Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Racked 

Remember our vocab lesson last week on "lees," boys and girls?  It was brought up that eventually lees is removed from the wine (or "racked"). No, being racked or racking is not something that goes on at underground adult play parties in San Francisco.

Racking or racked is the process of gravity-siphoning or gentle pumping of clear wine off of its sediment (aka lees) using a clean siphoning hose and tube which leads back into a clean and sterile container, such as a barrel, for further fermentation.

Racking wine aids in clarification of the wine and stabilization. Racking is a necessity, especially multiple times during the aging process of the wine. 

I have done this job and trust me - - it is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Put 'em Up! Here Comes El Corazon Pistolero

That's right. Put up your wine glasses for Pistolero!

One of the best kept secrets in the Walla Walla Valley is El Corazon - - and don't let the scary dude on the wine label keep you away, either. Winemaker and owner of El Corazon, Spencer Sievers, is much more handsome and swoon-worthy than his pistol packing zombie alter-ego. (Perhaps you might even recognize him from the notorious Ash Hollow Winery Headless Red video? He lost his head over it - - so to speak).

Spencer, along with Raul Morfin (assistant winemaker at Reininger Winery, as well)  conspired to form, not only a friendship, but to open a winery downtown Walla Walla and take advantage of some of the best grapes in the Walla Walla Valley. 

El Corazon's  focus is on Cabernet, Carmenere, Malbec and Syrah terroir-driven and fruit forward single varietals - - with the exception of Pistolero. Pistolero, meaning "gunman" in Spanish, was originally going to be named "Six Shooter" for all of the six original Bordeaux varietals that went into this blend: 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Malbec, 27% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, and 6% Carmenere.

However, with some after thought, the duo thought "pistolero" would roll off the tongue easier and no doubt, it would be unforgettable.

The wine itself is luscious and far from scary! However, like the label the wine is "dark." This Walla Walla blend of fruit is deep, dark and rich. On the palate it is smooth, chocolately, a mouth full of cherries and graham crackers, yet finishes with a hint of spice.

Spencer says when El Corazon produces blends, not only is each blend unique, but he views their labels as art projects. He says last year they used "black duct tape" for the two blends, "Fenix" and "Junior Varsity."  The story behind the Pistolero label was Spencer's idea to design the wine label to resemble a "wanted" poster. He says that many people have expressed the label as a little "creepy" but often it is the appeal to grab a bottle. 

Take notice of  the gun barrel. It isn't your regular barrel as the bullets that leave this barrel are heart shaped. Awww - a wanted zombie spreading the love ... and we love Pistolero!  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wine Blogging Wednesday #78 - Get Yo Viggy On!

It's been awhile since I have joined the Wine Blogging Wednesdays. In fact, as I was looking through my blogs, the last one posted was WBW #66.  

This month our WBW host, Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like in Virginia, is asking us to write about a Viognier (‘vee-ohn-yay’) or as they say in Virginia, "Viggy." It is only appropriate that Frank asks us to blog about this very aromatic white grape as in 2011 it was named Virginia's official state grape. It is my understanding that in 2010  there were 185  acres of Viognier planted in Virginia.

My first domestic Viognier was from Washington State, the other side of the coast. It was about 12-years ago and it just happened to be from the Cayuse Vineyards, which of course truly set the benchmark for me on all Viogniers. Since then I have tasted many terrific Viogniers produced here in Walla Walla: aMaurice, Bergevin Lane, Cougar Crest, Morrison Lane, Sweet Valley, Tertulia Cellars, to name a few ...  

At this time there are over 390 acres of Viognier planted in the state of Washington.  Not only have I tasted swoon-worthy ones produced in Walla Walla, but from other areas of Washington including: Maison Bleue, Nefarious, Syncline, and again - - to name a few.  

So with all of these beautiful Viogniers, and many within an arms reach of me, which one do I write about?  Well, you write about the one that you just recently tasted and one that is still on your mind, besides making an impression on your palate.  

