Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Tale of Morrison Lane Syrah and the Little Man Scoffer

When I think of syrah from the Walla Walla Valley, I often think of Morrison Lane. The Morrison family was one of the first (or may be the very first) to have syrah in their vineyards - - and the grapes are well known. There are other wineries in the area who have received accolades and awards with the syrah grape from the Morrison Lane Vineyards, such as Charles Smith K-Vintners, Walla Walla Vintners, and Barrister Winery from Spokane, WA.

I got my hands on a few bottles of Morrison Lane Syrah - 2004. Recently I had some smarmy little man in a black hat scoff at the wine - - and the prig (Or should I say "some misinformed soul?" No - - "prig" works for me.) hadn't even tasted it! In a rather condescending voice, and especially to impress the woman he was with, the prig informed me that "... the wine wouldn't be any good because syrah doesn't hold up to age. I mean, everyone knows that - - right?" Scoff-scoff-scoff. The tone of his voice was rather offensive as if I was trying to cheat him or I was ignorant about wine.

It is true that, unlike a new tannic cabernet, some syrahs do not necessarily benefit from age, but then again - - not all syrahs are made equal. Scoff that remark (syrahs does not hold up to age ...) to the lover and bearer of an aged Penfolds "Grange" or Côte Rôtie. I dare ya. I double dog dare ya.

I knew the wine was worthy, besides being it was a Morrison Lane wine and they have proven to be solid, but I had also recently tasted an even older library wine from Morrison Lane that was still full of life.

Later that evening, in great defiance, I opened the bottle of 2004 Morrison Lane Syrah and I was not surprised one bit of what came out of the bottle. I knew it had held up. The color was still a beautiful inky purple and almost with a "thickness" as it gurgled into the glass. As I stuck my nose deep into the bowl of the glass, I immediately picked up what I refer to as "Walla Walla" or "Autumn."

Grapes from the Walla Walla Valley often have a smoky and earthy aroma. The taste was that of blackberries, bread and cloves. It still carried that light, but smoky quality - - like burning leaves. The finish left my mouth with a lot of spice and a bit of oak in the finish. Oh and let me say this - - these notes are overall from the second day of opening - and once again after I tasted the wine on its third day, these notes are still very much present. I would definitely recommend to enjoy this syrah with food.

The first and second day of opening I paired each glass with dinner. The first meal was baked potato and standing rib roast and the second day was a light dinner of cheese and crackers. The wine was even better on the second day. Third day? Two sips out of curiosity, but with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee. I will finish the bottle this evening and sip it with confidence I am tasting a worthy wine. In fact, as I write this the empty glass is by my computer and still emits and wafts the fruity, yeasty and smoky remnants from the wine.

The moral of the story? Don't be priggish and judge a book - - or ummm ... a label and vintage by its cover. Isn't that the glory of wine? To open the bottle, experience and explore?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eat Eat Walla Walla

Dinner's ready!

Shannon Smith-McKeown has been collecting recipes ever since she was a little girl growing up in Walla Walla. As she remembers, one of her favorite things was listening to her mother and aunts talk about the food they grew up with, especially on their ranch located in the Walla Walla area. Her family had picnics, potlucks and even Saturday night "Kitchen Dances." This was the time when friends and neighbors would bring their finest from the oven.

She read cookbooks as if they were novels. Shannon even enjoyed the history, preparation and the possibility of menus. The more outdated the recipe, and the simpler, often the better; as far as she was concerned.

Throughout the years family and friends would share some of their favorite recipes with Shannon. She also enjoyed passing her recipes on to others. Soon she would have a collection - - in fact, a collection big enough to fill her own "novel."

"Eat Eat Walla Walla" is a collection of recipes, not only from Shannon, but also from other sources in the Walla Walla Valley. Shannon makes note that some of the "contributors" may look somewhat fictional as she has taken historical people, places, and things from Walla Walla to cleverly design "nom de plumes" for recipes by such authors as: Baker Boil, Rose Street, Milton F. Water, and Gary Son (aka Baker Boyer Bank, Rose St., Milton-Freewater, and Garrison Middle School).

Just pouring through these recipes will inspire you to cook and will especially make you hungry. There are over 299 recipes and everything from appetizers, breads, soups, salads, sides, main dishes, and desserts. There is quite a variety, too: Irish Chicken (yes, made with Irish Cream) and even Southern Bread Pudding (made with bourbon).

