write you a citation. Just by using common sense and courtesy will get you a long way. Remember, using wine etiquette really isn’t any different as if you were an invited guest to someone’s home, but we’re giving you permission to spit.

When starting out for a day of wine tasting, pack in the proteins and hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! Pack water with you or whenever a winery has water to offer - - drink that H20! And as far as breakfast: now is not the time to crunch on some damn granola-cardboard bar. If your accomodations are only pinching out some poofy-foofy little "French" pastry (it can't be French if it's made in Washington), head to the nearest Le Mac Shac and get an Egg-0-MacMuffbutt! You get the picture - - protein-protein-protein! Hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! Proteins! Carbs! Proteins Carbs! Hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! And by the way, don't grumble when asked for I.D., be flattered you don’t look your age! It’s for your protection and the winery. In the mean time, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate!

Okay, now that we have you fed and watered - - after seven years of pouring wine to the masses during these event weekends, I have developed my small list of pet peeves that might give some insight on behavior to avoid while wine tasting.

Put down the cell phone and no one will get hurt:
You’re really not that important, are you? If you are, perhaps your secret service men can take your calls. Take your conversation outside and away from the tasting room. Entering a tasting room oblivious to others, with loud phone chatter can break the ambiance between staff and other visitors. You wouldn’t walk into your host’s house that way, would you?

Thanks, but I’ll pass on the glass of Eau d’ Toilette:
Nothing worse than a self-proclaimed wine “expert” that reeks of the perfume counter. If you really are a “wine expert," then you know that cologne, perfume and even fragrance enhanced hair and body products can offend the olfactory system. You may not be able to smell yourself, but everyone in the tasting room can, making their Merlot taste like grandpa’s “Old Spice.”

I love children, especially for breakfast with cream and sugar:
Seriously, I really do love children and have two adorable granddaughters that are four and almost three years old. Even one of the granddaughters has been wine tasting with me (she usually wears a tiara and a purple princess dress with purple athletic shoes). While wine tasting is a 21+ environment, wine tasting can be a fun family event with some planning and especially keeping in mind visiting larger wineries who are set up with pic-nic areas. But please be mindful of other adults who may have paid for a baby sitter to provide them an adult weekend away. Children can get bored, tired, hungry and when it's nap time, pay attention to them and don't keep tasting wine! How would you like to be kept from your nap? Please keep the little ones within an "eye's reach." The tasting room staff's sole purpose is not to be your nanny and monitor the children from climbing racks of barrels and playing with bottles of wine. So we should put the wine in plastic bottles and move all the barrels in locked storage because you don't want to watch your own children? (ummm - you know who you are.)

Pimp your ride, but un-pimp the attitude:
As you know, drinking and driving is dangerous, so a designated driver is encouraged. Hiring a limousine service is a safe and fun way to enjoy wine tasting with friends. However, being chauffeured in a limousine doesn’t give you carte blanc to get drunk and assume you are exclusive because you have the biggest-effing car in the parking lot. Eat well and drink lots of water (hydrate-hydrate-hydrate!) Most wineries are very generous with pours, so limit the number of wineries you visit in a day. Once you reach your sixth winery, the taste buds become fatigued and you probably won’t remember what you tasted anyway. Be considerate of individual public hours and don’t use the wineries for your free happy hour.

So now that I have told you my pet peeves, have I skeered (cross between "scared and steered") from wine tasting? Don't let it. Just remember, wine etiquette is pretty simple. Pace yourself and don't try and visit every winery just because they are “there.” Remember, chances are pretty great that the winery you may have missed on this Spring Release, will be here the next time you come back to Walla Walla.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guest Blog: The Wine Life on Earth Day

The new issue of a certain wine publication arrived in the mail the other day -- the magazine with an ad for a $28,000 wristwatch on the back cover. Inside, after passing by ads for Porsche, a company ready to manage my investment portfolio, “the world’s largest five-diamond resort” and a couple of more watches that each cost more than a college education, I learned a little bit about chardonnay, Chilean cabernet, absurdly expensive tuna and the most expensive places to dine while touring Ontario, Canada’s wine region.

Wine is a farm product, an earth product. Great wines are made in the vineyard, so the cliché goes, but it’s true, and the best winemakers are either farmers themselves (a vigneron, to use the French word) or they work so closely with their vineyard sources that they might as well be farmers. The winemakers I know and admire the most can’t wash the dirt from under their fingernails or the purple stains from their shirts; a hundred tubes of sunblock cannot fade the hat lines drawn across their foreheads. One of my favorite winemakers still likes to wear a 4-H t-shirt he’s had since he was a teen 4-H’er. Another can never be reached on the office phone because he’s always outside working on his vines. Still another’s hobby, repairing the slow, noisy vineyard truck, isn’t really a hobby at all, it’s a constant necessity. (He has dirt and grease under his fingernails.)

Steve Brooks, the winemaker at Trust Cellars in Walla Walla told me recently that winemaking “is 98 percent moving stuff around. About one a half percent is cleaning. And half a percent, I estimate, is the wine part.” That’s at the winery. The rest of it, the big part of it, is digging, staking, trellising, pruning, cutting, thinning, irrigating, harvesting and, most of all, worrying -- about rain, heat, cold, frost, insects, mildew, leaf rust, berry rot, rodents, birds and the biohazards visitors might bring in on the soles of their shoes. (And don’t forget to leave the gates as you found them.)

The glossy magazines out there promoting a “wine lifestyle” never seem to include farming in this supposed way of life, though restaurants, hotels and automobiles, not to mention wristwatches, that cost a mortgage seem to be involved. Sure, there are lots of lovely photos of vineyards and wineries -- but the ads these magazines carry mostly pander to a class of living that’s way beyond the means of most farmers, including grape-growers. But farming is the authentic wine lifestyle. From a great bottle of wine, great farming is what you taste.

Earth -- and Earth Day -- first! as they say.
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Steve Bjerklie has written about the food and wine industries for nearly 30 years. He helped introduce Walla Walla's wines to the world in 2005 when The Economist magazine in London published his story "The French Touch," which described the several ex-pat French winemakers working in Walla Walla. Steve also writes about Washington wines and vineyards for Washington CEO, Mid-Columbian magazine and for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin's new magazine, Lifestyles.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Seven Highlights from Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Open House!

Why seven? I dunno. Why not?

1. My four-year old granddaughter dressing for the occasion in a purple princess dress and tiara. Her idea, of course. Last year it was all about the Wiggles (yes, she dressed up as Captain FeatherSword) and this year Princesses.

2. Tasty and beautiful assortment of French cheeses catered from Executive Chef Caren at Green Gables Inn. Guests raved about the presentation.

3. Landlord wants me to have an open house gathering every month - - ummm - - say what, Lexie?

4. Tasting some great Walla Walla wines!

5. Releasing the new Walla Walla Wine Woman poster.

6. The new indoor sign (Steve, it is gorgeous!)

7. And last but not least, seeing the many faces of friends, family and especially meeting lots of new friends! I was overwhelmed!

See what you missed out on by not signing up to be on the mailing list A couple of more gatherings planned for the year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Washington State vs New York Rieslings - Who Will Win?

We had a wonderful time visiting with Gary Vay!Ner!Chuk! of Wine Library TV last week at Taste Washington 2008. On a one-to-one with Gary, we discussed not only Washington State wines, but Gary shared with us the possibility of him creating a new wine rating point system. With Washington State taking a new interest in one of their original grapes the Riesling, this episode #440 of the "Thunder Show" from Qwest Field in Seattle, Gary Vaynerchuk shows us a taste-off between Washington State and New York State Rieslings. I don't want to tell everything about this episode, but I am pleased to say it may be one of the reasons why Poet's Leap Riesling from Long Shadows is "leaping" off the shelves at the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. The winery is officially out but they found a few extra for me!!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Seven Highlights from "Feast Walla Walla - A Celebration of Fine Food, Wine, and Art!"

There were many, but I chose just a few:

1. Who ordered the perfect weather? And thanks for not choosing July!

2. Bless the person(s) who asked to see my ID. After spending a day with my four-year old granddaughter, I needed that sweet bit of kindness.

3. Nice choice of wine glasses - the Spiegelau?

4. The BBQ shrimp and grits with the garnish of fried plantain from the Marcus Whitman. OH YUM!

5. Tom Maccarones meatballs from old family recipe. Another OH YUM!

6. The beautiful crisp roses reminding us that summer is on the way from: Buty Winery, Sleight of Hand and Three Rivers Winery.

7. For a first event it was a good showing of the major components: attendees, wine, food, art and music.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seven Highlights From "Taste Washington - The Ultimate Taste Experience"

There were many, but I chose just a few:

1. The hospitality and attention to detail that was given to us from Veronica White with the MWW Group for the Washington Wine Commission.

2. Banana bread pudding paired with Va Piano’s Cabernet Sauvignon served in the Media "Kasbah" Tent. Who knew it would be such an exquisite pairing?

3. Great seeing so many old friends and smiling faces from Walla Walla.

4. Couldn’t break myself away from the Kumamoto section of the Elliot Bay Oyster Bar.

5. Too many laughs with Ilan Hall, Bravo TV’s Top Chef Winner Season 2 - - and he introduced me to his girlfriend. Both were very cute.

6. Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV kissed my hand.

7. Too many great wines, so I was bad - - did more swallowing than spitting.

Okay - I am stepping away from the blog now and going back on "vacation."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spring Break For The Walla2 Wine Woman!

It’s needed. Now, I am not going any place exotic. Just some time at home and maybe a few overnight trips. You know, I need a different routine for a few days. I haven’t taken any time off since my family dragged me camping to Montana in July for a much needed time away from everything - - everything, except the mosquitos, yellow jackets and wine, of course.

It’s time to get outdoors and get the lawn, patio,decks and herb and rose gardens ready for warmer weather. This season I made an executive decision - the dandelions won’t get the best of me so I hired "professional killers" to knock them down.

Steve and I have a few get-aways planned. The highlights are Taste Washington - "The Ultimate Taste Experience" in Seattle. Lots of wine to taste! Then the following weekend we’ll be attending an Elton John concert in Pullman. Can you believe, of all places, Sir Elton at Beasley Auditorium and not once - - twice? And in-between those two events, I will be hosting a Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Open House for my W5 customers. If you haven’t added your name to my mailing list, it’s not to late to get an invite as to what, where, when and the open house specials. Send an email or add your name to the W5 Mailing List ASAP. I will make myself available to return emails and process orders, but I won't be back to blogging until after the 15th. Maybe, I will take some time and do a quick blog entry here and there - - - naaahhh - - - or maybe not! Cheers! C~