Friday, December 24, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Wine Christmas in Walla Walla

Yes. I am still here.

When people ask me what the most important thing about "owning" a blog, I tell them, "Be consistent."

Uh oh, I haven't followed my own rule very well. My reason? The last couple of months I have been out of sorts. I am such a creature of schedules and routines and somewhere, in the last couple of months, I have misplaced them and now trying to develop new ones. You see for the last 10 years I worked for a law office and had my routines and definite schedules. Now I am no longer stuck in a small office area manning eight phone lines with little hope of stretching my legs and maybe catching a bathroom break. Lunch? At 2:00 pm - - maybe. No longer am I keeping track of 15 people. No longer am I listening to potential client's insurmountable problems and pairing them with the right attorney. No longer am I the office guard dog deciding who gets to see the great and powerful Wizard, Dorothy. Now I have a new boss - - me. My new boss is trying to find her way.

There is so much I want to blog about and I don't know where to start. The last four months have been busy! In September I visited the wineries of Leavenworth, Chelan and Wenatchee. It was a wonderful weekend spent with 12 other wine bloggers from Washington State. In October I spent a weekend as a guest of Maryhill Winery, along with two other wine bloggers and a handful of travel writers, at the Columbia River. We toured the area, as well as Hood River. Later in October I was asked to be a judge for the 2010 Idaho Wine Competition held at Ste. Chapelle Winery in Caldwell. I have my list of highlights of the Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting, complete with photos.

In the last four months I have tasted several Walla Walla wines from the many wineries, besides other wines from Washington, Idaho and Oregon and at least a hundred-plus imports. Oh yes, then I took on the project of remodeling a building in downtown Walla Walla - - and now that building holds a wine store. In the mean time, I am still here and every day I think I am going to sit down and blog. And when I finally find time, a spell of writer's block takes over. Oh sure, I have several topics to blog about, but when I look at my keyboard I feel paralyzed. Can't explain it, but it happens.

A new year is upon us and so is a new resolution. I am woman (a Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman), hear me roar. Blogging blogs too big to ignore!

One of the joys of the holiday season is the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for reading me since 2005. May you dream of a Wine Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From Rome to Walla Walla: Secco Italian Bubbles

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting with one of Walla Walla's newest residents - Ginevra Casa Smith. Oh sure, the Smith name sounds familiar right? Ginevra (left) and sister Olivia moved from Rome, Italy to the United States where they settled in Colorado. Not only did they pack their bags for their destination, but they packed their history, enthusiasm and passion for wine. Ginevra went to work as an Italian Wine Specialist for a Colorado distributor for four years and Olivia found a place in the wine business, as well. It was a natural for the two of them, with their strong backgrounds in wine, to dream about a wine project of their own.

Soon Ginevra became a new bride and honeymooned in Veneto with her new groom. Oh, and her groom is also a winemaker - - Walla Walla's Charles Smith. Now does the name "Smith" sound familiar? Together the honeymooners discovered wine, as well as sparkling blends in Italy.

Ginevra reminded me about the recent changes to Prosecco laws in Italy. Only the producers in the DOC and DOCG zones are now allowed to call their wine, "Prosecco." Sparkling wines produced in the IGT designation now have to call their sparkling wines, Glera - the name of the white grape variety mainly cultivated for use in Italian sparklers. The term "Prosecco" will be used to identify the region, just like the Champagne region in France, and also the sparkler will be produced with the Glera grape.

What does this mean? It means that if you are not in the Prosecco region and you are not using the Glera grape, blending the Glera grape or making a Rosé sparkler, you cannot use the name,"Prosecco."

So what's Italian girls suppose to do when they can no longer have their favorite Italian bubbles? Well, they make their own! And that is exactly what Ginevra and Olivia did. Ginevra and Olivia kept their Italian tradition alive by creating their own brand, "Secco Italian Bubbles!" And when I asked Ginevra if it was okay to mention Charles when it came to her business, she was delighted to tell me how Charles was instrumental in suggesting that Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) be used in their rosé blend.

"Secco Italian Bubbles" are fun, sexy and food friendly sparklers from Northern Italy. Secco white is a blend of the 60% Pinot Bianco and 40% Prosecco (Glera). It is crisp with fruit and floral notes and finishes dry with a light herbal note. Secco Rosé is not only pretty in the glass, but very swoon-worthy. The blend of 60% Prosecco and 40% Pinot Nero tickles the nose with aromas of roses and then tickles the mid-palate with "fizzy" cherries and berries. Seriously? I had a glass of the Secco Rosé for lunch. Oh yeah and with a chocolate cookie. See? I told you these sparklers were food friendly. Secco Italian Bubbles are luxury wines with affordable price tags.

