Monday, February 27, 2006

Porn Wine

That's right. You read the title correctly. Porn wine. You've heard of ice wine, but never "vice wine", right? Groan. If you subscribed to the NY Times you may have read the article about porn star Savanna Samson, whose claim to porn fame is her gyrations in the X-rated "New Devil in Miss Jones." Samson (aka Natalie Oliveros) has launched a signature brand of Italian wine labeled Sogno Uno ("Dream One").

Now, you want to hear something interesting? Wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. loves it! Yes. The Robert M. Parker, wine critic gave the wine 90 points! Parker claims it is "luscious and oppulent." Yes Mr. Parker, but what about the wine?

Now, how does one go from porn star to vintner? Samson met Daniel Oliveros, a Manhattan wine merchant, at Scores. Scores is a famous strip joint where she was working as a dancer. On their first date Mr. Oliveros invited her to a wine dinner with wine friends and colleagues. That dinner began their relationship but also Samson's education about wine

On a vacation to Tuscany last year, she got the idea about making wine. Through her husband, she met Roberto Cipresso, a noted Italian winemaker and consultant. Samson asked Cipresso to experiment with blends of local grapes to achieve a wine to her taste. While tasting she dismissed Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as boring, and eventually decided on Cesanese, an ancient and little heralded grape found mostly in the Lazio region. The Italian varietal is delicate, but with a spicy taste. Often ruby red in color and made into sweeter wines. Also in the blend is Sangiovese (Chianti) and Montepulciano, the aromatic grape from the Tuscan hills. Only 490 cases of Sogno Uno was made and will retail for $38 a bottle.

Samson just returned from Italy after tasting potential blends for a white wine, which will be labled "Sogno Due." She suggested that potential customers approach her wine the way she approaches some newfangled sexual position with strangers on the set of one of her movies.

Okay, there has got to be a joke in here somewhere about cork screws, but I won't touch that one. And I know this post had nothing to do with the area's wine, but I thought it could be a lesson for any young woman in the area who is thinking about going into porn. If she succeeds or doesn't succeed in her craft, at least she still has the opportunity to become a vintner. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Long Shadows

The other day I was going through my wine "stash" and realized how fortunate I am. Fortunate for many reasons, of course. Fortunate, in that I have some "wine angels" that look after me. Wine Angels? Wine angels are benefactors that bring me wine that they think I would enjoy or curious about what my tastebuds think. All wine enthusiasts needs to have a few wine angels like that on their shoulder.

One of my angels is affiliated with the Long Shadows group. I feel truly blessed they share their personal wine from their cellar with me, since Long Shadows wine is not easy to come by. Allen Shoup, a leader in enology and viticulture in the state of Washington and former CEO with the Ste. Michelle group, formed the Long Shadows Winery. His vision for Long Shadows was to "collect" world class winemakers to create premium wines from every sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley under the Long Shadows label. And as I understand, the wines are made in the Walla Walla Valley.

In my stash, I have had two bottles of Poet's Leap Riesling. A 2003 that I shared with friends and a 2004 that I am going to cling onto for a bit. As you know, Riesling is one of the greatest wines of Germany and these particular vintages were crafted by Armin Diel, proprietor of the renowned Schlossgut Diel. The 2003 was heady with tropical fruits and flavor of apricot nectar. Even diesel was spotted in the flavor, which is often typical of aged old world fine Rieslings.

I located three bottles of Pirouette, so I opened up a bottle last night. A interesting varietal composition of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot,10% Syrah, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Made by Napa Valley legends Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, this blend had a wonderful nose of cherry, almonds, and vanilla. Blackberry, licorice flavors, well structured tannins and acidity, with a long cocoa finish. This wine will age beautifully for about 10 years.

