Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Hallow-Wine: Wine and Candy Pairing!

It’s Trick 'r Drinking time! If you’ve been a consistent reader of this blog you know I am all about pairing food and wine pairings. I love this time of year in the Walla Walla Valley and I love Halloween. And the question I have is - - what kind of candy to hand out to the little ghouls and goblins?

Every year varies. If I am in my healthy self-righteous diet mode then I will give out candy I do not personally enjoy. My reason? So I won't be snacking on it. You know the kind: Dum-Dum's, bubble gum, and hard year-old taffy. If I am in my "I don't give a bat's ass-gimme-chocolate" mood, then I will give out the good stuff. And when I say good stuff I mean candy like Three Musketeers, Snickers, and Hershey bars. Of course, while I am waiting on the lil' monsters to ring the door bell, I need to be sipping on a little wine.

Wine and candy have so much in common. For years, scientists had interesting theories about the relation between munching on candy and indulging on alcohol. They have discovered that the sugars in candy ferments in the stomach in a manner that seemed similar to the fermentation of alcohol. The history of candy is also very much linked with that of alcohol. The candy industry experienced a boom during Prohibition. When bars and saloons were forced to close down and "bootleg" wasn't always and easily available, people flocked to soda and ice cream shops for their "fermented" fix.

So if you are going to really indulge, what kind of wine pairs with Halloween candy?

Candy Corn: Chardonnay makes for a good pairing with these little nuggets of white, yellow and orange. I would choose Chardonnay from either Abeja, Don Carlo Vineyards or Forgeron Cellars. All three of these wines are very light in oak and will not mask that sweet candy corn goodness.

Caramel Apples: Sauvignon Blanc from Fjellene Cellars or Woodward Canyon. The clean and refreshing tastes from these wines bring out the crispness from the apple without feeling "bone dry" on the palate. However, you better have them already in your cellar or do some beggin' because these two wines disappear quickly like a vampire in daylight.

Mary Janes "Peanut Butter Kisses" (the taffy in the orange and black wax wrappers): I would recommend any good and affordable red blend, such as Ash Hollow's Headless Red in keeping with the holiday. Also, if you want to make yourself a candy and wine "peanut butter and jelly sammie," I would think about pairing a Malbec with the peanut butter kisses. Substance or Tertulia Cellars Malbec and also Ash Hollow's Malbec will do the trick - - or treat.

Almond Joy: Rieslings from Long Shadow's Poet’s Leap or Buty's Beast will pair nicely with the addition of the coconut and almonds from the candy. I would also get bold and try a Gewurztraminer. It will show off some exotic fruits from the wine and will still blend well with the fruit and nuts from the candy. I recommend Sleight of Hand Cellars Gewurztraminer.

Hershey Chocolate Bar (with or without almonds): So what yummy Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon isn't going to go with a chocolate bar? However, I would recommend a more mellow Cab with softer tannins that won't interfere, but blend with the chocolate. Trust me. I would also recommend a chocolatey and smooth Cabernet Franc from Tero Estates or Walla Walla Vintners.

Three Musketeers Bar: Any Walla Walla produced Merlot is going to pair well with one of my favorite candy bars! In fact, the first Merlots that comes to mind are from Otis Kenyon, L'Ecole No 41, and SuLei Cellars to name a few. Merlot does not seem to over-power the milk chocolate or the light and fluffy center.

Snickers Bar: Sangiovese makes for a great pairing. The earthy and dark cherry qualities from this grape work well with the peanuts, caramel and nougat. Once again, we need a red wine that is light in tannins and Sangiovese is perfect. Locati Cellars, Mannina Cellars and Russell Creek Cellars are three "original" Sangios that come to mind when I think of this grape.

M&M's: A handful of these color-assorted candies pair nicely (peanut or plain) with a glass of Syrah. Choose your Syrah like you do your favorite M&M colors such as Morrison Lane Vineyard Syrah pairs nicely with the red and brown ones. Bergevin Lane She-Devil Syrah is a good pairing with the blue and yellow M&M’s. The green M&M's? I can only think of one syrah that is perfect for that notorious color, but a syrah produced from Kontos Cellars. Now, if you just want to shove a blend of colors in your mouth like a hungry werewolf, then go with a blended wine like "Devotion" from Dowsett Family Wines - a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache.

Petits Noirs Truffles and Brights Hand-Dipped Chocolates: These two local chocolatiers really deserve their own category because they produce chocolates for us "kids" with an adult palate. Petits Noirs truffles and mendiants and Bright's classic chocolate dipped handmade caramels, nuts, and chews are deserving of some of the finest local wines around. Where to start? For a few recommendations, I would check out Glencorrie Cuvee Marquis, Gramercy Cellars Inigo Montoya Tempranillo, Cougar Crest "Syrillo," and hell - just do it - - it's only once a year, go Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon.

