Friday, July 28, 2006

The Accidental Tourist Guide

Darryl from Oregon sends me an email and writes:

"...I know that you are busy and that you are not a tour guide...planning a wine tasting trip to Walla Walla...which places would you visit?...where would you stay?"

Darryl, thank you for your email and by the way -- in many ways I feel this blog is my outlet to be that armchair tourist guide for a town that I love so much. In fact, that is the reason why I list an email address so my readers can write me about wine and Walla Walla. I look forward to receiving emails like yours. Alas, for every good email there are 20 bad emails like this:

"$#%!bbxz#*(&..you win big lottery...bored housewife turned bad XXX spanky-spanky...Dear Madame. I am very important person on the Isle of Manifestomisto and my father died. You can trust me. URGENT! He left me $800 million and will split with you if you send $... #*&k)^scrumbles peach to recurring by giraffe"

I love-love-love answering questions from my readers and visiting with our tourists. Hopefully I give honest, yet enthusiastic (and never jaded or too biased) answers. Reasonably, I have my favorite places to eat and wines to drink, but I feel that at this time there is something special about every winery in Walla Walla and I would like tell a visitor to visit them all when possible. Sure, I may not like someone's Chardonnay, but I may also think they have an amazing Cabernet. I try to be precise in my dislikes. As an example, there are a few wine varietals that aren't my favorite, but I can tell you where to find the best and not to miss out. And just because you have not read about a certain wine or winery on this blog, it does not mean I do not care for them or their wines. It means that I have not gotten to it yet. Sometimes a winery has to contact me and jog my memory. Remember - there are so many wines and so little time.

So to those who own a new winery, restaurant, or accomodations please write me and introduce yourself. If you aren't new, remind me that you are here. And to my readers - write me. I would love hearing from you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is The Pastime Being Passed Over?

It appears Walla Walla's once spaghetti and meatball landmark is being passed over. Charles Smith, the new owner and owner of K-Vintners Winery, has a "For Sale" sign in the window. A recent article in the county paper, The Waitsburg Times, writes that Charles also purchased the Bull's Eye Tavern in Waitsburg. Waitsburg, WA is another soon-to-be hip-hop-happening tourist destination. Has Charles become bored with the Pastime already? Come on Charles! We know the great things you can do with the grape and were hopeful you would continue to do great things with the Pastime.

While perusing other blogs yesterday I came upon a new entry on blog Apartment 2024 regarding the Pastime. Marisa, author of this blog and former Whitman College student, shares many of her fond memories of this once Walla Walla icon. To my surprise, Marisa kindly linked my memories of the Pastime in Arrivederci Pastime. Marisa gives wonderful descriptions of the diner that woke up more of my own memories. Yes, I remember the "elderly waitress with nicotine stains on her hands" and I remember the hot pink lipstick that was painted beyond her lip line, the co-mingled smell of old Faberge Tigress and smoke. I remember the hankie pinned to her waitress uniform. Her demeanor was sassy and yet she made you feel at home when she greeted you with, "How ya doin' hon?"

Marisa gave me permission to share this photo and she writes:

My mom called me to break the news, in a manner that one would normally reserve for the death of a family pet. We talked about how everything has a lifespan, and how grateful we both are that we knew Walla Walla in the days when it was still funky and laden with remnants of prior times. I’ve spent the day mourning the fact that the Pastime doesn’t exist anymore and hoping that the Spaghetti and Meatballs clock has found a good home.

Monday, July 24, 2006

July Cherry Pick

My pick of the month was difficult, but lately I have been reading a lot of good press about the wines at Cougar Crest Winery. The Wine Spectator has been giving the Cougar Crest estate selections excellent ratings, besides these wines have been winning medals from various competitions.

Last week at the store I discovered Cougar Crest Walla Walla Valley Estate Grown Anniversary Cuvee - 2003. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot tastes of dark fruit, mocha and spice. Lots of toasty oak coming through. One could lay this cuvee down for about 4-6 years.

Harvey at the Wine Spectator liked this wine and gave it 90 points. At the 2006 L.A. County Fair Wines of the World Competition it received a silver medal and a gold medal at the Central Washington State Fair Washington State Wine Competition in June. My pick is a well crafted wine by winemaker, Deborah Hansen and surprisingly affordable at $29.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

~July Cooking With Washington Wines~

Last week was the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival in the valley. My chefy-chefferton-sister Caren participated in the onion festival as a "sous chef" assisting one of the local chefs doing a cooking demo. I thought it appropriate that I offer one of Caren's recipes made with that delectable sweet globe.

While this monthly feature is titled "Cooking With Washington Wines", this particular recipe does not have wine in it. To keep this feature appropriate, the cook must have a glass or two of Washington wine while cooking so it can be truly said that you are cooking with Washington wines.

This easy, but delicious recipe of Caren's can be used so many ways. She suggests to use it as a condiment with prime rib of beef or salmon. You can also use it as a condiment with burgers or even an appetizer plate of cheese and crackers. Enjoy!

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Jam
2 lbs Walla Walla Sweet Onions or any sweet onion - sliced ¼" thick and chopped
6 Tbsp mild olive oil
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat oil and saute onions for 8-10 minutes. Add sugar, salt and balsamic vinegar. Cook until this mixture turns a deep golden brown - caramelized. Serve hot or room temp as a condiment. Makes a scant 2 cups.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wine Makes You Go ZZZZZ...

Okay, so maybe that second helping of mom's spaghetti and third slice of garlic bread isn't to blame for making you sleepy afterall.

Decanter Magazine reported that red wine can make you sleepy. Italian scientists have discovered high levels of melatonin in the Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Sangiovesse and Croatina grape varietals. Melatonin is a sleep hormone. The University of Milan found that the melatonin content in wine grapes could help regulate human sleep-wake patterns (known as the circadian rhythm) and the melatonin found in grapes is the same as produced by the pineal gland in mammals.

Melatonin is also believed to have antioxidant properties, too. However, don't be blaming your nap at the dinner table on just the wine. You may want to reconsider that extra portion of spaghetti, too. Now you can swap out that bottle of Tylenol PM on your bedside table for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Hey, it works for me!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Waterbrook Winery Sauvignon Blanc

This summer I have been drinking more whites and roses than ever before. I am really enjoying the refreshing and light flavors that these wines have to offer.

The other evening I opened up a bottle of chilled Waterbrook Winery Sauvignon Blanc - 2003. All I kept thinking was, "Is it just me or am I tasting a lot of lemon and lime in this wine?" My tastebuds were really on that evening and the citrus was lively on my palate. I really enjoyed the crispness that the acidity of the fruit brought to the wine. As most Sauvignon Blancs, there was just the right amount of freshly mown grass and I even detected a bit of honeydew melon and sweet herbal woodruff in the finish.

Well, let me just say that this wine from Waterbrook Winery is everything I want from a Sauvignon Blanc. There's even a bit (5%) of my favorite white grape, Viognier, blended in. The wine is priced right (under $15) and makes for a perfect summer sipping wine by itself and will also pair well with fish, buttery seafood entrees, as well as sweet and spicy Thai foods like chicken satay skewers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Global Warming - Will the Yukon become the next Alsace?

This morning, Northwest Public Radio reported that a new study claims that global warming could hurt California’s wine industry. So, what will global warming mean for the state of Washington and its vineyards? The National Academy of Sciences predicts that as temperatures rise it could mean doom to the vineyards in California while Washington and Oregon will flourish.

They asked the right person to confirm this study, too. My "grape guru" and mentor, Stan Clarke confirmed this information. Stan says that the vineyards in Washington State will fair better than those of California. Stan also predicts that grapes from Washington State's Puget Sound Appellation, which is west of the Cascades, will increase. At this time Puget Sound can only grow a small number of grapes because of their cooler climate. However, the effects of global warming could make this particular appellation more like that of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Global warming could also make better growing conditions for the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Appellations where historically we have damaging frost conditions about every seven years.

You can listen to this interview at:
http://nwpr.org/HomepageArticles/Article.aspx?n=2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Big Brother Is Watching Me

It is very rare when I divert from Walla Walla and its wines, let alone from the state of Washington, but forgive me as today I must. You see, Big Brother is watching me. No, seriously, he is. Big brother is watching me. Well, he isn't exactly big -- how about if I say, "My older brother is watching me." He may be the older sibling, but I bet his three younger sisters could take him down if we could unite on the effort. Which we could.

Anyway, Big Bro sent me this comment about my blog:

"I truly cannot believe that you have not mentioned at least the scenic historical label of that fine exquisite bottle of West By God Stand Up and Salute Virginia Raspberry Wine. 8-)"

Allow me to explain. He sent me a bottle of wine for my birthday in June. It's a bottle of "Black Gold West Virginia" wine made from black raspberries. Our father was born and raised in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and about once a year brother Terry makes a trip there in homage, and during his last trip he picked up this bottle of Black Gold. Now, I believe those ridges and hills in West Virginia hold old family secrets. We do know that a great uncle had a few problems with the feds for making his own "mountain dew." I am proud to say that I come from a long line of "fermentation genes." Dad made beer and wine, and at the age of 19 I experimented with making my own version of "brandied" fruit, various flavored liquors out of vodka, and, later, with making wine. My first wine was called "Freaked Out Hippie" wine, with a peace symbol on the label. (There will be more to say about that another freaky time.)

The West Virginia black raspberry wine is contained in really a good-looking bottle, with a beautiful label showing Harper's Ferry. That city is very rich in history, of course, especially from the Civil Way period; it's located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. President George Washington selected Harpers Ferry as one of the sites of the new national armories. The town also witnessed the arrival of the first successful American railroad, then there was John Brown's attack on slavery. The largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War occurred in Harper's Ferry, and following the way the education of former slaves was instituted in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States. Besides all this history, Harper's Ferry is very scenic. In fact, I have an artist's drawing of the area framed and hanging in my dining room.

But how was the Black Gold? I have yet to try it, to be honest. I did notice that it is 12.5% in alcohol, so that is a reasonable amount of alcohol for a country red wine. I haven't decided if I am going to hang on to the wine for a keepsake or open it during a special family event. It will be one of the two choices. In the meantime, this bottle of wine has a special place of honor on my wine rack.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Happy First Anniversary To Me or I cannot believe she made it this long!

On June 14, 2005, I posted my first wine-y thoughts on this wine blog. I was really proud of reading my published words on the World Wide Web. However, I kept reading it over and over and realized I needed to market myself if I was going to get others to read my words about wine.

Marketing is a well-tuned craft, and it isn't about luck. The American Marketing Association will tell you that marketing is "the process of moving people closer to making a decision to purchase or repurchase a company's products. Simply, if it does not facilitate a 'sale,' then it is not marketing."

So how does marketing apply to a wine blogger and to you, the reader? One must move people closer together to purchase a product - namely, I had to move people to read my blog. So how did I do that? I had to let potential readers know I was here, and I had to be pro-active about it. That meant visiting other wine blog sites and introducing myself. I looked at the best wine blogs to see how they were promoting themselves and I followed their lead. I did a lot of networking -- a lot of networking, which I am still doing it every week. I have to do my homework and I have to read other sites about what is going on in the wine blogging world.

But the work paid off. I now feel a certain amount of success on where I have been over the last year. I made some "sales" - my readers. But now that I have gained your readership I will not rest on any laurels. I have to work even harder at marketing. I have to continue moving people closer to "purchase" my product, while keeping the same people, my readers, "repurchasing my product." Every click of that site meter to my blogging site means a "sale."

Marketing is about perseverance and timing as well as work. The persevering part is relatively easy for me: I have lived in Walla Walla most of my life and I love the valley's rich history and its wines. Blogging is like a diary, so daily thoughts and local wine-industry events feed my blog. Finding topics to blog about is easy: I keep a list of drafts ready to pull during those days of "blogging block." Every final entry I make is all about timing. The timing can be difficult, especially if you want to have a life away from the computer. I have my down times where I do not go near the computer for a day or two.

During the past year, I had my critics. Oh well, you have to take the bad along with the good. What I found is that the good outweighs the bad. Some people said it wouldn't last. Some people rolled their eyes. And some people were even dismissive that I had any knowledge of wine and marketing at all! One of the first things I learned about putting yourself out in the public is that you have to have a sense of humor.

So to those of you who check in to read what I have to say or who are new and just now reading my blog, I give you a big smooch and a thank you. In fact, I wish I could pour you a glass of wine every time you visit. We would drink some wine, eat a little cheese, shmooze a little...

And to my critics I don't really have anything to say. Instead, I believe that a picture is worth a 1,000 words.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Yellowhawk Cellar Rosato

Ooohhh - I like this wine!

This 2005 Rosato from Yellowhawk Cellar is the perfect summer wine for red wine drinkers who want a chilled wine during these hot days of summer. "Only white wine" drinkers will enjoy this wine, too (pour it in a dark blue or black glass and they will never know they are drinking a red).

Made with 100% Lemberger, this rosato from Yellowhawk Cellar is dry and crisp in flavor. The color is just gorgeous! A brilliant red strawberry color. The taste has lots of juicy berries showing through, especially strawberry. The rosato has been barrel fermented just enough to smooth and round it out. Lemberger is such a unique grape as it is, so this wine is really special.

I discovered, not only is this rosato a great sipping wine alone or with a cheese plate (I am content with a wedge of Laughing Cow and water crackers), it is a great food wine. So far I have enjoyed the rosato from Yellowhawk Cellar with a taco salad, roasted red pepper hummus spread on Greek flatbread, my favorite potato salad recipe and chicken salad sandwiches. I think this is a great wine for picnics and I would carry it through to Thanksgiving as it will make for a perfect pairing with turkey.

It is also at a perfect price - $10 a bottle. Here's to some great picnics!