Friday, July 29, 2005

House Wine

It may be a simple label reminiscent of the late 1970's generic black and white labels, but I guarantee you this wine will still stand out amongst the fanciest of labels. "House Wine", by the Magnificent Wine Co., is an offshoot made by Charles Smith, proprietor/wine maker at K Vintners. Priced under $10, this is one of those great table red bargains from Eastern Washington that pairs well with easy entertaining foods or a great every day sipping wine.

The varietals used are Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Merlot (32%), Syrah (9%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). While this wine is very fruit forward, there is still a deep earthiness to it. Burgers, portabellos or even a bite of a rich Scharffenberger chocolate bar is going to hold up to this well structured red. Silly me, I paired it with a deep fried Cajun spice injected turkey breast and the finish of the wine softened with a rich caramel feel on the tongue. Hey, it worked! This is a great wine for a great price. Stock up now, it isn't too early to think about those winter evenings of entertaining that are ahead of us.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Walla Walla Wineries to Watch

This is the second year for "Washington Arriving Vintners Event" (WAVE) sponsored by Washington Wine Country, a nonprofit association of Eastern Washington businesses promoting wine-related tourism. This years event was held in June at Hedges Winery on Red Mountain. Awards were given to Walla Walla's Dusted Valley Vintners as the trade and media "Winery to Watch." Nicholas Cole Cellars was voted the favorite consumer's choice. Basel Cellars Estate also won awards.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Secret is Out!

Walla Walla hit the big time - - an article in the New York Times was printed last week, "The Tastes of Walla Walla, Secret No More" by R.W. "Johnny" Apple, Jr. It gave Walla Walla a glowing report about our fine wine and food. It was a very well received article about the valley.

You can read it here (Free Registration Required)

Corrections were made to the article.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Green Gables Inn

I never thought I would see the day that Margaret and Jim would sell their beautiful bed and breakfast, but the day is here.

Margaret and Jim Buchan, owners of Green Gables Inn, are selling the B&B business and the three gabled, craftsman mansion that was built in 1909 by Roland and Clarinda Green Smith. At one time the mansion served as a home for young women who were studying nursing at Walla Walla General Hospital. The Buchans purchased the house in 1990 and immediately began restoration work. They opened Green Gables Inn for business in January 1991. Not only did I stay at Green Gables Inn, but would later assist Margaret for several years. I even played the role of innkeeper when the Buchans would leave town to take their much needed vacation. It was a lesson learned that there is no rest for the innkeeper who believes in excellence.

Early in the business it was mostly weekenders, Whitman College parents and a few traveling business people. Besides word of mouth and returning visitors, the boom in the local wine industry has assisted in the busy growth of the business.

There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that is carved in wood above one of the two fireplaces in the large sitting room (see picture). It was there before the Buchans purchased the home:
"The ornaments of a house are the friends that frequent it."

Those words were to become the house's destiny and truly a tribute to the hospitality and detail that the Buchans put into their B&B. It is my opinion that it is going to be hard to fill the inkeeper shoes that Margaret and Jim wear.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The World Needed Another Wine Blog

On June 14, 2005 I created my first entry for my new blog. The title of the new entry was What The World Needs Is Another Wine Blog. I pointed out that there is actually a Wine Blog Watch and wondered how long it would take for my new wine blog to get noticed by the wine blog watch.

It took 41 days. Not a bad turn around on the big world wide wine web.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Spring Valley Vineyard

This week the Washington wine giant, Ste Michelle Wine Estates announced they will acquire Spring Valley Vineyard in the Walla Walla area. For over 100 years, the Corkrum family has been farming the area known as Spring Valley. Shari Corkrum Derby and husband Dean Derby, along with Dean's brother Gaynor Derby, have been dedicated to producing high quality wines. They credit the quality to the soil and separate microclimates that allow the individual blocks of vines to develop their own distinct characteristics for their estate wines. This 1,000 case winery may be small on production, but they are big on taste.

Spring Valley Vineyard labels are as distinctive as their wines. The labels are portraits of family members who farmed the same land. Label names like Uriah, Frederick, Muleskinner and Nina Lee tell the story of rich family history. My favorite label is the "Nina Lee." Not only is it a beautiful label, but the Nina Lee is a delicious 100% Syrah that has blackberry and licorice notes with a hint of spice showing through. Nina Lee, a tribute to the spirit of women, met Frederick in 1928 while performing Vaudeville at a local theatre. They married and sucessfully faced the great depression together. In 1957 Frederick died and Nina Lee decided not to depend on anyone else but herself, so she continued to operate the ranch on her own. Nina Lee died after 21 years of successful farming. The labels and wines will be added to the Ste. Michelle wine portfolio.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates from Woodenville, WA will purchase the winery, brand names, and all wine in bottle and barrel. The company will lease the 40-acre vineyard on a long term basis and the vineyard will remain under the ownership of the Corkrum-Derby family.

