Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which Walla Walla Washington Wine for the Wicked Witches?

I love scary stories, don’t you? Hold onto your seats because this is the scariest Halloween story you will ever hear.

Once upon a time in a little town called Walla Walla there were a coven of four witches by the names of Grand Cru-ella, Claretta, Uvaggio, and Mog. All Hallows Eve was just around the corner, so they decided to plan a soiree to celebrate. Of course, if you are a witch you don’t need to hire a caterer or a sommelier to handle such a grand party, because all you have to do is wrinkle your nose or cast a spell and voila - dinner and wine is served! But their wine spells still needed some guidance. As the coven gathered drinking River of Skulls - 2007, from Twisted Oak Winery out of their tea cups (so their neighbors wouldn't see them drinking a California wine), Grand Cru-ella, the head witch lead the discussion on which Walla Walla wine would pair with what wicked witchy entree.

“Now Sisters, here is the menu with the six courses that Sister Claretta chose for our All Hallows Eve Soiree. I will read each course aloud and together we will cast a spell for the magic sommelier to choose the appropriate wine” said Grand Cru-ella. "And note, there will be no white or pink wines. The only wines to be served will be the color of blood red."

Claretta, was a sophisticated witch from England. She had wine and dined with the finest royalty for centuries, while Uvaggio was still locked into the 80's and only drank California Chardonnay. And then there was poor little Mog. She was just a silly little witch who typically during these food and wine pairing discussions would talk about any "material other than grapes."

"We will start our evening with an amuse-bouche of clown's tongue on a skewer. We thought the clown wasn't very funny, but perhaps he will amuse us now." said Grand Cru-ella. "Now Witches, which wicked Walla Walla Washington wine?"

And together the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" Sleight of Hand Cellars The Spellbinder - 2007 appeared! An aromatic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese.

"Next on our menu is a light offering of fresh flesh of sea beast on wafers with an O- blood drizzle," Grand Cru-ella said.

And together the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" Thirsty Pagans Communion Red - 2005 appeared! A great every day sipping wine that is produced with a screw cap.

"For our third course, it will be a little heavier. Broiled Hansel and Gretel in a mole gingerbread sauce. Now mind you, not a chocolate mole' sauce, but a sauce actually made from moles," Grand Cru-ella pointed out with her gnarled finger.

And once again, the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" L'Ecole No#41 Recess Red - 2007 appeared! An affordable and tasty red blend from an award winning winery. Claretta was particularly happy with that choice as the winery was once an old school house filled with tender young children. She so enjoyed pâté de pupils on pumpernickel.

"Sisters, our fourth course is very special." Grand Cru-ella said with delight in her voice. "We are celebrating the other planets around us. Remember Uvaggio when we visited Mars and you came back with that new hairdo? We'll celebrate with sauteed toadstools over risoto spoiled by weevils and sprinkled with moon dust."

And again with anticipation the cackling group of crones sang, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" A bottle of SYZYGY SAROS 139 - 2006! A unique and elegant blend of Malbec, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

"We're going to do another plate in celebration of the sky," said Grand Cru-ella. "I love flying on a starry night. Our fifth course will be a tribute to flight. I particularly chose roasted wing of bat, but will accent the wing with eye of Newt Gingrich and a mossy lichen salad."

"Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" A bottle of Five Star Cellars Walla Walla Valley Merlot - 2006 appeared! A quality merlot produced with quality fruit from the valley.

"Sisters, now we are finally at the end of our menu - our sixth and last course. It is a grand course. A course that is not only worthy of one fine wine in all of Walla Walla, but two wines! We are serving the curls of Dorothy and her little dog, ToTo, too! The curls will be served in ruby red slippers used by female impersonators from San Francisco," Grand Cru-ella chirped with such enthusiasm.

"Sisters, this is a course so fine, we are not relying on magic. Sister Claretta and I have relied on our fine palates for the choice of these two wines!" Grand Cru-ella hauntily said. "We are announcing that our sixth and last course will be paired with a Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 2006 and a Cayuse Vineyards Armada Syrah - 2005!"

"Oooooo!" the wicked Walla Walla Witches awed.

"Sisters, you remember Bob Parker, don't you?" said Claretta. "Remember when he sold us his soul in exchange to grow him a new tongue after our Sister Alice in California removed it in her brave effort to save the world from him? Well, Bob gave both of these fine wines excellent ratings in the past. He has given Leonetti Cabernet Reserve 97 points for past 2003, 2004, 2005 vintages and for Cayuse Armada Syrah 98 points for the 2004 vintage and 99 points for the 2003!

