Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole

Also known as "TCA" aka "Cork Taint" or just plain ol' "Corked."  

TCA is a chemical compound that is a chlorinated derivative of anisole. Trichloroanisole is a fungal metabolite "2,4,6-trichlorophenol," which is used as a fungicide. It can be found in minute traces on packaging materials stored in the presence of fiberboard treated with trichlorophenol. 

Got all that? Of course you do! So how does it apply to wine?  And no - - a "corked" bottle of wine does not mean there are little pieces of cork floating around in it.  

"Cork Taint" is a broad term referring to a wine fault. It’s a harmless compound that gives wine a musty aroma and flavor at various degrees. Merely looking at cork will usually not tell you much, as it is all in the smell of the cork and the wine. While the human threshold for detecting TCA is measured in the single-digit parts per trillion, TCA can vary by several degrees depending on an individual's sensitivity. Meaning some of us with sensitive sinuses (and bigger foreheads) can detect it at lower degrees than usual. 

Corked wine has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth, damp basement, or what I like to use an example, "Boise Cascade Paper Mill at Wallula" (30-miles from Walla Walla). Stinky!

While TCA does come from cork, it also comes from other sources such as contaminated winery or bottling equipment, airborne molds or chlorine-based compounds (toilet paper, paper towels, wine case boxes, wood pallets) in wineries and cellars. Smell a cardboard shipping box and you will get a clue of the aroma to be looking for. In fact, I once noticed TCA in a simple glass of water. What we later discovered was a water filter had just been replaced by a brand new white cardboard filter. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beguiled and Bedazzled la Deuxième Partie! Juliette's Dazzle 2011

It's back again and even more luscious. 

You might remember the history of Dazzle from last year's blog.  It was attempted to be released for the very first time in 2003 by Long Shadow's managing winemaker, Gilles Nicault. Long story short it waited a  stretch before it appeared for the first time last year with it's 2010 release. Now prettier in pink than ever it's Juliette's Dazzle - 2011

Juliette's Dazzle is a special project of Allen Shoup, CEO and founder of Long Shadows Winery and Long Shadow's managing winemaker, Gilles Nicault. The wine is named after Allen's granddaughter, Julia. No, you won't find Juliette's Dazzle at Long Shadows or on their mailing list as it is an independent project, and is produced to be sold at restaurants and wine shops only. 

First of all, the packaging is stunning with it's clear glass bowling pin shaped bottle and the gold silk screen label. The fruit is sourced from The Benches (formerly Wallula Vineyards), a vineyard that Long Shadows owns. It is a dramatic vineyard that overlooks the Columbia River from the Washington side, three miles south of the Wallula Gap.

This pink rosé is produced from Pinot Gris, a grayish pink grape which is classified as "white." The fruit was lightly mascerated and fermented like a red wine on its skins, giving the wine it's sole source of color as in traditional Provence rosés.

Gilles added 2% sangiovese to add more fruitiness and to tinge the wine a lovely pink color. The wine is much lighter in color than the 2010, but just as delicious. This rosé is aromatic with hints of ripe strawberries and rhubarb on the nose. It is an easy sipper, especially with the perfect chill. The best way to describe the flavors is a mouth full of juicy ruby red grapefruit. It just fills the mouth leaving the impression of a sweet/tart wine (1% residual sugar) and the finish  leaves the tip of the tongue feeling a bit of effervescence. 

How to pair it with food? My same recommendations as last year: fruit salads, fruit pies, rich and creamy cheeses, Asian-influenced dishes, as well as delicate chicken and seafood dishes - - and yes, even the Thanksgiving turkey.

Also, do not toss that bottle. Recycle it and use for a summertime patio vase for your posies from the garden or a casual, but elegant water bottle for outdoor entertaining. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Phylloxera

Frankly, we shouldn't even be discussing this word. It is bad ju-ju. However, if you want to become an affluent wine-geek, we must acknowledge this as it is a big part of wine world history.

Phylloxera is a creepy little sap-eating louse that enjoys making a meal out of vine roots. Related to an aphid, the little bugger feeds on leaves and roots of the grape vines which produces a gall on grape leaves causing nodules and eventually killing the vine.

It came close to destroying the wine industry of France after its accidental introduction around 1860.

