Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's cold in Walla Walla, but it's hot at Bergevin Lane Vineyards!

The melodic name, Bergevin Lane flows off the tongue as easy as their wines flow on the tongue. It was a perfect name for a perfect partnership when Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane opened their new adventure, along with Annette’s father Gary Bergevin, in 2001. Winemaker and Denmark native, Steffan Jorgensen later joined their winery team.

Good news travels fast and when Amber told me about their Bergevin Lane Vineyards "Oui Deux" Syrah - 2005 winning "Best in Class" in Syrah/Shiraz in the $25.00 to $34.99 category and the Bergevin Lane Alder Ridge Cabernet-2004 winning a gold medal in the "Cabernet Sauvignon - $25.00 to $34.99 category at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, I knew I had to stop what I was doing and show them some love! And it just doesn't stop! Wine & Spirits Magazine recognized Bergevin Lane Vineyards Princess Walla Walla Syrah - 2006, as "One of the Year's Best Syrahs" in the Feb. 2009 issue and also recognized them with 93 points. Huzzah!

Two of the many things I love about their wines: they are serious wines with serious Walla Walla quality and second, their labels are often playful - such as the Calico Red and the Calico White blends with an outline of a kitty-cat on the labels. There’s also the Princess Syrah, and the "Fruit Bomb" with an explosive looking cherry on the front. And it doesn’t stop with their front label, as you may just find a back label on one of their wines signed, "XO - The Girls."

This icy cold and snowy winter in Walla Walla has slowed down some of Amber and Annette’s daily routines and they even had to post-pone their bottling of the 2007 Calico Red. But in spite of the cold - no matter. You sure can't tell it's been cold by the awards and recognition Annette, Amber, Steffan and Gary have been receiving! Which goes to show, no matter how cold it is in Walla Walla, the wine women (and men) of Bergevin Lane Vineyards are HOT!

Be sure and check out Annette's blog at

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wine Consumers Fight Illinois Wine Laws

Can wine consumers go head to head with the government for their right to access wines from out-of-state wine retailers, meaning privately owned out-of-state wine stores, Internet wine stores, wine auction houses and non-winery wine clubs? We'll find out!

Tom Wark, wine colleague, fellow wine blogger and Executive Director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association keeps me in touch regarding the on-going wine shipping debate. Tom's organization, the Specialty Wine Retailers Association is a national group that advocates fair, non-discriminatory and well-regulated direct shipment of wine. Even in spite of the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision to make state wine laws fair for in-state and out-of-state wine retail shippers, there still remains very powerful and deep pocketed forces that are working hard (and "donating" hard) to prevent wine consumers from obtaining the wines they desire to add to their wine cellars and personal wine palate portfolios.

With the recent arrest and corruption charges of Illinois State Governor Rod Blagojevich, I have to admit, the first thing that came to my mind, upon hearing the news of the Blagojevich's pay-to-play politics, "How much cash did the Beatle-bobbed 'Gov' pocket from the Illinois alcohol wholesalers just before he stripped Illinois consumer's right to purchase wine from out-of-state?"

So, was I being judgemental in my thoughts regarding this fine public servant? Hmmm - I'll let you decide - -

Thanks to Tom Wark's tireless and dedicated sleuthing, this is what he discovered: Since 2002, Illinois alcohol wholesalers contributed $563,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns. In October 2007, Governor Blagojevich signed into law the anti-consumer, wholesaler-protecting bill (HB 429) that forced Illinois consumers to purchase their wines only from Illinois in-state wholesaler-serviced wine stores and he protected the profits of a small group of politically connected alcohol wholesalers. Also, since 2002 the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois have donated over $96,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaigns. And on July 10, 2008, Governor Blagojevich proclaimed "Beer Distributor Day" in Illinois.

And here's the rub: for 15 years, between 1992-2008, Illinois wine consumers have been able to legally purchase and have most wines shipped to them from out-of-state retailers and out-of-state wineries. And now, Governor Blagojevich just stripped them of their access to buy wines from out-of state.