Finally Mog spoke up. "But Sister Claretta, I was just down in the wine cellar foraging for a breakfast of spiders and I didn't see one bottle of Leonetti or Cayuse in the cellar."

"Oh don't be silly Mog. We have magic," interrupted Uvaggio as she quit chugging the Chardonnay from the bottle she had hidden under the table and sneered down at Mog. "I can get us any wine anytime we want. I have connections. I know people. Now gather 'round sisters so we can cast this spell. It's Witch Wine O'Clock and there's a glass of Chardonnay waiting for me at the Walla Walla Warlock Club."

"Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!" the witches chanted!

"POOF! BOING!" All of a sudden the bottles turned into shadowy forms! And just as Grand Cru-ella tried to grab for the shadows of the Leonetti and Cayuse bottles, the bottles slowly faded and then, "POOF!" Disappeared!

Once again the witches cast their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"BOING! BOING! BOING!" Nothing! The spell didn't work. There were no bottles of Leonetti or Cayuse wine.

Claretta shrieked to Grand Cru-ella, "Sister Cru-ella! What are we going to do? Why can't we keep the spell on those bottles of wine? Our All Hallows Eve Soiree will be ruined! What will our guests think? How will we ever keep up with Lord and Lady MacBeth?"

All of a sudden the room shook and the lit candles dimmed. The wind began to switch - the house to pitch - and suddenly the hinges started to - unhitch! Then a huge booming terrifying voice from the ground groaned and bellowed! It was the most terrifying and most ghastliest sound one could ever imagine! GASP!

"The waiting lists of Cayuse Vineyards and Leonetti Cellars are currently full. If you would like to placed on the "Waiting Lists" for their waiting lists, please contact us by snail mail because even if you send us an email or fax to speed things up, your current wait will still be 5-8 years. Thank you for your patience and have a nice day!"

The End.

WBC-or-Bust: Road to Walla Walla

In conjunction with the third annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC), will provide 12 citizen wine writers the opportunity to catch a ride across Washington wine country. is an online community for the growing wine industry, where both popular wine bloggers and businesses come together to connect and share information on wine.

In eight months, hundreds of wine bloggers will converge on Walla Walla for the WBC to sip, sample and see what the Washington wine industry has to offer—while sharing their experiences online. The three-day event—taking place June 25-27, 2010—will attract over 250 wine bloggers as well as industry professionals from all over the country.

For many of the WBC attendees, this will be their first opportunity to visit Walla Walla, or even Washington State. As a way to provide a complete Washington wine experience, created the WBC-or-BUST: Road to Walla Walla campaign, which provides 12 lucky wine bloggers all-expenses paid travel between Seattle and Walla Walla.

“Washington is a premier wine region and a road trip just sounded like a fun way to get visiting bloggers where they needed to go, while sharing a broader Washington experience including it’s wine, food, and landscape,” says Marcus Pape, founder

Starting in Seattle and traveling by way of several key wine regions, bloggers will be wined, dined, and educated for three days and two nights as they make their way to the conference. Along for the ride will be a video crew, a few key wine media professionals, and several local industry icons providing some quality Q&A and regional flavor sharing. All provided to these visiting bloggers at no cost for simply doing what they do best – blogging.

“The WBC-or-BUST campaign is a terrific primer for next year’s conference,” said Ryan Pennington, Senior Communications Manager Washington Wine Commission. “Winning bloggers will experience the true breadth and diversity of our industry first hand, arriving in Walla Walla with a truly unique understanding of what Washington wine is all about.”

For more information on the WBC-or-Bust: Road to Walla Walla campaign and how to qualify or get involved, contact WBC-or-BUST! If I didn't already live here or was an WBC Event Sponsor, I would sign up to catch a ride. This is going to be a very cool experience!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Myriad of Merlots

I do love them and held true to them even when they were knocked “sideways” by Miles Raymond, the moody self-sabotaging wine aficionado character from the movie Sideways. I stayed faithful and never wavered when a group of writing peers from northern California skewered and flamed me for drinking a wine they felt was merely worthy of blending. Was it my fault they couldn’t get past their own wimpy California Merlots and not realizing that all Merlots were not created equal? Should I have felt guilty for having world class Merlots from the State of Washington all around me and so easily accessible?

Lately, I’ve been keeping an eye out for quality Merlots from Walla Walla that also come with an affordable price tag, so the lover of this little Bordeaux-influenced grape can get the most Bordeaux-Walla-Walla-Bing-Bang for their buck.

