Monday, January 28, 2008

The Jack - Saviah Cellars

Finally, I tasted the first vintage of The Jack 2006 from Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla (forgive the side-track, but when I say "The Jack 2006," it reminds me of the side-kick "Jack" performer-wanna-be character from the TV sitcom, "Will and Grace." He referred to himself as, "Jack 2000." Anywhooo...) And yet I have known about this wine for awhile and been eyeing the great label - - another great label by Walla Walla local, Becky Wilson of Chameleon Design. And again - - so how did it taste?

As soon as I poured the wine in my glass I noticed the very inky purple color. In the aroma I picked up a bit of cranberries. It fact, the tart cranberry aroma came out as soon as I popped the cork and it kind of surprised me. The tastes of cherry and definitely loads of blackberry was there with a nice finish of spice. In fact, the spice lingered for awhile on my tongue. The Jack was not over oaked as it has been aged in only 30% new oak, which was a pleasant change for once with so many of the heavy oaked wines out there. I also picked up a bit of "green" undertones, which makes sense to me now since I found out there was a bit of Carmenere (4%) in this blend of 88% Merlot, 6% Cabernet and a touch of Syrah. The Jack has got some tannins going on which would make it age-worthy, but then again - - why? It is priced under $20. Buy it for the taste and especially take advantage of the value.

And if you have been a regular reader, then you know I am a foodie. I view wines as food and how they blend with the other food groups out there. I think that The Jack would make for a great food pairing with casual foods. And since I found The Jack to be a rather hearty and substantial blend, I think a beefy grilled burger with bacon would be perfect or paired with some rich beef stews, while not forgetting to add some of The Jack to the stew meat to simmer. I paired it with some dark chocolate mendiants that held a skoosh of Cayenne and they were oh - - so - - delicious together! Cheers!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Little Frozen Drops - - Ice Wines

Brrr ... it’s cold out there. Yesterday the temp reading in my car said 11' F and for some crazy reason it got me to thinking about ice wines.

Traditionally, Walla Walla Valley vineyards are not known to be famous for producing ice wines. And why is that, you ask? Believe it or not, we cannot rely on traditional freezing temperatures. Ice wines, or German Eisweins, are almost a natural phenomenon and a gamble. A gamble for the vineyard owner to give the grapes a long winter hang time, instead of harvesting in September - October, as a long winter hang time gives opportunity for a sweet dining experience for the birds and a longer hang time could also make the fruit susceptible to botrytis - noble rot. Noble rot works for Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese (betcha’ can’t say that three times), but not so good for clean pure ice wines.

In our valley we cannot predict how cold it is going to get. We have no traditions of cool climate like say - - up north in the Okanagan Valley or Niagra. Oh sure, a vineyard owner could get creative and throw those grapes in cold storage, but you really wouldn’t have ice wine. You would have "icebox" wine. And there are government regulations to consider. In Canada, the temperature must be a minimum of 17' F and in Germany, 19' F. And the law says that if those grapes weren’t frozen on the vine, the wine cannot be labeled, "Ice Wine." Yes, you can label it "Ice Box," "Frosty’s Bite," or "I was too busy goofing off and didn't pick my grapes in time," but you cannot label your icy faux nectar, Ice Wine.

And there are good reasons why some ice wines can be a little expensive for a little amount in those little split bottles just to have a little sip. Would you want to leave your warm bed at 3:00 am to go out into 11' F temps and hand pick Riesling grapes? Brrr...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Introducing Walldeaux Smithie

It not only tastes delicious and priced under $20, but also it just happens to have one of the most clever wine labels and name for a red wine blend in Walla Walla County.

Walldeaux Smithie is the clever combination of Walla Walla + Bordeaux = Walldeaux. Adding "Smithie", a nick-name for the old blacksmiths of many moons ago, and you have a perfect name for a winery located in a old blacksmith building located in downtown Walla Walla.

The name for this new red table blend is a perfect fit for Forgeron Cellars, as Forgeron is French for blacksmith and Forgeron’s winemaker, Marie-Eve Gilla is from France. The handsome "Smithy", donning his French beret, was designed by the very talented, Becky Wilson of Chameleon Design in Walla Walla. The back of the label, with its western feel, gives the story of Smithie’s unique heritage of Old World and New World wines and his ties to "Bozeaux" vignerons (I love the "artful" use of these names that are a forbidden standard on wine labels, unless they are from the Bordeaux region).