However, I am pleased to announce that the Illinois wine consumers are fighting back! They have recently found the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition, because during the negotiations that led to this new law, no consumers were consulted. We haven't seen this kind of control since Prohibition!

So you may ask, "So Catie, why do we care about the what the wine consumer of Illinois is drinking?" You should care and it can get personal. Your Uncle Alberto in Peoria will never get that bottle of Walla Walla wine you've been raving about and wanted to send to him for Christmas. My good friend (true example) and wine aficionado Julie from Illinois (aka "Jules D'Lago the Toast of Chicago") made a couple of visits to Walla Walla to taste the wines and had several cases shipped home. She's also been a member of various wine clubs and now all of her wine shipments have been stopped!

Limited access of wines can also effect jobs, revenue and taxes. And why should just the local wine consumer's from Walla Walla and the State of Washington be the only ones to taste and enjoy what Walla Walla and the State of Washington are so proud of and becoming recognized for around the wine world? Wineries and wine retailers cannot exist just from local revenue only. Why can't we share our glorious wealth of wines? But most important, everyone in the United States should experience free trade, consumer rights, free American markets and clean government. Amen!

For more information on the wine shipping laws please also contact: Free The Grapes to ensure consumer choice in fine wine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Walla Walla Winemaker Dies

Patrick "Mike" Paul, one of the Walla Walla Valley's pioneer winemakers, died at his home Friday, January 19 after an illness. He was 58 years old.

Paul and his wife, Teresa Paul found Patrick M. Paul Vineyards in 1988, at School Avenue in Walla Walla. He was one of Walla Walla's first wine producers, which began with his first planting of Cabernet Franc in 1984. Patrick M. Paul Vineyards is considered a "boutique winery" making small lots of premium handcrafted Bordeaux-style reds and late harvest white wines. Paul was a member of the Walla Walla Wine Alliance.

Best of Class: Merlot

Merlot - estimated to be the third most grown grape in the world. Merlot - a flexible grape that has shown itself to be a blending grape and yet can stand on its own. Merlot - the grape a fictional wine snob battered and led many wine consumers to trust Hollywood instead of their own palates.

I have been roasted, broiled and flamed on behalf of Merlot. In San Francisco there is an online watering hole for noted authors, journalists, musicians and other artists. I have been a member of this community for at least 10 years. When I spoke of the outstanding Merlots from Washington State, especially those from Walla Walla, my choice of food and wine would be mocked and often suggested I was pairing Merlot with Tater Tots, Hamburger Helper and Jello pie. Was it my fault that my online peers were exposed to insipid southern Merlots and not those from Washington State? At the time, it seemed as if they didn't understand that California wasn't the only state making wine.

There is really nothing like a good rich Merlot and especially one that is grown and produced in the Walla Walla Valley. They are earthy and dense with flavors of cherries, plum and cocoa and often finishing with nutmeg and lingering of a cigar humidor. So, it brought me great pleasure when Don Redman, owner and winemaker, of Mannina Cellars informed me his 2006 Mannina Cellars Walla Walla Merlot won Best of Class ($15.00 to $ 24.99 Merlot category) at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This thrills me as I have often said that Mannina Cellars Merlot is a fine example of what a good Merlot should taste like. Congratulations!

(Also, congratulations to other medal winners from Walla Walla wineries including: Bergevin Lane, Dusted Valley, Three Rivers, Otis Kenyon Yellow Hawk, Basel Cellars, Stephenson, Helix/Reininger, Waterbrook, Cadaretta, Northstar, Woodward Canyon, NxNW, Tertulia and Spring Valley.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Flamenco, Manchego and Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo

I have always been drawn to Spain’s noble grape, Tempranillo. Historically, Tempranillo is the dominant red grape used in Rioja and making it the most recognized wine in Spain. When asked about this grape, I have often referred to it as "Spain’s answer to Cabernet Sauvignon." But unlike most Cabs, Tempranillo can be enjoyed in its youth. Needless to say, I was also drawn to Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo - 2006 from the Walla Walla Valley.

Gramercy Cellars was founded in 2005 by Greg and Pam Harrington. At the age of 26, Greg was the youngest American to pass the Master Sommelier Exam. The Harrington’s were introduced to Walla Walla wines in 2004 and the rest - - as they say, "is history." It’s remarkable, and indeed a compliment to our valley, that of all of the wines that Greg has been introduced to during his "wine life-time," it was Walla Walla where the Harrington’s chose to plant their vines and personal roots.

One of the simple pleasures of life is sipping a Tempranillo on a late Friday afternoon, especially after a busy work week. Background guitar music of nouveau flamenco and nibbles of Manchego adds to my experience. And sometimes I take it further with a smokey sofrito, concentrated from the summer's garden, spread on crostini or I get ambitious and make a Spanish omelette. And no - - not the kind of a "Spanish" omelette you would find at your neighborhood Denny’s, but a true tortilla de patatas. And I found even sipping on a Tempranillo from the Walla Walla Valley, over 4,000 miles away from Spain, brings to me the same exotic experience that I envision at a Spanish taverna.

The fruit for this 2006 Tempranillo was harvested from the Les Collines Vineyard located near the foothills of the Blue Mountains. However, Gramercy Cellars will soon have their own Tempranillo from their new vines at their estate vineyards. The nose of this dark wine had what I refer to as "Autumn in Walla Walla." It is a distinguished nose of wet earth and dried fall colored leaves. Several times I found myself sticking my nose deep into the bowl of the glass taking in the familiar aroma.

The addition of 15% Syrah could be responsible for adding to the extra richness of this wine. Flavors of cherry and plum pies exploded in the mid-palate while leaving my mouth with a long finish of brown sugar and a creamy coating like caramel. And of course, I had a few nibbles of Manchego which added to the creamy mouth feel.

To sum it up and as the TV commercial says: "It's all about the O." In this case, unlike the commercial, it's Flamenc-o, Mancheg-o and Tempranill-o. One side of me, the mature lover of fine wine describes the above experience. However, the frivolous side of me could only describe this wine in two words - "Seriously yum-O!"

Yup, it's all about the "O."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cadaretta "SBS" - 2007

The Cadaretta "SBS" - 2007 was one of the few white wines that was on our bar during our Christmas Eve celebration. It was met with anticipation as soon as we saw the bottle come in the door. We were more concerned about taking the wine from our guest, Alberto's hand than we were taking his coat and hat. Several "ooo's and ahhs" were released and we could hardly wait for it to get chilled.

Cadaretta Winery is new winery in the Walla Walla Valley and owned by the Middleton Family. Their family has long business roots in the state of Washington with the Anderson & Middleton Company being in business on the west side of the state for over a 100 years. Cadaretta wine is made at Artifex on Dell Avenue in Walla Walla. Artifex is a state-of-the-art custom crush winery and is also part-owned by the Anderson & Middleton Company.

Winemaker for Cadaretta is Virginie Bourgue. Virginie was born and raised in Provence France. She moved to Washington State in 2002, producing wine for a couple of wineries and we have been enjoying her wines in the Walla Walla Valley ever since.

I want you to know I had to fight to get my wine notes as my intake of this wine was limited. People can be so greedy - ahem - when it comes to good wine and surprisingly in this case, a white wine with a house full of red wine drinkers!

The color of this 73% Sauvignon Blanc and 27% Semillon blend was a lemon yellow, taking on more of the Semillon color. Also, there was just a skoosh of a green tint to it like a Spanish Albarino. The nose was clean and reminded me of a refreshing gin and tonic with a slice of lemon. You know, like the kind of a drink you thirst for on a hot summer's day? More crisp citrus fruit came out on the palate and once my tongue fooled me as if it was tasting a creamy lemon meringue pie. It was a complimentary pairing for the grilled veggies and the warm raclette cheese we were dining on.

And when I went to pour myself another small taste - "poof!" The wine was gone! Just a few drizzles sliding into my glass and I was left with an empty bottle of Cadaretta to pine for. "Sigh."
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