Friday, April 27, 2007

Long Shadow Vintners Poet's Leap Riesling - 2005

The Poet's Leap label comes from the prestigious world class collection of Long Shadows Vintners and crafted from Washington grapes by Armin Diel, proprietor of the renowned Schlossgut Diel in Germany. We served the chilled bottle of this off-dry wine before dinner last weekend. What a treat!

With both of the red and white vintages, the 2005 growing season will be remembered as one of Washington's finest and Poet's Leap Riesling rings true of this - fresh and perfectly balanced. It is a blend from two of the older vineyards in the area - Dionysus Vineyard north of the Tri-Cities, planted in 1972 and Weinbau Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, planted in 1982.

We couldn't have served a better wine to pair with our appetizers of artichoke cheese torte, spicy bandarillos, assorted Greek olives and a plate of simple radishes and sliced cucumbers sprinkled with Kosher salt. As we know, when in doubt about what wine to pair with cheese, Riesling always works and the hint of artichoke in the cheese torta was complimented and the fruit flavors of the wine cooled the spiciness from the colorful banderillo kebabs. The flavors of Poet's Leap off-dry wine are honey-dew and apricot with a light-bite of citrus. The finish was clean and bright without being cloyingly sweet.

In a few years, we will soon be seeing more and more Rieslings (dry and off-dry) from Washington state on the store shelves because of our almost-perfect growing conditions. In fact, Bonny Doon from California, known for their eclectic and colorful labels such as Cardinal Zin, just broke ground this week in Richland for their new winery - - Pacific Rim will produce dry Rieslings from Eastern WA grapes. When in doubt, Rieslings are the perfect wine to pair with cheese and spicy Thai food. For those of you "I only drink reds snooty-von-snoots" (yes, you know who you are), you will be missing out and be left in the dust if you don't add this varietal to your limited and narrow-minded wine repertoire.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman On the Run- Part Deux

She's baaaack! Just a few quick notes while I try to absorb the shock of being back to my old routine.

The state of Washington did it! The Washington wine industry celebrated an important milestone this week when the Washington State Liquor Board gave a license to the state’s 500th winery. And it just so happens that the winery will be located in Walla Walla. Sweet Valley Wines will join 499 other wineries licensed in the state since 1962. Owners of Sweet Valley Wines, LLC are David and Karen McDaniels.

In the last six days, we tasted some wonderful wines and many of them were from the Walla Walla Valley (we took notes and will share them ASAP). Also, we met up with some great winemakers and did some touring of some of the newer Washington State’s AVAs. We tasted so many wines (even a Bordeaux and a California Zin) that we had a collection of the empty bottles on the kitchen island for days. I finally dumped our "trophies" as the place was beginning to look like a college frat house.

Walla Walla’s Spring Release festivities start up next week. Think I better take it easy this weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman On the Run

Just a few thoughts before I head out in the world of vacation-land:

Hey Tiny (reader from Alaska)! I understand you were in Walla Walla doing some wine tasting, but you didn't leave a contact number for me (please send me your email or comment if you read this)! I wanted to thank you for the excellent gift of coffee beans! What a wonderful surprise and what a wonderful treat! The winery was enjoying the wonderful smell of the fresh roasted beans and almost didn't want to give 'em up! Many thanks again!

Last week, a group of friends and I dined at the new Italian restaurant at the Walla Walla Airport. Caravaggio is owned by Walla Walla Catering Company - partners, Carissa Bossini Meliah and Laura Price. The name Caravaggio comes from a small municipality located in Northern Italy about 30 miles northeast of Milan, which is also the birthplace of Carissa Bossini Meliah's great grandfather. Carlo Bossini arrived in the United States at Ellis Island and settled in Walla Walla in 1919 where he began farming. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion played an important part to the Bossini farming. Today four generations of Carlo's family still live in the Walla Walla Valley. And that --- is the origin of the name. This is one of the many threads of family history that makes Walla Walla so great.

So how was the food? Delicious! How was the service? Very attentive! I ordered Nick's Pasta Florentine Diavolo. A spaghetti in a creamy garlic sauce with spinach, mushrooms, pancetta. I am assuming that diavolo (devil) was the red pepper flakes that gave this pasta a spicy kick. A delicious house salad dressing was served with lots of rosemary, but I also used it to dip the fresh warm bread in.