Have you ever visited the Spring Valley Vineyard tasting room in downtown Walla Walla? If Gaynor Derby is pouring, you are in for a treat. Wearing his cowboy hat with a salty sense of humor, he typifies what good old hospitality is all about. Gaynor's pride in his grapes beams into every glass he pours. My hopes are Ste. Michelle will realize the value of hometown hospitality. Pride and hospitality are just as important to the Walla Walla wines as the grapes that go into them.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Stained Tooth Society

The last couple months, while schlepping spit buckets and screwing corks behind the tasting room bar, I have had several customers talk about some great wines from a friendly new winery in the valley - Dusted Valley Vintners. What I know about Dusted Valley Vintners: it was founded by some self-named "Cheese Heads" from Wisconsin and their wine club is called, "The Stained Tooth Society." Their sense of humor alone sounds worthy of a visit.

Last night was "girl's night out." We decided to do potluck and bar-be-que. You have to understand our evenings. They are often filled with a lot of wine, chocolate, and maybe a carrot stick and a chicken chest to keep us honest. To my delight, there was a bottle of Dusted Valley Vintners 2003 Columbia Valley Viognier (Thank you Jamie). Finally, an opportunity to sample what this new buzz was about.

The first taste made my left eyebrow rise with interest. The nose was floral and the taste was very fruit forward with a bit of honey. Maybe honeysuckle? The wine had just enough acid that it paired perfect with the shrimp salad, fresh fruit and avocado slices I had on my plate. It is also a wine that would enhance a cheese plate. I was impressed. Tough to do. You see, I am a finicky fan of Viognier and I have been spoiled. I have tasted the best Viognier in the valley made by Christophe Baron at Cayuse Vineyards. It's tough to look back (also Cayuse Viognier isn't easy to come by), but Dusted Valley's Viognier is worthy of me telling people about it - and I will.

The next weekend that I am not pouring wine for the masses, I will venture out and see if I can stain my teeth on the rest of their wines - - of course I will report back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Vinography: A Wine Blog

Okay. I feel like this blog site is slowly arriving. Alder Yarrow at Vinography gave me a link. I feel privileged to be rubbing links with such fine wine blogs. San Francisco based, Vinography is one of the best wine blogs out there. Thanks Alder!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

New AVA in Washington State

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade has approved the Horse Heaven Hills AVA placing it as Washington's seventh American Viticultural Area, or also known as "appellation." This 570,000-acre area in Klickitat, Yakima and Benton counties starts just south of the Yakima Valley and stretches to the Columbia River. It's important to know that the Horse Heaven Hills is within the Columbia Valley appellation like the Yakima, Walla Walla, and Red Mountain appellations. So far over 6,000 acres of wine grapes have been planted in the Horse Heaven Hills, which is about 20 percent ofWashington's total acreage. Pine Ridge Winery in Napa Valley, CA recently purchased 300 acres of undeveloped land in the Horse Heaven Hills.

The Horse Heaven Hills are known for low rainfall (just 3 to 8 inches per year), sandy soils and constant winds. Like the Walla Walla Valley AVA, the Horse Heaven soil was deposited approximately 15,000 years ago from the great Missoula Floods. The floods repeatedly dropped loads of silt on the rocky volcanic base.

Many outstanding vineyards make the Horse Heaven Hills their home - Champoux Vineyards, Alder Ridge Vineyards, Canoe Ridge Vineyard (owned by the international Diageo Chateau and Wines Co.), and Canoe Ridge Estate Vineyard (owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates). Washington's largest winery, the beautiful Columbia Crest, happens to be in the new appellation, as well. Several premiere wineries from the Walla Walla Valley also use grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills - Bergevin Lane, Forgeron Cellars, L'Ecole No. 41, Three Rivers, and Woodward Canyon.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dog Days of Summer and Wine

The "Dog Days of Summer" are usually the hottest days of the year - the period between July 3 and August 11 when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere.

That explains the summer, but what about the dog?

In ancient times, when the night sky was unobstructed by artificial lights and smog, people throughout the world drew images in the sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The images drawn were dependent upon the culture: The Chinese, Native Americans and Europeans all saw different star pictures - now called constellations. The constellations that we are most familiar with are from our European ancestors.

They saw images of various animals, including dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. Look for it in the southern sky (viewed from northern latitudes) during January.

In the summer, however, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. During late July Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that the heat from Sirius added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days” after the dog star.

Although it is certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the brightness of Sirius, but is a direct result of the earth's tilt.
I couldn't help thinking about Sirius, the Walla Walla summer heat and Walla Walla dogs the other day when I was in the supermarket. In the deli section, the meat section and in the wine section were bottles of "Three Legged Dog" table red wine by Dunham Cellars. The wine really caught my eye when a man behind me in check-out put six bottles of "Three Legged Dog" on the rotating counter. I commented, "Great wine, huh?" He said it was a favorite besides liking the story behind the label. He asked me if I was familar with the wine. Of course! I was very familar with the legendary dog named "Port" that winemaker Eric Dunham saved as a pup from the wrath of an angry pitbull. I had experienced the "power of the paw" at a friend's house during a wine tasting. Dunham's "Three Legged Red" is a fine example of one of the great affordable table reds that the Walla Walla Valley has to offer.

