Friday, June 30, 2006

Winemaker Comes Out Of The Closet

Don Redman, of Mannina Cellars, had been making wine in his closet for several years. Just recently he decided to "come out of the closet" and open his own winery.

Don, with a background in chemistry, moved to the Walla Walla Valley to work as an Environmental Engineer with Boise Cascade. Through church, Don met Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellars and the two men became friends. After an introduction to the valley's wine by Chris, Don, using his chemistry background, started his new hobby -- making wine in his closet.

Last month, during Spring Release weekend, Don finally came out of the closet and released his first wines. Mannina Cellars is a small family run winery. Don's goal is to specialize in small lots of premium red wines. Recently released is a Merlot and Sangiovese - 2004. Next year, Don is looking towards releasing his 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and eventually a small lot of red table wine will be released.

Don has many goals for his winery. Mannina was named after his maternal grandmother who emigrated to the United States from Italy. Keeping the winery in the family, Don hopes that eventually his twin brother will join him in the family wine business. Another goal, that Don shared with me, is that sometime this summer he is hoping to open a tasting room in the downtown Walla Walla area.

I like Don's approach to winemaking. He believes in a hands off approach and to let the fruit show him the way. After tasting the Mannina wines, I am grateful to the grapes who showed Don the way out of the closet, so everyone will be able to enjoy these fruit forward and elegant wines.

Don and Nicole with their family of future winemakers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sulfites - Can't live with them...

...but, most of all, we cannot live without them.

If you are a winemaker, wine merchant or even a wine geek, sooner or later you will hear one or more of the following sentences from people once they discover that you are in the business:

1. "I only buy wines from France, because they do not contain any sulfites."
2. "I cannot drink red wines because all the sulfites give me headaches."
3. "I buy only organic wines (or grapes), because they are sulfite-free."

After a while, these well-meaning but misinformed comments begin to sound like the "wha-wha-wha" noise that the adults speak in "Peanuts" television cartoons.

About two times a year I feel the need to climb my sulfite soapbox to rant and address the issue after an avalanche of these statements flooding my ears (Once I finish, I usually need a long ladder to climb down, as the box tends to get higher and I have short legs.)

To the person who says "I only buy wines from France, because they do not contain sulfites (SO2)" -- How unfortunate for you, since French wines do in fact have sulfites! The only difference between French and the domestic wines is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires a warning label on U.S.-made wines specifying that they contain SO2. The people in Europe think we are ridiculous with our label regulations and limitations. Moreover, we tend to think that where there is a warning label, it must mean something is terribly dangerous. "Danger Will Robinson!" We wave our arms left and right and up and down, parodying the robot from the 1960's TV show "Lost in Space." “Warning! Warning! Alien sulfites approaching!”

This danger threatens a very small handful of individuals who are sulfite-sensitive asthmatics. Chances are great that if you are sulfite-sensitive, you already know that sulfites have the potential to trigger fatal respiratory problems. You already know it isn't just wine that you must avoid but food items such as concentrated fruit juice, dried fruits, ketchup and other condiments, trail mixes, jams and jellies, sausages, bacon, potato chips, instant or dehydrated potatoes, dried mushrooms, textured vegetable proteins, and the caramel coloring found in packaged food mixes such as gravy, noodle and rice mixes. Even natural and pure foods like onions (mostly water but with very high levels of sulfur), egg yolks, garlic...shall I keep going?

Since 1987 FDA says that food items containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfites must have a warning label. Interesting that the regulators set a maximum limit of 350 ppm for sulfites in alcoholic beverages, yet they allow processed foods up to 6,000 ppm. So for breakfast, if you can pork out on a satisfying plate of eggs, hashbrown O'Briens covered with ketchup, bacon, sausage, and toast smeared with jam and wash it down with a glass of orange juice, then you can have a glass of wine for dinner.

To the person who says "I can't drink red wines because all the sulfites give me headaches": I hate to burst the sweet pink bubble of all the white-zinfandel drinkers out there, but off-dry white wines have the most sulfites added of all wines. If you don't believe it, then talk to any winemaker who spends time in the lab of his/her winery doing SO2 readings. Red wine has the least amount of sulfites because the tannins from the grape skins and seeds acts as a preservative; little or no SO2 needed. It is the red grape skins that give the red wines their beautiful rich color. White wines are not fermented in the skin like red wines are, so they need some preserving assistance, and that is where the sulfites come in. The total SO2 found in wine was analyzed by the official BATF laboratory, and their average findings were 40 ppm for red wines, 60 ppm for white and 80 ppm for sparkling.

