Tuesday, August 31, 2010

WallaFaces Winery and Dr. Kevin Pogue: From Dirt to Delicious

Dr. Kevin Pogue
When I hear people moan and groan there is nothing to do in Walla Walla, I tend to roll my eyes and shake my head. You do not have to be a lover of wine to get the benefits of some of the great events in the Walla Walla Valley that are being sponsored by the local wineries. WallaFaces Winery has been very creative in implementing events for locals and wine tourists alike. In fact, the morning of August 7 was one of those days, and a blistering hot day, as they boarded us in a comfy air conditioned bus for a three-hour geology tour guided by Kevin Pogue, PhD and Chair of the Whitman College Geology Department. Dr. Pogue is also founder of Vinterra Consulting, PLLC.
Walla Walla Inns at the Vineyard


It was during the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010, I was reminded by something that many of our visiting bloggers pointed out: Walla Walla isn't just built of one terroir, but many terroirs. So let's back track a bit about the word, "terroir" and its meaning. Terroir comes from the word "terre" meaning land. It was originally a French term that was used to denote unique characteristics of geography that were apparent in wine, coffee and tea. In fact, all produce can denote those special characteristics, such as our own Walla Walla Sweet Onions. Terroir is about agriculture sites in the same region that share similar soil and weather. Loosely translated it is also known as "Sense of Place."

We can attribute the beginning of our "Sense of Place" many 15 million moons ago when the region experienced a series of lava flows. Of course, the lava would eventually cool and harden leaving us with basalt bedrock covering most of eastern Washington and south into northeastern Oregon. In later years, came the Ice Age Missoula floods from the north. This gigantic piece of ice formed a natural dam which created the glacial Lake Missoula. The water behind the glacial dam slowly gathered until the volume was sufficient to float the ice dam south and allow the huge reservoir of water to flow out. This process repeated itself many times over a three thousand year period leaving behind deposits of well-drained sand and silt which is now the basis for the soils of many of eastern Washington's premier vineyards.

When Mother Nature was all done with her drama, she left the Walla Walla Valley with four very distinct terroirs:

1. Thick Loess - Vineyards with this terroir of wind-deposited silt and sand are Spring Valley, Leonetti Upland, Leonetti Loess, Dwelley and Les Collines. They are located to the northeast of the valley or at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Loess soil provides good drainage for the vines. To this day we still see the effects of loess with every wind storm in the valley.

2. Missoula Flood Sediments - Vineyards with this terroir are Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Ferguson Ridge and Forgotten Hills. All four of these vineyards are south of the Walla Walla Valley and are found below 1,200 ft. elevation. The soil from these floods are rich and layered with loess and minerals.

Ferguson Ridge
3. Stream Gravels - The vineyard best known with this terroir is the famous Cayuse Vineyard which is located south of Walla Walla in the Milton-Freewater, Oregon area. Walla Walla is surrounded by an alluvial fan. This fan shape of gravel, spreading onto a flatter plain, was created by the Walla Walla River. In fact Cayuse Vineyard was specifically chosen for it's resemblance to the “galets roules” (rolled cobblestones) of the southern Rhone vineyards in France. This area has often been referred to “Oregon’s Châteuneuf-du-Pape.”

Cayuse Vineyards
4. Basalt - There are no vineyards grown in solid basalt at this time. Maybe in the future? These areas are often of solid bedrock and sometimes with just a thin layer of loess and can be as high as 1,200 feet or located in steep areas where much of the sediment was removed in time by water or wind. The Woodward Canyon Vineyard is located nearly 900 feet of elevation three miles north of Walla Walla and layered with wind-blown loess over fractured basalt.

Now, when you put all of these geology profiles together with an average annual rainfall of 12.5 inches, add a long 200-day growing season with arid high temperatures and then a shift of temperatures in the evenings, thanks to the cool air from the Blue Mountains, the results are grapes that are perfectly balanced of sugars and acidity.

