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)

Monday, October 05, 2015

Mother Knows Best: Sleight of Hand Spellbinder - 2012

Yes, I am still writing about wine. So, I took a couple of months off. You're not going to rid of me that easy ... 

Like most families, we are all busy, including my mother. My mother is legally blind, but can still maneuver her house chores, she coordinates neighborhood gatherings, walks with her morning walking group, and has the most beautiful flower beds that she maintains all by herself. I should be so fortunate, even with my half-way decent eye sight. In other words, my mother makes me look like a slacker. 

Because we are all so busy, about once a month she likes her children, at least those here in town, to come over for Sunday dinner. I will often bring a bottle of wine, but mom has a nice little stash herself and anything that looks interesting to her, she brings home and puts in her collection. You see, her doctor told her a little glass of wine before bedtime is good for her - - and she follows the doctor's orders. Wines with a screw cap works especially well for mom. 

Last night we went to mom's for Sunday dinner. She made a meal that was a childhood favorite of mine and my siblings - Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, fresh local green beans, a garden green salad with lots of fresh local tomatoes - - and if we cleaned our plates we got ice cream. Yay! 

What is "Swiss steak?" It's a large round steak cut into serving sizes, then seasoned, browned and braised very slow in a crock pot or oven in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. And yes - - the recipe is originally from Switzerland. 

Mom was prepared as she already had a bottle of wine set out - it was the Sleight of Hand Cellars Spellbinder - 2012 

Perfect! It had been a few months since I had a glass of red wine - - yes, really. For some reason this summer I had been exclusively drinking bubbles, whites and plenty of rosés. My taste buds have not been in the mood for reds. However, having a glass of Sleight of Hand Cellars Spellbinder changed my mind - - and it is also fall, which is the perfect time to pair reds with the seasonal fare. 

Spellbinder, with a screw cap for Mom, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was a great nose full of cherries, dark berries and dried plums, with a hint of tobacco. The flavors were soothing to my palate, especially after a palate of white wines for a few months. The flavors offered more black berries, a hint of Cocoa-Cola, and the right balance of tannins. I sampled it a bit before dinner, and of course, it paired perfect with Mom's dinner.  In other words, whether you enjoy this as a "lone-sipper" or pair it with a casual, but well-prepared tasty dinner - - the Sleight of Hand Spellbinder is a winner-winner-Swiss-steak dinner! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Brosé: The French, The Oregonian, and the Washingtonian

There's a side of me that almost gave a second thought about adding "Brosé" to the title of this blog, but I think it needs to be addressed. The new, yet hopefully short trend in the USA is the name, Brosé.  Somehow, somewhere, someone gave "permission" to the male wine consumer that it was okay to drink that pretty pink wine, but only if it is referred to as "Brosé." 

Nonsense! Tell that to many generations of men in Provence who have been sipping on the Bandols and Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence during a game of pétanque. Tell that silly term to the men of the Loire Valley who sips on a glass of Reuilly or the pink Chinons. Oh, and I dare you to discount Rosé Champagne: the queen of Rosé. 

A few moons ago, I was working as a part-time tasting room attendant and we introduced one of the very first Rosés in the Walla Walla Valley. It was a tough sale at first, and especially to the men-folk.  Once we convinced them to taste this luscious bright Syrah Rosé, they were sold - - especially when you gave them food pairing ideas, such as: grilled seafood, croque-monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich), smoked sausages, and poultry.  

How did we convince our male customers to take their first sip of this Rosé? We slipped in a few special words, "Produced by a French winemaker ... just like they do in France ... He produced it ... just like they do in France ... dry and crisp ... just like those wines of France ..." 

French or France was the key to this game of sales, yet the new Rosé lover went home with a treasure, and some wine education.

There are days I need to go in hiding. There are times I get so busy with writing or home projects, I forget the time, the month, and finally realize I haven't even left the county. Just this April was one of those times when it occurred to me I hadn't left since I started my book project - over a year ago. It was time to pack my bags and go.  There's a tiny little cabin I am rather fond of at Wallowa Lake, Oregon where I like to hide. So, I packed many books, enough food for 3-4 days and most important, three bottles of some of my favorite Rosés - - from France, Oregon, and Washington. 

Domaine St. Aix, "AIX" Rosé (Coteaux d'Aix en Provence), 2014 -  This 130 year old winery, located in the south of France, has produced a very pale pink wine, almost clear. The aroma in the glass is ripe of fresh thyme and berries. It's a traditional blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah.  It is delicate in taste, but the Herbs of Provence still shine through with crisp acids, and fruits of raspberries, cherries, vanilla, and a hint of mineral in the finish. 

Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé, 2014 - this Rosé first caught my attention almost eight years ago and I have been seeking it out ever since. It always makes an appearance in my wine refrigerator. The color-palette is a little richer shade of pink. The nose is of watermelon and rose petals. The palate brings forth more watermelon and raspberries, making it thirst quenching with it's bright acids. I've actually had a couple of occasions to sip this pretty wine in the Stoller Estate Vineyards during the hot month of August. Again, it just quenched my thirst, as well as adding to the romance of a vineyard.  

Maison Bleue Winery "Lisette" Rosé of Grenache, 2014 - I've been drinking this Rosé, since I have been aware of the existence of Washington State winemaker and Maison Bleue owner, Jon Meuret and his elegant Rhone-style wines. Raspberries and flowers reach the nose of this lovely pale peach-colored wine. Strawberries, plums, and spice, with a reminder - just a reminder of mineral in the finish. This wine is intricate, yet elegant, but still perfect for laid back porch sippin' and very special when paired with light summer meals. 

If you can hang onto these great Rosés long enough, I would even recommend the Stoller and Maison Bleue Rosés especially to pair with a Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe I will take a couple bottles back to the mountains this fall. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stop Dissecting the Wine Blogger: The Mystique in the Locker Room

I've been sitting on this blog for a few days now. Every year now, for almost 10 years, I write one with similar content, while I ponder, "Should I post or ..."  You disagree? Go write your own wine blog, but at least I got your attention with the locker room title. 

Picture this ...

A steamy locker room filled with male wine aficionados. There are magazine clippings with bottles of Château d'Yquem and Châteauneuf-du-Pape taped on the doors of their lockers with color crayoned labels marked, "My Dream Wine." These wine lovers, as they are drying themselves off, mindlessly yet habitually burping and adjusting their  - - junk - - you know, their 14kt gold tastevins around their necks - - anyways - - they start getting frisky, while slapping each other with their wet limp towels, chirping, 

"You're the best wine know-it-all - - ever!" (slap) While another sings back, "No, you are!" (slap) "No!  YOU are!" 

"I love ya man and to prove it, let me buy ya a glass of Brosé. "Yo dude. Brosé? But only if we can smoke cigars while drinking that pink stuff."  

At least this is my visual to amuse me, and to keep me from crying like a girl. However, I believe there are a few other women wine writers who join me in my perspective.  We all know the routine. Once a year there will be, ironically, a male wine blogger, or perhaps even a winemaker, a wine critic, of some sorts, who will thump their chest and rattle a few cages giving the impression that all wine bloggers should be spit upon. "Patooey!" They will pontificate about wine bloggers pontificating. Their fellow readers will make it worse by yammering on about how wine bloggers "don't know what they are talking about," and how "wine bloggers should stop arguing the point system." (Yeah, actually they should stop.) Many critics will assume and parrot-speak the usual "wine bloggers have never sold a bottle of wine, wine bloggers don't understand social media, and if they did; why aren't they writing for a respectable paper rag ... blah blah" - -  and it continues. 

Some wine bloggers will fire back, but mostly male. There will be one or two women who will engage (When will I ever learn?), but often we will go ignored as there are too many big shiny belt buckles jostling and making noises to be heard. It's been my experience that many of my male wine peers will repeat what I had previously stated, but the male wine aficionado will be the one who is heard and addressed. ("Slap," goes the towel.) 

Wine bloggers will get called names and generalized. I've heard it all. A spokesperson from Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate referred to us as "blobbers," Then later came Anthony Dias Blue of the Tasting Panel magazine who referred to us as "bitter carping gadflies." Supposedly one of our own, or I think he is one of "us" as he uses the old and outdated Blogspot format, The Hosemaster, referred to wine bloggers as "attention seeking barking lonely poodles." Did he coin us that as a way for him to  - - well - - seek attention? Bark. Bark.

Just last week, a wine journalist, author, blogger, and a man who I happen to enjoy his forthright political leanings, as well as adore his photos and love for his dog; lashed out about wine bloggers. Ironically, the subject was for bloggers to stop with the insults, while he insulted - - yup, you got it, a whole group of wine bloggers.  He focused on sexism, ageism, and there was a lecture to stop picking on "old white wine guys." With that said, how about us stopping with the "blogism?" Blogism = stereotyping wine bloggers. 

Oh, and of course, I bit. (When will I ever learn?)  I was one of the few women who commented. Why did I engage? Because I fit into all of the categories of these prejudices such as ageism, sexism, and "blogism." I am an old white woman wine blogger! 
Hell, even at the last wine bloggers conference I attended, three young women assumed I was a mother of a wine blogger waiting for her kid to get out of one of the break-out sessions.  

Now in this discussion of  sexism was the focus of women winemakers, but it's all supposedly good now. (Oh lookie! See? There are too women winemakers now getting a few accolades, and surprisingly they make a pretty decent bottle of wine. How cute is that - a magazine article on "Women Winemakers.") Of course, in my commentary I pointed out there is still sexism, especially since there is a limited amount of women wine writers in national wine print (When will I ever learn?). Sure enough, once again Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of the Wine Spectator, reminded me for the second time about Dina Nigro, Senior Editor. (When will I ever learn?) And yes, Tom. The next time you are in my 'hood, let's cross paths.

My point? I am really getting tired of the stereotyping and name calling of wine bloggers - aka "blogism." It's not fashionable, anymore. It's getting boring. And I believe I have heard it all in my last 10 years doing this gig. This hissy-fit of the fittest and generalization of all wine bloggers happens at least once a year. 

Stop with the dissecting of the wine blogger. 

In the last ten years, unfortunately I have read much commentary from overstuffed wine "aficionados" who buy into these articles and will create a bigger pile-on criticizing bloggers stating "Wine bloggers will never have the credentials ... knowledge ... blah, blah, and blah." Well, in the last ten years most of the wine bloggers I know, and especially those who have been blogging for awhile, have the credentials and the knowledge. The majority of the wine bloggers who started around the same time I did, and even a few years later, are very accomplished. There's a new group of wine bloggers who are typing up clean, yet colorfully visual wine blogs filled with wine buying approaches for the new wine consumers. Among the bloggers are published wine writers and authors, as well as speakers, marketing directors, judges, and travel wine writers - - and well, even bloggers who just love wine and want to share the love. Needless to say, I am quite proud to be a wine blogger, no matter the critics who jump on the "Hate Wine Bloggers" parade float.  

Sure. In this blog post I am guilty as can be for making generalizations of wine aficionados, especially the locker room scene and the jostling of big belt buckles. My generalizations are based after the same scenarios we see play out every year.  However, I should not assume, as no doubt there are a few of those male critics of wine bloggers who also wear suspenders along with their belts and teeny tarnished belt buckles. And the shower scene? Once again, I should not assume as not all of the male wine lovers in the shower are talking about Rosé, but discussing the point system - - after all. 

Oh what the hell - - let's hit the "publish" button!  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cool Climate. Cool Wine: Finger Lakes of New York

When I was asked if I wanted to participate in a Finger Lakes virtual wine tasting, of course I said, "Yes." I was particularly looking forward to it when they mentioned the wine tasting would include three of each, 2012 Cabernet Franc and 2012 Lemberger. 

It just so happens that Cabernet Franc is my favorite red wine grape, and I am always intrigued with Lemberger. Whenever I see a bottle of Lemberger (aka Blau Frankisch) on the store shelf, I will usually buy it.  My fascination with Lemberger is that it is Washington State's over-looked "heritage" grape, as it was first planted in 1941 by Dr. Walter Clore, a Washington State University researcher and "Father of Washington Wine." 

Considering the wines we tasted from New York, it gives us a hint that the Finger Lakes produces more than just Rieslings. Some little "fun facts" about the area:  1.) There are over 115 wineries in the area. 2.) Over 9,200 acres of grapes, with 848 acres planted with Riesling (220,000 cases of Riesling per harvest).  3.) Growing season is 190-205 days in a year; and 4.) The Finger Lakes AVA encompasses four lakes: Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga. 

The virtual tasting was hosted by Brandon Seeger, Chair of the Wine Marketing Program from the new restaurant, Coltivare Culinary Center located in Ithica, NY.  We sipped and Tweeted #FLXWineVT while listening to the discussion with the winemakers on a live web stream.  The claim throughout the Finger Lakes region is that 2012 was a exceptional vintage, due to the perfect balance of warm temperatures and rainfall. 

Over all, I thought the wines from the Finger Lakes region were very food friendly, and ready to drink now. They do not have the heavy tannins for long-term aging like the Cabernet Francs and Lembergers from Washington State. The Finger Lakes red wines were very crisp and fruit driven. 

Cabernet Franc: 
Damiani Wine Cellars - is located on the eastern shores of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes. The winery was established in 2004, and produces around 8,000 cases. 
The aroma was the Cabernet Franc was of baked berry cobbler, cigar box, and spice.  Notes of cocoa and more cigar box followed through with dark plums, ginger and more spice. This Cabernet Franc was medium bodied with just enough acidity and tannins. A definite food wine picking up notes of roasted meats and olives. 

Heron Hill Winery - is located on Keuka Lake, as well as a tasting room located on Seneca Lake. Their first vintage was in 1977, and have grown to from a small 5,000 case production to now 18,000. 

The aroma of their Cabernet Franc was of cigar box, spice, and a touch of blackberry jam. The palate was that of Crème de Cassis and a hint of eucalyptus in the finish. The tannins were a bit on the shy side making it a "drink now" wine, pairing with cheese and grilled veggies. 

