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Figuratively in my mind, I often roll my eyes when ever I hear someone yap away about what a self-proclaimed wine lover they are. "Blah-blah-blah ... " Now here comes the point when my hazel-colored eyes start rolling - - "We only drink red winesss." (And yes, their jauntily formed sentence often ends with a hiss.)
It's my opinion that if you are truly a wine lover - - you will at least try a wine, once. After all, that is what wine tasting is all about. Oh sure, we can have our favorites, but a true wine bon vivant has an adventuresome palate.
Okay, now that I had my tangent about opening the mind to wines, don't save white wines for summer either. Enjoy them all the time. They are so perfect for the winter comfort foods, especially those foods that are creamy, cheesy and fried. So with that prelude, I discovered a new "winter" white.
Walla Walla Village Winery Winter White - Through the years I have tasted several releases of this white blend and it just keeps getting yummier. Yes I said, "yumm-ier." Let me use that word if I want.
The latest "Winter White" is a non-vintage with 80% Chardonnay from the Celilo Vineyards at Columbia Gorge AVA and 20% Viognier from Morrison Lane Vineyards at Walla Walla.
The nose is of pears, creme brulee' and honeysuckle. The palate is creamy with just the right acids making it a great food wine. The soft and very light colored liquid also brings to the palate fruit of more pears, like the nose, and a hint of lemon. The wine has a long finish of spices such as nutmeg and just a hint of ground mace. With every sip of this wine, it reminds me exactly like an old family recipe - Pear Custard Pie.
How would I pair this wine? Well, I would consider the pear custard pie, but it would pair well with Asian-influenced almond fried chicken, fish and chips, seafood salad to name a few ideas. Or just relax and sip it with perhaps a few slices of pears and a few salty almonds or cashews.
Walla Walla Village Winery Winter White is rich, from the contents inside to the label on the outside. And speaking of label - -
Walla Village Winery is not your average winery and especially not your
average wine labels, either. Many of their labels are creations of
Stanley Mouse. Now if you don't know who Mouse is, then you don't know
your rock 'n' roll cover art. Stanley Mouse is the "Rembrandt of Rock
& Roll" and with many iconic record albums and concert posters to
his credit such as: Grateful Dead (first and foremost), Steve Miller
Band, Journey, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Zappa, Jimi, and Janis. (Note:
if you have to ask who Cream, Jimi, and Janis are - - then you are
young Bieber fan or don't know your rock 'n' roll).
Only 90 cases produced.
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The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Cork-tease:
You know who they are.
You have heard them yammer on and on about all of their great and exclusive wines in their rather large cellar. They constantly brag about the wines they are going to open, and yet - - they never do.
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This is a rare
occurrence that I would actually list "the best of." I don't even offer
scores on wines. I don't want people to buy a wine because of my taste
buds. I want people to open their palate and find their own adventure. I
prefer to write about my experiences. So that is what I am doing -
listing, not only the wines that made my palate pay attention, but the
best of my experiences with these wines.
It will be
important to note that every winery in our valley offers something
special to their visitors. There isn't a winery I would not recommend.
So, here it is: The List - -
Best Wine Ad: If you truly know Don of Mannina Cellars ... there is no false advertising in this ad (see photo of the ad below).
Best Rosé : Ohhhh - - and there were so many wonderful rosés coming
out of the Walla Walla Valley last spring, so this is a tough one. But
if I had to pick just one it has to be Long Shadow's exclusive project,
produced and bottled under the Dolan & Weiss Cellars label, Juliette's Dazzle - 2011. A beautiful bottle with even more beauty inside.
Best White: Okay, this one is a tie and both very different wines. Dowsett Family Gewürztraminer - 2010
. It's a dry Gewürztraminer on the palate and with aromatic notes of
pear, peach, and orange blossoms. On the palate, more pears and citrus. Walla Walla Village Winery Winter White (NV) is
a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Viognier (for more info about Winter
White, stay tuned for a blog later this week). From the nose to the
finish, this white reminds me of my family recipe of pear custard pie.
Best Chardonnay: Forgeron Cellars - All vintages. In my opinion, Forgeron Chardonnay is the benchmark of Chardonnay in Washington State - - and as a former hater of Chardonnay, Forgeron made me love Chardonnay - - and even Chardonnay from other wineries, as well.
