Monday, April 20, 2009

New Wines Unveiled For Spring

One of my favorite times of the year is tax time. No, not because I’m some sort of sadist who likes to give Uncle Sam all my hard earned dough. The reason for my April 15 jubilation is because this is the time of the year that the region’s distributors and vintners get together to host trade tastings.

A trade tasting, is a private, industry only event, usually held at the distributorship. People who work in the wine trade, such as retail shop and restaurant owners, chefs, and the press converge on the tasting and get to sample new vintages available for the season.

On Monday I visited my friends at Graybeal Distributing for their second annual trade tasting. Bigger and better this year than last, the tasting hosted over 90 wines from 23 different wineries. The wines ranged from exquisite selections from Pepperbridge, Walla Walla Vintners, Seven Hills, and Saviah down to a complete line of fun and affordable wines from Barefoot.

My only disappointment that day was a severe shortage of local shop owners, who failed to make an appearance. My suggestion is that you go to your favorite local wine shop and tell them that you want these wines on their shelves. They owe it to you to carry them.

The first wines I want to rave on are from Seven Hills. Casey has once again hit it out of the park with his 2007 Riesling. The Riesling has 3% residual sugar this year, giving it a wonderful balance of fruit and acidity. One of my favorites of the day was McClellan’s 2005 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Filled with flavors of dried stone fruit and spice, this is a wonderfully balanced wine.

Gordy at Walla Walla Vintners shared a table of his newest reds. Probably my favorite wine of the day was his 2006 Sagemoor Cabernet Sauvignon. The juice comes from some of the oldest vines in Washington State, with flavors of dark black fruit, chocolate, and a slight sweetness in the tannins. Absolutely delicious! His 2006 Bello Rosso and Sangiovese were also fantastic.

Woodward Canyon shared their 2007 Nelm’s Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which as always, are amazing wines for their price. The 2006 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon was arguably another favorite of the day. It has notes of oak and cedar entwined in the flavors of black cherries.

The guys at Basel Cellars were on hand with five of their wines. I was impressed with the affordability of their wines, and suggest that you try both the 2007 “Forget Me Not” white blend, and the 2006 “Claret” red blend. Their 2005 Merriment was another bright spot in the day. This Bordeaux blend of Cab, Merlot, and, Cab Franc drinks nicely now, but will be incredible if you can cellar it for a couple of years.

Cougar Crest unveiled their 2007 Rose’ of Grenache. The intense flavors of black and white pepper, balanced by the fruit and acid will make this wine one of this summer’s regulars at my table and back yard.

Not to be missed, Rich Funk of Saviah poured several of his wines, including his 2006 Cab, which just scored a Wine Spectator 93 this week. You better buy this one quick!

Next week, I’m going to share with you my impressions of the other wines and wineries at the Graybeal trade tasting. Until then…Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Professor Ann Noble to Speak in Prosser

I just read the following press release in Wine Press Northwest's newsletter:

Ann Noble, the U.C. Davis professor who invented the famous "Wine Aroma Wheel," will be at Chinook Wines in Prosser, Wash., for a seminar April 24-25. Cost is $45 and space is limited, so call 509-786-2725.

I took a 1 day seminar from Professor Noble two years ago, and have to say that it was the most incredible and amazing wine sensory training I have received. The training that I was at cost over $300 per person, so at $45 this would be an amazing "steal". I highly encourage anyone who thinks they want to know more about tasting and pairing wine to get signed up right away. I will strongly warn you though, you will never experience wine the same way again!

Use Wine To Get Your Message Out

Yesterday I attended a regional networking event hosted for the Reach Interpretive Center to be located in Richland, Washington.

What actually impressed me most about the presentation was the new, private label wine crafted by Pete Hedges of Hedges Cellars. At $15 for a bottle of merlot, I’m sure that when I open it the angels are not going to sing. I know that the wine isn’t going to be fantastic. But, it will be good. And, I am supporting the purpose and message of the interpretive center by giving this special label out as gifts.

At a time when people are concerned about the economy, and worried that their businesses and foundations are not thriving as well as they should, people still will continue to drink wine. Wine offers an excuse to step away from the troubles of the day, relax, and have fun with friends and family. That is why wine is a great medium for getting your message out.

There are several ways to promote your message with wine. The first is, of course, private labels. Did you know that you can get a private label wine for your organization or event without very much expense or trouble?

The biggest issues lie in labeling. There are very strict laws governing the labeling of wine, and breaking those laws can get you into a lot of trouble. Anyone can soak the label off of a bottle of Crane Lake, re-label it, and serve it at a private dinner in their home. But, don’t even try to do this in bulk, without facing fines or imprisonment.

Several local wineries are now making wines with something called “back-labeling”. This is a wine that has all of the legal information on the back label of the wine, but an empty space on the front of the bottle where you can install your own fantastic design.

Two wineries that have been doing this very successfully in the region are Eola Hills, and Claar Cellars. Claar Cellars even makes it possible to pick up just a few bottles at a time from the winery.

Another method for using wine to get your message out has been invented by my good friend Dan McCool. Dan has started a video blog called . If you go to you will find what I am talking about. For a very reasonable price, plus a bottle of wine, Dan will create a video blog spreading your message, and post it to his site.

This is “viral” marketing at its best. The blog gets posted through YouTube, Facebook, and several other social networking sites as well, which means that a lot of people are seeing your message. Dan shared with me that his site, which has been on line for only a few days is trending for over 10,000 hits a day within the next few weeks.

I recently did this myself just for the experience. I was featured on April 6th, talking about my own blog at , and this weekly article at East Oregonian. I encourage you to go to and watch it.

If you are trying to get your message out, I suggest you try using wine. People just seem to listen better when you are buying and they are drinking.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm On

I just got home from Professional Photographers of Washington Spring Educational Conference where I enjoyed a few days off, drinking wine, and catching up with friends. We also got to hear from several world renowned photographers who've really got things going.

In my absence I didn't get a chance to share my good news of being the featured video on . My friend Dan McCool has a new viral marketing video blog at this site. It is a great way to promote your message, while you enjoy a bottle of wine with him at his studio or at your location.

He has a few openings left for this month, however they are going like hotcakes right now. I suggest going to and checking out my visit with him that aired April 6th, along with several other videos that have aired to date.

Then, if you have a stump to stand on, or a product or service that you want to tell the world about, I suggest getting in touch with Dan and having him do a video with you.


Eggs, Ham, or Lamb… A Few Wine Pairings For Easter

Did you know that Easter is one of the biggest wine days of the year, just behind Christmas, and Thanksgiving? It is. But, unlike those other two holidays, people tend to eat food that is a little more exotic on Easter. Blame this on the melding of various cultures, and both religious and secular traditions. Yes…we all know…it’s the Easter Bunny’s fault!

If your family is like mine, you’ll probably start the day with a little Easter egg hunt. Some people use plastic eggs out of food safety. But, we’ve raised our kids to be accustomed to food poisoning, so we use the real ones from real chickens.

While the kids are out running around the yard with their baskets, fix yourself a nice mimosa. I love to use Ballatore Rosso, or Domaine St. Michelle’s Blanc de Noir in my mimosas. Mix the sparkler liberally with fresh orange juice for a wonderful treat.

After a few rounds of hiding and finding, we bring the eggs in and serve them with brunch. Deviling eggs for me means a little ground onion, mustard, mayo, sweet relish, paprika, pepper, and a dash of jalepeno juice. This combination of ingredients leads to a nice Sauvignon Blanc. I suggest Terra Blanca Sauvignon Blanc. It is filled with wonderful citrusy flavors that clear the palate and prepare you for another bite.

Along with deviled eggs, we are also big into ham at our house. There are two varietals that really pair with ham without much thought: Pinot Noir or a zesty Zinfandel. Our ham gets glazed with honey and orange zest, so I always reach for a really great bottle of Pinot Noir. Eyrie, Domaine Drouhin, or Sineann all make exquisite Pinots from Oregon grapes. I’m also partial to Whitehaven Pinot Noir from New Zealand. The Whitehaven fills your senses with the feeling that you are walking in a redwood forest. (This has been corrected from my post in the EO - I suggested McWilliams in the article, which is an Australian wine that is also good, but not nearly as satisfying.)

If you serve your ham dry smoked, or grilled, I strongly suggest using a Zinfandel. Bogle makes an Old Vines Zinfandel that you can pick up in local grocery stores. It is rich with fruit and spices, and finishes just a little sweet.

The local choice for a Zinfandel is Maryhill. Maryhill Winery, located just across the river from Biggs makes probably the best Zinfandel from the Northwest. This wine pairs extremely well with ribs, ham, or just about anything off the barbecue. You can get Maryhill wines at any of the local wine shops, and many convenience stores as well because it is such a local favorite.

Many people eat lamb for Easter. I’m partial to a nice rack of lamb, rubbed in olive oil, garlic, and dried herbs, and then grilled. Once again, go for the Maryhill Zinfandel on this one. If you have time to get out to one of the local wine shops I also suggest grabbing a Temperanillo or a Carmenere. These dark, rich, and spicy Spanish varietals are wonderfully paired with the flavors of the meat.

Oh, and not to forget, if you are into spending Easter sitting on the couch eating the head off of a chocolate bunny, I suggest a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark chocolate bunny head goes really well with a nice glass of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon.

Enjoy and have a great Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Drink Your Wine Dot Com Goes Online Today!

I just got back to my studio from shooting a video with my friend Dan McCool at . His video blog launched today with a visit to Desert Wind Winery in Prosser.

I suggest that if you have an axe to grind, a stump to stand on, or a product or service that you want people to know about, and you are within at least a reasonable trip to Richland, Washington, you should talk to Dan about being on his site.

The video that I shot with Dan today will be aired on the 6th. We taste one of my favorites, an 05 Syrah from my friend Jay Dewitt at Dumas Station in Dayton, Washington. Jay's wine is available at fine wine establishments throughout Washington. You can visit the tasting room by appointment or purchase online at

In the video I give a demonstration on the proper technique for opening a wine bottle. We also talk briefly about AVA Wine Room in Kennewick, Washington.