Located on latitude 46°, the Walla Walla Valley also straddles the line between the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France, and it is this high latitude that means once our autumn arrives the weather is quick to cool and our hours of daily sunshine quickly leaves our valley.

As a result of this seasonal change, the grapes are able to remain on the vine weeks later after many other regions are finishing with their harvest. Our extra hang time on the vine allows the grapes to intensify bringing us some of the best in world class wines.

The end of our tour brought us the results in a glass of the very distinct terroirs. The glasses of wine were not only wine from WallaFaces Winery, but wines of Dusted Valley Vintners and Waters Winery. Chad Johnson of Dusted Valley was there to pour his latest vintages of 2009 Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that are still in the barrel and Jamie Brown from Waters Winery poured for us two different and very distinct 2009 Walla Walla Syrahs from the Leonetti Loess and Forgotten Hills vineyards. WallaFaces poured their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, 2009 Riesling, as well as their 2006 Fusion red blend.

Many thanks to our hosts Rick, Debbie, Lois and Carol of WallaFaces and our speaker and tour guide, Kevin Pogue. I cannot think of a better way to learn geology on a Saturday afternoon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bunchgrass Winery: Columbia Valley Syrah - 2007

It was great news when we heard Bunchgrass Winery had returned to life after the original owner, Roger Cockerline retired with the last of his 2005 vintage.  Roger started his wine career in the 1980's when he planted the small vineyard on his family's farm. The fruit was eventually sold commercially, along with Roger and three of his friends also using some of the fruit for their own home wine projects. In fact two of the friends, Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson, would eventually start up their own winery Walla Walla Vintners.

Entering the Walla Walla wine scene in 2002 was William vonMetzger who pursued his love of the grape at the Institute for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College. Not only was William attending classes but also began working part-time at Walla Walla Vintners where he would eventually become production winemaker. The timing couldn't have been more perfect as William was looking at his future and the possibility of starting his own winery.  Gordy Venneri supported William's interest and also knew of Roger's interest of retiring.  To make a long story short, William started making the wines for Bunchgrass in 2006.  Walla Walla Vintners was used as their production area for the 2006 - 2008 vintages.  However in 2009, crush returned once again to the Bunchgrass Winery on Highway 12.   

The wines of Bunchgrass Winery are limited and yet still moderately priced.  If you have an opportunity to grab one - - do it.  I had an opportunity to "grab" a bottle of their 2007 Syrah.  In fact, it was just listed last week in the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine as one of their Top 100 Washington Wines:

Bunchgrass Winery Syrah, Lewis Vineyard, Columbia Valley - 2007
The Lewis Vineyards are located southeast of Prosser in the Yakima Valley AVA.  Summers are hot in that region and the Lewis Vineyard has the distinction of a higher elevation. The location on a southern slope allows the cool night's air to flow away from the vineyard allowing the fruit to have an extended hang time.  Longer hang time on the vine develops the maximum of concentrated flavors. 

The nose of this wine didn't seem to me the typical smokey and espresso notes that I often find with local Syrahs. Instead the inky black liquid spoke of sweet cherries and floral notes of lilacs. The fragrance was elegant and not so bold on the nose, but fooled me on the palate with its deep flavors of dark brambleberries and a lingering of spicy black pepper.  The tannins were noticeable, but the oak was not.  I later found out it was aged  in only 20% new French oak.   Only 260 cases were produced. For the quality this Syrah is priced excellent at $28.00.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Super Sipper: Sean Sullivan, Seattle Met's Top 100 Washington Wines

Do you know Sean P. Sullivan?  Sean is the author of Washington Wine Report, an independent wine blog focused on Washington State wines.  I've had the fun and privilege of wine tasting with Sean and he is one serious sipper (and a serious spitter). I cannot keep up with him. I believe Sean is one of the best wine bloggers out there. His wine notes when tasting are thoughtful, from his clipboard to his furrowed brow. Obviously, the Seattle Metropolitan magazine takes Sean serious, as well.   He's article on Top 100 Washington Wines is featured in September's Seattle Metropolitan magazine. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meet The Winemakers: Doug Roskelley of Tero Estates

