Tuesday, November 10, 2015

African Passion: Passionate About Chenin Blanc

Right. I know. I live in Walla Walla and typically write about Walla Walla and other wines from Washington State, but once in awhile one must "think" outside the box, or more like go beyond the border. Many of us locals have cut our teeth on the wines of the Walla Walla Valley, but as we explore in our pursuit to become knowledgeable about wines, it's important to explore beyond. 

The African Passion lines of New World wine were first debuted in the United States back in 2013, and created in the KWV Cellar from Paarl, Western Cape. The grapes as well are also sourced from the Western Cape of Africa where Chenin Blanc is currently the country’s most widely planted grape.

In 1918, the year Nelson Mandela was born, South African wine farmers founded KWV with the aim of stabilizing, supporting and structuring a young, struggling industry. Until the early 1990s, when world markets opened to South African wine, KWV played a central role in regulating the industry. Since then, KWV has transformed itself into a commercial player, exporting award-winning wines and brandies from its main cellar complex in Paarl all over the world.

Chenin Blanc is a favorite of mine, and there are times I cannot get enough of it. It's not a plentiful white grape in the US, such as Chardonnay. We see a few Chenin Blancs in Washington State, and especially a couple of producers in the Walla Walla Valley. Whenever I see a bottle of French Vouvray, from the  Loire valley - the birth place of Chenin Blanc, I cannot leave the bottle on the shelf. 

The beauty of this white grape is that it is so easy to sip, but also one of the best white wines to pair with food. Even now, I am thinking how well it pairs with the Thanksgiving turkey, and sage and onion dressing. It's endless - the crisp acids pairs well with the charcuterie and cheese platters. Fish, seafood, poultry and creamy cheesy pasta dishes - from the basic fish and chips to lobster, and mac and cheese to a creamy primavera Alfredo.

African Passion Chenin Blanc - 2012: Juicy! Crisp! Fresh!  Pretty! So typical of a well made Chenin Blanc. Orange blossom and melon on the nose. It's a bite of the fruit orchard, especially Granny Smith apples, ripe pears, and peaches. A hint of honeydew melon and lemon curd gives it a smooth mouth feel, with a sprinkle of nutmeg for spice.  

One of the noticeable things of the African Passion line, it comes with a screw cap. Especially important if you are often a party of one, as I was able to enjoy about three days worth of this tasty wine. It's important to note that about 10% from the sales of the African Passion wines will be contributed to the TransAfrica Forum in order to support human rights and social justice in Africa. (Received free sample) 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Tall Sage

“Find a Tall Sage and you have found a place that will sustain superior grape vines.” - Dr. Walter Clore, "Father of Washington Wine."

Goose Ridge Estate Winery in the Columbia Valley at Richland, Washington is located in the center of their 2,200 acre vineyard. Founded by the Monson Family in 1999, they have diversified with growth of their vineyard, as well as a new label, Tall Sage. Tall Sage is exclusively sold through Vintage Point, a small wholesale portfolio featuring small luxury wines. These wines made their first appearance around three months ago. 

Tall Sage is the Monson Family's tribute to the founder of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards, Arvid Monson. Arvid was an entrepreneur in the Yakima Valley, as well as an orchardist, cattle rancher, and in the fall of 1997 he started the development of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards with the guidance of Dr. Walter Clore. Arvid died last year, December 1, 2014. 

Sunrise over Goose Ridge 
Andrew Wilson is the winemaker for Goose Ridge Estate Winery, and with his 12 years winemaking experience (and we were in a few eno/vit classes together) has been a familiar face in the Walla Walla Valley. Andrew has worked for Forgeron Cellars, Long Shadow's Vintners and Artifex Wine Company; which are all located in Walla Walla. 

Tall Sage Chardonnay - 2014: With my nose deep in the glass, I immediately knew this was a Chardonnay. It presented a clean and bright aromas, with a bit of honeysuckle and pineapple. With a sip, or two, this wine brought to my palate a hint of apple, more pineapple, and also just a hint of sweetness. It wasn't a cloying sweetness, but just a kiss. The finish was bright, yet with mineral-like quality. 

That little hint of sweetness from the Chardonnay is quite perfect for the beginner wine drinker. It also makes it perfect for food, such as spicy dishes with an Asian-influence, curry dishes, as well as spicy Mexican shrimp and chicken dishes. Also, with a good chill, a perfect porch sipper. 

Tall Sage Cabernet Sauvignon - 2014: 100% Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Syrah and 3% Malbec. Distinctive. Bold. A wine meant for food - "big" food. The nose was a bit on the smoky side. On the palate big cherry and dark berry, and other dark fruits, such as plums comes through. More smoke is showing off possibly from the barrel, and even the Syrah. 

There was also just a hint of sweetness in the finish, perhaps from the Malbec. Again, this "fruity" presence makes it a wine for the beginner who wants to tackle a bold red wine. And the boldness from this wine, pleads for a big meal of big roasted meats, and even grilled slightly charred vegetables. Also, I keep thinking about a big grilled portobello mushroom burger with melted Swiss or Fontina cheese on whole wheat bun.  Ooey-gooey with lots of smoky-sweet BBQ sauce, and even a light herbal-mayonnaise spread, and a sip of Tall Sage Cabernet Sauvignon between each bite.  

The price point of Tall Sage wines are an attractive around the $10 range. At this price it makes these wines important as a reminder to drink local - drink Washington State. 

(Wines received as samples)

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