Friday, February 26, 2010

The Beauty Behind the Buty and the Beast

The first time I was introduced to Caleb Foster was in a viticulture class. The focus of the lecture was the importance of the relationship between vineyard owner and winemaker and Caleb was our speaker for the evening. Caleb obviously left an impression on me because I can still remember the class, and after visiting with Caleb recently and drinking his wines with him, Caleb is a man of his word. His wines express the importance of the relationship between vineyard owner and winemaker. The wines of Buty indeed stay true to the vineyards.

Caleb Foster's winemaking career started in 1991 as a winemaking assistant for Woodward Canyon. In 1999, he moved on to become an enologist for Chateau Ste Michelle. The start of the new millennium was a significant one as Caleb traveled down to Marlborough, New Zealand as a production assistant for Foxes Island and Seven Tarraces wines during their 2000 crush. In 2001, the married team of Nina Buty Foster and Caleb Foster created Buty Winery in Walla Walla. Buty Winery produces small cuvees of white and red single vineyard blends from Washington State. Their accolades are many, including two times named as "Wine of the Year" by Seattle Magazine and also by Food & Wine Magazine.

The selection of Buty wines are impressive. Caleb poured a classic Bordeaux-style white blend of Buty 69% SĂ©millon, 26% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. I believe this was the first time I had ever tasted a Washington State wine with Muscadelle and I believe this is the first Muscadelle produced in Walla Walla. Caleb described the vineyards that grew these white grapes and from his descriptions I felt as if I was part of the journey. I could even see in my mind's eye the Muscadelle from the Lonesome Springs Ranch and how the fruit was kept fully shaded from the summer sun. The nose on this 2008 white wine was of honeysuckle and the palate was clean, fresh and dry with taste of melons, lemon and a bit of honey.

The cool desert nights created a bright and acidic wine for the Buty Winery Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay - 2008. Notes of peaches and green apples picked from the orchard were alive and yet eased into a soft citrus finish. This was my style of Chardonnay - the style that shows off its fruit without being overoaked and cloying of butter.

Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA holds the secret to the Buty Columbia Rediviva, a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Syrah. This 2006 estate blend showcases that Buty was the first Washington state winery to focus a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blends as "deluxe" wines.

The Phinny Hill Vineyard is one of the warmest sites in the state. It's layers of ancient cobblestones and sandy silt-loam soil sits high above the Columbia River, but the chosen blocks remain protected from the high and piercing winds. Cherries, berries, caramel and pepper greeted my nose and palate. This rich inky blend is definitely an age-worthy wine.

The thoughtful name, "Columbia Rediviva" was the name of Captain Robert Gray's ship, the first non-Native American navigator who entered an unnamed river. It was in 1792 Gray gave this powerful river its name, The Columbia. It is the same majestic Columbia River that connects and has contributed to all of the vineyards that Caleb has crafted into his wines.

Enter the BEAST! The BEAST label is the alter ego of Buty. It's that "second self" that allows Buty to explore special one of a kind releases. Every year on Halloween and sometimes on April Fool’s Day, the BEAST releases wines that are not typically in Buty's wine portfolio. To catch a BEAST, you must join the Friends of the BEAST Club. Since BEASTS are known to be elusive and difficult to control, these very limited single vineyard wines move fast! I had a rare opportunity to sample three of the BEASTS - a Syrah, Malbec and a Grenache. Since my tasting, I understand that two of the BEASTS have been tamed and left the building. BEAST Phinny Hill Syrah - 2008 is still available to catch.

In 2006, Nina and Caleb purchased 10 acres of orchards near the Washington/Oregon Border on the Oregon side. They organically prepared the land and planted clones of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne and Roussanne. The venerable cobblestone land, which was part of the old Walla Walla River, gave the estate its name: Rockgarden. The "Rediviva of the Stones" from this vineyard of the Walla Walla Valley are wines to watch for.

These wines spoke "old world" to me. They are aroma driven and well thought out from the soil to the bottle. The wines told me that indeed, Caleb Foster is a winemaker of his word, and not only does he have a relationship with the vineyard owners, but the soil and the vines, as well. And with each new vintage, the contributions of the terroir and the vineyards will continue to create new beautys and new beasts for Buty Winery.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wine Blogging Wednesday #66: Your Tender-est Twosome - Skylite Cellars Syrah and Cheesecake

This month's host for Wine Blogging Wednesday is a goddess – a Domestic Goddess. Jennifer Hamilton of The Domestic Goddess has selected "Your Tender-est Twosome" as February's theme. She has asked us to pair a wine with a dessert as she believes that after several great entrees the focus of the meal is long gone. Jennifer says, “Every once in a while, dessert deserves the attention given to a main course; and a wine to match.”

