Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Own How To Saber Champagne Video

After watching the MSN version of how to do this I thought I better do one as well. The MSN method was only done half right. They forgot to move the basket rather than re-moving the basket which will get you hurt if done wrong! I had some issues with the's only easy when nobody is looking! Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Serve Bubbly Like An Expert This New Years

Happy New Years! I hope that 2009 ends well for you, and that 2010 is more prosperous and fun than any you’ve ever had. And with that thought in mind, I’d like to propose a toast…What? You say you need someone to open the bottle of bubbly first? Well…How about I teach you.

The first thing to keep in mind is contrary to what you see on Nascar, you don’t shake the bottle up until the cork flies off hitting a blonde supermodel in the head. Actually, shaking Champagne while opening the bottle is quite dangerous. It also makes the wine go flat quickly because you are allowing all of the gasses to escape right out the top of the bottle. What I actually propose is that you open your bubbly in the proper manner, which will really impress your guests both with your style and the wine’s flavor.

The best way to open a bottle of Sparkling wine, or Champagne is to hold the bottle in a cloth napkin or towel. First cut and then remove the foil wrapper from around the cork area. I propose actually removing all of the foil possible because it makes it easier to do the next processes in opening the bottle.

Once you’ve removed the foil, hold the bottle around the neck with your thumb over the top of the cork. With the other hand remove untwist the cage. Carefully, with the cork away from yours or anyone else’s body remove the cage and place your thumb back over the end of the cork.

With your free hand, wrap the end of the bottle in the napkin or towel. Once covered, gently twist the cork in a counter-clockwise motion. The cork will naturally push itself from the bottle with very little work. The colder the wine inside, the more you might have to pull a little as you twist.

As the cork pops free from the bottle be sure to keep a firm grip on both the cork and the bottle. The cork will come out with a deep and reassuring “pop”. Serve and enjoy!!

Now…for those who really want to try something special, and don’t mind cutting parts of their body off and having to make a trip to the emergency room on New Years Eve. I have a special treat for you. A quick lesson in Sabering!

Sabering Champagne is extremely romantic, manly, and downright impressive. (If it is done right.) Do it wrong though, and you’ll likely be missing a thumb!

Once again, remove the foil from the bottle. This time, instead of removing the cage completely, untwist it, and retighten it on the lip closest to the top of the bottle.

Now, for the tricky part. Along the length of all bottles there is a bead of raised glass from the molding process. Find that edge and make sure that it is free of labels and foil. Point your bottle with that edge side up, away from yourself, other people, and all important objects such as plasma televisions.

Grasp a large dull knife such as a chef’s knife firmly in the other hand. In three smooth even strokes run the knife blade along the edge until your knife hits the bottom lip on the bottle. On the third stroke add a little extra pressure and follow through with the knife. The bottle will break at the seam, removing the cork and top of the bottle. All glass chards are also removed with the spewing wine.

Enjoy, and Happy New Years!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The 2009 Holiday Wine Lover’s Gift Guide

Last year, one of the favorite articles that I wrote was my holiday gift guide. You know, those little stocking stuffers that good little wine drinking boys and girls would enjoy. I’ve decided that Santa just needs help in this area once in a while.

That said, I know a few items that your wine drinking loved ones should appreciate this year. Put any of these under the tree and you are sure to get some appreciation under the mistletoe. These gifts range from $5 and up, so you can fit something into your budget.

First on my list is a really good corkscrew. There are many types out there. I personally appreciate a well made waiter’s corkscrew. The better ones have Teflon coating on the screw, making it easier to turn into the cork, and a two stage lift, making it easy to ratchet the cork out.

Many people expound on the love that they have for their “rabbit” style corkscrews. These gadgets have a clamp that grips the bottle, and with two swift movements the cork is extracted using a lever. If you want to go all the way, there are very fancy corkscrews that bolt onto the counter and are made of etched brass and hardwood.

Another type of corkscrew that is growing in popularity, especially at winery tasting rooms is the compressed gas style. This type has a needle that is forced into the cork. You press down and “pop” the cork is out.

Lastly, you can always buy a good pair of loafers. Yes…shoes. A widely distributed YouTube video has proven that you can open a bottle with your shoe. Just place the bottom of the bottle in the shoe. Cut the foil from the top, and smack the shoe and bottle against a wall. The force from the sloshing wine pushes the cork out in just a few strokes.

Last year I suggested buying people decanters, which may have been stashed in a cupboard in the best cases, and used as urinals in the worst. This year, there is a device out there called an aerator. It does basically the same thing as a decanter, but more efficiently. There are several brands out there that run from $20 to $70. You pour the wine from the bottle into the device and it forces air into the wine as it filters through to your glass.

For the wine lover who wants to own a piece of the action, I suggest buying into a wine club at one of the local wineries. Most wineries lay out the red carpet to their members. With the economy the way it is right now, there are several who are offering fantastic deals on their wines to club members.

What I really want from Santa is a shopping spree at a Graybeal Distributing, or at a local wine shop such as Great Pacific in Pendleton, or Bellingers in Hermiston. You can purchase a gift certificate from these places and let your favorite wino do their own shopping.

Lastly, for your favorite Santa’s helper, there is always the opportunity to spend the day with someone like…me. I make myself available for special guided wine tours and wine dinners throughout the region in the winter and spring months. If you’re interested you can reach me through my blog at

Merry Christmas, and Cheers!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gordon Brothers Wines Now Available Locally

Last week I started to share about Tri-Cities vintners, Gordon Brothers Winery. As a late note I found out that the wines are now being distributed locally, and will showcased at a public tasting Friday night the 18th of December at Great Pacific in downtown Pendleton.

Jeff Gordon, owner of Gordon Brothers, will be on hand to showcase their wines beginning at 5 p.m.. As always, Ken and Carol will have their full menu, including their amazing gourmet pizzas available to compliment any wine you should decide to taste or purchase that evening. If you haven’t attended a tasting there, I suggest that you come down. I like to think of Friday evenings at Great Pacific as a community event.

Gordon Brothers winery, which is located on the north bank of the Snake River just east of Pasco, is a certified organic vineyard. The Gordons have gone to great lengths to create a beautiful micro AVA, with plenty of drainage, heat units, and adequate irrigation for producing world-class grapes. Their winemaker, Tim Henley, carefully crafts his wines using a mixture of both old-world methods, and the newest techniques available.

On a tour of the winery a few weeks ago I had the privilege of tasting through the Gordon’s portfolio, including barrel samples of upcoming vintages. Here are a few of the wines I found most notable on my visit.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc - I am thoroughly impressed with both the fruit and the treatment that Henley is using in this wine. The nose is very aromatic with lots of grapefruit, lime, and melon. The flavors are crisp and beautiful, with a very balanced combination of acidity and fruit. Pair this with creamy dishes, seafood, or on its own on a warm evening.

2008 Chardonnay – This wine, as well as the family’s reserve Chardonnay from the same vintage, shows a combination of skillful vineyard management and blending in the barrel room. Henley shows some of his best talents in these wines. A careful blend of stainless fermentation, mixed with the right amount of malolactic, as well as new and neutral oaks creates Chardonnay the way it should be. Aromas of pineapple, apple, melon, and buttery toffee fill the nose, followed by flavors of apples, baking spices, and a balanced finish make this one of my favorite Chardonnays on the market.

2007 Merlot - I firmly believe that Henley’s method of “drain and return” creates the method that allows the wide-open flavors in this wine to shine. Aromas of blackberries on the vine, cinnamon, and leather, followed by flavors of berries and stone fruit, with cocoa and baking spices on the finish.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is blended with 4% Syrah, and 2% Merlot to create layers of flavors and aromas. Raspberries, cherries, and currants mix with notes of coffee on the nose and palate, followed by darker fruits and cinnamon. The finish is long, with silky tannins.

2005 Syrah – Blueberries, cherries, and peppercorn fill the senses, followed by flavors of leather and cedar to create a mouth filling experience. Beautiful tannins make this wine one to enjoy with a steak or lamb, or on its own with friends.

I will only briefly mention both the 2003 Tradition and the 2008 Ice Wine. Tradition is the family’s amazing red Bordeaux blend, and the Ice wine is a true Gewurztraminer Ice wine, carefully picked in the deep of winter. Both are beautiful works of vintner art. I would suggest purchasing both if you get the opportunity.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gordon Brothers Celebrates History and Heritage In Their Wines

On a recent visit to Gordon Brothers Winery, on the banks of the Snake River on the Pasco-Kahlotus highway in Southeastern Washington, I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know the family, the winemaker, and the wines better than I ever imagined.

I’ve known the Gordon Brothers owners, Jeff and Vicki, and their children for many years. I sit next to them in church on Sunday mornings. See them at local events. I’ve enjoyed a bottle of Gordon Brothers wine many, many times over the years. However, I had never really gotten to know the Gordons or their wines until a few weeks ago when I was invited to come out to the vineyards for a visit.

As I pulled into the driveway of the simple, but well kept facility I realized that this is not a tasting room for the daily tourist trade, and that I was entering a private winery as a special guest. Always the snoop, I realized quickly from the no-spray signs and other organic markers that I was sitting in a truly organic vineyard, which is rare for this region.

Stepping out of my car I was met with a firm handshake by the winemaker, Tim Henley as he and his staff were washing barrels to be filled. Henley comes to the Gordon Brothers via way of a few famous Central Coast and Napa California wineries including being enologist or assistant at Byron, Zaca Mesa, Pine Ridge, Luna, and Clos Pegase.

As we tasted through barrels and bottles one thing really stood out to me in Henley’s short tenure at the winery… is his genius at pulling flavors from different oak, different blocks, and different processes to create depth and balance from the first sniff, until the last tannin leaves your palate.

Over the next few articles I want to share with you what I tasted that day in the bottles from the Gordon Brothers vineyards, and where I think the family and their skilled winemaker are taking their wines in the next few years.