The good news is it was discovered that the grafting of susceptible European vines onto resistant North American rootstock saved what was left of the European vineyards. Had American rootstock not been available and used, there would be no wine industry in Europe or most of the new wine world - - and not even any  Walla Walla vines and wines. Boo-hoo!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chillin' with Woodward Canyon Riesling

We had a few days of heat last week, which was definitely a sign to toss in the wine cooler a few bottles of white wines for some impromptu sipping. 

I think the state of Washington is making some of the finest domestic rieslings around. Riesling, an original wine grape from the Rhine region of Germany, was planted in Washington State as early as the late 1870's.  As we "rediscovered" wine in Washington State in the 1970's and 80's, we rather situated riesling as our grape to stake our wine production on. In the mean time merlot had another idea ...

Riesling wine is coming back and we are loving it! It is aromatic and showing off crisp acidity. Washington State even has prestigious German winemakers (Dr. Loosen and Armand Diehl) producing Germanic-style wines produced with Washington grapes.  

A riesling you will definitely need to keep on hand this summer is from Woodward Canyon. Rick Small, winemaker and chef of Woodward Canyon, has been producing wines since the mid-1970's when he first began planting vines on his family wheat farm. While Rick is known for his hearty world class merlots and cabernets, when he produces a white wine, they do not collect dust on the winery shelves. If you want them, don't lolly-gag around. Grab them and grab them - - now!  

In April I visited Woodward Canyon and had the opportunity to taste their newest release of  their Non-Vintage Riesling. It is not the traditional dry riesling that Woodward Canyon is known for producing (anticipate and wait patiently for the release of their 2012 bottling). The Non-Vintage from the Columbia Valley is still very much a dry riesling, except with the aromatic qualities it shows off like that of a late harvest style. 

The flavors of this white wine were plucked right from the orchard reminding me of crunchy sweet-tart apples and aromatic pears. The high, yet balanced, acidity makes for perfect summer sippin' and especially a great wine for pairing with foods. I recommend a chicken-bacon-artichoke-spinach topped pizza with a garlicky white sauce (speaking of which: did you know Rick makes and bakes his own pizza on an outdoor pizza oven on the winery grounds?), seafood salads, spicy Thai foods, and rich and gooey macaroni and cheese.  

Rich says the Woodward Canyon Non-Vintage Riesling reminds him of a concentrated Alsatian dry riesling. So one can always set the table with plenty of traditional foods from Alsace to pair with. Sauerkraut, anyone?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Friendliest Town ...

I'm troubled and I have to address it.

Wine tourism is indeed a large part of our valley, but there is also real heart in this town and it is the people who reside here. What we recently discovered, or more like what we have recently been reminded of,  none of us are without our frailties - from the fifth generation of Walla Wallans to the newcomers who are raising their families here.

As long as I can remember, Walla Walla has always been "The City So Nice, They Named It Twice" and in fact, last year we were named, "The Friendliest Small Town in America" by Best of the Road contest — sponsored by Rand McNally in collaboration with USA TODAY.

I was born and raised in this idyllic little town. My father was a World War II veteran working a Monday through Friday 9-5 job to pay the VA insured mortgage. My mother was mostly a stay-at-home mom, a PTA Room Mother, active in her "Young Homemaker's Club" and hosted baby showers and "kaffee klatsches." Yes, we even owned two cars and had a picket fence around our house. The very worst that I knew about life was the penitentiary across the highway and even then, we went to school with the warden's daughters and attended birthday parties and play dates at the warden's house on the penitentiary grounds.

Summer vacations were often spent at my grandparent's house across town in the "country" where we rode horses, feed the chickens, read books and comics under the big maple trees, played in the "raging" Yellowhawk Creek, and picked strawberries at the Klicker farm.

Sure, you guessed it, I was one of those children of the 60-70's and I was all about "peace, love, and hippie beads" while my older brother was in Vietnam. I suppose my ignorance, and that of innocence, was all taken away when I became married to a "career" funeral director. For the majority of our 20 years together, we lived and worked at the funeral home. I soon discovered that the funeral business was more than "grandpa dying because he was old" as there was a whole another side to it; from deadly and horribly disfigured accidents than one could never imagine (or ever forget), removing bodies from the local penitentiary (from suicides to executions), being discreet about someone's husband having a heart attack in the girlfriend's bed, and unfortunately heinous and tragic murders of crime and passion.

