Writing About Wines of the World and the Walla Walla Valley. The original Walla Walla Wine Blogger since 2005.
Friday, May 30, 2008
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Nominated at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, this movie is definitely made with wine-geeks in mind. If you enjoy the politics and the technicalities of wine, this two hour journey of Old World wines meet the homogenization of New World via Mondavi, then this is the film for you. If you are expecting a sequel to Sideways with Hollywood glib, yet memorable one-liners of wine and middle-aged angst - - don't bother. And I can give you some spoilers since there isn't a plot and no surprise ending.
Filmmaker and director Jonathan Nossiter takes us on a journey around the world visiting familar faces of the wine industry and no-so familar faces - - old men in their vineyards speaking their opinions and their poetic wine quotes (who one later admits they come up with the quotes just for the wine journalists). There is also the delightful and ever presence of dogs at every vineyard and every winery throughout this ambitious film.
The familiar face of Michel Rolland is seen as he travels in his chauffered Mercedes visiting his client's wineries advising them to "micro-oxygenate" their wines. He is delightful and funny, with a touch of well-deserved arrogance. Interesting as this technique seems to be his answer for every client-winery. And of course, it made me wonder, did Monsieur Rolland advise Long Shadows in Walla Walla to micro-oxygenate his Long Shadow's project, Pedestal? Later one of the old men in the vineyards would declare that Monsieur Rolland, a Pomerol man, was producing "Pomerols" all around the world.
The film takes us back and forth from the Old World of Europe (and later to South America) to the New World of America. In New York City we "visit" with a wine importer, Neal Rosenthal. Rosenthal drives through Brooklyn while navigating with one hand on the steering wheel with the ease of a cab driver. He passes a cement jungle of old architecture in an dominant area of multi-cultures. As he passes black toddlers playing in the streets and Hassidic Jews on their way to shul, of this area he considers home he exclaims, "This is terroir!"
There are some uncomfortable parts of the film such as Sheri Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards in California, speaks about their Hispanic employees and how "good they are to them" because the Staglins know their worker's first names and give them free t-shirts - - great - - let's hand Shari a Nobel Peace Prize.
Also in the United States, we get to see a one-dimensional Robert Parker (nicknamed the Ayatollah of Terroir) at home posed like a Norman Rockwell portrait on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. He seems like any normal guy with a messy desk, statues of bulldogs everywhere and perhaps his casual style could make us believe he was a man with a Budweiser-Lite palate.
I tried to keep an open mind while watching this film and chose to ignore that the director had an agenda. One might feel the movie reeked of a Michael Moore documentary exposing the Wal-mart mentality of wines. Instead, I chose to view the film as more of a study of characters. Alas, for me there were no heros or villians in this film. When it is all said and done, our cast of characters, no matter their actions whether it be globalization or carrying on a tradition, one cannot deny they still have one thing in common - - the love of the grape.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
What's On My Mind
Friday, May 23, 2008
In Memory of Port - The Three Legged Dog
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The NorthWest Wine Summit: The Results!
An interesting note: one of the panels I sat on was with a winemaker from Canada. Kelly and I really struggled with each other (and always done in fun) as she and I could not agree on any of the Merlots or red blends we tasted. She wanted to put medals on those wines that were much softer and less tannic, while I wanted the opposite. It became quite amusing when she would say, "I give the wine a 3, but I know Catie will give it a 13...", which 13 is the highest score for a gold medal. This was a good learning experience for me regarding different palates and various styles from different regions and most of all - - a good example that all tastebuds are NOT created equal (this alone is a good argument on why not to be a "Parker Bitch").
Congratulations to all of the medal winners in Walla Walla! Also, I would like to congratulate LaFrenz Winery from the Okanagan Valley in Canada. Steve and I met owners and winemaker, Jeff and Niva Martin during the 2007 Walla Walla Barrel Tasting. We struck up a conversation with them over a great local syrah and the conversations continued as we met them at other wineries. They won 16 medals from this competition! We are hoping to plan a trip up north to visit their winery. It tickles me that many of the wines from Walla Walla and even from LaFrenz, I later found out that I was in the panels responsible for giving them medals - - and of course, I didn't have a clue at the time.
The 2008 NorthWest Wine Summit Results
Best of Show:
Mission Hill Family Estate -
2006 Select Lot Collection Riesling Icewine Okanagan Valley, BC Canada VQA
Crystal Rose Awards (to include):
Best Non-Grape/Fruit Wine
Sea Mist Winery NV Cranberry/Raspberry Oregon (note: I recommend - seriously. Took us all by surprise!)
