Wednesday, August 30, 2006

They killed Kenny! Not from alcohol over the internet.

A few days ago I visited the set of South Park. Now that Chef is gone I thought the South Park kids needed an adult to make a difference in their lives, besides a lesson on how it is not cool to discriminate against interstate commerce -- a violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, §8, cl. 3 and the Twenty-First Amendment

This particular day of my visit the South Park kids were upset. Someone killed their poor little friend Kenny McCormick.

Stan: Oh my God! They killed Kenny.

Kyle: Those bastards!

Stan: Cartman, they killed Kenny! He died by drinking bad booze given to him by the guy who lives in a van behind the 24/7 South Park Mart.

Cartman: No! Wow, poor Kenny.

Kyle: My mom says it was the internet who killed Kenny. Kenny died of alcohol poisoning from buying wine over the internet.

Cartman: Kyle, your mom is a bitch. Everyone knows that Sheila Broflovski is always poking her nose in everyone elses business. She's just a big fat bitch.

Kyle: My Mom read an article by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association (WSWA) and they said that millions of kids buy internet alcohol.

Cartman: Like I said Kyle. Your mom is a bitch. Carl Bialik from the Wall Street Journal said the WSWA's numbers were questionable. It is a bunch of crap! I tried to buy wine over the internet. It doesn't work. First of all I had to have a credit card. It isn't easy for a little kid like me to get a credit card. Kids do not want to pay over $25 or more for a bottle of wine, especially when beer is cheaper. Then you have to pay over $12 shipping and handling for the wine. UPS and FedX delivers and it is their policy that an adult over 21 years of age has to sign for the package. I'm too short to pass for an adult.

Stan: Cartman and I both took the online survey. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association gave us $5 to answer it. All the kids were doing it for the five bucks. Most of the kids probably used it to buy beer from the guy who lives in a van behind the 24/7 South Park Mart.

Cartman: That's right, Stan. Besides, what kid wants to wait three to five days for delivery on a bottle of hootch? None that I know. It's easier to sneak it out of the parent's liquor cabinet or Stan's red neck uncle says he will buy us beer anytime we want. Uncle Jimbo has a deep appreciation for the finer things in life - - like weapons and beer.

Stan: The WSWA's complaint is a sham. Everyone knows it isn't about protecting the children. Us little kids are their excuses so the wholesalers can cash in on the profits from independent wineries. Besides, Kenny couldn't afford to buy wine over the internet. He doesn't even own a computer. True, the McCormick family is poor, but Kenny could always snag a beer from his father. Poor Kenny. He's been to Hell, Heaven and Mexico.

Cartman: You guys, this is all Kyle's mom's fault. She started these false rumors about how easy it is for us kids to buy wine over the internet. It's just not true! Kyle's mom even started a club so other adults would rally about the Wholesale Wine and Spirits Association. This goes so against everything that Cabernet Catie taught us about the Twenty-First Amendment and the Commerce Clause. It's all Kyle's mom's fault!

Kyle: Shut up Cartman!

Cartman: Kyle's mom is the one that started that damn club and all because she is a big fat stupid bitch.

Kyle: Don't say it Cartman.

Cartman: Weeeelllll...

Kyle: Don't do it Cartman.

Cartman: Weeellllll...

Kyle: I'm warning you!

Cartman: Okay, okay.

Kyle: I'm getting sick of him calling my mom a...
Sing along with Cartman using the lyrics below and find out what he thinks of Mrs. Broflovski and her involvement with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association.

South Park - Cartman - Kyle's Mom Is A Bitch - The funniest videos are a click away

Monday, August 28, 2006

College Cellars 2005 Syrah of Rose'

It was a lovely day in the neighborhood. Several friends and I were lollygagging in the front yard of the Dill-Berry Homestead. It was the early evening of a hot summer day and wearing large floppy hats for protection from the sun was a necessity. Swaying on yard swings, relaxing in wicker chairs, eating tapas and sipping on rose'. There wasn't a worry in the world. In fact, young and over-enthusiastic Tyrone, who was stalking the neighborhood going door-to-door soliciting magazine sales and eager to take donations, he would personally send to children's hospitals and cancer patients, didn't phase us. In fact, he entertained us with his yarns of his "other" jobs. When he isn't selling magazines he is a famous rapper for MTV and music video producer in Chicago.

Did I have "gullible" written on my forehead? No, but I did have a glass of rose' in my hand to make this little interuption of my fine evening bearable. And a fine rose' it was, too.