Ginevra is charming so please take the opportunity next Wednesday, December 15 to meet her at Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman from 5-7 and sample for yourself these fun and flirty Secco Italian Bubbles.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting and Treasure Maps

These are treasure maps of wineries leading you to an abundance of jewels such as gold chardonnays, ruby red merlots and purple amethyst cabernets. They are comprehensive maps of the area’s wineries together mapping out over a 100 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, including Milton-Freewater, Oregon and Dayton in Columbia County, Washington.

Tourism Walla Walla partnered with the city’s Geographic Information System group to create the map, while Michele Rennie, Tourism Walla Walla’s board chair, gathered the list of wineries along with their addresses and phone numbers. The maps should never be obsolete because as new wineries pop up in the valley, as they often do, the city’s GIS group can immediately update the maps.

These four two-sided maps are conveniently divided into concentrated areas of wineries including: Downtown Walla Walla, Eastside, Westside, Southside and Oregon. Also included on the maps are major hotels and B&B's.

The colorful maps are printed on tablet like tear-sheet forms and available at the Tourism Walla Walla Visitor Center, as well as the hotels, B&B’s and the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. Also, they are very easy to locate and print from Tourism Walla Walla’s website in PDF form.

Holiday Barrel Tasting starts today and the release of these new maps will make it convenient for tourists, and even locals, to have a better understanding of what to realistically plan for, driving and timewise, when visiting the wineries. Also, speaking of Holiday Barrel Tasting, check out what the wineries have in store for you at the Walla Walla Wine Alliance - - and don’t forget the Annual Macy’s Christmas Parade of Lights on Saturday at 6:00 pm. I cannot think of a better way to get in the holiday spirit than a visit to Walla Walla.

Remember to eat well, hydrate well and discover a new wine that you have never tried before. Cheers!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NewAir Wine Cooler is Cool!

Let's say that after the Holiday Barrel Tasting in Walla Walla this weekend you finally get home to discover that you bought a lot of wine! Now, you have to remove the vacuum cleaner out of the closet to stuff all of those bottles of wine into. The only problem is the closet is right next to the furnace.

Chances are you spent a little bit of cash to buy a nice collection of assorted wines from the various wineries in Walla Walla. Keeping wine at the proper temperature is imperative if you want to keep the same true aromas and flavors that gave you the reason to buy the bottles of wine in the first place. If you keep wine at too cool of a temperature, you can risk the flavors being lost. Too warm? The aging process can speed up and actually "cook" the wine.

So let's talk wine coolers - - and no I am not talking about the bottle of adult soda pop with a little bit of so-called wine in it from the 1980's. I'm talking about a cool place to store your wine in. Late summer I was on the hunt for a little wine cooler. I wanted a wine cooler that I could keep just a few bottles cool and one with dual temps with two separate compartments - one for white and another for red wines. It was important that I have a cooler with a slim style that would fit in a corner and most of all, one that I could pick up and move easily with my old arthritic fingers and useless thumbs.

Bacchus the God of Wine must have heard my wish as Stephanie from Air n Water Inc. came to my rescue. Stephanie generously offered to send me a thermoelectric wine cooler as a sample to check out for my very own!

The wine cooler was delivered to my door and the first thing I noticed, and very surprised, how light it was, weighing in around 45-50 lbs - - the weight of a case of wine. It was the perfect size for me to haul to its permanent place. I was sent NewAir Model #AW-210ED. The wine cooler is a simple, but attractive, black cabinet with stainless steel trimmed handles on dual doors with dual temperature zones. Perfect to keep a separate selection of red and white wines at different temperatures.

The capacity is 21 bottles and the actual cooler size is 32 1/4" (H) x 13 1/2" (W) x 20" (D). I did notice that the racks are designed more for Bordeaux-shaped bottles, but after removing one or two of the handy racks, I was able to stuff the cooler with lots of bottles of bubbly.

One of the biggest features that I really like about the NewAir AW-210ED, besides being compact, is the duel temps. The cabinet's upper and lower zones are independently refrigerated allowing me to chill two different types of wine at once. The control settings were easy for me to operate with a touch button panel with a very visible LED display. One more thing - - it is quiet and doesn't vibrate. This little unit just sits in the corner and does its thing. It is reasonably priced at $285.99, but I believe there is a price break going on for the holidays.

Keep you and your wine cool, calm and collected with this great little wine cooler from NewAir.