Another great production by Jeremy Gonzalez of the Union Bulletin - - and he lets me tag along!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tumbling Tumbleweeds: Writers & Bloggers

See them tumbling down ...
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. - Sons of the Pioneers

Honestly, as long as I have lived here, I have never seen clusters of tumbleweeds roll down the middle of Main Street Walla Walla. However, I read about these parades of weeds rolling down Main Street in various wine-related articles from writers based in New York, Los Angeles and even western Washington. If I didn't know any better I would think that these old tumbleweeds are being released on cue by Tourism Walla Walla, at least when I am not around, so the visiting journalist can write their usual, "Walla Walla has a "folksy" Western feel to it."  One over-enthusiastic writer even left me with a colorful impression that Main Street Walla Walla was nothing but a dusty dirt trail complete with Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, Marshall Dillon, Doc, Festus, Chester, and Miss Kitty. 

Of course the unwritten rules are this: If a wine blogger wrote about the tumbleweeds constantly rolling down Main Street, we would jump on their heads and dance the "You Are Wrong Again Blobber" dance and the very least would be take these words with a grain of salt. If a "writer" publishes this information in a newspaper or a magazine, it is the gospel even if I have never witnessed these clusters of round thickets rolling along with Main Street traffic.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Weird, Wild and Wacky Pairings: Skylite Cellars Malbec & Pickles

Sometimes you just have to go with it.  Sometimes you have to trust the people who are telling you to try something different.  They say, "Go ahead and try it. You'll like it." 

Now, it's not as if they are making you eat something disgusting or do something gross like a high school locker room prank.  Logic soon kicks in.  Okay. You love dill pickles, especially home made crispy and spicy dills, right?  And you love Malbec.  In fact, Malbec has become one of your favorite red wines.  So when you are told that dill pickles and Malbec are a great pairing, why not?  You give it a try.  

That's what happened to me when visiting longtime friend Cheryl Hodgins, owner of Skylite Cellars and associate, Becky Brammer. They were hosting me one evening for a special food and wine pairing.  They poured me a glass of Malbec and brought out the dill pickles. Now, it's important to know these weren't your average grocery store slimey dull-green pickles with just a flavor of dill.  Becky makes these crunchy little slices of pickled goodness.  They looked almost like a fresh thick-sliced baby cucumber and was also fresh tasting with a great CRUNCH and a bit of spice and fresh dill going on.  So, when they told me how these pickles paired with their Skylite Cellars Malbec - 2007  (a Double Gold winner of the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards and a Double Gold winner at the 2010 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Awards), I had to trust them. 

It worked.  It really worked and in fact the pairing of the two made my mouth salivate and wanting more.  It was quite addictive.  If you understand food and wine pairings,  you know that if you match acid with acid, such as in this case the acids from the pickles and the wine, the acid in the pickles softens the acids in the wine bringing out the fruity notes in the Malbec. 

I think we need to experiment and deep fry some pickles serve them with a side of Skylite Cellars Malbec. 

What is the weirdest, wildest and wackiest food and wine pairing you have ever tried?   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blackbird Blackbird: Otis Kenyon Merlot

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise  - Lennon & McCartney

Is it finally safe for us Merlot lovers to "come out of the closet?" In spite of the persecution that Merlot received during the times of "Sideways," many of us Merlot lovers had to go underground to sip on that often maligned red wine that's the poor relation to King Cab.  Even novice wine consumers, who typically nursed on white zin, were trashing the black grape that derived it's name from the Old French name for a young blackbird (Turdus merula), a diminutive of "merle."

It's not that I happen to love every Merlot that comes along, but I have a strong affinity for our Merlots from Washington State. They are bold, expressive, food friendly and Walla Walla, in particular, is known for producing some of the finest Merlot in the world.  I tell people often, that if you don't care for Merlots (or more like someone told you it wasn't cool to admit to liking them), keep sampling and keep an open mind and you will finally discover several Merlots you will enjoy. 