Caravaggio has a great local wine list. Did you know that you can "hop a flight" at the airport without even leaving the building? The lounge at Caravaggio is offering flights of local wines. Guests can choose the "destinations" of their flights from more than a dozen local wineries. The wine list features 26 different varietals from local wine country. Wine flights start at $14 for five two-ounce pours and customers may choose their "itineraries" that highlight different regions in the valley, or create their own flight selections. Very clever idea.

This morning I noticed the lilacs are in bloom and local asparagus is in the stores --two of my favorite spring things. I never get tired of our local 'gras and I will prepare it a variety of ways until the last of the local spears are gone. I found a new and EASY asparagus recipe to use for appetizers:

Take 8 or 9 asparagus spears, depending on size, and snap off the tough ends. You will need about a 1/2 (16-ounce) package of thawed phyllo dough sheets. Unwrap the phyllo and cut the stack in half lengthwise (save the one stack for later use). It is important to cover the phyllo with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Take 1 sheet of phyllo and brush lightly with some melted butter (over all you will need about 1/4 cup butter, melted ). Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the brushed butter (you will need about /4 cup finely grated). Place 2 to 3 asparagus spears on the short end of the sheet. Roll up, jelly-roll style placing each piece, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter and sprinkle with more Parmesan. Repeat until all the asparagus spears are used up. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

This asparagus appetizer definitely calls out for a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc or lightly oaked Chardonnay. Lots of good local whites out there from Waterbrook, Forgeron Cellars, and Three Rivers to name a few.

Starting this evening at 5:00 pm, and most of next week, I will be taking a much needed vacation. My plans? Nothing exotic. No villa in Mexico. Just "mi casa" in Walla Walla and I will be away from all things that resemble computers and cell phones.

I plan on staying home for a few days and no, it won't be all lost days of "Wine and Roses." I hope to catch up on spring house chores. New window screens, re-painting the front light post, planting some herbs and flowers, tidying up the rock garden, and new soil in the wine barrel planters to name a few of my chores. One day will be spent experimenting with recipes on the new grill/rotisserie and one evening I am hosting a casual dinner party with other wine lovers and some local winemaker stars.

A road trip to visit some of the new Washington state appellations is also on the schedule. But my biggest thrill will be waking up with no alarm (I'll miss you Bob and Tom, Kristi Lee and Chick McGee) and later sitting on the deck drinking morning coffee (thanks to Tiny) with no care or schedule. Later in the afternoon I will start the deck ritual all over, but this time with a glass of wine. See you in about 10 days!

More Taxes = Think Washington Wines!

This past winter, Washington winemakers and grape growers voted to impose on themselves a higher tax. The tax dollars will pay for advertising to encourage people to think and buy Washington wines. These increased taxes will assist in financing the Washington State Wine Commission, a promotional agency. The commission’s primary source of funding is from the vineyards and wineries, as well as some state and federal funding.

Under this vote, commission fees will double from 4 cents per gallon of wine made at the wineries to 8 cents per gallon. Vineyard taxes will raise from $6 per ton of grapes to $12 per ton. The increase could start as early as July or get increase over the next few years.

Washington state's wine industry has exploded in the last twenty years – from less than 20 wineries in 1981 to nearly 500 today with more than 30,000 acres of wine grapes. The wine/grape industry is worth an estimated $3 billion to the state's economy. With this substantial increase of self-imposed taxes, money will be used to market Washington wines in key markets increasing awareness and for the wine consumer to think Washington, instead of California, Australia and Europe.

Attention people - THINK WASHINGTON WINE!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wine Blog Tag -- I'm it!

Russ at Winehiker started a game of wine blog-tag. Dr. Debs at Good Wine Under $20 was tagged and she tagged me - - I’m it! I won’t let them down and will answer the burning blog-tag question, " Why do we blog?" Using a similar format as Dr. Debs to answer the question:

1. Why did I start blogging?
Since I was a kid I loved writing stories and letters to my pen-pals. In grade school I won spelling bees. (Alas, things change and bless spell check. My grammar has slipped, but I never claimed to have a PhD in English.) In my youth, I kept a diary and wrote screen dialogues for Annette Funicello, hoping that Disney would want to buy my adolescent scribbles. My crowning moment was when the junior high English teacher asked us to write a saga about the traveling pop bottle - something I could sink my teeth into, including a classroom audience. Yes boys and girls, that was back in the "old" days when pop came in glass bottles and often found on the side of the road -- all with their own stories of how they got there. As a young adult I continued to write - usually family memories. I was trying to be the next Laura Ingalls Wilder - "Little Red House..."

