Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rock Star, Wine Star: Charles Smith

This morning it was announced that the editors of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine released their yearly nominations for "Wine Star Awards."  Walla Walla's Charles Smith, owner and winemaker of K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines, was honored as the only Washington State winemaker nominated for "Winemaker of the Year."  

The accolades of "Winemaker of the Year" is nothing new for Charles. In 2009, he received the same title from Food & Wine Magazine and Seattle Magazine for 2010. Charles is joined with other talented winemakers of the world for this category: Jorge Riccitelli (Bodgea Norton), Marcos Eguren (Sierra Cantabria and San Vicente), Philippe Melka (Melka Wines, and Dana Estates) and Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines). The 2012 winners will be announced in New York on January 28, 2013.

Charles was quoted, “I’m thrilled to death with this nomination,” Smith explains, “It is not only a great honor as a winemaker, but also a symbol of the quality of wines that are coming out of Washington State.” 

Charles released his first vintage, 1999 K Syrah, in the Walla Walla Valley in 2001. In 2004, he started his second brand, Charles Smith Wines. The recognizable edgy and modern black and white labels, with hand drawn letters and graphics, have become iconic around the state and beyond. 

Certainly a man of vision in marketing, Charles has extended his wine projects with "Charles & Charles," a wine label collaborated with another wine innovator and hipster, Charles Biehler. Also, "Secco Italian Bubbles" and most recently Charles announced a new collaboration of an all chardonnay winery in Walla Walla with Washington winemaker, Brennan Leighton, former winemaker for Efeste. Congratulations Charles and many thanks for helping us to keep Walla Walla on the wine map! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Vertical

A vertical of wine is often conducted at a private or public wine tasting event. They are arranged to highlight the differences of vintages, while experiencing just how unique every year can be.  

A vertical tasting is done by featuring one wine varietal from the same producer from several vintages - - and be as little as two bottles of different vintages and as large as five, six, seven, and infinity ... (okay, so that is an exaggeration, but you get my point).

For example: a vertical tasting may feature one winery, such as an example of Cayuse Vineyards "Bionic Frog" Syrah - biodynamic wines from the Walla Walla Valley. We could be fortunate enough to have a vertical to include, 2006, 2007, and 2008.  If you are familiar with this wine, like I said, we could be fortunate ... 

When setting up for a vertical tasting they can as formal or informal as you want. Formal would mean each guest receives a glass for each vintage or informal with just one glass per guest. When presenting the wines, they can be tasted in any direction from the oldest vintage to the youngest or vice versa. If you present the wines oldest to youngest, there’s often a natural progression of tannins and body, as the younger wines would be more tannic than the older wines. Younger to older? Following a wine’s evolution as it gains bottle age, can also be fascinating.

Stay tuned next week as we will discuss the opposite: Horizontal

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Result of a Crush

The result of Gale and Mike's Reynvaan Family Vineyards, in the Walla Walla Valley, have been distinctive and expressive wines.  The wine from the soil of their vines have been collecting many accolades and high scores. Now begat another result from the Reynvaan family - -  

Matt, Angela and Amanda
The Result of a Crush is the new Walla Walla winery that was founded by Gale and Mike's daughters, Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt. The Reynvaan sisters wanted to produce a wine that was affordable, yet distinctive like the wines from their family's winery.  Enters their brother as consulting winemaker, Matt Reynvaan. Their ultimate goal was quality, but with a bit of whimsy.  

In the Reynvaan sibling's research they discovered there were a limited number of wines on the shelves that had all three components they were looking for in a wine: high-end quality, whimsical presence, and still affordable. As mother's, Amanda and Angela wanted wines they could bring with to special occasions such as bridal parties and  baby showers. Their goal for Result of a Crush was for wine lovers to recognize quality, yet affordability in their playful packaging.  SMOOCH! 

The first release for Result of a Crush is a non-vintage red that has been produced with the majority of Syrah.  Like the Reynvaan family style, the red wine is lush and wafts dark Bing cherries, red plums and rich black olives. Earthy! On the palate is bold dark juicy stone fruit such as fresh Italian plums and more cherries.  Finishes with little hints of grilled caramelized smoky meats and spice. 

A wine definitely to sip and savor by itself, but still gives many options to food pairings.  Do I dare say it's a "crush-worthy" wine?

Looking forward to checking out the newest bottling of Result of a Crush Rosé. Sounds like the timing for release will be perfect for the Thanksgiving turkey.  Best wishes to Amanda and Angela! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Plonk

Come on - any saged wine lover has sipped a glass of  "plonk" - - in fact a glass of plonk could even be subjective, according to one's own personal taste buds.  

