Friday, May 30, 2008

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou

A little weekend gift from the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. Enjoy the music of Edith Piaf, "The French Sparrow" with a fine wedge of French cheese, a baguette and a glass of cool crisp rose'. Sante!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mondovino

It took me three years, but I finally made it a priority to watch Mondovino during the holiday weekend (and rather purposely with the passing of Robert Mondavi). This documentary had many stars of the wine world - Mondavi, Parker, and Rolland. One couldn't find a better cast and with the honesty of a home movie, at times out of focus or wandering away from the person speaking, one couldn't ask for a better script. If you do not care for subtitles, then this movie isn't for you. For me, there's nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon than to take in a foreign film and even better with subtitles (a lot of French, Italian and a bit of Spanish and Portuguese is spoken).

Nominated at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, this movie is definitely made with wine-geeks in mind. If you enjoy the politics and the technicalities of wine, this two hour journey of Old World wines meet the homogenization of New World via Mondavi, then this is the film for you. If you are expecting a sequel to Sideways with Hollywood glib, yet memorable one-liners of wine and middle-aged angst - - don't bother. And I can give you some spoilers since there isn't a plot and no surprise ending.

Filmmaker and director Jonathan Nossiter takes us on a journey around the world visiting familar faces of the wine industry and no-so familar faces - - old men in their vineyards speaking their opinions and their poetic wine quotes (who one later admits they come up with the quotes just for the wine journalists). There is also the delightful and ever presence of dogs at every vineyard and every winery throughout this ambitious film.

The familiar face of Michel Rolland is seen as he travels in his chauffered Mercedes visiting his client's wineries advising them to "micro-oxygenate" their wines. He is delightful and funny, with a touch of well-deserved arrogance. Interesting as this technique seems to be his answer for every client-winery. And of course, it made me wonder, did Monsieur Rolland advise Long Shadows in Walla Walla to micro-oxygenate his Long Shadow's project, Pedestal? Later one of the old men in the vineyards would declare that Monsieur Rolland, a Pomerol man, was producing "Pomerols" all around the world.

The film takes us back and forth from the Old World of Europe (and later to South America) to the New World of America. In New York City we "visit" with a wine importer, Neal Rosenthal. Rosenthal drives through Brooklyn while navigating with one hand on the steering wheel with the ease of a cab driver. He passes a cement jungle of old architecture in an dominant area of multi-cultures. As he passes black toddlers playing in the streets and Hassidic Jews on their way to shul, of this area he considers home he exclaims, "This is terroir!"

There are some uncomfortable parts of the film such as Sheri Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards in California, speaks about their Hispanic employees and how "good they are to them" because the Staglins know their worker's first names and give them free t-shirts - - great - - let's hand Shari a Nobel Peace Prize.

Also in the United States, we get to see a one-dimensional Robert Parker (nicknamed the Ayatollah of Terroir) at home posed like a Norman Rockwell portrait on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. He seems like any normal guy with a messy desk, statues of bulldogs everywhere and perhaps his casual style could make us believe he was a man with a Budweiser-Lite palate.

Meanwhile, back in France, we visit with Hubert de Montille who is located in Volnay. His winery of many generations can boast of some of the most prized Pinot Noirs in all of Burgundy. In fact, Monsieur Montille's forehead graces the film's cover poster. Oddly enough we see him being interviewed with a wadded up piece of tissue or cotton in his left nostril to contain either a bloody or a runny nose.

Back again (yes this film "jet-sets" back and forth) in the New World of America, we visit (kind of) with the wine man himself, Robert Mondavi. Mondavi’s assistant suggests to the director how to film Mr. Mondavi as he just came from the dermatologist after having a mole removed from his face. They didn’t want the band-aid to show, while the elder French winemaker, Montille also a prominent attorney in Dijon who inherited the Domaine de Montille back in 1951, vanity doesn't seem to be a problem for him as he interviews with the wad of tissue in his nose.