Released in June, the wine of this hot summer evening was the 2005 Rosé of Syrah (Columbia Valley) from the College Cellars. This lovely salmon-colored wine paired perfect with a cheese torte, olives, and hummus for appetizers. The pretty colored liquid in the glass hinted of summer berries and that is exactly what it was -- mouthful of strawberries. Crisp, bright and just the right amount of acidity to continue to pair with our assortment of summer salads. A great wine for $10. I would carry it through to fall entertaining. With 14.1 % alcohol, it was just enough to make me feel a bit fiddle-de-dee about Tyrone's song-and-dance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Wine Prophet?

The other day I was reading through some wine periodicals and found some information on Andre Tschelistcheff (1901-1994). A talented winemaker who produced California's Beaulieu Vineyard’s first Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in 1938. This wine established the benchmark of quality for all California wines and Washington state has certainly followed that standard.

Tschelistcheff was born in Russia and fought with the White Russian Army during the Russian Civil War. At the later age of thirty-six he studied wine. In California, Tchelistcheff set standards for improved winery hygiene, new fermentation techniques, and viticultural practices. Today his pioneer influence has a profound effect on contemporary winemakers.

His winemaking legacy continues to this day with Quilceda Creek Vintners. His nephew Alex Golitzin was born in France at the beginning of World War II. In 1946 his family immigrated to California where they settled close to his Uncle Andre. In 1974, with Uncle Andre’s help, Alex made his first barrel of Cabernet and more barrels followed. In 1978 Quilceda Creek Winery was established and in 1979 the first Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was produced for sale. Four years later this wine received a Gold Medal and a Grand Prize at the Enological Society Festival in Seattle, the only Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve this honor to this day. And this world class wine continues to achieve greatness with their most recent vintage.

During Andre Tschelistcheff's wine making career he was asked, where the greatest wine in the United States is made and his answer was:

"It hasn't been made yet, but when it is, it will be made in the Pacific Northwest."

Friday, August 18, 2006

~August Cooking With Washington Wines~

The past several weeks it has been too hot to cook! I haven't done much other than making lots of salad fixin's and a casserole I can nuke in the microwave. I did make strawberry and blackberry jams, but does toast and jam go with wine? Hmm - it could happen.

Last weekend I went camping in the mountains by a river (secret family property. trespassers) with my sisters, cousins Eric and Melissa from the Tri-Cities, WA and their families. This is the third summer we have camped together. We take camping to a new level. I try to rough it the best I can with my mauve colored "two-room" tent and queen size air mattress. Lots of Washington state wine flows and this year Aunt Barbara made vodka martinis in her new Pottery Barn martini shaker. Do we know how to camp or what?

Therefore, with the weather I haven't done much in the way of finding a recipe that can be used for the month of August. But I can share the tastiest thing I have had all month and it was delicious with red wine. For our camp-out, cousin Eric was in charge of lunch and he really came through for us. He cooked tacos on his Coleman stove - delicious morsels of crispy fried goodness. Eric said he first tasted these tacos at hunting camp with friends. Often wild game was used, but for this weekend Eric used ground beef that comes with a cellophane cover (I know nothing about meat unless it comes with cellophane or butcher paper). Named after the cook who was the father of a good friend of Eric's, I present:

Rip Kirby's Hunting Camp Tacos

A dozen or more of fresh corn tortillas
1 lb or more of ground beef (or venison, buffalo, or any wild game)
Vegetable oil
Seasoning salt and pepper
Grated cheese
Shredded lettuce

In a deep skillet, heat 1-2 inches of oil (hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle). On each corn tortilla, spread (a fork works well) uncooked ground beef (not too thick) on one-half side of the tortilla (Eric made a high stack of these ahead of time until ready to fry). Sprinkle the uncooked ground beef with your favorite seasoning or seasoning salt and pepper. Slide each meat side of the tortilla into the heated oil (I noticed that Eric was able to get three - four in a pan at once) leaving the other half of tortilla, without the meat, laying on the side of the pan until ready to flip over. Fry the meat-tortilla side until done. When done, then flip and fold the empty side of the tortilla over the cooked meat. Turn the folded taco over and fry the other folded side. Repeat.

Remove folded and fully cooked tacos from oil and drain on paper plate or towels. Gently pull them apart and top with cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce. This is a filling and perfect recipe for camping instead of the usual hotdogs and hamburgers.

Keep it simple like we did or "fancy" them up with different seasonings and condiment toppings like cilantro, green onions, sour cream and mango salsa. These little half moons of fried crunchiness pair excellent with the red table wines that the Walla Walla Valley has to offer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

August Cherry Pick

Since the release of his first wine in 1997, Chuck Reininger of Reininger Winery has been producing award winning wines. Located in the Walla Walla Valley, these elegant wines are produced from premium grapes in the state of Washington.