Otis Kenyon is producing Merlot that can make the most critical of Merlots change their mind with one sniff from the glass.  These are fragrant wines and with each vintage, they are very different and very dramatic.   Otis Kenyon  is a family owned and managed winery and four generations of  deep historical ties in the Walla Walla Valley. They are a boutique winery that produces limited quantities of affordable Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines, not only with grapes from their estate, but fruit sourced from well-known Walla Walla Valley vineyards.   

If it is still available, I recommend the Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2006. It is powerful!  A light sniff from the glass filled my nose with violets - like Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse Eau de Parfum, one of my favorite old fashioned fragrances.  It was heady! It was wonderful!  Who knew that this dark red wine could remind me of spring?  Once on the palate, flavors of dark cherries and plums came out. It had an "earthy" quality that is so typical of Walla Walla grown Merlots.  Notes of milk chocolate rounded out the mouth.  

One of the things that makes the tasting of wines so enjoyable is the unparalleled vintages and what the harvest of a particular year brought us.  Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2007 is a very different Merlot from it's predecessor and yet still very enjoyable on its own.  The nose was bright with notes of brambleberries reaching out.  The acids were well balanced, yet made my mouth salivate wanting to keep sipping.  More berries came through on the palate and it finished with wafts of smoke and dark cocoa.  

Otis Kenyon are fine examples of two very unique and well-made (and well-grown) Merlots that need to be explored before they fly away. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wine Geek Trivia: Appellations

So you ask, "Catie what are you talking about? What exactly is an appellation?'

Well, my inquiring little friend, Wiki says an appellation is:

a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors, may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.

If you are an American wine geek and you talk a lot of wine speak, then you probably know that the term "appellation" is synonymous with the name "American Viticultural Area" or mostly referred to as "AVA." If you are not a wine geek, be very careful not to confuse "appellation" with "Appalachian" or people will point fingers at you and laugh. However, there are appellations in the Appalachians. Confused?

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States that is distinguishable by geographic features. Boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).   There were 198 AVAs as of January, 2010. Prior to the installation of the AVA system, wine appellations of origin in the United States were designated based on state or county boundaries. All of these appellations were grandfathered into federal law. More wine-speak for the wine geek? Basically, "Bacchus Bureaucracy."

My mother tells a good story about appellations on a recent visit to New Mexico. She and her friends were doing the tourist thing and since their host knew how much my mother enjoyed wine and that she lived in Washington wine country, they traveled to a few wineries in New Mexico. One winery, in particular, boasted about their New Mexico Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Chardonnay being the best in the world, don't 'cha know. The person behind the counter especially touted his finest wine which was made from pistachios with real caramel food coloring - ahem. (Does this make me a wine snob?)

My mother was being polite and while trying to make conversation, she asked the man who owned the winery about their wine grapes and if they came from a local New Mexico appellation. The owner of the winery became rather frustrated with her and exclaimed, "Apple-ations? Lady, our wines are made from grapes, not apples!"

The tradition of wine appellations is nothing new. In fact, it is ancient. The oldest references are to be found in the Bible, where wines of Samaria, Carmel, and Jezreel in Israel are mentioned. This tradition of appellation continued throughout the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, though without any officially sanctioned rules. Historically, the world's first exclusive and protected vineyard zone was introduced in Chianti, Italy in 1716 and the first wine classification system in Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary, in 1730.

In 1935, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture, was created to manage wine production in France. However, before 1935, despite the fact that the INAO was yet to be created, Champagne enjoyed an appellation control by virtue of legal protection as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891). The treaty stated that only sparkling wine produced in Champagne and adhering to the standards defined for that name as an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée could be called champagne. This right was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

In Washington state we have a total of 11 appellations, each expressing their own unique area: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain and Lake Chelan.

