Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coming Soon - - Kontos Cellars!

Cameron Kontos shares some exciting news with me! Cameron and brother Chris will soon be opening their new winery, Kontos Cellars. The winery will be located in a new building at the Port of Walla Walla winery incubators at the airport. They are hoping to be in their brand-new winery later this summer.

Their wines will be bottled under two different labels - Kontos and LeeVeLooLee. Single varietals such as Merlot and Syrah will be under the Kontos label and blends will be bottled with the LeeVeLooLee label. Both labels adorn the beautiful dragonfly. To celebrate the new opening, the LeeVeLooLee Gossamer White may be released at the same time and later the Alatus Blend will be released in December. This winery is off to a good start and has some good roots planted as Cliff Kontos, father of Chris and Cameron, is co-owner of Fort Walla Walla Cellars and Cameron is the assistant for Marie-Eve Gilla, winemaker at Forgeron Cellars (with teachers, like Marie and Cliff, the Kontos brothers are bound to have great wines). Stay tuned for future plans!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tertulia Cellars Newest Release - It's A Girl!

Ryan Raber, winemaker at Tertulia Cellars and his wife, Aline have announced their first and newest release - Sofia Guida Raber. She was born June 17th 2008 at 10:35 am. She is 7 lbs. 10 oz, and 20 inches long. Ryan says, "Sofia has dark hair like my wife and big feet like me." Mom, baby and of course, daddy are doing well.

Meanwhile back at the winery: The new facility is finished! Tertulia Cellars has bottled and labeled the rest of the 2006 wines. Ryan has opened a few bottles and they recovering well from bottle shock. As Ryan says, "Imagine being forced through a hose into a bottle and corked, you might be in shock too!" Ryan, are you talking about the wine or the new delivery?

I'll be looking forward to tasting the August release of the Sobra - 2006, a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot. Best wishes to Ryan, Aline and Baby Sofia!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Language of Wine Snobbery 101

Last week, columnist Joel Stein of the LA Times wrote an article regarding wine descriptions, The Language of Wine Snobbery. At first, I hesitated to blog this as if Joel Stein needs more attention brought to his article. The article itself was a bit transparent and like many youngsters' motives with such outbursts as this one: bad attention is better than no attention at all.

Now what provokes me to express my opinion is that the LA Times didn’t publish my comment regarding Stein’s article. Apparently Stein feels: “When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass.” To which my response to Joel Stein’s article: all I could detect was a whole lot of jackass.

Now, let me also say that I would agree with Stein in a few instances. Nothing chaps my jackass when I read wine descriptions that say such crap as “obsequious little fruit pixie coursing through pillowy tannins...dreams of unicorns flying over rainbows...” makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. However, when I read terms such as cherries, tobacco, green peppers and even banana cream pie, these are all legitimate terms. An example: with a chardonnay, you might detect flavors of banana cream pie. Of course, the phenols that have been extracted from the grape skins and stems during crush are also found in bananas. Buttery and caramel aromas and flavors (and sometimes creamy texture) result from the malolactic fermentation and notes of vanilla and toasty pie crust comes from the treatment of the oak barrels. Flavor of green pepper is often found in wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc due to the chemical, pyrazine and this chemical is prevalent in fresh bell peppers; asparagus, peas and of course, these grape varieties.

I really began to see red, and not just any red - - in fact, I saw a deep blackish, inky Walla Walla Valley Syrah-red with notes of blueberries, bacon, and tar... when he started dissing on UC Davis professor Ann Noble who created the Wine Aroma Wheel. Bad ju-ju and karma come your way Joel Stein - may your gen-x video game turn into a deck of “Go Fish” cards and you dream of boomer Birkenstocks instead of Sex and the City satin Manolo Blahniks. Rule #1 in wine descriptions: Don’t be messin' with Dr. Noble. She taught me everything I know about sensory evaluation.

Last, but not least of the insults about wine language, Stein says: “So from now on, wine drinkers, you get to mention three things you smell in a wine, max.” My response to this sentence is perhaps what nailed my comment from being accepted to the LA Times list of comments:

"Speaking as a wine drinker and wine writer, if Stein thinks I should be limited to only three things I smell in a wine, then it would be wise that I remain limited to three things I smell about this article - -
Joel, you suck."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Four Wine Questions For: Hal B. Klein

In March I started a new blog feature “4WQ4", an article where I would feature a four Q&A with a “celebrity” in the wine industry. How about if I feature a celebrity that made a movie about wine?

You may also remember in March I blogged about the movie Bottle Shock complete with a trailer. Well, it just so happens my four questions will be for independent film actor, Hal B. Klein who appears in the newly released movie! Klein has been making a name for himself on the silver screen by portraying quirky, off-beat characters, and he does just that in the quaffable comedy,Bottle Shock, with leading stars Bill Pullman ("Sleepless in Seattle" and "While You Were Sleeping") and Alan Rickman ("Harry Potter" and "Sweeney Todd"). The film is based on the true 1976 event, The Judgement of Paris. Bottle Shock has already premiered at film festivals across the country and is slated for theatrical release in August.

Hal B. Klein can also be seen in two upcoming movies, Nobel Son (also with Pullman and Rickman) and Killer Movie (with Jason London, Leighton Meester), which was extremely well-received at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. And last but not least, I found out that Hal has a new found interest in food and wine. He has his own cooking blog, This Man’s Kitchen, a You Tube This Man’s Kitchen pilot and he plans on becoming the" next big wine snob!" And now, "4WQ4:"

W5: Tell us about Shenky, the character you play in the new movie, "Bottle Shock." How does he figure into the story of the "Judgment of Paris"?

HBK: Shenky is one of the "cellar rats" who works at the winery. They were a bunch of partying young guys who worked in the Napa Valley, sons of the winemakers and locals. Shenky is Bo Barrett's (Chris Pine) best buddy. He's kind of the devil on Bo's shoulder, his party buddy.

W5: Did working on "Bottle Shock" encourage you to learn more about wine?

HBK: I learned a lot about wine. It was hard not to! We were shooting in all these beautiful vineyards, and it naturally made you curious. Also, the real Bo Barrett, who is now the winemaker at Chateau Montelena, was on set a lot. He gave us all a great education on wine! I wasn't much of a wine drinker before the shoot, so it was all new to me. The whole process of how wine is made is totally fascinating. It's a real combination of art and science. There is also a whole lot of money involved. We were shooting in Chateau Montelena's wine cellar one day and I was leaning on a wine barrel. Bo was kind enough to point out there was a half-million dollars of wine aging in there. Later that day, we shot a scene where I was hosing off the cellar floor with a high pressure hose. All I could think about was not hitting the barrels. It turns out I couldn't mess them up with the hose we were using, but I didn't know that until later that day!

W5: You grew up in the Bay Area and went to school in California. To what extent were you aware of the state's wines and the wine industry when you were younger?

HBK: I was aware of the wine industry, but it wasn't really something I thought too much about. In college, good wine was "good wine" because it was cheap and came in a large jug! I know a lot more now, that's for sure.

W5: You've developed an interest in cooking. What's your killer specialty, the dish you make when you've got to impress.

HBK: I'm really interested in cooking- in food in general, actually. How it's grown, how far it's shipped, how it gets to our plate. I'm really passionate about helping people cook great food, too! It makes such a difference. I have a few things I like to cook to impress people. My favorite is a version of chicken marsala that I do with fresh basil and rosemary. It's really flavorful. I also make a great mac 'n cheese that knocks the socks off of people.

W5: Thank you Hal for taking the time to answer my questions. Okay, I know I only said four questions, but please indulge me - - Okay, spill: Is Alan Rickman a total wine snob? I mean, he is portraying the real-life British wine authority, Steven Spurrier in the movie, Bottle Shock.

HBK: Rickman certainly had the greatest depth of wine knowledge. It was impressive. I didn't have any scenes with him, but when we were premiering the film at Sundance, he seemed to really know his stuff. His appreciation for fine wine defiantly works for his character in the film. (Photo: Klein as "Shenky')

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Doubleback by a Quarterback

This was a busy last weekend for special wine events. Besides Vintage Walla Walla and Taste Washington - Spokane, there was another highlight going on - - the unveiling of Walla Walla High School football alumni and retired NFL quarterback, Drew Bledsoe's new Walla Walla wine project.

John Lastoskie, owner of GRAZE Catering, sent me an email to share his blog and photos regarding the unveiling of the Doubleback Winery Launch. Doubleback is the name of the new wine project. It is located south of Milton-Freewater at the McQueen Vineyard, which overlooks the Walla Walla Valley. During the unveiling Bledsoe announced his new winemaker, Chris Figgins for the Doubleback project. And of course, we all know Chris of Leonetti Cellar. Plans for Bordeaux-style wines will be produced from Walla Walla grapes.

I shot an email back to John which said, "Hey spill! Tell me all the juicy stuff. Any gossip? Who was in attendance out of the 160+ guests? Who drank too much wine and who danced on the table?" Alas, John didn't have any such information as he claimed he was too busy trying to prepare the food and stated that it was "crazy windy!" John did tell me that everyone had a wonderful time, and the new Doubleback logo/label looked really fantastic. The menu included: wonton crackers topped with spicy ahi tuna, flat iron steak chopsticks, bruschetta white bean puree, pork confit, grilled shrimp and scallop skewers with herbed butter, endive goat cheese mouse, lemon zest candied hazelnuts, artisan cheeses, asparagus with aioli and the Colville Street Patisserie prepared the desserts. And some of the finest wines from the Walla Walla Valley were poured.

Okay John. Good enough for this time. However, John did promise me that at the next big event, he would try to get me more "dirt." Please check out John's blog for more photos.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #46 - Rhone Whites

Dr. Debs from Good Wine Under 20 is the June host for Wine Blogging Wednesday and if you are familiar with WBW, it is the host's choice regarding the theme. As Dr. Debs points out: June marks the beginning of summer and now is the time to be looking for white wines to carry us through the warm evenings (However, for some of us we are still waiting on June as we are stuck in “June-uary” weather). The white wine options she has chosen is indeed one of many choices - - and that is any classic white Rhone grape variety - - and she doesn’t care where those Rhone-style grapes were grown or where the wine was produced. Yay! This means I don’t have to “cheat” this month and can feel proud that my choice of the white Rhone grape is a Viognier from Walla Walla!

My Viognier of choice for WBW #46 is from Sweet Valley Wines. Established in 2004, Sweet Valley Wines has since been known as Washington State's 500th Winery! Located in the Walla Walla Valley, Sweet Valley creates limited quantity boutique wines from the area vineyards. And before I get into the descriptions of this wine, I am really proud to say that it received a Bronze medal at the 2008 NorthWest Wine Summit, which is the largest wine contest in the Northwest - - and I was also a judge at this blind judging contest. Who knew I would be a part of giving this wine a medal.

I am finicky about Viogniers I drink. For me to pay attention to this variety of wine, it needs to have all the right components I am looking for in a Viognier. Hard to describe, but I need to immediate smell from the glass aromas of pear and honeydew melon and some background notes of floral is a plus. I don’t want to search for those aromas - - they must be dominant. Those aromas have to continue on my palate and yet it must be crisp with a bright finish. Aged in 100% stainless for seven months accomplished the clean finish and brightness of this great summer wine. There’s no doubt that this 2007 Sweet Valley Viognier exceeded my expectations and makes for perfect food pairings such as with salads, seafood, spicy pollo or Thai dishes. It's a wine that I think Dr. Debs would approve of as it's priced under $20. Only 69 cases were produced and besides the winery, you can also purchase it from the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. It is definitely an easy drinking summer wine!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taste Washington - Spokane 2008

Taste Washington - Spokane happened this last Sunday and was held at the beautiful Davenport Hotel. And while the Spokane event had a different flavor from the April Taste Washington - Seattle event, it was equally as much fun and informative. If you haven’t attended Taste Washington - Spokane, I recommend it.

The Spokane Taste Washington Grand Tasting has a very elegant and intimate feel, unlike the more hip-casual feel of the larger Seattle event (which is also great fun - - just different). For me, the bonus of the Spokane event is due to the fact it’s held at the downtown landmark Davenport Hotel. The wine and food booths are located in various ballrooms through out the Davenport, which we found rather exciting as each ballroom had it’s individual and elegant styles from English Tudor, French and Italian Neoclassic, including a touch of fresco and crystal chandeliers.

Of course, when you go to a wine event, you find yourself visiting with those wine booths that are familiar to you especially if you have friends pouring. "We" (family members: Caren, Allen and Ronda) indeed visited with the many wineries from Walla Walla, but made it a point to branch out. Some highlights from other wine areas were wines from Brian Carter Cellars (great European blends), Alexandria Nicole, Apex, including Barrister and Arbor Crest wineries located Spokane. Michael from Whitestone Winery in Wilbur, WA gave us a few good laughs after discovering we were from Walla Walla and he explained to us "at least he didn't have to be Wilbur Wilbur, WA." As I often do, I found myself busy visiting more with friends and making new friends than I did taste wine. Is this an occupational hazard or am I just a busy-body?

Another highlight for me personally was the Pemco Insurance booth. Pemco is one of the "Magnum Sponsors" of this Spokane event. That evening they were featuring their version of the Walla Walla Wine Wine Woman Woman from their "Northwest Profile- We’re A lot Like You" campaign. I patiently stood in line to introduce myself - - umm - - after all, I thought it important that they meet the original - heh (and again, thanks for the link, Pemco.)

Taste Washington events are owned and operated by the Washington Wine Commission and behind the scenes, Taste Washington is much more than wine and food. An auction event is held during the Spokane Grand Tasting and proceeds benefit the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program, the WSU Hospitality program and a portion also benefits Spokane’s Davenport District Arts Board. This is an event that should be marked on your calendar for 2009.

From Wine Press NW - (you can see me and my family in the background at 2:23-2:32 at the Pemco booth and 5:58-6:02 at Viking)

Friday, June 06, 2008


This morning I was reminded that "Good blogs are like pets. Once you start a blog, you have to feed it." And I have been guilty this week of not "feeding the blog." You see, I have all good excuses and my excuses are all wine related (buying wine, moving wine, shipping wine, moving wine shippers... ). This weekend won't be any better. I am taking off for Spokane to celebrate my - - umm - - 29th birthday. Okay, so I'm lying about my age - I have purses and shoes older than 29 - seriously. Some have peace symbols on them! That alone should give you an idea of my age. And on the day of my birthday, I will be celebrating it at Taste Washington - Spokane held at the lovely Davenport Hotel.

In the mean time, I have put together a few blog drafts for next week. One in particular will be a "Four Wine Questions For" (4WQ4) interview with a celebrity - - a movie star! So stay tuned! Again, I will take the lazy way out and let Sir Paul McCartney sing Happy Birthday - - to me! (You can also celebrate by checking out the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Store and check out the Birthday Specials!)

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