McGregor Vineyard - is located near the eastern shore of Keuka Lake. They established their winery in 1980, and like many of the Finger Lakes wineries started their first vintages with Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer

The Cabernet Franc is reasonably priced at $25.  The nose expresses that of bramble berries, especially ripe raspberries. The berries continue on the palate with flavors of dark cherries, light oak, and a hint of woody spice like cinnamon. The tannins do show off a bit. I am thinking casual grilled meats like burgers and skirt steak for pairing. 

Fox Run Vineyards - overlooks one of the deepest parts of the Seneca Lake with 55 acres of vineyards starting starting with their first planting in 1994. Their first vineyard blocks of Lemberger are blocks 6,9, and 11. Block 6 was planted in 1995. Block 9 was planted in 2000, with Block 11 planted in 1998.  What is interesting is the Lemberger was all machine picked. 
The wine - - well, it smelled of a Lemberger that I was familiar, with notes of berries, spice and especially black pepper. On the palate it continues with more berries, including cherries and cigar box with a spicy black pepper finish. Lemberger is a nice summer sipper, even with a bit of a slight chill on the wine. Try it with an earthy flavored meal like grilled portobello on a bun and topped with cheese. 

Fulkerson Winery -  is located on the west side of Seneca Lake. In 1989 Fulkerson Winery opened with a release of 1,000 cases. It has now grown to 20,000 cases. Fulkerson originally got their start by selling fresh-pressed juice to home winemakers. They are a seventh-generation business. 

The nose is bright aromas of fresh sweet cherries with a hint of cigar box. Juicy, with the right amount of acids that make the mouth water, as well as a hint of mineral. Did I mention it was juicy? A sprinkling of black pepper in the background and the bright red clear wine finishes rather silky on the tongue.  A wine to be enjoyed with a big plate of spaghetti topped with a pile of Parmesan cheese.

Lakewood Vineyards - is located on the heart of Seneca Lake. The winery was established in 1988, however their 80 acres of vineyards includes old vines dating back as far as 1952. To date, the vineyard consists of 14 wine grape varieties. 

The nose speaks of berries - raspberries, blackberries, and even a bit of blueberries. The dark fruit of the blackberries continues along with hints of pepper, toasted bread, dark cocoa, and cloves. Finishing dry with flavors of blackberries and hints of more spice. Try this with a prime rib lathered with plenty of spicy salt and peppercorns. End cut or rare? 

It just so happens the delivery of these wines couldn't be any more perfect as many of the wine bloggers will gather August 13-15, 2015 for the Annual Wine Bloggers Conference  located in the Finger Lakes Region, New York. 

Thank you to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for allowing me to be a part of their virtual tasting and providing the samples. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy Birthday W5 - 10 Years!

Ten years ago, I never thought I would be writing this ... 

It was 10 years ago, June 14 when I first started my wine blog, Wild Walla Walla Wine
Woman. What a ride! I had no idea that anyone was reading it. It was merely a collection of my own tasting notes and amusements. I just rather hung on and let the experiences fly rather serendipitous. 
So, in the mean time a lot has happened because of the blog. I landed in retail, and I even wrote a book, Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History. Through the difficult journey of research and writing a book, while juggling retail; it brought me back to what I love the most - writing. With the "refurbishing" of my blog, I decided to extend it beyond just Walla Walla wines. It's tough not to share the experiences of a cool crisp French Rosé from Provence, or an earthy Pinot Noir from Oregon. The wine blog may look a bit idle the last few weeks, but it still has several stories on the back burner to write about - Blau Frankisch (Lemberger) and Cabernet Francs of the Finger Lake region, many wines from Oregon, 2014 French Rosés, and even a recent tasting last week at Red Mountain AVA.
As much as I love writing about wine, I have seen changes in the wine blogging world. I have never placed scores on wines, I like to write about the experiences at the wineries, the people of the wineries, and of course, the wine itself - the components, the essence, and food pairings. As pointed as this may sound, the new winemakers who use to seek me out, doesn't
need me to write about them, anymore. The local tourism and wine boards use to come to me to help promote, and now I have to remind them I still exist. It's another reason for expanding. And that's okay - things change. I assume, it is never personal. It's business. Basically many of "us" started together - - we all started when Walla Walla was still a dot on the map. I believe to this day - - I am the longest running wine blog, or at least woman wine blogger, in Washington State.
I have found myself, with the love of writing, feeling I need to write more - more than just wine. I wanted to make it personal and share the simple things that I love in life, from books, old classic movies, cooking, gardening roses, corny quotes, and just pretty, yet simple, things. Therefore I started Passementaries - a new blog.
Can the W5 juggle two blogs at once? I believe "she" can. Thank you fans and friends for taking the time to read my words on my blog, book, magazine articles, and even my ramblings on my Facebook pages. 

Stay tuned. There will be more to come.
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