My "Cherry Pick" for the month of August is Reininger's 2003 Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley. This 100% traditional Rhone-style Syrah has been winning awards and receiving an amazing amount of press. It placed a gold medal at the 2006 Northwest Wine Summit and an award at the 2005 Jefferson Cup Invitational. The Wine and Spirits Magazine gave this Syrah a 93 points, Wine Advocate - 92 points, Wine Enthusiast - 91 points and Wine Spectator - 90 points. Out of 38 Washington State Syrahs, The San Francisco Chronicle chose it as one of their 16 favorites.

Aged in 100% used French oak, Reininger's 2003 Syrah has a mouth of ripe juicy blueberries and a lot of earthiness. Full bodied and a little smoky with structured tannins. The San Francisco Chronicle said it is a crowd pleaser.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Walla Walla Does Not Suffer From Pinot Envy

The other day while perusing Ebay, I noticed three bottles of Walla Walla Pinot Noir being offered for auction. This is rare - very rare to see Pinot Noir from Walla Walla.

I cannot count the times a tasting room visitor questions why Walla Walla does not have any Pinot Noir. That question became greater in numbers when the movie "Sideways" came out. Even though I enjoyed the movie, I have some issues with it. Sure, it made Pinot Noir sales climb, but I felt at a risk? Newbie Pinot Noir buyers didn't know what they were buying. A huge possibility they were bringing home grocery store "Pinot-Plonk and being left with a poor impression of Pinot Noir. Not all Pinot Noir is created equal.

When asked why we don't grow Pinot Noir, my reply has been, "Why should the Walla Walla Valley have Pinot Noir?" I'm not sure if that is the correct answer or not, but that is how I feel. Why should the Walla Walla Valley have a Pinot Noir when Oregon's Willamette Valley excels with that perplexing little grape. It is a grape that can be difficult for a vineyardist to grow and difficult for a winemaker to ferment.

The persnickity Pinot is thriving well with our neighbors, the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Oregon is the new promise land for Pinot Noir and is producing some of the finest in the world. No other area in the world, except Burgundy, France, has a climate as ideal for producing this elegant and often complex red wine.

The Walla Walla Pinot Noir for auction was three bottles of 2000 from Woodward Canyon and the only Pinot Noir from the Walla Walla Valley. In 2003, a devastating freeze wiped out the Pinot Noir vineyard. It has since been replanted with Syrah. The local Syrah is a grape that the Walla Walla wineries can be proud of with it's many awards and favorable press.

Will we ever see any Pinot Noir in the Valley? Probably. Someone is going produce a Pinot Noir to distinguish their winery from others. In the mean time, Walla Walla produces plenty of outstanding and world class wines. We need to let our neighbor Oregon have some bragging rights, don't we? Walla Walla can't do everything great (she says with a malipert and smug tone).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

We Aint Got No Stinkin' Leftovers!

Brooke, from one of the local wineries, says if she hears one more person comment that Walla Walla table reds are made from "leftovers", she is going to SCREAMMM!!! And I happen to AGREE! Like Brooke, I really hate the term "leftovers" regarding the local red table blends. Leftovers seem to have a negative connotation, yet food (and wine) can taste its very best in that form. Haven't you noticed how leftover homemade soups, stews, and spaghetti sauce can taste better a day or two later? Who ever complained over a leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich?

I am always-always telling the Walla Walla wine tourists that some of the tastiest values are Walla Walla's red table blends. The majority of these jewels are under $20 a bottle and while I haven't tried all of them, the ones I have tasted have become repeat performances for me.

So how does a red table blend come together? It all varies on the winemaker and the ultimate goal of the winery, but one thing to remember these wines are not done by accident. These so-called "leftovers" are done on purpose by the winery so they can offer their customers an affordable wine. These table blends are designed for all degrees of customers - - from the frugal, the wine newbie and the wine expert who is looking for an every day wine.

Some wines are used from second pressings and that is not a bad thing. It is usually the pressings of juice that is of a suitably high quality instead of using all free run juice. Think of free-run as the cream off of the top and the second pressing as the milk.

A non-vintage wine is made from the juice of grapes harvested from several years; there is no year noted on the label of such wine. Some of these wines may be the finest in the winery, but not chosen because of volume. It might be too much or not enough wine in volume to fit a specific bottling. Not enough to make a single varietal bottling or these wine may not be what the winemaker is looking for when producing other blends.

Blended wines are no way inferior to single varietal wines. And since many of them are full bodied you can drink them now or put a couple of years on them. Sometimes a red table wine can outshine some of the more expensive blends. I think it is important for wine consumers to understand that as long as a Walla Walla winery's name is on the label, the red table blends will not get any less attention from their winemaker.