AVAs do not have to be inclusive of one state. There are several in the United States that blend into the borders of their neighboring states, just as we have seen in our area. The Walla Walla Valley AVA also includes the north east part of Oregon (Milton-Freewater/Umatilla County area), Columbia Gorge AVA is also Washington and Oregon, and the Snake River Valley AVA is Oregon and Idaho.

In the East Coast AVAs there are also blended states such as: Central Delaware Valley (New Jersey & Pennsylvania), Cumberland Valley (Maryland & Pennsylvania), Lake Erie (New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), Shenandoah Valley (Virginia and West Virginia), and Southeastern New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island).

Central AVAs: Mesilla Valley (New Mexico and Texas), Mississippi Delta (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee), Ohio River Valley (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia), Shenandoah Valley (Virginia and West Virginia), and Upper Mississippi Valley (Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin).

In the United States, as the number of wine consumers grow, more opportunities for wine education, expansion of agriculture and understanding our geology and the soils around us; there is no doubt in my mind that  this list of AVA's will soon be obsolete. I'll drink to that.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Wait for it! Wait for it! Waters Winery Syrahs of 2009

Last week seemed to be a week for me of  tasting up-and-coming wines of 2009. How did it happen? Luck and good timing, I suppose. Now, it is important to know that these wines have not been released, let alone the red wines are still in the barrel.  However, the day they become available, these wines will definitely be worth seeking out. 

One group of exciting 2009 vintages I tasted last week were from Waters WineryWaters Winery is a boutique winery located at the south of Walla Walla inches away from the Washington/Oregon border. Waters was founded in 2005 and their foundation was built by the knowledge that terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley are capable of producing some of the best wines in the world. Their approach to wine making, under the hand and passion of winemaker Jamie Brown, is influenced by their preference for "old world" styled wines that are expressive of their "terroirs" - their place of origin.  When I have tasted wines with Jamie, I have always been impressed by the significance of showing place of origin in the wines from Waters Winery, but also how important it is to him that each grape variety expresses its true characteristic. 

The focus of wines from Waters Winery were two luscious Syrahs from two different vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. And with that said, each vineyard offered to the palate two very distinct noses and flavor profiles.  It is always exciting for me to find such obvious differences in the same varietal from the same AVA. 

Waters Winery Loess Vineyard Syrah - 2009:  The Loess vineyard was planted in 2002 by Gary and Chris Figgins of Leonetti Winery - one of the oldest and most renowned wineries in the State of Washington.  This 27-acre vineyard is located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and just two acres are planted in Syrah.  The rows of Syrah have been placed on a 30 degree northeast-southwest orientation to balance morning and afternoon ripening.

The vineyard name, "Loess" (pronounced Luss) comes from the name of one of the soil types that is responsible for making up Walla Walla Valley over 15,000 years ago. In fact, there are days when we still see these soils at work with every wind storm in the valley.  Loess is an accumulation of  wind-blown silt with lesser and variable amounts of sand, clay and some minerals such as fine-grained mica. Loess is a highly porous soil which makes for good drainage in the vineyards. 

The nose of this Syrah was delicate. There were aromas of mocha and cherries with light notes of floral in the background. The mouth feel was round and silky. It continued on with the flavors of mocha and suddenly exploded with flavors of blueberries and spice. The fruit continued to linger and announce itself. If I was to explain this Syrah in one word - - "elegant."  Again, it is important to remember this is a young wine right from the barrel and still needs time to age and reach its full potential. 

Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah - 2009: During the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 in Walla Walla we had an opportunity to visit this vineyard with Christa Hilt of Waters Winery and Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College. 