After my divorce I continued with jobs that dealt with distraught people and emotional situations; from office manager at the local women and children's shelter for domestic violence, an assistant for a county defense attorney, and later 10 years with a firm of civil law attorneys. 

Finally, I am now employed in an agricultural industry that has the ability to enhance a healthy and happy lifestyle with friends, family and even co-workers. However, aside from this "new line of work" it still doesn't stop me from thinking, reaching deep down inside, and trying to understand humanity - - and at least feel some compassion for both sides of a story.

On May 4th we became a town rather divided when the authorities reported a young man by the name of Cesar was shot and killed after breaking and entering into a local store after hours and allegedly leaving with merchandise - silver belt buckles. 

John, the owner of the store is somewhat of a local icon. It's these colorful characters that remind us who we are and what small towns are all about. John probably fit most of us, and our children's children, in cowboy boots and hats during our rodeo and fair celebrations. It was not just a business for John, but it was also his lifestyle and his home. Yes, he and a few pet cats also lived in the same building as where John conducted business. 

As I have perused Walla Walla Facebook pages and local online news, emotions are high and sides have been formed. Comments have been written of racial slurs, taunts, accusations of prejudices and threats of retaliation. Accusations were even made that the shooting was racially motivated.

Once the shock of it all was over and my logic could finally kick in, something told me that John didn't take the time to ask if the burglar was Hispanic, Chinese or Anglo before he took the fateful shot in the dark. I understand the need to protect as I too had someone break into my house - not once, but on two occasions and I cannot begin to explain the terror that one feels deep in the belly - the feeling of the unknown.

I looked through Cesar's Facebook page and the photos didn't tell me about what kind of person he was other than showing a young man with twinkling blue eyes from Chihuahua, Mexico who came to live in Walla Walla. However, the photos on his Facebook wall told me more about the people in his life by their smiles, embraces and camaraderie as they posed by him. The photos told me how much he was loved.

Last week I just happened to drive by the cemetery where Cesar was being buried and by the crowds of people that filled the cemetery and the line up of cars parked blocks away, was once again a reminder of how many people loved this young man.

Several long-time Walla Wallans kept somewhat of a vigil in front of John's business making sure he was okay, from checking in on him, making a special trip to his store to buy merchandise they might not otherwise purchase,  and even sending him cards of support. A lot of people love this man with his deep Walla Walla roots,  and are worried for his safety.

Cesar was a young man of 22 years old and unfortunately, according to public record, he had seen his days in criminal court. However, as young as he was, he still had the potential to change and live a full and productive life.  John is 70 years old and has always been a private man and owner of a long running store of three generations of Walla Walla descendants.

Those who loved Cesar are claiming that he was chased out of the store by John and shot outside the store. Those of us who know John, or the last time I saw John, he was walking with a cane, had a bent posture and he was moving very slow. As of the date of this publishing, the authorities have yet to release their findings.

Some of the locals are furious at the local newspaper for publishing a photo of a memorial of where the authorities found the deceased. The photo of the memorial showed tributes of flowers, candles and other meaningful trinkets to those who are grieving. Those upset at the photo have accused the paper for being "biased" instead of understanding that publishing the photo is the job of the newspaper. They are reporting the "news" and it was certainly news for those of us who do not travel up and down this street on a daily basis where the memorial had been laid.

Last week, friends and family of Cesar held a candle light vigil, a protest of sorts, in front of the John's store. The Sheriff's Department, who were stationed nearby, stated that several-hundred people involved in the protest over all remained peaceful. Family and friends have formed a petition for justice to be done on behalf of the deceased. Many people opposed the protest and told those in the protest to "move on and get over it." 

There is truly no designated time for when the bereaved needs to quit grieving nor is there a certain way to grieve, and the protest was exactly that - people were grieving and needed to be with others who felt their same loss.

A new local organization, Take Back Walla Walla, planned a rally in support of John. On behalf of John, his attorney indicated John is a not a member of the group or rally and does not support the group or their efforts, as he feels it is not beneficial and will only harm the healing process. The Chief of Police and the County Sheriff requested that people honor John's wishes and not attend the rally. A few people showed up anyway, but there were more cops than there were protestors. 

Several of the protestors from both sides are protesting each others protests.
The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble ...
The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment  protects the right of people to keep and bear arms, unconnected to service in a militia,  and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home ...
Crazy thing about those amendments that we hold so dear, as we have one group condemning a man for exercising the Second Amendment and both groups condemning each other for exercising the First Amendment due to actions and the results of the Second Amendment. 

