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!

Friday, June 12, 2009

More Wine Events Galore!

Holy Vine Batman! There are a lot of wine events going on in the next few weeks.

Next Thursday the 18th of June, David March from Garrison Creek Cellars will be at The AVA Wine Room in South Kennewick. David is both a fantastic entertainer and amazing winemaker. His wines are truly fantastic, bottle and barrel aged to perfection. For the mere cost of $20 you will be treated to ample food and wine to really have a great evening. Find out more by going to .

Next, and most important, next Saturday afternoon the 20th, at Petal Pusher in Hermiston, I will be teaching a wine 101 class. I'll do the talking, Dottie and staff will be pouring, and hopefully you'll be enjoying! We'll be sampling several wines from around the region, pairing them with foods, and learning more about the general enjoyment of wine. If you love wine and want to learn more about it, this is a great class. For specifics and registration contact Dottie at (541) 567-7414.

Later, Saturday evening the Barrel house in South Kennewick, on Union and 27th, will be hosting a wine tasting event, with live music by the Bluzettes. Their new chef is absolutely fantastic, and the wine will be great!

Sunday the events keep on coming. Chef's Brian and Ben from Wildhorse Resort will be hosting a cooking class at Barhyte Specialty Foods in Pendleton, Oregon. Barhyte manufactures amazing mustards and sauces for some of the most talented chefs, wineries, breweries, and food industry leaders in the world. Brian and Ben will be pulling out all the stops and putting on a cooking class, paired with exquisite wines served right in the beautiful and private Barhyte test kitchen. To reserve a very limited seat call Suzie at (541) 276-0259.

Fidelitas Wines Consistently Good

In every industry there is someone who just simply hits it out of the ballpark every time. You know that person. They are the one with the Midas touch. No matter what they do, no matter what they produce, it is always just simply better than the others. People try to imitate their style or their products, but can never create at the same level that they do. These people are simply artisans of their craft.

One such person is Charlie Hoppes, the owner and winemaker for Fidelitas Winery. I’ve known and followed Charlie for years. I’ve even sat behind him in church on Sundays. Not that I’m a stalker. We just happen to live somewhat parallel lives.

What impresses me consistently about Charlie and his winemaking is his clean and no nonsense approach to the business. Every bottle, whether highly acclaimed or his quiet work as an advisor to other wineries, is absolutely beautiful. There is no “just bottle it” mentality that you see with other vintners. If it isn’t Charlie’s best, you aren’t going to taste it.

The other thing you’ll soon note about Charlie, once you get to meet and know him, is that he is a genuinely nice and sincere person. His word is as good as his wine.

Last week I attended a tasting at the AVA Wine Room in Kennewick that featured several Fidelitas wines. For a small fee of $20 we enjoyed four different Fidelitas wines and hors d’ vores. A fifth wine, his newest vintage of Merlot, was poured as a thank you gift from Charlie and appreciated by all.

We started the tasting with the 2007 Semillon. This clean, dry Semillon is simply beautiful. Multiple layers of citrus and floral scents and flavors lead to a wonderfully crisp finish. Perfect with soft cheeses, salads, or spicy foods.

The first red we sampled was the 2005 “Eight” Syrah. Eight is Charlie’s selection of his best eight barrels of Syrah from each vintage. Highly limited in production, and truly divine, the 2005 Eight features flavors of bright cherry, raspberry, and licorice. If you like really good Syrah, you better get this one while it lasts. The 2005 is Charlie’s finale to Syrah, never to be made again.

The 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet is a perfect example of what Columbia Valley fruit is supposed to offer. Flavors of Black Cherry and Licorice fill the mouth. A gentle mouthfeel and long tannins on the finish.

Next, we enjoyed the 2006 Ciel Du Cheval Cabernet. Just awarded a Wine Spectator “94”, the Ciel has a wonderful palate of blueberries, cola, and dark chocolate. This bottle was absolutely fantastic!

Last, we enjoyed a special treat of Fidelitas 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot. Dark stone fruit flavors, black cherry, mocha, and cassis fill the palate. A delicate and long lasting finish with just enough tannin to balance the fruit make this wine a favorite of mine. Yum!!

If you want to try any of these wines, I know that they are fully distributed in both Pendleton and Hermiston. You can pick them up at any of the local wine shops, and at several of the finer dining establishments.


Bella Terrazza Vineyards Mixes Wine with Gardening

Last weekend my wife and I got away to Leavenworth, Washington for our anniversary. Each year we take turns planning a weekend away, filled with fun and adventure. It was my year to make the plans, and I had a great time organizing the trip.

One thing you have to know about my wife is that she loves flowers and gardening. She loves plant stores as much as I love wine. So, nurseries became the center of my focus for about two weeks as I mapped out a drive that would take us eventually to Leavenworth for the evening via about twenty nurseries in Eastern Washington.

Little did I know that a visit to Sleepy Hollow Nursery, just outside Wenatchee, would offer me a great opportunity to visit a winery also. Attached at the hip to Sleepy Hollow is Bella Terrazza Vineyards. As a matter of fact, driving into the nursery there is some confusion as to whether you are entering a winery or a plant farm. For every row of flowers there is a row of vineyards. And, the tasting room actually is a greenhouse!

Bella Terrazza’s General Manager Jordan Hartmann greeted us warmly. There were several couples and friends enjoying wine and picnic lunches at bistro tables in the garden’s picnic area. The place was so relaxing that I couldn’t help but take a deep breath and slow down.

We tasted five different wines, all complimentary because of our flower purchase next door. (If you don’t buy a plant the cost is something like three dollars.) All of the white wines are from grapes grown on the estate and are dry, with very little residual sugar.

The first wine we tasted was the 2007 Pinot Grigio. This brightly straw colored wine opens with honeydew and citrus and has a nicely balanced finish of melons and peach. This wine is great for hot summer evenings that we are soon to be having here in the region.

The 2007 Riesling has wonderful aromas of apple and pear. It’s dryness allows the fruit to come through with enough acidity to cleanse the palate.

Third, we tasted the 2007 Gewurztraminer. I was impressed with the spiciness and fruit in this dry Gewurztraminer. I would pair this with a nice Pad Thai.

Bella Terrazza is just starting to produce red wines. Their goal is to eventually source all of their juice from their own estate. Currently they have some grapes coming from the estate, however it will take a few years to get up to full production.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon uses grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. Flavors and aromas of black cherry and blackberries. The finish is filled with cocoa and touch of cinnamon and cardamom.

Bella Rosso is the winery’s red blend. The 2006 vintage is sourced from the Wahluke Slope. It has a wonderful vanilla and bright cherry nose. The flavors of white and black pepper mix with the vanilla and cherry. I would buy several bottles of this and put a few back for about this time next year.

You can visit Bella Terrazza Tuesdays through Sundays at their garden tasting room. The website and directions are online at .