For the price and quality the Walla Walla table reds are excellent bargains. These wines are for every day sipping and can be paired with hamburgers, taco wagon faire, and spaghetti Wednesdays. Kick the dining up a notch and serve it with a piece of prime rib or chocolate lava cake with raspberry sauce.

Here is an example of some of the fine table reds produced in the Walla Walla Valley: Bergevin Lane Winery "Calico Red", Forgeron Cellars "Anvil Red", Isenhower Cellars "Wild Thyme", L'Ecole No. 41 "Recess Red" (formerly School House Red), and Waterbrook Winery "Melange."

Also, Woodward Canyon's non-vintage table red is made primarily from grapes from prestigious Washington State Vineyards. It is a terrific buy at $17.00. If you can turn your nose up at Abeja's Beekeeper's Blend priced at $18.00, then you are a true Philistine and not deserving of this elegant blend.

The Wine and Spirits magazine and The Wine Enthusiast recognized Three Rivers Winery "Rivers Run" - 2003 at $13,00 and last but not least, Tamarack Cellars "Firehouse Red" has been noticed by Robert Parker. It was rated 61 in the Wine Spectator's list of top 100 wines in the world for 2004. In fact, I am taking a bottle of Fire House Red camping with me this weekend.

Now I ask you - - does a wine like Tamarack's "Firehouse Red" appear to be mere leftover to you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Time In A Bottle

"If I could save wine in a bottle..." (with apologies to Jim Croce).

I have been asked the question, "How long should I age a bottle of wine before opening it?" Wow, this question is going to make my brain hurt because there is no pat answer. I think I would like to answer this question by saying that wine is a living thing and like humans some of us age better than others (Could our age factor have anything to do with how much wine we drink?).

From the day the wine is bottled it is always evolving. A winemaker normally does not release wine fresh from the bottling line until it has had at least six months of resting time. The wine will go through what is known as "bottle shock." Bottle shock is a temporary condition (or also known as "bottle sickness"). The wine may be a bit fragile and the flavors not quite what they should be - a bit disjointed, let's say.

About this whole aging process, I want to tell you there are so many variables. That would be the easy way to answer that question. It can depend on the winemaker's style and how the grapes were treated (such as a rigorous tannin extraction during fermentation). It can depend on the vintage and the association with the weather. It can depend on the varietal of the grape. Some grapes age better than others. The label on the wine bottle isn't going to give you much information, however tasting notes from a winery will often make suggestions.

How the wine is going to age can depend on how the bottle was sealed. Was the wine stoppered with a natural cork? While most winemakers prefer natural cork, they can dry out in time unless the bottles are stored properly. A dried cork can allow air to leak in and will ruin the wine very quickly (And no -- we do not want to use plastic corks. And that is another blog entry for another time) Storing bottles on their side will allow the cork to stay moist and assist in keeping the air out. Then there is the problem of the bottled wine and cork coming into contact with TCA -- known as "corked" and no -- "corked" does not mean there are tiny pieces of cork floating around the wine (And "corked"/TCA is another blog entry for another time).

Why do we even age bottles? Aging will often give a red wine a bit of silkiness by softening the tannins, oak and acidity in a bottle of wine. Aging can remove the fresh and fruitiness of a wine (think fresh and fruity equivalent to a teenager) and will soften the wine and add character. Think of that aged bottle of wine like a mature woman. Soft, elegant and with character. Ummm -- like me! Heh.

Now let's get to what kind of wines are going to age. That bottle you pick up at the grocery store for $8.99 might age okay for about a year or two depending on the vintage. Remember it is about the vintage and not the day you purchased it. So let's say today you purchased a $40 bottle of 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a good chance you can age it for about seven to ten years. Sometime next year you could open that bottle and it would have a respectable age on it. It has been said that Americans age their wines in the car - from the grocery store shelf to the kitchen table.

White wines usually do not age as well as the reds because they contain little or no tannins However, there are a few exceptions such as Rieslings, better-made Chardonnays and Chenin Blancs. Personal experience has showed me that a well-made Chenin can really age quite lovely for several years. For inexpensive white wines, I say "drink up!" There really isn't much benefit to letting them age. Better-made whites can age anywhere from around 4-8 years. Rich dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and late-harvest whites will usually do very well with age. Color is important to understand about aged wines. The clear white or light yellow wine will turn a amber honey color with age. Red wines will often turn a rich copper color.

