Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Glencorrie Winery: History Making History

Glencorrie is a fitting name for a winery that's tucked away in a small glen. The south facing slope reminds us of the corries that were left behind by the result of the historic Missoula floods which shaped our celebrated area, so many years ago.

The timing of my visit to this new winery could not have been any better, as the liquor board had just left a few hours before and leaving their seal of approval. It was official! On June 5th, Glencorrie Winery was open for business and it was just in time for the Vintage Walla Walla weekend!

It’s quite picturesque – the winery grounds has yards of blue sky above, framed with a view of the Blue Mountains from the south and in a lush countryside surrounding. At the end of the long drive-way you are met with a custom designed 3,000 sq. foot horse barn positioned in the middle of a 13-acre parcel along Highway 12, west of Walla Walla.

Ronn Coldiron, co-owner of Glencorrie greeted my guest, Sue Tarver and me, as we arrived from the drive. However, Sue wasn't really a "guest," as she was coming back to a place she use to refer to as "home." Sue was the former owner who established the barn and would eventually sell it and the parcel to Ronn and his brother, Dean. At this point, I was the observer, who not only learned about the exciting future for the winery and vineyards, but also learned about the wonderful history and the thoughtful craftsmanship that went into the structure and the land.

In 2002, brothers, Ronn and Dean Coldiron planted a small 150-vine experimental vineyard in California and started their search of the perfect location for an estate vineyard and winery setting in the Walla Walla Valley. They will tell you that they could not believe their good fortune when they discovered the custom built pole building with the monitor-style roof. The traditional barn red colored building holds six stalls with a center aisle. Pine tongue-and-groove paneling is lined on the stall fronts and the interior. The center aisle holds a unique part of Walla Walla history as it is paved from used brick that was salvaged from the demolition of the old St. Patricks Catholic School dated back to the 1860's. Sue told us how she painstakingly cleaned each brick by hand.

The land, which features a good, but slight elevation with a south facing slope, also has its share of Walla Walla history. It was owned by an early French Canadian resident of the valley who was married to a local Native American woman. The land had been awarded to them in the mid-1800's under the Donation Land Claim Act, which preceeded the Homestead Act.

There have been some new additions to the barn structure in keeping with a working winery environment. The former open hay storage is now the enclosed tasting room. The new tasting room features a compass-like map on the floor showing that all good wines from all around the world, lead to and from the Walla Walla Valley. Some of the stall area is currently holding barrels and eventually some of the actual stalls will be part of a barrel room.

Once the Coldirons had the land and the building, they also needed the wine. Again, with their good fortune, they were able to commission Charlie Hoppes, owner and winemaker of Fidelitas Wines at Red Mountain to make their inaugural releases. Charlie is no stranger to wineries on Walla Walla West Highway 12, as he was the original winemaker at Three Rivers Winery when they also opened their doors on Highway 12. Hoppes's approach to wine is a style the Coldirons want to identify with for their winery - acknowledging that wine is food and meant to compliment a meal. Production will be limited to 500-600 cases of premium Bordeaux-influenced varietals and blends.

The Glencorrie Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006 had all of the components I look for in a Walla Walla cab. It was dark and rich as if I had just popped a chocolate covered cherry in my mouth. The nose hinted of those crisp Autumn evenings in the Walla Walla Valley. This Walla Walla wine made my Walla Walla Wine Woman palate swoon!

Glencorrie Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006 released notes and flavors of juicy blackberries, with just a hint of spice. Even by itself, I could tell this wine was going to compliment a rich dining experience - - say steak au poivre or a steak with a wine redux of the same.

Glencorrie Cuvee Marquis - 2006, a tribute to the Coldiron's mother’s maiden name, Marquis, this is a distinguished blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Malbec. It was rich, leaving a mouthful of currant jelly, anisette, and juicy brambleberries - - with just a playful touch of graham cracker.

These wines are rich, smooth and very well balanced. The fruits are allowed to shine through showing their true character by being aged in 50% new French and American oak including 50% one year old barrels. And while these wines are made to compliment food, they complimented my palate even without the food. I look forward to Glencorrie making their own history in the Walla Walla Valley.

(Ronn Coldiron with Heidi Harrison, Tasting Room Manager)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Righteous! Up Close and Personal with Josh McDaniels of Sweet Valley Wines

Sweet Valley Wines, in Walla Walla, was labeled by the press as Washington State's 500th winery. The winery project was established in 2004 and started out as simply with a father and a uncle wanting to showcase their young winemaker's talent. Their first release in 2007 was 105 cases of their signature Double Barrel Red Blend which completely sold out.