The interview with the Mondavi's is a haunting one. Michael Mondavi is the spokesperson for his family business while Robert sits in the background as still as a portrait. Perhaps not to show his band-aid? Michael shares the Mondavi vision of blending Old World with New World and of their acquisitions around the world. His eyes become rather eerie and glazed as he dreams about making wine on Mars.

I tried to keep an open mind while watching this film and chose to ignore that the director had an agenda. One might feel the movie reeked of a Michael Moore documentary exposing the Wal-mart mentality of wines. Instead, I chose to view the film as more of a study of characters. Alas, for me there were no heros or villians in this film. When it is all said and done, our cast of characters, no matter their actions whether it be globalization or carrying on a tradition, one cannot deny they still have one thing in common - - the love of the grape.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's On My Mind

Sure - Walla Walla wine is on my mind, but believe it or not sometimes other things are as well. Take this long Memorial Day weekend - Friday afternoon I made up a few flower pots to take to the cemetery that evening. I seem to have a routine. My father and grandparents get the posies and some attention to detail of their graves and stones. Along the way I visit the graves of an uncle, "Charlie and Alice" (adopted grandparents) and one of my best friends who died of an illness when we were both in our mid-twenties. I had been her maid-of-honor and she was a new mother. Of course, I couldn't help notice all of the American flags flying from the soldier's graves. It got me to thinking about our current war situation. My daughter is employed at the Veterans Hospital in Spokane. She shares with me some of the special needs of her patients and their families. Her patients are men and women who have lost a limb or have a severe head injury and it is up to her to take care of their needs whether it be counseling and/or prosthetics and usually both. And of course, there isn't enough money to assist, but we keep sending more men and women over. My father's generation of WWII soldiers came home heroes. My brother's generation of Viet Nam soldiers came home to persona-non-grata. How will we meet this new generation of veterans?

Gas is $4 a gallon. At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I remember as a kid when my dad would "loan" me a buck and I could drive around in the 1966 Ford Mustang for at least two evenings with my friends. I try really hard to find a positive side to negative situations and the best is that perhaps the high gas prices kept our locals home and their shopping dollars into Walla Walla's economy instead of elsewhere this weekend. That's the best I can come up with right now.

The polar bear is on the endangered species list. They cannot become extinct. I believe that the loss of another animal brings us that much closer to our own extinction.

Then the LA Times has an ambitious young Gen-X reporter who says it is time for Baby Boomers to stifle themselves (and if I listened to her, I wouldn't be blogging right now). In her article, titled The millstone of boomer milestones," it seems as if Ms. Daum is tired of nostalgia and the references to the music of Dylan, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. She's tired of our anniversaries of Kent State, Woodstock, Earth Day and the day the Beatles broke up. She writes:

So boomers set the tone for everyone. Their tastes, needs and values are considered America's default setting. They turn 60, and it warrants magazine covers. They get a cold, and the world sneezes with them...

I quite don't know how to respond to such an article other than: "Boo-hoo!"

Last but not least, wine shipping laws suck! We have the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) calling on the states (or is that more like greasing palms?) to limit and enforce interstate wine shipping. The WSWA wants to control all wine sales making them the middle man, which would not allow me to work directly with the local wineries. However, they will tell us that their reason for control is not out of monopoly, oh no, but originally it was "all about the children." You know - - to keep the children safe from buying $35 bottles of wine over the internet with their American Express credit cards, waiting three days for delivery and hoping to make it home during recess to fake an adult signature in front of the UPS man. What selfless saints the WSWA have been! Didn't pop-star Michael Jackson say the same thing "it's all about the children"?

Okay - so that argument about protecting the children didn't go well and now the WSWA has a new reason why they should control all wine sales - - they want to save the consumer from tainted or counterfeit products in the market place. As an example here is what they are saying - before I buy a bottle of Walla Walla wine from a local winery to sell in my small and meek little wine store, it needs to go through a wholesale distributor first who is a member of the WSWA and they will "inspect" the wine and then I can buy the wine from the wholesaler instead of the winery and of course, the WSWA will want their cut for their inspection and then I can tack on that extra cost to my customers or try to keep my little business - - in business with less profit. And by the way, how do they "inspect" this wine? Do they hire Superman with his x-ray vision?