I am always telling people that if they want to truly see how a wine is going to age, then buy a case of that wine. For the first year or so, open a few bottles here and there and then open a bottle once a year. The most important thing is to journal your tasting notes and dates everytime you open a bottle of that wine. As you look back into the years you will see how the wine evolved. Remember, there is always the peak time for that wine and in later years it could become flat, brown in color and later "dead." (And no -- wine past its time rarely turns to vinegar - - and that's another blog entry for another time.) Again remembering that wine is a living thing.

And no - - there is nothing wrong with a wine that has sediment in the bottle. In fact, sediment can sometimes indicate a superior wine. Sediment (wine diamonds) is fine deposits that are found in wine once it has settled. It can be found on the bottom of the cork, on the side of the shoulders and bottom of the bottle. This settling is exhausted yeast cells and grape skins (tannins). It can also show that the wine has not been overly-processed or fined. Wines that have not been over-processed is a good thing.

Last but not least, to give your wine it's full aging power it is going to make a difference on how you stored it. Wine prefers the dark and temperatures of about 45 - 60 degrees. Remembering again that wine is a living thing and when you remember that and are considering storage - - how would you like to live in a small kitchen cupboard above your refrigerator?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Washington Wine Month - Passport to Paradise

August is here! That means the 21st annual Washington Wine Month celebration is happening at your local Washington State Liquor Store. Every year they expand the list of premier Washington wines being offered at great prices.

There will be a total of 112 featured wines! However, not every store will feature all of the wines. It makes sense this annual celebration sale grows every year because our number of vineyards and wineries do, too! At this time Washington State has more than 30,000 acres of land that is planted in wine grapes and the state has over 400 licensed wineries. The state says that more wine will be sold in August than in any other month except December, of course.

Check out Washington Wine Month - Passport to Paradise

Central Washington State Fair Wine Competition Results

Here is a partial list of Washington wines that won at the Central Washington State Fair Washington State Wine Competition that was held in June. I have list the Walla Walla wine medal winners.

It appears that Ste Michelle knows what they are doing as they captured several of the high honor medals.

Best of Show - Chateau Ste Michelle - 2003 Ethos Syrah
Governor's Award - Best White - Hogue Cellars - 2005 Fume Blanc
Governor's Award - Best Red - Chateau Ste Michelle - 2003 Ethos Syrah
Ruth Anglin Award - Best Syrah - Chateau Ste Michelle - 2003 Ethos Syrah
Best Cabernet Sauvignon - Chateau Ste Michelle - 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Best Merlot - Hogue Cellars - 2004 Merlot
Walter Clore Award - Best Chardonnay - Samson Estates Winery - 2004 Chardonnay

Listed is the list of Walla Walla wines that placed:

Double Gold Medals
Three Rivers Winery - 2003 Meritage Red Wine

Gold Medals
Canoe Ridge Vineyard - 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Colvin - 2002 Allegresse
Cougar Crest Winery - 2003 Syrah
Cougar Crest Winery - 2003 Anniversary Cuvee
L'Ecole No. 41 - 2004 Semillon Ice Wine
Morrison Lane - 2002 Reserve Syrah
Saviah Cellars - 2004 Syrah
Saviah Cellars - 2004 Une Vallee
Three Rivers Winery - 2005 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer

Silver Medals
Canoe Ridge Vineyard - 2002 Merlot
Cougar Crest Winery - 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cougar Crest Winery - 2003 Merlot
Glen Fiona Winery - 2002 Syrah - Walla Walla
L'Ecole N 41 - 2005 Walla Volla Chenin Blanc
L'Ecole N 41 - 2003 Merlot
L'Ecole N 41 - 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
L'Ecole N 41 - 2003 Estate Perigee
L'Ecole N 41 - 2003 Apogee
L'Ecole N 41 - 2004 Estate Syrah
Morrison Lane - 2003 Sangiovese
Morrison Lane - 2003 Barbera
Morrison Lane - 2003 Nebbiolo
Morrison Lane - 2003 Counoise
Morrison Lane - 2003 Cinsault
Reininger Winery - 2003 Syrah
Reininger Winery - 2003 Helix Pomatia
Three Rivers Winery - 2002 Merlot
Three Rivers Winery - 2002 River's Red Table Wine

Bronze Medals
Glen Fiona - 2003 Basket Press Syrah
L'Ecole No. 41 - 2004 Semillon - Barrel Fermented
L'Ecole No. 41 - 2004 Chardonnay
L'Ecole No. 41 - 2003 Seven Hills Estate Merlot
L'Ecole No. 41 - 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Morrison Lane - 2003 33 1/3
Morrison Lane - 2003 Carmenere
Northstar - 2003 Merlot
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