As a fan of a good dessert, I have to agree with Jennifer. However, I typically do not keep a lot of dessert around my house other than a canister of licorice and a apothecary jar of Hershey Kisses on one of the kitchen counters. It's almost more for looks than anything. But a few weeks ago I had a very memorable dessert that was paired with a memorable wine. The pairing of the two were just - - well - - memorable!

Cheryl Hodgins, co-owner of Skylite Cellars in Walla Walla invited me to the winery to enjoy a wonderful spread of food and Skylite Cellars wine pairings. It was a great evening catching up with all of the exciting news going on at the winery, as well as our own gossip. You see, it seems like I have known Cheryl forever as in our "early years" we spent a lot of time together working on charitable causes in Walla Walla.

There were many “perfect pairings” of nibbles and Skylite Cellars wine, but that will be another blog at another time. The evening ended with the exact focus that Jennifer Hamilton of Domestic Goddess is looking for - - a slice of cheesecake topped with a rich cherry sauce and a glass of Skylite Cellars Columbia Valley Syrah - 2006. Nope. Not a dessert wine, but a dry Syrah served with a dessert - - and it worked. Oh my how it worked! The sweetness of the cherries and the creamy mouthfeel of the cheesecake paired oh-so-well with the spice and the meatiness of the smoky Syrah. After a bite of cheesecake, the finish of the Syrah still left a dark cherry flavor on my palate, but almost like a dark sweet Port. The finish of the wine and dessert alone was an experience.

The "twosome truth" about this pairing is the wine and the cheesecake, along with the cherries, really complemented each other. I honestly don't think an off-dry wine, such as a late harvest or an icewine would have paired as well. A dessert wine would have taken away from the focus on the plate and the wine leaving the experience a cloyingly sugary mouthful of just exactly that - sugar. The Skylite Cellars CV Syrah - 2006 enhanced the experience from the cheesecake to the finish of the cherries. Indeed, it was a Tender-est Twosome!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wine Netiquette

What is “netiquette,” you ask mon cheri? Why “netiquette” is network etiquette -- the etiquette of cyberspace.

Like any culture, cyberspace also has its own etiquette. If you were dining in Japan or a guest at the Rabbi’s Passover Seder, I mean, we wouldn't stick chopsticks in our nose to imitate a walrus nor would we bring a bacon cheeseburger to the Rabbi’s house now, would we? So, should we behave any different when we are in cyberspace?

Of all of the cyberspace groups I have been a part of, I think wine bloggers really give it their best - they are the best. Now let me say, I am not perfect in my netiquette. What you see on my blog, mouth and all, is pretty much my personality. What you read is what you get. But in spite of it all, I still remember the golden rules my parents and kindergarten teacher taught me and I really treasure Robert Fulghum’s, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.

Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, say you are sorry when you hurt people, wash your hands before you eat, flush, hold hands and stick together, cookies and milk are good for you …

In fact, I think these rules should be a wine tourist's motto, of course trading out the milk for wine.

In the crazy, fast and free world of cyberspace, I think there should be one important rule: remember the human. We need to remember, what we pound out on the keyboard, would we be willing to say it to the person’s face? I probably would, but I also have to remember the mischief in my eyes, my scrunched up smirk, and the smart aleck tone in my voice (and even me sticking out my tongue like a juvenile) doesn’t always convey to everyone, only after they know me (So I apologize to anybody I may have offended this week - but, just this week).

Recently, I was seeking journalistic advice on an online message board. I was "told" by one of the journalists that my messages on that particular board needed some polish. I was told I was nothing but an amateur writer. I was told my sentences were clunky and often didn’t make sense.

Yeah, I know - sometimes. Again, I am not perfect, but nobody is harder on me - than me! Sometimes I even talk "clunky." Sometimes I stutter, twist words and cannot finish complete trains of thought. I forget. I've had a few head injuries in my youth and developed adult dyslexia. There are times I cannot read a newspaper article without it being a struggle. I use to be able to read a book in one night and now it can take me almost a month to process a book. Writing and blogging has helped. I think it has kept my noggin' from getting worse. I am grateful to my readers and editors who put up with my foibles.

So, did the criticism from this person hurt my feelings? Naahh. I considered the source. Was I surprised by the brazen tact? A little. But later it got me to thinking, wonder if that person said the same criticism to a very sensitive person whose feelings would be hurt or had a severe challenge? And in the end, what did this miserable source of criticism really hope to gain? Was it from their own source of insecurities? And if they had an opportunity to be with me in person, as well as with all of the people in the message board, would they have been able to say that to my face in front of all of these people?