And to make matters worse, we have the largest internet wine retailer in America who a few months ago was running their own "sting operations" on small wine businesses like myself. They took it upon themselves to make sure everyone was in compliance by sending illegal wine orders to small wine stores to see if the small wine business would take their bait. If so, the small wine biz would be reported by the largest wine retailer in America - - and one of the stings happened right here in Washington State. Shouldn't the largest internet wine retailer be setting an example for the rest of us by minding their own business, being the very best they can be and then they wouldn't have to worry about the little businesses?

And it gets worse - the politicians of Illinois decided that their residents should not be allowed to have wine shipped to them from Internet wine shops and out-of-state wine stores as reported today in the Chicago Tribune. Illinois wine lovers have had the freedom to buy wine interstate now for 15 years, but next week their right of choosing what wines to drink will be limted. Basically Illinois wine lovers will only be able to drink the wines that a member of the WSWA chooses for them to drink and probably the most significant thing is that the state of Illinois might as well flipped a middle-finger to the U.S. Constitution. Didn't the U.S. Supreme Court recently rule: "States may not enact laws that burden out-of-state producers or shippers simply to give a competitive advantage to in-state businesses." So if you want to send a prized Walla Walla wine to your Aunt Martha for Christmas - - no way. It's against the law.

So that is what is on my mind today and in a few minutes I am going to give my mind a rest and settle in with a nice glass of wine and thank my lucky stars that for now - - I still have some choices in the wine I drink,

Friday, May 23, 2008

In Memory of Port - The Three Legged Dog

The Dunham Family announced yesterday the passing of Port. Port was known to us all as the "Three Legged Dog" whose label graced the famous red wine blend. The Dunham Cellars label made many a dog lover smile and the story of his rescue by winemaker Eric Dunham touched our hearts. Thank you Eric for giving Port a long and very good life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The NorthWest Wine Summit: The Results!

The results were posted this morning from the NorthWest Wine Summit and let me say, there is no doubt it was a lot of work to prepare the list from the final judging results. I know, as being a judge it was a lot of work deciding who would receive medals and unfortunately, who would not. I will post a partial list, including medal winning wines from Walla Walla. However, you can review the complete 2008 Results at the NorthWest Wine Summit.

An interesting note: one of the panels I sat on was with a winemaker from Canada. Kelly and I really struggled with each other (and always done in fun) as she and I could not agree on any of the Merlots or red blends we tasted. She wanted to put medals on those wines that were much softer and less tannic, while I wanted the opposite. It became quite amusing when she would say, "I give the wine a 3, but I know Catie will give it a 13...", which 13 is the highest score for a gold medal. This was a good learning experience for me regarding different palates and various styles from different regions and most of all - - a good example that all tastebuds are NOT created equal (this alone is a good argument on why not to be a "Parker Bitch").

Congratulations to all of the medal winners in Walla Walla! Also, I would like to congratulate LaFrenz Winery from the Okanagan Valley in Canada. Steve and I met owners and winemaker, Jeff and Niva Martin during the 2007 Walla Walla Barrel Tasting. We struck up a conversation with them over a great local syrah and the conversations continued as we met them at other wineries. They won 16 medals from this competition! We are hoping to plan a trip up north to visit their winery. It tickles me that many of the wines from Walla Walla and even from LaFrenz, I later found out that I was in the panels responsible for giving them medals - - and of course, I didn't have a clue at the time.
Partial List
The 2008 NorthWest Wine Summit Results

Best of Show:
Mission Hill Family Estate -
2006 Select Lot Collection Riesling Icewine Okanagan Valley, BC Canada VQA