Robison Ranch Cellars Viognier - 2011  Robison Ranch Cellars is located on a fourth-generation working wheat ranch north of Walla Walla, so it was only appropriate that winemaker/partner of Robison Ranch Cellars, Brad Riordan chose fruit from the Dwelley Jones Vineyard, another long-time generation wheat ranch  located south of Walla Walla at the foot-hills of the Blue Mountains. Yup, not only are we living in the wild west, but also known for our world-class wines. 

The aroma from this 2011 Viognier pops and is reminiscent of the apple and pear orchards in September that surrounds us in the southwest area of Walla Walla. It also surprises us with hints of exotic gardenias. With one sip of this light white wine, it suggests that it will be sweet as cotton candy, but once again surprises us with crisp and bright fruit as in kiwis and starfruit.  The finish is custardy smooth on the palate.  

This is the time of year when that perfectly chilled bottle of Viognier is a great summer porch sipper and definitely a wine to be paired with food. Robison Ranch Cellars Viognier is exotic and needs to be paired with the exotic. Go grilled shellfish and vegetables, Asian influenced chicken or mild curries with spicy chutneys. 

So as they say in Virginia (apologies to rapper/movie star Will Smith), even in Washington State we can also be "gettin' Viggy wit' it!"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Identity Crisis: Wine Bloggers

Identity Crisis: according to psychologist Erik Erikson, is the failure to achieve ego identity during adolescence.

An anniversary is coming my way for this wine blog. I started Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine during the last week in June of 2005. At the time of its conception, all I wanted was my own colorful piece of the world wide web - a forum for my collection of thoughts regarding food and wine, and especially those of my hometown. I even wanted a little spot to practice some HTML code. Honestly? I didn't plan on anybody reading this blog other than myself.

Through the years of owning my own piece of the internet, under the title of a "wine blogger," I have been classified as a poodle, ("Wine blogging is the attention-seeking barking of a lonely poodle.") ironically on a wine blog written by a sommelier who gives tours at a winery. 

I suppose I should feel insulted, but I'm not. However, if I were a poodle I would probably lift a hind leg on the accuser and take a big doggie-dump at his front door while hoping my owner forgot to bring the "Poop-E-Pick-Ups."  My juvenile visual is that of my owner ringing the door bell and running ...

My wine blogging peers and I have been referred to as "wine blobbers" by the original wine blobber of the world, Robert Parker (he's just jealous as originally he had to use a jar of ink, a quill and parchment  to write his wine notes instead of a keyboard). And let's not forget the soon-to-be dictionary description  of a wine blogger by Anthony Dias Blue of the Tasting Panel magazine: "bitter, carping gadflies who, as they stare into their computer screens and contemplate their dreary day jobs, let their resentment and sense of personal failure take shape as vicious attacks on the established critical media."

Oh boo-hoo! It is true, ya know. I was staring into my computer screen contemplating my dreary day job as a legal assistant who was bringing home a fine pay check, benies, twice-yearly bonuses, paid holidays, birthday cakes, lunch hours and weekends off. Now I stare into my computer screen contemplating my fun wine job that is bringing home no pay check, a few free glasses of wine; while dreaming about my former pay check, et al from my former dreary day job.  

I have also been lumped as a moocher looking for free samples of alcohol to fill the shelves of my wine cellar. What wine cellar? You mean those four card board boxes  in my laundry room closet? Oh yes,  I forgot about my fancy yard sale eight-bottle wine cooler I bought for $25. If I could afford a wine cellar I wouldn't need free samples now, would I? Besides, the majority of the wines I blog about I have either purchased or spent money on gas  to take a trek to the winery to taste the actual wine.

Recently there seems to be a rumble that I am not a wine blogger, but a wine writer. There's a campaign to remove the term "blogger."  Yeah, I get it.  Web log (shortened to blog) is a web-based format that consists of entries arranged in a reverse chronological order and often updated frequently with new information. Blogging is adding new material or updating the blog. A blogger is a person who keeps and updates the blog.