Forgotten Hills Vineyard was originally planted in 1996 by Jeff Hill, a well known Walla Walla artist, and was planted on the Hill family homestead.  This 7.5-acre vineyard is at the eastern edge of the Walla Walla Valley AVA and is also at the foothills of the Blue Mountains.  This vineyard is composed of three different soil types:  basalt cobblestones, deep silt loam and sandy loam.  Believe it or not, the old cobblestones not only provide drainage, but also radiate heat that continues during our cool evenings in the Walla Walla Valley.  If you don't believe it, pick up a stone in 90 degree temps and see how long you can hold onto it before you are forced to drop it - - unless you are wearing heat-resistant mitts, of course.    

The harvest dates of this vineyard tend to be later in the season than a lot of the vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.  At close to 1,000 feet elevation, along with steady warm winds and less extremes in temperatures, the additional hang time on the vine produces complex fruit that is even and ideal in its ripeness.   

I barely put my nose in the glass and the Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah - 2009 screamed at me, "Coffee-Espresso-Macchiato-Americano!" The nose of this Syrah would make Starbucks pale and run away. This Southern Rhône-style Syrah has a lot to say for such a youngster.  This inky wine couldn't help but to be described as, "Old World" as it brought out notes of musty earth and smoke.  Dark fruits and spices of cloves and pepper were on the palate.   To desribe this Syrah in one word - - "robust."

These two 2009 vintage Syrahs from Waters Winery are a fine example of powerful red wines that express the true characteristics of this dark-skinned grape that is  grown throughout  Walla Walla and Washington State and in fact, the world.  They are truly worth waiting for.  Cheers!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Past and Future: Wine Bloggers Conferences and Breasts

We take a look at this week's news, past and future, regarding Wine Bloggers Conferences and - well, - -  breasts. 

Earlier this week the sponsor feedback was posted on the North American Wine Bloggers Conference website. The event coordinators conducted a survey of 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference sponsors and received 16 responses. First of all it is important to know these sponsors did not include the wineries who participated in the Saturday's excursions. That morning's event was coordinated by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and the event coordinators of the WBC did not have the list of participating wineries.

An example of some of the questions asked:

Why did you sponsor the conference? 14 responded “I am hoping to connect with bloggers who will remember my product or company name for possible future posts,” four responded “I mostly want to support wine bloggers because it is good for our industry,” and no one replied “I was hoping for immediate online exposure from attending bloggers”.

Would you be interested to sponsor the 2011 conference in Charlottesville? Out of eight replies, six people said yes and two said no because of the distance from their winery.

Overall, this is great news that the sponsors are understanding the importance of connecting with wine bloggers and social media tools. I know there have been critics that these new tools cannot be measured, but while you are dinking around with your measuring stick you are already behind if  you aren't dipping your feet in the social media pool.  How well can we honestly track print media? Sure, magazines and newspapers will quote subscription numbers, but there are no guarantees the reader is going to read your ad amongst pages and pages of clustered advertising.  And you wouldn't make your tasting room customers clip a damn coupon to count effectiveness, would you?

The facts are this: if you are a winery you have to look towards the future. You have to understand who your new wine consumer is and undertand your new wine consumer is already relying on social media - they grew up with it and those of us who didn't, their numbers are increasing in usage and familiarity.  

Do I think that print wine media is on its way out?  Of course not.  I think we can all live harmonious together. We can find creative ways to support each other and blend the two medias.  One of my joys in life is winding down at night with my reading glasses hanging on the bottom of my nose, drinking a cup of tea or a glass of wine and reading through my monthly subscriptions of food and wine magazines.  I love glossy!  There is this element of surprise with each page I turn, as corny as it sounds. 

Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post reports that the State of Virginia is putting money where mouth is.  New legislation passed this year, signed by Govenor McDonnell, doubles the state’s financial support for their Virginia Wine Board to use in marketing and research. The growing dollars in their budget, from $580,000 to now $1.35 million, also includes being a major sponsor of the North American Wine Bloggers Conference 2011, which will be held in Charlottesville. 
 
