Friday, March 29, 2013

Dance Chardonnay - 2011

Allen Shoup and Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows Consortium did it again. 

Teamed with John Kaiser of Kaiser Vineyard at The Benches, perched high on a windy bluff in the Wallula/Columbia River area, this talented trio created a sophisticated Chardonnay sourced from The Benches estate fruit located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. 

This wasn't their first attempt, either. After five experimental vintages exploring other sites, it was this unique terroir (including a magnificent view), that gave this visionary team the character and complexity they were looking for in Chardonnay. I understand that the previous experimental vintages were shared with family and friends. Ahhh - - the benefits of wine experiments. 

Keeping with tradition of this vibrant grape with strong French roots, yet often misunderstood, this elegant wine was fermented with Montrachet yeast and aged in French oak barrels from Burgundy, 50% new and 50% one-year old. After being aged for 11 months, the "cream of the crop" was reserved for the "Dance" Chardonnay label and a smaller quantity, but lighter in style, was used under the second Long Shadow's label, "Nine Hats." 

Crisp and bright flavors of stone fruit, such as white peaches and apricots, also show off another layer of stone, but this time of minerals. No doubt these notes of minerals tell the story of the miles of basalt that line the great Columbia River at Wallula. A hint of candied citrus teases the tongue with a touch of creaminess, leading to a long finish. Rich. Complex. A dance on the palate.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesday

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Kosher

A kosher wine begins like all traditional wines – they start naturally as grapes on a vine. These grapes may be grown and picked by any one, whether they keep kosher or not. 

However, once these grapes reach the winery for crushing, then that becomes a different matter. This crush must be held under strict rabbinical supervision. Starting from the crush until the wine is bottled, the wine must be handled and processed by Sabbath-observing-kosher-keeping Jews - - and at this time, they must be male. Barrels are also kosher as they are built under rabbinical supervision and must be brand new or strictly used exclusively for kosher wines. Storage areas and tanks must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized three times by using modern steam cleaners and/or scalding hot water.

Also, no animal products or by-products can be used in the making of kosher wine such as gelatin produced with meat products or egg whites, which are normally used as wine clarifying agents. And the most important thing of all? No work can be done on the Sabbath.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kosher Wines from Walla Walla Grapes: Pacifica Winery

Move over Manischewitz. There is kosher wine being produced in Washington State.

Today is the beginning of Passover and it's with this celebration, I am here to tell that you will no longer have to settle for the overly sweet wines produced from Concord grapes grown in New York. 

As you know, I typically do not stray much from Walla Walla when it comes to writing about wines. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered kosher wine produced, especially from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley.

This new winery and estate vineyard are located at Underwood, Washington in the Columbia Gorge AVA, and believe it or not, the kosher labels are owned by a non-Jew. The owner-winemaker is Philip Jones, who is also the proprietor of the Spencer Hill Winery, which produces Goose Bay kosher wines in New Zealand - - and now his newest venture at Underwood, named Pacifica Winery

Pacifica is the first premium kosher wines to be produced in the Northwest. Their production will be around 7,000 cases. Phillip and his wife, Sheryl's newest investment in Washington State takes up 95 acres on Underwood Mountain to which 25-acres have been planted in vines. This special acreage has been named, Evan's Vineyard after the Jone's youngest son. The vines planted are Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Syrah, and with hopes of crushing Pinot Noir this year. 

Pacifica Winery at Underwood is located where the great Columbia River divides the two states north of Hood River, Oregon. This magnificent geography makes it a perfect location for sourcing fruit from Washington, as well as Oregon. At this time, their first two kosher wines are Pacifica Pinot Noir - 2010 and Pacifica Meritage - 2010. A Cabernet-Merlot - 2011 to be released soon.

What immediately caught my attention is the Pacifica Meritage (traditional Meritage blend: Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) are sourced from our famous Walla Walla vineyards at Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills. 

The wines from Pacifica are distributed through the Royal Wine Corp, the leading producer and importer of kosher wines, domestic and imported.

Happy Pesach!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Barnyard

"This wine tastes like #%$@!" 

Is it a compliment or a fault? So, you put your nose deep into the glass bowl of a Bordeaux or Rhône and an earthy, yet animal rich smell comes through. Merde! The aroma may have been a bit off-putting, but your nose keeps going back for more.  

Barnyard or aka Brettanomyces ("brett" for short) is a wild yeast that can be found on grape skins. It can waft its way to wine barrels, make itself at home and almost impossible to evict.  Brett-afflicted wines may range from leathery to wet doggie, or "barnyard" aromas like chicken manure or horse sweat. 

Wine-geeks that lean more towards science advocate wines with brett as "afflicted" or "infected." Wine-geeks who lean more towards the romance of wine, will refer to the same wines as "interesting" or as a compliment.  

For me, I don't mind just a bit of brett in Old World wines. They eventually blow off, for the most part. To those who complain, I remind them, you eat stinky French and Italian cheeses, right? 
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