Monday, December 31, 2007

Thank Goodness Gary V Loves Washington Wines!

Once again, Washington State Wines are on display on the ever-so-popular Wine Library!

In episode #380 Gary Vay-ner-chuk sippy-sips four Washington State wines and three of them are from Walla Walla! Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Artist Series - 2004, Nicholas Cole Cellars Camille - 2003 (Red Meritage), Cougar Crest Reserve Syrah - 2003 and Chateau Ste Michelle Ethos Syrah - 2004 from Woodenville.

Yesterday, I was catching up on a few food and wine industry magazines and the very first thing I noticed in the magazines that none of them mentioned any food products or restaurants from the State of Washington. And most important I noticed in the back of the magazines where they reviewed wines, all the wines reviewed were from California and New York. Where were the wines from Washington State? Just because we are second in the nation when it comes to wine production, doesn't mean we have to act like we are in second place. We should be on top! And thanks to people like Gary V for recognizing this. Hey Washington Wine Commission, it's good to know that we have Gary V on our side.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays!

The Christmas tree is decorated (has been for a few weeks) and the shopping is almost done. Hopefully I will complete everything by tomorrow evening. We still have four days before the festivities and I am already exhausted. Oh and by the way, the tree ornaments are a sprinkling of old 1950's bird ornaments, glass pine cones and acorns and even glass grapes, wine bottles and adorable little wine glasses.

One of the last things to do is go through the wine closet and find a couple of good bottles to celebrate the holidays with. But it won't be all wine as I will bend the elbow a bit taking part in some hot Tom & Jerry’s spiked with a dash of rum and a dash of brandy. Therefore, I will be taking a holiday break from the blogging machine. I need time to recover from all of the festivities, you know!

I’m including a little gift from Bing and Frank. Yeah, it’s a little schmaltz, but if you can’t have schmaltz at Christmas, when can you? Happy Holidays and I hope that Santa fills a few bare spots in your wine cellar or maybe even drops off that dusty bottle of 1787 Chateau d'Yquem that you've been dreaming about. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Man Named Stan and a Bottle of Lemberger

The first time I tasted a glass of Lemberger was about twenty years ago. I had never heard of such a name for a wine, let alone a grape. Of course, I first associated it to Limburger cheese and Lemberger wine was nothing like the smelly cheese. The first label of Lemberger I purchased was from Quail Run, now known as Covey Run Winery.

Today, flashback almost seven years ago and I am visiting with a man who inspired Quail Run to take a gamble on such a grape with such a funny name. In fact, it was Quail Run Winery who had the first label approval for a Washington state Lemberger.

The man’s name was Stan Clarke. I was one of his first viticulture students at the college and this was his first quarter to teach at the Center for Enology and Viticulture. Our classroom was discussing various grapes and their origins. Stan mentioned Lemberger and everyone in the class started laughing about the funny name and some couldn't believe there was such a grape - - but I knew and believed. I was familiar with the grape that was also known as Blaufrankish in Austria. Many bottles of the Lemberger I owned...and of course, drank.

Stan and I later visited about the grape that was his favorite and was pleased he had met another lover of the Lemberger. Stan told me about his vineyard and winemaking history at various wineries in the Zillah area, such as Quail Run, Hyatt and Zillah Oakes. We knew that somewhere, those many moons ago, our paths had crossed. Perhaps he poured the first glass of Lemberger for me and even the seasonal May Wine from Zillah Oakes (now a defunct winery) that I purchased every spring release.

Last Saturday at the Institute for Enology and Viticulture building in Walla Walla, we toasted a glass or two of Stan’s favorite wine - - Lemberger. You see, it was Stan’s memorial reception and the building bulged with people, laughter, tears and memories. Many attending were associated with the wine industry and so were their memories - their memories of Stan Clarke and how they had met him because of the Washington state wine industry. This man, Stan Clarke had brought us all together and once again, his purple hand had been involved with the wine they were sharing. A 2005 College Cellars Lemberger - 2005. It was fruity with flavor bites of Bing cherries, chocolate and finished with spice. It made me smile through the tears.