Basel Cellars Estate Merlot - 2006: If you want a bold Merlot that you can sink your teeth into along with that big piece of beef on your plate, then this is the Merlot. This Estate grown Merlot was aged 18 months in 37% new American and French oak. An aromatic nose of a cigar humidor and notes of vanilla. Lots of supple dark fruit in the glass that is completed with a dark cocoa finish. This wine could definitely be cellared for about five years. A Gold Medal winner of the 2009 Denver International Wine Competition. Retail Price: $28/bottle

Skylite Cellars Estate Merlot - 2005: I first tasted this wine at Taste Washington in Spokane with Cheryl Hodges co-owner of Skylite Cellars. It was their first vintage using 1oo% of their own fruit from their Skylite Estate Vineyard. Aged two years in new American oak. The nose was lightly smoky reminiscent of the autumn air and the palate reminded me of milk chocolate cherry cordials I really enjoyed this Merlot and thought it showed the fruit of Walla Walla quite well. Another Merlot that could be cellared, if you wish. Price: $26/bottle.

Nelms Road Merlot - 2007: Nelm's Road is the second label for Woodward Canyon. What I enjoy about the Nelms Road label is I always know I'm getting a quality wine made with quality fruit. A nose of leather and vanilla leads your palate to big bold flavors of black fruit and cherry. These wines are earthy and with the right elements, they can be cellared for about five years, but equally drinkable as a young wine. I say the price is right to enjoy now and often. Price: $21/bottle.

Revelry Vintners Columbia Valley Merlot - 2006: Revelry Vintners is a new winery at the Walla Walla Airport district. This Merlot was an easy sipper and would pair quite well with the basics such as hamburgers or upscale it a bit with salmon, of course saving extra for a Merlot redux sauce. Big berry and cherry flavors with just a slight touch of oak and a little spice to let you know you are sipping a Merlot. Definitely a young drinkable wine and very easy on the pocketbook. Price: $15/bottle.

In the movie, Miles Raymond got his tighty-whiteys in a bunch yelling outside the restaurant, "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!"

And to everyone who shares the same sentiments, don't let the door hit you in the bung hole on your way out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Locati Cellars Oregon Pinot Grigio - 2007

In the 80's the trendy white wine was Chardonnay. In 2000, it appears to be the little gray grape with the split personality - Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, depending if you are in France or Italy. I typically don't drink a lot of whites even though I’ve been on my soapbox barking that those of us who favor the red grape, need to give whites a chance. So, although I am not perfect, I try to heed my own words - - once in awhile.

After the Labor Day weekend, I remembered a chilled bottle of Locati Cellars Oregon Pinot Grigio - 2007 a guest left in my refrigerator. He had mentioned how much he enjoyed the wine and was anxious to get my opinion on it. Locati Cellars is located on the Stateline Road at Milton-Freewater, OR which is still located in the Walla Walla AVA. Something told me with the Locati name it had to be good because of their reputation for fine local produce in the valley and they've been been making wine for their family for over 100 years.

Since my experience with Pinot Gris or Grigios has been minimum (a glass here. a glass there) and it's been a few years since I tasted an Alsatian Pinot Gris, I became rather hooked on this refreshing white wine from Locati Cellars. It displayed a light mineral quality up front, a mid palate of honeydew melon and lemons and ended with just the right amount of acids to make it crisp and left the palate very clean and wanting more. It was an easy sipper and definitely a wine I would recommend for seafood that's been accented well with butter.

A few days after tasting the wine, I packed up my little dog, Chloe and off we ventured to the Oregon Coast to unwind in front of the ocean, ponder life and gather new energy from the waves. I kept thinking about the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio and how well it would pair with fish and seafood. One evening at the beach I took advantage of the one burner in the room's kitchenette and threw together linquine with clam sauce. Not the creamy, starchy, thick clam sauce, but a fresh lemony, buttery and clam nectar sauce with simple ingredients. Of course, I needed a good wine to go with, so I bought an popular Willamette Valley label Pinot Grigio. Hey, when in Rome...

But you know, the Willamette Valley Pinot Grigio was okay - - just okay when compared to the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio from the other side of Oregon - - the NE side of Oregon. The popular Willamette Valley wine just didn’t have the crisp and spritzy acids that the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio produced and frankly I think there was a skoosh of residual sugar hanging around in the Willamette Pinot Grigio - a bit cloying for my taste. The linguine with clam sauce really needed the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio. It's really more of a sophisticated and food friendlier wine.