Crystal Rose Awards (to include):
Best Non-Grape/Fruit Wine
Sea Mist Winery NV Cranberry/Raspberry Oregon (note: I recommend - seriously. Took us all by surprise!)
Best White Wine
La Frenz Estate Winery2007 Viognier Okanagan Valley
Best Red Wine
Koenig Vineyards2006 Cuvee Amelia Reserve Syrah Snake River Valley
Best Desert Wine
Gray Monk Estate Winery2006 Kerner Okanagan Valley
Best Ice Wine
Mission Hill Family Estate2006 Select Lot Collection Riesling Icewine Okanagan Valley, BC Canada VQA
Best Fortified Wine
La Frenz Estate WineryLiqueur Muscat Okanagan Valley
Best Sparkling Wine
Domaine Ste Michelle2001 Luxe Columbia Valley
Best Ros├ę Wine
Harbinger Winery2006 Lemberger Rose Red Mountain

Mount Rainier Award – Best of Washington (Co-winners and both Walla Walla)
Reininger Winery2005 Malbec Walla Walla Valley
Northstar Winery2004 Merlot Columbia Valley

Gold Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Dunham Cellars 2005 Lewis Vineyard Syrah
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Semillon Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Syrah Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Estate Perigee Walla Walla Valley Seven Hills Vineyard
Northstar Winery 2004 Merlot Columbia Valley
Patit Creek Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Malbec Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Carmenere Walla Walla Valley
Saviah Cellars 2005 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Syrah Columbia Valley
Sweet Valley Wines 2006 Double Barrel Red Walla Walla Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2004 Boushey Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2005 Malbec-Merlot Columbia Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Artist Series No. 14 Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley

Silver Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2007 Calico White Columbia Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2006 Viognier Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Estate Grown Merlot Walla Walla Valley
Dunham Cellars 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Fries Vineyard Semillon Wahluke Slope
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Semillon Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Merlot Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc Washington State
Mannina Cellars 2006 Merlot Walla Walla
Mannina Cellars 2006 Sangiovese Walla Walla
Reininger Winery 2002 Cima Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Helix Syrah Columbia Valley
Saviah Cellars 2005 Big Sky Cuvee Columbia Valley
Saviah Cellars 2006 Une Vallee Walla Walla Valley
Saviah Cellars 2006 Syrah Red Mountain
Spring Valley Vineyard 2005 Uriah Merlot Blend Walla Walla Valley
Tamarack Cellars 2006 Firehouse Red Columbia Valley
Tamarack Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2006 Biscuit Ridge Vineyard Late Harvest Gew├╝rztraminer Walla Walla
Three Rivers Winery 2005 Champoux Vineyard Merlot Horse Heaven Hills
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Merlot Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Syrah Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Wild Z Columbia Valley

Bronze Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2007 Merlot Columbia Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Walla Walla Valley Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Anniversary Cuvee Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Dedication Two Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Merlot Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Chardonnay Columbia Valley
Mannina Cellars 2006 Cali RTW Walla Walla
Patit Creek Cellars 2005 Merlot Walla Walla Valley
Sweet Valley Wines 2007 Viognier Walla Walla Valley
Watermill Winery 2005 Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2006 Chardonnay Washington

Congratulations to everyone! It was an honor to have been part of this event!

The NorthWest Wine Summit: The Experience

This year the NorthWest Wine Summit (NWWS), and always held at the historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, Oregon, completed its thirteenth year on April 27-29, 2008. And I am proud to say I was one of the 20 judges chosen for this event. What a three-day whirlwind it was as I met an assortment of very talented people from the wine and food industry. Ten judges were chosen from the West Coast (including Canada) and ten from the East Coast. What was so unexpected for me was to finally meet people who I may have corresponded with through email or at least read their name somewhere in a trade magazine. I was able to put names with faces and strike up friendships.

Now you might immediately think that tasting over 1,280 wines from all over the NorthWest would be a lot of fun - - well it was, but it was also a lot of hard work and by the time I left the mountain on the third day, I didn't care if I had another glass of wine again. Of course, you spit and hydrate constantly, but there is still some alcohol residual that seeps in (and sometimes you discover a wine that tastes so wonderful you cheat and maybe swallow - - just a bit). Yup, we tasted wines from Alaska, Canada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and of course, Washington. From 8:30 am until 7:30 pm we were tasting wines with a 45 minute lunch break. And let me say by Monday afternoon you are looking at your judging-comrades and thinking how embarassed you are for them because of their purple teeth and tongue - - until you catch a glimpse of your own reflection in the mirror.

How was Timberline Lodge? Even better than I remembered the last time I was there in 1976 - over thirty years ago. Back then I wasn't there to taste wine (although we drank several Singapore Slings at the Rams Head Bar between ski breaks). However, I was one of the fortunate judges as my room was on the third floor and not one of the "snow caves" - meaning the rooms on the first and second floor, the snow was so deep they couldn't see out of their windows. My view was breathtaking onlooking snow covered slopes and trees. We were also 6,000 feet up, which explained why my luggage seemed heavier to me when I unloaded it from my car than it did when I packed it into my car at home - puff-puff-wheeze.

In the evenings we were finally able to relax in the dining room or around the fireplace and dine on wonderfully prepared meals, many using Oregon's freshest ingredients. Judges had been asked to bring a couple of bottles of wine to share during our dinners. This was a great way to taste a large assortment including different grapes from other regions as well as some beautiful wines from France and as it was pointed out to us, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," a quote from the movie The Shining where the exterior was filmed at Timberline.

The blind-tasting ended at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, the 29th. and we were finally allowed into the "secret bottle room" to see what we had been tasting the last three days. In this room the wine we judged had been catagorized and labeled by numbers, as well as all glasses that went out to the judges were labeled with the coordinating numbers. When judging all we knew was the variety, vintage, sometimes price, a number to identify it and but most important - - how did it taste. At lot of work went into the preparation and a huge staff stayed busy keeping the wine judges with numbered flights of usually anywhere from four to eight glasses and sometimes twelve to be judged at one time.

As I checked out, of course I was anxious to get home and get off the mountain as it was snowing like crazy (Yes on April 29th! Even a TV film crew from Portland was there to record it.), but I was feeling a bit melancholy leaving this exciting experience in such a breathtaking setting.

(L-R: Me, Paul Gregutt - Wine Writer for Seattle Times, Earl Jones - CEO Abacela Winery/Vinyards, and Jeff Gelfond - Sommelier Dolce Group Restaurants)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Conversate at the Walla Walla Tasting Room

Perhaps you're planning a trip to taste the wines of Walla Walla or you just came back from wine tasting there. You feel like getting on the computer and leave some messages about the experience or maybe you want to learn something new about wine or the Walla Walla area. Other food and wine boards aren't going to be nearly as focused about Walla Walla - - so where d'ya go?

Grab that mouse of yours and click onto the Walla Walla Tasting Room! Joel Clark (aka JoelC on the WWTR board) of Walla Walla Village Winery will be your host and will guide you as if you were sitting in his living room with a glass of wine. Whatever you want to discuss: from the best Chardonnay made in Walla Walla to Stanley Mouse, the designer of The Grateful Dead album covers. Maybe you're a first time visitor to Walla Walla and want the scoop on the best places to eat and stay during your visit? Perhaps you have a Wine-101 question or want to comment on your favorite Portuguese Vinho Verde or Touriga Nacional? Maybe you have discovered a new Oregon Pinot Noir? What do you mean that "bung hole" is a wine term and not a rude name from Beevis and Butthead? Want to post photos of your new home brew set-up? Where's the best pizza in Walla Walla? Is anybody in Walla Walla producing a Sangiovese? Get the idea? This is the place to "conversate!" So click on over to Walla Walla Tasting Room and make yourself at home!

(PS - I know - - I know - - please do not send me comments/email that "conversate" is not a real word. Tell that to the Urban Dictionary. I also like the words: "shiznit", "redunkulous" and "nunya bidness" - - so there.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Visionary Vintner: Robert Mondavi

Today at 9:00 am, a “visionary vintner, winemaker, and wine marketer" died at his home in Yountville, CA. Robert Mondavi was 94 years old. He was one of the most influential winemakers and wine marketers in California history and certainly the driving force behind the new era of California wine (and at his lengthy age a good argument for drinking a glass of wine a day). Robert Gerald Mondavi was born June 18, 1913. His parents were Italian immigrants and settled in the Minnesota city of Hibbing, where Mondavi was born (another legend would also be born in Hibbing, MN almost 28 years later - Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan).

After learning of Mondavi's death, I thought about the legacy he leaves to everyone who is a New World wine aficionado, whether we knew of him or not. And I also thought how he may have influenced Washington State's own wine legacy and especially the wine industry in Walla Walla. Later this morning I was reminded of this quote by Allen Shoup, CEO of Long Shadows Wine Consortium in Walla Walla, WA. It's from an article in the March 21, 2008 issue of the WASHINGTON CEO Magazine, “Refined Vintages” by: Steve Bjerklie.

"The genesis for Long Shadows goes back to Robert Mondavi, who I got to know when I worked for Gallo in the 1970s and who is still a good friend," says Shoup. "In 1978 he and the Baron de Rothschild came out with Opus One, their joint project in Napa Valley. It instantly hit me as an ingenious thing to do. California was still fighting back then for recognition and Opus One helped put Napa wine on the map -- I give a lot of credit to Bob, who always promoted Napa ahead of his own wine. But if Bob was building a mountain in California, up here in Washington we were still in a chasm." - - Allen Shoup

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Moved by Sleight of Hand

He was okay but wondering about wandering.
Was it age by consequence or was he moved by sleight of hand? – Pearl Jam

It’s a perfect fit that a Washington State winery with a “magic touch” is named for a song by a famous rock band from Washington. Winemaker Trey Busch and partners, Sandy and Jerry Solomon have created a Walla Walla winery like no other and to take a phrase from them, their wines are “simply magical.”

I had my first experience with Sleight of Hand when they opened their doors in 2007. Upon our first taste, Steve immediately joined their wine club, the Wine Illusionist Society. It was at Taste Washington last month, where I tasted the wines again and I couldn’t get Sleight of Hand wines off of my mind - - and was reminded about this winery again the day after Taste Washington when Steve and I visited Seattle’s Experience Music Project, the museum of music, upon viewing the Pearl Jam exhibit - - and I knew I must have Sleight of Hand wines for my new wine store.

Sleight of Hand has everything you want in a wine: not only style, of course they are highly pleasing to the palate, and last but not least - - beautiful labels! Five days later after the Experience Music Project we were back at the Sleight of Hand winery in downtown Walla Walla visiting with Trey. I found myself standing back from the other visitors and taking in the relationship between the winemaker and the guests he was pouring wine for. Trey is personable, charming and he has a way drawing an audience like a fine magician should.

If Sleight of Hand hasn’t named a signature wine, it should be “The Magician Gewurztraminer.” Sleight of Hand is one of the first small handful of Walla Walla wineries to brave the screw-cap and it just seems to work with this particular wine that makes me think of picnics and easy entertaining. The Gewurztraminer is refreshing and indeed shows off its German-style from the aromas of green apples and rose petals to the flavors of stone fruit from the orchards. It’s yum-yum with a yum-yai salad or any other Asian-influenced dish.

Ahhh…Rose'. What can be said about the beautiful Magicians Assistant? Of course, the first thing you will notice is the label and once you get past the beautiful pink liquid it’s all about the taste. Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite grapes to make into a rose'. And so perfect for summer when you want the taste of a red grape but the cool crispness of a white. Only 60 cases of this 2007 vintage were produced and it’s going fast.

The Levitation Syrah – 2006 is another wine that less than 100 cases were produced. Four very special barrels of 100% Syrah (and from some of the oldest vines in the state) were “levitated” into bottles. A bold and rich Syrah giving the impression of a fine old Northern Rhone (one of my favorites) leaving a mouthful of blueberries. Again, there wasn’t a lot of this special Syrah produced and mainly to be sold within the winery so I felt privileged Trey let me have a few bottles for my store. (note: all three of the above wines are also available through me at Walla Walla Wine Woman).

You have my word that when in downtown Walla Walla it is time well spent to check out these magical wines at the Sleight of Hand tasting room and I promise you it won’t be an illusion of sleight of hand - - but the real thing.

