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. 



Lemberger:
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.
"Smoochies!"
C~

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Small Vineyards: The Gold Seal of Approval

Every spring, I look forward to the Small Vineyards (August Wine Group, LLC) tasting for industry members. This year, I especially thank Michael and Mark, from Noble Wines, LTD and Susie Curnuette of the August Wine Group, LLC for allowing me sit in, sample, and enjoy the afternoon learning about the new vintages from Italy. 


The August Wine Group, LLC is a wine company that specializes in importing high-quality wines of distinct character from Italy, and other regions along the Mediterranean. They especially support small environmentally-responsible growers from both traditional and new wine regions. 

What I enjoy, just as much as the tasting of the wines, are the stories that are shared about the history, locations, and the people who produce these very special wines. The Small Vineyards project is proud of their connections with their small batch wines they have procured from family-owned wine estates. Therefore, every Small Vineyards' bottle of wine (and even their olive oil) that is imported will carry a gold seal. The label is worth looking for, as you can be assured of high-quality, yet affordable wines. 



How small is small from Small Vineyards, you ask? About 99% of the grapes are picked by human hand, the estates use sustainable growing methods, and most of all; the estates are owned by families - no large corporations. Small Vineyards estates are among the smallest 10% in their region - - that is how "small" the wines are that carry the Small Vineyards "gold seal of approval." 

Our afternoon tasting consisted of 20 different wines - - from, not only Italy, but also from France (Provence), Croatia, and Slovenia. We tasted the "usual suspects" such as Sangiovese, Montepulicano, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Vermentino, and even a Prosecco - and all enjoyable, especially with food. Since there were so many wines, I won't go over each and every one, but highlight a few favorites and more unique ones. 

Some of the surprises were two sparklers from the Monte Tondo estate produced from the Garganega grape. This white Italian wine grape is widely grown in the Soave region in north-eastern Italy  - - and two of only six Soave sparklers produced in the region.  

Gasevina (Welschriesling) was a new grape of the day for me. This white wine grape is not related to the Rhine Riesling, as you would think. However, in Croatia it is the most planted white grape variety. The nose resembled a traditional Riesling, but the color and palate reminded me of a Semillon with the bright yellow hay color; and apple and stone fruit flavors. This wine was produced by the award-winning Krauthaker Vineyards and Winery in Kutjevo, Croatia. 

Produced by Salvatore Lovo, of Lovo Wines, is Colli Euganel Fior d'Arancio (orange blossoms). This white grape, Fior d'Arancio, is known for its aroma of orange blossoms. I believe in the USA it is the same -  Orange Muscat. Lovo produced this sparkling wine, with small refined bubbles, in a frizzante style. A tangerine nose with a creamy and orange palate is perfect for "porch sippin'," salty tapas, or save it for dessert. It reminded me of a orange creamsicle. 

A popular wine for many, yet still obscure for many, was the Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia - - Giocato.  This indeed was a wine I was very familiar with. Giocato is a popular label to many with the cat on the label. The wines are affordable and a great value for the quality. This white wine had all of the traditional notes that I enjoy in a Sauvignon Blanc, from the grassy nose, with hints of mineral and stone fruit on the palate. 

Nadia Curto is the Italian wine woman amongst the men, therefore comes from a long lineage of male winemakers in her family. "La Fola" Barolo  from Curto Wines was produced in La Morra located in the Piedmont region. This 100% Nebbiolo was what I would refer to as a "feminine" wine, as in "pretty," - - if I was to describe it in one word. The tannins were a bit on the "puckerish" side, yet juicy and smooth. Earthy dark fruits, and even a hint of roses in the finish. 

Also, from Lovo Wines was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Veneto region. It wasn't just any Cabernet, but one that had been produced through carbonic masceration. As expected it was fresh, bright, fruity, and low in tannins. Truly a food wine, especially in the summer time. You could even put a light chill on it. 

Palama Arcangelo Rosato has the distinction for being one of the top rosatos in Italy. This bright red rose is produced from 100% Negroamaro. The nose bursts with strawberries and bright and juicy acids on the palate. Our restaurant host was the popular Bacon & Eggs in Walla Walla. They prepared beautiful serving plates of assorted cheeses, charcuterie, and fruits. There was also bruschetta with an assortment of toppings. I made a discovery that this lovely Rosato was not only a perfect pairing with the cured meats, but also the bruschetta that was served with the thyme and mushroom topping. If you can find this wine - - it needs to be on your Thanksgiving table, and especially served with the sage and thyme dressing. 
Last but not least, and on purpose, is the Maison Fabre,  Cotes de Provence Serpolet Rose. "Serpolet"  in French means "Thyme," which of course grows abundantly around the vineyards in Provence region of France - - of course, even the curvy bottle expresses notes of Provence with the periwinkle blue-colored foil and label reminiscence of summer window shutters in Provence. The nose of the pretty pale pink wine was of cotton candy and the burnt crackling sugar found on a creme brulee.  On the palate there was strawberries, citrus, and with a finish of light herbs - - such as thyme.  It was everything I want in a French rose and it indeed made me very happy. 

The wines from Small Vineyards are ordered once a year and imported into the USA. Once again, I cannot stress how affordable they are for the quality. However, it's important to know that once they are gone  - - they are gone, until next year.  Salute! 














Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Passementaries ...

What is Passementaries? It's my newest journal. 

Oh no, I am not forsaking this Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman blog. She will be celebrating 10 year anniversary next month, and I will continue to write about my wine experiences and opinions. I am just mixing things up a bit. 




Passementaries is about the simple trimmings for an elegant life ... 

I'll even talk a little bit about wine. Please join me. 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Castillo de Feliciana Winery Rosebud Tempranillo


Once in awhile, you happen to come across a wine that you continue to ponder, long after the last sip. Castillo de Feliciana Winery Tempranillo - 2012, with grapes sourced from the Rosebud Vineyard at the Wahluke Slope, was that wine for me. 

The estate of Castillo de Feliciana is located in the heart of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, encompassing 66 acres just south of Walla Walla near the state line at Oregon. It is an exceptionally beautiful property, where 6.5 acres of the estate property are planted in wine grapes.  Not only do they use their own estate grapes, but source grapes from other areas such as the Wahluke Slope AVA which is located north of the Columbia Basin in Washington State. Their emphasis is Spanish-style wines such as Tempranillo. 

Let's cut to the chase, the last time I tasted a Tempranillo that I swooned about was an earlier 2000 Campo Viejo Rioja Grand Reserva.  In fact, I believe in that sitting of discovering the Campo Viejo, we killed almost two bottles of it between the two of us.  It was exceptional.  

Last week I was sitting at one of my favorite lounges in Walla Walla, as we were celebrating a birthday. I started my evening sipping on Champagne, but kept noticing the table tent in front of me advertising the Castillo de Feliciana Rosebud Tempranillo - 2012.  My table decided it was time to order something to nosh on and we ordered the shaved prime rib sliders on a toasted brioche, with horseradish cream and a side of au jus. I love food and wine pairings and knew that this wine, advertised in front of me, was going to be the answer.  It was. 

The winery's tasting notes state that their Tempranillo is reminiscent of wines from the famous Rioja region in Spain.  Indeed!  This was an elegant wine for sipping, as well as a wine that would pair up well with beef. Castillo de Feliciana's Tempranillo is dark and almost inky. The nose was a bit of dried fruit and smoke, with a waft of vanilla. It was a luscious mouthful with soft, yet structured tannins. Big in flavors with notes of dark Bing cherries, juicy blackberries, plums, and chocolate-covered raisins. A hint of vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in the finish.  A very smooth and elegant wine - - and a memorable wine. "Swoon-worthy!"

I would consider pairing this wine with other beef dishes, grilled vegetables and portobello mushrooms, and just noshes of dark olives, figs,  and salty Manchego cheese. Salud! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Lands: California and Australia Fusion

We've heard of "Fusion Cuisine," the trend of cuisine that combines elements of different culinary traditions. Wine fusion? Jacob's Creek is Australia's largest wine brand, and one of the oldest Australian wineries since 1847.  Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker, Bernard Hickin reached out 7,982 miles crossing the equator from Barossa Valley, South Australia to Napa Valley, California, USA procuring Ehren Jordan 2008 San Francisco Chronicle's Winemaker of the Year. So together, winemakers, Hicklin and Jordan created a "fusion" using the handcrafted artistry of a boutique California winery and the senior vineyards of Jacob’s Creek.  

This new wine, "Two Lands" was "fused" to over-deliver on price point, yet bringing together the best of these New World wine areas - - it's a California expression using Australian wine. 



Two Lands Pinot Grigio - 2014: The palest of yellow in the glass, and a perfect summer wine. The winemakers chose to pick late in the Australian season (April) to get the ripest fruit possible. The nose is fresh, zesty, and lemony. The wine has a bit of an oily mouth feel, yet crisp, lemony, and refreshing. Just a kiss of oak, as the winemakers chose to use older barrels. How would I pair this wine? A rich clam or salmon chowder, my favorite clam linguine sauce (and maybe toss some of the wine in the buttery sauce), and even fish & chips.  

Two Lands Chardonnay - 2014: It's bold in the color of yellow, but light in body. Rainfall was higher this year around the Limestone Coast zone where these grapes were grown. The result left them with a low yield in fruit, but high in quality. The nose expresses exotic tropical fruit. The taste on the palate is that of peaches, honey dew and cantaloupe. There was also just a hint of residual sugar, which makes it easy for a newer group of learning wine lovers. I would pair this as a picnic wine, serving chicken salad sandwiches, salted nuts, and a fresh fruit salad. 

Two Lands Cabernet Sauvignon - 2013: It was a year of high temps and low rainfall in the southern Australia. It meant low yields, but exceptional quality. Fruit picked in the late season on purpose for soft tannins and ripe flavors. Lots of dark ripe bramble berries on the nose. On the palate it was more berries, cherries, plums, and a light spice in the finish. Due to there is still a bit of ripeness in this wine, I would consider sipping it on the porch with maybe a wedge of blue cheese, and pair it with anything hearty from a big juicy burger to even Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon. 

Two Lands Shiraz - 2013: Yup, this is a Australian Shiraz, in spite of the touch of California flair.  You cannot get around it. Big! Ripe! Black and almost inky in the glass. Blueberry and blackberry jam, with a little bit of smoky bacon on the nose. It finished with a bit of nutmeg and lots of black pepper. This is a wine that is meant for the Australian "barbie." Grilled meats such as burgers, steaks, ribs, and even grilled vegetables of zucchini, eggplant, portabello mushrooms, and peppers would be perfect with this wine. 

At this time there are four wines in their Two Lands wine portfolio. Their wines are affordable for the American market, and priced under $15.00 (US). Two Lands can be found now in markets in the United States. While affordable, the labels are very beautiful with detailed illustration. Please see the video to watch the illustration. 



Received as complimentary samples

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Feast Walla Walla - 2015

There were a couple of years when I missed Feast Walla Walla, and several years when I had a  press pass and "worked" the venue by taking notes and videos. This is the first year when I
Me with Shane of Downtown Walla2 Farmer's Market
was on "my own" and it was fun to relax, sip some good wine, visit with friends, and sample many goodies. 

Feast Walla Walla is always a great venue and the magic happens on First Avenue downtown Walla Walla at Main Street. The gigantic white tent begins to take shape Friday evening and by Saturday morning, it can pack up to 600 people and several food and wine purveyors. The excitement begins at the tent entrance when guests receive an etched wine glass commemorating the event, a souvenir plate to hold the "feast" from local food vendors and 10 tokens to be used towards food and wine. 

The Marc - Asparagus! 
So let's cut to the chase. Some of the highlights for me was it didn't seem as crowded this year, therefore I didn't feel as "squished."  I am not sure if it was due to less people or larger space. I will also take the time to talk about some of my favorite food. Of course, one must not leave without dropping a token to get a little bag of chocolate truffles from Bright's Candies. 

The Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center, of course didn't disappoint with their selection of food. They served bites of local Walla Walla pickled asparagus rolled with house-cured prosciutto. Oh my! The Marc also served a bite of dessert with a Parisian-style milk chocolate, hazelnut, and apricot macaroon. Beautifully done.  

Sapolil Cellars
Sapolil Cellars really thought their presentation through ... (a hint to other wineries who serve food - - pair food and wine) ... Chef Peyton of Sapolil Cellars presented little bites of deliciousness that paired so well with their Sapolil "Dwelley" Reserve - 2009 (red blend). The bites were Sapolil "Dwelley" Syrah-infused salami chips topped with roasted garlic, goat cheese, and pickled red onion. I kept going back for more. 

Chef Paul and crew from the Bank & Grill Catering Co are usually one of the most popular booths and nothing has changed. I chose a crostini, spread with a blue cheese compound butter and topped with hand-carved beef steak from their generous platter of grilled meat. 
Bank & Grill Catering Co. 

I wished I could have visited more winery booths than I had, but one must be responsible ... I sipped on Henry Earl Estate Riesling - 2013 and Henry Earl Estate "Homesteader" (red blend),  Kontos Merlot - 2010, Plumb Cellars "Damn Straight" (red blend), Plumb Cellars ViognierSYZYGY Syrah - 2009, Waterbrook Winery Sangiovese Rose, and Dunham Cellars Riesling.  None of these wines disappointed. All very lovely, and especially paired with food - - which leads me to this suggestion ...
Zach of ZYZYGY

Now, this event is called "Feast," right?  I had a revelation but I think every winery and food booths need to be more conscientious of food and wine pairings and seek out each other.  I am always thinking about menus and wine pairings. 

So, I had a few wooden coins leftover and asked a suggestion of a friend on how to spend some of my last wooden coins. He mentioned to check out Marcy's booth and get a pulled pork slider with sweet and spicy coleslaw on a brioche bun - - and just as important, he told me, was to pair it with the Dunham Cellars Riesling.  

As I got my slider, the Marcy's chef told me to be sure and pair the slider with Dunham Cellars Riesling. As I walked across the tent to Dunham Cellars table, the two tasting room staff members saw me coming towards them with my slider, and immediately grabbed the bottle of Dunham Cellars Riesling - - impressive and on point.  The sweetness of the riesling balanced out the spiciness of the pork. Perfect. 

Pork slider, Riesling, and Macaroon. 
If I could make a suggestion to the Downtown Walla Walla Feast Team who worked hard on  another great year of Feast Walla Walla, would be to suggest to their vendors to think more about food and wine pairings, and also a little music was needed. Nothing loud, but perhaps a little light jazz or a string quartet at the very back of the tent at Alder Street - - for just that little hint of ambiance.  Or perhaps to even have a band or some kind of a interesting performer outside the front entrance to capture the attention of others who you might be able to sell a last minute ticket to. 

I hope that many other people who attended Feast Walla Walla also continued to stay downtown Walla Walla, after Feast closed,  and enjoy the many things that were going on. We sure did, as we visited Sapolil Cellars to listen to music and hoping to snack on their remaining salami chips (Yup, we scored!), as well as we later visited winemaker Cameron and super-duper tasting room woman, Brianna at Kontos Cellars to sip on  their Malbec and listen to their visiting band. And a good time was had by all ... 

Salami bites from Sapolil Cellars