Many people complain they get headaches after drinking red wines. I have been one of them , in fact, and it hasn't been from over-indulgence, either. “The red wine headache (RWH) is a real if poorly understood phenomenon,” notes an article published in the Harvard Health Letter. Harvard did some studies and there are two thoughts to this RWH syndrome. One is that the headaches are triggered by the natural tannins in wine; the other is that the headaches are brought on by histamines in wine.

Tannins are the flavonoids in wine that make one’s mouth pucker. Researchers conducted several well-controlled experiments showing that tannins cause the release of serotonin, and high levels of serotonin can cause headaches. However, it is rare to hear complaints about tea, soy, coffee or chocolate headaches, which all contain tannins. If you have ever squeezed a tea bag of orange and black pekoe tea releasing the most bitter and concentrated part of the tea, then you have seen tannins. The inside white bitter pith of a bananna peel? Tannins.

Histamines are 20 - 200% higher in red wine than in white. The natural histamines from the grapes can stimulate an allergy-type response throughout the body, but usually it is the most noticeable in the nose and sinus areas. I used to get a stuffy nose when I first started drinking red wine. I would take a anti-histamine that didn't make me drowsy, such as Sudafed, and it solved my stuffiness and headaches. However, like with some non-life threatening allergies, sooner or later you can become immune. At this point I can drink red wine with no effects to my sinuses, so perhaps I have achieved histamine immunity.

To the person who says, often with pious self-assurance, "I buy only organic wines (or grapes), because they are sulfite-free: " Ummm...are you sure about that? Remember, FDA says wines with more than 10 ppm of SO2 must state on their label, "Contains Sulfites." While a wine may be made with organic grapes, it doesn't mean that the wine is going to have zero sulfites. The fact is, SO2 is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation, primarily coming from the grape skins. Yeast also naturally produces sulfites during fermentation. And did you know the human body produces about 1 gram of sulfites of its own per day? The soil where we grow our fruits and vegetables contains sulfites. The tree that you hug has sulfites in the bark. Don't get me wrong, I have been known to hug a few trees in my lifetime, and whenever possible I try to purchase foods that are organically grown. My meat consumption has gone down considerably in my diet. I shop for hormone-growth free and organic meats. I also recycle, and, yes, rescue stray cats and dogs.

It is my opinion that while many winemakers are committed to organic farming, they are not ready to abandon sulfites in the cellar. Sulfur itself is a yellow powder. It is a soil and plant nutrient which happens to retard mold growth -- and mold is an arch-enemy of the wine-maker. Sulfur has been used in Europe for many years, and some of the first vineyards in the U.S., dating back 100 and more years ago, used sulfur as a powder spray on grapevines to avoid mildew damage. While sulfur is used less these days, many vineyards might be sprayed with sulfur early in the growing season. Little sulfur will be found on the harvested grapes, and practically none remains after fermentation. When you consider other fungicides and pesticides, sulfur is one of the safer alternatives. So what does the organic proponents really have against this product? It's natural!

It is important to know that wines must have less than 1 mg/liter to have a label that says "No Sulfites." According to FDA, an organic wine is now defined as "a wine made from organically grown grapes and without any added sulfites." However, with this restriction, wines that have been called "organic wines" must now be referred to as "wines made from organic grapes" (or organically grown grapes), as they are allowed to contain up to 100 ppm of added sulfites from the winery.

To sum it all up, I think the FDA position on sulfites is extreme. I also think this label regulation has caused confusion, hysteria and misinformation among wine consumers and potential wine consumers. But here's the kicker and some food for thought: Sulfites are not the most dangerous substance in a bottle of wine. Has anybody ever considered alcohol? It is a known fact that alcohol has done more damage to the body directly and indirectly than what sulfites will ever do.

Yoo hoo! Bring me my soapbox ladder, please.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pick a Plate of Perfect Posies

Summer is the perfect time for entertaining, but do not limit yourself to the outdoor bar-be-que. However, if you do grill outdoors it doesn't mean that you should serve everything on paper plates. Entertain well whether you are in or outdoors. Bring out the china, linens and candles.

Entertaining well does not mean you have to spend a lot of money, either. Look around your garden. Decorate and dine with rose petals, fresh herbs, and organic edible flowers. "Posies" can elevate any dish with color and unique flavors. To enhance cocktails, freeze rose petals or violets in ice cubes and float them in your favorite drink or sparkling wine punch.

For appetizers, roll a soft cheese ball in marigold or bachelor button petals or even fresh herbs. Do the same with the butter to serve with corn on the cob or warm fresh bread. Use nasturtiums, pansies and violets to dress up salads or entrees. They not only add bright color, but especially nasturtiums will add a peppery bite. Too many zucchini? Their tender young squash blossoms can be deep fried in a light tempura batter. Squash blossoms are also tasty in an omelette or frittata. Sprinkle chive or oregano blossoms over salads for an herbal accent. Float edible flowers in chilled summer soups, too. Before you think about spraying those pesky dandelions, toss them with other salad greens instead. It is a tasty revenge!

And for dessert? Garnish a cake with carnation, rose petals or candied violets (glossed with egg whites and sprinkled with sugar). Lavender is very versatile and can be sprinkled into cakes and ice cream for flavor. My favorite and easy summer dessert is pouring an off-dry white wine, such as Reisling or Gewurztraminer, over fresh sliced berries and/or peaches. Top with whip cream and sprinkle with lavender or rose petals. Place the "tipsy" berries in a wine glass and it makes for an attractive presentation.

Now for the most important part. After the guests have left and every glass and dish is washed, draw a hot bath and pour yourself a glass of wine. Sprinkle all of the leftover flowers in the warm bath water and turn on some light music. The wonderful fragrance from the flowers and herbs will relax and lull you to sleep. Sweet dreams!

(Important: Beware - not all flowers are edible. Do your homework! Also, clean and dry flowers well. Do not use flowers that have been recently sprayed with pesticides!).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"33 1/3"

That's right. The name of the wine is "33 1/3." And the vintage just happens to be 2003.

This delightful and thoughtfully made wine comes from the estate winery of Morrison Lane in the Walla Walla Valley. The Cotes du Rhone-style red is a blend of 33.3% Counoise, 33.3% Syrah and 33.3% Viognier. I enjoyed it the other night sitting under a big blue sky surrounded by rolling green hills at the country home of Jill and Craig Noble (yes, winemakers like to drink other winemaker's wine).

The nose had a hint of floral and the taste was -- well, it was one of those tastes that -- to be honest? I could have drank the whole bottle! However, the 14.7% alcohol by volume stopped me at 1.5 glasses, while I would have preferred to have 3.3 glasses. The taste was full and lush and well -- I could have poured it over waffles! It was like a mouthful of blueberries! (Note: I am a fan of any Syrah from any winery made with Morrison Lane fruit.)

"33 1/3" is available for purchase and guess for how much? $33.33, of course!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June Cherry Pick

My June "Cherry Pick" of the month is the 2002 Allégresse from Colvin Vineyards. Allegresse is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Carmenère (3%). It has done very well showing. In fact, for this red blend, Mark Colvin, winemaker and owner, placed gold at 2006 L.A. County Fair Wines of the World and two silvers at the Seattle Wine Society and the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition.

Colvin Vineyards is a small family-owned winery. They have been producing red varietals and unique blends since 1999. Colvin Vineyards is also one of the few producers of Carmenere in the Valley. In fact, their Carmenere has done very well showing in competitions, as well.

So how does the Allegresse taste? The nose is very lively with bramble berrries and roses. Reaching back into my memory, the fragrance reminded me of my grandmother's old-fashion garden early in the morning. The berries continue on the palate. Tastes of juicy blackberries, blueberries and rich mocha flavors. This is a very rich wine that you can enjoy now, but even better to lay it down for awhile. And that advise is exactly what I plan on doing with my bottle. One for tasting and now one to lay down. In the mean time, I will probably check in on my bottle to see how it is doing. You know, dust it, talk to it. Ask it how it is feeling and if it is having a nice day. Enjoy!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Lil Ol Wine Drinker Me.

This is dedicated to my Dad on Father's Day. The picture is from my old postcard collection. I thought it appropriate since Dean Martin was one of my father's favorite singers. Growing up, the family never missed an episode of the Dean Martin Show.

Here's to my Dad for teaching me the importance of fermentation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wine Blog Wednesday #22

Today is Wine Blog Wednesday and the theme for the popular 22nd virtual wine tasting event, will be light alcohol red wines. This month, WBW is hosted by Tim from Winecast. It has been pointed out that modern methods of winemaking have created high alcohol wines. While it is easy to point the finger at the winemaker, others point the finger at the wine critics. It is the critics whose palates want those concentrated ripe fruit flavors. To accomplish this the fruit needs to stay on the vine longer. As you know, when sugar levels are high in the grapes these sugars are converted into alcohol, and voila - high alcohol wines! However, so the high alcohol level cannot be so obvious, it is important that the wines are balanced with tannins and the right acidity.

So my task is that I am to find and taste a red wine that does not exceed 12.5% in alcohol. In the Walla Walla Valley most of our red wines are at an average of 14%. Since I feature mostly Walla Walla Valley wines, my quest was to find such a wine.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!!! In Walla Walla?

Actually, I did find a library wine from Lecole No. #41 that is still available for purchase. It is a 1996 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The history of 1996 was a season that the Washington State wine industry had not experienced before. For the first time in 30 years, an Artic freeze hit the area in February, so there was no pruning done. The year also brought lower than average heat units, as well as earlier than normal harvest with limited crop loads. This particular wine was produced with several premium vineyards in Washington state. The average brix was 23.5 which created 12.8% alcohol by volume. I have tasted this wine, but it has been about 5 years ago. It is not quite at 12.5%, but it may be the closest thing we can find in this valley.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

~June Cooking With Washington Wines~

It was my birthday last week and my "Chefy-Cheferton" sister invited friends and me over for dinner. She prepared one of her many grilled specialties (and one my favorites) - Beef Bulgogi. "Bul" is the Korean word for "fire", and "gogi" is "meat" = Fire Meat. Beef Bulgogi is one of Korea's most popular beef dishes. It is made from thinly sliced sirloin or another prime cut of beef. The meat is marinated, grilled and slices of this tasty beef is often served with a side of lettuce wrapped like a spring roll or taco. This particular evening, Caren chose a London broil and marinated and grilled the whole cut. Traditionally, you marinate the steak already sliced in thin strips. Skirt steak works well for this. Usually she uses carrots as per the recipe, but because local asparagus is in season, she grilled asparagus as the vegetable for the evening.

Beef Bulgogi

1 pound thinly sliced steak
5 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cloves finely chopped garlic (or crushed)
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp Mirin (sweet sake, optional)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup split green onions
2 cups thinly sliced carrots (optional)

Cooking Directions: Mix all ingredients except carrots. Marinate in refrigerator for at least two hours. Cook over medium high heat until beef is cooked to your liking. Add carrots and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Serve with rice.

We paired the bulgogi with a valley wine, of course. In fact, the particular wine we chose was a newly released Merlot 2004 from Mannina Cellars. Mannina is a new winery in town and hopefully will have its tasting room opened this summer (I have lots more to tell about this new winery and its winemaker, so expect a later post ASAP). Right now I want to talk about how well this wine paired with our meal.

The Merlot from Mannina Cellars is blended with 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. I thought the touch of Cabernet Sauvignon really added style to the wine. A dinner guest immediately noticed the rich red color coming from his wine glass. The two "Merlot-Scoffers" in the bunch commented on the well-roundedness of the wine and seemed pleasantly surprised. It had a wonderful cherry pie nose that continued in the taste. One of the comments was their memory of a freshly baked cobbler of dark summer fruits like plums and cherries. They appreciated that this particular Merlot did not have a spicy finish, so it paired very well and didn't contradict the spiciness of the beef. The tannins were light and the fruit of the wine really showed through (also note the lovely watercolor on the label by local artist, Squire Broel).

The consensus of this group? They thought it was an excellent wine and a perfect dining choice.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Isenhower Wild Thyme

I am always telling people to try the Valley's red table blends. You can usually find them for under $20 and for the money you are getting a quality wine. An excellent example is the Isenhower Cellars Wild Thyme 2004 at $17.00.

As you might remember, the winter of 2004 was a tough time for the vineyards in Washington state, but Isenhower Cellars really pulled through with their search of finding vines to make this silky Bordeaux-style wine. A composition of 52% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc makes this wine very complex, yet very food friendly. My palate picked up plum, chocolate covered cherries, and cigar box (cherries and cigar box are qualities in Merlot that I love!), as well as a light undertone of "green" (could this be the Thyme?). It finished with vanilla and creme brulee. Rather buttery to my lips.

Some may say I am a bit unorthodox when it comes to my pairing of wine for desserts. I usually stay clear of the off-dry dessert wines and go straight for a red Bordeaux-style. I love pairing these wines with caramel and/or chocolate desserts. The Isenhower Cellars Wild Thyme was a perfect pairing to a slice of rich meringue-topped chocolate cake I enjoyed after dinner. Do I dare make the corny reference that the combination of this wine and chocolate made for a wild thyme (groaner)?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Backstage Bistro

A few evenings ago, Margo and Tom Scribner invited me to join them for dinner. I felt quite honored as I believe this was their standing Tuesday date night that often happens at the Backstage Bistro.

The Backstage Bistro is a popular Walla Walla restaurant that sits on the corner of Main Street. The name "Bistro" lives up to its meaning with the stylish and intimate atmosphere. Their menu is as diverse as the customers who dine and frequent it for the occasional evenings of jazz. The menu features an assortment of salads, pasta, seafood and steaks, but the real star of this menu is the barbeque (ribs, chicken and brisket). The lunch menu features a fine assortment of sandwiches from a burger to a pannini. And then there is their wine list - which I will eventually get to.

While visiting with the Scribners, and trying to decide what I wanted from the menu, owner Bob Parrish came to our table to greet us. Of course, he is an old friend to Tom and Margo and happened to remember me as the "Wine Blogger" from the recent newspaper article. Whenever I have been in this restaurant I noticed that Bob finds his way to the tables to greet his guests.

After we placed our order, Bob motioned for me to join him. We took a walk through the kitchen and down the stairs - - I knew exactly where we were headed - - the wine cellar. It was a most impressive wine cellar with about 250-300 bottles at any given time. 80% of the wines are from the Walla Walla Valley. Bob has an impressive collection of Champagne and domestic sparklers on the menu and priced very affordable. I noticed that many of the wines in the cellar, as I perused down the extensive wine list, were tagged with affordable restaurant prices. One of the most impressive elements of this cellar was not just the prices or the vast assortment of valley wines, but the collections of specific wines.

The Quilceda Creek 02 and 03 Cabernet Sauvignon immediately caught my eye knowing that Harvey Steiman of the Wine Spectator recently gave the 2003 Cabernet a 95. This knowledge was fresh in my brain as Steve (my sweetie and journalist) had recently visited with Mr. Steiman on the phone and this world-class wine was one of the topics.

The cellar also held a fine collection of the Long Shadows Wines. It appeared to me that Bob held all of their current released wines, which are now sold-out at the Long Shadows winery. I recommend that if you are curious about these sought-after wines, go to the BackStage Bistro and check them out.

The biggest surprise of all was the complete verticle of Woodward Canyon's Artist series of Cabernet Sauvignon from 1992 to 2003. This is really a fine collection of wines and some of the vintages are no longer available through the winery. The complete verticle is offered for sale. I think this would make a wonderful evening tasting event amongst friends.

To start the evening, we were tempted with crispy little Thai spring rolls that held morsels of chicken, veggies, and cashews with a spicy dipping sauce. My dinner was a steak salad - 8 oz Angus flatiron steak slices over a mixture of fresh greens with a sweet spicy Asian style dressing and topped with sesame seeds. It was delicious and I have been smacking my lips ever since. It was a satisfying light meal that was full of flavors! As we were walking to the cellar, Bob said with a frown, he noticed I had ordered my steak well-done. I said, okay-okay leave some pink. The steak arrived pink and tasted perfect. To accompany my steak salad, I chose the Bee Keepers Blend. It is a red wine from Abeja Winery. The dark bright fruit with the light tannins and buttery finish really rounded out the spiciness of the salad dressing.

As I looked around at the plates of food coming from the kitchen, the first thing I noticed that everything looked so fresh. The Scribners dined on salmon and it looked perfectly prepared with the side of fresh asparagus (As I walked through the kitchen, on my way down to the cellar, I noticed the flat of fresh local asparagus ). Delicious breads are served fresh from the local and popular John's Wheatland Bakery. In fact, John happened to be dining at the restaurant and later joined us. A couple of generous slices of fresh ciabatta bread came with my meal. Okay, so if you ever want to know what is the baker's favorite bread, John mentioned the ciabatta was one of his favorites. How's that for a hint of what bread to buy when visiting his bakery? I really only needed one piece, so I shared the other slice of ciabatta bread with the baker of this fine chewy and crusty-topped creation.

In the evenings, on my way home from work, I drive by this popular bistro. It always looks busy! As a child I remember when this great old structure was Thrifty Drugstore. We would visit it on our way to the summer matinees. Later the building would hold several businesses - an office supply store, a gift boutique and later a gallery/frame shop. I like that the building now holds the Backstage Bistro and I hope Bob will be there for many years to come as this bistro is a great dining asset to the valley.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Long Shadows Adds New Winemaker

Ambrogio Folonari and son Giovanni, legacy to one of the leading Italian wineries, will be joining the collection of esteemed winemakers of Long Shadows Wine Consortium in Walla Walla.

The Folonari Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Italy (1825) and has contributed to write the history of Italian wines. Their first wine from Washington State will be a Sangiovese-based wine - 2005 vintage. It will be released next year.

Friday, June 02, 2006

May Flowers Bring June Showers...

Or is it April showers bring May flowers? Today it is April showers in the month of June. It is wet out there! What is going on with the weather? The valley has had so much rain and then one crazy week of high 90 degree weather. This isn't normal for our valley.

In typical Walla Walla fashion, these rainy days bring out the same two-sentence conversations. You will not only hear it, but catch yourself speaking them to store clerks and bank tellers. It will become part of your vocabulary when running unexpectedly into friends and acquaintances. It is the same two lines we have been using now in the valley for over a 100 years:

"Can you believe all this rain?"
"No, but it should make the wheat farmers happy."

Yes. So, the wheat farmers are happy but what about the wine grapes? We don't need no stinkin' juicy plump grapes! What about the strawberries? This is the time of the year for our valley berries to be harvested. I think about Kirk Klicker and his famous Klicker Strawberries. School ends next week and there are many kids who are depending on picking berries for their summer earnings. What about the Walla Walla Sweet Onions? Will they turn into water-logged spherical objects? We need those crispy sweet globes of goodness for our grilled burgers and famous onion sandwiches!

It's the depletion of the ozone layer! I am willing to take a little bit of the responsibility. However, for the good of the earth I quit using the aerosol can hair-spray and gave up my Marlo Thomas-That-Girl-Flip on April 22, 1970. That particular day was the first recognized Earth Day and I wanted to do my part to save the environment. So I traded in my crunchy-helmet-do for a more natural look like Yoko and Gracie Slick.

Rain or sunshine, Summer will leave just as quick as it came. For the month of June I am going to be busy. First of all, we have a couple of birthdays - me and my son's. A couple of weekends will be absorbed with working at the winery and a few proctor gigs at the college. One of these June weekends, we want to go camping up at our family's private camp-site on the Touchet River by Ski Bluewood. We take camping to a different level. We pack good wines, good food and I sleep well in my mauve and taupe colored designer tent that sleeps four - - well, until I get my queen-size blow-up mattress in there. I believe in roughing it.

Somehow I will find the time to do some "wine blogging." There is a lot going on and I have many wine stained notes sitting at my desk. I have a couple of restaurants to report on, several new wines to blog, a new winery/tasting room to write about, besides a recipe, and a "cherry pick" wine suggestion. The national "Wine Blog Wednesday #22" is coming up and this month's proposal is to blog about a red wine that is 12.5% in alcohol. In Walla Walla? Hahahahahaha - don't make me laugh! Seriously, if you know of a local red wine that is low in alcohol, send me an email - quick! I will even blog about one from the Prosser/Yakima/Tri-City areas.

Jill at Couvillion Cellars called me this afternoon. She ran out of her Merlot! She has sold half of the Hoobie Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon is moving steady. This was Jill's first Spring Release, her first year in business and she is happy! I am not surprised about the Merlot moving out the door - - a very rich and silky Merlot priced at $15.00! This is great news! Last weekend I worked at the winery and we were busy with out-of-towners in spite of the over cast and rain drizzles.

So maybe it isn't just the wheat farmers that are happy about the rain. The rain does not seem to be hurting the area's wineries, as every weekend they are packed with visitors. One hardly notices the rain and clouds if they are out spending the afternoon tasting good wines. Cheers!
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