So how does the wine taste? It’s bold - - very bold with Cabernet Sauvignon qualities, in spite that the wine only has 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3.5% Cabernet Franc in it. 55% Merlot, 10.5% Syrah, and 7% Zinfandel round out this red blend with smoothness, fruitiness and spice. The smooth tannins are there giving me an impression that this wine can lay down for a few years. But why? At such a great value, you can enjoy it almost every day as your "go-to-wine." You know - - that daily glass-a-day heart medicine that the doctor told you about?

Lots of dark fruit comes through with a finish of cocoa powder in this non-vintage wine. I noticed the second day, after opening, it reminded me of a blackberry pie with a toasty buttery crust. This red blend is going to be an ultimate food wine for many menus. Whether you are serving a smoked salmon, roast beef, backyard burgers, or even a plate of chocolate brownies, Waldeaux Smithie will be the perfect pairing. Sante Walldeaux, you handsome and tasty man, you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Intoxicating Numbers

Yesterday I was directed to check out a blog by "Captain Wow". The title of his particular article was, "Bad Wine at High Prices." It made me wonder, which one of you in Walla Walla pissed this guy off? The article went on to rant, "... the success of the Walla Walla, Washington wine industry. Charge customers fifty dollars for a five dollar bottle of vinegar passed off as Merlot from an inexperienced two year-old winery and people will call it (wonderful) ..."

I left a comment (with my name - I don't do "anonymity") to his article stating, "You sound bitter. Bitter as the wine that you're claiming tastes of vinegar." Surprisingly enough, as of this morning, Captain Wow’s blog is no longer. Perhaps he didn’t "wow" enough readers.

And this morning, I received an AP article published in the New Hampshire Concord Monitor: "A Higher Price Tag Tickles The Taste Buds Better Study: Wine's Cost Influences Pleasure."

The article states that the results from a wine taste test showing higher prices on a bottle of wine really do "make" wines taste better. California Institute of Technology asked 20 people to sample wine while undergoing MRIs of their brain activity. The 20 people were told they were tasting five different Cabernet Sauvignons sold at different prices. However, they really only sampled three Cabs, as two of the wines were offered twice and marked with different prices of $90 (real price) and again marked $10 and another Cabernet was marked at $5 (real price) and marked again at $45.

Apparently the wine-tasting brains showed more pleasure at the higher prices than the lower prices and - - they were the same wines! Tasting once again, without knowing the prices, the wine tasters liked the $5 wine better! But, CIT also admits that their subjects were not wine professionals and CIT hopes that wine pros would be able to tell the difference.

Hmmm...I thought it was a very interesting article because in my former life, as a tasting room attendant, I discovered the very same thing. It’s those certain terms and numbers that can make a sale. I found that about 85% of the wine tourists are adamant about not tasting white wine. Often they will walk in a winery door, nose in the air, hissing, "We don’t doooo white winesssss." However, once I informed those naysayers of white wines that one of the white wines offered for tasting was made the French-style and by a winemaker from France. Interesting how "zeh Fronch" got their attention.

"Oh. French you say? Well gimme a little taste then", as smugness drooled from their lips. And more times too many a wine tourist would say, "I only want to taste your wines that have a 93 and above given by the Wine Spectator." To that comment I would often think, "What? You don’t trust your own taste buds?"

And of course, this all makes me wonder - if Washington State wines like Leonetti, Quilceda Creek and Cayuse put a $5.00 tag on their wines, would self-described "wine aficionados" really understand the quality of these wines or just walk away from them without even giving them a second look, let alone a taste?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Wine Bloggers Book Club

By the time 2008 is over, Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club will have nothing over the wine bloggers as they have started their own book club (many thanks to Dr. Debs at Good Wine Under $20 for the idea and the organizing). And since it is a "virtual book club" all of our readers from all over the world may follow along. So if your New Year’s resolution is to read more books or learn more about wine, this could be your inspiration to keep that resolution.

If you are a wine blogger (or even a foodie blogger), you will read the wine related book chosen by our host(s) of the month and have the opportunity to discuss the chosen book on your blog. If you are not a blogger, then you will have three choices to discuss the book. You may use the comment section of your favorite wine blog(s) after the book has been reported, or you may use one of the public sites and discussion forums that are already in place, such as Shelfari and Facebook.

The Wine Blogging Host of the Month will post a round-up after all of the contributions are posted from the wine bloggers and their readers and the contributions will be listed at the Wine Book Club site. New wine book selections will be announced on the first Tuesday of March, May, July, September, and November.

Our first host to begin the year is David Duff at McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail. David has chosen Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch as the first book to review. Sounds like a book on Italian wines to me! You can find the book at your local library or favorite book shop or even check out Amazon (see my Amazon ad below). So get the book, read it and report back with your thoughts. The due date for your "book report" will be Tuesday, February 26. And besides - this is not like your typical classroom book report as you will be expected to relax with at least a glass or two of wine while you're reading.

It looks like the Walla Walla Wine Woman can breath until 2009. She will be hosting a book then - either, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Donald and Petie Kladstrup or; "Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide" by Paul Gregutt. For more info on the Wine Bloggers Book Club, please see Dr. Deb's Good Wine Under $20.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wind and Wine in Walla Walla

So what kind of wine pairs well with 78 mph wind and no electricity? Damn if I care, as long as it is wet, with alcohol, and in colors of red or white.

Friday started out like any normal Friday in January. However, I noticed the sun was trying to show it's peach color amidst a shroud of brown mist. And then it came - - the wind. A strong wind from California reaching around to Reno and upward to Walla Walla County. I felt like Dorothy in the Kansas house watching a variety of familiar debris flying by me. Yeah, and I might have even seen a witch or two. From the office to home, what normally would be less than a 10 minute drive, instead took me 40 minutes. Streets were blocked with fallen trees, roofs and various other debris.

Once I arrived at home safe, but somewhat rattled, I witnessed my lattice divider by my driveway fly as limber as can be like underwear on a clothes line flopping in the breeze. The roots of my evergreen tree moved the soil up and down like an earth quake trembling underneath. Pieces of the neighbor's deck was on my lawn along with my own roof tarp and shingles and my garbage receptacle took flight to the next block. The power was out and there was not a thing I could do. While I had some natural light, I brought out every candle I owned. I found a deck of cards to play that lonesome game of solitaire and I slipped into my sleeping bag to keep warm. There was a sense of security knowing a fifth of rum and a fifth of brandy was in the liquor closet for emergency - - ummm - - yeah - - you know just in case we were needing antiseptic to treat a wound or something like that. Fortunately for me I got my power back before dark, but others weren't as lucky. And because I had power, my house became "Disaster Central" to family and a few neighbors who didn't have power or water until Sunday evening.

My sister, Chefy Chefferton who still was without power, brought over food she needed to save from her refrigerator and cooked up some tasty meals while I spent the majority of my Saturday cleaning my yard and getting bids from trolling out of town roofers.

Here is the selection of wines we served at "Chez Catie Disaster Central": Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc - 2003, Woodward Canyon Estate Barbera - 2003, two bottles of Pendulum Columbia Valley Red Table, Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon and a magnum of Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon. I know - - Yellow Tail - - that sugary version of wine that is designed to get even the novice wine sipper slowly weaned from White Zinfandel and onto the "real" vitis vinifera drink. But hey - disaster beggars can't be choosy.

Come Sunday afternoon we were in for a treat. We had made reservations a week ago at one of our favorite dining establishments, Whoopemup Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg. We were celebrating our mother's birthday, but the celebration was more than a birthday - it became a celebration of survival and a celebration of thanks that we were all safe, sound and with electricity and warm water. Between four of us, what didn't we dine on? We enjoyed oysters, shrimp, spareribs, catfish, fritters, pickled okra and fried chicken from the appetizer plate and later a selection of a rib eye steak, pork chop, chicken and dumplings, and last but not least the "Waitsburger" topped with Point Reyes bleu, grilled portobello and bacon was ordered. And of course, an assortment of the house made desserts - just as beautifully presented as they are rich and delicious.

My choice of wine for the evening was a Helix (Reininger) Syrah - 2004. It was lush with a mouthful of blueberries and spice. It paired quite nice with most of the southern-style morsels I tossed in my mouth. And as always at the Whoopemup, our service was hospitable and exact. We were never without the right spoon or fork - all of our needs were met. Many thanks to Ross at the Whoopemup for adding to our birthday and "Survival Weekend" celebration.

When my weekend finally came to a close that Sunday evening, a sigh of relief came over me. And as one of my favorite heroines said, "There's no place like home."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Wall Street Journal Visits College Cellars of Walla Walla

How a College's Budding Vintners Helped Walla Walla Create a Buzz
By SUDEEP REDDY
January 4, 2008

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Most colleges try to discourage students' fondness for drink. Walla Walla Community College not only encourages students to enjoy alcohol, it also bottles and sells the stuff...
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A few weeks before Stan Clarke died, instructor of the Enology and Viticulture Institute of Walla Walla, he contacted students and past students to be his guests for a “reunion” and to meet journalist, SUDEEP REDDY. Reddy is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and was writing an article about the enology and viticulture program. You will find the rest of this article here.

The article tells about the program and also mentions a few of the graduates who are now owners of their own wineries, like Jill Noble of Couvillion and Denise Slattery and Steve Michener, co-owners of Trio Vintners, both wineries in the Walla Walla area.

As things were winding down at the reception, I was walking out the building and Reddy stopped me and asked if I had a minute to visit with him. Darn - - I didn’t make copy, but it’s still a great article.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gregutt's Top 100 Washington Wines - 2007

If you are a fan of Washington wines, what’s not to like about Paul Gregutt’s Top 100 State Wines for 2007? Gregutt is wine writer for the Seattle Times and author of newly-released book, "Washington Wines and Wineries The Essential Guide." He has listed, not only the most expensive and hard to find, but many affordable and easy to find wines as well. His ranking is not just done by numbers, but overall consistency and style.

The top three wines are the "usual suspects" and if I counted correctly, 38 of the wines on the list are from the Walla Walla Valley (see in bold) including the Wine of the Year. And it is good to see other wines from Walla Walla being mentioned such as JLC, SYZYGY, Forgeron Cellars, Tertulia and Trio Vintners, other than our "usual suspects."

Wine of the Year:
Leonetti Cellar 2004 Reserve ($110)

2. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 "Ethos" Late Harvest White Riesling ($40)
3. Quilceda Creek 2004 Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($95)
4. K Vintners 2005 "The Beautiful" Syrah ($50)
5. Sineann 2005 Block One Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
6. Cayuse 2005 Widowmaker Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
7. JLC 2004 Spofford Station Estate Syrah ($32)
8. DeLille Cellars 2006 Chaleur Estate Blanc ($34)
9. Poet's Leap 2006 Riesling ($20)
10. Betz Family 2005 La Serenne Syrah ($50)
11. Dunham 2004 Lewis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
12. Woodward Canyon 2004 "Old Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
13. McCrea Cellars 2004 "Cuvée Orleans" Syra15. Andrew Will 2005 Sorella Red Wine ($65)
16. Matthews Estate 2003 Conner Lee Cabernet Franc Reserve ($110)
17. Robert Karl 2005 Syrah ($29)
18. Syncline 2005 Cuvée Elena Red Wine ($35)
19. Fielding Hills 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
20. Walla Walla Vintners 2005 Sagemoor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
21. Bunnell Family Cellar 2005 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah ($38)
22. Novelty Hill 2004 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
23. Soos Creek 2005 Artist Series #5 Red Wine ($35)
24. Barnard Griffin 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
25. Basel Cellars 2005 Syrah ($36)
26. Abeja 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
27. Buty 2006 67 percent Semillon/33 percent Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
28. Gorman Winery 2005 "The Bully" Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
29. Mark Ryan 2006 Conner Lee Vineyard Viognier ($28)
30. Stevens 2004 "XY" Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)
31. Isenhower 2004 Bachelor's Button Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)
32. Nicholas Cole Cellars 2004 Camille ($48)
33. Pepper Bridge 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)
34. SYZYGY 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)
35. Northstar 2004 Merlot ($50)
36. Seven Hills Winery 2004 Syrah ($26)
37. Nota Bene 2004 Syrah ($28)
38. Alexandria Nicole 2004 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Red Table Wine ($45)
39. Col Solare 2004 Red Table Wine ($75)
40. Smasne Cellars 2006 Smasne Vineyard Estate Dry Riesling ($22)
41. Beresan 2005 Merlot ($29)
42. Barrister 2005 Cabernet Franc ($25)
43. Januik 2004 Lewis Vineyard Syrah ($30)
44. O• S Winery 2005 Dineen Vineyard Syrah ($42)
45. Pedestal 2004 Merlot ($55)
46. Doyenne 2006 Roussanne ($32)
47. L'Ecole No 41 2006 Fries Vineyard Sémillon ($20)
48. Amavi Cellars 2006 Sémillon ($20)
49. Merry Cellars 2006 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Sémillon ($18)
50. Sparkman 2006 Lumière Chardonnay ($40)
51. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2005 Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay ($20)
52. Milbrandt Vineyards 2005 "Legacy" Syrah ($25)
53. Cadence 2005 Bel Canto Red Wine ($55)
54. Three Rivers 2004 Syrah ($24)
55. Forgeron Cellars 2003 Syrah ($30)
56. Otis Kenyon 2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Reserve Merlot ($40)
57. Va Piano 2005 Syrah ($38)
58. Walter Dacon 2005 C'est Syrah Magnifique ($38)
59. Canoe Ridge 2004 "Block 1" Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)
60. Brian Carter Cellars 2004 L'Etalon ($30)
61. J Bookwalter 2005 Merlot ($36)
62. Charles Smith Wines 2006 Kungfu Girl Riesling ($12)
63. Gamache Vintners 2004 GV Reserve "Gamache — Champoux Vineyard Select" Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
64. Waters 2005 Columbia Valley Syrah ($25)
65. Saviah Cellars 2005 Une Vallée Red ($32)
66. Tertulia Cellars 2005 Syrah ($27)
67. Des Voigne Cellars 2005 "Montreux" Syrah ($27)
68. Seia 2005 Clifton Hill Vineyard Syrah ($30)
69. Cuillin Hills 2005 Syrah ($32)
70. Gordon Brothers 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
71. Animale 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26)
72. Nelms Road 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)
73. Hedges 2004 Three Vineyards ($22)
74. Olsen Estates 2006 Chardonnay ($28)
75. Chatter Creek 2004 Clifton Hill Vineyard Syrah ($30)
76. Arbor Crest 2004 Wahluke Slope Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
77. Tamarack Cellars 2005 Cabernet Franc ($25)
78. Hightower Cellars 2004 Merlot ($28)
79. Ash Hollow 2006 Gewürztraminer ($19)
80. Hestia 2004 Red Wine ($20)
81. Apex 2006 Dry Riesling ($20)
82. Vin du Lac 2006 "LEHM" Estate Dry Riesling ($20)
83. Coeur d'Alene Cellars 2006 Chardonnay ($18)
84. Trust 2006 Semillon Ice Wine ($40)
85. Cascadia Winery 2006 Riesling ($16)
86. Columbia Crest 2006 "Two Vines" Riesling ($8)
87. Snoqualmie 2006 "Naked" Riesling ($11)
88. Airfield Estates 2006 Pinot Gris ($16)
89. Lone Canary 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
90. Kestrel 2006 Estate Viognier ($20)
91. Bergevin Lane 2006 Viognier ($25)
92. Willow Crest 2005 Cabernet Franc ($16)
93. Wineglass Cellars 2005 Les Vignes De Marcoux Syrah ($35)
94. Thurston Wolfe 2005 Zephyr Ridge Petite Sirah ($20)
95. Woodinville Wine Cellars 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($18)
96. Trio Vintners 2006 Lewis Vineyards Riesling ($12)
97. Waterbrook 2004 Merlot ($20)
98. Covey Run 2005 "Quail Series" Chenin Blanc ($8)
99. Dusted Valley 2005 Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay ($28)
100. San Juan Vineyards 2006 Madeleine Angevine ($14)