About 10 years ago I joined an eclectic group of journalists, authors, and activists based out of San Francisco and became fascinated with their blogging group. With a little encouragement – here I am.

2. Why do I blog about wine and Walla Walla?
Before I started the blog I knew I did not want to blabber about anything. I wanted it to be interesting - a subject that others would enjoy. I wanted readers. Would I find readers that would be interested in my daily routine of feeding the cats, Crosby and Nash? Would anybody care to hear my repretoir of songs I sing to the kitty-boyz ("Teach Your Kitties Well" to the ever popular "Our house, is a very, very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard...?" Who wants to read about my needlework crafting? Would you want to read about my love of planting flowers and motorized garden tools? What reader would really care about my collection of Theodore Roosevelt biographies (you read one bio of TR and you read them all)? Who would really care about my odd and eclectic tastes in music from country crooner Alan Jackson to bat-head-biting Ozzie Osbourne with a dash of Josh Groban and Shikira tossed in to round things out? Or how I cannot listen to a Beatles or John Lennon song without sobbing now days?

One day I was working in the wine tasting room listening to tourists talk about how they love Walla Walla and her wines. And then it came to me --I knew what I had to blog...

3. Why keep blogging about wine?
Because I am hooked. Because I am having a lot of fun. I am meeting new people and having opportunities to taste wonderful wines that I might not otherwise get to taste. Because I have found myself having new experiences that I normally would not have if I had not started "Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine." (Example: next week I will be interviewed by a wine group from Los Angeles for a radio podcast. More on that later.) Because I think I have something to say and most of all, I will keep blogging for my readers.

4. Why do I think blogging about wine matters?
The old image that wine is reserved for men of status and wealth has disappeared. Wine is happening all over. It’s on the internet (over a hundred wine bloggers, several wine magazine sites and wine-dot-coms), wine education is everywhere from college classrooms to online programs, wine stores are popping up all over and grocery stores have fighting varietal shelves with eye popping labels seeking attention from housewives.

It’s not what I think. It’s about what is happening in Walla Walla, the State of Washington, the United States and all over the world! To quote Ernest Hemmingway, "Wine is the most civilized thing in the world."

I will now continue the chain that Dr. Debs started - I will tag two other wine blogging women. One as far away in Tokyo with Melinda from Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass and local winery blogger, Denise from Wine Matters in Walla Walla - Trio Vintners. You-are-it!!!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wine Bloggers Play Well With Others

It was bound to happen - bloggers with bad behaviors. That's right - big blue meanies in the blogosphere.

If you want to start writing or reading blogs you are guaranteed to find a topic that interests you whether it be food and wine, hobbies, politics, new mothers, celebrity gossip or just someone ranting on their personal soap box. And it isn’t just individuals anymore. As an example we are seeing a growth in wineries blogging about their business and winery events.

Recently blogging meanies popped out in the blogging world as written in the San Francisco Chronicle by Dan Frost - Bad Behavior in the Blogosphere. The bad behavior consisted of anonymous rude comments and to the extreme of death threats. As far as I know, the wine community of bloggers have not been hit with this kind of bad behavior. Could it be we have some of the best readers and bloggers in the whole blogosphere? Could it have something to do with the topic - wine and food? How can you go wrong when you are with other wine aficionados and foodies?

So far, the world of wine blogging is a world of peace and camaraderie. We are gracious to link other wine blogging sites and exchange ideas. In fact once a month we gather for Wine Blogging Wednesday where a host gives us a wine blogging assignment. The host will later post our completed "assignments" on his/her wine blogging website. Why are we getting along and some other groups are having problems? Could it be that we are nipping at the grape? Maybe those outside of the wine blogging world should take a cue from us and drink more wine and they might become nicer people.

