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.

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