After enjoying the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio, I am really anxious to try the other Locati Cellars wines from owners Michael and Penne Locati. For the time being you can taste their wines at Cugini Italian Foods at Wallula Avenue and Penne tells me that their new tasting room will be opening soon at the old Train Depot on North Second in Walla Walla. Penne also told me about a dry Orange Muscat they have produced, which I am looking forward to trying, besides their Italian red varietals. Salute'!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crying Over the Last Drop: Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon - Klipsun Vineyard

Have you ever had a bottle of wine that you almost cried over when you squeezed the very last drop into your glass? (and nooo - - I didn’t put the bottle to my lips) Well, Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006, from the Klipsun Vineyard at Red Mountain, made my “Crying Over the Last Drop" wine list.

Opening a bottle of wine can be like opening a scrapbook filled of memories. As I read the Seven Hills label and noticed the fruit was sourced from the Klipsun Vineyard, it brought back a memory from a couple of years ago. I was sitting on top of the Klipsun Vineyard in a gazebo visiting with Klipsun owner, Patricia Gelles; Gilles Nicault, managing winemaker for Long Shadows Vintners; and Steven Bjerklie, wine writer for Mid-Columbian Magazine.

The sun was warm and the brisk wind raged about the vineyard. The view of the Yakima Valley from the steep slope was peaceful and the cheetgrass that turns a red wine color, giving the landscape of Red Mountain its name, was faded by the warm sun.

Understanding this bottle of wine would cellar very well, I still couldn’t wait to pull the cork. The deep red color filled my glass leaving a spicy nose and sweet smells of dried plums, cranberries and vanilla. If I had sipped this wine in a blind tasting, I would have sworn it was Walla Walla fruit because of the rich earthy smell. It was well balanced and the concentrated dark berry flavors of raspberries and blackberries reminded me of Marie Callender’s “Razzleberry” pie (note: this is a good thing). There were a few tannins hanging around, but for my tannin-loving palate, just enough to let you know they were present. Again, it was very well balanced and had all of the components in a Cabernet Sauvignon that makes me swoon.

If I were giving out ratings, (which I don’t because - - hellooooo, I live in this town and have to face y’all at the grocery store) with “5" being the highest of the swoon worthy, I would definitely give Walla Walla's Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard - 2006 - -

5 Swoons

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Get me off of the crazy train, I need to stop and smell the roses!

Ozzy Osbourne sang it
“…I’m going off the rails on a crazy train."

Dear Readers,

Forgive me and my schmaltzy projections. This isn’t all that wine related, but only about the author of the blog. The “author” of this blog lives on adrenalin, but it is a mighty adrenalin and it is about the wine. It’s about the wine, the people who love it and the people who make it. It’s about terroir and it is about a town. There are times she wishes she didn’t have to work a “real” job to pay the mortgage and wishes she didn’t have to sleep. There are days she wishes she could do nothing but walk around the valley and visit with every wine tourist and every wine employee. There are days she wishes she could pack up her little dog and sit in front of the great Pacific Ocean on the Oregon side and watch the waves roll in and out all day. Oh she wishes…

It’s been one hell of a year. It’s been about triumph and loss. It’s been about change and most of all – the last few weeks it’s been about slowing down. My triumph was flying to the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Napa/Sonoma so I could hear them officially announce the Third Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference would be held in Walla Walla. My loss was the break-up of an eight-year relationship with a companion who was my best friend and fellow "wine geek" journalist. My recent relationships have been with doctors, but I have little tolerance when they tell me I am sick. Except I do kind of dig my primary physician who reminds me that a glass of red wine every day is good for me and then later reminds himself he is “preaching to the choir.” I am not a good patient. I hate going to the doctor and to the hospital – it’s full of sick people.

In the mean time, my little online wine store is growing. Almost more than one person can handle, but not enough to hire out for help (unless they want to “intern.”). Hell, there are days I need someone to answer all the emails and requests! But then again, the down side is - - meet Ms. Micromanager. Me.

And there is so much on my brain I want to write about that I can’t sleep at night, but too tired to sit up and too tired to put my fingers to the keyboard. There are several great wines I have recently tasted and need to blog about. There’s an interesting story about a local I recently met whose project is to taste a wine from every winery in Walla Walla before the end of the year. I have a soap box rant about the recent FTC ruling this week. Effective December 1, blogs will have to write disclaimers whether or not they purchased or was given the wines they are blogging about. Bloggers who work for little or nothing must do this, but traditional media will not have to. Say what?

