Friday, May 28, 2010

Discover Cooking with Lavender at Local Wineries!

On Tuesday I was out in my garden tending to my new pots of herbs and annuals and also doing some maintenance on the older plants. As I brushed against one of the three large lavender plants that have made their home in wine barrel planters, the heady fragrance stayed on my shirt sleeve and reminded me of how lavender and wine can pair together so well.

The goddesses of wine and herbs must have stayed with me throughout the day as I later discovered two local Walla Walla wineries will be featuring Seattle author, foodie, gardner and lavender enthusiast Kathy Gerht this holiday weekend.

Kathy will be introducing her new book, Discover Cooking with Lavender at Isenhower Cellars and Three Rivers Winery this weekend. Kathy will have her books for purchase, as well as be available for signing. She will also bring with her a sampling of recipes taken straight from her cookbook.

Kathy Gehrt’s cookbook “Discover Cooking with Lavender,” will take readers on a culinary adventure, exploring the fragrance and flavor of lavender. It features 75 recipes for seasonings, drinks, savory dishes and sweets. The book is filled with unique recipes, such as Lavender Ginger Lemon Sugar, Bruschetta with Tomatoes and Roasted Lavender, Strawberries with Lavender Yogurt Cream, Honey Ginger Lavender Lemonade, and Roasted Halibut á la Provence. Along with her recipe for Josephine’s Hot Chocolate, Kathy reveals to readers that lavender was the secret ingredient in the nightcap Josephine created to put Napoleon in a “romantic” mood.

You can join Kathy at Isenhower Cellars on Saturday, May 29 at 2:00pm and also at Three Rivers Winery on Sunday, May 30 at 12:00pm - 3:00pm. Just a mention of those recipes alone, I can think of all of the wines from both wineries that would make for perfect pairings with the cookbook's recipes.

I am so looking forward to reading this book on my porch by my lavender while sipping a glass of summer rosé. I just have to know more about how Josephine put Napoleon in a romantic mood!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the Move: Amavi Cellars

Travis Goff, of sales, marketing and partner of Pepperbridge and Amavi Cellars, just sent me the newest scoop regarding Amavi's new facility in Walla Walla!

After seven years in its rustic Walla Walla facility, Amavi Cellars has announced a move to its new and contemporary tasting room in the heart of Pepper Bridge Vineyard near the Washington/Oregon border (I kept noticing the building as I was traveling back and forth during Spring Release weekend, as it is very visual from the highway). The new building features expansive Southeastern views of the Blue Mountains, vineyards and other agriculture in the area. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a spacious elevated deck create a sense of intimacy with the surrounding rural area. A stunning, 20-foot-long zinc bar invites guests to gather and provides an exquisite platform for sampling the winery's highly rated, estate-grown wines. It is located at 3796 Peppers Bridge Road in Walla Walla, the 1,000 square-foot tasting room and adjacent 500-square-foot conference room are complemented by a 500-square-foot elevated deck, offices, dry goods storage and wine-production areas. The new facility will keep usual business hours from 10 am - 4 pm daily.

The new location is a realization of the owners' desire to provide a better Walla Walla experience for its customers and to move operations closer to its estate vineyards. Referring to the vineyards as the “soul” of Amavi wines, Managing Partner Ray Goff says that it is the winery's goal to honor and underscore the role of agriculture in fine wine. “In our previous urban location, we ran the risk of becoming disconnected from Mother Nature and the year-long process of creating each vintage,” Goff says. “Being among the vines produces a refreshing, humbling sense of awe — and a deeper appreciation for the wines our winemaker and viticulturist Jean-François Pellet crafts — that we would like to share with our guests.”

Goff adds that in addition to providing a better atmosphere, the new tasting room offers significantly more space and a layout designed for entertaining. “Hospitality is a cornerstone of our values, and we now have the appropriate venue for our events and for customers' small weddings and business retreats.”

Seattle architect David Clinkston of Clinkston Brunner worked closely with the winery partners to create a building that tucks neatly into the hillside while simultaneously flaunting clean, dramatic lines. The wood, steel and glass building contrasts tastefully with the rolling hills and surrounding agriculture, inviting passersby to take a closer look. Landscaping is underway and will feature drought-resistant, native plants.

Owned by the Goff, McKibben and Pellet families, the winery is known for its estate-grown, sustainably farmed Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sèmillon wines. Its single-vineyard Les Collines Vineyard Syrah has attracted particular attention from wine critics over the last few vintages. The grapes in the winery's three estate vineyards — Les Collines, Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills — are certified sustainable and in high demand. In the overall wine market, Amavi Cellars' wines are categorized as ultra-premium, yet they are commonly considered a value among their Walla Walla peers.

I am looking forward to visiting Amavi.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WBC-or-BUST: Winners Anounced!

The winning wine bloggers for the WBC-or-BUST: Road to Walla Walla campaign have been selected! How exciting! This is a pre-event on their way to the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010, held this year in the beautiful valley of Walla Walla. Here is what these dedicated wine bloggers have won:

WBC-or-BUST ~ Itinerary Overview

Wed, June 23rd (DAY 1): Seattle & Woodinville Wine Country
The winners will experience some of the best Washington has to offer from one of the premier food & wine destinations in the Northwest.

Thur, June 24th (DAY 2): Yakima Valley & Walla Walla
They will travel across the Cascade Mountain Range to visit Washington's premier growing regions and taste through a selection of preimium wines.

Fri, June 25th (DAY 3): The Wine Bloggers Conference Begins in Walla Walla! Winners will arrive to Walla Walla in style just in time for the WBC '10 with a deeper understanding of Washington and it's thriving wine industry.

Sun, June 27th: Return Trip to Seattle
At the conclusion of the Wine Bloggers Conference all WBC-or-BUST bloggers and participating media guests will return back to Seattle via a comfortable limo bus. On the way, they will visit Alexandria Nicole Cellars at Prosser to enjoy a gourmet lunch and wine.

As one of the seven wine blogger supporters, I would like to congratulate the winners:

Toledo Wines and Vines

Another Wine Blog

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Windy City Wine Guy

The Vino File

750mL

WINEormous

PURPLETEETH

Wine Predator

LorieLovesWine

Jenna & Wine

General Wine Thoughts

See you in Walla Walla!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Schlameel, Schlamazel: Bottling Day at Mannina Cellars

If you are a wine lover, chances are you have fantasized about owning a winery. Picture this: you are perched high above in your chateau, stroking your cat with your extended manicured pinkie finger, looking down from your burgus across the moat and gazing upon your many hectares of estate vineyards and your winery minions scurrying about. Minions? You know your sister's unemployed kid who hasn't left the couch since he graduated college in 1998, but claims he is holding out for a management position ...

SLAP! Snap out of it! Owning a winery is hard work unless you really do own a burgus high above your chateau overlooking a moat and hectares of estate vineyards. Owning a winery can be considered blue collar work! It's agriculture! It is wet! It can be repetitious! But if you have patience, true passion and not afraid to stain your extended pinkie finger the color purple, then owning a winery is for you. Here's an example of a normal work day at Mannina Cellars - - bottling day! I mean, what did you think, that little fairies magically put wine in the bottles while you were sleeping?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wine Press Northwest's Insider's Guide to Walla Walla -

It was a nice surprise when Andy Perdue, Editor-in-chief of Wine Press Northwest asked me to hang with him in Walla Walla one afternoon and share some of the local secrets here in Walla Walla - places beyond the wine tourists radar. All I can say is this chick really loves Walla Walla wine and gravy!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tweets Bring Washington Wine to the Twitter World #WAWine

Once again, the ever ambitious and always convincing Josh Wade of Drink Nectar is bringing Washington wine to the Twitter and Facebook masses. Yup, that's right, from the wine blogging peep-holes that rallied around the very successful WAMerlot Twitter Tasting back in March, will again be bringing Washington wine to the world through the keyboard stroking power of Twitter, Facebook and even better - - face-to-face location events.

On Thursday, June 3 the virtual wine tasting community will be using the power of social media in wineries across Washington state. #WAWine will allow wine loving peeps from across the world to interact with each other while drinking and celebrating Washington wine. Boo-yah! Wineries across the state will also use the event as a springboard to bring people together inside their tasting room. But no matter where you are in the world, #WAWine is an opportunity to learn, connect and engage with other wine lovers.

The event is sponsored by Washington Tasting Room Magazine and the Washington Wine Commission and will leverage the collective reach of 14 wine writers (moi and others) and also Washington wine events, including Wine Rocks in Seattle, Taste Washington - Spokane and the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference at Walla Walla.

“Hundreds of wine loving eyes will be on Washington during June. This is a perfect event to kick off the month and connect people,” says the events co-creator, Josh Wade. "As wine writers descend on the state, WAWine will get their palate primed for great Washington wine."

So Boo, how do you do what I do with other Washington wine lovers? Participation is easy! Visit the event site for details and tips. Support one of the participating wineries by buying one or more bottles of Washington wine and join in one of three ways:

•Join in person at one of the participating wineries!
•Log on to Twitter at 5 pm PDT on Thursday, June 3 and follow the hashtag #WAWine. To be connected with other participants be sure to use the words #WAWine in all your tweets.
•Log on to Facebook and join the community at Facebook Taste and Tweet. You can use this Facebook page to upload photos, share your experiences and connect with your wine loving friends. (And even non-wine loving friends. Convert them and show them what they are missing. Plain grape juice is not near as much fun.)

If you are a winery, wine writer/blogger or part of the wine industry and want more information on how you can participate in this event, please go to Drink Nectar or Washington Wine Report for the scoop.

Hope to see you in Twitter-ville with a glass of Washington wine!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don Carlo Vineyard: A chip off the old ...

It used to be the most indulgent and extreme snack was Champagne and popcorn. However, I have recently discovered a new extreme and very addictive snack and it happened to be developed right here in our valley – Don Carlo Vineyard Chardonnay paired with Tim’s Cascade Style Potato Chips warmed up and sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese. And it’s even better if you get Tim Kennedy himself, the founder of Tim’s Cascade Style Chips, to fry up these golden crunchy potato chips fresh for you to pair with his wines.

Lori and Tim Kennedy are no strangers to our area and no strangers to wine. Lori’s grandfather, Carlo arrived in the United States from Italy and eventually settled in the Pacific Northwest Italian area of Seattle bringing his winemaking passion with him. Lori has fond memories growing up surrounding her family making wine. Tim eventually retired in 2005 from his 20-year chip making business and came back home to his roots in Athena, Or, which is 20 miles from Walla Walla.

In 2007, Lori and Tim purchased an old Milton-Freewater homestead near the Seven Hills Vineyard. The homestead also included an apple and cherry orchard. The first ten blocks of their vineyard was planted in Chardonnay and two acres of the old cherry trees were pulled and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vines. The modest bungalow on the property is now the Don Carlo tasting room and headquarters.
In many ways, this area has now come full circle as Don Carlo Vineyard's neighbor is the Pesciallo family who bonded the Blue Mountain Vineyards, the first commercial post-prohibition winery in the Walla Walla Valley. They produced Black Prince (aka Cinsault) and other Italian varietals for several years before succumbing to economics and climate in the 1950's.

At this time there are three Don Carlo wines released. Tim’s snack making talent has also grown into a wine making talent, which includes: 2008 Chardonnay, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2007 Merlot. Lori's grandfather's wedding photo is the face of the Don Carlo Vineyard label. The wines are affordably priced and the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are produced from Walla Walla fruit. Already the Cabernet and Merlot have been getting their share of gold and silver medals. I also got to sample a preview of their 2009 Estate Chardonnay. Oh, did it ever speak to me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The new tasting room is filled with memories of Tim’s potato chip making days with a sculpture of the original red and white striped signature bag, as well as water color paintings of the snacks and potato chip bags. I had to ask Tim if he missed the chip business.

“People in the wine business are less competitive than in the snack business,” Tim said. “Driving a tractor adds years to your life.”

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Walla Walla Spring Release Highlights

Another Spring Release is behind us and I must say, if getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway #12 on Friday afternoon and evening is any indication of how many people came to town, I would have to say that Walla Walla Spring Release 2010 was a success!

As always, "there were so many wines and so little time" and I didn't make it to all of the ones on my list. I suppose in many ways, I have taken the wines of Walla Walla for granted, unlike my wine blogging collegue from the west, Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report, who also let me hang with him on Friday afternoon. (or did I let him hang with me on my turf?) We had a friendly "spar" going on about who could blog about more Walla Walla wines in a year (and even Washington wines), but then again, someone would have to take the time to really care and to count them - meh! But fun aside, Sean had a precise, but impressive schedule and made the most of his limited time in Walla Walla. I am looking forward to reading his report, as always.

What impresses me time and time again are the beautiful rosés that keep popping up in the Walla Walla Valley. To name a few I tasted: Mannina Cellars Maddily - 2009 (100% Sangiovese), Robison Ranch Cellars - 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese), Rulo Winery - 2009 (98% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon), Sleight of Hand Magician's Assistant - 2009 (100% Cabernet Franc), SuLei Cellars -2009 (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc), Trio Vintners Tres Rose - 2009 (50% Grenache, 50% Mourvèdre), and Trust Cellars 2009 (100% Cabernet Franc).

These rosés are all limited productions so "gather ye rosés while ye may ..."

In the mean time I will go over the highlights of the wineries I visited and choose just one wine from each winery.