Plonk is an unspecific and derogatory term in British/Australian English for wine that is inexpensive or judged to be of poor quality.  The name is believed to have come from Australian slang, in reference to blanc (French word for "white")  and the blanc wine's stereotypical examples of plonk included Blue Nun or Liebraumilch - both inexpensive sweet German wines that can be seen on the shelves at your local chain drug store.

Despite the reference to the color white, the term is not limited to white wine, as there are several red (neon purple, green, blue ...) wines that could also be categorized as "plonk." 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Beyond Walla Walla: Nigl Sekt Rosé

This is my first of many wine tasting and blogging beyond Walla Walla. "Change is good," I keep telling myself as hard as it can be at times. Tasting wines beyond Walla Walla can be, not only an advanced education for the palate, but even send us back home to the wines around us while understanding that the familiar can indeed be a benchmark. 

In my opinion I would be hard pressed to find a benchmark sekt, as this is the benchmark.  First of all for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, "sekt" (pronounced "zekt") we are referring to a bubbly - a German term for quality bubbly produced in either Germany or Austria.  In Austria, Sekt is often made in the méthode champenoise and like in Austria,  it is good to know that in Germany the inexpensive sparkling wine made with CO2 injection must not be named Sekt. 

Sekt is often produced using the native grapes of Germany and Austria, such as riesling, gruner veltliner, blaufrankisch (lemberger), zweigelt, and even pinot gris and pinot noir. Like its German counterpart, Austrian Sekt can be produced and referred to as trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (medium dry). 

I was hooked with one sip of the Nigl Sekt Rosé. This bubbly is produced with Zweigelt, a widely-grown red grape variety in Austria.  The winery, owned by Martin Nigl, is located in the town of Senftenberg in lower Austria's wine growing region of Kremstal. The cool climate of the Kremstal river valley assists the grapes maintain their acidity, which is essential to making a fine sparkler.  If you are a long time reader, you may know that there are wines that I will often refer to as "swoon-worthy" and this wine, indeed is one of them.  (note: Nigl also produces a still rosé I have not tasted - - yet.)

There is such a crisp and coolness with a sip to the palate.  Strawberies! Rhubarb! Cherries! The red summer fruit pops from the glass. It is just such a pretty wine and so elegant. The bubbles makes it crisp, refreshing and almost palate cleansing as it cools the palate and the zweigelt adds its zest of spice to the finish. Pair Nigl Sekt Rosé with oysters, baked or raw. Cheese, chocolate, fruit or my favorite way - - pair it alone with a glass ... Prost!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Block Party: Tero Estates & Flying Trout Wines

Last month I attended a block party. Now it is important to understand this wasn't your average neighborhood block party with exuberant children playing lawn games, street lights, and potluck with every Jello salad imaginable.

This was a block party in the middle of the rolling 32 acre property at Tero Estate's Windrow VineyardWindrow was part of the original Seven Hills Vineyard planted by the late Dr. Herb Hendricks and the late Dr. James McClellan in 1981.  The property is  situated at Oregon in the Walla Walla Valley AVA and was the first commercial wine grape vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley since Prohibition. In 1994, the eastern part of the vineyard was sold along with the original Seven Hills name. The remaining vineyard was renamed Windrow.

In 2007, Doug and Jan Roskelley partnered with Mike Tembreull to purchase the property and created Tero Estates Winery. The vineyard itself is 25 acres, with 14 distinctive vineyard blocks. Today the vineyard is Cabernet Sauvignon dominant along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese. Recently Charbono and Petite Sirah were added defining the  rest of the vineyard. 

In 2010, Ashley Trout winemaker, founder and owner of Flying Trout Wines came aboard the Tero Estate team as a consulting winemaker for Tero Estates and bringing with her the Flying Trout Winery  where her winery is now located.

Our block party started on the crush pad where we were greeted and our glasses were filled with a cool Italian bubbly that hit the spot during the warm August evening. We were tempted with cold smoked wild Pacific salmon, English cucumbers accompanied with a dill caper aioli.  Walla Walla Community College Culinary Arts program catered the event - a good sign there would definitely be no jello salad at this block party.

Head winemaker and partner, Doug Roskelley led our group through the various blocks at Windrow Vineyard where four tented stations of wine and food pairings awaited us. Our first trek through the beautiful vigorous and green vineyard started at Herb's Block (named after founder, Dr. Herb Hendricks), where we tasted the Merlot. 

Tero Estate Merlot - 2008, from Herb's Block - Beautiful nose screaming Walla Walla soil and tasting of cherries like those of the surrounding orchards in the valley. Bloody iron-like notes and finishing with that of dark cocoa and espresso. Appropriately the wine was paired with lamb rillettes, preserved cherries on a toasted herb crostini with onion jam.  

Tero Estate Cabernet Franc - 2008, a nose reminiscence of a winter holiday with spice and all the things nice ... a sip shows off smoke, dried dark fruit and cocoa - lightly showing a hint of green in the finish.  Paired with smoked bacon, chive blini and herbed chevre.   

Tero Estate Windrow Field Blend - 2008, a classic Bordeaux-style field blend co-fermented with 70% cabernet sauvignon, 14% merlot, 10% cabernet franc, and 6% malbec. Braised beef short ribs, wild mushroom polenta with an herbal thyme glace couldn't be a better food and pairing showing off the earthy, yet elegant simplicity of both.  

Our walk through the blocks of the vineyard ended us back at the winery where we finished with:

Flying Trout Mary's Block Malbec - 2009  I so love Ashley's malbecs. An expressive nose of Eau de Parfum Violettes de Toulouse and dark ripe stone fruit.  Dark chocolate, silky caramel, currants, and graham crackers on the palate with a finish of Grand Marnier orange-flavored brandy liqueur.  Bacon-huckleberry-thyme chocolate macaroon cookies satisfied the palate with this inky and fragrant wine.  

The evening ended with photos of couples and friends and merry conversations.  After an evening walking through the vineyards while sipping wine, who could resist getting my "dance" photo taken with my "homies on da' block at the block."
Me, Jan Roskelley, Lori Kennedy and Lori Fischer

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Claret  

The name "Claret" derives from the French clairet, a now very uncommon dark rose' that was a common wine exported from Bordeaux until the 18th century.  Eventually the name was shortened to "claret" due to its widespread consumption. You know - - kind of like how us Americans have shortened Budweiser to just plain, "Bud."

It is a protected name within Europe when describing a red Bordeaux wine and was accepted after the British wine trade demonstrated over 300 years' usage of the term. However, the meaning of "claret" has changed over time to refer to a dry, dark red Bordeaux. It has remained a term associated with the English "upper-class."

The name Claret is occasionally used in the United States on labels for naming Bordeaux-style red blends.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The times they are a-changin' ...

If you are old enough, or very wise for your young years, you will remember this ode from Bob Dylan. The song, The Times They Are A-Changin' became an anthem for frustrated youth.

The song summed up the anti-establishment feelings of people who would later be known as hippies. Yes, I am an old hippie - - and yes, I am having some anti-establishment feelings against myself. I have been writing this blog since June of 2005 and in fact, one of the original wine bloggers in Washington State and may be one of the few left during that time-frame (Hello Gene Stein at Seattle Wine Blog) when I first started eight years ago. Also in 2005, there were just about 300 wine bloggers anywhere and after my visit to WBC last month, no doubt the number has grown to over 1,000 wine bloggers, especially when you add independent and winery blogs.
For the last six months I have been feeling mixed between the love of only writing about the wines of Walla Walla -- also known as the "establishment." Then there is the other side of myself wanting to write beyond Walla Walla, the adventurous side of my taste buds - - also known as the "anti-establishment."   

There are good things about being a little anti-establishment when it comes to writing about wine. It can broaden our education beyond the norm - - and even send us back home to the wines around us understanding that the familiar is indeed a benchmark. 

In the mean time I have seen a lot of changes in wine blogging over the years. I remember when most people didn't even know what a blog was, let alone there was wine being made in Walla Walla. Those who journeyed into wine blogging soon discovered it is about dedication and consistency. To the newcomers in wine blogging who may think they know it all because they are young and "edgy" and even to those who think they are going to be an overnight wealthy sensation, I toss my head back and laugh - bwahahahaha - - ha and a ha! Good luck.

Change is hard, however if we are going to preserve the things we care about, we have to be willing to change.  With that said, I have already implemented some changes such as, Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays. A blog written three to four times a month featuring a new word from the wine vocabulary.

"Beyond Walla Walla" is a new focus - also written about three to four times a month featuring wines from beyond Walla Walla. The wine can be as close to Walla Walla as Spokane, Washington or as far away from Walla Walla as Walla Walla, NSW, Australia!

Once or twice a month I will feature your cork screw in a blog titled, Get Screwed: Show Me Your Cork Screw! Yes, that's right. If you are a winery and feature a cork screw with your logo and/or name printed on it (not limited to the Walla Walla Valley), send it to me complimentary for my cork screw collection and I will write about it and your winery or maybe even video it. Oh dear, I can only imagine where my blog will end up. It won't be the first time a blog from this site was linked on a Korean porn site.  

So as Bob says, "Come gather 'round people, Wherever you roam ... For the times they are a-changin'."

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