From the time I discovered that Stan and I both loved Lemberger, every time I picked up a bottle of Covey Run Lemberger, I always thought of Stan. Now - - even more - - I’ll never forget.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wine Spectator's Top 100

I took a glance at the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 At A Glance.

I was surprised and then again, I don’t know why I wasn’t surprised to see zero Walla Walla wines on the list. Often, we have seen Leonetti Cellars, Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole and of course, Cayuse – the wineries that I have often referred to as the “Darlings of Harvey Steiman.” And yes Harvey, I have always agreed with your Walla Walla choices.

Washington showed on the list, of course, Quilceda Creek, including: Owen Roe, Columbia Crest, and DeLille. Fiddle-dee-dee – 2008 is another year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Trust Cellars Riesling - 2006

Last week Steve went to Trust Cellars to visit Steve - Steve Brooks at Trust Cellars, that is. What is there to say about Trust Cellars that hasn't already been noted? Well, let’s see - - everybody has pointed out that Brooks left his CNN job in Atlanta to come to Walla Walla to make wine. Okay, what else? He was a cellar rat at various wineries and in fact, even at the Long Shadows winery. Which leads me to - -

Steve Brook’s Trust Cellar Riesling. Not sure what has been said about Trust Cellar Riesling, but here is where I can finally have my say. Steve bought a bottle from Steve for me to check out. The 2006 was the first vintage for the Trust Cellars Riesling and my-oh-my did that time for Steve Brooks of being a cellar rat at Long Shadows pay off. Trust Cellars Riesling was very reminiscent of the Poet’s Leap Riesling executed by Armin Diel, one the leading Riesling producers in Germany. Which means - - this is a good thing Martha!

We decided to check out the new location of Pacific Express restaurant and brought the bottle of Riesling to dinner. Riesling always pairs quite nice with any Asian influenced meal and we certainly could not beat the P.E. $5 corkage fee, either. What a perfect pairing the Riesling was with the food we ordered! The Riesling nose was floral and the taste of early summer orchard fruits came through such as peaches, apricots and the crispness of a Granny Smith apple. It was a delicate wine, yet undertones of mineral came through. This off-dry wine enhanced the flavors of the sweet ‘n sour pork and almond sub-gum and vice-versa. No Cab or Merlot could have done that.

I am always telling those white wine drinkers when they want to learn to drink the reds, pair it with food first. Eat-sip-eat-sip-eat-sip. Same thing with whites. For those of you who think your taste buds are refined and look down at the whites - come on - you know who you are. You know, those who hiss, “I only dooo redsss," like you own a pedigreed tongue or something - - anyways - -(okay, I’m off my soap box) same thing! Learn to enjoy whites with food. There are so many spicy, yet light and flavorful foods that deserve a good white wine, such as the elegant Trust Cellars Riesling. Try it!

Friday, December 07, 2007

The 2007 Barrel Tasting Diaries - The PM

We did the downtown scene in the morning and off we went up to the airport. The streets and paths up there were getting a bit slippery due to numerous rubber treads and feet. Our first visit for the afternoon was Dunham Cellars. There is no doubt that Dunham Cellars is a pro at these parties. There were definitely little signs they’ve done this gig before. We were tickled to see a young woman, bundled up and prepared for the elements, in a golf cart driving visitors from the slippery parking lot to the cellar’s door. Appreciative, but we declined the drive and skated our way to the door. Once inside the winery it was warm, cozy and decorated for the holidays. If Dunham’s holiday decor can’t get you in the holiday spirit, then you’re a lost cause.

Steve was taken with Dunham's Morrocan lamb stew. No thanks, none for me. Lamb does not touch these lips. Baaa! We didn’t taste through all the wines, practicing moderation, but one wine that really stood out for me was the Trutina 2005. A Bordeaux-style red blend that I thought was really bright, ripe and juicy. Like a mouthful of cherries with a light lavender finish. This is a good solid wine that could be enjoyed anytime with anything or nothing at all.

Dunham was just packed with people, but we were able to find a table to lean against and sip. One thing we observed, as our eyes scanned the crowd, it was filled with over-aged "youngsters," which made us feel like old dinosaurs. It was apparent to us that winemaker, Eric Dunham is a legend amongst the Gen-X crowd. Move over old stodgy wine drinkers or get with it because these are the new faces of wine.