The biblical quotes and the Ten Commandments, yet selective, have been preached to each other: 6) Thou shalt not kill. 8) Thou shalt not steal. 

Somewhere in all of this, and to both sides, I am reminded by the quote from Mahatma Gandhi, "Hate the sin, love the sinner."

Who is wrong and who is right? I believe we have now gone past the point of who is right and who is wrong as a young man's life is gone and another man will be haunted as long as he lives. Everyone who had ever been involved with Cesar or John is hurting or troubled by the events that shook our town - that is one thing that we can all agree upon. It is a tragedy for all of us.  

Are we still the friendliest town of America?  Are we still the city so nice they named it twice?  I think we are or we wouldn't care so much.

Walla Walla is rich in history from our people to our agriculture. We are rich in agriculture from wheat, onions, and especially wine grapes. Wine grapes are nothing new in Walla Walla as there were vineyards and wineries decades ago as French and Italian immigrants planted wine grapes and made their wine.*

We are rich with a history of immigrants settling in the valley. French, Italians, Chinese, (by 1880, Walla Walla had a Chinese population of 600, which is now depleted**) and a few decades ago; now a large community of Hispanics have been added to our history of immigrants.

This community of people need each other for our town to survive - - we always have. If we look past the emotions and sentiment, it's really true. We depend on the farmers to manage and grow the crops from our fertile Walla Walla soil and we depend on the laborers to assist in managing and harvesting the fruits and most of all, we need tourists (and the locals) to buy our wine and other crops so that we can depend on the farmers to manage and grow the crops and the laborers to harvest ...

In joy and in sadness, it is an ongoing circle for the "Friendliest Small Town of America."

-----------------------------------

* A Brief History of Winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley http://wallawallalifestyles.com/2012/02/29/a-brief-history-of-winemaking-in-the-walla-walla-valley/ - by Myles Anderson.

** Chinese Americans in the Columbia Basin http://archive.vancouver.wsu.edu/crbeha/ca/ca.htm - by Mario Compean.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Carbonic Maceration

Okay, so this is a total of two words and not one word for dummies.  Good, so you can count. This isn't a math session, this is vocab. 

Carbonic maceration (or whole berry fermentation) is a winemaking technique that is often associated with the French wine region of Beaujolais The goal is to produce a light, but fruity red wine that one can drink immediately (Thanksgiving Beaujolais Nouveau, anyone?). 

Instead of traditional winemaking, which involves crushing the grapes prior to fermenting by yeast, carbonic maceration involves clusters of red grapes that are fermented whole. The process starts with whole clusters placed in a closed fermentation bin or tank under a carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere. 

In this process, alcohol is produced inside of the berrry. Yeast takes the sugar inside of  the grapes turning it into carbon dioxide. While the grapes are bubbling away, it's creating alcohol and an intense fruity aroma. 

However, due to the weight of the clusters it will cause some of the berries to break, leaving  juice at the bottom of the fermentation bin or tank to undergo conventional fermentation. The final result is wine that is fruity with very low tannins. It is ready to drink quickly but lacks the structure for any long-term aging.

A great example of a local carbonic macerated wine is from College Cellars - "Beaujo-Lem Nouveau" - 2011. This is the enology students response to Beaujolais Nouveau - - but produced with Lemberger grapes. (see Walla Walla Wine For Dummies - Lemberger ) These grapes were partially carbonically macerated to enhance their cherry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. On the palate, the Beaujo-Lem Nouveau tannins are silky smooth and gentle. It is definitely a wine to be chilled and enjoyed during a summer BBQ.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Walla Walla Legend: Jim Robison of Robison Ranch Cellars

It had been awhile since I had tasted through the line-up of wines from Robison Ranch Cellars, so last Friday we sat down with Robison Ranch Cellars partner and winemaker, Brad Riordan and tasted through their wines. We were overwhelmed about how polished and so approachable these wines were. Many of them were also sourced from Walla Walla fruit and their flavor profiles told us their Walla Walla story. 

