Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010: Walla Walla Wines & The Blogger

Fellow Scotsman and Poet, Bobby Burns said it best:

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn?


First of all, let me tell you about the Who, What, Where and When of this blog. Oh yeah, even as we are surrounded with the best of technology, when I get introduced as “the blogger” I still get looks as if I am standing naked with three heads on my shoulder. And of course, it is the heads of: Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Manson and Charles Manson. Then I am often asked, “What is a blogger?”

Well, if you are really curious what a blogger is, show up at the Marcus Whitman Hotel during the weekend of June 25, 2010 and you will see over 250+ of us from all over the United States and other parts of the world! Yeah, it took a lot of sweet-talking, escalating tears and tantrums, and threats of Voodoo induced cork tainted wine, but the Third Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference has been taken out of Napa/Sonoma and placed in Walla Walla!

As I look back at this blog, I realize that 2010 will also mark the 5th Anniversary of “Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine.” Who knew when I first started my little online journal, I would still be here. I am now one of those “old-timers” who can actually say, “I remember when I was one of the first 300 wine bloggers many years, ago.” And yes, the world of wine blogging has grown. It has grown so much that we, without really trying, made traditional wine writers a little nervous and made them rethink wine journalism. The wise journalists took on the attitude of, “If we can’t beat 'em, join 'em," while others chose to express “sour grapes” by calling us names. Oh and we were called names by the best of the professionals, too. We were called “Blobbers” and my all time favorite name, which I still can’t help from giggling when I hear it, “bitter, carping gadflies.” Ahhh yes. Good times.

How often can my readers expect to hear from me? No less than four times a month, but hopefully more - - and when I am really on a roll, sometimes twice a week! Who and what do I blog about? Walla Walla and her wines - - and often, it is my view on the subject and not a reprint of the news.

Recently, the subject of how I review wines was brought up. Nope, I am not a fan of using points and QPR numbers (Quality per Ratio). I feel numbers are limiting. How do you sum up a wine to one number and especially if the wine has been given the deathly number of all - - 89! And wonder if I gave a wine a high number and a fellow blogger gave it a low number (or vice-versa). With that kind of confusion, you might decide not to even taste the wine.

What I hope to bring to my readers is the best features of the wine and most of all, the experience behind the wine. My palate is different than yours and of course, wines are subjective. So, my feelings are if I at least share the experience with you, no matter if the wine I discussed was difficult to find or unobtainable, you will still try another varietal and vintage from that winery. Or even at best - - any wine produced in the Walla Walla Valley.

I have been asked, "How come you haven't blogged about ABC or XYZ Cellars, yet?" My standard answer is this: "There are so many wineries and wines in Walla Walla and there is only one of me."

To all of the wineries in Walla Walla County: I love you all!

I wish I could write and blog all day long, but unfortunately it doesn't pay the bills. I work a full-time 8:30 - 5:00 office job during the day and I blog and do freelance wine writing in the evenings and weekends. Which means, my weekends are full just trying to catch-up with - - well - - "life."

Sometimes I need a little help and the best motivation is for a winery to invite me to a tasting. Also, if you have an experience or news going on at your winery, let me know (unfortunately, it is difficult for me to always post weekly events as I don't keep a calendar on the blog).
So really - shoot me an email. I would love to talk with you about your wines.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting - 2009

The Saturday morning of Holiday Barrel Tasting, I was reminded of many Holiday Barrel Tastings of years past and just like years before, this morning was no different. The air was crisp and there were highlights of frost on the trees and sidewalks. I laughed to myself as the frost reminded me of visiting with wine tourists from California who were considering a move to Walla Walla and asking me if this kind of weather happened often and if it was difficult to drive in.

I headed towards Cottonwood Road to visit Reynvaan Family Vineyards. I thought I would never get there! It’s quite a drive. However, not only is it a beautiful drive this time of year, with a view of the snow covered foothills, but it’s a worthy drive to taste the Syrah futures of 2008.

As soon as I walked into the winery, I was greeted warmly by Gale and Michael Reynvaan and their son, Matt. I knew the wines had to be very special as Christophe Baron, of the renowned Cayuse Vineyards, has been the Reynvaan's viticulture and wine consultant. I tasted "The Contender" Syrah - a classic and elegant wine with hints of violets, berries and cocoa. "In the Rocks" Syrah was a mouth full of blueberries and had been co-fermented with Viognier and Marsanne. And then was "The Unnamed" Syrah - - because at this time it is - - well - - unnamed! The "Unnamed" again was a classic, but a softer wine with hints of rose petals and bramble berries. It also was co-fermented with Viognier. And besides, the "un-named" wine? Who cares that it doesn't have a name? It can stand on its own and Reynvaan is a winery to definitely keep an eye and ear open for.

My morning was getting away from me as I had a lunch date with a good friend/mentor/editor to gossip, catch-up and chat business with. But I still had time for one more stop before I headed back to town, even though I spent a lot of time visiting with the Reynvaan family. Next stop was Trust Cellars to visit with Steve and Lori Brooks. As always, I was greeted with a warm and friendly smile by Lori Brooks. Steve had selected a very special barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar to taste from. The inside and outside of the winery was decorated with festive greenery and a Christmas tree decorated with Trust Cellar label ornaments.