A time to dream to himself…
I'll see you on the other side.
Another man moved by sleight of hand.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pursued by Bear - - Grrrr!

It's a great label, isn't it? It caught my attention immediately as I collect grizzly bear items - from old wooden and stone carved grizzlys ( Ursus arctos horribilis), especially those carved with a Native American or old German Black Forest influence. I've even picked up a few old plush German Steiff grizzly bears and old Yellowstone grizzly memorabilia. And of course, any piece of silver jewelry with the bear paw fetish especially captivates my eye.

Now, there's one more thing that captivated me about this label - - it happens to belong to Eric Dunham, owner/winemaker of Dunham Cellars and actor Kyle MacLachlan. You may recognize Kyle, who is a Yakima home-grown, from many TV favorites such as "Desperate Housewives," Sex and the City," and remember "Twin Peaks?" Now we know why there is a new winemaker at Dunham Cellars. This is quite a project!

Pursued by Bear will be a red, yet very expensive blend, and will be released before the end of the year. Am I right to smell a bit of a Shakespearean soap opera here? The Winter's Tale?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45: Riesling

When I first started this wine blog, Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine, I decided I would only blog about wines from Walla Walla, WA and the very most I would stray would be other wines from Washington State. Because of my commitment, (or is that I need to be committed?) I do not participate a lot in Wine Blogging Wednesdays. Hell, it was all I could do to even host it one month, a year ago in June and that was due to the fact I hassled creator Lenn and our host, Tim for months threatening I would hold my breath until they recognized me and if I died from holding my breath, the coroner would find clutched in my hand their websites scrawled on old Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler labels. They finally gave in, but I was still left with the impression that they didn’t take me serious let alone that Walla Walla was serious about their wineries.

I have missed out on several Wine Blogging Wednesdays and this month’s theme is to blog about Old World Rieslings grown in Germany, Austria or Alsace and in a pinch, even Northern Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovenia will do. So with that kind of theme, it is apparent it is not meant for me to blog. Well, I decided to stretch the rules a bit. Okay, maybe I am cheating. But, I think I found a loop hole. How about if I blog about a Riesling that is made by an Old World German winemaker who treks to the New Wine World and produces the Riesling here in Walla Walla, WA? That’s close - - right?

This Riesling is so fabulous that it could even make Lenn of Lenndevours, the LIRA (Long Island Riesling Aficianado) salivate with envy. And I am talking about Poet’s Leap Riesling from Long Shadows Winery in Walla Walla. Last year Long Shadows was given the Winery of the Year title by Food & Wine Magazine.

Armin Diel, a winery partner of Long Shadows, is one of Germany’s most acclaimed Riesling producers. His family has owned the celebrated estate of Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen in the Nahe River Valley since 1802. Schlossgut Diel is internationally renowned for its white wines, predominately Rieslings. Now how Old World can you get? While made with fruit from some of the oldest vineyards in Washington State, these grapes are hand-harvested and whole cluster pressed with a small amount of the Riesling (3%) fermented in a tight grained, lightly toasted French oak cask (and these casks are an example of gorgeous craftsmanship). Diel, who uses the same tanks at Schlossgut Diel, introduced the technique to give the wine added brightness without imparting wood character. Remaining grapes are fermented at cool temps in stainless steel keeping the freshness and delicate aromas and flavors.

This year’s release, 2006 is crisp and fresh with aromas of pear, melon and honey. Just the right acidity with a hint of delicate sweetness (never cloying) gives a long lingering finish. It’s a great food wine and in fact, I enjoyed it last week at Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, Oregon. I paired it with lobster stuffed flounder on top of creamy risotto. O-my-o-riesling-gasmic! And I shared this prized white with other peers from the wine industry who were eager to put down their glasses of reds to have a glass of this Riesling. The winery is sold out, but I know where you can buy some…

Hey Lenn and Tim, are you going to let me host again? Really – we really do make wines in Walla Walla, WA and this Riesling is proof!

Mild Mannered: The W5?

According to the story about me and the wine biz on the front page of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin on May 1, From Blog To Biz, the article says I am mild mannered

Yes, the W5 is mild mannered and stop laughing - - I know who you are. Since I was born under the Gemini sign, I have two sides. The quiet yet thoughtful and then the opinionated and loud.

When I first read the article, even I became verklempt. A bit choked up and later I was reminded of something that my high school Latin and Humanities teacher had said many "Bad Moon Arising" (old 70's song in high school) ago. Perhaps it explained why a tear got caught in the corner of my eye. Mrs Koch walked around the classroom and commented on what she saw in the future for her graduates. She based this on their performance in class, grades and overall attitude. When she came to me, I squirmed a bit, but she saw for my future that I would be a famous business woman and one in particular that owned a corporation. Now note, in the early 70's, for a woman to be even a bank teller was a big deal. And it just so happened I visited with my former Latin/Humanities teacher's daughter, Mary Koch Campbell the other night over dinner and when I asked about her mother, she said her mother hadn't changed much other than she was now 90 years old. I cannot imagine - but then again, Mrs. Koch always seemed timeless to me.

Back to the article: many thanks to Vicki Hillhouse of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin who did a wonderful job, as she really captured my story and of course, last but not least to Jeff Horner, photographer who realized going into this photo I was going to be difficult as this wasn't the first time he's had to take my photo. He remembered how I hate-hate-hate my photo being taken. Jeff did it in less than 10 minutes and overall it was painless and the results - - see for yourself.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Green & Tender: Walla Walla Asparagus!

A week ago Sunday about 7:00 am, I was traveling down highway 12 headed toward Mt. Hood and was reminded it was local asparagus time. Yellow crates were spread about the fields and pickers were filling the crates up with tender green spears. If you are a long-time resident of Walla Walla you eventually start taking two things for granted: your fair share of fresh picked asparagus and Walla Walla Sweet Onions. You will find them easily accessible at any produce stand, Saturday Market or free from a farmer friend.

Yesterday I was reminded one more time it was time to buy a "mess" of asparagus when I dropped by Dave and Darrel's Valley Produce in College Place. Gosh, what can’t you do with asparagus? It’s a pretty versatile vegetable and easy to prepare from soup, stir-fry, pickled, grilled, quiche, included with Eggs Benedict, and broiled wrapped in bacon. But my favorite and easiest way is to lightly blanch it. I break the tough ends off (each spear will break at the tender point) and lightly trim up the broken edges with a knife - looks prettier. Start a large pot of water to boiling, add a sprinkling of kosher salt to the water and toss the asparagus in the boiling water. When the spears turn a brilliant green (less than a minute), drain and immediately place the tender spears in a container filled with ice water - ice included. This will immediately stop the cooking of the asparagus giving you a nice crunch to the vegetable. However, don’t let the spears sit in the water as they can turn slimy. Drain well and serve chilled.

Now, you will need something to dip those tender spears in. I have many favored mayo-based concoctions that I prepare - - from a curry flavored to Dijon mustard. Last night I prepared a dip using AJ’s Dill Flavored Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard. Easy to prepare, remembering one part good mayonnaise (Best Foods/Hellmans or even better, make your own) and one part AJ’s Dill Flavored Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard. You can make it in tablespoon quantities or by the cup - - mix together and voila - dip! It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator - - umm...if you don’t eat it in one sitting.

For a classic vinaigrette, instead of Dijon use AJ’s Walla Walla Sweet Onion Mustard. It makes a great salad dressing, which is tasty drizzled over chilled asparagus or makes a great grilling marinade for veggies: 1 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup AJ’s Walla2 Mustard, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper and kosher salt or no salt to taste. In bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, vinegar and pepper and salt. Serve immediately or cover and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

So we need some wine to drink with this and yes, wine can pair with asparagus no matter what you have heard. I think it pairs best with crisp whites such as very lightly oaked or steel tank-fermented Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Before the season leaves us, check out the fresh Walla Walla asparagus now! Not only are these spears (and no we aint talking Britney) healthy for you, being a good source of folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber, but it’s also known to be an aphrodisiac.