Remember as with the M&M’s, all of the above wines will melt in your mouth and not in your hands. So have fun experimenting like Dr. Frankenstein and remember, it's not a perfect science and certainly nothing to be scared about or scream over. Trick 'r Treat!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't Lose Your Head. Buy Ash Hollow Headless Red

October is one of my favorite months here in the valley and it's also a very eerie month, as well. The weather changes, the evenings are crisp with a light smokiness in the air. It's the end of wheat harvest and the beginning of crush in the vineyards. The days are shorter and the sky is often magical with its full moon. The light from the bluish orb often creates shadows amongst the clouds in the dark blue-gray sky. Even the sunsets are magical, especially here in the Walla Walla Valley.

So, Hollywood may have its cult spooky film classics like Sleepy Hollow, but Walla Walla has its cult "spooky" wine classic.

Ash Hollow Winery
announced its third vintage release of its rather new and soon-to-be iconic wine label, “Headless Red.” I cannot think of a more appropriate wine to celebrate the summer's end and the arrival of fall.

Ash Hollow Winery started in 1998 when a small group of family and friends purchased a 287-acre farm to start a vineyard. Researching maps from one hundred years ago, they learned that the grounds at one time had a homestead with a large hollow of ash trees and appropriately named ‘Ash Hollow.’ In the mean time, there has been some changes at the winery, but mostly new and exciting growth. "Headless Red" is part of the Ash Hollow's "Legends" brand which was first introduced in 2009. The first release was 450 cases and sold out in three weeks. This new and third release will consist of 1,000 cases.

“More than a label, Headless Red epitomizes everything we believe in about making great wine,” said Jennifer Gregory, general manager of Ash Hollow. “We may be just a dot on the map in the remote tiny town of Walla Walla, but we have big ambitions. We know wine and we want the world to know us. After all, life is too short to drink bad wine.”

And with that said, "Headless Red" is not a bad wine, but it is "bad" as it's sinfully delicious! It's a unique blend of 58% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, and 3% Malbec grapes — all hand-harvested before the beautiful Walla Walla dusk from Ash Hollow’s Estate Vineyard. The wine floats aromatics of dark raspberry and bloody crimson cherries with whispering and haunting hints of dark black earth, heady (or is that headless?) spices, and with a subtle oak finish. Headless Red has a mid-palate that is as luxurious as it is accessible.

I attended the Headless Red VIP Release Party on Saturday, which was held outdoors complete with a view of the eastern Blue Mountain foothills. It was a wonderful way to kick-off a fall event complete with hay bales, a bonfire - - and yes, they even queued in the fog machine. Not only was there symphonic, yet eerie background music to get us in the mood, but we were also wined and dined. We sipped on Headless Red and dined on a feast of "small bites" including: mice, worms, bloody fingers, eyeballs, and brains (use your imagination here, folks). And the party got even better ...

The Headless Horseman and his trusty steed appeared out of the darkness and was the guest of honor.

The black horse rearing on the Headless Red label was imported in 2007 from Holland by Jennifer Gregory, Ash Hollow's general manager. The beautiful dark Grimm is a 10-year old trick-trained Friesian gelding. Grimm stands 16 ½ hands high and weighs about 1500 lbs. The gelding was taught to rear on command as shown on the label of Headless Red. Jennifer and Grimm are recognized figures as they frequently ride in local parades and exhibitions in the Walla Walla valley.

Ash Hollow’s new release kicks off with a haunting video depicting the Headless Horseman catching a thief in the act of stealing grapes. Beyond wine aficionados, entertainment junkies and filmmakers alike will appreciate the quality of the story-telling, the beautiful and haunting original score by Terrance May, and the hi-def production and sound effects all shot on location in Walla Walla without the advantage of Hollywood special effects.

Local photographers Don Fleming and Travis Wilton captured the astonishing photo for the label, but also produced and directed the new video. On Saturday evening, not only did the guests view the new goose-bumping video announcing the new release, but we were also privileged to view a slide show of the making of the video. It took Don and his team almost three months from start to finish.

“Its great to see a customer’s reaction when they find out the 'Headless Horseman' is real, and not created in Photoshop,” said Jennifer Gregory.

Ash Hollow is encouraging viewers to log in to YouTube (or see below) and watch the video carefully where a secret code will be revealed offering 1-cent shipping on orders of twelve bottles or more for the month of October. Additionally, people who join Ash Hollow’s Wine Club with the secret code will save 10-25% off the case. With Halloween around the corner, the timing is perfect for the video's tagline - -

"Don't lose your head. Buy estate grown Headless Red."