Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winetails: Once Upon A Time...

When I first heard the term, "Winetails," I was intrigued. As a fan of Hans Christian Anderson I had visuals of grown-ups all snuggly with their blankies and glasses of wine listening to stories about the handsome French bottle of Château Pétrus on his white steed saving his princess from the mean old $7.99 box of White Zinfandel. Then I read a wine blog talking about making a winetail out of an expensive bottle of Walla Walla wine and I thought to myself, "Are you freakin' effing nuts?"

Okay, so I am slowly changing my mind, but I still think you are freakin' effing nuts if you make a winetail out of an expensive bottle of wine. And the point of using a $30 bottle of wine for a winetail is to make the wine taste better? Huh?

However, I have trusted Denise Slattery of Trio Vintners to talk me down from my soapbox as she tells me how yummy winetails can be - - and I am thinking with the holiday season here, what a perfect time to start "mixin' and shakin'!"

Here is a winetail that Denise recommends and she uses Trio Vintners 2007 Riot (note the clever anagram for "riot"). Riot is a red blend of 53% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre at a great price of $18! Denise uses their red blend instead of the suggested Italian Chianti (Sangiovese) for this pretty red and festive winetail known as the Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara: Ice cubes, 1 oz fresh lemon juice, 1 oz Simple Syrup (see recipe below), 2 oz Triple Sec, 3 oz Trio Vintners 2007 Riot, and 2 lemon twists for garnish.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the lemon twists, but add them later with a bit of smooth style. Shake well (Again, keep up being stylin' with your shakin' and your shimmy, but remember you are not Shakira or Lady Ga-Ga). Strain the mixture into two cocktail glasses. Twist the lemon slice over each glass and let it slide in without a second glance. Serve immediately.

Simple Syrup - 2 1/2 cups water and 3 cups of sugar. Combine water and sugar in a medium-size sauce pan. Bring to boil over med-high heat, stirring occasionaly. Lower the heat a bit, keeping the mixture at a low boil for five minutes. Turn off the heat and let syrup completely cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Makes 41/2 cups.

The recipe is from the book Wine Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun and you can purchase the book from Trio Vintners. It is a collection of 50 "stylish sippers" that can be made with red, white and rosés. Be sure to check out the quote on the inside of the book cover -

"It's a joy to have this cocktail connoisseur come over to our side to play. Wine lovers everywhere will enjoy mixing up a party with A.J.'s guidance." - Steve Michener, Winemaker, Trio Vintners.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TЯU Cellars: It Sparkles!

On one of the glorious warm Autumn days last month, Robin (friend and mentor) and I went downtown Walla Walla to take in the sites, snap photos, check out a few tasting rooms and relax with lunch and a glass of wine.

There is no way to escape the turquoise-colored accented building on Main Street and it also has a way of drawing you inside. If you were dropping by Tru Cellars to pick up a bottle of wine for a dinner party, this tasting room has more than wine. Before you left you could also find a fashionable dress or purse for the evening.

Once Robin and I made our way through the first room of the building, "ooohing and aahing" over the pretty "threads" and glittery purses, a few steps down into a light and open room was owner, Chad Diltz waiting to pour us glasses of his wine. We tasted a Viognier with floral and fruity notes that suggested a sweet wine, but was predominantly dry. We also tasted a very spicy Gewürztraminer. It was full bodied and a very complex white wine. But as they say, the "piece de resistance" was the sparkling star of the show - - the Blanc de Blanc - 2007.

Tru Cellars is the first "sparkling" winery in Walla Walla and to remain "tru" to French tradition, méthode champenoise is used. With this method, the bubbles are produced by a secondary fermentation in each individual bottle instead of produced in bulk tanks. Also traditional is the 205 liter size barrels from Tonnellerie De Champagne Ardenne, a small cooperage in Reims, France. Tonnellerie De Champagne Ardenne is also the only cooperage in all of the Champagne region and now aging sparkling wines from Tru Cellars, as well.

I thought the Blanc de Blanc was a lively and fresh tasting sparkler. It showed crisp apple notes without the yeast masking the fruit and the well balanced acids, which I often find yeast does in some sparkling wines. Chad says the wine can be aged or of course, enjoyed now. It's a fun wine that can be the star of an elegant evening or to kick back with and pair it with bowl of buttery popcorn.

Chad Diltz definitely has a bubbly personality, very much like the wine he produces and Tru Cellars is a winery to keep an eye on.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Plumb Cellars: It's Damn Straight Wine!

I mean - - come on! What else would you name a winery where the majority of the co-founder's are in the construction business and interior design and decorating business? Plumb Cellars, of course!

Plumb Cellars was created by a Walla Walla group of friends who love their wine: Margo and Gary Kagels, Edie and Dale Johnson, Crandall Kyle, Chip Madsen, Taylor Sokolowsky, and Meagan & Judah Anderson-Pira.

In 2006, Meagan Anderson-Pira, along with the rest of the wine-team, created their first vintage of their flagship red blend, "Damn Straight." If you are wondering about Meagan, let me tell you, she comes from good winemaking genes. Dr. Miles Anderson, co-owner of Walla Walla Vintners and founder of the Institute of Viticulture and Enology at WWCC, is her father.

This is a serious winery, as they have even planted their own vineyard. I understand that one of their co-founders was adamant that all of the rows were "damn straight" and all the vineyard stakes were - - well - -plumb! Obviously, the adamant co-founder was one of the construction dudes.

At this time, Plumb Cellars has released a Merlot from Birch Creek Vineyards, a Cabernet, and of course their flagship red blend, Damn Straight - 2006.

I opened a bottle of the "Damn Straight" Wednesday evening. It's a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. As a big fan of Cabernet Franc, I could detect it right up front - that herbaceous quality that I enjoy and look forward to. At my first glass, the wine seemed complex and either my palate may have had an off night or the wine needed to breathe more, but I couldn't quite define what this wine was about - - until the second night I revisited it.

WOW! Last night I defined it! It was very robust, lively and so much flavor came through. There were flavor notes of dark cherry, mocha, brown sugar and a bit of the ol' cigar box. And the notes that I love about Cabernet Franc still shined through. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and winced later at the empty glass and empty bottle. For a wine that is marketed as a red table blend at $26, I would recommend to give it respect like it's a $36 wine. Take the time to decant the wine and give it some air. Also, pair this wine up with food. There is no doubt it is going to stand up and pair well with really rich and hearty appetizers and entrees.

Yup, there's no doubt about it - - Plumb Cellars Damn Straight Red Blend - 2006, is a damn fine straight wine!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Walla Walla Fall Release Highlights

Lately my motto has been, "So many Walla Walla wineries and so little time - - and only one of me." And with the best intentions, I still didn't make it to all of the wineries on my list.

When I go wine tasting I like having another wine-geek with me to bounce off tasting notes and talk about the politics of wine and styles of winemaking. Jason Baggett, second-year student at the Walla Walla Institute for Enology and Viticulture and assistant at Mannina Cellars ventured out with me on the Saturday morning of Fall Release 09.

Our first stop was at Castillo de Feliciana Castillo Vineyard and Winery. We wanted to check out the beautiful new facility and of course taste the wines of Ryan Raber, former

winemaker at Tertulia Cellars. Our timing was perfect as Ryan poured our wines! We were impressed by the Tempranillo and
the "Miercoles" - the "Wednesday Wine" (Miercoles is Spanish for Wednesday). Miercoles is a very tasty everyday blend of 60% Cabernet Sauuvignon and 40% Syrah. And the price is great at $19.00. The facility is gorgeous and the view - - spectacular!

The next stop was three wineries in one! I wanted to stop by Gramercy Cellars and say hello to Greg and Pam Harrington under their "Big Top Circus Tent." We tasted through their beautiful wines that recently received high 90+ points from Dr. Jay Miller of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Oh yes, these points were very well deserved! The Gramercy Inigo Montoya Tempranillo was swoon-worthy as well as the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. I immediately picked up an herbal quality in the Cab that I really enjoyed. The wine was very viscous and rich. And of course, the real star of the show was the Gramercy John Lewis Syrah that received 96 points. I liked the way Jason described the wine - - "A Monster!"

We walked over to Waters Winery. A beautiful facility and certainly their share of beautifully made wines, too. The "Interlude," a Bordeaux-style blend made my palate happy as well as the Waters Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006 really stood out for me. It was a well balanced wine, yet complex with rich black fruit and cigar box notes. We met with Christa Hilt, Marketing Director who was a delightful hostess and invited Jason and I to their very stunning VIP room where we also met with Jamie Brown, winemaker for Waters. In the VIP room held one very special wine - 21 Grams.

21 Grams is a collaboration between Waters Winery and Gramercy Cellars. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from world-class vineyards in Washington State and only 100 cases are made. It was aromatic, silky and very elegant. Jason and I both noted how easy it was on the palate - just like velvet.

On we went into Oregon border to visit the winery of Otis Kenyon. We chose not to go to their downtown Walla Walla tasting room and to visit their winery instead as it is rare when it is open to the public. They also had a "Big Top Circus Tent" set up. Thank goodness as it was getting windy by then. The Otis Kenyon "Matchless" Red is a very tasty "Tuesday" wine (actually any day!) produced with fruit sourced from Walla Walla. The Carmenere - 2007 didn't have any green vegetal notes in it that you often find in Carmenere. Instead it showed a lot of pink and black peppercorns. If you love Carmenere like I do, then the Otis Kenyon Carmenere is the one!

Robison Ranch Cellars partners, Brad Riordan and Jim Robison really know how to throw a party and indeed what a fine party it was at the ranch with wine, food and even door prizes! Brad is in charge of the wine and Jim is in charge of the food - and what a spread Jim produced. Smoked salmon, smoked pork tenderloin, proscuitto and selection of imported cheeses to name a few of the delicious noshes. It was a feast - and the wine from the Walla Walla Valley vineyards was indeed fit for a feast. The Robison Ranch Cellars Rosé - 2008 is a blend of Walla Walla grown Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot and Viognier and it paired quite perfect with the smoked salmon, and other smoked meats that Jim Robison prepared (a reminder of how well the wine will pair with the Thanksgiving turkey). I really thought the Merlot was a shining star - it reminded me of a blackberry pie with a brown sugar finish and my how it lingered. Oh, and guess who won a door prize? A great ending to a great day of tasting wines and meeting up with friends at the various wineries.

After being a responsible wine taster and spitting all of the delicious wine all day, I went home, settled in for the evening, put my purple fuzzy slippers on and poured myself a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla!

It’s time for Fall Release in Walla Walla and what does this mean? Well, the truth of the matter is every first weekend in November, Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards opens his doors to all of his fans who are on “the list” to pick up their “futures.” It also means it's a great time for the other wineries to show and shine! And what does this mean for the rest of us who are on the main Cayuse waiting list or on the chain of waiting lists to get on the waiting lists? (Hmmmph, I lost my place on the list in the “divorce” – phhhhtttt!) It means there are plenty of other great wines to taste in the Walla Walla Valley! So buck up and wipe those tears. Not all is lost. Here’s a few surprises some of the wineries have in store just for you!

Basel Cellars will be featuring local photography, book signing by Steve Roberts, Wine Trails of Washington and bratwurst on the grill. Bergevin Lane will release “Heart and Soul” Pinot Noir – 2007. Now that’s a grape we don’t see too often in Walla Walla. Canoe Ridge Vineyards will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary with vintage wine pours and appetizers. It’s a grand opening for new winery Castilo de Feliciana. Enjoy regional Spanish food and Flamenco guitar. Dumas Station Wines from Dayton will be poured at Merchants Deli featuring selected breads and cheeses. Gramercy Cellars will be serving their recently well a-“pointed” wines under the big top circus tent in the vineyard. The Wine Advocate gave Gramercy some love with 96, 94 and 93 point wine ratings! Selected barrel tasting and appetizers at the school house that Wine & Spirits magazine named L'Ecole No. 41 "Winery of the Year" for the 8th consecutive year! WOW!

It’s a rare opportunity when Long Shadows Vintners opens their doors – don’t miss it! They will be pouring their new releases along with scrumptious appetizers (as always). Sonja and Jim always have good food at Lowden Hills Winery along with some great sales! Northstar Winery will be pouring new releases paired with an assortment of cheeses. Check out their spectacular view of the Blue Mountains. Otis Kenyon Winery will be available at their downtown tasting room and out at the winery. Ask them to share their fascinating story about their label. Check out the bronze exhibit at Rulo Winery and taste their fabulous and affordable Syrahs! Rich at Saviah Cellars is releasing a Petit Verdot! Yum! That wine will go fast! Live music all the time at Sapolil Cellars – check it out! There is an art exhibit at Seven Hills Winery and Vicky McClellan told me she's digging through her library wines to share. Don’t miss that one! Enjoy local cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie at Skylite Cellars Winery on the highway. Stella Fino will feature their new releases and beautiful chocolate from Petits Noirs chocolatiers.

It’s the 10th Anniversary at Three Rivers Winery and what a party! Featuring music, appetizers, food demos and VIETRI handcrafted Italian home décor is making an appearance. Trio Vintners at the incubators is opening their Willow Annex art gallery featuring smoke prints by Frank Janzen. If you are downtown, tickle your nose with a glass of bubbles from Tru Cellars. The sparkling Blanc de Blanc is a treat! Then walk across the street and start your weekend on Friday at Walla Walla Wine Works and listen to the tunes of Paul Gregutt (famed wine writer and author) and Pete Crawford (“Where’s Mary?”). Small plates of deliciousness are available for purchase. Drop by Woodward Canyon and check out their new “Reserve House.” Chef Charles Caulder and Chef Jay Entrikin will offer special bites to pair with current releases.

Now if this isn’t enough to keep you busy I don’t know what will! For a list of other participating wineries, releases, and special dinners check out the Walla Walla Wine News Fall Release Guide. For a map and directions there are brochures available at most of the wineries or go online to Walla Walla Wine Alliance.

Need a guide on how to act savvy and cool at the wineries? Check out the Walla Walla Wine News Fall Release Survival Guide written by Yours Truly. The guide will assist you in making the most of your weekend. And let me add some new pointers such as all of the basic things we learned in kindergarten: When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together; Share everything; Play fair; Don't hit people; Put things back where you found them; Clean up your own mess; Don't take things that aren't yours; Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody; Wash your hands before you eat; Flush; Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you or in this case - -

Wine and cheese are good for you! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Game On! 8-Bit Vintners

When it comes to gaming I plead ignorance, but I wasn’t always. In the early 80’s I polished my skills on Ms. Pacman. I was in a situation of "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em." At the time, my young step-son and his friends were very much into arcades and when we took the kids out for pizza after a football game, they became glued to the video games.

Mike James, self-proclaimed gaming geek and owner/winemaker of 8-Bit Vintners realized while gamers were busy slaying dragons and saving princesses, these heroes with square box weapons needed their own wine. I could hardly wait to try 8-Bit Vintners “Player 1” when I first heard it was to be bottled in July.

“Player 1” is a red blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Cab Sauv, and 5% of Carmenere and 5% Malbec produced with fruit from the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys. Mike chose to use screw caps instead of corks and it wasn’t a statement against corks either. His intentions for the wine was easy access and to be enjoyed NOW! Like who needs to screw with a cork when you are busy playing with your joy stick?

A few days ago, I heard my doorbell ring just as I opened my first bottle of 8-Bit Vintners. It was a good friend stopping by and he must have heard the snap and release of the bottle cap. It was a fun surprise and a great reason for an impromptu plate of water crackers, crisp apple slices and a wheel of smoked gouda. We found the blend to be an “easy sipper.” Right up front it showed the fruitiness of the syrah with just a hint of spice at the end. The tannins were well balanced and the acids didn’t clash with the tartness of the apples. Yeah, and the price is right. At $18 a bottle it’s a wine you could enjoy every day or share with friends for a special event. Rumor is there may be a white blend named “Player 2.”

I think Mike James has accomplished his goal. Game on!
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