Blogging pioneer Tim O'Reilly wants to change the way we read, comment and write blogs by creating a Blogger's Code of Conduct. "Radar" O'Reilly (obviously not related to Bill O'Reilly if he wants civility in speech) suggests that we, in the big blogosphere, post little "badges" on our blogs and enforce a "Civility Code" on our readers with standards such as: we will no longer allow anonymous comments, we will connect privately before we respond publicly online, ignore all trolls, and bloggers will give the readers a warning of our content (like television and porn sites), to name a few.

While O'Reilly's intentions are well and good, in the mean time: we don’t need no stinking blog police! I don't need a code of honor and I don’t need to hang a sheriff’s star on my blog. And why do I feel this way? Because dammit-Janet, it is my blog and I can do what I want! I am not blogging in Iran! As it is, if I delete any comments it always has to do with spam. At this time I am fine with anonymous comments from the "shy" readers and sometimes my siblings (I know who you are. I'm telling Mom.). I plan on allowing anonymity until it becomes abused. Enforcement like this reminds me of television censorship. Instead of trying to enforce your personal rules on a particular television program or magazines that others enjoy --umm - how difficult is it to turn the television program off and not buy the magazine?

At this time, we do not need a little tin star to remind us how to behave, at least not on this blog. Besides, if any of my readers, fellow wine bloggers or purple grape meanies ever wrote anything mean on my blog I would just assume they were hung-over from drinking too much 2-Buck-Chuck. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #32 - Regular vs. Reserve

Our assignment for WBW #32 addresses a matter of choice: Regular vs. Reserve. The premise is to describe two bottles of wine from the same varietal from the same producer and compare and see how the juice differs inside of these two bottles. In other words, which wine do I prefer, and do I feel the "reserve" named wine is worth the higher price?

But rather than narrow the choice down to a single varietal from a single winemaker, I chose to go with the same varietals -- plural, that is. I got some suggestions from Anne (Tasting Room Manager) and Patty (Marketing Director) at Forgeron Cellars in Walla Walla for examples, and in the end we agreed that Forgeron Cellar's popular Red Table Wine and Forgeron's proprietor's blended reserve, Vinfinity, would make perfect compare-and-contrast examples, as these wines are made from very nearly the same blends.

The Red Table Wine (aka RTW) is a non-vintage blend of, primarily, Cabernet Sauvignon for structure, followed by Merlot for roundess and a dash of Syrah for spice. While the blend is a great value for $16 a bottle, Forgeron did not skip on quality, as some of Washington State's most notable vineyards, including Klipsun, Alder Ridge, Dubrul, Sundance, Boushey and Pepperbridge, contribute fruit to the finished wine.

The 2002 Vinfinity is somewhat pricier, $46, and comprises a blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, and 18% Syrah. But like the Red Table Wine, it is made from Washington grapes from the Boushey, Alder Ridge, Clifton and Klipsun vineyards. I have tasted the '02 Vinfinity at various times and have watched this wine come of age. When it was first released, in December 2005, the wine featured big but balanced tannins, but now these tannins have softened, and the wine's mouthfeel keeps getting silkier. I have to be honest here: I tasted the '02 Vinfinity when it was first released and I thought it was, well, just okay. It offered nothing really very memorable for me, and frankly I kind of avoided it. However, in the last few months I re-tasted the wine, and wow, what elegance! It's got lots of depth and complexity now, yet I think it's going to keep getting better.

Both of the wines, the Red Table and Vinfinity, show big flavors of cherry and dark cocoa with a hint of spice in the finish. But do I think there is a difference? Which is another way of asking, of course: Is the Vinfinity worth the higher price? Yes, absolutely. I am not sure what winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla does in the cellar when she practices that "voo-doo-that-she-do-so-well" (or is it the chant of "ting-tang-Walla-Walla-bing-bang"?), but the Vinfinity is clearly a higher quality wine than the Red Table. Yet this isn't to dis the RTW: each wine serves a purpose and has a place for the money that cost. Forgeron's RTW is meant to be enjoyed now. The only age I think it needs is in the car between the store and home (well, you could probably put a year on it -- but why?), while the Vinfinity can be aged for about seven to ten years from the date of vintage. Softer tannins showed in the RTW from the very beginning, while the bigger tannins the Vinfinity showed makes for an ageworthy and, eventually, more elegant wine.