Last year, some of the wine bloggers had a few heated debates in cyberspace with editors and wine enthusiasts, Robert Parker and Anthony Dias Blue. Sure, an emoticon of :-P (sticking out tongue) and a (_x_) (kiss my a ... well you get the message) was thrown around here and there. But hey, it was a debate of sorts - a disagreement. There is no doubt in my mind the same words would have been slung around even if the debate was face to face in a wine bar. But in my opinion, Parker and Dias Blue lost the debates, even with their best and most reasonable points.

They lost when they called the wine bloggers names in a magazine editorial and online. If either of these public speakers were addressing a group of wine bloggers at a seminar and a comment was made they didn't agree with, would Parker and Dias Blue address the group as "blobbers and bitter carping gadflies" for retaliation? I would hope not. It might stifle their careers a bit. So why should it be any different from the keyboard?

Two days ago I received an email from a woman who is a retired English teacher, recipe blogger and a wine lover. As a fun hobby, or she may even believe it is her calling from the Goddess of Grammar, she sends emails to owners of wine websites about their incorrect spelling and grammar. So, my offense was that I had used the word "compliment" instead of "complement." Now this woman didn't introduce herself and her approach was just, "You misspelled a word. Common error and you need to correct it."

Was I offended? Hell no! (I mean, "Heck no!") Was I surprised. Well, yeah because of the intrusion, so to speak, and without an introduction. My response? Like a playful cat, I knew I had a mouse I could bat around and have some fun with. After I got ahold of my uncontrollable giggling from daydreaming about Machiavellian tactics I could use, I looked her up on the web. I read her recipes and sent her an email. I asked her if she was the Chief of Spelling and will I be arrested if I didn't correct my spelling error?

I asked her if she typically spent her time correcting websites without any kind of introductions? I mean, approach and style is everything, right? I also pointed out she had several errors on her own blog, such as run-on sentences, over use of commas, and some sentences needing proper punctuation, but I would never dream of pointing out her errors without a proper introduction - -

Hello my name is Catie ...

She wrote me back and said I didn't need to be so defensive and there was nothing wrong with her written grammar. She said I should have been more appreciative of her wanting to help me, because everyone else is. To make a long story short, she apologized, I accepted her apology and we parted well with her leaving me a compliment (or was it a complement?)

It's nice to see young people taking the initiative to make something of themselves.

Now, what would I say to her if I ever meet her in person? I would introduce myself, give her a hug, and ask if she thought I made some thing of myself. Also, I would remind her to be cautious about using too many contractions in a sentence and that she should have put a period at the end of "It's important to whip your cream until it's stiff and let your meatloaf rest "

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine Social Media: Backlash or Enhancement?

As always, there are two sides to everything so allow me to rant a bit and tell you my side.

Steve Heimoff did it again. Once again, he has poked a stick at the wine bloggers and got us all riled up. Steve is pretty good at it. Let it be known that Steve has never been a fan of social media and especially wine blogging. But oh my, how he has one of the most visible and well-read wine blogs in the industry.

I like Steve. Steve Heimoff is an American wine writer and a California wine expert. He has been the West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine since 1994 and he is also an author: A Wine Journey along the Russian River. I like the fact that Steve has a way of motivating us to speak up and bring our opinions to the surface. He gives us food for thought and gives us leverage to stack soap boxes and be heard.

On yesterday’s, Steve Heimoff wine blog, not only does he speak out about not being a fan of social media and wine blogging, but he also claims that technology has hurt traditional social structures and he doesn’t see any benefit.

I will agree with Steve about cell phone usage being intrusive. As I have always said about the cell phone user in a wine tasting room who insists on breaking up the relaxed ambiance with their loud voices and obnoxious cheap ring tones, “Are you really that important to conduct incessant blabbing on your phone and if you are that important to our world, perhaps your Secret Service people or your Chief of British Parliament Security can answer your calls?"

Sure, I can agree with Steve about how technology has affected us in a negative sense, but those people who use technology in offensive and selfish ways (It’s all about me!) more than likely possess no social refinement and skills to begin with. Social media only intensifies their ill-mannered ways. But this is where I have to stop and disagree with Steve Heimoff - - social media has enhanced my life:

Let’s start with my wine blogging. Well, what else is there to say? Here’s the proof, you’re reading it. Five years of wine blogging and I have created a network of wineries, other wine bloggers and readers who, are not only my colleagues, but my friends. This form of social network has given me a new career. I now write for other lifestyle and food and wine publications. Without this form of social media, wine blogging, Walla Walla and the Washington State Wine Commission wouldn’t be hosting 300 wine bloggers from all over the United States in June 2010. This new group of wine lovers gets to see first hand what our wonderful city and our wine country is all about.

Facebook and Twitter has also enhanced my life, not only professionally as a wine blogger but also with my family. As a youngster, I spent a lot of time playing with my cousins as our families gathered for weekends, vacations and large reunions. In the past years, our only link has been the yearly Christmas letter. Now we can keep in touch with each other through Facebook, almost daily and plan a new generation of reunions.