Best Viognier: Well, the last Walla Walla Viognier I sipped was from Robison Ranch Cellars
Viognier - 2011. So no doubt this has got to be the best. And now that
I think about it, it must be the best because I keep reaching for it. I
truly love this aromatic grape. The fruit is sourced from Dwelley Vineyard in
Walla Walla, so besides the skill and love from winemaker and partners,
Brad and Ruth Riordan, they all do it right.
Best Red: Once again, another tie. I will categorize it based on price. Over $50: Figgins Red - 2009. This red elegant Bordeaux-style red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. Now, Figgins is a limited wine and not always easy to procure, so I recommend another red that really gave me a moment of WOW. Lodmell Cellars Sublime - 2008.
50% Merlot, 30% Carmenere, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and priced under
$30. Stay tuned - another blog is on the way about Lodmell Cellars
Best Grenache: I
am not a fan of Grenache. It's often a little too acidic for me and sometimes a bit flabby. I was a bit apprehensive when I
tasted this one, as I usually am when sipping on a Grenache. But
Tertulia Cellar's second label, Redd Brand
Grenache really 'wow'ed" me! (I will blog later on their newest
releases: Grenache and also, Malbec). To describe it in one word?
Luxurious. And such a great value when one considers the quality of this
wine. And let me just say, this is the reason why you sample many of
the wines offered to you, even if you don't like a particular grape
variety - - you never know when you will discover one that your palate will finally enjoy. Remember, open the mind and the
Best Syrah: Waters Winery Forgotton Hills - 2009 Inky in color, dark fruit and spice on the palate. This wine screams, "Coffee-Espresso-Macchiato-Americano!"
The nose of thisSyrah would make Starbucks pale and run away. Beautifully done.
Best Cabernet Franc: Actually that is a pretty easy one. Hand's down. Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc - 2010. I have been sipping on this wine since it's first release and vintage of 1997. Age worthy, too.
Best Merlot: Once again another tie, Robison Ranch Cellars and Don Carlo Vineyards. 100%
Walla Walla Valley Merlot; sourced 50% from Dwelley Vineyards and 50%
Spofford Station goes into a bottle from Robison Ranch Cellars with
those traditional cherry notes that we often find with Walla Walla
soil. Don Carlo Vineyard Merlot - 2009 is an estate Merlot, also from
the Walla Walla AVA. A terrific food wine with many options from a
grilled steak to chocolate.
Best Malbec: There are so many fabulous Malbecs showcasing in the Walla Walla Valley, such as: a'Maurice, Saviah Cellars, Skylite Cellars, Tertulia to name a few - - but I have to give this to Flying Trout Wines. Winemaker, Ashley Trout even "flies away" to make the traditional malbec of Argentina, showing her devotion to this grape. Her Flying Trout Mary's Block Malbec from Walla Walla - 2009, is stunning.
Best Sangiovese: Mmmm - tastes like Walla Walla. Mannina Cellars Sangiovese - 2009 is one of the finest and using fruit from Seven Hills Vineyard. This is 88% Sangiovese and the 12% Merlot gives the wine substance. Lots of dried fruit and fresh red berries. Balanced acidity. Great food wine - yes, think spaghetti.
Best and Most Interesting Wine: Tre Nova Ripasso - 2009 Ripasso (repassing)
was originally produced in Italy by "re-passing" younger and lighter red wines
onto the remaining dried skins left over from the famed Amarone wines.
This blend of Sangiovese and Barbera is silky with notes of dark dried fruit.
Best New Walla Walla Winery: Tre Nova Wines - Italian in heart and style, but grown in American soil - - and produced in Walla Walla.
Best Wine Tours: Fischer House Lodging and Wine Tours.
Lori Fischer knows all of the best wineries in town. She is
knowledgeable, friendly and you will be guaranteed a great time. Who
knows, she may even serenade you with her ukelele.
Best Hospitality: Marcus Whitman Hotel.
It's what they do and they do it well. Period. In fact, just alone in
their building there are five tasting rooms to visit. You would never
have to leave the building, if you didn't want to ...
here's a bit of trivia that one could add to their Walla Walla wine
experience, especially if you are looking for no pretense and what many
of the locals enjoy.
Best Gourmet/Deli Market: Cugini's,
founded, owned and operated by Walla Walla natives featuring Walla
World family recipes, especially during the holidays. So, if you want a
true flavor of Walla Walla it's a must to check out Cugini's selection
of dry and frozen pastas, sauces, cheese, a selection of Italian wines,
daily lunch specials, take-out dinners, and they even make their own
Best Sandwich: For the taste and value, The New Yorker sandwich from Stone Soup Cafe. The sammie is heated pastrami, topped with house-made cole
slaw and a touch of mayo, all piled high on fresh and smooshy marble rye bread. It's a
generous sandwich and included is a choice of salad - - and they give you
pickle and a cookie, too - - all for $7.75. They even deliver.
Best Burger: Well, as a Walla Walla local, I would be remiss if I didn't give it to the Ice Burg. However, definitely try some other great local burgers and judge for yourself from: Andre's Kitchen (aka AK's) and Fast Eddies.
Best French Fries: Brasserie Four.
We call them French fries and they call them Pomme Frites. Fries,
frites, whatever - - order them. No ketchup either. They are served in
the European traditional style with mayo for dipping. One order can
easily feed two - three people. Also, don't let the French theme menu
scare you away. It's simple traditional country fare and big on flavor. Affordable prices, as well.
Best Doughnuts: Popular Donuts! Tucked away on the corner of 9th Avenue and Alder Street. Nothing fancy, but always fresh. Traditional yeastie doughnuts with glaze and also buttermilk and French crullers.
So, this is just some ideas about the best of Walla Walla. Of course, this is my opinion this week - - next week, it could change. And in the words of Don Redman of Maninna Cellars, "Now You Know."
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When I think of "bubbles," of course I think about that wonderful liquid that tickles my tongue, but I cannot help to think about the Lawrence Welk Show.
As a youngster, it was always such a treat to spend a Saturday night at Grandma and Grandpas. They always ended every dinner with dessert and just after dinner, and before we sat in front of the television, Grandpa would pop a batch of popcorn in the old electric popper and slather the hot corn with lots of melted butter. He would also open a bottle of Pepsi-Cola for us to share.
However, with all of these treats came payback - - we had to sit with him and Grandma and watch Lawrence Welk. Also known in our household as, "Bubbles," this name was due to the start of the show, the "pop" of a Champagne bottle and many blown soap bubbles would fill the stage. The show even had a woman soloist, Norma Zimmer, who was known as the "Champagne Lady."
Little facts and trivia about that bottle of bubbly you will be enjoying this evening:
*All Champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are
Champagnes. For a sparkler to be a true Champagne, it must come from the region in France, named Champagne.
*The three traditional grapes used to produce Champagne are Chardonnay,
Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and of course, all three varieties grow in the Champagne region.
*Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk, is considered to have "invented" Champagne. He managed to capture the bubbles in the bottle, therefore inventing a method
called "Methode Champenoise," a process of double
fermentation. It's important to understand that the bottle of bubbly you are enjoying is not a cheap domestic. These mass-produced wines that line the supermarket shelves, with flavors of almond and "peach passion," have not gone through the traditional double fermentation process and only had CO2 added exactly like a bottle of soda pop.
*Vintage or Non-Vintage? In a good year, about 10 to 15% of the total Champagne produced is Vintage (all grapes harvested from a single year). According to regulations, Vintage Champagne
must be aged for at least three years. Non-Vintage (NV) Champagne accounts for the majority of the Champagnes produced in France. Of course, NV Champagnes are more affordable in comparison to Vintage, but they still taste just as delicious and tickle the tongue.
*There are 49 million bubbles in a 750ml bottle of Champagne - give or take a few.
*There are three traditional styles of Champagne glasses: the coupe, tulip, and the flute. Legend is the "coupe," a shallow broad-rimmed bowl, was modeled in the shape of Marie Antoinette's left breast. Sure, the story is - - umm - - rather "titillating, but this bra cup-shaped goblet doesn't hold the bubbles as long as a flute-shaped glass does.