First, I thought I would start with the winery’s newest baby. Their second label called Kamiak. Kamiak is a two wine labeling including a white blend and a red blend. Named after the famous Yakima chief Kamiak, the family wanted to honor the Yakimas who began the initial irrigation of the Columbia Valley. It was also to honor the Gordon’s grandfather who founded Kamiak ranch in 1907, and gave the family their Eastern Washington farming roots.

The 2008 Kamiak Windust White is a nicely balanced white blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc mixed with 10% Chardonnay. Henley’s work with both juices is very skillful, but blended this wine fills the nose with a mixture of apricots and baking spices. The flavor is nicely balanced between bright cherries, apples, and a mint, mineral, and delicious acidic finish. I would highly recommend this wine with seafood, white sauces, and salads.

The 2007 Kamiak Rock Lake Red is a blend of 4 different grapes. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon provides the base, with 26% Merlot, 25% Syrah, and 5% Malbec to finish the depth of the palate in this blend. The nose presents with pepper and dark fruits, opening to lush cherries, blackberries, and plums on the tongue. The finish is long, with soft tannins.

Next week I will share several other wines that build the Gordon Brothers portfolio. If you want to taste these wines they will be available in the region for the first time at a new release tasting at Great Pacific in Pendleton on December 18th starting at 5:00.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Local Wineries Top Annual List

Once again Northwest winemakers and fans have a reason to cheer. This week, Wine Spectator, the world’s premier magazine for all things wine, released its annual top 100 list. The list is made available to Wine Spectator’s readership, and is released early via its internet site, which posted the scores and tasting notes just days before copies hit the newsstands.

We here in the Mid-Columbia region have something extra to celebrate about. Topping the list this year out of a total number of 17,000 wines tasted was Columbia Crest Winery, with its 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine, created just across the Columbia River at Columbia Crest winery in Patterson, won a landslide victory based on the characteristics of quality, value, availability, and excitement.

I have had other vintages of this Cabernet Sauvignon, and can attest to Columbia Crest’s dedication to producing absolutely fantastic wines in their reserve line with each bottling. Since there are many Columbia Crest employees who live in here locally, I want to take the extra time to congratulate each of you. Your team effort continues to show the world that our region does produce amazing wines consistently.

Columbia Crest’s sister wineries Ste. Michelle and Spring Valley also made the top 100 list. Ste. Michelle’s 2006 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon came in at number 38, and Spring Valley’s 2006 Uriah red blend made the list at number 60.

As well as the Ste. Michelle Estates group, a few other local wineries deserve kudos for their work. Argyle made a fantastic score by reaching number 18 this year with their 1999 Extended Tirage. This Dundee, Oregon winery consistently makes the top 100 list with its sparkling wines.

Cayuse, a Walla Walla vintner, known for creating highly sought after wines, reached number 26 with their 2006 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah. Cailloux, which according to the company’s website, is French for “Rocks”, is produced in extremely rocky soil.

Barnard Griffin, a Richland, Washington winery that I’ve written about many times, made the list at number 66 with their 2008 Columbia Valley Riesling. Rob Barnard continues to produce brilliant wines out of his winery. This Riesling, which I’ve tasted at the winery, is an off-dry wine with lots of fresh fruit and floral notes.

Coming in at number 72 was The Magnificent Wine Company with their 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah. Better known for their “House Wine” labels, the Magnificent Wine Company, owned by Northwest wine giant Precept Brands, is located in Walla Walla.

Waterbrook, another Walla Walla winery owned by Precept, took the honor of reaching number 74 with its 2006 Columbia Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Not far behind at number 77 was King Estate winery with their 2008 Signature Collection Pinot Gris.

Now… for the bad news. Most of these wines have already been purchased and consumed months ago. If you can find them on any local shelves it will be out of pure luck. That is always the condemnation of this annual list. By the time the list reaches consumer hands it is usually too late. But, don’t worry. Chances are you will find many of the same characteristics in newer vintages that got these wines on the list.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Is This World Coming To?

My brother in law sent me a message on facebook the other day asking me about the new Seven Eleven wines that are coming out, and what I thought about the whole concept. Honestly, I thought he was joking until I read an actual AP news release. Then I realized the joke is on us consumers.

It all really started with Charles Shaw and his release of “Two Buck Chuck” a few years ago. The world was shocked that wine could be made, bottled, corked, and delivered to the grocery near you for two dollars retail. Consumers just about broke the doors down on their local Trader Joes stores to buy a few bottles.

Since then we’ve seen this behavior hitting the retail market like the H1N1 virus in a small Midwestern college. Locally, Alberstons has done it with several labels on their shelves, and WalMart hit the shelves with Oak Leaf last year. You won’t hear me writing negative comments normally, but this trend is really starting to “get my goat”.

The honest truth about this is that there are glutted wine markets throughout the world. The industry has outgrown the market, making a mountain of grapes the size of Mount Shasta. The worst culprit is the average California grape grower. They dump the juice on the market at below production prices rather than pulling their vines and planting something else more profitable.

Bulk vintners such as the California Wine Group, owners of Glen Ellen and Corbet Canyon, buy up the cheap juice. They source cheap foreign glass and corks, and serve it to the gullible American public as “good wine”.

What makes me really ticked is that the average Joe consumer out there has no idea what “good” wine is. So, when the marketers tell them that “Two Buck Chuck” is a wonderful wine with hints of blah blah in it, the public believes them. The truth is any wine that is under 5 dollars is probably not worth bottling.

Some more “truths” for you while I’m at it. While the corporate yahoos are out there concocting these schemes, someone actually has to deliver it, put it on the shelves, and bag it for you at the register. Since the entire market is built on profitability per unit, the people who do this are actually providing all of this labor at a loss, putting local jobs at risk.

What’s more, by training the public that cheap wine is good wine, the entire wine industry is dumbing down on quality. If the public believes that “Two Buck Chuck” is good wine, rather than the skunky vinegar that it is, then the market stagnates on price point and eventually good wineries can’t afford to produce a quality product.

I realize now, that I’ve probably ticked off my friend Michael, who owns the Seven Eleven in Hermiston. I’m not out to hurt him. Please, go there and purchase some of his newly released cheap wine when, and if, it comes in. At the same time I urge you to purchase some of the selections that I helped him stock that are good, well priced wines, including several reasonably priced local wines. By purchasing truly quality products from our stores we are supporting ourselves locally, and telling the corporate idiots to taste their own wine.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wonderful Tasting Turkey Wines!

It’s not what you think. I’m really not going to pitch you on drinking wine made out of turkey. I would never suggest you drink a wine made with turkey flavoring. There are sodas that are flavored that way, but I wouldn’t drink them either. However, it is time to round up wines for the big turkey dinner again, and I’m all jazzed up about the opportunities!

Thanksgiving dinner is probably one of the toughest meals of the year to buy wine for. Usually served as somewhat of a potluck, you never know exactly what is going to be served until the meal shows up on the table. That is exactly why I always suggest that you buy several wines for the event.

First, you should include a sparkling wine. I just learned that one of my local favorites is being discontinued and won’t be available long. Domaine St. Michelle’s Frizzante is a slightly sweet sparkler that has won several awards in the last few years. Get it while you can.

You really can’t have Thanksgiving without a bunch of white wines. I prefer to host with Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Viognier or Rousanne, and a good old oaky Chardonnay. Pinot Grigio has citrus and mineral qualities that break down fats well. If you are serving creamy foods such as green bean casserole, you’ll love the way this wine pairs with it. I’ll be serving one of my favorites made by Casey McClellan at Seven Hills.

Good Rieslings are spicy, fruity, and also have a level of minerality to them. I tend to like ones with low residual sugar, and prefer them bone dry if I can find one. Pacific Rim winery makes a wonderful Riesling that hits the spot.

As for Viognier, I would suggest Alexandria Nichole Cellars. Lots of fresh fruits including pineapple, melon, and a faint hint of banana coax out the flavors of a nicely prepared butterball, and pair with mom’s stuffing.

I prefer a good, old fashioned Chardonnay for Thanksgiving. I serve one of those major oak bombs that you usually run from, but the vanilla and buttery flavors compliment so well with the comfort foods of the day. I suggest a good Napa Chardonnay, or if you want to go local I suggest Columbia Crest Grand Estates.

If you are like me, you’re into having smoked turkey, duck, or venison on the table. For smoked foods you really need to step out with some fun reds. I highly suggest a Rose’, a Pinot Noir, Malbec, and a good Cabernet Sauvignon to keep the Bordeaux drinkers happy.

The Rose’ that we’ll be drinking this year is from San Juan Island Vintners. I’ve reviewed this before so I won’t bore you, but this dry Rose’ is great with everything on the table.

Eyrie Pinot Noir is my hands down choice for Thanksgiving. Its bright raspberry notes turn to a earthy finish are great with duck or smoked meats. As for the Malbec, I love them dark and spicy, with huge flavors of blueberry pie. For that I suggest Saviah, Terra Blanca, and Gascon depending on where you want the wine to be from.

The choices for Cabernet Sauvignon run deep in my house. I’m just going to put my hand over my eyes and grab something off the rack. But, if you have to make a special trip, I would suggest picking up one of the local artisan winemakers such as Fidelitas or Whitman Cellars.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Clos du Bois A Tasty Californian Brand

As a wine writer at a small Northeast Oregon newspaper I figure that I have “arrived”. No, it’s not that I’m something spectacular, or that I’m even well read or respected for my opinion. Heck, I still rely pretty heavily on spell check. I know that I’ve “arrived” when people actually ask me to drink their wines.

As you have probably noticed, I usually write about Northwest based wines. However, this week I am making a pretty big jump to a California winery. The reason is simply that they asked very nicely.

Last week I was contacted by Kylie, a representative for the Clos du Bois winery located in Geyserville, California. Kylie suggested that I try a few of their wines, which I admit I had seen on grocery store shelves before but had never tasted.

Clos du Bois, pronounced CLO doo Bwah, originated in 1974 in the now famous Alexander Valley AVA of the Sonoma California region. Frank Woods, the originator wanted to name it “Woods Winery”, but his children who were studying French at the time came up with the name, which means “enclosure in the woods”.

Clos du Bois offers three tiers of wines to the public, including their Classic series, their Sonoma Reserve series, and their Proprietary series. The series that we are able to enjoy here in Northeast Oregon is the Classic series, which is what you will find in local stores.

Winemaker Erik Olsen does have local roots here in Eastern Oregon though. His past history includes being the winemaker for one of the finest wines ever produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle, the renowned 2000 Single Berry Select Riesling. As winemaker at Clos, he has put amazing energy into producing fabulous wines in all three tiers.

First I tasted the 2008 Pinot Grigio. It opened crisp on the nose with apples and citrus. As the wine warmed in the glass it opened up to reveal more melon flavors. The acidity on the finish was very nice. I tasted this with fresh cheve’ on toast and loved it!

The 2008 Sonoma Rose’ is made from 80% syrah and 20% merlot. It is filled with flavors and scents of strawberries, watermelon, and cherries. The mineral flavors in the finish make it very crisp. I had this with butternut squash soup and it was a perfect pairing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2007 North Coast Pinot Noir. It has flavors of cherry, blackberries, cranberry, and a wonderful earthiness of fresh chanterelles. Unlike other Pinot Noirs of its price range it remained very fresh through the finish. I would highly recommend this wine if you are serving duck, or veal. I had it with smoked oysters. Yum!

Last, I tried the 2006 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. A nice nose of dark stone fruits, vanilla, and blackberries led to flavors of baking spices and mocha. I was very impressed with the layered depth and finish of this wine for its price. I would serve it with red meats or as a glass by the fire in the evening.

The next time you are in the store I suggest picking up some Clos du Bois. It is definitely worth trying.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Can Read Your Mind!

Ok. I have a serious Halloween style confession to make. I am a people watcher. I’m also a horrible snoop. Nothing in this world is more entertaining than just standing or sitting in a place where I can watch people’s behaviors and just see what they do. I also learned at a young age that going through people’s stuff really tells you a lot about them.

This brings me to yesterday, when in the checkstand isle at the grocery store I totally freaked out the woman in front of me. She was unloading her cart, and I noticed that she had a bottle of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. A good bottle of wine for the price, and also a huge help to our local economic growth.

As I watched her unpack her cart I quietly watched each of the items on the conveyor belt. My mind started checking through her shopping list of all the things she was purchasing, and I started to get worried. Where were the onions? Where were the darned onions? She forgot the onions!

Finally I spied a baggie of fresh green onions lying behind a box of fettucine, right next to the beautiful flank steak. “Whew…oh good” I exclaimed, before I knew I was speaking, “you purchased onions”.

She looked at me like I was some crazed psycho. Now I was compelled to go on and explain myself. “You are 90% more likely to purchase red wine if you purchase onions. I just saw the wine and did not see the onions until now.” She still looked at me like I was a lunatic, paid the cashier quickly, and ran out of the store. Probably dialing 911, or her gun toting husband as she escaped.

What I told her is true. There has been a huge amount of consumer research done in the past few years by the wine industry. One of the things that the industry has found is that people who cook with onions and garlic are truly 90% more likely to drink red wine. The reason is that onions and garlic associate with a “fancy” meal that almost requires a glass of wine to go with it.

Other grocery purchases that have been found to almost guarantee a wine purchase are steaks and roasts, rotisserie chicken, and flowers. You have probably seen wine displays near the meat counter, deli, and floral sections of the grocery stores. If you haven’t, just look around the next time you go shopping.

Something else about wine purchases in grocery stores. The most successful wine shops are located to the right of the main entrance of the store. Normal shopping patterns of the average consumer are in a counter-clockwise progression. By placing the wine shelf to the right of the entrance the customer is more likely to make a purchase of wine before their basket is full of toilet paper and potato chips.

I’m telling you all this so you can become a people watcher too. If you already are, then I suggest you join me in looking for onions and wine in other people’s carts. If they forget one or the other I suggest you step out and give them a hand by mentioning their mistake.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barrister Wines Produce a Positive Verdict

Have you heard the one about the two lawyers who walk into a winery? The best punch line to this joke is that it isn’t a joke at all. Barrister Winery, located in Spokane Washington, is producing outstanding wines worthy of good judgment.

While their wines are very serious, the way that the winery got its start is almost a joke in the making. Greg Lipsker and Micheal White, the owners and winemakers of Barrister, started their winery almost on a whim. The two Spokane area lawyers were vacationing with their families in 1997 when they found a 5 gallon winemaking kit. They made the purchase of the kit, started producing wine for themselves, and found that it was something that they really enjoyed.

As is the case with most hobbies that get “out of control”, eventually someone suggests that you try making back some of the money you’ve spent on your venture. Micheal and Greg did just that. In 2001 their hobby had grown to a full-blown obsession. They developed a complete, bonded winery, with a tasting room in downtown Spokane. Their specialty is Bordeaux red wines, but they also offer Syrahs and a few whites on occasion.

The great thing about Barrister winery is that their wines are their passion. Winemaking isn’t just something that Lipsker and White do day in and out to make a living, but something that they truly enjoy. This shows in the hand-picked selection of grapes that they source. The vineyards that their juice comes from are some of the most prestigious in the Western United States, including Pepperbridge, Bacchus, Seven Hills, and Weinbau, just to mention a few.

The other evening I enjoyed tasting a few of the Barrister wines. Their red blend, named “Rough Justice” is a fantastic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah. It is wonderfully jammy on the nose, with lots of smoky plum. The flavors are fruit forward and drinkable with lots of texture and structure. A long silky tannic structure finishes the wine very nicely. I have to say that just opposite of the name, the wine is very friendly, just like a very lenient jury might be.

Barrister’s 2007 Cabernet Franc is a beautiful 88% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of red berries on the nose. It fills the mouth with sweet baking spices, and finishes long and silky. The 2006 vintage received a 90 pts in Wine Enthusiast, so the 2007 is in very high demand and not expected to be around long.

For those who don’t like red wines, or want to spread their wings a little, Barrister creates a Klipsun Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc very much worth trying. Their 2008 vintage offers a mouthful of summer, with pears and crisp apples on the front, turning to melon on the back of the palate.

The great thing about Barrister is that they are expanding distribution to the region. They are now readily available in the Tri Cities and Walla Walla area, and have strong hopes of being in Eastern Oregon soon as well. My hope is that you’ll give them a try when you find them, and be the judge yourself. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take A Trip to France Without Leaving Town

Usually I’m a pretty simple guy who is more than willing to eat the local fare and enjoy local wines. I’m really not much into imported stuff. After all, it’s been pretty much proven that we here in the northwest produce wines just as good as any country or region on this great planet.

However, there are times when I just want to get away and try something different. It could have been the rains or the freezing frost outside on the ground the other night. But, for some reason I was really in the mood for a good Cotes Du Rhone. I went down into my closet and pulled out a good one.

Now, this may sound really fancy, but all it means is that the wine is from the Rhone “AOC” of France. “AOC” means the same as “AVA” in the U.S., which means that the wine is from a legally determined area that is determined by the government of that country.

When I say that I drank a Cotes Du Rhone it could mean red, rose’, or white. In this case, which is usually the case, I am speaking about a red wine.

What I love about Cotes Du Rhone red wines is that they are made out of some of my favorite grapes. The red grapes grown in the Rhone River region of France are primarily Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsault. Fantastic grapes, bold and rich in color and texture, that finish smooth and velvety with fine light tannins. These grapes all produce juices that are deep ruby red in color.

The Cotes Du Rhone region is quite laid back. They are very relaxed in their business methods, as well as their cooperative farming lifestyles. Few wineries in the region actually produce wine from grape to bottle. That would be too much work. Most produce smaller lots and allow merchants to provide the marketing and distribution of their wines outside the winery. Only a few produce “mis en bouteille au domaine” which means bottled on premise.

The bottle that I enjoyed this evening was a Domaine de Couron. It is one of the larger vintners in the Rhone. Located at the Saint Marcel d’ Ardeche commune in Southeastern France, the wine is grown, picked, fermented, and bottled on site. It is 60% Grenache, and 40% Syrah.

Pouring the wine from the bottle, it comes out a deep ruby red into the glass. The nose is veggie and lightly sulfur initially, but turns into aromas of bing cherries. On the palate the wine opens with a combination of plums, cherries, and canned green beans. It finishes soft and round, with a slight lack of tannin.

Another Cote Du Rhone that I regularly enjoy is Pont D’ Avignon, a vintner that was recently purchased by the Gallo family. Very affordable, and very tasty, I suggest trying this wine when you want a soft, supple, red other than a Pinot Noir. Once again, not very sophisticated, but it is reasonably priced and a lot of fun. Both it, and the Couron, are priced in the under $15 range.

So, when you are tired of drinking the local stuff, I suggest you try a Cotes Du’ Rhone. There are several available locally. Give one a try!

What is the Best Temperature For Wine?

I’m laughing. Each and every week I honestly start with a blank slate on this article. The funny thing is that sometime between Thursday morning and Friday morning I suddenly am reminded by someone or something what I need to write.

Just now, as I was leaving a chamber event to come back to my office and write this I had someone ask me what temperature they needed to serve a particular wine. I quickly responded and walked away, but as I was driving I realized that temperature is a frequently asked question when it comes to storing and serving wine.

The answer to this question is simple, yet quite complicated. And…The answer is 55 degrees.

Seriously, the first thing to understand is that wine is a living organism. Temperature plays a large part on the health of the bacteria in the wine, thereby affecting it greatly. Wine is particularly fragile. Too cold, and you are putting the bacteria into a stressful hibernation state. Too warm and you are simply killing the wine all together.

A second thing to think about is that wine is made from grapes (in most cases). Most people would agree that fruit becomes more flavorful at room temperatures. Numerous times I have been served white wines with frost on the outside of the bottle. While this can be very refreshing on a hot August day, usually the flavors or “esters” are completely muted at cold temperatures.

Also, I’ve been served wines of all kinds straight off the shelf at 70 to 80 degrees. Both red and white wines start to pick up and magnify “funky” flavors including egg-flavored sulfites at these temperatures. I’ve had some highly regarded vintages at above room temp and been sorely disappointed. If you want to find a flaw in a wine serve it warm.

So, I come back to my initial answer. If the world was a perfect place, and all of our homes had a refrigerated wine storage closet with adjustable temperatures, the best temperature would be approximately 55 degrees.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Try Decanting Instead Of Dumping

Well, I did it again. I screwed up and left some really good wine in my cellar way too long past its natural age. But, unlike cheap stuff that I usually just throw into my spaghetti sauce, I just wasn’t ready to dump this stuff out. A really good 1998 Robert Mondavi, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that had won some prestigious merits in its time, I thought couldn’t just go into a marinara sauce without a fight.
So I did a wine snobish thing that I rarely ever do. I decanted it, and saved its life long enough to pass over my tongue. The wine tasted fantastic. Mondavi would have been proud!
So, you ask, what is decanting, and how is it done? This is a very good question that I’d like to cover. Many people have heard of decanting, however very few people do it, or know how to do it properly.
The first thing to understand is that decanting is for older red wines only. Decanting a white wine is really not going to do it any good. Newer red wines can use decanting occasionally, however youthful wines are usually responsive to air very quickly and they usually open up their flavors right in the glass.
The purpose of decanting is to remove sediments and to add air to the wine so it can “breathe”. The wine that is a good candidate for decanting is one that has been stored properly for several years, lying on its side, out of direct light, and in a temperature controlled environment.
An important rule about decanting is that you can’t save wine that has turned to vinegar. Vinegar = wine + air. You can’t breathe something more if has already breathed too much!
So, how to decant a wine. The best way to decant your wine is to keep the bottle in the same position it has already been in. There are actually baskets that you can purchase to keep the wine in a semi-horizontal position. You don’t want the bottle shaken, as the wine sediment is what you are trying to get filtered out.
Uncork the bottle carefully, slowly, and smoothly. You may experience a large amount of mist. This is a good thing, meaning that your wine has been aging slowly and properly. After uncorking, pour the wine into a decanter or pitcher made of glass or crystal. Do this slowly, making sure not to pour any of the sediment into the decanter.
Simply pouring the wine into the decanter, in most cases, can create enough fresh air to open up the flavors in the wine. If not, I suggest leaving it for one to two hours before enjoying it. There are decanters that lay somewhat horizontally. These help to create more surface to air ratio for the wine. I like using just an old-fashioned decanter because it is so easy to serve into glasses.
Once your wine is decanted, I suggest you drink it within six to eight hours. As I mentioned earlier, wine left to the air becomes vinegar. You don’t want that to happen, so please enjoy all of your wine in one place.
So, next time you find an old bottle and don’t want to throw it out, I suggest giving decanting a try. Enjoy!

The Crush Is On!

Who would have known? This spring was so cold and wet that many grape growers were afraid that this year would be a total bust. Now, after months of record setting high temperatures we are looking at one of the biggest bumper crops of wine grapes to ever hit the region. Heavy clusters of huge, perfectly ripe berries are headed to crush pads throughout the northwest, and the wineries are celebrating!

Every year at this time the region comes to life again with wine celebrations. This year, thanks to the bumper crop conditions, it seems that vintners are really rolling out the red carpet to guests. Crush festivities abound starting this weekend, and running through the next few weeks. If you get a chance to break away this weekend I highly suggest joining in on the fun.

For years the Columbia Valley Winery Association has been celebrating crush the last weekend of September. Wineries from Pasco to Prosser will be in full force party mode this weekend, with bands, food, tasting, and local artisans showing their wares. Just a few of my friends who are offering celebrations in this area are Anelare, 360 Cellars, Barnard Griffin, Bookwalter, Goose Ridge Estate, Tagaris, Buckmaster, Canon Del Sol, Hightower, Kiona, Oakwood, Sandhill, Seth Ryan, Tapteil Vineyard Winery, Terra Blanca, Preston winery, and Columbia Crest.

A few of the larger celebrations that I’ve heard about are happening at Barnard Griffin, where there will be salsa tastings and artists, Terra Blanca, where my friend Frank Magana will be serving fantastic foods, and Oakwood Cellars, who will be featuring a full-on carnival with artisan booths, music, and caterers. Some vintners will also offer old-fashioned grape stomping experiences to those who wish to try it.

If you are in the Pasco vicinity I highly recommend visiting Gordon Brothers located off of the Kahlotus-Pasco highway. This rarely open to the public vintner will be open this weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

In Prosser, the vintners are also opening their doors with food and fun. Milbrant will be featuring live music on their patio, and the entire airfield area will come to life this weekend with the most beautiful balloon rally of the fall season. Get up early to watch the sunrise, as the balloons dance in the skies and on the river through downtown Prosser, then catch the crush action throughout the day. End your day with a visit to Picazo 717 restaurant where you can view some of my wine photography, and then finish the evening with night-glow activities at the airfield.

Now, if you’re like me and want to really experience crush like an industry professional, I hope that you’ll join us at Waving Tree Winery next Saturday October 3rd. The third is scheduled to be the day for Syrah harvest at Waving Tree. Terrance Atkins will be serving lunch to those who wish to join in the actual grape harvest next weekend. Expect to drive away dirty, tired, and completely filled with the joy of knowing that you helped produce some of the region’s best wine. This is a RSVP required event, so call the winery first to make sure there are spaces available. You can reach them at 509-773-6552.

Have a great crush, be safe, and enjoy!

Is A Wine You Can’t Purchase Really Any Good?

As a part of the wine snob media I get plenty of tweets and emails from other wine writers boasting about some Chateau D’ Bigstuff somewhere in the world that just got a 99 rating. Immediately, I’m drawn in. My mind races and my palms get sweaty. All I can think about is “how do I get my hands on that wine?”. Well, the answer is good luck!

The truth is that most of the wines you read about in national and international wine reviews have already been long consumed by the vintner’s regular customers. If there are a few bottles available in this region it is because somebody accidentally purchased too much and they’ve been holding it in some warehouse hoping a big score would pop before they had to dump it down a drain.

The second thing about reading these damnable wine scores is that usually the wine that is being reported on is a vintage or two behind. If you do find a bottle of these famous wines you are likely to find vintages 1 to 3 years younger than the big scoring one. When you do get it home you find out that the wine you purchased isn’t from the same vineyard or sometimes even made by the same winemaker.

This brings me to my big philosophical pondering of the week. Is a wine you can’t purchase really any good? My answer is “no”…it is actually not good at all. The only wine that is really any good is the wine that you can reach out and actually drink. The one that meets your personal flavor profile. The one that you can pick up at a local shop, take home, sip, and enjoy with friends or dinner.

People constantly ask me what my favorite wine is. I always ponder the question and then answer “The one that I’m drinking tonight”. The truth is, I don’t trust scores. I don’t trust the media. And, I don’t trust other people telling me what is good or isn’t. I only trust the feel of the cork in my hands and what is being poured into my glass. If it smells and looks good I drink it. If it doesn’t I don’t. I’m not a wine snob. I’m just a simple guy who doesn’t like being told what I should like.

There is plenty of good wine from this region and around the world that is accessible. Several wineries within 100 miles of Pendleton proudly boast regular scores in the 90s in national magazines. Yes, it would be nice to enjoy a beautiful Bordeaux from the other side of the world, but honestly your chances of getting your hands on it are slim to none. Wouldn’t you rather have 5 bottles of really good wine from this region for the same price?

Now, if you want my opinion (and this is an opinion column) I suggest that you put away that fancy wine magazine. I challenge you to get up, go to the store and pick out a few bottles of wine you haven’t had before. Don’t always drink the same thing. Try new wines every day. And, whatever you do, don’t trust some magazine score to tell you what tastes good.

Have a great week, and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Is A Wine You Can’t Purchase Really Any Good?

As a part of the wine snob media I get plenty of tweets and emails from other wine writers boasting about some Chateau D’ Bigstuff somewhere in the world that just got a 99 rating. Immediately, I’m drawn in. My mind races and my palms get sweaty. All I can think about is “how do I get my hands on that wine?”. Well, the answer is good luck!

The truth is that most of the wines you read about in national and international wine reviews have already been long consumed by the vintner’s regular customers. If there are a few bottles available in this region it is because somebody accidentally purchased too much and they’ve been holding it in some warehouse hoping a big score would pop before they had to dump it down a drain.

The second thing about reading these damnable wine scores is that usually the wine that is being reported on is a vintage or two behind. If you do find a bottle of these famous wines you are likely to find vintages 1 to 3 years younger than the big scoring one. When you do get it home you find out that the wine you purchased isn’t from the same vineyard or sometimes even made by the same winemaker.

This brings me to my big philosophical pondering of the week. Is a wine you can’t purchase really any good? My answer is “no”…it is actually not good at all. The only wine that is really any good is the wine that you can reach out and actually drink. The one that meets your personal flavor profile. The one that you can pick up at a local shop, take home, sip, and enjoy with friends or dinner.

People constantly ask me what my favorite wine is. I always ponder the question and then answer “The one that I’m drinking tonight”. The truth is, I don’t trust scores. I don’t trust the media. And, I don’t trust other people telling me what is good or isn’t. I only trust the feel of the cork in my hands and what is being poured into my glass. If it smells and looks good I drink it. If it doesn’t I don’t. I’m not a wine snob. I’m just a simple guy who doesn’t like being told what I should like.

There is plenty of good wine from this region and around the world that is accessible. Several wineries within 100 miles of Pendleton proudly boast regular scores in the 90s in national magazines. Yes, it would be nice to enjoy a beautiful Bordeaux from the other side of the world, but honestly your chances of getting your hands on it are slim to none. Wouldn’t you rather have 5 bottles of really good wine from this region for the same price?

Now, if you want my opinion (and this is an opinion column) I suggest that you put away that fancy wine magazine. I challenge you to get up, go to the store and pick out a few bottles of wine you haven’t had before. Don’t always drink the same thing. Try new wines every day. And, whatever you do, don’t trust some magazine score to tell you what tastes good.

Have a great week, and enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When In Pendleton…Drink Whiskey

Probably the biggest hang-up I’ve had this week is wondering what kind of high-faluten wine article I could write that would stir up visiting cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the continent, and make them want to drink a glass of local Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s when it hit me. Not even I drink wine this week. So, after writing about wine for the Eastern Oregonian for a year and a half, here is my very first whiskey article.

Now, what kind of an article can a wine slob tell you all about whiskey. Well…I decided to do my very own independent research in the confines of my own house. No marketing people with their cute girls, or lick-on tattoos. Just me, 4 bottles, and my computer.

For the purposes of this article I will tell you that I compared four very popular brands of Canadian Whiskey. Just for the curious, Canadian style whiskey is a blended rye whiskey. Unlike American rye blends, that have to be no less than 60% rye malt, Canadian blends are not held to a particular level of rye in the mix.

First, I tasted my father’s favorite…Black Velvet. Manufactured by Diagio, one of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage distributors, Black Velvet has been a Canadian whiskey institution since 1945. A nose that is faintly sweet, but pretty much overpowered by the smell of rubbing alcohol. The taste is fairly smooth, with a bitter finish that tastes like grape seeds. Not bad…just not great.

Second, I tasted MacNaughton’s. I did several research cues on this fairly popular whiskey, and found absolutely nothing on it. There is no company that is even willing to openly claim it on the internet. Hmmmm…makes me nervous to even crack the seal, however I did for the sake of all of you. Well, I can tell you that with there is no aroma outside of cleaning solvents to this beverage. The flavor is of alcohol. I’m not sure of what kind even. I’ve never written anything bad about anyone, but I think I’ve just broken that rule!

My third sample was of the ever famous Crown Royal. Compared to the previous beverages, this was truly a delight. Crown, surprisingly enough is also manufactured by Diagio brands, however is well respected as Canada’s finest and most popular whiskey. The bouquet is warm, smooth, and brandy-like. Amber colored in the glass, it exudes rich flavors of honey, vanilla and spices. With a long, sweet finish, I’ll admit, it made me want to hum O Canada.

Last, but certainly not least, I tried the whiskey that got it’s name and logo from the town at the base of the blues, Pendleton. Created by Hood River Distillers in Hood River, Oregon in 2003, Pendleton whiskey is the fastest growing brand of Canadian blended whiskey on the American market.

A little lighter color in the glass than the Crown, the Pendleton is rich in earthy vanilla and baking spices on the nose. The nectar is sweet, with a strong flavor of homemade butterscotch like grandma used to make. A long butterscotch finish made me want to go back for more. From a wine-guy’s perspective, this is one worth sipping on all night.

I hope that this Roundup brings you home after a long, hot summer. And, now that you’re here, I hope that you can enjoy it along with your favorite beverage. Have a fantastic time, and Let ‘er Buck!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Does Good Cabernet Taste Like?

The last few weeks I’ve had several conversations with people in the wine industry about a few winemakers in the region, one in particular, who claim to make superior wines in an “old world style”. I’ll come right out and say that their wines taste like good vinegar to me, however good vinegar makes great salad dressing.

The problem is that there is not a consumer standard for what is supposedly good or bad. It really depends on what people like me, and others who are more educated and highly paid have to write about the wines that they drink. A good score means that you have to like it because some “expert” did.

In preparing for this article I did a little research, beyond just drinking, and was reminded of a few points of reference. A few years ago there was a funny movie that was produced about winemaking, and it wasn’t that over-rated movie Sideways. The movie is called Bottle Shock. You can rent it from most local movie rental places or even download it on Netflix.

Bottle Shock, set in 1976 in California’s wine country is about the story of Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant who sets out to prove that French wines are superior. He hosts the Judgement of Paris, the world’s first truly intercontinental judging of Cabernet and Chardonnay. The Americans beat the French, like usual, and the French whine, also like usual.

The rest of the movie you’ll have to watch for yourself. However, a few standards of what a good Cabernet are, are established during the Judgement of Paris. Those facts are pretty much immutable.

A good flavor profile for Cabernet Sauvignon begins with the grapes. Grapes that are picked right, with the right amount of sugar should have a soft vegetable flavor that is going to taste a little like Green Bell Pepper. A really established Cabernet vineyard, will produce flavors of Eucalyptus or Mint, which tells you that you are drinking pretty much the best of the best.

Spice is added to Cabernet Sauvignon through barrel aging. Depending on the wood and treatment by the cooper, barrels create different spices that will layer over the grape flavors to develop the wine’s complexity. Flavors of Vanilla, Cassis or Black Currant, Tobacco and Leather come from this aging process.

Lastly, a good winemaker balances the wine with just the right amount of tannin. Silky, smooth tannins that don’t overpower the fruit create a long and beautiful finish to the wine.

If you were wondering who won the 1976 Judgement of Paris, it was Stags Leap Vineyards, with their 1971. Stags Leap, now owned by our friends at St. Michelle, remains to be one of the outstanding examples of what a good cabernet should be. Of course, that region is full of other names such as Heitz or Rombauer.

Locally the best cabernet comes from just a few vineyards. Probably the most famous are Champoux, Seven Hills, Pepperbridge, and recently Ceil du’ Cheval. If you look on your label and see these names, you will likely be drinking what is likely to be the way a good Cabernet Sauvignon should taste.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Canyon Del Sol 10 Year Anniversary

Friday night the 28th was a fantastic night out at Canyon Del Sol Winery located just outside Benton City, Washington. The weather was perfect. A little windy, but that's normal for the Tri-cities, right? Victor and Kim Cruz, the owners of Canyon Del Sol Winery are holding their 10 year anniversary celebration, and I was there for the big kick-off.

The evening, catered by my friends Andy and Kathy Craig of Castle Catering, was a wonderful fiesta, filled with library wines, great food, games, and entertainment. One of the most entertaining portions of the evening was a trivia contest held by the Cruz's adult children. Market Vineyards, Victor's source for grapes over these past years, presented him with a Champagne Sabre, a bottle of Veuve, and a bottle of Dom. Cruz got a little instruction and then successfully sabred both bottles for the crowd.

The night ended in the barrel room with library wines and a plethora of different perfectly paired deserts by Chef Andy. A short bit of information for those who are Canyon del Sol fans, Victor has produced a short run of beautiful 3 liter etched magnums. His first, and according to him, his last for at least another 10 years. I suggest if you want to get one of these you might want to get in touch with the winery soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roundup A Great Time For Happy Canyon Wine

The days are hot, and the nights are brisk. The wasps in the trees are nesting like crazy, and the squirrels are running around my yard picking up this year’s crop of walnuts. It’s Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that it is Roundup time again.

In just a few short days the town of Pendleton will become a haven for cowboys, cowgirls, and those who want to play like they are. The usual drink of choice is whiskey, beer, or soda. But, for those wanting something a little more “high-faluten” there are a couple of good wine choices that offer a lot of fun, and are only available in the Pendleton area.

A few years ago, I was approached to produce a label for a “Happy Canyon Wine”. With the help of the Happy Canyon directors, Maryl Featherstone of Graybeal Distributing, and Tom Huggins the Founder of Eola Hills Winery, we were able to come up with a couple of wines that are fun, refreshing, and provide great souvenirs to take back home and enjoy with friends later. My contribution was the actual label for the wine, which I had a great time creating.

Eola Hills winery, located in Rickreall, Oregon is a 100,000 case winery that produces about 50,000 cases for their own label and the rest under contracts with other wineries. Huggins, who has family in Pendleton, was very happy to work with the directors and Graybeal to come up with a couple of wines that would be very drinkable and fun for just about anyone. Their choices were a Merlot for the red wine, and a Pinot Gris for the white wine.

The Eola Pinot Gris is one of Eola Hill’s flagship varietals, winning several top scores in contests throughout the United States. Fresh Bartlett Pears come to mind when you first inhale the delicious aroma. At first taste, it is light, refreshing, and a little fruity with a light finish. The thing a lot of people enjoy is the spritzy finish caused by just the right amount of sugar and acid when the wine hits the front of the tongue.

The Eola Pinot Gris is great with fish or poultry. It works well with buttery dishes as well, like twice baked potatoes or cream sauces. I especially like it with a nice creamy seafood fettuccini.

The Eola Hills Merlot is produced mostly from Columbia Valley grapes, which tend to yield bright cherry and plum on the nose and flavors of the wine. The Merlot is not a big bold red. It is really more of a soft, drinkable wine that most people will find a good fit with anything from burgers, steak, or even just sitting on the patio as the sun goes down.

You can pick up Happy Canyon wine throughout Umatilla County and annually there are displays at Dave’s, Great Pacific, and Albertson’s downtown. If you want to try a glass before you buy the whole bottle just ask at one of the many restaurants in town. Most offer them as special glass pours throughout these next few weeks.

Enjoy, be safe, and Let ‘er Buck!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

San Juan Vineyards Offers Beautiful Grounds and Refreshing Wines

Sometimes I just have to pinch myself. “Ouch!” Ok, I’m not dreaming. I really do live in the greatest country, in the greatest region, and get to do for a living what I love every day. This week is one of those weeks where I really am pinching myself over an over again.

I just returned from a one week school for professional photographers on San Juan Island. My favorite part of the whole week, was on Tuesday evening when we took some time to visit San Juan Vineyards to photograph the vineyards and the staff, eat dinner, and drink wine.

San Juan Vineyards is located on the North Eastern side of the island near Roche Harbor. It is just a few miles from the ferry dock, and easily accessible by bicycle or moped if you decide to leave your car on the mainland. 60 acres of beautiful landscaping and vineyards, with a little church, covered events area, and plenty of room to roam make the vineyard a great event center to host parties or a beautiful wedding.

Owner, Yvonne Swanberg, warmly met us at the tasting room. The vineyard, started by her late husband, and friend Tim Judkins, has been producing wines since 1999. Cutting-edge winemaker Chris Primus joined the winery in 2006. His background as assistant for vintners in Willamete Valley prepared him to create food friendly wines in even cool climates. His whites are bone dry, and his reds are dark and structured.

I had the opportunity to sample through several of Chris’ wines, and thoroughly enjoyed every one. The first that I found to be exceptional was the ‘07 Siegerrebe. Siegerrebe is a cool weather grape varietal that has a lot of characteristics of a Pinot Grigio. It is cool and crisp, with flavors of pear and citrus. With a residual sugar of .06% it is a great wine to pair with fish, or sip on the deck on a summer evening.

The second wine that I found exceptional was the ’07 Madeline Angevine. This is also a fairly rare varietal that is suited to grow well in cool, wet climates. Chris has done an exceptional job in creating a dry wine with flavors of melon and citrus. It tasted to me like I was eating cold honeydew right off the vine. Crisp, yet flavorful, this wine would pair very well with Alfredo or other cream sauces.

The ’07 “Afterglow” is a fantastic Rose’. The wine is a blend of several red grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, mixed with San Juan Vineyard’s own Madeline grapes. Nicely balanced with good acidity, fruit, and depth.

How does a winemaker in a cold climate create an award winning Merlot? He sources his grapes. Chris created his 2005 Merlot from Alder Ridge and Kestrel Vineyard fruit. This wine has great color, depth, and textures. I especially loved the flavors of cocoa and chipotle mixed into the deep rich stone-fruit of cherries and plum. This wine has won several awards, including a recent double gold.

Next time you are planning a trip to San Juan Island, take the time to visit the vineyards. Tell my friends there that I sent you!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fall Is A Time Of Renewal In Wine Country

Ah! Can you feel it? Fall is in the air. It is that ever so subtle feeling that you get. So hard to explain, yet so palpable. Just like every year since I can remember the change happens during fair week. Sometimes, the change is so small and imperceptible that you don’t notice it. Other times it roars in with a huge storm that rips all of the Coors banners off the fences at the rodeo grounds. Nevertheless, it has happened again, and boy am I excited!

My excitement is for more than one reason. First, I’m not a hot weather fan, and the 105 degree temperatures that we had this year were not what I’d call refreshing. Second, within just a few weeks crush will be upon us, signaling a whole bunch of new red wines to hit the market as vintages change and the wineries make room for new juice. As far as I’m concerned, Fall is the new Spring in wine country.

I was out on Red Mountain and in the Columbia Valley this week photographing vines and vineyards. This year’s harvest is looking to be fantastic. The clusters are heavy, with beautiful berries that are going to be rich from the cool spring and the substantial heat units that we received this July.

As I mentioned, there is a plethora of new wines getting ready to hit the market. New wines usually mean a celebration is in order. This week I’ve compiled some of the celebrations I’ve been invited to just this week. I’ll be at most, however it gets hard to keep up when you’re young, good looking, charming, talented…well you get the picture.

First, my friends Terrence and Evelyn Atkins, owners of Waving Tree Winery will be hosting a Labor Day Weekend Celebration September 5th through the 7th. They’ll be pouring their newest Gold Medal winners from the World Wine Championships, along with several of their other fantastic wines. For more information contact them at 509-250-1412.

The same weekend, my friends at Anelare will be hosting their 3rd annual New Release Event. Their new releases of the 2007 Ciel du Cheval Syrah, 2007 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 “Nonna Viola”, and 2007 “Saint Helena” Syrah will be available for tasting. They are planning quite the celebration, with food, entertainment, and art from local artists on the weekend of September 5th and 6th. Contact them at (509) 588-6171 for more information.

Catch The Crush, the annual Columbia Valley AVA wine celebration will be happening on the weekend of September 26th and 27th. Wineries throughout the Columbia Valley will be opening for this celebration to offer winery tours, stomping contests, food, entertainment, and tastings of their newest releases.

But wait…there’s more! My last event is not exactly a new release party, but a fantastic evening of fun, friends, food, and wine. Picazo Seven Seventeen Restaurant in downtown Prosser is hosting a meet the artist night on Thursday, August 20th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.. The featured artist is yours truly, as my wine photography graces the walls of Picazo’s for the next few months. If you can make the event I would love to have you there as my honored guests. For more information you can contact me at (509) 586-6695 or at my blog .


Friday, August 14, 2009

Famed Vineyard Owner Sick With West Nile

I awoke this morning to find out through my local paper, the Tri-City Herald, that Paul Champoux has fallen ill to the West Nile Virus. Champoux, known all over the world for his amazing Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the heart of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, was sickened a few days ago by what he and his family thought was the flu. After several tests, it was confirmed that he is suffering from the West Nile Virus.

My thoughts and prayers are with Paul, Judy, and everyone at Chateau Champoux as he recovers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Some Of My Best Friends Are Thirsty Pagans

There are some times in life where you just have to put your religion aside and enjoy life for what it is. One of those times is when it comes to drinking wine.

Being the good Catholic boy that I am, I’m always careful to keep myself away from associating with or getting messed up with the occasion of sin. I say my prayers before meals and at bed time every evening like I was taught. And, I enjoy a good glass of libation, as long as it’s in moderation.

So, what’s a good boy like me to do when I’m met by a stunningly beautiful woman offering me a glass of ruby red wine. I drink it. I smile. I ask for the whole bottle!

Such was the case last week when I ran into my friend Jeannie Inglis-Chowaneitz. She and her winemaker husband Rob Chowaneitz have released their first bottling from their new winery called…(parents cover your children’s eyes)…”Thirsty Pagans”.

The Chowaneitzs, with good friend Crandall Kyle, started Thirsty Pagans in the harvest of the 2005 vintage. Using their combined skills and love of wines, they have created a fantastic micro-winery that they intend will create no more than 250 cases of wine each year. Their location at Alder Ridge, the heart of the Horse Heaven Hills puts them in a prime location to source the regions best grapes year after year.

Rob Chawaneitz is one of the rising stars in the winemaking business. Working as a cellar rat under John Abbott during the Canoe Ridge days, followed by a stint as the cellar master at Woodward Canyon, Rob now is the head winemaker for Corus Estates where he has worked since 2004. His specialties are bone-dry whites and deeply complex reds.

Jeannie Inglis-Chowaneitz is an equally talented wine marketer. She began her career working as Waterbrook’s club manager, and went on to be the PR and Marketing Director for Cayuse. In 2004 Jeannie started her own wine marketing firm, of which she has several very noteworthy Northwest wineries under her watch.

The first vintage created by Thirsty Pagans is their 2005 “Communion” red wine. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot is thick and rich with the flavors indicative of the Alder Ridge Vineyard that the grapes are sourced from. In 100% French oak for 22 months, and an additional 12 months of bottle aging tells you that they are in it for quality and not quantity. As extra insurance from cork taint, the Thirsty Pagans chose screw-caps to preserve their wine.

Communion features a nose of cassis, sage, blueberries, and plum. It is dark and rich in the glass. Layered flavors of dark cherry, blueberry, pepper, and baking spices fill your mouth. The tannins are long and silky, leaving you wanting more. At $26 at the winery this is a very good price for an excellent wine.

If you want to try Communion I suggest going to, or by friends requesting them on Facebook. There are several outlets for the wine in the greater region. If you don’t see it, ask for it.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Taste Dirt…Discerning Terroir In Wine

You know, when people talk about Terroir affecting the flavor of their wines, I tend to chuckle a little. It isn’t that I don’t believe wines taste different based on the place the grapes are from. It is just, well, my childishness comes out. When people start talking terroir I get visions of them drinking mud. Weird, I know. But, I just have a hard time believing that the dirt that a wine is grown in really has that big of an effect on flavor. Call me a skeptic.

I will admit that wines grown in different regions and climates have a distinctive flavor profile. However, I think that difference comes from the winemaker, the cooperage, and the style or process that the wine was made with. The conclusion I’ve come to over the years is that wine is like any other art form. Regionally, people have a standard that they like to see in their wine, and they train themselves to be just like everyone else on the block.

Now I’m being challenged in my thinking. Dr. Allan Busacca, a geologist and agricultural soils expert, has paired up with Robert Smasne, wine giant and owner of Smasne Cellars. They are releasing their Alma Terra Label together as a true experiment in terroir.

This experiment is not for them. They have already done their painstaking research and packaged it neatly for you to take home and experiment with your friends and family. The real purpose is to allow childish skeptics like me to see once and for all that dirt does make a difference.

The first version of this experiment was chosen to be Syrah. Busacca and Smasne chose three distinctly famous vineyards throughout Eastern Washington to do their project. After picking the lots they painstakingly made sure that the grapes were grown the same, picked at the same brix, pressed, fermented, aged, and bottled in the same way from the same year.

The sources of these grapes were Ciel du Cheval from Red Mountain, Coyote Canyon from Horse Heaven Hills, and Minick from the Yakima Valley. Knowing these were the vineyards will automatically make any wine fanatic realize that these are the top Syrah vineyards in the state, and possibly in the Northern Hemisphere.

A fourth bottle was also produced that mixes generous amounts of each of these vineyards to create a gorgeous blend of the best of the best. The name of this wine is Coéo, which is a Latin term for “coming together”.

As I mentioned earlier, the experiment has been painstakingly prepared for you to try. A beautiful four bottle gift box complete with beautifully designed cards explaining each of the vineyards and wines is available at the winery.

If you are visiting Woodinville, near Seattle, I suggest stopping by their tasting room. Their address is 19495 144th Ave. NE. Suite B240. The website is You can also follow them on Facebook.

By the way, yours truly was the photographer who brought over 100 lbs of rocks and dirt into my studio to create the style image and bottle shots for this label. Believe me, after hours of shooting bottles in dirt you do taste terroir!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Quest For a Good Wine

What the heck is a good wine anyway? I’m always running into people who are looking for a “good wine”. After all, I am the wine guy, and I should know what a good wine is. The problem is a good wine to me is probably swill to someone else.

Believe it or not, there is a solution to this “good wine” selection process that makes it a lot easier than it looks.

The answer comes in profiling. I don’t care what they say, I’m from small-town western America where profiling is not only good, it’s a way of life. Believe me, when my daughter shows up at my house with a guy not quite like the others I know where the ammo is.

The same concept goes for wine. Most people prefer a fairly narrow profile that makes their tongue go “bing”. When a wine comes their way that doesn’t meet that profile they get out the mental ammo and shoot it down right away. Here is a simple four step process that will help you pick out a good wine every time:

Step one is the white or red test. White wines tend to be fruity. Even if they’re dry as a bone, 10 years old, or come in an oak cask, white wine tends to show more qualities of fruit. Red wines are tannic. Even if they have a high sugar content, such as a desert wine, you will find pronounced tannins in the juice. By the way, tannins are those cute little things that make your pucker pucker.

Now, the reason you might not like what I like is that I personally prefer those tannin things in my wine. Done right, those babies taste like rich velvet on my tongue. They also make my tongue taste like a nasty old shag carpet when I’ve had too much. White wine tends to raise my gag reflex after just a small glass.

Step two is cost. I’m not trying to sell you here, but honestly the wine business is one where the more you spend the better the quality is going to be. Don’t expect a bottle of Crane Lake Cabernet to taste like Opus. What is your price point? I’m a poor photographer who writes this weekly for giggles. I have friends in the business who spoil me, but my everyday price point is around $15. By the way, Charles Shaw is cheap for a reason. Anything that costs less than the glass it is bottled in is vinegar and not wine.

Step three is your sense for adventure. Are you one of those people who eats meatloaf every Tuesday, and have worked the same job since you can remember, and you still like it? Or, are you someone who likes to jump out of airplanes, ride your bike without a helmet, or eat stuff you can’t pronounce the names of?

If you like Merlot and that’s all you’ve drank since you were, ahem…21, then I’m gonna point you to the Merlot shelf. If you are open to trying new things then I strongly urge you to expand your horizons with the new varietals that are hitting the northwest market. Some of them are great…some of them are terrible. The nice thing is you didn’t listen to the ads telling you to drink the same old wine with a cute new label.

The fourth step is…enjoy!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Young Professionals Wineing Their Way To Success

When people ask me what my wine pedigree is, I often say “I used to be a wine snob…now I’m a wine slob.” The truth of the matter is I’ve come a long way in my wine drinking experiences over the years. I’ve learned a lot, and had a lot of really good mentors along the way who were patient in explaining what was good, and what was rot gut.

My own experience stems back to my childhood. No, I’m not going to write about debauchery and underage drinking. However, I was raised in a simple farming community in the Boise valley. In my early teens a new winery was raised by a local fruit farming family named the Symms. This new winery was called Ste. Chapelle.

Ste. Chapelle made wonderful wines in the day. Fantastic Cabernet Sauvignons, beautiful Chardonnays, and great Merlots. But, they became known for one thing which sprung them into international notoriety…their Johannesburg Riesling. A spicy sweet concoction that made the mouth tingle and the girls go wild.

As a young, legal drinking age male, I was very interested in making girls go wild. So, my buddies and I would drive our female friends out to the winery for free samples of the gooey stuff. We’d pick up a few bottles and head for the river. I did mention that Ste. Chapelle had wonderful red wines, but to our uneducated palates this stuff tasted terrible.

Fast forward a few years to my young professional life. I got married, got a career, and started a family. The gooey sweet wines were left behind for Cabernet and Syrah. I only drank reds for about 15 years. Over the past four to five years that I’ve re-developed an interest in white wines. Even tasting some fabulous ice wines and loving them.

Enough about me, and my Idaho, farm-boy past. I’m ready to talk about you and where you are in your palate. What kind of a wine drinker are you? If someone hands you a glass do you politely dump it in their houseplant and get a beer? Do you know the proper way to serve wines to your guests?

Today’s young professionals are savvier than we were back in 1980. They are more willing to try nice wines, and understand the nuances that make up a really good wine. As I talk with today’s young professionally minded people I’m constantly impressed with their knowledge and their palates.

Enter a new era of wine drinking. Through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, there are many new avenues for these youthful trendsetters to reach out and tell each other what is going on in the world of wine.

A group of these individuals have started a new social media driven website that offers blogs, facebook updates, and twitter to tell others about the world of wine. will go online the evening of July 20th, 2009.

If you are interested in attending the “detonation” event, network with other wine minded people, and have a great time come to Bookwalter winery in Richland Monday night. The event starts at 6 p.m. and goes until closing. There will be music, raffles, wine tastings, a no-host wine bar, food, and more. If you can’t make it to the event I suggest going to and getting linked up.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local Vintners Getting Serious About Making Fun Wines

This has been an interesting week, spent catching up with old friends, and trying to figure out what is going on in the wine industry right now. With the national economy so unstable, and yet a fairly stable local economy, the local wine industry is doing some pretty crazy flip-flops trying to find their way through this summer.

It is pretty clear that people aren’t visiting Walla Walla like they were a year ago at this time. My predictions a few months ago seem to be coming true. Vintners from Walla Walla are working extra hard to reach out and find more sellable pricing and products. A little over a year ago I was hard pressed to find a true Walla Walla wine for under $15. Now, I am finding several, and even a few at under $10.

This week I ran into an old friend, Lynn Chamberlain, the winemaker and owner of James Leigh Cellars in Walla Walla. She is best known for two things…her “Pallate” which is an award winning Bordeaux blend, and her famous Cabernet Cows. (The cows are fattened on the skins from the wines after fermentation.)

Lynn has taken an increasingly popular approach to handling the slowing economy. She has put her wines on deep post-offs (discounts) to her distributors, making them very affordable to retail and restaurants alike. This translates immediately to affordability to you, the consumer. When you can purchase a high-quality wine at a discount price, you’d have to be crazy to turn it down.

Another method for stimulating the local wine economy has been diversification in winery portfolio. Producers are making more wines with fun labels, at price points that attract the customer. These are great wines produced by great winemakers, but not with the stodgy old label and pricing.

I ran into Marie Eve Gilla from Forgeron at a wedding last week for her Assistant Cameron Kontos. Forgeron introduced their Waldeaux Smithie about two years ago. Now it has grown to be an incredibly popular red blend with availability throughout the United States. The winery is producing several thousand cases of the product. It is inexpensive, with a fun label and story, and the wine is very tasty indeed.

Christa Whitelatch, the owner of Claar Cellars in Zillah visited with me this week and introduced their new label, called “Kelso”. Kelso is once again, a fantastically beautiful and fun brand that comes in both a red or white Bordeaux blend. The wine is priced to retail at $12 and is worth far more than that.

To round out the week, I visited with Peter Jaynes at Hedges Estate on Red Mountain. Their new product, also a combination of red and white Bordeaux blends is called “La Beourgeoisie”. It takes a fun stab at the wine establishment by clearly stating on the label that the wine is not intended to be rated by critics or taken seriously. At $10 price per bottle at retail it really should be taken seriously by anyone wanting a great every day wine at a great price.

Have a great week, and please remember to be safe and responsible this independence holiday!

Summer Is Time For Porch Wine

Last week, when the temperatures soared over 100 and held there for several consecutive days, I found my annual renewed zeal for “porch” wine. I ran to the cellar and pulled out a few bottles and put them in the fridge so they would be ready when I wanted them.

“Porch” wine is typically a wine that is refrigerated and most enjoyable in the summer. It is said that the term comes from France, where winemakers would save something a little more refreshing for serving in the evening after the heat of the day had passed. Typically low in residual sugar and alcohol, these wines cleanse the palate and can be sipped by themselves without food.

Probably one of my favorite porch wines is Sauvignon Blanc. This grape varietal produces wine that tends to be citrusy on the palate. Best when served cold, you can enjoy it with soft cheeses such as cheve or Gouda and a plate of crackers. Or, you can just enjoy its cooling effects as you sit and watch the sun go down.

Probably my most favorite Sauvignon Blanc from the region is Terra Blanca. This wine has wonderful grapefruit aromas and flavors. Being a huge fan of grapefruit, and yet allergic to citrus, I love this wine because it reminds me of drinking fresh grapefruit juice as a kid.
The other local winery that produces a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc is Snoqualmie. Their Sauvignon Blanc is lighter, and a little less dense with flavor, but still very crisp and refreshing.

Another fantastic porch wine is Chenin Blanc. A completely different grape from the Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is credited with its floral bouquet. A local favorite of mine is Le’Cole’s Walla Viola Chenin Blanc. This very reasonably priced Chenin is deliciously floral with hints of lilac, honeysuckle, and melon flavors. Very low in sugar, it fills the mouth with flavor and then releases the palate with a crisp finish.

Semillon is probably the most interesting and varied wine that fits into the porch wine category. Very delicate, it has many nuances and flavors that range from citrus to floral, to vanillin based on the treatment that the winemaker gives it. In just our region alone, I have tasted literally dozens of Semillons and could say that no two were notably alike.

Probably my all-time favorite Semillon from this region is Amavi’s. Produced in very limited quantity, Amavi Semillon is wonderfully delicate and refreshing, with layers of melon fruit mixed with layers of flowers. It finishes with a light acidity and a hint of orange water.

Many local vintners are starting to toy with a grape called Alberino. This Spanish varietal creates a wonderfully dry wine with bright fruit flavor and bone dry crispness on the finish. I have tasted several that are in the process of becoming public, but I still favor the Albarino produced in Spain. Martin Codax Albarino is a fantastic bottle at a very reasonable price. It is readily available at Great Pacific in Pendleton.

Last, but far from least, if you are a hardcore red drinker who has been thinking “I won’t drink any of these ‘white’ wines” I want you to consider trying a Rose’ one of these warm evenings. A true Rose’ is 100% red wine, with the juice being removed from the skins at an early stage creating a lighter appearance. You get all the benefits of Cab, Syrah, or your favorite red with out the heavy tannic structure.

As always, have a great week, and enjoy your porch with your friends!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Preston Winery A Bit of Northwest Wine Nostalgia

Last Saturday I didn’t have any weddings to photograph or clients bustling in and out of my studio. This is kind of a rarity, as I’m kind of used to having my Saturdays belong to someone else.

After reading the paper twice, and checking on all my facebook friends I decided that it was time to go on a wine adventure. It had been years since my last visit to Preston winery. So, I grabbed my family and we made our way out to the birthplace of Washington wine.

The winery, located North of Pasco on Highway 395 is a great place for winery tourism. It’s facilities are open and expansive, with an abundance of parking for cars, RVs, and even “Big Rigs”. The grounds are lush, and include gazebos a fishing pond, picnic tables, and acres of public access to get out and stretch your road weary knees.

The first part of the adventure includes climbing up stairs or ramp to the second story loft-style tasting room. From the huge deck you get a fantastic view of the surrounding vineyards and farmland of the area. Once in the tasting room, there is a self-guided tour of the winery that allows you to see into their barrel rooms, crush pad, and storage facilities.

Bill Preston began Preston Winery in 1972 when he planted his first 50 acres of grapes. A true pioneer of the industry, many of the locals thought he was crazy for wasting good hay ground for grapes. In 1976 the Prestons opened their winery facility and became the third licensed winery in the state.

When tasting at Preston you have three choices. There is a complimentary tasting which includes 4 of their blended wines. A perfect sampling for the wine tourist, or someone who doesn’t drink wine regularly. A second offering costs 8 dollars, includes 5 samples of any of their current red or white varietals, and a cute little tourist glass.

The third option is to taste their award winning ports. For 8 dollars, this option also includes a cute glass with the Preston logo.

I didn’t want the stupid glass, but I did want to taste their current releases, so I chose option number two. (By the way, don’t ask to just have the tasting cost rolled into a bottle purchase…You MUST have the glass.) Overall, the wines were acceptable or better. A few really stood out to me. And, some I even took home along with my glass.

The first wine that really stood out was the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. An estate grown vintage that is a light straw color, with light citrus tones and wonderful acidic balance to offset the .9% sugar level. It finishes crisply. A perfect porch wine for these warm summer months.
The second wine that I was thoroughly impressed with was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby red to the eye, with a wonderful dust and leather on the nose. This wine is reminiscent of a true Bordeaux, which is hard to find in today’s “fruit-forward” wine world. I loved this wine’s textures and layers of flavor from the initial dustiness, to the rich stone fruit and plum, finishing off with a brilliant balance of tannin.

If you are in the mood for a little summer Sunday drive, I suggest stopping in and visiting the Prestons. Their wines and their facility are well worth the stop.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Glass Do I Use?

My wife is my greatest inspiration. This week I was sitting at my desk, staring at a blank computer screen, wondering if I should check my Facebook again. To be honest, I was suffering from a wee bit of writer’s block. When, my lovely wife walks in with a bottle of her new favorite, Pasek Cellars Arabica. A fortified, brandy-like concoction that is infused with coffee beans and vanilla. The wine version of Kahlua.

Her question was, “what glass do I put this in”. I quipped “the big plastic one under the sink”, meaning the garbage can. After a brief evil-eye encounter she said “you should write an article on what glass to use with different wines”. So…Here’s the article.

For the most part there are about 50,000 different types of wine glasses. (I might be exaggerating, but only by a hundred or so.) But, for the most part there are really only about four basic glass sizes that a wine drinker should consider. We’ll focus on those. If you don’t like my suggestions go buy one of the other 49,997 designs. You’ll make someone in the glass industry happy.

First, let’s talk sparkling wine. For sparkling the best design is what is called a “flute”. Flutes are a long-stemmed design, with the entire design being very straight and tall. The curvature of the bowl can be described as slender. A flute is most commonly used for this type of wine because the straight walled design holds the bubbles in the glass longer, and allows them to pop and release the esters in the wine right under your nose.

The second basic glass design is a Sherry or Aperitif glass. This is a small glass. You’d never see this one in the Let’er Buck Room. It is only a few inches tall, with a short and round bowl. Wines that you would serve in an aperitif are brandy, port, and most other fortified wines other than Night Train. (Night Train is served straight from the bottle in a paper sack.)

White wines should be served in a “white wine” glass. This is the most common wine glass on the market, and one that you can pick up anywhere from the dollar store to Neiman Marcus. This glass has a stem of reasonable length and a bowl that is somewhat round, but not too audacious. White wines release their phenols or esters more easily than red wines do, thus the glass doesn’t have to have a wide surface area for the wine to reach the air.

As a general rule of thumb, the more phenols you get from a wine, the better your experience. As much as 98% of your wine tasting experience is actually in the nose. That is why you swirl and sniff your wine before chugging.

Last, the Bordeaux glass is the recommended design for red wines. This glass has the same basic design as a white wine glass, with a much larger and pronounced bowl for allowing the wine to decant in the glass. It will allow more of the wine surface to come in contact with the air, and release the phenols.

If you want to research this more I suggest going to . Their website has a complete history and explanation of what glass is best. Beware! They are also the guys who have developed the thousands of different designs that the industry is trying to sell you.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Several Wine Events Worth Attending This Summer

Every so often I get a deluge of requests to post information about upcoming events in my column. I try to point out the ones that I either am attending, or wish I was attending, as I know the world rotates around my tastes and opinions (just kidding).

First, the wineries of the Horse Heaven Hills Wine Growers are celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation with their “Horse Heaven Hills Trail Drive” on Saturday, July 18. The event includes a winery tour from 11a.m. to 5 p.m., with a BBQ dinner, music, and prizes from 6 to 8 p.m. at Crow Butte State Park.

Wineries and tasting rooms taking part in this annual event are: Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge Estate, Alexandria Nicole, Heaven’s Cave, Canyon’s Edge, Chateau Champoux, & McKinley Springs Wineries pouring at Crow Butte park also include Coyote Canyon, Martinez & Martinez and Robert Karl. Some of these facilities are rarely opened to the public, making this a great opportunity to go where few have gone before.

Cost for this event is $40 through July 11 and $50 after July 11. Tickets include an event glass, tour & tasting and BBQ dinner. To secure tickets and make reservations for the BBQ call 1-509-894-4528.

Second, The Seattle Wine Awards second annual Grand Awards Tasting will be held at The Rainier Club, located at 820 4th Avenue in Seattle, tomorrow, Sunday, June 14. The event offers an exclusive opportunity to taste award winning wines, meet the winemakers, and enjoy an array of gourmet cuisine. VIP Tickets are $125, and General Admission is $85.

I’ve included a provided list of the Double Gold winning wines that will be tasted at the event. If you can’t attend on such short notice I suggest purchasing these locally and trying at home as they really are very good wines.

Dessert Style Wines - 2006 CR Sandidge "KISS".

Rieslings - 2008 Kiona Vineyard, 2008 Silver Lake Roza, and 2006 Steppe Cellars Dry Riesling.

White Varietals - 2008 Kyra Wines Chenin Blanc, 2008 Whitman Cellars Viognier, 2006 Ste Michelle Cold Creek Chardonnay, 2007 Red Sky "Sémillon Rosebud", and 2008 Coyote Canyon Winery Roussanne.

Cabernet Sauvignons - 2006 Alder Ridge Winery, 2006 Barnard Griffin CV Reserve, 2005 Boudreaux Cellars Reserve, 2006 Cougar Crest Estate Winery, 2007 Obelisco Estate, 2006 Alexandria Nicole Cellars, 2006 Milbrandt Vineyards Estates, 2006 Reininger Winery Helix, and 2006 Watermill Winery.

Malbecs - 2006 Alder Ridge Winery, 2006 Watermill Winery, and 2007 William Church Winery.

Merlots - 2005 FortWalla Walla Cellars Pepperbridge, 2005 Kestrel Vintners Old Vine, 2006 PepperBridge Winery, 2006 Five Star Cellars, and 2006 Maryhill Proprietor's Reserve.

Red Bordeaux Styles - 2004 CR Sandidge "Tri*Umph", 2005 FortWalla Walla Cellars "Treaty", and 2007 Waters Winery "Interlude".

Red Proprietary Blends - 2005 Buty "Columbia Rediviva", 2003 Gordon Brothers Cellars "Tradition", 2006 Walla Walla Vintners Cuvée, 2006 Gamache Vintners "Boulder Red," 2006 Goose Ridge Winery "G3 Red Blend", and 2007 RiverAerie Cellars "Spring Creek Red".

Other Red Varietals - 2006 O.S. Winery Petit Verdot, 2007 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc, 2007 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese, and 2007 Syncline Mourvèdre.

Syrahs - 2005 Anelare, 2006 Bergevin Lane Barrel Select, 2006 DeLille Doyenne Grand Ciel Vineyard, 2006 Grand Rêve Vintners "Collaboration Series”, 2006 Long Shadows Vintners "Sequel", 2007 Olsen Estates, 2006 Ch Ste Michelle "Ethos", 2007 Dusted Valley Vintners Stained Tooth Syrah, 2006 Maryhill, and 2006 Northwest Totem Cellars Longhouse.

Check my blog at for more events each week. Have a great week, and see you there!