Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 – Another Year Over……2017 - A New Year Has Begun

Happy New Year!  2017 brings a promise of new and exciting things for all of us.  Will 2017 be a good year for the vines?  What excitement, what anticipation……but before we move ahead, I want to take a moment and look back at all the wonderful wine experiences Denise and I shared in 2016.

We kicked off 2016 at McCall Hall on February 8th with the Walla Walla Wine Tasting event.  I really liked how they did this event.  Lots of Vintners from the Walla Walla valley and a good pairing of food to go with it.  It was our goal to seek out wineries that we had not tried before.  We were not disappointed.  I love how the Walla Walla valley keeps producing some of the most amazing wines in our region and the wine makers hone their craft to perfection.  

February 21st found us at the “Seattle Food and Wine Experience.  I just love this event.  So many wines to sample and the food is outstanding.  Besides wine there is also beer and spirits to sample.  You could never sample everything so pace yourself.  Also I highly recommend taking a taxi or Uber car to and from the event. 

In March, Denise and I attended the "Rose' Revival" - sponsored by Seattle Uncorked Wine Club - at Ray's Boathouse in Ballard, Washington and did their wine tasting/judging event.  Denise was honored the year before to be a judge for the Rose’ wines.  This year she brought me along and I too was able to experience my first time at judging.  It was a fun event but I can see there is definitely a fine art to good judging.  I hope to grow my palette in 2017 and learn more about the finer points of judging.

Oregon AVA Wine Event at Seattle’s World Trade Center – March 21st – Denise and I were invited to experience this event.  The word is AMAZING!  The Oregon vendors brought a sample of their soil to this event so you could see just what the vines had been grown in.  We don’t usually think of the soil as we sip wine but it has such a huge influence on the grapes and we definitely can taste the earth if we know what we are looking for.  Great representation from the growers and it was so nice to be able to speak with them one on one and not have to hurry.  The wine was excellent too!

Our first trip of the season to Walla Walla was on April 29th.  Our dear friends opened their home to us once again and shared the bounty from their budding garden.  We in turn introduced them to some new wine discoveries.  As always, Walla Walla does not disappoint. I hope that if you have never experienced a wine region before, let Walla Walla be your first experience.  It is still a small region and very personable.  However, it is growing fast so you will want to get a visit in soon.

One of the best local finds we found was Laurelhurst Winey in Seattle. (Georgetown)  Business men by day and wine makers by night/weekend and any other free time they can squeeze out.  They had a wine tasting event for their wine club in June and it was a lovely event.  Each time we go to this winery the wine gets better and better.  I’m so glad they are over on our side of the mountains and only a ferry boat ride away.

If you haven’t read Denise’s blog entitled “Ballad of the Syrah's” then you need to read it.  In late June Denise hosted a blind Syrah tasting event.  The wines ranged from high and low and the food pairs were out of this world.  I was completely humbled by this event.  I thought I had really grown as a wine taster but once again I was tripped up by my own wine prejudices.  I didn’t even guess half of the wines correctly but I really enjoyed drinking them all. J  Thank you Denise for making it a truly special event.

In the summer Denise and I are so busy with our families and summer activities that we don’t do many wine tastings.  However, a new Total Wine store opened up this year and every Saturday and Sunday they have wine, beer and spirits tasting.  My neighbor Robin introduced us to this experience. J  Needless to say I have discovered some pretty good wines.  The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.  Great customer service!

September rolled around and found us heading to Port Townsend, Washington.  The last time I had been in Port Townsend was when we started our blog in April of 2010 and we wrote about Fairwinds Winery.  It seemed only right that we re-visit Fairwinds and see how they were doing.  The winery was still having great success and the wine was as delicious as ever.  We had a nice long chat with the owner, Michael Cavett and some of his friends while we sipped the afternoon away.  We also promised not to stay away so long. J

Our second trip to Walla Walla was in the middle of October.  I was on a serious hunt for 100% Petit Verdot and I found it!  Grantwood Winery has some of the best wines around for very reasonable prices.  The gentlemen who own and run the winery are some of the nicest men I have met.  We arrived in the middle of crush so we were able to see them working (punching down) their vats and smell the aroma of freshly crushed grapes and fermentation.  It’s a heady smell and I love it.  Their Petit Verdot is the best and I can’t wait till they have more.  I took one of their last two bottles they had available for sale.