This is great news to hear that another wine producing state understands the significance of wine blogging and social media.  Unfortunately, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is up to, or in this case the "right wing."  Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) of Virginia is supporting HR 5034, the bill that will restrict or even eliminate small wineries ability to ship their wines directly to their customers.   Interesting thought process going on here, Einstein.  So your state is spending money to get the word out about their small wineries, but you want to limit who they can sell their wine to.  Cutting your nose off to spite your face are you, Attorney General Cuccinelli?
 
But what can you expect from a man who covered the breast of Virginia's original state seal showing Virtus, the Roman goddess of bravery and military strength, in his gifting of the seal. The historical state seal was adopted in 1776 and was designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  
 
Not only is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli trying to protect the children from the evils of ordering expensive wine through the internet with their credit cards and skipping recess so they can meet the UPS/FedEx and fool the delivery person with false ID and a fake adult signature, but now he is trying to protect today's and future  children from breasts.   Interesting that Virginia's children of the past weren't too tarnished by looking at a Roman goddess's breast.
Cheers!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Chill with Tertulia Cellars Rosé du Mourvèdre

As some of you may know, I am such a wimp in this heat.  I will never become one of those little ol' blueheads (Well, wait a minute. I guess I already have blue hair ...) who moves to Arizona to retire.  Being a wimp in hot weather is nothing new as I was a casualty of heat strokes as a kid - - and well, even as an adult.  You tell me how embarassing it was to pass out at the Field House at Washington State University one hot September afternoon while watching homie Drew Bledsoe on the football field  - - oh yeah, and the only liquids in my system was water and diet Coke.  So there!

Late Monday afternoon I took a tour of Tertulia Cellars and their vineyards surrounding their estate with winemaker, Quentin Mylet and vineyard manager, Ryan Driver.  It was warm, as usual - - HOT!  We toured through the vines and as I watched the  small green berry clustered vines soak in the water from the drip irrigation, all the time I was thinking to myself, "Like the vines,  I am so happy to also be soaking up some liquid, especially this chilled glass of Tertulia Cellars Art Den Hoed Vineyard Rosé du Mourvèdre - 2009." 

I am so loving these crisp and cool rosés that are coming out of the Walla Walla Valley and I just happened to have found another one that is worthy of a good rant. If you are a lover of the red grape and often ignore white wine (you know who you are) then you should really open your mind to rosés. You have all of the taste of a red wine, but presented to you in a much lighter and refreshing style like a white wine - - and even better with a chill. 

The 2009 growing season in the Columbia Valley started with one of the coolest springs on record, and wet, therefore a very late bud break. As spring transitioned into summer, the temperatures after July 4th was turned up like a blast from a hot furnace making July and August hot-hot-hot! The grapes ripened earlier than usual.

The Art Den Hoed Vineyard stretches 250 acres over the south slope of the Rattlesnake Mountain in the Yakima AVA at 1,300 feet of elevation. There is something about high elevation that tends to draw the Den Hoed family, as they would later establish the Wallula Vineyard overlooking the Columbia River. 

Mourvèdre is a red grape with French roots and is known to produce tannic and high in alcohol wines.  It is most successful in Rhone-style blends. This brilliant-colored red rosé from Tertulia Cellars was barrel-fermented in 100% neutral French oak  giving it just the right amount of roundness and still allowing to show off the fruit's bright acids without a visit from the "oak monster." 

During fermentation, temperatures were kept below 60° F to reach dryness and in order to preserve the wine’s aromatics of strawberry-rhubarb pie with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream.  Yes - - that's my visual  - - strawberry-rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.  And the flavors of this summer dessert continued on in the palate. So how can you pick up a flavor and/or mouthfeel of vanilla ice cream, you ask? 

Lees are often stirred to give wines a creamy mouthfeel in the finish.  Lees (in France known as "sur lie") refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles (like grape skins) that hang at the bottom of the barrel or tank during fermentation and aging. "Stirring the lees" (also known as "batonnage") provides that creamy mouthfeel that is often described in the finish of red and also white wines. 