We slid on down the road to SYZYGY. It was good to see the friendly faces of Kelsey, Zach and Armand greeting us at the door. If you want solid wines that really show off the true varietals, I have always found them at SYZYGY. Killer Syrah! Not sure else how to describe it - killer! SYZYGY Syrah is one of those Syrahs that reminds me of a good Rhone - the "real" stuff. But then again, it has to be good considering Zach chose some of the best grapes around the valley for his Syrah - - Walla Walla's Seven Hills, Les Colllines and Morrison Lane Vineyards.

Just about every event, Kelsey arranges for the student chefs from Walla Walla Community College Culinary Arts program to be at the winery serving some of their tastiest BBQ pork ribs made with SYZYGY’s own wine. Served with a side of roasted potato wedges, the ribs were tasty, spicy, and so tender you could cut them with a paper spoon. They really hit the spot. Our compliments to the chefs.

Now that the slight void was filled with tasty morsels, our last stop was JLC Winery. We visited with Lynn’s family and one of my former winery tasting room co-workers, Vicki Kibler. It was good to see Vicki and also good to hear that she has started her own winery compliance and bookkeeping business. We went into the barrel room to see the star of the JLC show - Lynn Chamberlain herself. Ya gotta love, JLC - "Just Lynn Chamberlain." She kept our interest as she poured for us her amazing assortment of Syrahs and shared her high points, low points and now back to the high points of her wine career. Last, but certainly not least from JLC, Lynn poured for us a barrel taste of her rich Carmenere. It had such a wonderful black pepper nose and a light, but on-going pepper finish. Something tells me that once this wine is bottled, Lynn won't have it around for long.

Baby, it was cold outside and slippery. By then our excitement for the Macy’s Christmas light parade had dwindled and all we could think about was getting out of the cold and cruel elements. A roasted rosemary and garlic chicken and a Caesar salad was waiting for us at home. I could tell that Steve had his fill of Barrel Tasting when he was content to go home, curl up on the couch to dinner, a bottle of wine and the Young and Restless Saturday night marathon on channel Soapnet.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The 2007 Barrel Tasting Diaries - The AM

The 2007 Walla Walla Barrel Tasting event was the first for me as a visitor since I can’t remember when - maybe seven years ago? I've been stuck working in a tasting room! What a glorious event it was! The weekend started for us Friday evening at a wine club event. The snow gave the event that bit of ambiance that really made for a winter party. We kicked it into four-wheel and off we went!

During the weekend I followed my own advise: we started our Saturday morning at home around the kitchen island revisiting the happenings and dialogue of the night before, pondering our list of wineries to visit, while I made pancakes and fried up slices of bacon. "Big breakfast." I tell everyone, "eat a big meal if you are going to taste a lot of wine."

A girl has her priorities and the crush-worthy male French winemakers were at the top of this girl’s list. Gilles Nicault at Long Shadows Winery was the first stop Saturday morning. This isn’t the first time for Steve and me to visit Long Shadows. However, we had no idea about the name change of the road. It use to be Ireland Road and in the last six months it has changed to Frenchtown Road and neither one of us had a clue. Where was the road? Our chatter about what road to turn on reminded me of a few years back as I attempted to give Steve the directions to Waterville, WA from Leavenworth, WA. To make a long story short - - men and women should never discuss directions and I will never design a GPS - heh.

To sum it up - we tasted through the new releases of Long Shadows - Poet’s Leap, Chester Kidder and Sequel. Wonderful as always. We were in awe of the new Dale Chihuly glass pieces that had not arrived during our last visit. This was an excellent move for Long Shadows to be included in the Barrel Tasting and to allow the public inside. A previous news article had coined the new winery, "The Most Beautiful Winery That You Will Never See." Now, many of the wine-loving public can finally feel included.

French winemaker, Serge Laville at Spring Valley Vineyard was our next stop. Their new tasting room on Second Avenue is gorgeous! Dean and Shari were on hand to greet guests and the spirit of their family history, using old photos, was displayed deep into the walls as if the photos had been ingrained there forever. The room had an elegant feel, yet warm and inviting. We tasted through the wines with Serge and as the Frederick blend always does - it made my tongue happy! But then again - so did the Derby and the Uriah and...and...