And it was just yesterday, I went to a wine industry party and what a great example it was of how Facebook and other forms of social media has enhanced wine lover’s lives – and of course, my own. There were many people attending that I knew of in the Walla Walla wine industry, but my only connection with them was through Facebook. I was finally able to put real faces to their Facebook photos and instead of having to introduce myself to a “stranger,” instead I was able to reach out to an “old friend” and immediately resume conversations.

Now Steve, how can you argue with that? I don't think you can, but thanks for giving me the idea to speak up about how social media, especially in the wine world, has enhanced my life.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Olive Marketplace & Cafe by T Maccarone's

They did it again! Tom Maccarone and Chef Jake Crenshaw, co-owners of the popular T. Maccarone’s restaurant in Walla Walla purchased one of downtown's beloved landmarks, the 34-year old Merchants Ltd Deli. Tonight was the premiere opening for the Olive Marketplace & Cafe. It proved to be a grand evening of good food, good wine and visiting with many familiar faces, besides being the first ones to see the new design.

Yes Walla Walla Peeps, in many ways it is still the same Merchants LTD but even better with the same casual feel; adding a new paint job, furniture, art, kitchen and restrooms. The balcony area has new furniture and even niches for studying and meetings. In fact, it looks even bigger in spite of the sea of growing people who were there tonight to celebrate.

The Olive Marketplace will be opened daily from 6am to 9pm and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Breakfast from 6-11am and the lunch and evening menus will feature their flat bread pizza, sandwiches, soups and other items. I can tell you first hand the flat bread pizza was luscious and so many toppings to choose from. Espresso, tea, local and imported wines and beer on tap are available.

And no. T Maccarones is not closing. It will still be down the street featuring the same popular menu with its contemporary approach to authentic Italian cuisine.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon Cookoff in Walla Walla!

The Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon Cookoff Contest is Friday, Feb. 5 from 5-7 pm at Someone's In the Kitchen, located at the corner of 4th and W. Rose, downtown Walla Walla. This event is co-sponsored by Walla Walla Lifestyles Magazine and the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. It was inspired by the movie "Julie & Julia."

If you are not familiar with the movie, "Julie & Julia", it depicts events in the life of chef Julia Child in the early years of her culinary career, while contrasting her life with Julie Powell. In 2002, Powell aspired to cook all 524 recipes from Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking during a single year. Powell also shares her experiences online about her experiences cooking the recipes in a blog named, The Julie/Julia Project which led to a book and of course, a movie. The movie itself is a must-see for foodies, wine lovers and of course, wine and food bloggers. I left the theatre with this need to cook Boeuf Bourguignon, chocolate cake and omelettes. In fact, I swung open the door to my house and greeted my dog and two cats singing in a high pitched voice, "Bonjour!"

Now, here is how this contest works - contestants will deliver their dishes at 4:45 pm to Someone's In the Kitchen. Local Chef/Judges and guests arrive at 5 p.m. The judging chefs will be escorted into SITK's "Green Room" and judging will begin at 5:15 p.m. It's quite an impressive list of local judges:

• Jamie Guerin, Whitehouse Crawford
• Jake Crenshaw, T. Maccarone’s
• Bear Ullman, The Marc
• Gene Soto, Someone’s in the Kitchen
• Damon Burke, Salumiere Cesario
• Michael Kline, Walla Walla Bread Company
• Noah Viavant, Brasserie Four

For $15 a ticket, you will definitely be wined and dined. You will enjoy Boeuf Bourguignon and a wine pairing from Walla Walla's Sapolil Cellars (they have generously donated the wine). You will be entertained with the warblings of the French sparrow, Edith Piaf singing in the background and Julia's PBS series "The French Chef" will be playing. And last but not least, "Julia Child," (aka local actor Topher Murphy) will be the MC -- commenting on her life, the importance of wine with food, the need for butter and "she'll" be presenting the award to the winner -- the two-volume set of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

A portion of the proceeds will go to Providence St. Mary Medical Center Patient Care. The Cancer Center's spokesperson, Mardi Hagerman, will be on hand to talk about what the donation will do for Patient Care, such as assists in purchasing wigs, transportation to and from hospital to name a few of the needs.

The sponsors are asking that all contestants send in their recipes ahead of time so they might compile them for a small booklet. The winning recipe will be printed in the March issue of Walla Walla Lifestyles. The contest will be filmed by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and being photographed for Lifestyles. Available at Book & Game,Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, Tourism Walla Walla Info Booth, and at the door.

For sure, I am not going to miss it and will report back with the winner and the highlights. Bon Appetit!