From the homestyle comfort food such as Walla Walla Pea Salad and Cow Pie Cookies to the sophisticated such as Coquille St. Dakota and Left Bank French Silk Pie.

To all of you lovers of Walla Walla, to those of you who like to "eat eat," and even you collectors of cookbooks, there is something in this book for everyone and especially to share as gifts. For more information about Shannon's book, please visit her website at Eat Eat Walla Walla.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bliss and Locati Cellars Sangiovese

It's been no secret I enjoy pondering food and wine pairings. I use to play it safe until a few years ago when I enjoyed an entree prepared by one of my favorite local chefs. The pairing was lobster in a saffron broth and accompanied with cabernet franc. Whoever said seafood and cabernet do not mix, never tried this memorable, yet unusual pairing. I've been inspired to explore "boldness" ever since.

Yesterday morning I went to Starbucks to get my usual. I had an early meeting so I didn't have time to have a little breakfast at home, other than my usual cup of coffee. The pastry shelves looked so tantalizing, as they often do, and there it was. It was rich, colorful and festive. The Cranberry Bliss Bar: a blonde brownie base, topped with a sweet cream cheese icing and tart dried cranberries, garnished with a white orange drizzle.

It turned out I had such a busy morning, I didn't even get an opportunity to eat my "Bliss" until later in the evening, after I returned home.

Locati Cellars Sangiovese - 2008
was also my wine of the evening. The wine is a blend of two vineyards from two different areas: the estate vineyard at Mission Hills in Walla Walla and Rosebud Vineyards from the Wahluke Slope.

Sangiovese is typically an excellent food wine with it's rich acidic finish. Locati Cellars Sangiovese is a fine example of why this wine grape has paired so well with tomato-base Italian cuisine for centuries.

When you hold the half-filled wine glass bowl to the light, you see a clear and brilliant garnet color from the Sangiovese. The aromatics are bold of cherries, cigar box, and vanilla.

As I was sipping the wine more cherries came through with a round mouthful of even more cherries, along with caramel, and a long finish of crisp bright acids.

I decided it was time to attack that colorful bar of Cranberry Bliss and what I found was a unique and luscious pairing with the Locati Cellars Sangiovese. The texture of the blonde and chewy caramel-like brownie and soft buttery white chocolate met the lush roundness of the wine. The sweet-tart acids from the dried cranberries and the bright acids from wine complimented each other.

It was - - bliss.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Wine Brawls and Debauchery

"Mom Ferguson" strikes again!

If you remember my previous article I posted in September, Rethinking Drinking, I wrote about "hate mail" I was receiving from a local woman. Her criticism was regarding a previous article I had written about wine being good for your health.

My critic felt I was overly excited about alcohol, that I was going to turn into an alcoholic, and that my professional moniker (Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman) suggested I was evil and literally “wild.”

She also implied that I would not substitute wine for fresh grapes if it meant I would have to leave the social wine “scene.” Further, my critic suggested that even though it was my doctor who had recommended a glass of wine a day, I would not have gotten nearly as excited about this “prescription” if he had told me to eat a handful of grapes a day, instead. Then of course, several Bible quotes later from her - - how convenient she forgot to list any biblical quotes about judging others.

Over a year later I receive another email from her. Last night's email, she suggests that we should be telling people that grapes are good for us (instead of wine) and not to ruin the grapes with any alcohol and without any "risky behavior." Then came the quote:

"Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise." - Proverbs 20:1

Brawls. What is a braaa-wwwl? Even the word itself sounds rather clumsy, coarse and ugly. The dictionary says: to quarrel or fight noisily.

I don't know about you, but I have never been to a wine function where the wine leads to "brawls" and "risky behavior." Typically the conversation is often very studious and wine geeky as we discuss the soil the vines are grown in, the nuances of the wine, how it pairs with food and even comparisons of similar wine grapes and vintages. The debauchery and brawls must happen way after I leave these wine events.

As far as when I drink a glass of wine at home, any debauchery that happens is usually on the evening TV news or on the Bravo channel, Housewives of New York City or Atlanta.

Perhaps my critic would like an insight to what goes on at a wine-related function to ease her inquisitive and possible salacious imagination. In fact, just the other night I attended such a function that was somewhat wine related - - or at least there were several guests who worked in the wine industry. And we drank? Wine, of course.