Too bad I was saving myself for lunch, but other visitors were going to be in for a treat with the beautiful selection of imported cheeses the Brooks were serving with their "trust"-worthy Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.

Once I arrived at T. Maccarones at noon, It was difficult to leave after I got all cozy and warm nursing their fabulous Bloody Mary’s made with Absolut vodka chocked full of "salad" and pickled goodies - -and let's not forget about the grilled shrimp hanging off of the glass just ready to jump into the spicy red liquid. And last but not least, my brunch of rich potatoes gratan prepared with Fontina cheese and fried panchetta with poached eggs on top. Finally, and feeling content, I got my "move on" and moved on down the street.

"On down the street" was in the direction of Merchants LTD, the town's long-standing and original deli. Margo and Gary Kagels, of Plumb Cellars were the featured winery for the day, pouring their new wines. Gary already knew the "Damn Straight" red blend was one of my favorite damn straight wines. I'm telling ya, if I could bore you with a QPR (quality per price ratio) my personal tastebuds would tell you this is a $40 wine selling for $26. But I won't bore you with QPR as FWIW, IME and IMHO I just like to KISS, because YMMV, KWIM? The wine just tastes DSTR8! ROTFLMAO XOXOXO!
Also available for tasting was Plumb Cellar's Merlot from the Birch Creek Vineyards. It was indeed a Merlot that showed off the earthy rich soil of Walla Walla. I am looking forward to seeing many future releases from Plumb Cellars.

This was also the first weekend for Locati Cellars to be in their new tasting room at the Depot and my timing was perfect as I got to visit with Mike and Penne Locati and son, Heath Snider. Once again, I tasted their Pinot Grigio and was reminded of the fresh flavors of honeydew melon with a sprinkle of lemon. A few weeks before Barrel Tasting, Penne called and said she was anxious for me to try their Orange Muscat that was fermented dry. I certainly was curious. There were undertones of almost sherry-like qualities and the orange was still dominant. It was a complex wine, but a wine I can see that would pair very well with seafood.

The Locati Cellars Columbia Valley and Walla Walla (Pepperbridge) Sangiovese's were definitely "swoon worthy." The Sangiovese from Candy Mountain Vineyard from Kennewick was very "slurp-able!" "Slurpable," you ask? Meaning = it goes down too easy, much like the vineyard's name - candy. The Walla Walla Sangiovese was a bit more complex showing more herbal and soil qualities. And the Barbera - - like crushed fresh berries and a finish as smooth and buttery like caramel. Wines to watch out for! I am very excited about these wines.

My day was coming to an end, but since I was on the highway headed home, I stopped at Lowden Hills Winery to visit with friends, Sonja and Jim Henderson and their little guard dog, LuLu. The tasting room was steady with customers and Sonja was busy re-filling a table with an assortment of cheeses, Norwegian treats and chocolate desserts. The "See You There" Syrah, with the beautiful label of Sonja's mother Susanne, was meant for "Inger's Kahlua brownies" and the rich chocolate torte that people were crowding around. What a perfect pairing to end such a perfect day - chocolate and Syrah.

And once again, another Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend behind me and as I checked my list, once again, I didn't make every winery on the list! "So many wineries - so little time." Fiddle-dee-dee, Scarlet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tru Cellars: The Daring and Surreal Wine Experience.

No matter what you are selling, you have to standout to stimulate growth and engage your consumers. I would have to say that Chad Diltz of Tru Cellars seems to have no problem standing out from the norm. In fact, even the wines he produces stands out, especially in Walla Walla since they are the first and only sparkling wine at this time.

Enjoy Tru Cellars: America's New Legacy "movie trailer" (Pipe in the voice of Don LaFontaine, the voiceover guy famous for recording more than 5,000 film trailers and hundreds of thousands of television advertisements.) "In a world …"

"Critics acclaim daring and surreal wine experience (sound applause)."

Tru Cellars: America's New Legacy TRAILER by 4th Avenue Media from 4th Avenue Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Deck the Walls with Walla Walla! Holiday Barrel Tasting

It's that time of year when over 50 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley will open their doors this weekend to introduce their new vintages and give a sneak-peak of the beautiful nectar that is resting in the barrels. Of all of the wine events in Walla Walla, the Holiday Barrel Tasting is my favorite. The crowds are a bit smaller, it's a more of an intimate feeling, and all of the wineries are beautifully decked out with the holiday spirit.

So, what can I say about how to survive another wine tasting event? Not much more than I have always said. It's really quite easy, you know. Just eat well, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate and remember to apply everything you learned in kindergarten and you will do just fine:
  • 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.

  • Cheese and wine are good for you.

  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

  • Take a nap every afternoon.

  • When you go out in the Walla Walla Valley, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

For a list of participating wineries, times, and events check out Walla Walla Wine Alliance. Cheers!

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