I must admit this: the Nina Lee Syrah has never really woke up my old taste buds like the other Spring Valley wines. Now don’t get me wrong, I never, ever turned down a glass, but there were other Walla Walla Syrahs I preferred. However, the 2005 Nina Lee made me happy! Nina Lee romanced my taste buds! This is one of my new favorite Syrahs! I am a tough one when it comes to Syrah. They must scream, "Old World Rhone" and Nina Lee screamed. She sang! It just so happened that Australian winemaker, Jeff Martin and his wife Niva, owners of La Frenz Winery in Okanagan, BC, were visiting the tasting room at the same time. Jeff is high on the list of making more Shiraz/Syrah than anybody during his wine making days in Australia, so Steve sent Jeff to the tasting bar to sample the Nina Lee. We wanted Jeff's opinion. Jeff agreed that the beauty of the Nina Lee Syrah was matched by her beautiful profile on the label.

Yes-yes-yes - we did half pours, shared pours, turned down some pours, spit-a-bit, noshed as much as we could on the assortments of cheeses, meats, breads and chocolates that were offered by the various wineries and most important, we kept ourselves hydrated. Next door to Spring Valley is the new tasting room of Sleight of Hand Cellars, owned by winemaker Trey Busch (former Basel Cellars winemaker). We visited with Trey and his business partner, Jerry Solomon as they poured their "magical" offerings. The "Magician" is an off-dry Gerwurztraminer. Crisp, aromatic and if paired with a plate of Thai food or curry it's guaranteed that the contents of the plate and glass will disappear like a rabbit in a hat (groan). The "Spellbinder," a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauv and Sangio is a great wine for every day sipping or casual entertaining and most of all - priced right! The Sleight of Hand is worth a visit, of course to taste the wines, but to view the vintage-style Houdini and other magic posters.

Down a couple of blocks we caught up with Don and Nicole Redman at Mannina Cellars. It is no secret that I love their wine varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese (one of the best in the State) and their red blend, "Cali." Don’s wines are elegant, rich and structured. We barrel sampled a 2006 Merlot and I am here to tell you it was perfect. So perfect I wanted my own barrel of it. Why wait for it to be bottled?

David McDaniels of Sweet Valley Wines (the 500th winery to register in the State of WA) shared the tasting bar with Mannina and we were able to sample Sweet Valley’s newest red blend release, "Double Barrel" - 2005 and a barrel sample of their 2006. The 2006 Double Barrel is going to be winner! We really liked it and will keep our eyes and ears tuned to Double Barrel's future.

Okay boys and girls - that was our morning. Stay tuned to our afternoon...

Monday, December 03, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle - Top 100 Wines

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle picked their Top 100 Wines. It is what the Chron refers to as "Best of the West."

I am happy to see that the Chron has at least recognized 12 wines from Washington State and out of the 12, five of them were from Walla Walla. Of course, this is my opinion, but I think it has been a difficult move on many of the merchants and wine writers out of Northern California to give much recognition to the great wines that are coming out of the State of Washington. But it isn't just my opinion - San Francisco-ite Alder Yarrow of Vineography pointed out the same in his blog of June 2007 with how ashamed he was with his city of San Francisco for not giving Washington wines the recognition they deserve.

Overall, Washington and Oregon wines made up about 21% of the wine list. Okay. Not bad. Considering the list was put together by Jon Bonné, who use to work for MSNBC in Seattle and wrote the following in his former blog, Amuse-Bouche: "I’m rather sick of Walla Walla stories. I think it’s been overexposed..."

I wonder who in Walla Walla gave Bonné an atomic wedgie when he was visiting our fair city before he wrote that article? Excuse the pun - sour grapes! Anyways - - congratulations to the following Walla Walla wines for getting the SF Chronicle's attention that you deserve:

Otis Kenyon Syrah - 2005
Feather (Long Shadows) Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004
Helix (Reininger) Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004
Walla Walla Vintners Sagemoor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - 2004
Leonetti Cellar (Bordeaux-Style Red Reserve) - 2004
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