Earlier in the year we attended the Seattle Food and Wine Experience and the folks that host that event put on the Seattle Holiday Wine Event in November.  This event was even better.  Less crowds, great vendors and excellent information.  Of course it being the first year the crowds would be less.  Some of the best vendors were there and it was a great pleasure to have the time to speak to the wine brokers and vintners.  I really was impressed how many women vintners were present and they have some fantastic wines.

The year was over before we knew it and now a new one has already begun.  What will 2017 hold for all of us?  Who knows, but no matter what, sharing moments with our friends and family is the most important thing we can do.  Denise and I raise a glass to all of you and wish you the happiest of new years and pray that we all have a safe, happy and joyous 2017.  Cheers!! LaDonna

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wine tasting etiquette

You are not a camel; therefor learn to spit
When implementing the spitting method during a tasting, I found it is best to use a paper cup and spit directly into the cup, not a mile away into the bucket they have on the table.  If there isn’t a paper cup in sight and you find yourself having to use the bucket provided, please try to get close enough to get inside but not too close that there is splash back….ewww!  Practice at home is my suggestion to get it down, better safe than sorry.

It’s always “no white after Labor Day”
 Not the time to wear your white anything; shirt, dress, slacks.  Stay on the safe side and wear dark colors to avoid any embarrassing splashes and stains.

Not a BYOB party
 Do NOT bring your own bottle, that is just poor manners. If you don’t like red and they only pour red, then you are now the designated driver.  I suggest that you keep an open mind and try the red that is poured, you just might find that you like it and have now broadened your palette.

Wine snobs leave your smoking jacket at home
Don’t attempt to stump the wine server or try to “take them down” just to impress…you’re not. Everyone around you is rolling their eyes and trying to hide to make sure others know they are not part of your group. You may be a wine expert however; you are now in someone else’s place. Please show respect, listen, learn and appreciate.

Have some French toast
Be sure to not start your day on an empty stomach.  Have a good breakfast and be sure to cleanse your palate afterwards with some water before setting out on your wine tasting.  Also make sure to partake of any food offerings that are provided along the way as well as drinking plenty of water, read my previous water blog post.

You are not on the Iron Throne ‘‘bring me some wine”

Don’t tap your glass on the bar when you want a refill. The wine tasting room attendants are very busy trying to serve and answer questions to all, please practice patience, sit back, relax and savor the moment and the wine.

Don’t try to make your own Hangover movie
Please don’t keep asking to “re-visit” several times just to get drunk on your tasting fee.  Revisiting a wine that you have tasted is truly a great thing to do if you are interested in the wine for purchase, however very poor manners if you don’t intend to purchase and you just want to chug wine on the cheap.

You are not auditioning for Coyote Ugly or Real Housewives
Wine tour bachelorette parties are a fun idea and a great experience however; please have respect, purchase wine and no bar dancing or disruptive behavior please!  Wineries have tasting rooms to showcase their wines, not your dancing skills or drama.

Purple mouth syndrome
The simple solution to avoid purple teeth and lips is to drink water and I swish it around a little.  Brushing your teeth in-between tasting and gum can affect your palette so it isn’t recommended. Brushing your teeth before you leave home works best and some people swear by wine wipes, give them a try for yourself and see.

Lipstick on the collar not on the glass
Lipstick leaves heavy film on glasses which is hard to remove, leave the lipstick off for the tasting trip.

Skip the Chanel No. 5
Your nose when tasting is an important part of the experience.  Your fragrance can affect you and others around you so please keep it off for tastings.

Making friends

When at tasting event, get your wine and then step aside if there is a line behind you. Allow the line to go down then ask the server your questions and get the next pour offered.  I have been to some events when there is someone in front telling their life story, tasting all the wines, oblivious to others behind. Do not hold up the line for all of questions or to taste all the flights offered, be courteous to the others behind you.  I get my wine, go back later once the rush is over and then I have more time to talk to the server about the wine and re-visit if needed, which they love to do for the wine enthusiast.

Plan Ahead
If you have a large group plan ahead by calling the wine tasting room to let them know you are coming.  Do not just show up 5 minutes before closing hours. Be sure to note all the of the winery’s hours before you start your trip, some open early and close early.

Take Note
Write it down, or better yet I take pictures of the bottle labels.  If you are tasting several wines in a day this is the best way to remember what you have tried. If the event or wine tasting room gives out tasting notes, then use this to add comments or I use a 3-star system to simplify what I like or no stars if I don’t.  Circle tasting notes you are getting or write your own tasting notes, I also enjoy writing down the food I would love to pair with the wine.

There are good days and some bad days
 Most tasting rooms and events have amazing servers that have so much knowledge and love what they do.  Once in a while I have run into servers who don’t know anything about the wine, care to be there or talk to you…these are usually at events they have to assign a volunteer to help out at.  Don’t let this turn you off from the wine or the winery, if you go visit the winery again let them know politely of your previous experience so they are aware, to make corrections in the future.

Remember, always make sure you have ID no matter your age and please don’t give the wine attendant a hard time for asking.

If visiting several wineries… plan your tasting trip for your palate; sparkling wines first, whites, then richer whites then reds.



Friday, July 8, 2016

Ballad of Syrah’s…   
Syrah or sometimes called Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world; Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah which is a different grape.
Syrah is full-bodied, dark colored with soft tannin, jammie fruit and spice with notes of licorice, anise and earth, which makes it so wonderful paired with rich meats.
Here are some we sampled at a resent WLW wine tasting event:
Dumas Station, 2012 Walla Walla
Rich garnet color, jammie fruit with a hint of floral and smoky spice nose. Ripe fruit, spicy and creamy generously lasting thru to the finish.
Pairs well with roasted asparagus, dark chocolate, roasted meat and smoked herb potato.
Laurelhurst Cellar, 2012 Walla Walla
Intoxicating nose with hint of fruit and spice, long harmonious layered fruit finish.
Paired well with caramelized onion, roasted mushroom, smoked potato wedge, triple cheese blackberry melba appetizer and dark chocolate.
Dumas Station, 2013 The Excursion, Walla Walla
Excursions amazingness starts with the color you cannot get any deeper rich jewel tones.  Spice hits the noses up front with smoky notes and then continues thru to the pallet on your first sip.  Focused and concentrated earthy notes with full fruit running thru to the finish.
Pairs well with rich smoked meats, BBQ sauce, grilled vegetables, dark chocolate, triple cheese black berry melba appetizer.
a’Maurice Cellars, 2014 Walla Walla
Rich garnet color, smoky nose which leads to a hint of spice. Flavors play and gain thru the finish of deep current fruit.
Pairs well with, smoked gouda, dark chocolate, smoked
roasted potato.
Paringa, 2013 Shiraz South Australia
Dark earthy red color which continue thru to its earthy black current nose, a harmony of dark berry fruit notes and hint of dark chocolate finish.
Pairs well with fresh red grape, dark chocolate, roasted vegetable, triple cheese blackberry melba appetizer.
Isabella Grace 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley
Extraordinary nose which invites you in to its expressive floral overtone and fruit flavors. Rich chocolate, spice and mineral finish.
Pairs well with dark chocolate, triple cheese berry appetizer and roasted meat.
Machey Vineyard, 2010 Columbia Valley
Deep plum color, juicy berry aromas, rich fruit with hint of spice at the finish.
Pairs will with roasted garbanzo taco, smoked potato wedge, smoked cheddar cheese and dark chocolate.
Va Piano, 2013 Columbia Valley
Beautiful garnet color, smooth floral and silky spice texture glides across the palette with Tabaco and sweet notes at finish which went well with dark chocolate
Paired well with roasted herb chicken thigh, BBQ sauce, triple cheese and blackberry melba
We started the event blind tasting so we could focus on the color, flavor and food pairing without getting influenced by winery or region, which made it fun and interesting!  Then off came the covers after the first tasting to reveal some surprises for some and reaffirmed favorites for others.
Please read again my previous blog post from February 2014 on wine tasting events. There are many fun options you can explore when hosting a wine tasting event of your own.
Pairing recipes we served with this event will be coming soon on the WLW recipes tab.


Monday, June 20, 2016

New Discoveries Spring Forth

February 2016 – Denise and I attended the “Walla Walla Wine at McCall Hall” tasting in, Seattle, Washington.  We discovered some wineries that we had never heard of before and really enjoyed their wines.  We decided at that time, in the spring we would make a point to go visit these new discoveries and see if they would become some new favorites.

Not long ago Denise and I set off on a spring day to Walla Walla, Washington to visit our dear friends Michael and Coralee.  We were so excited about this visit because we had a list of newly discovered wineries and couldn’t wait to share.

We had two full days of tasting and here is just a sample of what we experienced.

Tertulia Cellars –

2015 Estate vineyard Rose’ – old world style rose with a light salmon color and dry finish.  I loved the way they described how they got the color for the wine.  “In the time it takes to drink 2 beers, that’s how we determine the press time.”  Nice but not overly dry.  A must have for the summer.

2015 Whistling Hills Viognier – I personally love Viognier and so I enjoyed this very floral wine.  Lots of pear, peach and some mineral notes.  Just what I would hope for.

2014 Riviere Galets Estate Vineyard Grenache – layered with complex fruit notes of berries and rhubarb.  Denise found the nose full and moves the palate.  Would be great with pork tenderloin.

a’ Maurice Cellars –

2015 Viognier Columbia Valley – very fresh and fruity

2015 Viognier /Marsanne Boushey Vineyard – honey-floral taste.  Great balance

Henry Earl Estates –

2012 Merlot – definitely a combination of plum, mineral and blackberry aromas.  Loved the nose and the wine was good too.  As I’ve said before I’m not a huge fan of Merlot but even I could enjoy this one.

2012 Malbec – loved this one.  We had it at the show back in February and it didn’t disappoint this time either.  Lots of robust spices but very mild tannins.  Really like this one. 100% Malbec.

2010 Homesteader – blend – merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc. – very fruity and does have tannins on the finish.  It’s a great wine for a hearty meal.

JJ Vintners -

2012 “4 Boys” Red Blend – a nice red blend for the table

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – nice rich and rounded.  Great with pizza

2013 Les Collines Riesling – nice and fruity.  Not too sweet but just right.

These are just some of the wineries that we visited and tried for the first time.  But we also had a “special” moment.  I know that many of you who have visited Walla Walla have probably gone to Pepper Bridge Winery and have enjoyed their wines.  Well, can you believe it but neither Denise nor I had ever been there.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever tasted their wines until this visit.  I know, I know “how could we not have had their wine before?”  They are very popular and you do see them on the wine list of fine dinning establishments.  Well, needless to say we did go see them.  In fact, we visited with the tasting room manager, Mark Hester and somehow ended up on a personal tour of the winery from the owner Norm McKibben.

Norm gave a great tour and really let us see the amazing operations that they have.  You would be awe struck at how clean and organized this winery is.  Norm’s winemaker and partner, Jean-Francois Pellet is the responsible party for all this great organization.  He is a Master Winemaker.  Come to Pepper Bridge and you will taste first hand just how good he is at his craft.

As all good things do, our trip ended too soon.  But before I go I would like to mention two other wineries we visited, Mark Ryan Winery and Tempus.  Great wines and definitely a must visit.  Last but certainly not least in our hearts, we did finish our visit at our favorite winery, Dumas Station in Dayton.  I still hope we can talk Jay into bottling that amazing Petit Verdot he has in the back room.  And if ever any of you need a place to stay please consider our friend's VBRO

Till next time……Cheers!  LaDonna

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wine Tasting and Water

During our trip to the Willamette, the tasting room attendant at one of the Winery’s first poured us some club soda upon our arrival.  This was great, we just had a fantastic brunch and the flavors still lingered on our palates.  The club soda worked well at neutralizing our taste buds to receive the grape we were about to taste.  This got me thinking about waters and how to use them to improve our wine tasting experience.

Still water or Acqua Panna, which is Italian, these are best for tasting the following:
*White wines
*Barrel Aged White Wines
*Sparkling Wines
*Red Wines that are light and subtle

San Pellegrino is Italian, Perrier is French and both carbonated water which make for softer smoother bubbles which complement the tasting of:

*Rose’ wines with high alcohol content
*Young red wines
*Red wines that are full and mature
*White wines that are full bodied

The difference between these bottled carbonated waters and club soda is the bubbles. Club soda contains bicarbonate of soda and carbon dioxide which make large bubbles.
Any water that you drink during tasting should never be iced or too cold which will numb your taste buds.

Remember to never use water to rinse out your glass during tasting, always use a splash of white wine swirl around the glass then dump out…this and other tip you be sure to check out on our WLW tips tab.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Willamette Valley-Fire, Volcanic eruptions, Earthquakes, Floods and coastal effects…..sounds like the makings of a new disaster movie however it is actually the makings of some great soil for one of the largest AVA in Oregon, extending from Portland to Eugene. Many factors contribute to a wines flavor, mostly what happens in the cellar however one of the elements is the soil the grapes are gown in.

The Cascade mountains on the East and Coastal mountain range to the West with low hillsides, which make up the 6 AVA (American Viticultural Area) regions in Oregon; Dundee Hills AVA, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Ribbon Ridge AVA, Eola-Amity Hills AVA, McMinnville AVA, Yamhill-Carlton AVA. This trip, we went to Newberg and Dundee area, here are some places we visited that will hopefully inspire you to visit this region too.

August Cellars-Family owned with a tasting room situated at the edge of 42 acre farmland of English Walnuts, Italian Prunes and Pinot grapes. August Cellars is must see for some finely aged wines and varity of offerings for this region in which you mostly taste Pinot's.

2009 Chardonnay-Willamette Valley AVA. Brilliant balance of fruit with expressive and unique finish.

2011 Dry Gewurztraminer-Willamette Valley AVA. Well balanced fruit with a touch of spice.

2012 Pinot Gris-Yamhill-Carlton AVA.  Honey and fruit glide smoothly and effortless thru the pallet.

2007-Pinot Noir-Aubre Vert Vineyard, Chehalem Mt AVA. Soft fruit with all the pieces that develop into something special.

2010 Baco Noir- Umpqua Valley AVE. I got fresh oysters on the nose right off!  Slow roasted fruit and vegetable richness, excellent wine to serve with BBQ.

2006- Mare'chal Foch-Willamette Valley AVA Hybrid grape which is bold and earthy.  Pairs well with Chanterelle mushrooms and game meats.

Four Graces- Charming old farm house renovated as tasting room, out buildings and outside space for bringing a lunch and sample some great wine produced with sustainable farming practices.  My favorite was the Small Batch #2 Pinot Noir 2013, for it complex flavors and finish which will get better with age.

Adelsheim Winery-Pioneers of the Oregon wine business and a true visionary. Adelsheim website has a nicely done video of their history, worth watching before you make a trip to this region. Their wines show true craftsmanship, quality and passion for fine wine. 
2014 Catlin’s Reserve Chardonnay- We fell in love with this fruit forward Chardonnay with lingering fresh finish.

White Rose Estates- The tasting room manager spent a good time with us explaining their process of Neo-Classical Winemaking.   A must see for the breathtaking view and education on their winemaking process.

Argyle -Beautiful new tasting room that is built on the spot of early hazelnut process plant, which is now where they craft their wines. This new space offers a relaxed way of offering tasting choices as flights. The House flight offered a Brut, Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.  The Pop flight gave you choice of three different Brut's with one of them a Rose, which was excellent. The Diamond flight is all Pinot Noir offerings, these flight choices offer something for everyone.  I purchased the 2013 Nuthouse Pinot Noir for it's rich fruit and long finish.

Traveling the region, here are some recommendations for lodging and food:

Lodging: Inn at Red Hills

Breakfast/lunch/dinner -Babica Hen (in same building as Inn at Red Hills)

Lunch- SubTerra

Dinner- Recipe (be sure to make reservations)



Friday, February 12, 2016

Walla Walla Wine Tasting at McCall Hall

Another great year of wine is upon us and Denise and I kicked it off by attending the “Walla Walla Wine Tasting at McCall Hall” on Monday evening (February 8th).  This was our first time attending this event and it did not disappoint.

Forty-five wineries were pouring.  We sampled a few old favorites but enjoyed new ones we had never tried before. 

Five Star Cellars – 2011 Syrah – I tried this Syrah with duck and it was fantastic.  Food really brought out the flavors.

Foundry Vineyards – 2013 Chardonnay – This chardonnay was done in steel.  The fruit really shines.

Henry Earl Estates – 2012 Malbec – Very unusual Malbec.  Light with little to no tannins.

Kerloo Cellars – 2013 Les Collines Syrah – Great Syrah!  Can’t wait to visit them.

Tempus Cellars – 2013 Evergreen Vineyard Riesling – A nice refreshing Riesling.  Not too sweet but also not dry, just right!

These are just a few of the wineries we tasted at the event. I’m looking forward to attending this event again next year.  It was worth the ticket price and coming out on a work night.  Cheers! LaDonna