Okay, now with science of winemaking behind us, let's get back to the Tertulia Cellars Rosé du Mourvèdre:  It is one of those summer wines, that is not only the perfect porch sipper (yes, I could have finished the bottle by myself ...) but a wine to be explored with a summer menu of grilled vegetables, hamburgers, shish kebabs and BBQ pork.  If and only if you can hang onto a bottle  by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I highly recommend it with the turkey feast.  Cheers!

Meet the Winemakers: Holly Turner of Three Rivers Winery

When Jeremy Gonzalez, Online/Social Media Coordinator for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, asked me to hang with him while shooting his new video series, "Meet the Winemakers," I was thrilled.

Holly Turner, winemaker and general manager of Three Rivers Winery was fun to interview - - and as you will see for yourself, the camera loves her.  Enjoy this video and stay tuned as there will be several more "Meet the Winemakers" videos on the way.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Open Your Mind: Revisit the Grapes

A few days ago I was visiting with a long-time friend who was also raised in the Walla Walla Valley.  She also enjoys writing and was telling me she is starting a wine and writing club, but then confessed to me - - she has never really cared that much for red wine.   SKIDS-SCREECH-HALT!  WHAT?

She then confessed she tried Cabernet Sauvignon once with a steak and didn't think it was too bad.  Well, now you're talkin'.  I then went on to tell her that perhaps she should start with a softer red grape since she thought the Cabernet was okay.  Just when I barely got "... such as Merlot" out of my mouth she exclaimed, "I hate Merlot!" 

"What?" I said, "How can you hate Merlot?"  She went on to tell me that her first encounter with Merlot was even a L******* Merlot.  She said all she could taste was strong oak and nothing else.  I asked her how long ago it was that she partook of this coveted wine and she had figured it was about 10 years ago.  Yeah, there was a time in the Walla Walla when the oak monster visited the valley.  I told her that we could revisit that same wine today, same vintage, and more than likely she would enjoy it.  I then suggested that she starts visiting the wineries around the valley and to try all of the Merlots, because chances are she is going to find a Merlot she will enjoy.  Which leads me to - -

I cannot tell you how many wine tasting customers I have run across, during my days of pouring in a tasting room, who; when it was time to pour the Chardonnay would always say, "We hate Chardonnay (que to turn down the nose with a wrinkle and hiss). We only do redsss."  

Sigh. Here we go again.

It was often a challenge, but more than often I could eventually get the "Chardonnay Hater" to sample a sip and even walk out the door with a bottle (or two) as I triumphantly "tee-hee'd" quitely to myself.  The key to this success?  I told them the truth, but honestly?  I think it was the term, "Made the Burgundian style by our French winemaker." The suggestions and whispers of  Francophilia got them everytime.  It was just the visions of the "Old World" that finally made them open their minds - open their minds to try something new or in this case, something "old."  And I have my own guilt to bear as in the past I have been guilty of closing my mind to Semillons without even trying them.  Finally, I am free  as the more I keep sipping on Semillons, the more I am enjoying them and finding a winemaking style that suits my palate. 

The American consumer is guilty of following fashion and trends and unfortunately wine is being treated no different than purchasing a knock-off shoe that imitates the tootsie coverlet Paris Hilton wore to visit Lindsey Lohan in jail.  We tend to view varietals based on trend instead of our personal palates or well appointed food and wine pairings.  In the "New World," especially in North America, Merlot and Chardonnay were trends at one time and now the trendy wines to drink are Pinot Noir and Grenache. "Move over Chardonnay, we want Roussanne!" 

Break out of the trends.  Revisit the wines that you have forsaken and especially say hello to wines that you have decided you just didn't like because - - well, you really have no answer or reason.  Probably the same reason you chose not to eat your green beans as a kid without even trying them (But I bet you would now eat haricots verts if it was presented to you with that name - you know who you are). 

If you are a true wine lover at heart or want to learn more about wines, you will find the Semillons and the Merlots of your dreams if you keep an open mind.  Cheers!