While we were tasting through the wines, Brad and I remininiced about how he first got started with his winery partner, Jim Robison.  I remember Brad and Jim bringing me samples of their wines. In return I  would critique, but more than often give them wine notes of the flavor profiles these wines were showing off. Later, Jim would corner me with a serious posture, look at me square in the face, eye to eye, and ask, "Now tell me the truth. Are these wines any good?"  
Jim Robison and Brad Riordan

Jim Robison, of Robison Ranch, a third-generation family-owned ranch is located in Walla Walla County. Robison Ranch was acquired by Jim's father, Lester Robison at the beginning of the 20th century. Jim lived and worked on the ranch his entire life. Jim’s wife Jane had been his partner on the ranch for over 60 years. He was one of those wheat ranchers who was delighted that the wine industry had taken root in the Valley and followed the growth of the wine industry with great interest.

One afternoon I was visiting with Jim Robison and although he was a long-standing generation wheat farmer in the Walla Walla Valley, he told me how he liked the wine industry and how they (the wine industry) had contributed to the valley. It was so refreshing to hear, although it was really no surprise, especially when Robison Ranch had also owned a specialty foods company featuring agriculture products such as pickled vegetables (asparagus, green beans, etc), Walla Walla Sweet Onions and was also one of the nation’s largest producers of shallots. So it seemed only natural Jim and his wife Jane would take the next step and open a winery.

Enter family friend, Brad Riordan a wine and vine hobbyist. In 2005, Walla Walla newcomer Brad Riordan dug more than 200 holes through pure river rock to plant new grapevines on his quarter-acre “hobby” ranch. Two years later, Brad and Ruth Riordan became the winery partners of one of the valley’s most established wheat ranchers, Jim and Jane Robison.

The logo of the winery reflected Jim's collection of western art. He remembers his dad Lester talk about attending the Calgary Stampede in Canada in the early 1900’s. It was there where he met Western artist Charles Russell.  Russell made quite an impression on Jim's father Lester and later onto Jim.  In the early 70’s, Jim & Jane attained the Russell pencil sketch, “The Tracker”  and the rights to use it as their logo. “The Tracker” has been synonymous with Robison Ranch quality ever since.

It was always such a pleasure to visit with Jim and Brad at one of their private gatherings at the winery, as Jim had another skill I had not been aware of -  he was a tremendous cook and knew how to put on a lavish party. He would cook for a week or so  and by the time he decorated the 20 some foot table, it was a "smorgasboard" with all of the decorative touches of Martha Stewart, herself.  As I often stood back and watched, there was no doubt in my mind that Jim was a host with the most and loved to see people enjoy themselves.  

After tasting through the impressive line-up of wines on Friday, Jim had been on my mind all weekend. Yesterday, Brad shared with me that Jim, at the age of 84, died at his ranch yesterday.

Jim was one of those people that I think of as a true Walla Walla legend. My lasting impression of Jim was that of a vibrant and proud man who took life with zest and accomplished everything successfully that he sought out to do. I am grateful for the short time I got to share the same world with him.      

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring Fling: Waterbrook Sangiovese Rosé - 2011

Every so often I get hooked on a wine and will refer to it as my "wine of the week and/or wine of the month." No, there are no ribbons, trophies, scores or gifts I send off to the masters who have tickled my palate. There are no ceremonies and no headline news. These wines that I have become enthused with I will enjoy until a new wine comes along - - especially a younger and prettier wine. Yes, cold and heartless - I will empty the bottle, six pack or case, until another wine tickles my fancy.  I have made no commitment or vows to any of them, though sometimes polyamorous, I am free to move on to the next wine - a one vintage fling. Next! 

Sometimes I do find myself romancing the next new vintage just like I have done with Waterbrook Winery's new release of  Sangiovese Rosé - 2011.

Last week was Spring Release Weekend here in Walla Walla and I found myself attending a lot of pre-during-and-post parties. A couple of the functions, guests brought bottles to share and sure enough the pretty-in-pink Waterbrook Sangiovese showed up and called out my name, "Hellooo Catie."

The first time this rosé caught my attention was last year at Feast Walla Walla and I was hooked with the first sip. I used all of my tokens mainly on glasses of this wine. Hey, it was a hot day in that tent and this cool and refreshing wine quenched my thirst. It also reminded me of a cold crisp watermelon.

This year at Feast Walla Walla, once again the Waterbrook Sangiovese Rosé - 2011 waved me down. They told me I would like this vintage even better. They were right - - or maybe I couldn't remember what the 2010 tasted like - - but no matter. I fell in love with this wine - - all over again.