Everyone was dressed in their finest and of course, who would want to get involved in a brawl to possibly lose a sequin or feather from their evening attire, let alone dirty an expensive tuxedo? The only "risky behavior" I witnessed was wearing high heels while climbing a stair case to the top of the third-floor. Did we discuss and perform acts of Sodom and Gomorrah, the orgies of Caligula, and the sexual prowess of the cloven-hoofed Pan? Well, not in any of the rooms I was visiting.

The conversations I had with my peers were of the results of harvest, the new wines in the barrel, how did the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau compare to other years, how to address unethical business practices, riding and training Morgan horses, beloved family dogs, Santa Claus, children, cookie recipes, cheese and wine pairings, Disneyworld, and social media for businesses. Pretty tame conversations I would say and even the majority of these topics you could discuss in the Fellowship Hall of most churches.

I even chatted, over a glass of wine, about the recent trip to the Wallowas I took my mother on for a few days to check out the fall colors. I even brought a couple of bottles of wine with me to the Wallowas and my mother enjoyed a few glasses, as well - - and no - - there were no brawls with my mother.

If there were any bacchanalia going on at this event, or any wine-related events that I attend, the brawls must happen - - well - - after I leave.

Here's the bottom line. "Mom Ferguson" is not going to change my mind nor will she convert me to her religion. I have tried to educate myself about wine and alcohol with the best tools and experiences as possible. Obviously I will not change "Mom Ferguson's" mind, either. It has become very apparent she is not educated in this topic because, not only does she suggest things that are not true, but she does not have first hand experience with wine and/or wine-related events.

However, it is important to understand I do not expect "Mom Ferguson" to start drinking wine, especially if it has never been a part of her diet or lifestyle. But the very least, I would expect for her to rid of her assumptions and become educated before she starts preaching and judging others. I respect her right not to drink wine, but unfortunately she does not respect my right to drink it.

So, it appears that "Mom F" and I are going to have to agree to disagree.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting and Wine Taste & Tote

The forecast for the weekend of our holiday barrel tasting looks like sunny skies ahead, however temperatures will be "nippleus erectus" (that's Latin for "cold"). So, be sure to dress warm and comfy. However, not too comfy if you are thinking about wearing one of those new flannel onesie "Forever Lazy" pajama suits as seen on infomercials.

This time of the year the Blue Mountains and downtown Walla Walla are always so holiday card perfect and the vines in the valley are getting ready for a long winter's nap. Winemakers have picked the perfect barrels to introduce their future nectar to wine lovers of all levels - from the novice to the aficionado. Every winery will show off the best of their wines, as well as something that will capture all five of the senses.

There will be everything from small bites of cheese, tamales, and bizcochitos to large bites of cheese, stew and even a chocolate fountain! Holiday lights, art and Christmas movies. Music, horse and buggy rides, and even a Macy's Christmas parade. New York City has nothing on us.

Now, here is the time where I lecture you all about the care and feeding of the wine tasting tourist. Skip the granola. Go for major biscuits and gravy. Your stomach will need something to soak up the wine. Think about packing some snacks in the car and most important, water-water-water. Hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! And remember to apply Robert Fulghum’s, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten:

Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, say you are sorry when you hurt people, wash your hands before you eat, flush, hold hands and stick together, cookies and milk are good for you

Okay, so you can trade out the cookies and milk for cheese, crackers and red wine are good for you. Also, give your palate a break. Don't try to pack in 13 wineries and all of their wines in one day. Spread it out, slow down your pace and enjoy. You can come back to visit us again, right?

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Now for what's new and oh so exciting for our wine tourists: Starting December 1 (yesterday), Alaska Airlines and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance announced the launch of Walla Walla Wine Taste and Tote. This is a one of a kind program that provides waived tasting fees at over 70 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley - - and - - no check-in fee for the first case of wine (if properly packed in shipping cases) that accompanies any Walla Walla outbound Alaska Airlines passenger.

What does this mean? It means you will no longer have to leave behind all of your dirty underwear in the hotel room, forsake your favorite pair of Jimmy Choo heels, or wear three sets of clothing on the plane just so you can stuff all of your treasured bottles of Walla Walla wine into your check-in luggage.

For more information, check out the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance website (see above) and many thanks to them for all of their hard work.

Enjoy the weekend in Walla Walla and all of the wonderful things it has to offer and most of all - - be safe.