Josh McDaniels was that young winemaker and along with his talent, Sweet Valley Wines has seen their winery grow. In fact, a lot is happening at Sweet Valley right now: they have opened a new tasting room downtown Walla Walla at 12 N. Second and have developed a second label. And on a personal note, Josh just graduated from the Center for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla, and Josh finally turned 21 on May 4th, right after his third release! With all of this great news for Sweet Valley Wines and Josh, I knew I had to visit with this very ambitious winemaker.

W5: "Okay Josh, I know there is a story here. I understand that Don Redman of Mannina Cellars and Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar exposed you to the world of wine. Why wine? What was it about the grapes that intrigued you?"

Josh: "Luckily Don and Chris did expose me to wine and I could not have asked for two better people. I grew up in Walla Walla and remember Gary (Figgins of Leonetti) and my Dad working at the local cannery together. I remember my sisters and I picking peas off of what is now the Loess Vineyard, so I have been around for the growth of the valley to expose me, in ways, to itself.

It had to be wine because of the true beauty, competitive lifestyle, the personal challenge, and the allure that quality and Walla Walla wine has going for it. I guess I have always been attracted to these things, and after hours of working for Don, with no pay, I knew I had to like it, right? I tend to get bored with monotonous work, and the number of hats I can wear in this industry has definitely been a plus too.

W5: "Josh, I 'heard through the grape vine,' actually it was from your father David, who told me you weren't even 21 years of age when you first started on your venture of cellar rat. How old were you and did any of your underage friends think it was cool that you were in an alcohol environment?"

Josh: "My parents were definitely aware of my age at the time (especially my mom), so I am sure he let you know (I turned 21 a few weeks ago, so no more worries!)… I believe I was 15 when I started volunteering for Don as his 'cellar rat.' That soon turned into, with Chris’s (Figgins) help, a small vineyard in my parents backyard, and the beginnings of Sweet Valley.

It was my senior year of high school that we bottled our first vintage of Sweet Valley, the 2005 Double Barrel. A lot of my friends did think it was cool, but that didn’t help me get them out to the winery to help me work. I think at that time, the focus was more on Keystone Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon than premium red wine - - imagine that!

As the winery has gotten more serious, a lot of friends have been there for me, and not just for the alcohol!"

W5: "What is your favorite place to be? In the cellar or out in the vineyards and why?"

Josh: "There’s nothing like being in the vineyard at 6 in the morning with the Hispanic radio stations blaring out of the tractor, and on the other hand, seeing the winemaking process in the winery is amazing too (usually a different music choice though). I could not put a 'favorite' on either of the two, but they do have their moments, for sure."

W5: "Josh, tell me about Sweet Valley Wine's new label, 'Righteous.' I had an opportunity to taste the Righteous Malbec at the Vintage Walla Walla's Pavilion Pour. And it was well - - - righteous! The name and the label are so different from the traditional Sweet Valley label and in fact, it expresses youth. I am betting this is your conception?"

Josh: "The new Righteous label (malbec, red blend and rose') has been a lot of fun for me and yes, it was my conception. And sometimes it really reflects on the lifestyle that I live, in respect to extreme sports, being at the beach, on the mountain, drinking wine, friends, family, God, food, and a lot more. The debut, in this down economy, has been perfect, too. With lower prices and different winemaking styles, it has allowed us to branch out from our typical Sweet Valley customers and reach a whole new demographic- for the most part.

As the label says, I try to bring the class of the Last Supper, and the savvy of surfer dudes into each glass of Righteous Wine. I agree that it does express a sense of youth, but with all of the millennials out there drinking wine, and the baby boomers retiring and wishing they were still young, how could we go wrong? "

W5: "I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the millennials and us baby boomers wishing we were still young - at least when it comes to the creaking joints.

So, tell me - - what does the future hold for Josh McDaniels?"

Josh: "Lately, my Dad and I have been very busy getting into a vineyard, drawing up our new winery plans, and working on our own private wine label, which have all been our own personal long term goals since the beginning. All of this is being taken very seriously with no hurry, in order to preserve the quality of the grapes and the wine experience. Along with that, I am continuing my education in wine, with plans to move on to my next degree which, as of right now, will be business related. Lastly, I have been building my winery and vineyard consulting company up (j.d. mcdaniels consulting) to be able to hopefully take on more clients upon graduation of college.

Ultimately, the future will be trying to enjoy the life I lead as much as possible."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #58: Wine & Music

Katie Pizzuto of Gonzo Gastronomy has challenged us to put forth a little more effort on this month's WBW than just finding a nice wine to write about. Instead Katie wants us to enjoy a wine or two, while playing different types of music, and taking notes on how our experiences changes with each wine and song.

(I am going to have to tell the truth here - - as I already had my wine and music notes (excuse the pun) completed a few months ago due to a recent article I wrote for a local wine and food magazine about the exact same topic.)

I haven't exactly found that playing different types of music will change the experience of the wines, but what I have found there are certain wines that pair well with certain songs and musicians. And I also base the music and song according to my day. Good day? Bad day? Or maybe a flatline of a day and I need a bit of a spark to get going? In my sanctuary, which holds my collection of wine and eclectic music, and where I hide from the elements of ring tones and gab, I find a bold, yet supple cabernet sauvignon with layers of black ripe fruit and cocoa is completed with Luciano Pavarotti belting out the aria, Nessun Dorma, from the final act of Puccini's opera Turandot.

Any sultry song sung by Patsy Kline or the 1970's girl rock band, Heart goes well with a locally produced merlot that shows flavor notes of chocolate-covered cherries, nutmeg and a deep nose of autumn leaves. I play Annie Lennox's Little Bird or Whiter Shade of Pale as I sip on a viognier with its nose of fresh pears and a long finish of cotton candy. A Bordeaux-style rose'? Nothing else will do but the warbling of the little French sparrow Edith Piaf.

A well-chilled, crisp and grassy-toned sauvignon blanc makes me yearn for some honky-tonk from country artist Alan Jackson. Yee-Haw! When the album Laundry Service by Colombian/Lebanese singer-songwriter-belly-dancer Shakira comes up, I have been known to reach for the zills (finger cymbals) and shake and shimmy while balancing a glass of spicy and inky-colored syrah.

Which wine pairs the best with the dark and gothic heavy-metal riffs of Brian Hugh Warner, also known as Marilyn Manson? Well, that's a wine pairing I haven't decided on yet. Instead, I skip the wine and make a Bloody Mary. That's when I know I have had a really bad day.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Send Walla Walla Homegrown Thomas Thompson to Healdsburg!

This is one of the many good things I love about the internet. Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg, CA got to thinking about the new age of communications and figured it was a pretty good thing, too!

They are looking to hire a “Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent” (a social media whiz) who knows how to use Web 2.0 and the social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all sorts of good stuff like that - - to tell the world about their wines, winemaking and the place where their winery is located: the Sonoma County Wine Country. It's a wine country dream job!

In exchange, for this “Really Goode Job” at Murphy-Goode, the chosen person will receive a six-month job paying $10,000 a month plus accommodations. And note, they are not asking for your typical hard copy resume. Applicants are asked to send a 60 second video and Murphy- Goode is asking us to vote for our favorite!

So won't you help my friend and former winery co-worker, local homegrown Walla Wallan Thomas Thompson? Thomas is more than a social techie, he is very familiar with wineries and vineyards as he is a grad of the Institute of Enology and Viticulture of Walla Walla. Let's all give Thomas our vote and send him to Sonoma! Vote Thomas applicant #836 on the Murphy-Goode website or at this link:
Thomas Thompson #836

Applications close on Friday, June 19 - - so vote soon!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Vintage Wine Weekend in Walla Walla

It’s so appropriate that the weekend of Vintage Walla Walla is also the weekend for me to celebrate my very vintage birthday. Believe it or not, I have finally reached a point in my life where I am comfortable with my age. And thankfully, I can always lean towards the old quote of “Women are like fine wine. They all start out fresh, fruity and intoxicating to the mind and then turn full-bodied with age...” However, I will skip the rest of that old quote. Of course, it doesn't pertain to me (she said in denial) “...until they go all sour and vinegary and give you a headache."

Anywhooo - The seventh annual nation's premier vintage tasting experience, Vintage Walla Walla is once again upon us! And besides a weekend of great wines flowing in abundance, there will also be wine education. Now, don't be all groaning when you read the word, "education." Let’s face it, how tough is it anyways to sit in a class room knowing you'll be sipping on a glass of wine? Contact Walla Walla Wine Alliance for more information on how you can be part of a terroir tour (Wear those comfy shoes. Seriously, we don’t care how glamorous you think your legs look with heels - - and I’m not just talking to the women, either), a panel discussion on vintage syrah, and even a wine tailgating party to a vineyard complete with a session on blending your own wines and a picnic brunch with the winemakers!

The Walla Walla Wine Alliance plans on keep you busy in the evenings, too! Friday, June 5 is an evening of “Vintage Pour” held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel Renaissance Ballroom. Over twenty Walla Walla winemakers are going to peruse through their private libraries and bring out their finest releases from 2002 or earlier for you to taste! Amuse your palate with culinary treats by guest chefs from the Northwest. And take a chance by bidding on exclusive rare wines, not available anywhere else in the world, besides an opportunity for a chauffeured wine tasting planned just for you the next day!

"Dinner with the Wineries" package is also available. Dine and have conversation with the proprietors, winemakers, and growers of the Walla Walla Valley. Arrive to-and-from in chauffeured transportation to the world of the vintner’s own “pad.”

And last but not least, Saturday, June 6 is the Grand Pavilion Pour on the creek side lawns of the Whitman College Campus. Featuring an opportunity to taste the current releases of the valley from 50 wineries all in one convenient location. You’ll be entertained with a “battle of the grills” between regional guest chefs (and of course, with a sampling). And don’t forget to check out the silent auction with a special focus on large format bottles. After all that wine tasting, can you say, “Methuselah”?

Of course, the Walla Walla Wine Alliance’s Vintage Walla Walla events are going to drive you to wanting more of Walla Walla, so check out the new tasting room of Sweet Valley Wines. They will hopefully open their doors for the first time this weekend (upon clearance of the liquor board and a new dishwasher) at their new location at 12 N. Second St. (Right in the middle of Vintage Cellars and Ash Hollow tasting room). Or as winemaker, Josh McDaniel points out “Granted I get the dishwasher put in!”

Also, take the opportunity to visit the new Waterbrook Winery, located on 10518 West Hwy 12, just west of Walla Walla for their Grand Opening weekend. Check out their 53,000 sq. ft. wine making facility and 5,000 sq. ft. tasting room. Sip wine on the patio. Tasting fee is $5 and visitors will receive a souvenir wine glass.

And once you are out on the highway, listen up pardners. there’s a new winery in the valley. Friday, June 5, Glencorrie Winery will be opening its tasting room at 8052 West Highway 12. Glencorrie will be featuring small lots (645 cases) of 2006 Bordeaux-style varietals from Walla Walla and Columbia Valley. Stay tuned next week for my blog about Glencorrie Winery, as I will be visiting tomorrow with Ronn Coldiron, co-owner of Glencorrie Winery and the Coldiron Family Vineyards of California and Washington State.

As the spokeswoman from Overstock.com use to purr, "It's all about the 'O'." Well, in Walla Walla, this weekend it's all about "Vintage." Welcome to Walla Walla and our Vintage Wine Walla wine events! Welcome to our Vintage downtown! If you see me out and about, say "hello." I'll be at the Vintage Pour and the Grand Pavilion Pour - - tasting wine, and taking notes of course!

Over and out from your soon-to-be Vintage Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Be Heard from Your Keyboard!

Blogging and Social Networking For Wineries!

Monday, June 15, 2009

9:00 am - Noon
Center for Enology & Viticulture Room 1608
500 Tausick Way - Walla Walla
Cost: $30.00

If you own a winery and you are not blogging, you should be! Give your winery a voice in the blogosphere, whether you are a new or an established winery. Increase your sales and keep the ones you have. Discover the basics of getting your winery blog online, finding your niche, reaching out to other bloggers and adding tools that can enhance your winery’s blog and readership.

There’s a new generation of wine drinkers who spend a lot of time on the internet via computers and cell phones. Podcasting and online videos are another way to blog your wines. Discover how to tie your winery’s blog to Twitter, Facebook, My Space and other social media and networking tools.

This seminar will be lead by Catie McIntyre Walker (me!)

In 2005, Catie McIntyre Walker started Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine, a wine blog. She was the first to author a wine blog in the Walla Walla area and had no idea of where the project would take her. Eventually, it would lead her to her own column, The Grape Vine in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin’s Lifestyle magazine. Catie also blogs about wine for Tourism Walla Walla. After eight years of working in wine retail, she hung up her corkscrew to open her own online wine store, Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. She is a graduate of the Walla Walla Institute for Enology and Viticulture. When Catie isn’t writing, she keeps in contact with other wine bloggers and organizations for the latest tools in blogging and social networking.

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