Waterbrook Sangiovese Rosé - 2011 is a crisp strawberry colored wine with rosebud and watermelon aromatics. This 100% sangiovese was cold soaked for 50 hours before removing the skins. The  finishing result is a dry rosé with bright flavors of strawberry, watermelon and balanced acidity. Notes of raspberry linger on the finish.

How to pair such a wine?   Waterbrook Sangiovese Rosé is made for summer sipping all by itself, but it's still very food friendly. I would pair it with fruit salads, grilled vegetables, spicy seafood dishes and even a light, yet sweet BBQ sauce slathered over chicken or pork ribs. Sante Rosé!   

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Walla Walla Wine For Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Trockenbeerenauslese

I dare you to say it three times really-really fast. 

Chances are pretty great that you won't hear this word much in the tasting rooms of Walla Walla, as Trockenbeerenauslese (literal meaning: "dried berries selection") is a Germanic wine term for a medium to full body dessert wine (usually the Riesling grape). It is the highest in sugar content in  Austrian and German wine classifications.

Trockenbeerenauslese wines, often called "TBA" for short, are made from individually selected grapes affected by "Noble Rot," i.e. "botrytized" grapes.You may be familiar with Sauternes, which is another botrytized wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux (yoo-hoo Chateau dYquem, anyone?). Sauternes are made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have also been affected by noble rot.

The closest and most recent example of a botrytized wine in the Walla Walla area would be the Poet's Leap Botrytis Riesling - 2008 from Long Shadows winery produced in the Walla Walla Valley. 


In fact, the President and Mrs. Obama hosted President Hu of China for an official state dinner a year ago in January. At the request of the Chinese Delegation, the White House arranged a “quintessentially American” evening, complete with a menu, decor, and entertainment that reflected some of the nation’s most recognizable offerings.   


Proud to say that the 2008 Poet's Leap Botrytis Riesling was one of only three wines (two being from Washington State and one California wine) poured that evening, and was served with apple pie and vanilla ice cream.  


These terms mean that grapes have been infected with botrytis cinerea (aka Noble Rot). The fruit becomes shrivelled, and often to the point of appearing like a raisin. This dusty looking mold wrinkles and contracts the liquid from the grapes therefore giving the wine, used from these grapes, very sweet and  intense rich profiles, such as caramel and honey aromas and rich stone fruit flavors - like peach and apricots. 


Yum! I will have a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese! Chances are better that you will hear the terms of "noble rot" and "botrytized" in the Walla Walla valley instead of Trockenbeerenauslese.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Spring Release Weekend: Canoe and Chocolate

What on earth would chocolate and a canoe have in common, especially this Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla?  Two wineries opening up for business under the same ownership! One winery is a brand new concept and the other has been one of the Walla Walla originals since 1989. 

In 2010, Canoe Ridge Winery unfortunately closed the doors under their previous ownership, Diageo, a large international spirits and wine company. In the mean time the building has remained quiet - - until now! Precept Wine Brands has purchased the business and will be opened this weekend to the public. The old historic building has under gone some updates in the tasting room since the former winery, including new furnishings for the patio. A new team of winemakers will  lead the production; Bill Murray, winemaker and assistant winemaker Matt Oakley.

The old building that housed the winery tasting room and cellar originally served as Walla Walla's streetcar and train warehouse.  (Yes - - Walla Walla really did have streetcars!) In the early 1900's the train system traveled a 26-mile trek between the Washington/Oregon borders of Walla Walla and it's neighboring town, Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side. By the mid-century the shuttle carried agriculture freight. In 1989, Canoe Ridge not only planted grapes on its estate vineyard in the Columbia Valley, but restored the old brick Cherry Street Engine House and it was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It will be great to see that old Walla Walla asset alive again with visitors. 

Now from the serious to the sweet ...

If you have visited Walla Walla in the last couple of years, you may remember on the "plaza" of First and Main Streets,  Precept Wine Brand's "Walla Walla Wine Works."  If you can really remember "back when," it was also the former tasting room of Waterbrook Winery until they moved to their new and current location on Highway 12 by Lowden. So one more time that little brick nook has done a transformation, and a rather decandent one, at that. 

In 2011, Precept Wine Brands released a new line-up of flavored wines called "The Chocolate Shop" featuring chocolate infused Bordeaux-style red blend, including flavors of Chocolate Strawberry, Creme de Cocoa wines and "Box of Chocolate." Yup, you got it - chocolate boxed wine. These chocolate wines have not only become so popular with chocolate lovers everywhere, but also received accolades from the Wine Spectator magazine and television's NBC Today Show.   