A bottle of Chester-Kidder was shared during a family get-together. A unique blend of 47% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon,19% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Franc that was named after Shoup's grandparents. It was a very aromatic wine with concentrated dark fruit. The perfect wine to complement food. Chester-Kidder was created by Shoup and Gilles Nicault. A native of France, Nicault studied his craft in the vineyards and wineries of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne. He left France to visit Eastern Washington to see for himself if the rumors about this outstanding region was true. It must have shown truth to Nicault as he hasn't left. Formerly a winemaker for Staton Hills in Yakima, Hogue and most recent, he was winemaker at Woodward Canyon for 6 years before joining Long Shadows.

Last, but not least I discovered a bottle of Sequel. Sequel is a proprietor's name to describe their Syrah. Prestigious winemaker John Duval, who hails from Australia, is best known for his Shiraz from the Penfold's Grange label. Duval produced small lots of some of the finest Columbia Valley's sub-appellation grapes so he could claim the finest Syrah for this 2003 vintage. There is no doubt in my mind that when I decide to lift the cork from this bottle, it will make me S_W_O_O_N!

Thank you angels.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lazy Afternoon, Old Friends & Wine Tasting

Every so often I try to get out and visit the area wineries. I enjoy visiting with winery staff (new and familar faces), comparing notes with them and of course, partaking in some good wine. Last Saturday was a lazy and relaxing day for us, so it was a perfect time to go wine tasting.

Our first stop was "Basel Cellars Estate Winery. Basel Cellars produces about 4,000 cases per year, with a focus on Bordeaux-style blends, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you haven't visited, I recommend it. The view of the Blue Mountains from the hill top estate is gorgeous. We met Sherry, tasting room attendant. Sherry was very friendly and eager to pour for us their showcase of fine wines. It isn't often you run into a $5 tasting fee (of course fee applies to purchase of wine) in the Walla Walla Valley, but I agree with Basel Cellars for having one. Not only is the facility a winery but also an upscale resort with beautiful grounds. The large structure is quite a sight from the nearby highway. Their tasting fee separates those who truly want to taste wine from the curious "drive-by's ." Who hasn't been a "lookie-lou" from time to time, but when you have one tasting room attendant, a large magnificent facility, resort guests who pay for privacy, the last thing you want to worry about is the public wandering around adding to maintenance, cleaning, and insurance risks. Even most museums charge admission fees, but if you are truly interested in the architecture of the estate, private tours are available by appointment.

Due to a cold and sore throat, my tastebuds have been out of business. However, there were some wines that really stood out and impressed the tastebuds that weren't on sick leave. The 2003 Basel Cellars Red Wine really made my tastebuds wake up! Like their wine notes said, "...it is much more than red wine." Winemaker, Trey Busch was inspired by one of the greatest wines - St. Emillion in Bordeaux. This blend of 56% Merlot and 44% Cabernet Franc was spicy on the nose and tasted of dark fruit and chocolate. Really an excellent wine, I thought. A wine that you could definitely put some age on it if you can keep it that long without wanting to drink it.

We were fortunate to be able to taste their 2002 Syrah. Basel Cellars was able to pull some extra cases from one of their distributors for the tasting room. This Syrah was so aromatic even I could smell it with a stuffy nose. Very heavy mocha notes with dark chocolate and blueberries to the tongue. So typical of a good Syrah and this particular Syrah was also all free run juice. Very nice.

As an example of what a close wine community this area is, while we were visiting Basel Cellars, we ran into Shannon Murdock Bergevin. Shannon and my daughter have been best friends since they were in high school. Shannon's sister-inlaw is co-owner of Bergevin Lane Winery and Shannon (now taking time off to be at home with new baby son) has been the Marketing Director at Dunham Cellars for several years and formerly with Reininger Cellars. Shannon reminded Steve and I no matter that she and Tawna live in different towns and do not see each other as much as they use to, they are still "very best friends in the whole wide world" and at the same time I was reminded by the mischief these two use to get into. Finally, they are old enough that they do not have to hide their wine drinking from me. We can drink wine together - heh.

