Sunday, September 25, 2005

Zinning in Walla Walla

Did you know that there is only one winery in the Walla Walla Valley that produces a Zinfandel? Since vintage 2001, Forgeron Cellars has been producing a Zinfandel and their 2003 Zinfandel is now available.

The Zinfandel grapes come from the Alder Ridge Vineyard, which is one of the oldest established vineyards in Washington state. Alder Ridge Vineyard is a steep slope rising 1,000 feet from the bank of the Columbia River on the Washington side. It's proximity to the river also makes it one of the warmest vineyard sites, as well as providing air drainage and the cooling effects from the river.

Now, about that Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel - how does it taste? In one word - YUMMY! It is rich with a spicy aroma on the nose and the color of blackberry jam. Warming flavors of cherry cobbler, spices, and brown sugar on the palette and finishes with a bit of spice and caramel.

This is not your typical cherry pop, 15%+ alcohol Zinfandel from California, either. There is a richness and subtle spice to this Zinfandel that makes it such a food friendly wine. Therefore, it deserves to be paired with a spicy meal. Barbequed ribs and chicken (I would toss some of the Zinfandel in the marinade) will awake the tastebuds with this lovely wine. With the fall season here, I see in my future a pork roast with cranberries, sage and a side of yams and of course, enhanced with this elegant Zinfandel.

Only 320 cases produced - get it now. Consider this bit of knowledge one of my best kept secrets.


Friday, September 23, 2005

2005 Harvest Update

The 2005 year has been good to us here in the Walla Walla Valley. We've had a successful mix of cool weather, mid-summer showers, and our usual lengthy and warm late summer. The rumor is that Mother Nature and Bacchus have teamed together to produce some of the finest looking grapes ever to appear in the valley vineyards.

In the future I would recommend to keep an eye on the Walla Walla Valley's 2005 vintages.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wine Matters

Yes it does! Wine matters, especially here in Walla Walla, and now you can tune in to KWCW 90.5 FM (Whitman College) beginning this evening at 5:30 - 6:00 pm (PDT) to listen to talk show "Wine Matters" with co-hosts Denise Slattery and Steve Michener.

Tonight's guest will be Caleb Foster of Buty Winery. So please tune in and discover what's happening with Caleb Foster and Nina Buty Foster at their winery. Remember, 2005 crush is underway here in the Walla Walla Valley and you can listen to KWCW 90.5FM online.

So pour that glass of wine, relax and tune in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

~September Cooking With Washington Wines~

Walla Walla Valley wineries are known for producing elegant, yet bold Merlots. With the 2005 crush underway, it's time to dust off a few bottles of that Walla Walla Merlot you have kept stashed away and have a dinner party. If you don't have any Walla Walla Merlot in your wine stash, it's time to get some.

Check out Lecole No. 41, Northstar Winery, Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Vintners, and Waterbrook to name a few of the excellent Walla Walla Merlots. Merlot reduction is a versatile sauce that will enhance salmon (my sister grills a Alder planked salmon that screams for this redux), prime cuts of beef or even add wild mushrooms to this redux and top over garlic mashed potatoes.

Walla Walla Merlot Wine Reduction Sauce

1 (750-milliliter) bottle Walla Walla Merlot wine
2-3 shallots, quartered (or 1 small onion, quartered)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine (Yes the whole bottle. Don't you dare drink a drop.), onions (or shallots), celery, carrots and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid out, removing vegetables and bay leaf. Return the liquid to the pan, over medium heat. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, until the butter is incorporated, being careful not to let the sauce separate. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve, whisking occasionally. Yields: about 2 cups

Now, what wine to pair with dinner? Of course, the same Merlot!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wine Quote

I saw a wino eating grapes... I was like, dude, you have to wait.

Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Holy Grapes Batman!

Crush is starting any day now for the vineryards and wineries in the Walla Walla Valley. Grapes are all over the place!

If you are looking to make your own wines contact Grapeland Supply . They have available "U-Pick" wine grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot available by the row or block.

Prefer to wear your grapes instead of drinking them? Relax with a facial from Face~a~Peel in the Walla Walla Valley. This organic spa treatment is made from grapes, including peels and seeds.

How about being a walking billboard for Walla Walla? Check out Gotta Go Embroidery located at their new spot on Main Street, Downtown Walla Walla. There are no sour grapes there.

Trivia - speaking of Batman. Did you know that Adam West, from the popular 1960's TV hit "Batman", hails from Walla Walla? Yes! Holy Hometown! West was born William "Billy" West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington and graduate of Whitman College.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Amavi Cellars

Earlier this spring, I had an opportunity to visit Amavi Cellars. The name, Amavi, is a combination of the Latin root words, "am" (love) and "vi" (life). The winery's objective is to capture the best of love and life in every bottle of their wine. Their pursuits being: Love, Life and Wine (Amor, Vita and Vinum). Their pursuit is my pursuit.

Amavi's tasting room is a reconstruction of a 1890's log cabin that was relocated from Montana. The tasting room is very warm and friendly. I felt that the warmth and friendliness came from not just the structure, but from the staff as well.

Amavi is the sister winery to the very prestigious Pepper Bridge Winery which is also located in the Walla Walla Valley. Both wineries share the same winemaker, Jean-Fran├žois Pellet, and estate vineyards, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Les Collines. However, they utilize different vineyard blocks and winemaking styles. Having tasted the wines, there is quality in the bottle but at an affordable price.

Last night I was able to sit in on a wine tasting of the 2002 Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon. 2002 happened to be an exceptional year for the Walla Walla Valley. This 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 2% Syrah and 1% Malbec. An award winner with critical acclaim from a couple of food and wine magazines, this wine is very aromatic with flavors of dark fruit, a chocolate finish (a very creamy mouth feel) and spice. The spice we tasted is still under scrutiny, though. Was it spice or a teeny bit of brettanomyces? The taste of brett seemed to waft in and out through the wine, which made it very interesting. I think this is a wine that can lay down for a few years and yet very approachable now. A great buy at $25.00. Let's put it this way - no matter if it was spice or brett - I would never turn down a bottle.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Wine Bowl

I HATE BOWLING!

Two weeks ago one of the local bowling alleys, Bowlaway Lanes, hosted their first annual "Wine Bowl." The deal was that all of the local wineries were invited to attend. The winning winery team would get a trophy and their poster hung in the alley for a year. My partners from Forgeron Cellars , Anne, Jamie and Sharyl, co-erced me there with promises of dinner before. I got my dinner but they still dragged me to the bowling alley while I protested and screamed all the way.

When we arrived there was only one other team! What is going on here in Walla Walla? Are there no other wineries who like to bowl? Is there other normal people like myself who think that bowling is boring and kind of cheesy? The other winery that showed was SYZYGY and their team was represented by Dave, Gregg, Sarah, and Meredith. It just so happened that Dave and Gregg were members of a bowling team. Oh-my. How - con-veeen-i-ent!

While bowling, we drank some great wines and even ate "bowling food." I discovered that bowling food is different than winery food. There were no imported cheeses, fine imported Italian smoked meats, French style baguettes or dipping sauces of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It had been years since I had a baloney and cheese sandwich cut into triangle squares - just like mom made for our school lunches. Surprisingly, the sandwiches paired okay with the lovely wines of Forgeron Cellars and SYZYGY. Hmmm...I suppose that one could look at baloney, processed cheese food slices and Wonder bread as just another level of imported smoked meats and imported cheeses and a baguette - a bowling level (okay, I will try to get my nose unstuck and lowered a bit).

Anyways, to make a long and painful story short - the team of SYZYGY won. But due to their kindness and the kindness of Bowlaway Lanes, we "tied." The group poster of both teams will be seen at the Bowlaway Lanes and my little trophy will be displayed with pride on top of my wine rack. Okay. So maybe bowling and the atmosphere of a bowling alley isn't so bad afterall. Will I show up next year? Probably, but will I continue my protesting and screaming? Probably. I can't disappoint my partners Anne, Jamie and Sharyl. They expect it of me.
Thanks Dave, Gregg, Sarah, and Meredith of SYZYGY for the excellent time and for being such great opponents. Also, many thanks to Bowlaway Lanes for their hospitality!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Seeing Red!

Last weekend I had an opportunity to taste two Walla Walla red wines. One of the wines was a red table and the other a blend (I don't think they consider theirs an RTW).

The red blend came from SYZYGY - 2003 Red Wine. A floral nose and there seemed to be a background of vanilla. There were cherries and black fruit on the palate and a long wonderful finish. This wine deserved better than the baloney and cheese sandwich I was nibbling on (Hey I was at a bowling alley. Wha'daya expect?) The percentage of this smooth and delicious blend is 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah. SYZYGY red wine sells for $20.00.

The red table wine (RTW) came from the esteemed Woodward Canyon. I don't have the blend percentages that went into the wine, but it is definitely a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. While this wine was elegant, there was a real "meatiness" to it and a wine that you can give some age to. I happened to be noshing on pieces of Spanish Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, along with some cashews and dried prunes. The strong pungent cheeses and the rich dark fruit paired very nicely with this full bodied wine. Woodward Canyon RTW sells for $17.00

I often tell people that Walla Walla Valley makes some of the best table wines and blends around. The table reds are always an excellent value for the quality.