So - - Yes Virginia, there is a Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. She just needs to slow down a bit - - for at least a while. Instead of an average of seven blogs a month, there may be only four - - at least for now. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, so perhaps my timing is appropriate. The days are getting shorter and the trees know it is time to rest. I need to rest - - at least for awhile. And I need to stop and smell what roses are left before the cold takes them away. In the mean time if you see me walking about the town with no direction and perhaps a camera in hand - - I’m just taking the time to stop - - and smell and take in whatever sight and sound that is around me.

I’m still here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A New Look for the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Blog!

The Internet is ever-changing in an ever-evolving world and with the world of wine blogging growing and becoming more dominant, I thought it was time to freshen up the look. Don't get me wrong - I thought the site looked "pretty in pink" and bordello - - I mean Bordeaux red. But now days the importance of branding and consistency cannot be stressed enough in the marketing world.

Change is hard, but I hope I am never too old to know when it is time.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tertulia Cellars: A Sense of Place

If you check out Wikipedia, it will tell you the Spanish name, "Tertulia" means a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones. It will also tell you that a typical tertulia in recent centuries has been a regularly scheduled event in a public place such as a bar or even a living room. It's a place where people share their recent creations, such as poetry, short stories and even artwork or songs.

Tertulia Cellars, located near the foothills of the Walla Walla Valley, certainly lives up to its name. As you come up the drive you are met with a colorful building with sections painted dark coral, bright sunflower yellow, and a warm aubergine. It's like the building sits on it's own little oasis with surrounding vineyards nearby.

Once inside the door, you understand Tertulia Cellars takes their name seriously as the room is prepared for an ongoing social gathering with a large and welcoming circular bar, waist high cocktail tables and an intimate area with couches surrounding a fireplace.

I was thrilled to meet and tour the winery and vineyards with Stevie Johnson, the new Director of Sales & Marketing (and a very gracious host), as well as meeting and visiting with Quentin Mylet, the new winemaker who had also worked with former Tertulia winemaker, Ryan Raber. It was a pleasure to taste again the wines of Tertulia Cellars and be reminded of legacy of well balanced and quality wines that Ryan Raber left behind. I am excited to see future vintages from Quentin.

What impressed me the most about the line-up of wines I tasted, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Viognier, was the diversity of varietals that Tertulia produces, such as Tempranillo, Carmenere and Malbec. Each one capturing the character, yet emphasizing the uniqueness of each.

I swooned over the Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo - 2007, a blueish-blackish wine in color with fruit sourced from Les Collines located at the Walla Walla foothills. The nose was spicy and nutty leaving the palate with flavors of dark juicy black fruits, like dark cherries and currants with hints of chocolate and coffee.

If you have never been a fan of Carmenère, then you should consider Tertulia Cellars Phinny Hill Vineyard - 2007. I think the addition of 15% Merlot, really helped to soften this wine, while still leaving the peppery characteristics that is traditionally found in Carmenère. It just isn't so "in- your-face" with pepper, making it a more food friendlier wine, while still showing off flavors of plum and dark berries.

Call me "Silly" (Hellooo Silly!), but here is my deal when I judge what makes a good Malbec: it must taste like grape jelly on graham crackers. Okay, bear with me here - it goes back to the instructions of Dr. Ann Noble, the Guru of Wine Sensory Evaluation. Dr. Noble said when trying to describe notes and flavors of wine, reach back into your memory bank of smells and tastes that may have to do with special events.

As a kid, I loved going to my grandparents house to ride the pony, feed the chickens, run the length of the horse pasture, exploring the barn and walking through their magnificent vegetable and flower gardens. Snack times after all that activity meant fresh baked cookies, but if grandma was behind in her baking, we would have graham or soda crackers with an assortment of her jellies, jams and fruit butters. For me, the taste of a good Malbec must smell and taste like grape jelly on graham crackers, like what I remember from Grandma's house.

All I need to say about the Tertulia Cellars Malbec - 2006 is, "Hellooo Grandma!"

After my visit at Tertulia Cellars, I started thinking about their name. It occurred to me after tasting their wines in their light and friendly tasting room, visiting with the staff and touring the cellar and their vineyards, that for Tertulia Cellars it means more than a social gathering of friends. Tertulia Cellars have their own sense of place in the valley. Tertulia Cellars definitely has their own terroir.
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