During the Memorial Day weekend we paid a visit to Isenhower Cellars". We were greeted by the Isenhower winery dogs, "Molly and Lucy." I was a little partial to Lucy Isenhower, as I have my own Lucy (aka "Lucy Baines Johnson Walker") at home. My "LBJW" is a collie X shepherd = mutt.

Our visit to Isenhower was very enjoyable. We met with Brett the owner and enjoyed visiting with Bob while he poured us generous samples of their uniquely labeled and very aromatic wines. It just so happens Isenhower has their own tribute to man's best friend - "Three Dog Syrah." Wasn't there a band named... never mind. Besides having a beautiful label of three dogs, this Rhone blend is earthy and very fruity with soft tannins. The Isenhower wines I would recommend for their uniqueness, quality and price.

One of the reasons why my thoughts have been with dogs and the summer's heat is that I have a canine wine celebrity staying at my house for a few weeks while her owners are away. "Salsa" is the black lab-mix that hangs out at Forgeron Cellars. She belongs to winemakers Marie-Eve Gilla and Gilles Nicault. Marie-Eve and Gilles are currently in France hosting a wine tour through Burgundy and Provence. "Salsa" and my "Lucy" are getting along quite well for two indulged dog divas.

"Salsa" has her own history with wine. She was found in a vineyard. Thanks to the vineyard crew who was keeping her fed with chips and salsa, which of course explains her name. Marie-Eve, winemaker at Forgeron Cellars, gave her a home. Although "Salsa" does not have her own label, she can be found at Forgeron Cellars greeting customers.

Here is my dog, "Lucy Baines Johnson Walker." In the summer she likes to lay by my wine rack, where it is cool. I suppose I could consider her my own Walla Walla wine dog.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Industrial Wine?

Recently a wine peer read my June blog "Arbor Crest or Arbor Mist?" On that blog is a beautiful picture of the historic three-story Florentine that now houses the Arbor Crest Winery in Spokane, WA.

Below is the picture he envisioned for Arbor Mist, which is a Canandaigua company from New York. Must be where they got their slogan -

"Can't Resist The Mist (tm)"

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

~July Cooking With Washington Wines~

When I was a young bride there were many times I had to put together a quick dinner party and dessert was often the challenge. I discovered that if you had fresh fruit and sprinkled on a late harvest wine or even a "sparkler", it would impress almost anybody. I call this dessert "Intoxicated Fruit."

This is a great time to add Walla Walla summer Rieslings or late harvest wines to the fresh fruit that is popping up at the local produce stands. My favorite is strawberries. Blueberries with peaches or nectarines make a pretty and tasty assortment as well a mixture of brambleberries, such as raspberries and blackberries. You can also add fresh chopped mint or lavender to enhance the flavor.

Lightly add a bit of sugar over the fruit and then sprinkle on your favorite wine. Adjust the sweetness of the sugar and mixture of wine to taste. Pour the "Intoxicated Fruit" over vanilla ice cream, pound cake or serve by itself in a wine glass with a dallop of whipped cream and shaved bitter sweet chocolate sprinkled on top. It makes a beautiful presentation.

Just a couple of days ago, during the holiday weekend, I bought Klicker's vine ripened strawberries - a Walla Walla Valley legend. As always, every Klicker berry was deep red, sweet and juicy. I sprinkled Forgeron Cellars Late Harvest Gerwurtztraminer over the berries. My mouth was happy. While Forgeron's Late Harvest Gerwurztraminer is over 9. residual sugar, it has a ruby red grapefruit finish and paired well with the fresh berries. The Forgeron 2004 Riesling measures out at 2.93 residual sugar and it would also be refreshing used in a summer fruit salad.

There are other great late harvest wines from the Walla Walla Valley. Three Rivers Winery 2003 Biscuit Ridge Vineyard Late Harvest has recently picked up several medals and L'Ecole No. 41 makes a late harvest Semillon.

As Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing." Enjoy!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Does Terroir Play A Role?

According to Olivier Gergaud from the University of Reims and Victor Ginsburgh of the Université Libre de Bruxelles they say that terroir (the combination of soil, climate and topography) does not play a role in the nuances of great wines.

"... winemaking technologies, not terroir, determine the quality of the wine."

Can they explain why the same winemaker can use the same winemaking technology on Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the two Washington state wines will taste very different?

Perhaps Geraud and Ginsburgh should pay a visit to Washington State and have a couple glasses of our Washington state Cabernet Sauvignon. They would discover that both Cabernet Sauvignons pair quite well with the crow they will eat.
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