*Your kissable lips, colored with lipstick, will actually break up the bubbles. But then again, so will anything that is greasy, like potato chips, buttery popcorn, French fries and KFC. However, in spite of the grease, do live a little and pair Champagne with a bag of potato chips.
*According to Marilyn Monroe's biographer, it took 350 bottles of Champagne to fill her bath tub.
Make one of your New Year's Resolutions that you will drink more bubbly. Why wait for a special occasion, when every morning we wake up is special? In the mean time, please be safe as we celebrate the arrival of our new year.
If you are going out for the evening; name a designated driver, go in style and rent a limo, call a taxi or write the number down for your local sponsored Tipsy Taxi - - and call it. In Walla Walla call: 509-522-8299.
At this holiday season, my thoughts turn
gratefully to my readers, fans, and friends. May
all your joys be pure joys, and all your pain be Champagne.
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The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Tastevin
I think of a tastevin, the visual goes back to the old Frasier
television episode, where the two Crane brothers compete with each other during
a wine tasting contest for the prestigious title of Corkmaster in their wine
club. Of course, the winner got to wear the tastevin and sash around their
A tastevin is a small, very shallow silver cup or saucer traditionally used by winemakers and sommeliers when judging or tasting wine. The shallow little cups were
originally created by Burgundian winemakers many moons ago to assist them in
judging clarity and color of wines that were originally stored in wine cellars
that were dependent on the light from the flame of a candle (yes, before electricity).
In France, the custom spread and usually used by the affluent. Made by silversmiths, the tastevins were often decorated and even engraved with the owner's name. Because of the small size and shape, men often carried their personal tastevins in their pockets at all times and viewed them as prized possessions like watches and rings.
Today the tastevin has very little practical use, but still
folks in the wine industry will often wear them on a ribbon or chain around
their neck as simply a nod to Old World
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The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Angel's Share
The name itself refers to the portion of wine that naturally evaporates through the porous oak barrels during the aging process.
Centuries ago the monasteries were noticing this natural process happening in their cellars. Since there was no real scientific explanation at the time, and especially since no monk wanted to accuse his brother of sneaking sips, it was determined that the loss of the wine in the barrels signified something heavenly and they were making a lot of angels happier - a divine intervention, no doubt. So the name, "Angel's Share" arrived.
There is also a different term for the evaporation in a barrel mostly to do with whiskey. It is known
as the "Devil's Cut." So depending on what team you root for, angel's share or devil's cut, just don't blame it on the brother monks.
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|Not this wine thief.|
The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Wine Thief
No, no, no. A wine thief is not a person who breaks into the winery in the middle of the night to steal your wine. While there may be dumb thieves like that, typically the term is a name for an invaluable tool for the winemaker to "steal" a bit of wine from the barrels.
A wine thief is a larger pipette of sorts, usually made of glass or even food-grade plastic. The size is often anywhere from 12-24 inches long and styles vary, from straight to a bend at the end for an easier hand grip.
The purpose of the wine thief is to draw wine out of the barrels for not only tasting the wine, but to use the drawn wine for specific readings such as: acid and pH testing, and checking sulfite levels. No winemaker should be without one.
How does it work? Like a siphon - - think turkey baster.
|This wine thief.|
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The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Barrel Tasting
This term doesn't mean what you think or how it sounds. There are no wooden barrels to crunch on nor does one lick the barrel. I suppose you could, if you need to add some fiber to your diet or if you like splinters on your tongue. So what can one expect from "Barrel Tasting?"
|Don Redman and Jason Baggett Barrel Tasting|
The term is often used to describe an open house tasting event at a winery or even a private opportunity to taste the wine directly from the barrel (See photo of Don Redman, owner and winemaker of Mannina Cellars in Walla Walla).
So, like why would you want to do that? Like - duh, consider it a "sneak preview" on an early wine that has just gone into the barrels or an older wine that is ready to be bottled. There can be many reasons, depending on what the winemaker's goal is. As an example, the winemaker can offer a tasting of two or more barrels with the same varietal inside, but from different vineyards to show off their distinctive terroirs.
When offered - do it! I recommend to take some notes and come back to the winery once the wine has been bottled, released, and discover how the wine has evolved from your previous barrel tasting notes. And speaking of Barrel Tasting ...