La Frenz Estate Winery2007 Viognier Okanagan Valley
Koenig Vineyards2006 Cuvee Amelia Reserve Syrah Snake River Valley
Gray Monk Estate Winery2006 Kerner Okanagan Valley
Mission Hill Family Estate2006 Select Lot Collection Riesling Icewine Okanagan Valley, BC Canada VQA
La Frenz Estate WineryLiqueur Muscat Okanagan Valley
Domaine Ste Michelle2001 Luxe Columbia Valley
Harbinger Winery2006 Lemberger Rose Red Mountain
Mount Rainier Award – Best of Washington (Co-winners and both Walla Walla)
Reininger Winery2005 Malbec Walla Walla Valley
Northstar Winery2004 Merlot Columbia Valley
Gold Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Dunham Cellars 2005 Lewis Vineyard Syrah
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Semillon Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Syrah Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Estate Perigee Walla Walla Valley Seven Hills Vineyard
Northstar Winery 2004 Merlot Columbia Valley
Patit Creek Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Malbec Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Carmenere Walla Walla Valley
Saviah Cellars 2005 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Syrah Columbia Valley
Sweet Valley Wines 2006 Double Barrel Red Walla Walla Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2004 Boushey Vineyard Syrah Yakima Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2005 Malbec-Merlot Columbia Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Artist Series No. 14 Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Silver Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2007 Calico White Columbia Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2006 Viognier Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Estate Grown Merlot Walla Walla Valley
Dunham Cellars 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Fries Vineyard Semillon Wahluke Slope
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Semillon Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Merlot Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 "Walla Voila" Chenin Blanc Washington State
Mannina Cellars 2006 Merlot Walla Walla
Mannina Cellars 2006 Sangiovese Walla Walla
Reininger Winery 2002 Cima Walla Walla Valley
Reininger Winery 2005 Helix Syrah Columbia Valley
Saviah Cellars 2005 Big Sky Cuvee Columbia Valley
Saviah Cellars 2006 Une Vallee Walla Walla Valley
Saviah Cellars 2006 Syrah Red Mountain
Spring Valley Vineyard 2005 Uriah Merlot Blend Walla Walla Valley
Tamarack Cellars 2006 Firehouse Red Columbia Valley
Tamarack Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
Three Rivers Winery 2006 Biscuit Ridge Vineyard Late Harvest Gewürztraminer Walla Walla
Three Rivers Winery 2005 Champoux Vineyard Merlot Horse Heaven Hills
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Merlot Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Syrah Columbia Valley
Zerba Cellars 2005 Wild Z Columbia Valley
Bronze Medal (only listing Walla Walla)
Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2007 Merlot Columbia Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Walla Walla Valley Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Anniversary Cuvee Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Winery 2005 Dedication Two Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2005 Merlot Columbia Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 2006 Chardonnay Columbia Valley
Mannina Cellars 2006 Cali RTW Walla Walla
Patit Creek Cellars 2005 Merlot Walla Walla Valley
Sweet Valley Wines 2007 Viognier Walla Walla Valley
Watermill Winery 2005 Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2005 Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley
Woodward Canyon Winery 2006 Chardonnay Washington
Congratulations to everyone! It was an honor to have been part of this event!
The NorthWest Wine Summit: The Experience
Now you might immediately think that tasting over 1,280 wines from all over the NorthWest would be a lot of fun - - well it was, but it was also a lot of hard work and by the time I left the mountain on the third day, I didn't care if I had another glass of wine again. Of course, you spit and hydrate constantly, but there is still some alcohol residual that seeps in (and sometimes you discover a wine that tastes so wonderful you cheat and maybe swallow - - just a bit). Yup, we tasted wines from Alaska, Canada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and of course, Washington. From 8:30 am until 7:30 pm we were tasting wines with a 45 minute lunch break. And let me say by Monday afternoon you are looking at your judging-comrades and thinking how embarassed you are for them because of their purple teeth and tongue - - until you catch a glimpse of your own reflection in the mirror.
In the evenings we were finally able to relax in the dining room or around the fireplace and dine on wonderfully prepared meals, many using Oregon's freshest ingredients. Judges had been asked to bring a couple of bottles of wine to share during our dinners. This was a great way to taste a large assortment including different grapes from other regions as well as some beautiful wines from France and as it was pointed out to us, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," a quote from the movie The Shining where the exterior was filmed at Timberline.
The blind-tasting ended at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, the 29th. and we were finally allowed into the "secret bottle room" to see what we had been tasting the last three days. In this room the wine we judged had been catagorized and labeled by numbers, as well as all glasses that went out to the judges were labeled with the coordinating numbers. When judging all we knew was the variety, vintage, sometimes price, a number to identify it and but most important - - how did it taste. At lot of work went into the preparation and a huge staff stayed busy keeping the wine judges with numbered flights of usually anywhere from four to eight glasses and sometimes twelve to be judged at one time.
As I checked out, of course I was anxious to get home and get off the mountain as it was snowing like crazy (Yes on April 29th! Even a TV film crew from Portland was there to record it.), but I was feeling a bit melancholy leaving this exciting experience in such a breathtaking setting.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Conversate at the Walla Walla Tasting Room
Grab that mouse of yours and click onto the Walla Walla Tasting Room! Joel Clark (aka JoelC on the WWTR board) of Walla Walla Village Winery will be your host and will guide you as if you were sitting in his living room with a glass of wine. Whatever you want to discuss: from the best Chardonnay made in Walla Walla to Stanley Mouse, the designer of The Grateful Dead album covers. Maybe you're a first time visitor to Walla Walla and want the scoop on the best places to eat and stay during your visit? Perhaps you have a Wine-101 question or want to comment on your favorite Portuguese Vinho Verde or Touriga Nacional? Maybe you have discovered a new Oregon Pinot Noir? What do you mean that "bung hole" is a wine term and not a rude name from Beevis and Butthead? Want to post photos of your new home brew set-up? Where's the best pizza in Walla Walla? Is anybody in Walla Walla producing a Sangiovese? Get the idea? This is the place to "conversate!" So click on over to Walla Walla Tasting Room and make yourself at home!
(PS - I know - - I know - - please do not send me comments/email that "conversate" is not a real word. Tell that to the Urban Dictionary. I also like the words: "shiznit", "redunkulous" and "nunya bidness" - - so there.)
Friday, May 16, 2008
Visionary Vintner: Robert Mondavi
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Moved by Sleight of Hand
It’s a perfect fit that a Washington State winery with a “magic touch” is named for a song by a famous rock band from Washington. Winemaker Trey Busch and partners, Sandy and Jerry Solomon have created a Walla Walla winery like no other and to take a phrase from them, their wines are “simply magical.”
I had my first experience with Sleight of Hand when they opened their doors in 2007. Upon our first taste, Steve immediately joined their wine club, the Wine Illusionist Society. It was at Taste Washington last month, where I tasted the wines again and I couldn’t get Sleight of Hand wines off of my mind - - and was reminded about this winery again the day after Taste Washington when Steve and I visited Seattle’s Experience Music Project, the museum of music, upon viewing the Pearl Jam exhibit - - and I knew I must have Sleight of Hand wines for my new wine store.
Sleight of Hand has everything you want in a wine: not only style, of course they are highly pleasing to the palate, and last but not least - - beautiful labels! Five days later after the Experience Music Project we were back at the Sleight of Hand winery in downtown Walla Walla visiting with Trey. I found myself standing back from the other visitors and taking in the relationship between the winemaker and the guests he was pouring wine for. Trey is personable, charming and he has a way drawing an audience like a fine magician should.
If Sleight of Hand hasn’t named a signature wine, it should be “The Magician Gewurztraminer.” Sleight of Hand is one of the first small handful of Walla Walla wineries to brave the screw-cap and it just seems to work with this particular wine that makes me think of picnics and easy entertaining. The Gewurztraminer is refreshing and indeed shows off its German-style from the aromas of green apples and rose petals to the flavors of stone fruit from the orchards. It’s yum-yum with a yum-yai salad or any other Asian-influenced dish.
Ahhh…Rose'. What can be said about the beautiful Magicians Assistant? Of course, the first thing you will notice is the label and once you get past the beautiful pink liquid it’s all about the taste. Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite grapes to make into a rose'. And so perfect for summer when you want the taste of a red grape but the cool crispness of a white. Only 60 cases of this 2007 vintage were produced and it’s going fast.
The Levitation Syrah – 2006 is another wine that less than 100 cases were produced. Four very special barrels of 100% Syrah (and from some of the oldest vines in the state) were “levitated” into bottles. A bold and rich Syrah giving the impression of a fine old Northern Rhone (one of my favorites) leaving a mouthful of blueberries. Again, there wasn’t a lot of this special Syrah produced and mainly to be sold within the winery so I felt privileged Trey let me have a few bottles for my store. (note: all three of the above wines are also available through me at Walla Walla Wine Woman).
You have my word that when in downtown Walla Walla it is time well spent to check out these magical wines at the Sleight of Hand tasting room and I promise you it won’t be an illusion of sleight of hand - - but the real thing.
A time to dream to himself…
I'll see you on the other side.
Another man moved by sleight of hand.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Pursued by Bear - - Grrrr!
Pursued by Bear will be a red, yet very expensive blend, and will be released before the end of the year. Am I right to smell a bit of a Shakespearean soap opera here? The Winter's Tale?