Which do I prefer? That's the tougher question, because I like them both for different reasons. I also pair the wines differently with food. For everyday sipping or for spur of the moment and casual entertaining, I really enjoy the RTW. Guests always comment favorably. And they are always amazed at the retail price for the quality. The RTW is definitely a wine for barbeques or Monday night meatloaf. My favorite pairing is a glass of RTW with a handful of Hershey chocolate kisses.

The Vinfinity is special. It is meant to be paired with a beef filet or smoked salmon and a Vinfinity reduction sauce -- it needs rich, almost decadent meat to match its silky elegance. It deserves a better chocolate than Hershey kisses - say one of the exotic chocolate bars from Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Vinfinity is a wine that is saved for special events and gatherings with family and close friends. So why not serve the very best?

To really sum up this exercise of regular vs. reserve, I will quote winemaker Marie-Eve, of Forgeron Cellars - - “In wine there are few truths, and many opinions...”

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cooking Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine

Some changes - a new title and format for my monthly "Cooking with Washington Wines." The Walla Walla Valley is filled with talented foodies and gourmets who also know their wines. So I thought recipes from some of Walla Walla's best winemakers, wineries and chefs would make a perfect monthly addition.

To kick off the new monthly recipes, winemaker Eric Dunham from Dunham Cellars and Dunham's vineyard manager, Ken Hart together developed this recipe of harmonic flavors. Family-owned Dunham Cellars has established an award-winning reputation for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. When Eric's first vintage, a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, was released, it was noted as being one of the finest wines made in Washington by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Eric and Ken have been cooking almost as long as they have been eating, and both are very creative and skilled in the kitchen. Dunham Cellars originally used this recipe for one of their wine club events and they received such a great response that they included the recipe in one of their wine club shipments (recipe cards are sent out to members in each shipment). I am told that this recipe is also a Dunham Cellar's staff favorite as well and the addition of the cranberry-wasabi relish makes this pork roast really memorable.

Pork Roast with Cranberry-Wasabi Relish

Pork Roast ingredients:
2 pound pork Roast
Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper
1 pound bacon
Butchers twine

Cranberry-Wasabi Relish ingredients:
One 12 ounce package frozen cranberries (thawed)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Wasabi horseradish
¾ cup sour cream

Pork Roast preparation: Pre-season pork roast with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste. Wrap roast with bacon using butchers twine to secure. Grill until cooked through (boneless pork loin - an average of 25-30 minutes per pound @ 325 degrees) .

Cranberry-Wasabi Relish preparation: Chop thawed cranberries in food processor until consistency of relish. Add sugar, Wasabi horseradish and sour cream. Mix until creamy.

This pork roast pairs well with the Dunham Cellars Trutina, which also happens to be Dunham's featured wine for the month of April. It is a Bordeaux-style blend of 42% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc. Bon appetite!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nicholas Cole Camille - 2003

To give you an example of how many of us are connected in the Walla Walla Valley: last month I ran into an old friend at a wine industry mixer. Mike Golden was not only a classmate at the Institute of Viticulture and Enology in Walla Walla, but I was maid of honor at his wedding over 30 years ago! Mike was at the mixer representing Nicholas Cole Cellars and I had an opportunity to taste one of their wines I have been hearing so much about – Camille. I wasn’t disappointed.

2003 was a good year for Washington State grapes and it reflects on Camille. But then again, how could you miss when you have three of the most distinguished Washington State vineyards making up this claret-like blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc? The diversity of Klipsun Vineyard from Red Mountain, Champoux Vineyard from Horse Heaven Hills and Seven Hills in the Walla Walla Valley gives Camille generous, yet elegant flavors.

The nose reminded me of a box of rich chocolate covered cherries. You know, the good kind with cherry liquor. And the flavors of chocolate and cherries continued onto my palate. A little spice at the end with flavors of anisette and pepper. However, the spice did not seem to overpower the chocolate, but compliment it. Soft tannins and a very silky mouth feel - a wine that is worthy of ageing.

La Donna Legg, who coordinates the Nicholas Cole Cellars wine club, says the new 2004 Camille is awesome and will be released next month at the May Spring Release weekend. Cheers!
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