Abeja: 2008 Beekeeper's Blend. Abeja is known for quality wines and for the dollars and quality, you cannot go wrong with this popular wine. A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.2% Merlot, 4.9% Cabernet Franc and 4.9% Petit Verdot. Supple and yummy with notes of coffee and green peppercorns. $21

Bergevin Lane Vineyards: 2006 Intuition Reserve. A high-end blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petite Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot. A rich Bordeaux-style blend with all of the right components going on - earth, minerals, acids and tannins. $55

Couvillion Winery: 2007 Equilibre Red. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Petit Verdot. Spicy, chocolatey and a mouth full of cherries. Jill's new addition to her winery looks great and so does her flower garden. $25

K-Vintners: 2007 K Syrah Phil Lane - Walla Walla Valley. Smoky, violets, and bloody with a long finish. A very personable and friendly tasting room staff, but the "rock star" wasn't there. My friend and wine blogger collegue Thea from Luscious Lushes - A Wine Blog tells me she was able to see Charles the same weekend at the Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles, CA and was quite taken. It makes her all the more excited, she says, to visit Walla Walla at the Wine Bloggers Conference in June. She probably won't see him again, but at least she will have his billboards to stare at. $70

Locati Cellars: 2007 Innovation - Super Tuscan Style (Barbera, Sangiovese, and Cabernet) with fruit from the Columbia Valley. Brambleberries, currants and chocolate. A wine that should be passed around the dinner table and will hold up to a rich tomato gravy and spicy meats. Another highlight was their pre-party catered by Cugini's Deli and of course featuring Locati Cellars own grilled asparagus.

Mannina Cellars: 2008 Birch Creek Merlot. Immediately, the nose told me it was Walla Walla fruit with its earthy and smoky tones. The other highlight was tasting the new releases during an evening event at Mannina. Graze Catering did a wonderful job. I couldn't decide which I craved more - the garlicy ham and cheese pannini's paired with the Cali red blend or the Sangiovese paired with shish-kabob wraps of beef, grilled red pepper, spinach and provolone. $25

Robison Ranch Cellars: Okay, what can I say but they provided their usual and oppulent feast! Cheeses, salmon, ceviche, ham (choice of Tennessee or Virginia), corn beef, pork loin, bacon wrapped pickled watermelon (yum!) and ... and ... Okay, back to the wine. 2009 Viognier from Dwelley Vineyard in Walla Walla. Notes of pear, stoned fruits and honeysuckle leaving a finish of creme brulee. $19

Rulo: 2009 Combine - a blend of 96% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Muscat Ottonel. Nose of grapefruit, honeysuckle and "pisse d' chat." Crisp, lemongrass and gingery on the palate. As always, their imported cheese assortment ruled. I threatened to knife any fingers who got near the Manchego as long as I was in the building. $15

Sleight of Hand Cellars: 2008 "The Spellbinder" 42% Cabernet Franc, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 12% Merlot, and 11% Sangiovese. Ooohhh how the Cab Franc spoke to me. Full bodied and such a great wine for the dollars. Screw cap and food friendly. $19

SuLei Cellars: It was a must that I check out their new downtown tasting room. The big release for Tanya and Elaine was their 2008 Roller Girl Red, inspired by the new local roller derby team, Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls. Big fruit from Les Collines and Lodmell Vineyards. A Bordeaux style red blend of 48% Cabernet Franc, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% Merlot. It was a mouthful of berries with caramel and tobacco notes. Luscious for $17

Tranche Cellars: 2005 Slice of Pape. Walla Walla's answer to the great Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A traditional southern Rhone style blend of 56% Grenache, 38% Syrah, 5.5% Counoise and a skoosh of Viognier. Elegant. Raspberry and tobacco nose and a palate greeting you with smoky and dark cherry cola flavors. Tranche also greets you with a beautiful grassy view. $35

Trio Vintners: 2006 Mourvèdre. Okay, I didn't taste this during the big weekend, but I did sneak a visit to sample Trio a few days before. Does that count? It's distinctive with dark earthy flavors. A mouthful of wild blackberries and a hint of violet on the nose. It left with a spicy, yet long finish. I sampled it with a lamb sausage and marinara dip. $26

Trust Cellars: Like Pee-Wee Herman says, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Again, Steve Brooks has another winner with his 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I loved it. Balanced and elegant. A palate of dark chocolate covered cherries with a creamy liquor center. Swoon worthy! $36

Walla Walla Vintners: Okay, so call me easy. Hellooo Easy! But I cannot get past their 2008 Cabernet Franc. I have been coveting bottles of WWV Cab Franc since their 1997 release. As always, Myles and Gordy's new vintage didn't disappoint. Cherry cola, chocolate and creme brulee flavors with a hint of the "green" that I love so much about Cabernet Francs. Complex! And believe it or not, but two weeks before WWV Cab Franc was paired for me and my guests with lobster in a saffron scented stock ala Chef Bear at the Marcus Whitman. A pair made for Bacchus and a Mermaid. $28

Okay, so come Sunday I was pooped! Oh well, fiddle dee dee. After all, tomorrow is another wine drinking day in Walla Walla.

(Stay tuned - a video with Spring Release highlights will be coming.)