So the new thought behind all of this is I should be a wine writer who is updating her web log format. At the same time, the old guard of wine writers, I mean the established critical media,  tell me I am not a wine writer because I haven't walked in their shoes and earned my credentials. No, but for eight years on my feet, and in my own shoes, I have earned some credentials talking to people about wine, all along while dumping their spittle.  

The truth of the matter, blogger vs writer, I only refer to myself as a wine writer when I receive a check from the food and wine lifestyle publishers. Then they can call me a poodle, blobber and a carping gadfly for all I care - just give me the money. 
Now the recent news is that what I enjoy is dead. (Oh great, now they tell me after I just finished several drafts.)

That's right, British wine writer and author, Jamie Goode recently announced last weekend on Facebook and Twitter that “Blogging is dead!”  Of course, he would never post such a startling sentence on his own ... ummm ... wine blog.

Hell, I didn't even get life insurance on my blog, let alone a health care directive giving me permission to resuscitate, and now you tell me that what I enjoy doing in my free time is dead? But my wine blog is only eight-years old, or do we count the age of blogs like we do in dog years - - or  more like in poodle years?

My blog didn't even reach adolescence and it certainly didn't even get a chance to fail at achieving an ego identity. But it appears from all of the chatter around me that we, my peers and I, are having an identity crisis. 

It is my sincere hope that we can get this figured out on who we want to be, dead or alive, by the time of the Wine Bloggers Conference in August at Portland, Oregon. That's right. I said, "Wine Bloggers Conference." I did not say, Wine Writers Conference, Dead Poodle Conference or even Carping Gadfly Conference ... 

Now I have to wonder - - for those who have vehemently insisted  we were no longer "wine bloggers," but wine writers and when it comes time for the Wine Blog Awards, will they want to collect a Wine Blog Award if they are indeed given one? Will they be too embarrassed to accept such an award or perhaps even send Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award on their behalf?

Eight years ago, I thought I was signing up to be merely a wine blogger - a hobbyist. I didn't know I was also signing up to be a poodle, blobber, carping gadfly, moocher, wine writer, and not-a-wine-writer.

In the mean time, while all of you are trying to figure out what my identity is suppose to be, dead or alive, I will continue to keep on bloggin' ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Lees

No, I am not referring to those tight pair of worn blue jeans that one often sees a cute cowboy wearing ...

Lees refers to deposits of dead yeast cells, grape fragments (seeds, pulp, stems, skins) and other solids that naturally settle and separate from the wine during fermentation and aging. Eventually the sediment will be removed from the wine (or "racked" - a new vocab word for later). 

Sometimes the lees is left in contact with the wine in an attempt to develop more flavor, such as which is often practiced with Champagne and other sparkling wines - - or even Chardonnay. However, most red wines are immediately separated from the lees after fermentation.

When the lees is left in the barrel during aging, it is then referred to as "sur lie," which is French for "on the lees."

White wines will often benefit from resting on the lees, as they gain complexity during this process giving them extra body and aromatics. The end result is a creamy or more viscous mouth feel on the palate. 
Lees left in the tank after the removal of red wine

Monday, June 11, 2012

VineSleuth Uncorked: What Does She Drink?

I was tickled like Champagne bubbles on my tongue when Amy Gross of VineSleuth Uncorked asked me to share with her readers what some of my favorite wines were.

VineSleuth Uncorked is a Houston-based wine blog for the casual wine drinkers who are looking to have fun, grab some wine education, besides enjoying tasty and affordable wines. Amy features various discoveries such as shopping trips, podcasts, books, cool wine tools, tastings, Wine 101 info and more. 

Read Amy's blog to find out more about "moi" and some of my favorite wines: Five Wines to Enjoy from Catie McIntyre Walker, the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman.  

Now tell me - - what are some of your favorite wines under these categories?  

Thursday, June 07, 2012

School is Out for the Summer, But L'Ecole is Still in Session!

School houses everywhere will soon be closing their doors for the summer months ahead, but there is one school house that you can bet will keep their doors open - -

L’Ecole Nº 41 winery is located in the historic Frenchtown School just west of Walla Walla at Lowden. The original Frenchtown School was a log cabin built in 1870 along the shore of the Walla Walla River. The little school house was eventually rebuilt in 1915 in its current grand state. The name, L’Ecole N° 41 is French for “the school” and the school house was located in school district 41.

The signs of an old school are still visible from the chalkboards, school bell, and play ground; but instead of de-tention, the a-ttention is on terroir-driven, distinctive and expressive wines. 

Here are a couple examples of  L’Ecole Nº 41 wines that are a must for your summer sipping. Grab them now as they will not be around for long.

L’Ecole Nº 41 Chenin Blanc - 2011: from 30 year old vineyards in the Yakima Valley, this fresh and fruity white wine shows off with floral aromatics of lavender and orange blossoms.  A Vouvray-style of Chenin, making it a great wine for food, brings to the palate fruits from the orchard such as apples and apricots, while ending with a crisp and bright finish. 

The 2011 Indian summer was prolonged into October bringing to the fruit longer hang time on the vines which means concentrated flavors and crisp acidity due to the cool evenings.  A wonderful pairing with spicy Thai dishes, arroz con pollo, and soft buttery cheeses. There isn't a lot of Chenin Blanc grown in the state of Washington, so when you have the opportunity, seize a bottle, chill and enjoy. 

L’Ecole Nº 41 Grenache Rosé - 2011: from the Alder Ridge Vineyard at Horse Heaven Hills, this gorgeous pink nectar is just a show-off; from the color, nose and to the finish. The nose is that of orange peels and roses - the perfect summer purfume. To the palate the citrus continues with tangerines, bright berries, rose petals and spice ending with a lipsmacking tartness. 

The Alder Ridge Vineyard overlooks the majestic Columbia River which the heat of the day and the coolness of the evenings brings to the Grenache bright and natural acidity along with a brilliant color. The L’Ecole Nº 41 Rosé is produced in small lots and one of their exclusive wines. If you love traditional French rosés, this is a must. Very food friendly with fruit salads, seafood, and light pizzas.

Have a great time sipping in "Summer School!"  

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Appellation

My mother tells this great story about a few years ago she visited New Mexico to meet up with several friends for a reunion.  Their host took them to one of the local winery-touristy spots where wine was produced and sold. The biggest highlight for this winery was their pistachio flavored wine. A semi-sweet blend of red and white grapes, with the nutty flavor of pistachios. My mother patiently listened to the winemaker tell his story about their wines and when it was time for Q&A, my mother asked about the "New Mexico" appellations. The winemaker immediately snapped at her and said, "Listen lady, there are no apples in any of the wines I make ..."    

An appellation is legally defined as a protected growing region. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine is produced. Specifically in the United States we refer to these areas as an "AVA" - short for "American Viticultural Area."  The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) determines and sanctions all United States appellations. The only requirement to use the appropriate AVA names (such as Walla Walla or Columbia Valley) on the wine label is that 85% of the wine must have come from grapes grown within the geographical AVA boundaries.

In Washington State alone there are a total of 12 AVAs, with more expected to be added in the near future. The current Washington AVA's: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain, Lake Chelan and Naches Heights. (Note: the map does not include Naches Heights)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Wearing Pink: Charles in Charge

If you have recently seen bottles of rose' with a pink abstract American flag on the label, the wine is from the Charles. Which Charles you ask?  Charles Smith of K-Vintners and Charles Smith Wines in Walla Walla: big hair, kick ass attitude, former rocker and 2009 winner of Food & Wine Magazine's Winemaker of the Year or; 

Charles Biehler of  Three Thieves / Rebel Wine Co. in St Helena, CA and Sombra Mezcal: wine innovator, explorer, marathon runner, New York hipster and winemaker in Provence, France? Both! 

In 2008 they came together to produce Charles and Charles Red, a blended wine with the black and white label of  an abstract American flag that is copied from the same that is painted on a building in Waitsburg, of Walla Walla County. With Smith's marketing talents and Bieler's talent for producing rosés in Provence with his family since 1992, the next step had to be pink just to prove that - - 

"Yes, you can drink rosé and still be bad *ss."  

Charles & Charles Rosé - 2011 is just a skoosh lighter in shade than the 2010 vintage, but every bit as easy to drink and even more popular. All of the fruit (Syrah and Grenache) was a direct press right after it was plucked from the vines bringing aromas of juicy watermelon and ripe local strawberries. It is a perfect sipper as it slides down so-o-o easy with notes of more red juicy berries, but with a crisp and dry finish that is bright with acidity. 

Bieler Pere et Fils Rosé - 2011 is solely owned by Charles Bieler, whose family is renowned for its former ownership of Chateau Routas. This wine is a tribute to Charle's father, Phillipe and from the hillside vineyards of Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. This dry rosé is a Syrah-driven salmon-color pink wine and blended with Grenache (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%). The nose is generous of berries and cherries. It shows refreshing qualities of a white wine, but with flavors of strawberries, Bing cherries and spice.  

Yes, it's okay to accidently put one of these wines away and they will still be refreshing for a couple of years. However, why do you want to? Enjoy them over the summer. They are priced so affordable you can drink them all year long and with the Thanksgiving turkey and cranberries. Pair them on the patio or the deck with salads, roasted chicken, grilled shrimp and an assortment of cheeses. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Wine and Now Dine at Woodward Canyon Winery

A few months ago when Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small, founders of Woodward Canyon announced their expansion of shareholders to their winemaker, Kevin Mott and their Sales Director, Thomas Woodley, perhaps we thought that Rick and Darcey would sit back, take it easy and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Not so! Now they will be selling those fruits ...

The Lazy S Arrow Market has recently opened on the Woodward Canyon Winery grounds. The market will feature seasonal fruits, vegetables, fresh and dried herbs, organic fair trade chocolates, charcuterie, an assortment of domestic and imported cheeses, olive oils, vinegars, salts and basically anything you need to pair with a selection of Woodward Canyon wines for the perfect Euro-picnic feast. 

Rick Small at Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyards
The Lazy S Arrow Market and their sustainably grown gardens, at the estate vineyard, are named "Lazy S Arrow" to reflect the original brand used by Rick's family on their nearby wheat and cattle ranch. 

Two years ago I took a field trip to the Small's estate vineyard and their "secret gardens." Rick loaded us in his vehicle and we took a climb over 850 feet of elevation, three miles north from Lowden in Washington. It was quite a view from the top as we could see our neighbors in Oregon. There are 42 acres of estate vineyards with a surrounding of 320 acres of land which is in conservation. Three generations of family previously used the land, including the vineyard area, for the Lazy S Arrow cattle and wheat. It was indeed a treasure hunt up and around the canyons of vines as there were nooks and crannies with gardens of  tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, egg plants, leeks, shallots and even a hot house for the seedlings.

In the same year I visited the Woodward Canyon gardens, the beautiful new Reserve House located on the grounds of Woodward Canyon had just opened. The Reserve House, that features a commercial kitchen, was built for intimate and private sit-down tastings and gatherings. Just last weekend the Reserve House officially opened as a restaurant. 

Reserve House at Woodward Canyon
Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning at noon; the Reserve House will now offer small and seasonal plates highlighting many local farm-to-table fare. Chef Heidi Varney from the Wine Country Culinary Institute at Walla Walla Community College will present  delectable comestibles such as: cold sorrel soup, a Cypress Grove chèvre tartelette with a sweet onion jam, lamb and beef meatballs with rhubarb compote, steak chimichurri sandwich, vegetarian pasta, cheese and charcuterie plates and even desserts.

The world class wines of Woodward Canyon will also be available to pair with the menu, of course.  (Reservations are not required for groups of five or fewer;  groups of six or more should contact Woodward Canyon.)

Best wishes to Woodward Canyon for their new additions in making Lowden another destination stop of Walla Walla County and giving recent publications another reason for naming Walla Walla one of the best small towns for food and wine.
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