After selling over a million bottles of the sweet confectionary wine in the US as well internationally, Precept Wine Brands knew what needed to be done - - create "Pure Heaven"  for chocolate lovers.

So the former Walla Walla Wine Works tasting room has been remodeled with rich colors of brown, gold gilding and crystal chandeliers and now The Chocolate Shop is opened and ready for the Spring Release Weekend.  The Chocolate Shop - "Purveyor of All Things Chocolate" - will be a destination downtown tasting room that will stand out from other traditional Walla Walla tasting rooms. The shop will also offer artisanal chocolates, "chocolate" monogramed t-shirts and other novelty apparel, and of course their popular chocolate wines! The newly rich decorated tasting room will also be used as an ultimate escape for birthday parties, bridal showers and community gatherings.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Ring Around the Rosé ...

"Pocket full of Posy. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!"

With apologies to the old 14th century song ... remember the old childhood game of "Ring around the Rosie"? Visions of children holding hands in a circle, rotating slowly while singing this verse, then collapsing in a giggling heap at the end of the song. The song was born in Europe during the years of 1347 - 1350.

During this time, rosé wines were evolving in the French vineyards of Provence. The nobility and military leaders acquired and managed these vineyards.  Soon, rosé  became prestigious, and known as the pretty pink wine of kings and aristocrats.

Seven centuries later, rosé has found its way to Walla Walla. Many will be showcased this Spring Release Weekend of May, 6-8 and unfortunately many of the newly released are already gone! Boo-hoo! If you are fortunate enough to sample any, grab them and grab them now! And please, don't bore us with "real men don't drink pink wine." You want to tell that to the men in Provence?

The beauty of these rose-colored wines is they are perfect for the red wine drinker preferring the taste of the red grape but desiring something lighter in the hot summer weather. Here are some favorites from Walla Walla (to name a few), but once again if you see them, don't let them get away. They are wonderful sippers by themselves, yet so very food friendly.

Charles & Charles (Bieler & Smith project) Rosé - 2011: From the men who brought you the popular Rosé bumper sticker (see below) So how does this rosé taste? Remember Jolly Ranchers? Hold that thought ...It's scrumptious!

Dusted Valley Ramblin' Rosé - 2011: Crisp, clean, fruit forward and utterly delicious. An incredible field blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Sirah and even a touch of Viognier.

L'Ecole #41 Grenache Rosé - 2011: From the Alder Ridge Vineyard, this fresh and crisp Grenache Rosé shows orange rind and citrus perfumed aromatics with fresh fruit flavors of tangerine, raspberry and pomegranate with rose petal notes on a spicy, flinty mineral finish.

Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Magician's Assistant" Cabernet Franc Rosé - 2011: 100% Cabernet Franc! Coral pink in color with aromas of watermelon, strawberries, and minerals. Crisp and  dry on the palate and driven by more of the watermelon and red berries.

Tranche Cellars Pink Pape Estate - 2011: Traditional Rhone varietals of Counoise, Cinsault and Syrah - - "Pape!" Pale salmon in color with a light pink hue. Light aromas of cantaloupe rind, honeysuckle and citrus. Soft and lush on the palate with red berry fruits being complemented by delicate flavors of white nectarine, orange blossom and hibiscus flower.

Waterbrook Sangiovese - 2011: 100% Sangiovese that was cold soaked for 50 hours before removing the skins. A crisp wine with rose bud and watermelon aromatics. This dry Rosé has bright flavors of strawberry, melon with balanced acidity and lingering raspberry notes on the finish. 



Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Walla Walla Wine For Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Linalool

Linalool is a colorless, yet fragrant naturally-occurring terpene compound found in wine. It can also be distilled from the oils of rosewood, bergamot, and other plants and trees and is also used in perfume manufacturing.

Also known as C10H180, this organic flavor compound is responsible for the floral and peach-like aromas found in wines produced with grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Chenin Blanc.

So what does "linalool" smell and taste like and how will you know it is naturally showing itself in a white wine? A great example of the aroma and taste of linalool is Trix Cereal made by General Mills. The "Orangey orange, Lemony yellow, and Raspberry red" fruity taste and smell are reminiscent.

And unlike wine, "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids."