Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010: Walla Walla Wines & The Blogger

Fellow Scotsman and Poet, Bobby Burns said it best:

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn?


First of all, let me tell you about the Who, What, Where and When of this blog. Oh yeah, even as we are surrounded with the best of technology, when I get introduced as “the blogger” I still get looks as if I am standing naked with three heads on my shoulder. And of course, it is the heads of: Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Manson and Charles Manson. Then I am often asked, “What is a blogger?”

Well, if you are really curious what a blogger is, show up at the Marcus Whitman Hotel during the weekend of June 25, 2010 and you will see over 250+ of us from all over the United States and other parts of the world! Yeah, it took a lot of sweet-talking, escalating tears and tantrums, and threats of Voodoo induced cork tainted wine, but the Third Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference has been taken out of Napa/Sonoma and placed in Walla Walla!

As I look back at this blog, I realize that 2010 will also mark the 5th Anniversary of “Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine.” Who knew when I first started my little online journal, I would still be here. I am now one of those “old-timers” who can actually say, “I remember when I was one of the first 300 wine bloggers many years, ago.” And yes, the world of wine blogging has grown. It has grown so much that we, without really trying, made traditional wine writers a little nervous and made them rethink wine journalism. The wise journalists took on the attitude of, “If we can’t beat 'em, join 'em," while others chose to express “sour grapes” by calling us names. Oh and we were called names by the best of the professionals, too. We were called “Blobbers” and my all time favorite name, which I still can’t help from giggling when I hear it, “bitter, carping gadflies.” Ahhh yes. Good times.

How often can my readers expect to hear from me? No less than four times a month, but hopefully more - - and when I am really on a roll, sometimes twice a week! Who and what do I blog about? Walla Walla and her wines - - and often, it is my view on the subject and not a reprint of the news.

Recently, the subject of how I review wines was brought up. Nope, I am not a fan of using points and QPR numbers (Quality per Ratio). I feel numbers are limiting. How do you sum up a wine to one number and especially if the wine has been given the deathly number of all - - 89! And wonder if I gave a wine a high number and a fellow blogger gave it a low number (or vice-versa). With that kind of confusion, you might decide not to even taste the wine.

What I hope to bring to my readers is the best features of the wine and most of all, the experience behind the wine. My palate is different than yours and of course, wines are subjective. So, my feelings are if I at least share the experience with you, no matter if the wine I discussed was difficult to find or unobtainable, you will still try another varietal and vintage from that winery. Or even at best - - any wine produced in the Walla Walla Valley.

I have been asked, "How come you haven't blogged about ABC or XYZ Cellars, yet?" My standard answer is this: "There are so many wineries and wines in Walla Walla and there is only one of me."

To all of the wineries in Walla Walla County: I love you all!

I wish I could write and blog all day long, but unfortunately it doesn't pay the bills. I work a full-time 8:30 - 5:00 office job during the day and I blog and do freelance wine writing in the evenings and weekends. Which means, my weekends are full just trying to catch-up with - - well - - "life."

Sometimes I need a little help and the best motivation is for a winery to invite me to a tasting. Also, if you have an experience or news going on at your winery, let me know (unfortunately, it is difficult for me to always post weekly events as I don't keep a calendar on the blog).
So really - shoot me an email. I would love to talk with you about your wines.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting - 2009

The Saturday morning of Holiday Barrel Tasting, I was reminded of many Holiday Barrel Tastings of years past and just like years before, this morning was no different. The air was crisp and there were highlights of frost on the trees and sidewalks. I laughed to myself as the frost reminded me of visiting with wine tourists from California who were considering a move to Walla Walla and asking me if this kind of weather happened often and if it was difficult to drive in.

I headed towards Cottonwood Road to visit Reynvaan Family Vineyards. I thought I would never get there! It’s quite a drive. However, not only is it a beautiful drive this time of year, with a view of the snow covered foothills, but it’s a worthy drive to taste the Syrah futures of 2008.

As soon as I walked into the winery, I was greeted warmly by Gale and Michael Reynvaan and their son, Matt. I knew the wines had to be very special as Christophe Baron, of the renowned Cayuse Vineyards, has been the Reynvaan's viticulture and wine consultant. I tasted "The Contender" Syrah - a classic and elegant wine with hints of violets, berries and cocoa. "In the Rocks" Syrah was a mouth full of blueberries and had been co-fermented with Viognier and Marsanne. And then was "The Unnamed" Syrah - - because at this time it is - - well - - unnamed! The "Unnamed" again was a classic, but a softer wine with hints of rose petals and bramble berries. It also was co-fermented with Viognier. And besides, the "un-named" wine? Who cares that it doesn't have a name? It can stand on its own and Reynvaan is a winery to definitely keep an eye and ear open for.

My morning was getting away from me as I had a lunch date with a good friend/mentor/editor to gossip, catch-up and chat business with. But I still had time for one more stop before I headed back to town, even though I spent a lot of time visiting with the Reynvaan family. Next stop was Trust Cellars to visit with Steve and Lori Brooks. As always, I was greeted with a warm and friendly smile by Lori Brooks. Steve had selected a very special barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar to taste from. The inside and outside of the winery was decorated with festive greenery and a Christmas tree decorated with Trust Cellar label ornaments.

Too bad I was saving myself for lunch, but other visitors were going to be in for a treat with the beautiful selection of imported cheeses the Brooks were serving with their "trust"-worthy Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.

Once I arrived at T. Maccarones at noon, It was difficult to leave after I got all cozy and warm nursing their fabulous Bloody Mary’s made with Absolut vodka chocked full of "salad" and pickled goodies - -and let's not forget about the grilled shrimp hanging off of the glass just ready to jump into the spicy red liquid. And last but not least, my brunch of rich potatoes gratan prepared with Fontina cheese and fried panchetta with poached eggs on top. Finally, and feeling content, I got my "move on" and moved on down the street.

"On down the street" was in the direction of Merchants LTD, the town's long-standing and original deli. Margo and Gary Kagels, of Plumb Cellars were the featured winery for the day, pouring their new wines. Gary already knew the "Damn Straight" red blend was one of my favorite damn straight wines. I'm telling ya, if I could bore you with a QPR (quality per price ratio) my personal tastebuds would tell you this is a $40 wine selling for $26. But I won't bore you with QPR as FWIW, IME and IMHO I just like to KISS, because YMMV, KWIM? The wine just tastes DSTR8! ROTFLMAO XOXOXO!
Also available for tasting was Plumb Cellar's Merlot from the Birch Creek Vineyards. It was indeed a Merlot that showed off the earthy rich soil of Walla Walla. I am looking forward to seeing many future releases from Plumb Cellars.

This was also the first weekend for Locati Cellars to be in their new tasting room at the Depot and my timing was perfect as I got to visit with Mike and Penne Locati and son, Heath Snider. Once again, I tasted their Pinot Grigio and was reminded of the fresh flavors of honeydew melon with a sprinkle of lemon. A few weeks before Barrel Tasting, Penne called and said she was anxious for me to try their Orange Muscat that was fermented dry. I certainly was curious. There were undertones of almost sherry-like qualities and the orange was still dominant. It was a complex wine, but a wine I can see that would pair very well with seafood.

The Locati Cellars Columbia Valley and Walla Walla (Pepperbridge) Sangiovese's were definitely "swoon worthy." The Sangiovese from Candy Mountain Vineyard from Kennewick was very "slurp-able!" "Slurpable," you ask? Meaning = it goes down too easy, much like the vineyard's name - candy. The Walla Walla Sangiovese was a bit more complex showing more herbal and soil qualities. And the Barbera - - like crushed fresh berries and a finish as smooth and buttery like caramel. Wines to watch out for! I am very excited about these wines.

My day was coming to an end, but since I was on the highway headed home, I stopped at Lowden Hills Winery to visit with friends, Sonja and Jim Henderson and their little guard dog, LuLu. The tasting room was steady with customers and Sonja was busy re-filling a table with an assortment of cheeses, Norwegian treats and chocolate desserts. The "See You There" Syrah, with the beautiful label of Sonja's mother Susanne, was meant for "Inger's Kahlua brownies" and the rich chocolate torte that people were crowding around. What a perfect pairing to end such a perfect day - chocolate and Syrah.

And once again, another Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend behind me and as I checked my list, once again, I didn't make every winery on the list! "So many wineries - so little time." Fiddle-dee-dee, Scarlet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tru Cellars: The Daring and Surreal Wine Experience.

No matter what you are selling, you have to standout to stimulate growth and engage your consumers. I would have to say that Chad Diltz of Tru Cellars seems to have no problem standing out from the norm. In fact, even the wines he produces stands out, especially in Walla Walla since they are the first and only sparkling wine at this time.

Enjoy Tru Cellars: America's New Legacy "movie trailer" (Pipe in the voice of Don LaFontaine, the voiceover guy famous for recording more than 5,000 film trailers and hundreds of thousands of television advertisements.) "In a world …"

"Critics acclaim daring and surreal wine experience (sound applause)."

Tru Cellars: America's New Legacy TRAILER by 4th Avenue Media from 4th Avenue Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Deck the Walls with Walla Walla! Holiday Barrel Tasting

It's that time of year when over 50 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley will open their doors this weekend to introduce their new vintages and give a sneak-peak of the beautiful nectar that is resting in the barrels. Of all of the wine events in Walla Walla, the Holiday Barrel Tasting is my favorite. The crowds are a bit smaller, it's a more of an intimate feeling, and all of the wineries are beautifully decked out with the holiday spirit.

So, what can I say about how to survive another wine tasting event? Not much more than I have always said. It's really quite easy, you know. Just eat well, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate and remember to apply everything you learned in kindergarten and you will do just fine:
  • Share everything.

  • Play fair.

  • Don't hit people.

  • Put things back where you found them.

  • Clean up your own mess.

  • Don't take things that aren't yours.

  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

  • Wash your hands before you eat.

  • Flush.

  • Cheese and wine are good for you.

  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

  • Take a nap every afternoon.

  • When you go out in the Walla Walla Valley, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

For a list of participating wineries, times, and events check out Walla Walla Wine Alliance. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winetails: Once Upon A Time...

When I first heard the term, "Winetails," I was intrigued. As a fan of Hans Christian Anderson I had visuals of grown-ups all snuggly with their blankies and glasses of wine listening to stories about the handsome French bottle of Château Pétrus on his white steed saving his princess from the mean old $7.99 box of White Zinfandel. Then I read a wine blog talking about making a winetail out of an expensive bottle of Walla Walla wine and I thought to myself, "Are you freakin' effing nuts?"

Okay, so I am slowly changing my mind, but I still think you are freakin' effing nuts if you make a winetail out of an expensive bottle of wine. And the point of using a $30 bottle of wine for a winetail is to make the wine taste better? Huh?

However, I have trusted Denise Slattery of Trio Vintners to talk me down from my soapbox as she tells me how yummy winetails can be - - and I am thinking with the holiday season here, what a perfect time to start "mixin' and shakin'!"

Here is a winetail that Denise recommends and she uses Trio Vintners 2007 Riot (note the clever anagram for "riot"). Riot is a red blend of 53% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre at a great price of $18! Denise uses their red blend instead of the suggested Italian Chianti (Sangiovese) for this pretty red and festive winetail known as the Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara: Ice cubes, 1 oz fresh lemon juice, 1 oz Simple Syrup (see recipe below), 2 oz Triple Sec, 3 oz Trio Vintners 2007 Riot, and 2 lemon twists for garnish.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the lemon twists, but add them later with a bit of smooth style. Shake well (Again, keep up being stylin' with your shakin' and your shimmy, but remember you are not Shakira or Lady Ga-Ga). Strain the mixture into two cocktail glasses. Twist the lemon slice over each glass and let it slide in without a second glance. Serve immediately.

Simple Syrup - 2 1/2 cups water and 3 cups of sugar. Combine water and sugar in a medium-size sauce pan. Bring to boil over med-high heat, stirring occasionaly. Lower the heat a bit, keeping the mixture at a low boil for five minutes. Turn off the heat and let syrup completely cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Makes 41/2 cups.

The recipe is from the book Wine Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun and you can purchase the book from Trio Vintners. It is a collection of 50 "stylish sippers" that can be made with red, white and rosés. Be sure to check out the quote on the inside of the book cover -

"It's a joy to have this cocktail connoisseur come over to our side to play. Wine lovers everywhere will enjoy mixing up a party with A.J.'s guidance." - Steve Michener, Winemaker, Trio Vintners.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TЯU Cellars: It Sparkles!

On one of the glorious warm Autumn days last month, Robin (friend and mentor) and I went downtown Walla Walla to take in the sites, snap photos, check out a few tasting rooms and relax with lunch and a glass of wine.

There is no way to escape the turquoise-colored accented building on Main Street and it also has a way of drawing you inside. If you were dropping by Tru Cellars to pick up a bottle of wine for a dinner party, this tasting room has more than wine. Before you left you could also find a fashionable dress or purse for the evening.

Once Robin and I made our way through the first room of the building, "ooohing and aahing" over the pretty "threads" and glittery purses, a few steps down into a light and open room was owner, Chad Diltz waiting to pour us glasses of his wine. We tasted a Viognier with floral and fruity notes that suggested a sweet wine, but was predominantly dry. We also tasted a very spicy Gewürztraminer. It was full bodied and a very complex white wine. But as they say, the "piece de resistance" was the sparkling star of the show - - the Blanc de Blanc - 2007.

Tru Cellars is the first "sparkling" winery in Walla Walla and to remain "tru" to French tradition, méthode champenoise is used. With this method, the bubbles are produced by a secondary fermentation in each individual bottle instead of produced in bulk tanks. Also traditional is the 205 liter size barrels from Tonnellerie De Champagne Ardenne, a small cooperage in Reims, France. Tonnellerie De Champagne Ardenne is also the only cooperage in all of the Champagne region and now aging sparkling wines from Tru Cellars, as well.

I thought the Blanc de Blanc was a lively and fresh tasting sparkler. It showed crisp apple notes without the yeast masking the fruit and the well balanced acids, which I often find yeast does in some sparkling wines. Chad says the wine can be aged or of course, enjoyed now. It's a fun wine that can be the star of an elegant evening or to kick back with and pair it with bowl of buttery popcorn.

Chad Diltz definitely has a bubbly personality, very much like the wine he produces and Tru Cellars is a winery to keep an eye on.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Plumb Cellars: It's Damn Straight Wine!

I mean - - come on! What else would you name a winery where the majority of the co-founder's are in the construction business and interior design and decorating business? Plumb Cellars, of course!

Plumb Cellars was created by a Walla Walla group of friends who love their wine: Margo and Gary Kagels, Edie and Dale Johnson, Crandall Kyle, Chip Madsen, Taylor Sokolowsky, and Meagan & Judah Anderson-Pira.

In 2006, Meagan Anderson-Pira, along with the rest of the wine-team, created their first vintage of their flagship red blend, "Damn Straight." If you are wondering about Meagan, let me tell you, she comes from good winemaking genes. Dr. Miles Anderson, co-owner of Walla Walla Vintners and founder of the Institute of Viticulture and Enology at WWCC, is her father.

This is a serious winery, as they have even planted their own vineyard. I understand that one of their co-founders was adamant that all of the rows were "damn straight" and all the vineyard stakes were - - well - -plumb! Obviously, the adamant co-founder was one of the construction dudes.

At this time, Plumb Cellars has released a Merlot from Birch Creek Vineyards, a Cabernet, and of course their flagship red blend, Damn Straight - 2006.

I opened a bottle of the "Damn Straight" Wednesday evening. It's a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. As a big fan of Cabernet Franc, I could detect it right up front - that herbaceous quality that I enjoy and look forward to. At my first glass, the wine seemed complex and either my palate may have had an off night or the wine needed to breathe more, but I couldn't quite define what this wine was about - - until the second night I revisited it.

WOW! Last night I defined it! It was very robust, lively and so much flavor came through. There were flavor notes of dark cherry, mocha, brown sugar and a bit of the ol' cigar box. And the notes that I love about Cabernet Franc still shined through. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and winced later at the empty glass and empty bottle. For a wine that is marketed as a red table blend at $26, I would recommend to give it respect like it's a $36 wine. Take the time to decant the wine and give it some air. Also, pair this wine up with food. There is no doubt it is going to stand up and pair well with really rich and hearty appetizers and entrees.

Yup, there's no doubt about it - - Plumb Cellars Damn Straight Red Blend - 2006, is a damn fine straight wine!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Walla Walla Fall Release Highlights

Lately my motto has been, "So many Walla Walla wineries and so little time - - and only one of me." And with the best intentions, I still didn't make it to all of the wineries on my list.

When I go wine tasting I like having another wine-geek with me to bounce off tasting notes and talk about the politics of wine and styles of winemaking. Jason Baggett, second-year student at the Walla Walla Institute for Enology and Viticulture and assistant at Mannina Cellars ventured out with me on the Saturday morning of Fall Release 09.

Our first stop was at Castillo de Feliciana Castillo Vineyard and Winery. We wanted to check out the beautiful new facility and of course taste the wines of Ryan Raber, former

winemaker at Tertulia Cellars. Our timing was perfect as Ryan poured our wines! We were impressed by the Tempranillo and
the "Miercoles" - the "Wednesday Wine" (Miercoles is Spanish for Wednesday). Miercoles is a very tasty everyday blend of 60% Cabernet Sauuvignon and 40% Syrah. And the price is great at $19.00. The facility is gorgeous and the view - - spectacular!

The next stop was three wineries in one! I wanted to stop by Gramercy Cellars and say hello to Greg and Pam Harrington under their "Big Top Circus Tent." We tasted through their beautiful wines that recently received high 90+ points from Dr. Jay Miller of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Oh yes, these points were very well deserved! The Gramercy Inigo Montoya Tempranillo was swoon-worthy as well as the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. I immediately picked up an herbal quality in the Cab that I really enjoyed. The wine was very viscous and rich. And of course, the real star of the show was the Gramercy John Lewis Syrah that received 96 points. I liked the way Jason described the wine - - "A Monster!"

We walked over to Waters Winery. A beautiful facility and certainly their share of beautifully made wines, too. The "Interlude," a Bordeaux-style blend made my palate happy as well as the Waters Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006 really stood out for me. It was a well balanced wine, yet complex with rich black fruit and cigar box notes. We met with Christa Hilt, Marketing Director who was a delightful hostess and invited Jason and I to their very stunning VIP room where we also met with Jamie Brown, winemaker for Waters. In the VIP room held one very special wine - 21 Grams.

21 Grams is a collaboration between Waters Winery and Gramercy Cellars. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from world-class vineyards in Washington State and only 100 cases are made. It was aromatic, silky and very elegant. Jason and I both noted how easy it was on the palate - just like velvet.

On we went into Oregon border to visit the winery of Otis Kenyon. We chose not to go to their downtown Walla Walla tasting room and to visit their winery instead as it is rare when it is open to the public. They also had a "Big Top Circus Tent" set up. Thank goodness as it was getting windy by then. The Otis Kenyon "Matchless" Red is a very tasty "Tuesday" wine (actually any day!) produced with fruit sourced from Walla Walla. The Carmenere - 2007 didn't have any green vegetal notes in it that you often find in Carmenere. Instead it showed a lot of pink and black peppercorns. If you love Carmenere like I do, then the Otis Kenyon Carmenere is the one!

Robison Ranch Cellars partners, Brad Riordan and Jim Robison really know how to throw a party and indeed what a fine party it was at the ranch with wine, food and even door prizes! Brad is in charge of the wine and Jim is in charge of the food - and what a spread Jim produced. Smoked salmon, smoked pork tenderloin, proscuitto and selection of imported cheeses to name a few of the delicious noshes. It was a feast - and the wine from the Walla Walla Valley vineyards was indeed fit for a feast. The Robison Ranch Cellars Rosé - 2008 is a blend of Walla Walla grown Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot and Viognier and it paired quite perfect with the smoked salmon, and other smoked meats that Jim Robison prepared (a reminder of how well the wine will pair with the Thanksgiving turkey). I really thought the Merlot was a shining star - it reminded me of a blackberry pie with a brown sugar finish and my how it lingered. Oh, and guess who won a door prize? A great ending to a great day of tasting wines and meeting up with friends at the various wineries.

After being a responsible wine taster and spitting all of the delicious wine all day, I went home, settled in for the evening, put my purple fuzzy slippers on and poured myself a glass of wine.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla!

It’s time for Fall Release in Walla Walla and what does this mean? Well, the truth of the matter is every first weekend in November, Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards opens his doors to all of his fans who are on “the list” to pick up their “futures.” It also means it's a great time for the other wineries to show and shine! And what does this mean for the rest of us who are on the main Cayuse waiting list or on the chain of waiting lists to get on the waiting lists? (Hmmmph, I lost my place on the list in the “divorce” – phhhhtttt!) It means there are plenty of other great wines to taste in the Walla Walla Valley! So buck up and wipe those tears. Not all is lost. Here’s a few surprises some of the wineries have in store just for you!

Basel Cellars will be featuring local photography, book signing by Steve Roberts, Wine Trails of Washington and bratwurst on the grill. Bergevin Lane will release “Heart and Soul” Pinot Noir – 2007. Now that’s a grape we don’t see too often in Walla Walla. Canoe Ridge Vineyards will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary with vintage wine pours and appetizers. It’s a grand opening for new winery Castilo de Feliciana. Enjoy regional Spanish food and Flamenco guitar. Dumas Station Wines from Dayton will be poured at Merchants Deli featuring selected breads and cheeses. Gramercy Cellars will be serving their recently well a-“pointed” wines under the big top circus tent in the vineyard. The Wine Advocate gave Gramercy some love with 96, 94 and 93 point wine ratings! Selected barrel tasting and appetizers at the school house that Wine & Spirits magazine named L'Ecole No. 41 "Winery of the Year" for the 8th consecutive year! WOW!

It’s a rare opportunity when Long Shadows Vintners opens their doors – don’t miss it! They will be pouring their new releases along with scrumptious appetizers (as always). Sonja and Jim always have good food at Lowden Hills Winery along with some great sales! Northstar Winery will be pouring new releases paired with an assortment of cheeses. Check out their spectacular view of the Blue Mountains. Otis Kenyon Winery will be available at their downtown tasting room and out at the winery. Ask them to share their fascinating story about their label. Check out the bronze exhibit at Rulo Winery and taste their fabulous and affordable Syrahs! Rich at Saviah Cellars is releasing a Petit Verdot! Yum! That wine will go fast! Live music all the time at Sapolil Cellars – check it out! There is an art exhibit at Seven Hills Winery and Vicky McClellan told me she's digging through her library wines to share. Don’t miss that one! Enjoy local cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie at Skylite Cellars Winery on the highway. Stella Fino will feature their new releases and beautiful chocolate from Petits Noirs chocolatiers.

It’s the 10th Anniversary at Three Rivers Winery and what a party! Featuring music, appetizers, food demos and VIETRI handcrafted Italian home décor is making an appearance. Trio Vintners at the incubators is opening their Willow Annex art gallery featuring smoke prints by Frank Janzen. If you are downtown, tickle your nose with a glass of bubbles from Tru Cellars. The sparkling Blanc de Blanc is a treat! Then walk across the street and start your weekend on Friday at Walla Walla Wine Works and listen to the tunes of Paul Gregutt (famed wine writer and author) and Pete Crawford (“Where’s Mary?”). Small plates of deliciousness are available for purchase. Drop by Woodward Canyon and check out their new “Reserve House.” Chef Charles Caulder and Chef Jay Entrikin will offer special bites to pair with current releases.

Now if this isn’t enough to keep you busy I don’t know what will! For a list of other participating wineries, releases, and special dinners check out the Walla Walla Wine News Fall Release Guide. For a map and directions there are brochures available at most of the wineries or go online to Walla Walla Wine Alliance.

Need a guide on how to act savvy and cool at the wineries? Check out the Walla Walla Wine News Fall Release Survival Guide written by Yours Truly. The guide will assist you in making the most of your weekend. And let me add some new pointers such as all of the basic things we learned in kindergarten: When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together; Share everything; Play fair; Don't hit people; Put things back where you found them; Clean up your own mess; Don't take things that aren't yours; Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody; Wash your hands before you eat; Flush; Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you or in this case - -

Wine and cheese are good for you! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Game On! 8-Bit Vintners

When it comes to gaming I plead ignorance, but I wasn’t always. In the early 80’s I polished my skills on Ms. Pacman. I was in a situation of "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em." At the time, my young step-son and his friends were very much into arcades and when we took the kids out for pizza after a football game, they became glued to the video games.

Mike James, self-proclaimed gaming geek and owner/winemaker of 8-Bit Vintners realized while gamers were busy slaying dragons and saving princesses, these heroes with square box weapons needed their own wine. I could hardly wait to try 8-Bit Vintners “Player 1” when I first heard it was to be bottled in July.

“Player 1” is a red blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Cab Sauv, and 5% of Carmenere and 5% Malbec produced with fruit from the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys. Mike chose to use screw caps instead of corks and it wasn’t a statement against corks either. His intentions for the wine was easy access and to be enjoyed NOW! Like who needs to screw with a cork when you are busy playing with your joy stick?

A few days ago, I heard my doorbell ring just as I opened my first bottle of 8-Bit Vintners. It was a good friend stopping by and he must have heard the snap and release of the bottle cap. It was a fun surprise and a great reason for an impromptu plate of water crackers, crisp apple slices and a wheel of smoked gouda. We found the blend to be an “easy sipper.” Right up front it showed the fruitiness of the syrah with just a hint of spice at the end. The tannins were well balanced and the acids didn’t clash with the tartness of the apples. Yeah, and the price is right. At $18 a bottle it’s a wine you could enjoy every day or share with friends for a special event. Rumor is there may be a white blend named “Player 2.”

I think Mike James has accomplished his goal. Game on!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which Walla Walla Washington Wine for the Wicked Witches?

I love scary stories, don’t you? Hold onto your seats because this is the scariest Halloween story you will ever hear.

Once upon a time in a little town called Walla Walla there were a coven of four witches by the names of Grand Cru-ella, Claretta, Uvaggio, and Mog. All Hallows Eve was just around the corner, so they decided to plan a soiree to celebrate. Of course, if you are a witch you don’t need to hire a caterer or a sommelier to handle such a grand party, because all you have to do is wrinkle your nose or cast a spell and voila - dinner and wine is served! But their wine spells still needed some guidance. As the coven gathered drinking River of Skulls - 2007, from Twisted Oak Winery out of their tea cups (so their neighbors wouldn't see them drinking a California wine), Grand Cru-ella, the head witch lead the discussion on which Walla Walla wine would pair with what wicked witchy entree.

“Now Sisters, here is the menu with the six courses that Sister Claretta chose for our All Hallows Eve Soiree. I will read each course aloud and together we will cast a spell for the magic sommelier to choose the appropriate wine” said Grand Cru-ella. "And note, there will be no white or pink wines. The only wines to be served will be the color of blood red."

Claretta, was a sophisticated witch from England. She had wine and dined with the finest royalty for centuries, while Uvaggio was still locked into the 80's and only drank California Chardonnay. And then there was poor little Mog. She was just a silly little witch who typically during these food and wine pairing discussions would talk about any "material other than grapes."

"We will start our evening with an amuse-bouche of clown's tongue on a skewer. We thought the clown wasn't very funny, but perhaps he will amuse us now." said Grand Cru-ella. "Now Witches, which wicked Walla Walla Washington wine?"

And together the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" Sleight of Hand Cellars The Spellbinder - 2007 appeared! An aromatic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese.

"Next on our menu is a light offering of fresh flesh of sea beast on wafers with an O- blood drizzle," Grand Cru-ella said.

And together the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" Thirsty Pagans Communion Red - 2005 appeared! A great every day sipping wine that is produced with a screw cap.

"For our third course, it will be a little heavier. Broiled Hansel and Gretel in a mole gingerbread sauce. Now mind you, not a chocolate mole' sauce, but a sauce actually made from moles," Grand Cru-ella pointed out with her gnarled finger.

And once again, the little coven sang their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" L'Ecole No#41 Recess Red - 2007 appeared! An affordable and tasty red blend from an award winning winery. Claretta was particularly happy with that choice as the winery was once an old school house filled with tender young children. She so enjoyed pâté de pupils on pumpernickel.

"Sisters, our fourth course is very special." Grand Cru-ella said with delight in her voice. "We are celebrating the other planets around us. Remember Uvaggio when we visited Mars and you came back with that new hairdo? We'll celebrate with sauteed toadstools over risoto spoiled by weevils and sprinkled with moon dust."

And again with anticipation the cackling group of crones sang, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" A bottle of SYZYGY SAROS 139 - 2006! A unique and elegant blend of Malbec, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

"We're going to do another plate in celebration of the sky," said Grand Cru-ella. "I love flying on a starry night. Our fifth course will be a tribute to flight. I particularly chose roasted wing of bat, but will accent the wing with eye of Newt Gingrich and a mossy lichen salad."

"Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"POOF!" A bottle of Five Star Cellars Walla Walla Valley Merlot - 2006 appeared! A quality merlot produced with quality fruit from the valley.

"Sisters, now we are finally at the end of our menu - our sixth and last course. It is a grand course. A course that is not only worthy of one fine wine in all of Walla Walla, but two wines! We are serving the curls of Dorothy and her little dog, ToTo, too! The curls will be served in ruby red slippers used by female impersonators from San Francisco," Grand Cru-ella chirped with such enthusiasm.

"Sisters, this is a course so fine, we are not relying on magic. Sister Claretta and I have relied on our fine palates for the choice of these two wines!" Grand Cru-ella hauntily said. "We are announcing that our sixth and last course will be paired with a Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 2006 and a Cayuse Vineyards Armada Syrah - 2005!"

"Oooooo!" the wicked Walla Walla Witches awed.

"Sisters, you remember Bob Parker, don't you?" said Claretta. "Remember when he sold us his soul in exchange to grow him a new tongue after our Sister Alice in California removed it in her brave effort to save the world from him? Well, Bob gave both of these fine wines excellent ratings in the past. He has given Leonetti Cabernet Reserve 97 points for past 2003, 2004, 2005 vintages and for Cayuse Armada Syrah 98 points for the 2004 vintage and 99 points for the 2003!

Finally Mog spoke up. "But Sister Claretta, I was just down in the wine cellar foraging for a breakfast of spiders and I didn't see one bottle of Leonetti or Cayuse in the cellar."

"Oh don't be silly Mog. We have magic," interrupted Uvaggio as she quit chugging the Chardonnay from the bottle she had hidden under the table and sneered down at Mog. "I can get us any wine anytime we want. I have connections. I know people. Now gather 'round sisters so we can cast this spell. It's Witch Wine O'Clock and there's a glass of Chardonnay waiting for me at the Walla Walla Warlock Club."

"Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!" the witches chanted!

"POOF! BOING!" All of a sudden the bottles turned into shadowy forms! And just as Grand Cru-ella tried to grab for the shadows of the Leonetti and Cayuse bottles, the bottles slowly faded and then, "POOF!" Disappeared!

Once again the witches cast their spell, "Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla Walla, bing bang!"

"BOING! BOING! BOING!" Nothing! The spell didn't work. There were no bottles of Leonetti or Cayuse wine.

Claretta shrieked to Grand Cru-ella, "Sister Cru-ella! What are we going to do? Why can't we keep the spell on those bottles of wine? Our All Hallows Eve Soiree will be ruined! What will our guests think? How will we ever keep up with Lord and Lady MacBeth?"

All of a sudden the room shook and the lit candles dimmed. The wind began to switch - the house to pitch - and suddenly the hinges started to - unhitch! Then a huge booming terrifying voice from the ground groaned and bellowed! It was the most terrifying and most ghastliest sound one could ever imagine! GASP!

"The waiting lists of Cayuse Vineyards and Leonetti Cellars are currently full. If you would like to placed on the "Waiting Lists" for their waiting lists, please contact us by snail mail because even if you send us an email or fax to speed things up, your current wait will still be 5-8 years. Thank you for your patience and have a nice day!"

The End.

WBC-or-Bust: Road to Walla Walla

In conjunction with the third annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC), will provide 12 citizen wine writers the opportunity to catch a ride across Washington wine country. is an online community for the growing wine industry, where both popular wine bloggers and businesses come together to connect and share information on wine.

In eight months, hundreds of wine bloggers will converge on Walla Walla for the WBC to sip, sample and see what the Washington wine industry has to offer—while sharing their experiences online. The three-day event—taking place June 25-27, 2010—will attract over 250 wine bloggers as well as industry professionals from all over the country.

For many of the WBC attendees, this will be their first opportunity to visit Walla Walla, or even Washington State. As a way to provide a complete Washington wine experience, created the WBC-or-BUST: Road to Walla Walla campaign, which provides 12 lucky wine bloggers all-expenses paid travel between Seattle and Walla Walla.

“Washington is a premier wine region and a road trip just sounded like a fun way to get visiting bloggers where they needed to go, while sharing a broader Washington experience including it’s wine, food, and landscape,” says Marcus Pape, founder

Starting in Seattle and traveling by way of several key wine regions, bloggers will be wined, dined, and educated for three days and two nights as they make their way to the conference. Along for the ride will be a video crew, a few key wine media professionals, and several local industry icons providing some quality Q&A and regional flavor sharing. All provided to these visiting bloggers at no cost for simply doing what they do best – blogging.

“The WBC-or-BUST campaign is a terrific primer for next year’s conference,” said Ryan Pennington, Senior Communications Manager Washington Wine Commission. “Winning bloggers will experience the true breadth and diversity of our industry first hand, arriving in Walla Walla with a truly unique understanding of what Washington wine is all about.”

For more information on the WBC-or-Bust: Road to Walla Walla campaign and how to qualify or get involved, contact WBC-or-BUST! If I didn't already live here or was an WBC Event Sponsor, I would sign up to catch a ride. This is going to be a very cool experience!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Myriad of Merlots

I do love them and held true to them even when they were knocked “sideways” by Miles Raymond, the moody self-sabotaging wine aficionado character from the movie Sideways. I stayed faithful and never wavered when a group of writing peers from northern California skewered and flamed me for drinking a wine they felt was merely worthy of blending. Was it my fault they couldn’t get past their own wimpy California Merlots and not realizing that all Merlots were not created equal? Should I have felt guilty for having world class Merlots from the State of Washington all around me and so easily accessible?

Lately, I’ve been keeping an eye out for quality Merlots from Walla Walla that also come with an affordable price tag, so the lover of this little Bordeaux-influenced grape can get the most Bordeaux-Walla-Walla-Bing-Bang for their buck.

Basel Cellars Estate Merlot - 2006: If you want a bold Merlot that you can sink your teeth into along with that big piece of beef on your plate, then this is the Merlot. This Estate grown Merlot was aged 18 months in 37% new American and French oak. An aromatic nose of a cigar humidor and notes of vanilla. Lots of supple dark fruit in the glass that is completed with a dark cocoa finish. This wine could definitely be cellared for about five years. A Gold Medal winner of the 2009 Denver International Wine Competition. Retail Price: $28/bottle

Skylite Cellars Estate Merlot - 2005: I first tasted this wine at Taste Washington in Spokane with Cheryl Hodges co-owner of Skylite Cellars. It was their first vintage using 1oo% of their own fruit from their Skylite Estate Vineyard. Aged two years in new American oak. The nose was lightly smoky reminiscent of the autumn air and the palate reminded me of milk chocolate cherry cordials I really enjoyed this Merlot and thought it showed the fruit of Walla Walla quite well. Another Merlot that could be cellared, if you wish. Price: $26/bottle.

Nelms Road Merlot - 2007: Nelm's Road is the second label for Woodward Canyon. What I enjoy about the Nelms Road label is I always know I'm getting a quality wine made with quality fruit. A nose of leather and vanilla leads your palate to big bold flavors of black fruit and cherry. These wines are earthy and with the right elements, they can be cellared for about five years, but equally drinkable as a young wine. I say the price is right to enjoy now and often. Price: $21/bottle.

Revelry Vintners Columbia Valley Merlot - 2006: Revelry Vintners is a new winery at the Walla Walla Airport district. This Merlot was an easy sipper and would pair quite well with the basics such as hamburgers or upscale it a bit with salmon, of course saving extra for a Merlot redux sauce. Big berry and cherry flavors with just a slight touch of oak and a little spice to let you know you are sipping a Merlot. Definitely a young drinkable wine and very easy on the pocketbook. Price: $15/bottle.

In the movie, Miles Raymond got his tighty-whiteys in a bunch yelling outside the restaurant, "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!"

And to everyone who shares the same sentiments, don't let the door hit you in the bung hole on your way out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Locati Cellars Oregon Pinot Grigio - 2007

In the 80's the trendy white wine was Chardonnay. In 2000, it appears to be the little gray grape with the split personality - Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, depending if you are in France or Italy. I typically don't drink a lot of whites even though I’ve been on my soapbox barking that those of us who favor the red grape, need to give whites a chance. So, although I am not perfect, I try to heed my own words - - once in awhile.

After the Labor Day weekend, I remembered a chilled bottle of Locati Cellars Oregon Pinot Grigio - 2007 a guest left in my refrigerator. He had mentioned how much he enjoyed the wine and was anxious to get my opinion on it. Locati Cellars is located on the Stateline Road at Milton-Freewater, OR which is still located in the Walla Walla AVA. Something told me with the Locati name it had to be good because of their reputation for fine local produce in the valley and they've been been making wine for their family for over 100 years.

Since my experience with Pinot Gris or Grigios has been minimum (a glass here. a glass there) and it's been a few years since I tasted an Alsatian Pinot Gris, I became rather hooked on this refreshing white wine from Locati Cellars. It displayed a light mineral quality up front, a mid palate of honeydew melon and lemons and ended with just the right amount of acids to make it crisp and left the palate very clean and wanting more. It was an easy sipper and definitely a wine I would recommend for seafood that's been accented well with butter.

A few days after tasting the wine, I packed up my little dog, Chloe and off we ventured to the Oregon Coast to unwind in front of the ocean, ponder life and gather new energy from the waves. I kept thinking about the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio and how well it would pair with fish and seafood. One evening at the beach I took advantage of the one burner in the room's kitchenette and threw together linquine with clam sauce. Not the creamy, starchy, thick clam sauce, but a fresh lemony, buttery and clam nectar sauce with simple ingredients. Of course, I needed a good wine to go with, so I bought an popular Willamette Valley label Pinot Grigio. Hey, when in Rome...

But you know, the Willamette Valley Pinot Grigio was okay - - just okay when compared to the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio from the other side of Oregon - - the NE side of Oregon. The popular Willamette Valley wine just didn’t have the crisp and spritzy acids that the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio produced and frankly I think there was a skoosh of residual sugar hanging around in the Willamette Pinot Grigio - a bit cloying for my taste. The linguine with clam sauce really needed the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio. It's really more of a sophisticated and food friendlier wine.

After enjoying the Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio, I am really anxious to try the other Locati Cellars wines from owners Michael and Penne Locati. For the time being you can taste their wines at Cugini Italian Foods at Wallula Avenue and Penne tells me that their new tasting room will be opening soon at the old Train Depot on North Second in Walla Walla. Penne also told me about a dry Orange Muscat they have produced, which I am looking forward to trying, besides their Italian red varietals. Salute'!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crying Over the Last Drop: Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon - Klipsun Vineyard

Have you ever had a bottle of wine that you almost cried over when you squeezed the very last drop into your glass? (and nooo - - I didn’t put the bottle to my lips) Well, Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006, from the Klipsun Vineyard at Red Mountain, made my “Crying Over the Last Drop" wine list.

Opening a bottle of wine can be like opening a scrapbook filled of memories. As I read the Seven Hills label and noticed the fruit was sourced from the Klipsun Vineyard, it brought back a memory from a couple of years ago. I was sitting on top of the Klipsun Vineyard in a gazebo visiting with Klipsun owner, Patricia Gelles; Gilles Nicault, managing winemaker for Long Shadows Vintners; and Steven Bjerklie, wine writer for Mid-Columbian Magazine.

The sun was warm and the brisk wind raged about the vineyard. The view of the Yakima Valley from the steep slope was peaceful and the cheetgrass that turns a red wine color, giving the landscape of Red Mountain its name, was faded by the warm sun.

Understanding this bottle of wine would cellar very well, I still couldn’t wait to pull the cork. The deep red color filled my glass leaving a spicy nose and sweet smells of dried plums, cranberries and vanilla. If I had sipped this wine in a blind tasting, I would have sworn it was Walla Walla fruit because of the rich earthy smell. It was well balanced and the concentrated dark berry flavors of raspberries and blackberries reminded me of Marie Callender’s “Razzleberry” pie (note: this is a good thing). There were a few tannins hanging around, but for my tannin-loving palate, just enough to let you know they were present. Again, it was very well balanced and had all of the components in a Cabernet Sauvignon that makes me swoon.

If I were giving out ratings, (which I don’t because - - hellooooo, I live in this town and have to face y’all at the grocery store) with “5" being the highest of the swoon worthy, I would definitely give Walla Walla's Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard - 2006 - -

5 Swoons

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Get me off of the crazy train, I need to stop and smell the roses!

Ozzy Osbourne sang it
“…I’m going off the rails on a crazy train."

Dear Readers,

Forgive me and my schmaltzy projections. This isn’t all that wine related, but only about the author of the blog. The “author” of this blog lives on adrenalin, but it is a mighty adrenalin and it is about the wine. It’s about the wine, the people who love it and the people who make it. It’s about terroir and it is about a town. There are times she wishes she didn’t have to work a “real” job to pay the mortgage and wishes she didn’t have to sleep. There are days she wishes she could do nothing but walk around the valley and visit with every wine tourist and every wine employee. There are days she wishes she could pack up her little dog and sit in front of the great Pacific Ocean on the Oregon side and watch the waves roll in and out all day. Oh she wishes…

It’s been one hell of a year. It’s been about triumph and loss. It’s been about change and most of all – the last few weeks it’s been about slowing down. My triumph was flying to the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Napa/Sonoma so I could hear them officially announce the Third Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference would be held in Walla Walla. My loss was the break-up of an eight-year relationship with a companion who was my best friend and fellow "wine geek" journalist. My recent relationships have been with doctors, but I have little tolerance when they tell me I am sick. Except I do kind of dig my primary physician who reminds me that a glass of red wine every day is good for me and then later reminds himself he is “preaching to the choir.” I am not a good patient. I hate going to the doctor and to the hospital – it’s full of sick people.

In the mean time, my little online wine store is growing. Almost more than one person can handle, but not enough to hire out for help (unless they want to “intern.”). Hell, there are days I need someone to answer all the emails and requests! But then again, the down side is - - meet Ms. Micromanager. Me.

And there is so much on my brain I want to write about that I can’t sleep at night, but too tired to sit up and too tired to put my fingers to the keyboard. There are several great wines I have recently tasted and need to blog about. There’s an interesting story about a local I recently met whose project is to taste a wine from every winery in Walla Walla before the end of the year. I have a soap box rant about the recent FTC ruling this week. Effective December 1, blogs will have to write disclaimers whether or not they purchased or was given the wines they are blogging about. Bloggers who work for little or nothing must do this, but traditional media will not have to. Say what?

So - - Yes Virginia, there is a Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman. She just needs to slow down a bit - - for at least a while. Instead of an average of seven blogs a month, there may be only four - - at least for now. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, so perhaps my timing is appropriate. The days are getting shorter and the trees know it is time to rest. I need to rest - - at least for awhile. And I need to stop and smell what roses are left before the cold takes them away. In the mean time if you see me walking about the town with no direction and perhaps a camera in hand - - I’m just taking the time to stop - - and smell and take in whatever sight and sound that is around me.

I’m still here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A New Look for the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Blog!

The Internet is ever-changing in an ever-evolving world and with the world of wine blogging growing and becoming more dominant, I thought it was time to freshen up the look. Don't get me wrong - I thought the site looked "pretty in pink" and bordello - - I mean Bordeaux red. But now days the importance of branding and consistency cannot be stressed enough in the marketing world.

Change is hard, but I hope I am never too old to know when it is time.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tertulia Cellars: A Sense of Place

If you check out Wikipedia, it will tell you the Spanish name, "Tertulia" means a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones. It will also tell you that a typical tertulia in recent centuries has been a regularly scheduled event in a public place such as a bar or even a living room. It's a place where people share their recent creations, such as poetry, short stories and even artwork or songs.

Tertulia Cellars, located near the foothills of the Walla Walla Valley, certainly lives up to its name. As you come up the drive you are met with a colorful building with sections painted dark coral, bright sunflower yellow, and a warm aubergine. It's like the building sits on it's own little oasis with surrounding vineyards nearby.

Once inside the door, you understand Tertulia Cellars takes their name seriously as the room is prepared for an ongoing social gathering with a large and welcoming circular bar, waist high cocktail tables and an intimate area with couches surrounding a fireplace.

I was thrilled to meet and tour the winery and vineyards with Stevie Johnson, the new Director of Sales & Marketing (and a very gracious host), as well as meeting and visiting with Quentin Mylet, the new winemaker who had also worked with former Tertulia winemaker, Ryan Raber. It was a pleasure to taste again the wines of Tertulia Cellars and be reminded of legacy of well balanced and quality wines that Ryan Raber left behind. I am excited to see future vintages from Quentin.

What impressed me the most about the line-up of wines I tasted, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Viognier, was the diversity of varietals that Tertulia produces, such as Tempranillo, Carmenere and Malbec. Each one capturing the character, yet emphasizing the uniqueness of each.

I swooned over the Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo - 2007, a blueish-blackish wine in color with fruit sourced from Les Collines located at the Walla Walla foothills. The nose was spicy and nutty leaving the palate with flavors of dark juicy black fruits, like dark cherries and currants with hints of chocolate and coffee.

If you have never been a fan of Carmenère, then you should consider Tertulia Cellars Phinny Hill Vineyard - 2007. I think the addition of 15% Merlot, really helped to soften this wine, while still leaving the peppery characteristics that is traditionally found in Carmenère. It just isn't so "in- your-face" with pepper, making it a more food friendlier wine, while still showing off flavors of plum and dark berries.

Call me "Silly" (Hellooo Silly!), but here is my deal when I judge what makes a good Malbec: it must taste like grape jelly on graham crackers. Okay, bear with me here - it goes back to the instructions of Dr. Ann Noble, the Guru of Wine Sensory Evaluation. Dr. Noble said when trying to describe notes and flavors of wine, reach back into your memory bank of smells and tastes that may have to do with special events.

As a kid, I loved going to my grandparents house to ride the pony, feed the chickens, run the length of the horse pasture, exploring the barn and walking through their magnificent vegetable and flower gardens. Snack times after all that activity meant fresh baked cookies, but if grandma was behind in her baking, we would have graham or soda crackers with an assortment of her jellies, jams and fruit butters. For me, the taste of a good Malbec must smell and taste like grape jelly on graham crackers, like what I remember from Grandma's house.

All I need to say about the Tertulia Cellars Malbec - 2006 is, "Hellooo Grandma!"

After my visit at Tertulia Cellars, I started thinking about their name. It occurred to me after tasting their wines in their light and friendly tasting room, visiting with the staff and touring the cellar and their vineyards, that for Tertulia Cellars it means more than a social gathering of friends. Tertulia Cellars have their own sense of place in the valley. Tertulia Cellars definitely has their own terroir.

Friday, September 18, 2009

PALATE PRESS: The Online Wine Magazine

The official launch of PALATE PRESS: The Online Wine Magazine has arrived! PALATE PRESS seeks out and publishes the very best wine writers and writings on the internet.

PALATE PRESS is the collaboration of David Honig and W.R. "Tish" Tisherman. Honig is publisher, blogger, attorney, self-educated oenephile and the man behind the 89 Project. Known as "Tish' in the wine trade, he has been writing and speaking about wine and food for more than two decades, including former editor of Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1988 to 1998.

Last week was the official launch of the online magazine. There is a wide range of wine topics by a wide range of talented wine writers. A sampling: Randall Grahm profile, Nutritional Facts on Wine, Brettanomyces in White Wine (who knew?) Alsace Gastronomy, Spotlight on Zin and last but not least. For those of you who love Walla Walla and love the wines - - a few words about the town so nice they named it twice by - - yours truly. Check it out!

Deep Deep Roots: Walla Walla Wine Their once claim to fame was when cartoon star Bugs Bunny announced himself in one of the Looney Tunes episodes as the “Wishie-Washie-White-Washing Machine Salesman from Walla Walla Washington.” ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #61: The Serendipitous SuLei Cellars Rousanne

Today is the 61st Wine Blogging Wednesday. And today we go back to the beginning of this project as it's being hosted by Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours who is the founder of WBW. This month Lenn has challenged us to write about a wine based on a tasting done at a winery. And “extra points” are given if we do the tasting with the winemaker. I am claiming my extra points. What do I win, Lenn?

When you live in a small wine oriented community like Walla Walla, there is bound to be serendipitous events that will lead you to a great wine.

It all started when I received an email from Tanya and Elaine, owners of a new winery, SuLei (Soo-Lay) Cellars in Walla Walla. I had just returned from the Wine Bloggers Conference in California and was playing catch-up with my emails and deadlines. The evening I had planned to tackle this project, I had also made plans to attend a wine industry event. While at the event and visiting about, I was chatting with friend Kate Bray Morrison, who commented there were a couple of people at the event she thought I should meet. Well, to make a long story short, it was Tanya and Elaine of SuLei Cellars!

Six days later, I dined at the ‘Burg Cottage (Waitsburg) of Paul and Karen Stanton-Gregutt. If you are a fan of Washington wines and live in Washington State and do not know who Paul Gregutt is, then you must be drinking your wine under a rock. Paul writes Sunday’s "Wine Adviser" column in the Seattle Times Pacific magazine and a monthly wine column in Spokane Spokesman-Review, as well as the author of the critically acclaimed book – “Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide.” The focus of the meal was Karen’s “Herbal Chicken Platter” - grilled slices of tender chicken breasts. Each piece of chicken had its own savory mixture of fresh herbs that Karen had picked from her beautiful, and very fragrant, herb and antique rose garden minutes before.

Paul brought to the table a bottle of white wine to pair with the meal. And with the label concealed by the wine chiller, he asked us to figure out what type of white grape it was. After a few wrong guesses - - it was the 2008 Roussanne from SuLei Cellars. I exclaimed that I had an appointment to visit SuLei for a private tasting! Two days later, I once again had the opportunity to taste the SuLei Cellars Roussanne, but this time with owners, Tanya Woodley, winemaker and Elaine Jomwe, Operations Manager.

SuLei Cellars Roussanne 2008 is a very friendly white wine that was far too easy for me to consume. Typically, my palate doesn’t lend itself to Roussanne, like it does to Viognier, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, but when Tanya offered me a second glass I didn’t turn it down (nor did I turn down a second glass of the SuLei Roussanne at the Gregutt Cottage).

This Roussanne is produced as single vineyard wine from the Jon Cockburn Ranch Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA. I definitely thought the wine carried an influence from the old apple orchards in the area many moons ago. The nose showed floral notes of orange blossom and honey suckle. My palate found flavors of ripe peaches and also found the wine to be dominant with notes of crisp apples. Old and new barrels were used leaving just enough oak to round out the acids, while still leaving enough acidity to enhance food pairings.

I would recommend this wine to be paired, of course with a plate of imported cheeses. Also a complimentary pairing with a buttery seasoned seafood entree or a seafood salad with a variety of crisp lettuce or even a fruit salad. And of course - - Karen Stanton-Gregutt’s "Herbal Chicken Platter."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Robison Ranch Cellars: Real Cowboys Drink Rosé

Hey Cowboy - Yeah, I'm talkin' to you. Rosés are probably one of the most food friendly wines around. And Robison Ranch Cellars aint' afraid to make this pretty pink wine their first release.

Winemaker, Brad Riordan and Jim Robison have teamed together to form Robison Ranch Cellars. Robison Ranch is a third-generation family-owned ranch located in Walla Walla County.

In the Valley, Robison Ranch has been synonymous with hard work and unremitting quality since 1918, so it's no surprise that the next step for them would be to open a winery.

This 2008 blend of Walla Walla grown Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot and Viognier is crisp, bright, fruit-forward and we discovered it was a great food pairing with curry and Asian-influenced meals. I served it for guests and family during our Labor Day BBQ and even the most critical wine fans and professional foodies raved!

We picked up notes of strawberry, cranberry and vanilla in the finish. I'm tellin' ya, I would recommend this rosé for the Thankgiving bird - - well, if the wine lasts that long. You see, there were only 25 cases made - - and it's going fast! Check it out at the W5.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food & Wine Magazine: Winemaker of the Year 2009!

Recognize this rock star winemaker from Walla Walla?
Sometimes one picture says it all.

Congratulations Charles!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to School: WSET in Walla Walla

The WSET program is coming to town and going back to school doesn't get much better than this, when it means sitting in the class room with glasses of wine to sample.

The Wine & Spirits Educational Trust is the world's prestigious and most recognized leader in wines and spirits education and this will be the first time for this London-based program to reach Eastern Washington.

The WSET courses are ideal for anyone in the wine industry, whether working in food service, wine retail and tasting rooms, or in the fields of journalism, marketing, and education. And you don't have to be a professional to take these courses. They are perfect for the wine consumer who has a little or a lot of knowledge about wine.

WSET courses for Eastern Washington will be held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center in Walla Walla. Wine writer, Paul Gregutt will be teaching the comprehensive one-day Foundation Course (Level 1) Saturday, September 12 and a three-day Intermediate Course (Level 2), the weekends of October 10 and 18th. A WSET Advanced Course (Level 3) is also available, but will be scheduled for a later time.

WSET Instructor Paul Gregutt is recognized as the leading wine writer in Washington State. He appears every Sunday in the Seattle Times Pacific Magazine, the last Wednesday of each month in Spokane's Spokesman-Review, and is the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine. Gregutt's best-selling book "Washington Wine & Wineries: The Essential Guide" is considered to be the best review of the state's wineries.

And Paul is no stranger to Eastern Washington as he and his wife, Karen Stanton-Gregutt, have taken up a second residence in Walla Walla County. Local rumor is Paul can be found sitting on the front porch of their cottage in Waitsburg playing the guitar and singing tunes about 90 point wines.

For more information contact Paul Gregutt or see: Eastern Washington WSET
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