We went about a 1/4 of a mile from the Washington/Oregon stateline and visited Marilyn at Zerba Cellars Winery. Anybody who has ever ventured over to the stateline to buy petunias, pumpkins, garden ornaments, or even a Christmas tree may have run into Marilyn Zerba. She and her husband, Cecil have been involved in local agriculture for years. Marilyn reminded me of the day she was first starting the winery and came to visit me with their new wine consultant, Mark Retz. Of course I remembered! Before we tasted the wines, Marilyn gave us a tour of their new facility and cave built into a small hillside. A log cabin made of juniper will open this spring as their tasting room and they just put in their own bottling line! At this time there isn't a lot of wineries in the area with bottling lines. Not only has Zerba Cellars grown in such a short amount of time, but their wines are excellent!

Not sure where to start with the Zerba line-up, but we were impressed with all of them. First of all, I am a huge fan of good Viognier and yet I can be very critical of a mediocre Viognier. This Viognier was far from mediocre. It was crisp with a full bodied pear flavor and what a great buy for $19. I noticed the grapes came from the Willard Vineyard in Prosser. Some excellent white wine grapes come from the Willard Vineyards (Lecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc is an example of a fine grape from Willard and Zerba will soon introduce a ice wine from Willard). We tasted both Chardonnays - a 2004 from Willard Vineyards and a 2004 from Lewis Vineyard. Both Chards priced reasonable at $15. The Willard Vineyard Chardonnay resembled more of a white-Burgundy to me being fruit forward and very little oak taste (aged in new and 2-3 year old barrels). Not being a fan of over-oaked Chardonnays, these were enjoyable Chardonnays for me.

The red wine offerings were equally as delicious and great food wines. Of course, we went home with a bottle of "Wild Thing" - an intense blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 18% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Franc. This has been a popular wine for Zerba with the cute Zebra label and also a gold medal winner at the 2005 Oregon State Fair. The 2003 Cabernet Franc was one of my favorites - really showing the typical dark fruit with green pepper flavors. A big and jammy wine. We tasted the Cabernet and the Cabernet-Merlot blend and dreamed of particular foods that would pair perfectly with each wine. The 2002 Merlot (another gold medal winner) really interested my palette. It was spicy on the nose and chewy and tarry in my mouth. Lots of plum came through - - a hearty and bold valley Merlot that I would recommend. The 2003 Walla Walla Valley Syrah was a fine example of a Rhone style wine. Deep dark earthy and coffee nose with a mouthful of dark berries. To sum it all up - - the Zerba wines are exciting!

Last but not least, on our way home we stopped by an old friend's house. Donnie was going to join us wine tasting, but ended up waiting for the plumber instead. When we arrived to see how his ordeal with the frozen pipes were coming along, he had a bottle of 2002 Patrick M. Paul Vineyards Cabernet Franc waiting for us to sample with him. I was really pleased as I had tasted this old estate vineyard wine before and it was memorable. This wine was very aromatic and spicy with a hint of chocolate and over ripe strawberries. After one taste, it didn't disappoint and was exactly how I remembered it when I first tasted it in the Patrick M. Paul wine tasting room. A fine wine to end a lazy afternoon with.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

New Washington State Appellation - Rattlesnake Hills

Rattlesnake Hills will become Washington state's ninth wine grape growing region effective March 20, as per the US Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The Rattlesnake Hills is southeast of Yakima in central Washington. It stretches from Union Gap south of Yakima to north of Sunnyside, about 45 miles to the east. This approval by the bureau means that it has recognized the 68,500-acreage's distinct climate and soil features - - terroir. The silty-loam soil of this region holds moisture better than other soils in the wine growing region.

This is a good thing for the state as it shows diversity in Washington wines, but could also mean a change of labels for some wineries who use grapes from this region and if Bush's new tax proposal passes, this could mean extra costs for them.

NW Lawmakers and Wineries Ask Bush To Drop Proposed Fees On Wineries

If you are a winery with several labels of wine and if you choose to change the labels on those wines according to vintage, appellation, etc., it could prove to be an expensive proposition under new fees proposed by the Bush administration.