And how does one get the wine out of the barrel and into the glass? Stay tuned, as that is another Weekly Wine Word for Dummies.
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Italian in heart and style, but grown in American soil.
Gino Cuneo's wines may be some of the newest being produced in Walla Walla, but Gino is certainly not new to winemaking. Since 1989, Gino has been on a journey with red Italian grape varieties and now these grapes are making themselves at home to the warm regions of Washington and Oregon.
In 1993, Gino founded Cuneo Cellars and a year later his first Italian
varietal of Nebbiolo was produced. Four years later he would produce
another Italian-style varietal, Sangiovese. 2002 marked the year of the first commercial certified Brunello clone of Sangiovese in North America planted at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, with vineyard owner, Jim Holmes.
In 2003, came another milestone for Gino when he produced his first Appassimento-style wine, fashioned after the Venetian Amarones.
For those not familiar with these rich dry red wines of Italy, harvested grapes are left in bunches and allowed to dry. This process is referred to as appassimento or rasinate in Italian - "ala" - raisins. Of course, this ancient winemaking technique allows for overall flavors and sugars to elevate. After drying for about 120-days, the grapes are then crushed, allowed skin contact for color and flavors, and fermented. The result are intense flavors and known as Veneto's most prestigious red wine.
Currently, Gino's Tre Nova Seccopassa is the only wine in America produced in this century's old Italian fashion. During this journey of wine making, Gino was noticed with many accolades. In 2005, Cuneo Cellars was named by Wine Press Northwest Magazine, "Oregon Winery of the Year," recognizing Gino's innovative and unique approach to wines.
In 2008, Cuneo Cellars launched Tre Nova ("Three Stars" in Italian) and in 2011, Gino made a move to live in Walla Walla and to give his wines and their production a home in Walla Walla, as well. The following are Tre Nova wines that are currently available:
Tre Nova Rosato - 2011: Following Italian tradition, of course, "rosato" is a dry rosé-style of Sangiovese. Bright and crisp with fruity notes of strawberries and watermelon. While this light rose colored wine is very fruit forward, there are plenty of acids to balance it out making it a wine to be enjoyed with food. Yes, this could be the wine you will finally be able to pair artichokes with - - especially if they are grilled.
Tre Nova Bonatello™ - 2010: 100% Sangiovese grape variety (Latin origin of Sangiovese meaning “blood of love”) brings to the palate lively red fruit of raspberries, cranberries and cherries. Earthy and generous! However, with approachable tannins and once again, the right balance of acidity that is going to make love to any tomato-based bowl of pasta topped with mounds of salty Italian cheeses.
Tre Nova Nebarro™ - 2009: A clever play on Italian varieties, Nebbiolo and Barbera, this vintage is a red blend of 62% Barbera and 38% Nebbiolo. Dark in color with rich dried fruits on the nose. Light in tannins with juicy fruits of blackberries and dark cherries on the palate. Serve with roasted meats and especially grilled ribs or shredded pork with a tangy tomato-based sauce on the side. Once again proving there is a reason why these grapes with origins of Italy pair themselves so well with tomatoes and spices.
Tre Nova Ripasso - 2009: This is the second release of Gino's version of this traditional wine found in the Veneto region of Italy. Ripasso (repassing) was originally produced by "re-passing" younger and lighter red wines onto the remaining dried skins left over from the famed Amarone wines. This blend of Sangiovese and Barbera reminded me of the dark fruit and spice from a Christmas fruitcake - - in a good way. A deep red wine with smooth flavors of dark plums and cherries with just a hint of cocoa. A wine to be served with Italian-style prepared beef or a boozy and chocolatey tiramisu. All by itself in a wine glass is just perfect for me.
One surprising detail I was especially impressed with is as much time, thought and passion that Gino puts into his wines, as well as the striking design on the labels, the listed prices are so affordable. From a glass of Tre Nova, you are not only getting value, but quality, care and rich wine history - not only from the Northwest, but also history from the vineyards of Italy. Ciao!
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Seattle Magazine named it, "Best Emerging Winery 2011."
Yesterday, it was great to visit with Jon Meuret-Martinez, owner and winemaker of Maison Bleue Family Winery of Prosser, WA - - and soon to be "emerging" to Walla Walla!
Jon gave me the time frame of his move and projected opening. In January he will be taking over the space at 20 North Second Ave, in downtown Walla Walla. North Second Avenue is what I like to refer to as: "The Gateway to Main."
The now vacant space, located at the historical Panatorium building, will have a complete renovation. One of the renovations will include removing the low ceiling, which will enhance the space and make it much airier. If any indication of the new design is by the wines itself, and even the simple, yet elegant labels; the new space will no doubt be stunning.
Projected opening date of the tasting room will be in April, just in time for Maison Bleue to be included in Walla Walla's Spring Barrel weekend the first of May.
In about a year after completion of the tasting room, Jon and wife, Amy will be bringing their family to Walla Walla and it will be here in the valley they will make their home. He is looking forward to living closer to the vineyards, and of course just being in Walla Walla and everything the area has to offer.
The focus of Maison Bleue Winery is mostly Rhône varieties
such as Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne and Viognier, as well as Chardonnay. The wines of Maison Bleue have been on my list of favorite Washington wines since Jon and wine writer, Rand Seeley dropped by to visit and introduced me to these ultra-premium wines, well over a year ago.
These luscious wines are very European in style. With Jon's background, a Bachelors of Science inBiology andChemistryas well as Doctorate of Dental Surgery and continuing his education in viticulture and enology, the wines of Maison Bleue have the best of New World knowledge, but with the care of traditional Old World style.
Welcome Maison Bleue Family Winery to Walla Walla! We are looking forward to you joining our community.
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It's true, other than a great Merlot from Washington State, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington is the wine I typically reach for. And recently, I have sipped a few that I feel the necessity to being to everyone's attention and shout out some favorable rants.
Seven Hills Winery, Seven Hills Vineyard - Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 2009: These are some old vines. One the nose are the aromas of the kitchen harvest - bright fruit of raspberry jam, cherries and plum pies - - with just a hint of almonds. The palate brings more ripe red fruit of berries and plums and finishing up with hints of cigar box, espresso and pepper. Very "Walla Walla."
Tero Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Windrow Vineyard Old Block - 2008: From the heart of more old vines of Windrow, in the same area as Seven Hills Vineyards. I could just sit around all day and smell this nose - violets and dark stone fruit. Earth. Big, yet smooth on the palate. Just the right mixture of tannins and acids. Round on the palate with hints of dark cherries and a dusting of cocoa. Lush. Stunning.
Cave B Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2009: I decided to throw in a ringer. Cave B Estate is a boutique winery located in the Columbia Valley wine region in the center of Washington State Wine Country, within 900 feet above the Columbia River.
Putting the nose deep in the wine glass bowl, this wine shows off aromas of licorice - red and black. There are hints of cranberries and spice. Dark cherries tickle the palate at first and later the tartness of the cranberries shine through to the finish, leaving just a hint of green in the background. Smooth. Exceptional.
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The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Aeration
Aeration is the deliberate addition of oxygen to wine to round out and soften a wine. Why aerate the wine? The whole concept of letting wine "breathe," or aerate, is to maximize the wine's potential. Letting wine aerate, you are allowing the wine to open up the aromas and flavor profiles.
There are several tools designed for wine aeration. Frankly, I don't buy into those gadgets much. The tool of my choice, especially for wines with age? A decanter. A glass decanter or even a pitcher, clean flower vase, whatevv - - any large liquid container with a wide opening to pour the bottle of wine into. The increased surface area of the container is the key to allowing more air to make contact to the wine.
Let the filled decanter set for about 15 or 20 minutes before serving. One can even swirl the wine around, shake it up a bit or take the filled decanter on a bumpy car ride on a gravel road to create some movement.
Want to make it even easier? Simply pour the wine into your wine glass, give it some air time, swirl and enjoy.
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At the stroke of midnight on November 15, all wine lovers waited with bated breath on the arrival of the first wines from the 2012 harvest from Beaujolais, France, Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé! The cynical side of me wondered about it all - - and especially wondered if the villages of Lyon and Beaujeu really celebrated as enthusiastic as what we envision? And how much of it is a shrewd and very clever marketing scheme by the pape du Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf?
And what a coincidence that it happens the Thursday before one of our biggest American feasts - - Thanksgiving. Okay, so this celebration of the newly fermented gamay grape has been going on since the late 1930's, how convenient to get this wine into the American market just before the third Thursday of November so it can be paired with America's symbol of the day - the turkey.
No, I don't think American wine lovers eagerly await at the docks for this young fresh wine and revel and dance in the streets once they open the bottle. But while the American consumers have a tendency to get caught up in grand marketing schemes, like pitching tents in front of department stores after their Thanksgiving dinner to be the first for the so-called "best deals" - - we aren't as crazy as the wine enthusiasts in Japan who celebrate the arrival of the newly plucked Beaujolais Nouveau by taking communal baths in the strawberry Kool-Aid colored stuff.
This got me to ponder American wine marketing even further. Pommery Champagne, one of the region's largest Champagne brands has brought to the American wine market, Pommery Pops, adorable mini bottles (187ml) bottle of Champagne. They come in a blue bottle with a silver label or gold packaging and even with the American flag plastered on them. Me thinks that the Widow Pommery would be rolling in her grave if she even thought her country were drinking these cutesy little bottles of "Pop."
The Champagne house of Nicolas Feuillatte has followed this trend with "1/4" bottles decorated with attached lanyards to attach to your belt loop or key chain, in brut and also rosé. While visiting France is in my future, something tells me that I won't be seeing the French strolling the streets with these little bottles, let alone even be caught purchasing one.
Okay-okay, so I have to admit, they are pretty cute and yes - - I have purchased them! Only due to the fact that Nicolas Feuillatte bubbly rosé is my favorite and makes my knees weak - - but at the time I didn't want my knees to get too weak from drinking a whole 750 ml by myself.
Germany is finally getting even with us after World War II. Zeller Schwarze Katz Riesling - - aka Black Cat from Zell. According to legend, three wine merchants came to the town of Zell, Germany to buy wine. In one of the cellars, they tasted several wines
out of different barrels.
They had narrowed the choice to three barrels but they couldn’t agree on
which one was the best. They were about to take another sample, when suddenly a
black cat jumped on one of the barrels, arched its back and swiped its paw at anyone who tried to get
closer. The wine merchants quickly came to an agreement and chose the
barrel which was so obstinately defended by the cat, thinking that it
probably contained the best wine.
Merchants marketed the wine under the name "Zeller Schwarze Katz" (black
cat from Zell) and it became so popular that other wine growers and the
city government eventually gave this name to its vineyard of origin, in
the town of Zell.
In the mean time, where most wine producers from Zell just use a label with a black cat, Moselland Winery uses a bottle shaped like a cat to sell their riesling in. Not only does it come in your little basic black, but other colors, as well. Yup, same wine, just different colors. And of course, like American cat lovers do, we try to collect them all. Yes, I have just the original black - so shut up.
It's not just the old world who has caught our eye with creative wine packaging, but some of the New World of winemakers have caught on to the American wine market. Australia has the lead on eye appealing and colorful wine labels. There are the "Bitch" wines with the pink labels, but not near as popular as Yellow Tail. The wines of Yellow Tail are the perfect example of how the American wine consumer got swept up by the marketing of this wine. It was developed around the year 2000, originally marketed to
export countries (What? You mean that Australian wine lovers weren't going to drink this stuff?). In 2001, Yellow Tail sold 112,000 cases and became the number one imported wine to the USA by
2003. The distribution jumped to 7.5 million in 2005, helped by - - who else, but Costco.
Are we that transparent to the Old World of wine producers? Young consumers in particular tend to avoid what they
consider to be confusing and pretentious wine label characteristic of some Old World wines. As someone who loves marketing, I get it. I really do get it. We have the convenience of not only buying wines at the supermarket for one stop shopping, but also via the internet. The only luxury we typically do not have with this convenience is that we do not get to taste what is in the bottle before we buy, like we would at the winery.
So while a bottle of wine is sitting amongst a sea of wine bottles, at least a few bottles will stand out from the rest to the general wine consumer who is still learning about wines - - and most of all learning about their own palate.
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Whenever I am asked if I would like to visit the winery ranch of Spring Valley Vineyard in Walla Walla, I am there! One doesn't have to ask me twice, as I always enjoy the opportunity to visit with Shari, Dean, Kate and of course, Serge.
It's a relaxing country drive, nine miles north from the city. Once on Corkrum Road, the views are of wheat and vines. The land of Spring Valley is rich in history and agriculture, dating back to the mid-1800's. Dean and Shari Corkrum Derby always greet you like old friends. Their property is lovely and with the spirit of past generations that are commemorated on their wine labels - - and just recently commemorated on markers in their memory garden.
Our visit was in the late afternoon during their busy crush. Serge LaVille, winemaker, teased us to be back the next morning, 8:00 sharp to pick the oncoming merlot. We dined on the beautiful green grounds under a tent surrounded by colorful baskets of flowers. Views of rolling hills of previously harvested wheat and now grape vines waiting their turn to be picked. Oh - - and let me tell you about the wines.
Through the years on my blog I have focused on the following estate wines from Spring Valley: Frederick (my go-to fave), Uriah, Derby, and Muleskinner - - all Bordeaux-style varietals and named for the men of Spring Valley.
However, if you read the history of the vineyard, you will discover that the women of Spring Valley played an important role in the family's history and continues to this day. I was thrilled to taste these exceptional wines.
The Women of Spring Valley Vineyard:
This 100% Syrah is named for the wife of Frederick Corkrum. After
their meeting, following her vaudeville performance at a local theater, they
married in 1929. Frederick was Shari Corkrum Derby's father. After Frederick's passing, Nina Lee continued to manage the ranch on her own. This has to be one of the most sought after and most stunning wine labels around the northwest.
The 2009 vintage of Nina Lee is sassy like her photo. It was a late bud break, but the summer heat helped it along. Therefore, bringing an early harvest in September and finished early in October just before a big frost.
Every vintage of Nina Lee has always been bold and intense, and the 2009 is no different with its bright acids. Sweet violets and concentrated flavors of blueberries, blackberries, a hint of smoke, and dark rich cocoa. The tannins show off a bit, therefore making this deep and elegant wine one to place in the cellar for a couple of years - - or not, letting you enjoy it now and especially with food.
A Cabernet Franc named in honor of Uriah Corkrum’s wife Katherine,
a native of Wales who immigrated to Walla Walla Territory in 1897. She
and Uriah had four sons, including Frederick.
The 2010 vintage was marked by a mild spring, cool summer and followed into a late summer harvest which allowed the grapes extra hang time on the vines. Violets! Roses! Alfalfa! A sip of this dark lush wine brings to the palate dark brambleberries, dark cocoa and a hint of herbs in the finish.
Welcome to the inaugural vintage of Petit Verdot named for Sharilee (Shari) Corkrum
Derby, granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah (Kathryn) Corkrum and daughter of Frederick and Nina Lee Corkrum.
Again, the 2010 vintage had a late summer harvest allowing for extra hang time on the vines. I was absolutely elated to hear that Spring Valley finally released a Petit Verdot!
Six years ago, I dined with Serge and his family at his home. Towards the end of the evening, Serge brought out a special treat - - a 375 ml bottle of Petit Verdot sourced from the fruit of Spring Valley. I honestly cannot remember now if it was an experiment or a special release for their wine club, but what I do remember - it was a big bold wine and the tannins just about took the enamel off of my teeth.
Typically Petit Verdot is added in small amounts for just a touch of tannins and rich flavors in Bordeaux blends. It is often a "generous" grape and from the first sip of this new 2010 release, Serge had tamed this wine into an elegant offering. Once again those notes of violet perfume came through and even a hint of leather. On the palate it was rich with notes of dark Bing cherry, fig preserves, cloves, nutmeg and with just a hint of mineral in the finish. This new release of Sharilee Petit Verdot was one of the highlights of the evening.
In 1993, Shari and her husband, Dean Derby planted the first vines on
the land of Spring Valley. Today, Shari and Dean continue to farm
wheat as Uriah, Frederick and Nina Lee did in years past on these
rolling hills of Spring Valley.
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