The fees are intended to raise an estimated $29 million to help cover regulatory functions of the federal Alcohol, Tax and Trade Bureau. Northwest lawmakers and wine industry leaders feel these proposed taxes are an unfair imposition on an industry that already pays its fair share to the federal government. Lawmakers killed the proposal last year, but it has resurfaced again in the Bush administration's budget proposal. Details of the new fees have not yet been released, but industry leaders expect they will be similar to those fees suggested last year, including up to $100 to garner approval for each label change, $200 to register changed wine formulas and $500 to apply for special permits. That is an extreme expense when you consider every year the labels change due to vintage. As it is now, wineries are required to get federal approval of their wine labels each time there is a significant change, such as the region where the grapes came from.

Washington is the nation's No. 2 producer of premium wine, behind California, with more than 400 wineries, 350 wine grape growers and 30,000 vineyard acres. This type of proposal would disproportionately impact small wineries in the region. More taxation on a small boutique and family owned wineries would be an extra burden. As it is, many "Mom & Pop" wineries operate with little income coming in and it is difficult for a new winery to pay such taxes when the first couple of years of operation they rarely have little to zero wine ready for retail. The wine industry in Washington and Oregon is rapidly growing and it is providing new economic opportunities for agriculture producers and communities. With these kind of new taxes, it's my opinion that it would discourage potential growth.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kind Hearts and Clarets

For Valentine's Day we ordered a bottle of Basel Cellars Claret - 2002, while dining at one of my favorite local restaurants, The Homestead. We were on a Claret theme after tasting an excellent one from Robert Karl Winery in Spokane.

What is a Claret? It's a term that traditionally refers to red wine from the Bordeaux region of France, but the name has no official, legal definition and is often used as a generic term to refer to dry red wines. It derives from "clairet," the name for a certain type of light red wine that was exported from Bordeaux in the Middle Ages and became quite popular in England. The wine, because of its light color, was known as "vinum clarum," "bin clar" or "clairet." It bore little resemblance to the wines that are characteristic of Bordeaux today--but the name endures, especially for many New World wines looking for alternative names instead of "Bordeaux-style" and the licensed "Meritage" name.

The Basel Cellars Claret is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and all of these traditional Bordeaux-style varietals are from Walla Walla Valley Vineyards such as Pheasant Run, Pepper Bridge, Spofford Station and Waliser Farms. It was a fairly aromatic wine with red and black fruits - full of plum taste. Tannins were very mild and yet the sweetness from the oak really came through. It came through so much that we questioned if there may have been a tad bit of residual sugar hanging around.

It was a well rounded wine, but we felt we may have paired it with the wrong food choice. We dined on Steak Oscar, a filet topped with Oregon Dungeness crab and a Bernaise sauce. Perhaps it would pair better with lamb, duck or even a sweet tomato-basil sauce over pasta. What it did pair wonderful with was our dessert. We shared a heart shaped chocolate fudge torte with a raspberry coulee. The pluminess of the wine matched beautifully with the dark chocolate and raspberry flavors.

Friday, February 17, 2006

~Cherry Pick of the Month~

The two common questions asked by wine enthusiasts at a wine store are, "What is your best wine? What wine received a high rating?" Well, when you stock several wines with great ratings or live in wine country, those are tough questions to answer when there are so many great wines out there! But to keep the cherry picker happy, you have to be on your toes and read the same publication that he/she is reading.

President's Day is coming up and we all remember that George Washington was famous for cutting down the cherry tree (Did you know there is a little town called George in Washington State? Yes, George, Washington.) so February is a perfect month to launch my "Cherry Pick of the Month." Fruit growers in Washington state have been selling their prized cherries for more than 100 years and today 70% of US cherries come from the North West, so I decided to hand-pick cherries just for you based on ratings, personal recommendations and tasting. As George said, "I cannot tell a lie." Let the "cherry pickers" go for it!

Lecole No. 41 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Apogee is my "Cherry Pick of the Month." Since 1993, Apogee was the first Lecole wine produced from the Pepper Bridge Vineyard. An elegant and aromatic wine that is structured, showing the perfect amount of tannins and acidity, with a long finish. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc shows earthy hints of cigar box, leather and dark fruit flavors such as black cherry and plum. A wine that one could lay down for about 7-10 years. This Bordeaux-style blend is very much like it's proprietary name - Apogee -- reaching the highest point.

And yes, that is a naked girl up there picking cherry blossoms and no, that is not me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Visit To Spokane - Bed, Food and Wineries!

It's a Walla Walla Wine Blogging Wednesday! Instead of Walla Walla wine blogging, I thought I might highlight on Spokane, just a few hours north.

We spent Saturday - Monday in Spokane. Even though it was a busy family weekend for us (two birthday parties, my son's new open house event, and granddaughter's Christening) we still managed to find some time to visit a couple of wineries. We had a lovely stay at one of the B&B's in the Browne's Addition in Spokane. The Browne's Addition is a lovely historical district of Spokane and located on the West side of downtown. The Odell House is a 1898 Queen Anne style three story house (on the National Historic Registry) that sits on a quiet tree-lined street and conveniently located across the street from the MAC (Museum of Arts and Culture). Our room had crystal chandeliers, natural woodwork, massive tile fireplace, stained glass windows, sitting porch, kitchen (full of breakfast goodies), private bath, two TV's, stereo and internet access. The best part was a queen-sized four poster bed with feather mattress topper, pillows and duvet. I am not sure who arranged the falling snow we woke up to on Monday morning, but we want to thank them for that special ambiance.

Saturday evening we dined at one of our favorite Italian restaurants - Commellini's. It's a long drive to the Commellini Estate in the north foothills of Spokane, but definitely worth it. The restaurant has a rich and interesting history surrounding the 1940 cabins that were used as hide-outs during the prohibition for bootlegging and gambling. Many historical celebrities visited such as Al Capone and Marilyn Monroe. What our large family have always enjoyed is the private dining rooms - The Gangster Dining Room, The Wine Dining Room and others. The food and service is always great. The mushroom soup is a family favorite, along with the lobster gnocci, and penne pasta with meatballs.

Between family events we had the opportunity to check out Robert Karl Cellars and Lone Canary Winery. Our first stop was at Robert Karl Cellars and it was a welcome surprise to see a familiar face - Rebecca, co-owner of the winery! Rebecca has been a visitor to the Walla Walla area wineries several times, along with her husband Dr. Joe Gunselman. Dr. Gunselman is a self taught winemaker and has taken classes from the Walla Walla Institute for Viticulture and Enology. Rebecca has a great smile and is a wonderful hostess.

Good for them, but bad for us, they were almost sold out of wine! However, we were able to taste their 2003 Columbia Valley Claret. Some of the best fruit that the Horse Heaven Hills has to offer went into that wine. The wine was very aromatic and tasted of chocolate covered cherries. It was a true Claret blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 10% Malbec. Last month the Claret won a gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Of course, we had to go home with a bottle.

Lone Canary was our next stop and we were greeted with a generous line-up of wines to sample (and reasonably priced) - 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Lone Canary Red (Cab Merlot and Syrah blend), 2003 Rosso (a super Tuscan style red blend with 78% Sangiovese), 2002 Rouge (Bordeaux style blend) and our favorite was the 2003 DuBrul Vineyard Reserve.

The 2003 DuBrul Vineyard Reserve is a blend of 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon with 100% DuBrul Vineyard fruit. This wine was elegant with perfumed high notes and very characteristic of this vineyard. Umm - - we went home with two bottles!

We also spent about 45 minutes trying to find the Barrister Winery but finally gave up. However, the next trip to Spokane we will definitely spend the time to check it out.

"Devin"

Eight Walla Walla Valley winemakers have come together to create a wine called "Devin." This special wine honors Devin Derby, a winemaker at his family's Spring Valley Vineyards and Winery, who died in a car crash in late 2004. The 190-case blend of Syrah and Merlot is from the 2003 vintage and was made by Eric Dunham (Dunham Cellars), Marie-Eve Gilla (Forgeron Cellars), Ron Coleman (Tamarack Cellers), Chuck Reininger (Reininger Winery), Myles Anderson (Walla Walla Vintners), Charles Smith (K Vintners), Christophe Baron (Cayuse Vineyards) and Northstar Winery.

Proceeds from the wine will benefit Devin's wife, Mary Derby and their son, Simon. The wine will retail for $55 per bottle. To order, call 509-529-4685. The Waterfront Grill in Seattle will be putting on a special dinner, Feb. 23 to showcase this wine. The participating winemakers will be in attendance. Cost is $150. Call 206-956-9179 to reserve your seat.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Move Over Bacchus!

Move over Bacchus! The Wine Goddess is taking over.

A year ago, February I bought the book Wine for Women by Leslie Sbrocco. She was one of the speakers at Taste Washington last year and although I had won tickets, I was sorry I could not get there to hear her speak.

Wine for Women is fairly complete book teaching the reader about wine, regions and also giving ideas on pairing wines with food, which I always enjoy. However, I wish that there would have been less advertising of labels in the book. I will confess that when it comes to wine books, I am a Jancis Robinson fan.

I think since women are becoming the prominent buyers of wine, at least in the supermarket, we will be seeing more suggestions of wine pairing with food. Wine and food are a natural. They belong together. Visiting with a European woman winemaker last night, wine is considered food. It is the intricate part of the European meal, unlike here in the USA we often regard wine as the happy hour or cocktail party beverage.

Some progressive supermarkets are using shelf-talkers in their wine sections giving the customer suggestions on what wine will pair well with particular foods in their market. An example would be "Brand Walla Walla Wine pairs perfectly with the crimini mushrooms and Kobe beef in the organic section and remember dessert with a Valrhona chocolate bar from France." More and more wineries are understanding the importance of food and their wines, as they give out tried recipes that include their wine in the recipe and/or suggested wine and food pairings.

Bart O’Brien of O’Brien Family Vinyards says:

“Women buy wine to be shared, to create an emotional moment. Men often buy wine to be hoarded. They take it back to their cave and save it until another collector comes over. ... It's about scores and history -– it's a little game of one-upmanship."

From my experience, Bart speaks volumes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Top Honors!

Congratulations to L'Ecole No. 41 winery for receiving top honors in a wine tasting sponsored by Washington CEO magazine. The winery's 2002 Apogee (a red Bordeaux Style blend) scored 92 points out of a 100. The judges were 10 of Washington State's top sommeliers.

Apogee is a Bordeaux-style blend with dark earthy flavors of tobacco, leather and rich flavors of cherry and plum. Filtered and fined at a minium. An excellent wine to give some cellar age to. About 7-10 years. Like the meaning of apogee - this wine is the highest point - the apex.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

$150 Malbecs!

It seems as if Paul Hobbs of Sebastopol produces a $150 Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina. That's right, $150!!! I sure hope Walla Walla doesn't get any $150 ideas. Is Hobbs 2003 Vina Cobos Cobos Marchiori Vineyard Mendoza Malbec worth the price?

Malbec. I love Malbec. It's such a unique grape when compared to it's other Bordeaux cousins. Malbec often shows a deep bramble berry and rich plum notes. Very fruit forward, meaty and yet soft and velvety tannins. I have picked up some every-day-drinking yummy Argentinian Malbecs priced point from $2.99 to $7.99. With labor costs and land prices so low in Argentina, how can this wine be so expensive? I hope this isn't a ruse for this winery to put their wine on the map by pricing it so high. I cannot believe that this is where the Argentina Malbec market should be.

Malbec is being grown and produced in the Walla Walla Valley. Seven Hills Winery produces a Malbec wine and Pepperbridge, Minnick Hills, and Spofford Station are some of the vineyards that grows Malbec at this time. Several other wineries in the Walla Walla Valley use Malbec for blending.

Something tells me that I may never get to try the $150 Malbec unless somebody wants to share. Anybody?

Monday, February 06, 2006

~February Cooking With Washington Wines~

Valentine's Day is almost here. When I think of that day, I think of chocolate. I love eating a rich piece of chocolate with a good red wine. Some people enjoy Port with chocolate, but I am happy with a Bordeaux style blend of red. As far as I am concerned, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and a Hershey bar is reason to celebrate. Lots of excellent Bordeaux style blends out in the Walla Walla Valley, especially some of the lower priced red table wines. Good value for eating with a Hershey chocolate bar. To name some of my favorite Walla Walla wine bargains, check out Waterbrook's Melange, Forgeron Cellars Anvil Red, Bergevin Lane's Calico Red and most definitely K-Vintner's House Wine.

Here is one of my favorite chocolate cookie recipes. I make the batter the night before I plan on baking. It is easier to handle if the dough is chilled.

CHOCOLATE CRINKLES
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. powdered sugar

Mix vegetable oil, cocoa and the white sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and dry ingredients (I always sift dry ingredients first because of hard sediment from baking powder and soda). Mix well. Chill several hours. Shape into teaspoon size balls, drop in powdered sugar and then drop on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees, but do not overbake. Let cookies cool for a minute or so before removing from tray. Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen.

When I am lazy and not wanting to go the trouble of measuring ingredients for a batter, let alone roll cookies out, I always keep a couple of boxes of brownie mix around. I take brownie mix to another level and when I am done they no longer look or taste like a boxed brownie mix. One of the things I do is change the "boxiness" is instead of adding water as per intructions, I add leftover coffee or espresso from that morning. You can toss in some chocolate chips or nuts. Use semi-sweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate or toss all of them in and make it a Death By Chocolate Brownie. To make the brownies with a south of the border flair add some cinnamon or if you are bold - chopped hot green chiles!

I often make a glaze out of powdered sugar, cocoa powder and leftover coffee to top the brownies. If you really want a jet starter brownie to get you through the day, not only add the brewed espresso but toss in some finely ground coffee beans, as well. So delicious and especially tasty with Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. It's one way to guarantee the three important daily "C" food groups - -Cabernet, Chocolate and Coffee!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Top 100 Wine Blogs

~Through The Grape Vine~ made the top 100 wine blog list - - coming in at 50! FIFTY!

They read me. They really read me!

Check out AlaWine and the Top 100 Wine Blogs

Walla Walla Winners at San Francisco Competition

Good news for Walla Walla Valley Wineries! They fared pretty well at the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition that was held last month. Over 3,000 wines were judged. Congratulations. Way to show California, when in California, that they are not the only ones that make excellent wines. In fact, the Washington state wineries did well as a whole, but here are the highlights of Walla Walla:

Gold

Dusted Valley Vintners 2004 Viognier, Columbia Valley, $20
Dusted Valley Vintners 2004 Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, 32
Three Rivers Winery 2004 White Meritage, Columbia Valley, $19
Three Rivers Winery 2003 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $19

Silver

Basel Cellars 2003 Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $36
Basel Cellars 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $32
Basel Cellars 2003 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $42
Canoe Ridge Vineyards 2002 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $25
Dusted Valley Vintners 2004 Cote du Columbia Rouge, Horse Heaven Hills, $32
Reininger Winery 2002 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $30
Three Rivers Winery 2003 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $50

Bronze

Basel Cellars 2003 Claret, Walla Walla Valley, $24
Dusted Valley Vintners 2003 Barrel Thief Red, Columbia Valley, $22
Northstar 2002 Stella Maris, Columbia Valley, $29
Reininger Winery 2003 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $32
Reininger Winery 2001 Cima, Walla Walla Valley, $45
Spring Valley Vineyard 2003 Frederick Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Spring Valley Vineyard 2003 Nina Lee Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Three Rivers Winery 2003 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $50