Monday, December 20, 2010

Argentinan Wine Continues To Gain Popularity

Did you remember the Nielson family? I remember back in the 80s the whole notoriety about the Nielsons and how the marketers tracked their spending and purchasing habits. It was this kind of bizarre tracking of them to get a better understanding of all of us. Little did I know that years later when I’m working in the wine industry, that the Nielson data would remain the best way to track wine purchases in the U.S.

As of last month, the Nielson report shows that this year has been a big – big year for Argentinian wines. As you probably do remember, I’ve written about the growth of the Mendoza region multiple times in the past few years.

I guess that all my soothsaying has come true. This year has seen explosive growth for those Nielson people drinking wines from that country. They are now only second to New Zealand in U.S. market share growth. What does that mean? Well. It means that you are about to get a bunch more Argentine wines on your market shelves.

What is making Argeninian wines so popular? It is the fact that they can make really good wine, bottle it, export it, and have it delivered to store shelves for a lot cheaper than local wineries.

One such winery sent me a sample bottle this past week. Bodega Septima is a winery located in the heart of Mendoza Argentina. At the base of the Andes mountains, the building and the vines are in prime location for making some of the best Malbec in the world.

Bodega Septima is owned by the Spanish Codorniu Group. A very large family-owned conglomerate that offers wines from both Spain and Argentina. The family has wine making history going all the way back to the 1500s. They offer a full range of varietals from sparklings to Pinot Noir on both continents.

Just getting into the U.S. market, Bodega Septima relies on a marketing and PR firm to develop distribution here. Their local contact, Donna White asked if I would like to try their wine, in hopes that I would talk with all of you about it.

I received the 2009 Malbec, along with a bunch of data and tasting notes for the winery’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m thinking that they might have messed up and sent me the wrong bottle, but I’m glad I received the Malbec over the Cab.

The bottle is quite attractive, with the label design being from the ancestral method that the winery was built by stacking natural stones. Pouring the wine into the glass, the first thing that becomes very notable is the wine’s dark, almost bluish color.

The 2009 Malbec is very soft on the nose. Its gentle subtleties of anise and dark berries mix very well with the earthiness from the oaking process. The flavors are quite gentle as well, as opposed to the almost bombarding approach by Malbecs in this region. Dark, rich berries, mix with anise, plum, and soft tanned leather. The finish is silky and smooth.

If this wine prices in at the same as the Cabernet Sauvignon, which lists at $12.99, I can see why the Nielsons are grabbing the stuff up. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to taste this wine soon as the distribution channels become available in this region.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Vertikal Riesling 2007

Along the Mosel river in central Germany lies some of the world’s most successful Riesling vineyards. The Mosel region is renowned for producing very high quality sweet white wines due to its reasonably temperate climate and steeply sloping hills.

A few years ago Precept brands acquired the importing and bottling rights to the Vertikal brand. Vertikal offers several different types of varietals including Spatlese, Auslase, Muller Thurgau, and Pinot Noir.

The 2007 Riesling Qualitatswein was the result of optimal growing conditions in Mosel that year. The blooms came on heavy and early, giving the grapes plenty of hang time before harvest. The sugar levels were just right. It was truly a “boom” year.

Because of the great harvest, the winery was able to produce 2001 cases of pretty good juice. This lowers the supply and demand curve, making this wine very reasonable for the quality.

My impressions of the 2007 Riesling were very pleasant indeed. Definitely sweet, but not overly cloying, the wine comes in at about 2.5 percent sugar with a relatively low alcohol level of 9.5%. This makes the wine well balanced and full of flavor. A nose and flavors of fresh peaches and pear, with a nice clean finish balances the wine very nicely.

I got this bottle from Grocery Outlet. The cost is a great $3.99 per bottle, and the Kennewick store has about 10 cases left. I suggest you get there and make your purchase soon. Also, realize that this is a 2007. It needs to be consumed in the next few weeks or months. White wines do not usually increase with age. This is no exception.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hard Cider An Alternative To Heavy Holiday Drinks

I used to own a 1972 Olds Toronado. That car was amazing! It was front wheel drive with a 400 V8 and 4 barrel carburetor. The hood was as big as a football field, and the trunk wasn’t much smaller.

My friends and I had a little experimental station going on in the back of that car. During football games we’d go across the street to the local Safeway, and purchase a gallon or two of fresh apple cider. We’d pass the jug, along with a couple dozen raspberry filled powdered donuts.

Whatever juice was left from our little snack went into my trunk. After a few days we’d look in the back and burp the jugs to make sure that the foam wasn’t going to blow the tops. And, after a few weeks we’d have a nice jug of apple cider to share again. This time with a little added zap!

Honestly, I was always just a little nervous drinking the not-so-fresh cider. It had floating chunks of mold, and god only knows what in it. But, nonetheless I gained a love for hard apple cider.

Hard cider is a serious European tradition. For centuries people have been making the stuff. It is relatively easy to do, as evidenced by my little story above. But, to make cider commercially, and offer it through distribution is a challenge.

One of the brands that I’m most familiar with is our local cidery, Blue Mountain Cider from Milton Freewater. Blue Mountain offers several types of cider. Their Farmstead, and their Cherry cider are my personal favorites.

The Farmstead offers flavors and bouquets of freshly picked apples. Sweet and crisp to the taste, with a nice fresh finish. The Cherry uses Montmorency cherry juice to create a wonderfully sour-sweet combination in your mouth. Great for drinking, or use in salad dressings!

Recently I was given a couple of bottles of a new cider that is out on the market here locally. Crispin is a cider company from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They also offer many styles of cider, from old-world artisan, to draught, to a line of 12 oz. bottles.

I was given samples of the Original and the Brut styles to try. Crispin promotes their brand as being “crisp over ice”, however I really wanted to taste the cider and not the funky city water that my ice is made from. So, I put them in my cooler near the ice and drank them neat.

The first to go into my glass was the Crispin Brut. According to Crispin this is the “Champagne” of ciders. Extra dry to the nose and the palate. Crisp apple bouquet on the nose, a long yet fresh finish.

The Crispin Original was more to my personal style. Sweet crisp apples on the nose and on the tongue. The added sweetness really set it off for me. Both offer lotts of tight little bubbles to caress the tongue right to the last sip.

This holiday season, if you want to offer your guests something refreshingly different other than beer, wine, or mixed drinks I suggest picking up one of these great ciders. Your guests will love the crisp alternative.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weird Wine Gifts for 2010

Ho Ho Ho! It’s Christmas time again. Like the snow and ice, the inevitability of having to buy things for other people who really don’t appreciate your efforts has come again. But, this year, rather than buying them that same old bottle of ’69 Amarone that you bought them last year, I have come up with some new ideas.

Like most weeks, when I do my articles, I did a little web surfing and found several good ideas that I thought I could take to the extreme. Of course, being the “localfile” that I am, I am going to try and make this as “home-town” as possible.

Adopt A Barrel - I’ve been seeing this more and more lately. Some wineries in Europe have changed their wine clubs up a little. Now, rather than simply being a member of some snobby wine club, the vintners are offering the opportunity to adopt a barrel of wine.

You get your barrel at an early age. Usually, just after initial fermentation. This allows you the opportunity to get to know your wine for a few years before you get to drink it. Just think. A gift that lasts almost as long as the credit card debt it takes to buy it!

The real benefit is that you will have further gift giving opportunities that come out of this. A barrel of wine will make a few hundred bottles worth of the good stuff. So, the next few years after your initial purchase you can be putting it toward racking and storage space for your loved one’s new one-of-a-kind juice.

I’ve talked with a few local artisan winemakers who are more than happy to do this if anyone is interested. The cost is about the same as a good used Hyundai car.

Adopt A Pig, Lamb, Goat, Cow or Other Edible Creature – Now we’re talking! Yes, I did find this as an interesting option for wine lovers out there. You can adopt a farm animal for your friend or lover with the whole intention of that person getting to eat the animal in the next few months or years.

Of course, most real wine lovers are also serious about their proteins. Afterall, you can’t pair a good bottle of wine with Tofurkey or Soysauge. Why not give somebody the opportunity to see the animal they are going to be pairing with that bottle of Cayuse or Leonetti that they have been saving.

There are several organic farms in the area. You could arrange to have the pig photographed and have the farmer write up a short story about the animal. Once the animal reaches full maturity the farmer will arrange to have it made into sausage, steaks, or what ever your true love desires.

Buy Her A Balthazar – Diamonds, shmiamonds! What a girl really wants for Christmas is a really big bottle of wine. Magnum bottles of wine have been around for centuries. Before the advent of the box, bulk wine was served in biggie sized bottles.

Big bottles come starting at 1.5 liters and go up from there. I have personally seen a “Solomon” sized bottle, which is an impressive 20 liters. A little tough to pour, but makes an impressive lamp. It is probably more reasonable to buy that hard to please wine lover a nice 3 or 5 liter bottle. Most local wineries offer them, and you can even get them artistically engraved. You can get magnums in most local wine shops as well just by asking.


Saturday, November 27, 2010


My oldest son’s girlfriend’s dad has a very interesting hobby. He keeps bees. Living up on a grassy hill outside of Moscow, Idaho, John has the perfect environment for his hives. The little buggers seem to love it out there because they make some of the most delicious honey I’ve ever eaten in my life. Nearly white in color, the first-run honey from his hives is so pure and sweet that it tastes like sweet cream.

The only problem is that not all honey is super high quality. As the seasons change, and as the hive gets more mature, the honey darkens and becomes much more amber. It also picks up flavors from the wildflowers that the bees are also trying to pollinate from the area.

This is where it becomes my problem. My son, knowing that I’m the expert on all things alcoholic, delivered a bunch of amber honey to me a few weeks ago. His expectation was that I was going to brew up some Mead in my basement.

Now, I may be a great writer, and certainly a pleasant drunk. I may even know the general processes around making beer and wine. However, I don’t make alcoholic beverages. I just drink them.

Being the adventurous guy that I am, and never wanting to let my admiring son down, I have gotten to work on making my first batch of Mead. (Have you noticed it gets harder to impress kids in their 20s than it was when they were four or five?)

Luckily, there are hundreds of resources out there on making Mead. The internet is full of recipes. I also have a friend who lives close to me that is into the Medieval thing. (He is a king or something.) He teaches classes on how to make Mead which I fully intend on attending.

Did you know that Mead is possibly the oldest known alcoholic beverage? Its quaffing history goes back centuries to ancient Greece. It is mentioned in Hindu writings as far back as 1700 BC. Mead has been given credit in ancient times for making warriors fearless and strong in battle.

Mead also was given credit for what we now call a young couple’s “honeymoon”. Apparently a newlywed couple drank Mead for the first 30 days of their marriage so they could increase stamina and fertility in the bedroom. Liquid Viagra!

Part of my research has included a little Mead tasting as well. Commercially made Mead is available in Europe, and there are distributors who import through different wine and beer distributors worldwide. However, the only Mead that I know to be of commercial supply in this region is made by Honeywood Winery in Salem, Oregon.

Opened in 1933, Honeywood is Oregon’s oldest winery. Their specialty in the beginning was to produce brandies and liqueurs, however they have been producing wines for many years. Their fruit wines are super popular in the region for being super sweet and flavorful.

Honeywood offers two types of Mead. The traditional style, which has won many awards over the years, and a new Blackberry Mead, which I have not yet had. The traditional style Mead from Honeywood is made from clover honey. It has aromas of summer flowers. The flavors are super-sweet with a floral sense and a mouthfeel that is full and creamy.

You can get Honeywood Mead at several places in the region. Bellinger’s in Hermiston has the largest selection of Honeywood flavors. I suggest you slide in and try them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wines I’m Thankful For

So, as I was looking through my past Thanksgiving articles I realized that they’ve all been about pairing wine with turkey. If you don’t know what to pair the turkey with, just buy the most expensive white wine you can find. Buy a bunch of it. If your guests don’t like your choice in wine hit them over the head with the bottle or a turkey leg. Whichever is handiest. That should pretty well cover the turkey pairing issue.

Now, on to what I want to talk about. After all, this article really is about me. Isn’t it?

I was thinking that in honor of Thanksgiving I would write this week on all the great wines that we have right here in our region. Wines that are top rated, and readily available for our consumption. Wines made right here in the Northwest, for Northwesterners. These are wines that you can walk right into the local stores and wine shops to purchase.

I’m not the only one to think that these wines are great. I’m going to reference scores posted by Wine Spectator that are 90 points or above. If you don’t agree with Wine Spectator I think they take your birthday away or something.

The first vintner that I want to recognize is our own home-grown giant Columbia Crest, and their sister Chateau Ste Michelle. The 2005 Columbia Crest Valley Reserve Merlot and the 2008 Ste. Michelle Indian Valley Cabernet Sauvignon have scores of 90. Their cousin wineries of Northstar, Erath, Spring Valley, and Col Solare also have fantastic ratings. Northstar’s 2006 Merlot earned a score of 91. The Erath 2006 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir earned a 91. Spring Valley had a score of 92 for their 2007 Uriah, and a 93 went to the Col Solare 2005 vintage.

Cougar Crest, from Walla Walla has earned a 90 or better score on three of their current vintages. Their 2006 Cabernet Franc and Aniversary Cuvee, as well as their 2005 Merlot all did very well in judging.

Amavi also has three current vintages scoring at 90 points each. Their 2006 Walla Walla Syrah, their 2007 Walla Walla Syrah, and their 2007 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.

Another Walla Walla vintner that consistently offers up great wines is John Abbott at Abeja. His 2007 vintages of Chardonnay and Merlot offer up absolutely fantastic flavors worthy of great accolades.

L’Ecole No 41 continues to take the wine industry to school year after year with their wines. Currently they have five vintages on the market that have Wine Specator scores above 90. Their 2007 Apogee and Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon both scored 92s this year. Their Seven Hills Merlot and Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon both scored 91, and their 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah holds its own with a score of 90.

My friend Rich Funk at Saviah earned a very respectable 93 with his 2006 vintage of Une Vallee. This wine is truly amazing, and priced very, very well for the quality. Also, Chuck at Reininger proved his winemaking talents when he scored a respectable 92 on his 2007 Walla Walla Syrah.

This is not a complete list of amazing local wines. I really encourage you to go to our local wine shops and ask for the complete list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sno Road Winery Is Echo’s Little Secret

I’ve been all over this country. And when I say “all over” I mean lots and lots of places. But, one of my very favorite places to be is in the little, quiet town of Echo.

Most of the folks I talk with in my day to day life don’t even know the town exists. They drive right by it heading to Boise or Portland or Seattle. Usually they’re going way to fast to even notice the exit signs pointing toward the town. I guess that’s what makes Echo special. If you’re going fast you’re probably not a good fit anyway.

In the center of town is a little building next to a beautiful garden. In that building are the offices of Echo West Vineyard and Sno Road Winery. Lloyd and Lois Piercy have owned the building for a number of years. It has served them well. Decorated with artifacts from travels that they’ve had around the globe, and punctuated by old doors and furniture that serve to catch the eye and the imagination, the offices are both rustic and beautiful.

The Piercys are brilliant, hard-working folks. Part of their hard work over these past 40 years has been Echo West Vineyard. Overlooking the Umatilla River not far from downtown Echo, the vineyard has become increasingly famous for producing amazing wines. The grapes are sourced out to many award winning wineries in the region including Bergevin-Lane and Maryhill.

Over the past five or so years I’ve been in contact with Lloyd Piercy about a few barrels of juice that he was aging for his own winery. When he called me a few weeks ago, I was so excited to hear that he was officially open for business.

The winery boasts several amazing labels of wines. All of them very short run. All of them very exquisite. All of them very reasonably priced for the quality of juice in the bottle.

The three bottles that were open for me to taste were the 2008 Orange Muscat, the 2006 Sno Road Amity Pinot Noir, and the 2007 2B Cabernet Sauvignon.

Don’t let the words Orange Muscat fool you. This wine is bone dry, with less than 1% residual sugar. The nose is explosively floral and fragrant. Orange blossoms literally jump out of the glass. The flavors are crisp and brilliant, with light citrus and floral overtones.

The 2007 Amity Pinot Noir is a beautiful ruby color. It’s aromas and flavors are multi-layered with cherry, pomegranate, mint, sage, and cola flavors. The finish is long and supple. This wine would pair well with salmon or venison, but I think I’ll just drink it alone so I can enjoy all of its qualities.

2B Cabernet Sauvignon is named after the block of grapes from the Echo West Vineyard that they came from. The ground is rich with volcanic ash and sediment there, which intensifies the grapes greatly. A nose of black cherries, cinnamon, and baking spices. Layers of dark cherry, cinnamon, cocoa, and cassis. This is a Cabernet drinker’s Cabernet. Yum!

If you want to experience Sno Road, I suggest you get there. The winery is open Friday evenings for tasting from 4:00 until 7:00, or until the last guest leaves. They are also available by appointment by calling 541-376-0421. You can also order wines by going to .


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wine Events Abound Region Wide This Month

It must be November. Finally, after all the warm summer months, and the crazy months of harvest, we wine drinkers get to fill our social calendars again. Yes, in November there are literally dozens of wine tasting events to attend throughout the region. Some of them are profoundly large, and some simple and intimate.

To start the month off with a bang, the region’s largest event happens in the Tri Cities. The Tri Cities Wine Festival occurs November 5th and 6th at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. For 32 years the Tri-Cities Wine Society has been hosting this now very large event which includes a judged wine competition of the regions top wineries. There are seminars on wines, grape growing, and wine industry forecasting. The gala event, which occurs on Saturday the 6th, offers the opportunity to taste over 400 different wines and sample foods from different regional caterers and restaurants. Cost at the door is $65 per person. You can find out more about the event at

If you aren’t exactly into wine, but beer is your thing I suggest you slide on down to the Great Pacific in downtown Pendleton on the 11th. Deschutes Brewery will be offering a beer tasting that evening. The regional representative from Deschutes will be sampling the brews, and you can purchase a bottle or glass as you sit and visit with friends.

Next weekend, the 13th and 14th of November, will be another enormous wine event in the Tri Cities. Savor the Flavor, developed by my friends Becky and Phyllis Ferguson has been a growing event for the past several years. Being into food as much as wine, this is one of my favorite annual events. If you are into watching Bravo’s Top Chef, or Iron Chef competitions you will love this event. There are different stages where both professional, as well as amateur chefs from the region compete for bragging rights in timed cooking trials.

At the Savor event I am now fully involved this year as the “Liquid Libations” coordinator. This is a classroom offering classes on how to do everything from tasting wines, to pairing wines with foods. Jeff Hammond from Wildhorse Resort will even be doing classes on infusing Vodkas at home. I’ll be teaching a few classes on tasting methods, wine and cheese pairings, and sensory training along with other educators and wine writers from the region.

For those who are into cooking there is a second set of classes going on in another area. Even the kids have a “Kids Cook Too” area where they can get their cheffing skills on. Booths will offer foods, libations, and shopping. Top Chef Dave Martin will prepare a banquet on the evening of the 13th . To find out more or to get tickets go to or call 509-366-5306.

If that all isn’t enough, there are two more events going on in the Pendleton and Hermiston areas on the 18th and 19th. Jones of Washington Winery, from Quincy Washington is now being fully distributed in Northeast Oregon. These wines are very nice, and their prices are approachable. You can catch them at Bellinger Farms in Hermiston on the 18th, and at Great Pacific in Pendleton on the 19th.

See you there!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spooky Wine News To Scare You!

I was in a meeting today, and in the theme of Halloween the meeting was “scary things happening in business”. The subject of wine didn’t come up in the meeting, although I often daydream of wine. Thus, my mind wandered into some of the strange and spooky things that I’ve heard have happened in the wine industry lately.

First, the story that has me really freaked out this Halloween. On, or around September 15th of this year someone drove out to a Red Mountain vineyard and stole 1.25 tons of Morvedre grapes. Disappeared! Vanished!! Right into thin air.

I want to drive up there and check to see if there are crop circles up on the Grand Reve vineyard. Who in the heck could literally steal $4000 worth of grapes right off of one of the most visible hills in Eastern Washington and have nobody see it?

This is not a small amount of grapes. At least one very large, full pickup truck would have had to have driven up, taken a few hours, and driven back down and away with this pile of grapes dripping on the pavement behind. I’m thinking this is not really possible. There are way too many nosy neighbors up on that hill. Not to mention that this would have taken a fairly substantial team of educated enologist thieves to pull it off.

My hypothesis is that the aliens took them. You see, Morvedre is among one of the rarer grapes grown in this region. Not just anybody has a block of Morvedre sitting around in their back yard.

The aliens must have turned off their lights and hovered quietly into the fields. Their little alien tentacles picked the grapes really fast, and when one of the neighbors went to check out the situation the aliens smacked them against the head with a “forget this” stick.

After the grapes were loaded into the spaceship the little buggers took them back to their galaxy. Who knows? They probably even have Bigfoot stomping them right now as we speak!

All kidding aside, this is a really spooky situation when you think that there is some idiot out there thinking that they are going to get away with making several barrels of stolen Mourvedre. You better hope for their sake that the aliens really did steal it.

Another fantastic and spooky real story that is going on in vineyards here in the region this fall is botrytis cinerea. A fungus that has attached to a number of grapes in the region and is trying to destroy the crop before it can be picked.

Botrytis is a gray mold that attacks the grapes and greatly affects the flavors. It pretty much makes them look like zombie grapes, with a whiteish powdery mildew texture that grows around them, coating them and making them look…moldy.

Growers have been picking as fast as possible to beat the “rot”, although many vineyards were hit very hard. According to one grower in the upper Yakima Valley that I spoke with, most of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in the region has been hard hit. Good luck getting a good cheap white blend next year folks!

The good news about Botrytis oozing off the grapes around here is that the late harvest wine drinkers will be happy to know that they will have plenty to sip on soon. That mold gives Late Harvest and Ice Wines their glorious flavors.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chileans Have Many Reasons To Celebrate

Wednesday night, as the world watched in celebration as the miners were rescued, there was also a huge celebration happening in Chilean wine.

Planned months ago, 8 different Chilean winemakers and New York based Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer held a huge wine tasting with journalists and wine bloggers throughout the United States as the rescue occurred. Using fairly advanced online meeting software, video cameras, and the social network Twitter, as the miners were pulled into fresh air hundreds of people drank Chilean wines in unison.

I was asked some time ago to participate, and two weeks ago I received a crate of eight different wines, a media packet, recipes, a bottle of merkin (Chilean spices), and a bottle of olive oil. I even got a nice corkscrew to open everything with!

From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST wine writers from throughout the continent logged into this “virtual” wine tasting. We were invited to make Chilean foods to pair with the wines. I made Mincemeat Empanadas. And, if we wanted to, we could sit and enjoy the wines in solitary or include a group of guests.

For my part I realized that 8 bottles of wine was a bit much. So, with a little help from my friends Sara and Kevin, we hosted a party of fellow winos from our neighborhood. Food, friends, and wine all converged at the same time, and we tasted some exquisite Red Chilean Blends.

The wines we tasted were all absolutely fantastic. The list went like this: 1)Valdivieso Eclat 2005 Maule Valley, 2) De Martino Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines “Las Cruces” 2006 Cachapoal Valley, 3) Estampa Gold Assemblage Carmenere 2008 Colchagua Valley, 4) Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere 2008 Colchagua Valley, 5) Maquis Lien 2006 Colchagua Valley, 6) Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolal 2008 Colchagua Valley, 7) Emiliana Coyam 2007 Colchagua Valley, 8) Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Selection Private Reserve 2007 Casablanca Valley.

As I mentioned, all of these red blends were magnifico! I wouldn’t have pushed a single glass away if ever offered to me. But, for the sake of this short article I had to ask my local tasting panel for a vote of their two favorites. The two wines that truly shone out in the crowd were the Montes, and the Araucano.

The Montes is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Carmenere made by winemaker Aurelio Montes. The wine shows in the glass with intense ruby color. It’s aromas are cocoa, tobacco, and cedar. Flavors of dark fruit mix with the cocoa flavor and add a rich butterscotch to the silky tannins. Priced at $15 SRP I would say that Montes has price on his side as well.

The Araucano is produced by winemaker Luca Hodgkinson. A rich blend of 31% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Carmenere. This wine is chock full of blackberries, tobacco, and spice box. It offers a full range of flavors across the palate and finishes long and supple. At a $23 SRP I would say this wine is a steal.

I realize that this tasting appears to be a great tease to all of you who may not have been able to participate. However, the reason for this tasting was to present them to the U.S.

Currently the wines, the spices, and the olive oil are all available at If they continue to excel, who knows, maybe you’ll find them locally as well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cooler Weather Means It’s Time To Come Into Port

Have I ever told you how much I enjoy writing this column? Well, I do.

I know that you most regularly hear me complaining about having to be up late nights, or early in the morning to write this article. (Tasting wines at 5a.m. is for professionals only.) The pay is….well…nonexistent. But, other than that, this is pretty cool stuff. Especially when I get fantastic bottles of wine delivered to my door!

Last week the Fed Ex person showed up to my door with a box. One that must be signed by someone over 21 years of age. Immediately, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I started salivating. As I opened the package, my heart raced. As I looked inside I swooned and cried out in ecstasy! Really! I did. Just ask my horrified wife.

Inside were two bottles of one of my favorite beverages of all time. It was a bottle of Dow’s Trademark Reserve Port, and a bottle of Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port. I was in heaven!

I’m not sure I ever shared this with you, but the thing that changed me over from a newbie white wine drinker to a skilled and accomplished red wine drinker was a nectar of the gods called Port. I’m serious as a heart attack about this. I LOVE Port!

My friends from Calhoon and Company, the wine marketers with style, had sent me these bottles with the hopes that I would write about them to you. I think they are getting their way. Don’t you?

Dow’s was established in 1798. The company has been family owned for over 200 years. The Symington family operates this esteemed winery still today.

Dow’s Trademark Reserve is the “freshest” of the Dow’s lineup. It offers up nice aromas of mint and other aromatic spices. The blackberry and cocoa flavors are wonderfully rich, with a sweet but dry finish that lingers and leaves you wanting more. This is a great Port for enjoying with dark chocolate and blue cheese. It is also fantastic in cocktails.

Graham’s is probably one of my favorite Port labels of all time. The company makes several labels, but the most distributed in this region are “Six Grapes”, a 10 Year Tawny, and a 20 Year Tawny. The Symington family acquired Grahams in 1970, and have brought the winery to be what it is today.

Aged 10 years in oak casks, the 10 Year Tawny offers up a light red-brown color, with aromas of fruit and rich, buttery caramel. The flavors are incredibly rich, with caramel and soft vanilla accents all the way through. This is my choice for a good cigar port. Paired with a rich Maduro cigar on my deck, I sit and ponder how the other half lives.

I’m not the only one to think that Graham’s 10 year is amazing. Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have both scored it a hard to reach 92 point score.

Now, about the cool weather. Port can be served chilled, with ice. However, the best time to serve Port is when it cools off outside. There is really not much better to warm your heart on a cool fall evening than a glass of Port.

Dow’s is fairly hard to find around here, however Graham’s is readily available both at fine retail shops and establishments throughout the region. I suggest you buy a bottle, sit back, and…Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two New Wines At Grocery Outlet

So, today I get an excited call from Dane, the owner of the Grocery Outlet store in Kennewick. He's got some new wines he wants me to try. Being the curious wine monkey that I am, I run over to the store this afternoon and try them out.

Frankly, I know not to expect much. The wines that Dane carries are definitely what I would consider to be "bottom shelf" wines. These are not your $50 bottles. They certainly aren't Caymus or Pepperbridge.

What Grocery Outlet offers are good everyday drinking wines. Something kind of nice, without breaking the bank. Certainly, you can offer just about anything off their shelf, and if your guests aren't real snobs, they're going to enjoy it.

With all that said, I want to talk to you about two of these wines:

Blue Pirate Pinot Noir 2007 - Blue Pirate is made by 12th Street and Maple Winery in Dundee, Oregon. Winemaker Aron Hess, who also makes wines for Battle Creek Winery and Daedalus Cellars, is a brilliant winemaker who specializes in Pinot.
The wine pours from the bottle with a bright ruby red color. It offers up a nose of cherries and the slight mustiness that good pinot offers. The flavors of Portabella Mushrooms and cherries linger on the tongue. This wine would be great with a nice cheese soup.

Six Prong Red Wine 2006 - Manufactured in the Horse Heaven Hills outside of Prosser, Six Prong is the creation of a "Thirsty Pagan" named Rob Chowanietz. The reason I call him that is because his premium hand-made wine goes by that name. Six Prong has several acclaims from Wine Enthusiast for their 2005 and 2007 Red Blends, however this year got overlooked.
The 2006 opens on the nose with dark stone fruit and soft vanilla overtones. The flavors are balanced and smooth with lots of fresh berry flavors, mixed with pepper and vanilla. A nice finish for a bottle that costs $2.99.

Dane has just a few cases of the Blue Pirate, but a whole pallet of the Six Prong. I'd still get down there soon and buy some before they're out.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Does A Good Wine Taste Like?

Over the past few months I’ve been working out at my local Club 24 with a couple of people pretty regularly. With the help of our personal trainer (drill sergeant) Jen, we’ve all been able to get our girlish figures back a little. In working our arms and legs, I personally think we work our mouths just about as much.

This week one of the ladies in my group told me she had purchased a few of the wines I had written notes on, and was impressed with some, and disappointed with others. Personally, I expected that.

When I write notes on a wine, any wine, I am careful to not give my subjective opinion. Rather, I like to focus on the facts as much as possible. The reason for this angle of approach is that if I only wrote on the wines that really turned me on, this column would die in a few short weeks.

Frankly speaking, all of the wines that I write up are “good” wines. Otherwise I wouldn’t write them up. I have a firm resolve to never say anything if I can’t say anything nice. On the other hand, some wines are just far far far superior to others.

The choice to be made is in price point more than anything else. Please don’t expect a $3.99 bottle to be just as fulfilling as a $90 bottle. I don’t care what Charles Shaw says, it just ain’t so!

At the same time, even among bottles in the same price range, there are distinct differences. I can walk down the street in Walla Walla, or Sonoma, or Rickreal and hit a series of wineries charging the same amount for their wares. For example, in Walla Walla the average bottle of Merlot is somewhere in the range of $28. Just because I spent that much doesn’t equate to me liking it.

The difference comes in the experience and education in the winemaker, the equipment used to manufacture the wine, and equally just as important, the grapes the wine was made with.

Now, for my money I just have to know what I want. Do I like a wine with jammy flavors? Do I like my wines a little leathery and aged? Do I like the acidic flavor of a touch of vinegar in the bottle? Those things are all up to my own taste preferences.

Personally, I feel that the best wines offer a full, rich cornucopia of scents when you smell them. Depth of fruit and spices come right out of the glass and into your nose as you swirl the glass. None of the scents are offensive, and the smell of fruit and spice far outweigh the smell of alcohol or vinegar.

When you taste the best wines, the flavors seduce you. You taste one fruit, then another comes forward, possibly followed by another. Spices overflow the mid and back of your tongue. The flavors linger and change as you hold the wine in your mouth.

Then, as you swallow that delicious sip of great wine, you sense yet more flavors, followed by a long silky finish. You are so in love that you can’t wait to repeat the whole process over again and again.

Honestly, 99% of the wines I drink don’t do that for me. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad. It just means that they aren’t as good as the best I’ve ever had.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Catch The Crush!

I don’t know about anyone else, but the week after the Pendleton Roundup I’m tired but still wanting to get out and go. It seems like life just slows down in the third week of September. The leaves start to officially change colors and the mornings are crisp and cool, yet I’m not quite ready to hibernate yet.

The crush is on, and if you aren’t ready to hibernate either I suggest you join me by visiting the Columbia Valley, Red Mountain, Prosser, and Yakima Valley Wineries this weekend.

Wineries all over the region are participating in this year’s Catch The Crush event this weekend. The event has been growing for the past 30 years, and this year is no exception. You can literally visit dozens of wineries, or as many as your designated driver can stand.

Many of the vintners open their doors to offer tours, show the crushing operations, taste barrel samples, and offer food and wine pairings to visitors this weekend. If you haven’t ever gone to a “Crush” event, I think I could best explain it as fun, high energy, and one of the weekends where everyone is a friend.

My friends, the Whitelatch family, who own Claar Cellars in Zillah will even be holding a grape stomping contest for teams of two who want to try it. The contest will be a fundraiser for the Tri-cities Cancer Center, and will happen from 10a.m. to 6p.m. the 25th and 26th. The cost to get your feet in the barrels is $2 per team. Claar’s Busty Blush will even be on hand to sample.

The cost to attend the crush is free, however is has become quite customary in the past few years for the wineries to charge a tasting fee. Usually the fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine.

To get the best bang for your buck I suggest getting a Premier Pass to the event. The pass includes a wrist band, a wine glass, and a map of all the participating wineries. For the cost of $35 you can taste all day and not have to pay at each bar when you get there. To find out which wineries will be offering the wrist bands go to and click on events.

While you are traveling through the region make sure to either start early or end late as you go through Prosser. Prosser’s annual balloon rally is this weekend, with balloons filling the skies at sunrise, and participating in nightglow events in the evening.

My friends Jesse and Susanne Ayala who own Tuscany Grill, and Kari from 6th Street Coffee will be open early for breakfast. So, after you take in the balloons you can start tasting wines with your tummy full. The Ayalas and another friend Frank Magana at Picazo’s and Mojave, located in Desert River Inn Winery will remain open late in order to keep that belly full for your safe drive home.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Two New Wines You Gotta Get At Grocery Outlet

Here's this week's Grocery Outlet update from me.

Dane and Jami asked me to taste two more wines this past week that I thought you might be interested in.

First, Cayalla, a 2004 Red Table Wine made from Columbia Valley fruit. After a little research I found out that Cayalla is a second brand label made by the famous Firesteed winery out of Rickreal, Oregon. If you haven't ever tried Firesteed Pinot Noir I would say you need to.

Howard Rossbach, owner and winemaker, sources grapes from Walla Walla and Columbia Valley for his Cayalla wine, and goes to work aging and blending the juice to make a great wine at a great price.

The 2004 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, to create a lush and drinkable wine that is fruit forward and ready to drink. The wine offers up a nose and flavors of dark berries and cola. This particular vintage won many awards in its earlier years, and is still very drinkable right now.

The second wine that Dane asked me to taste was Sacred Hill's 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. From New Zealand's famous Central Coastal region of Malborough comes some of the world's greatest Sauvignon Blanc. Sacred Hill is one of New Zealand's leading wineries. The combination creates a fantastic wine from an award winning winery.

This wine has a rich citrus nose, full of lemongrass and herbs. The flavors are crisp and rich with lemongrass, grapefruit, rhubarb, and mineral. Pair this with broiled tilapia with butter and herbs, or fresh chevre on crusty bread.

The Cayalla is priced at the store right now at $4.99, and I purchased the Sacred Hill at $2.99. At these prices I'd hurry if you still want some!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Local Boy Makes Good

It happens every day that someone from small town America pulls it off and really does make it into the spotlight. What really makes it special is when that person is someone that you know personally, and maybe even hung out with in high school.

Neil Cooper is just one of those people. Coming from the grass seed fields around Stanfield, Oregon, Cooper is just one of those fun-loving guys that you’d expect to see fueling up at the Pilot Station any summer afternoon.

Now switch scenes with me, and imagine a simple but upscale wine tasting room and barrel storage facility on the gateway of Sunset Road on Red Mountain. Just outside of Benton City, Washington. The virtual cornerstone of the Washington wine industry, with grapes from the vineyards around the winery drawing some of the most prestigious recognition possible.

As of last Saturday, the 11th of September, Neil Cooper now has firm hold of that cornerstone property, and has launched his brand of Cooper Wine Company wines. Located in a completely renovated facility that was once Seth Ryan Winery, Cooper has definitely done it right.

With help from Charlie Hoppes and staff from Fidelitas, Neil was able to build the winery basically from scratch. He has spent the last few years buying barrels, tanks, and equipment, not to mention juice, to get his winery off the ground with resounding success.

So, enough about the facilities and the land. How about the wines? Well, I can tell you that I tasted through all of them, and will share with you a few of my favorites.

Cooper offers two whites. A Pinot Gris, and a Chardonnay. The 2008 Pinot Gris has a nose that offers up light floral accents of orange flowers and mineral. The flavors are a nice blend of floral and citrus, with a clean finish. Perfect for evenings on the porch.

The 2008 Chardonnay is beautifully advanced. Butter and citrus on the nose leads to wonderful caramel cream flavors from the perfect malolactic fermentation.

Neil’s focus is on Bordeaux wines so it only makes sense that his first wine L’inizio (the beginning) is a wonderful Bordeaux blend. The wine wakes up your nose with hints of black pepper and spice box, leading to flavors of oak, vanilla, dark stone fruit. The finish is silky smooth.

Cooper’s lineup of Cabernet Sauvignons is amazing. To taste through them is not only fun, but educational as well. He has 2007 vintages from Walla Walla, Red Mountain, and Columbia Valley. Each one having its own flavor characteristics and strengths.

Because my palate tends to lean towards jammy flavors with vanilla accents, I found myself at the Grand Opening really leaning toward the 2007 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose starts off with dark berries and jam, with slight undertones of spice and mocha. The flavors are rich with berries and vanilla, with a long silky finish.

If you have the chance to break away to Red Mountain I know that Neil would love to see you. The winery is located at 35306 North Sunset Road in Benton City. Maybe you can catch up on old times and enjoy a bottle. If you can’t make it up to the winery I suggest you get onto his wine club at .


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cocoa, Blackberries, Tobacco? All I Taste Is Wine.

I can’t tell you the number of times in a week that I have a conversation with someone about the flavors in wine. People either don’t believe that I taste the things that I do, or they want to know how to get better at it themselves.

Usually, the discussion falls to the person thinking that my B.S. factor is just really high. Which it is. However, the flavors are real. Otherwise I wouldn’t write them.

So, how do you learn to taste wines to figure out what the flavors are? My pat answer is to take a wine tasting class. The one that I took a few years ago at Walla Walla Community College’s Enology School was absolutely amazing. It was so intense that I didn’t even want to drink wine for the next few weeks afterward.

I wouldn’t expect just anyone to take a class like that. It is expensive, and bent very hard toward people who make a living in the wine industry. The common, everyday wine lover just wants to be able to taste their wines better. Not be able to taste that the “cellar rat’s” hands weren’t washed when he left the bathroom during racking.

With a professional wine tasting class out of the question, I would strongly suggest that you create your own wine tasting class in the comfort of your kitchen. Buy some inexpensive base wine in white or red. I suggest buying Franzia or Vella box wine in a Chablis for the white, and Merlot for the red.

Next, look through different wine notes that you read either by me or by others in the industry. On white wines, you might hear frequently mineral, citrus, lemon, butter, and many others. For the reds you might start with strawberries, berry jam, cherries, vanilla, and black pepper.

Buy some of these mentioned flavor ingredients and put a dash of them into glasses along with the base wine one at a time. Cover the glasses with cellophane.

Now, spend time swirling each glass, lifting the cellophane, and smelling the wine. I suggest doing this with each wine over and over again until eventually you can correctly identify the odor even when your eyes are closed and you’ve mixed all the glasses up.

Do this with different ingredients. Go crazy! Use your whole spice box, and everything in your refrigerator and garden until you think you can identify as many smells as possible.

By the way. Don’t drink these wines! Only smell them. They are not for consumption. I would hate the thought of reading a news article in the next few weeks where somebody tasted diesel at my suggestion.

When you think you are pretty good at this smells identification game go and buy a nice bottle of wine. Red or white. Take your time swirling the glass and smelling it over and over until you can identify all of the smells.

Now reward yourself with a sip of the wine. Does it taste like it smells? If not, what are the new tastes? I have personally found that I enjoy smelling wine as much, if not more than actually tasting it.

Once you have reached this point I welcome you to your wine awakening my friends.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Washington Hills Summit Reserve Chardonnay Tasting

Hey there folks! This week's advertisement for Grocery Outlet features Washington Hills Summit Reserve Chardonnay at $3.99 per bottle.

You've probably seen past posts by me about Washington Hills winery. It is part of the monsterous Precept winemaking business, with literally hundreds of labels under their belt. Some unknown labels, as well as labels and brands from some of the region’s most fantastic winemakers.

Washington Hills is made almost exclusively out of Columbia Valley AVA fruit. I can totally appreciate this because it comes from our own local vineyards. Hal Landvoigt, winemaker for the Washington Hills brand has been making wine for 20 years, with 15 of those years focusing on wines here in Washington.

The 2007 Summit Reserve Chardonnay that is featured at Grocery Outlet is not one that I’d had before. While working in the distribution I had tasted and sold a substantial amount of the regular labeled Chardonnay, so I was excited to see what the Summit Reserve Offered.

The wine has a nose of pears and crisp apple that envelopes the glass as you pour it. The flavors open up with apple flavors and then turn to butterscotch and a hint of pineapple juice on the finish. Well balanced, this wine finishes clean on the palate.

I would highly recommend this paired with the store’s Cryo-Frozen Tuna steaks from the freezer section. Grill them and serve them up with Wassabi Mayo and shredded fresh ginger on a toasted bun. Dang that was tasty!


Flavors Of Monterey Bay Offered By Pietra Santa

Last week was my birthday. Don’t worry if you missed it. I try to miss it every year but it catches up to me no matter where I run.

Anyway, on my birthday I get a package from Fed Ex. I’m thinking somebody in my family was sending money toilet paper, or some other gag gift. Instead, I notice that my friends at Calhoun & Company Wine Communications had sent me a couple of bottles of vino to drink.

When I opened the package the first thing to pop out is a bunch of paint brushes. This got me to thinking I’d been gypped. This was some kind of gag gift after all!

Under the brushes, which were pretty high quality oil painting brushes by the way, I found two bottles and a press kit from Pietra Santa winery in Hollister, California. The note attached to the brushes was a quote from Chagall: “Great art picks up where nature ends”.

It seems that Pietra Santa holds quite a tradition in Monterey Bay in California. The first grapes were planted on the estate back in 1850. Zinfandel vines from 1905 are still actively grown and harvested on the site. The Blackburn family, who now owns the estate has taken the winery back to the fundamentals of tradition and quality winemaking.

Located in Cienega Valley, just 25 miles from Monterey Bay, the estate sits near enough to the coast to get the cool maritime air from in the evenings and just enough heat during the day to ripen the grapes to full maturity. The name Pietra Santa actually means “Sacred Stone”. This name is given for the limestone and granite soil that the grapes grow in on the estate.

First I opened the 2009 Estate Pinot Grigio. Grown on the steep terraced hillsides, the grapes are set to receive sun in the morning and shade in the afternoons. This produces a really long “hang time” on the vines each season, and fruit that is much more able to produce full flavors.

A beautiful golden straw color in the bottle, the wine aromas filled the air as I poured the Pinot Grigio into my waiting glass. Fully stainless steel fermented, the wine is crisp and fresh on the nose with hints of lemon zest. The flavors are citrus, with lemon and grapefruit filling the mouth, followed by minerality, and a gentle acidity that cleanses the palate. I see this wine being a fantastic pairing with oysters or with steamed mussels.

The second bottle was the winery’s 2009 Estate Pinot Noir. Grown in the benchlands on the estate, the grapes are grown at approximately 1100 feet above sea level. I have personally experienced the effect of this climate on Pinot Noir, and find the maritime air to be intoxicating. If it is nearly as good on the grapes as it is on my well being. Let’s just say that this is the “Kobe” treatment for any Pinot Noir grape.

The Pinot Noir lays in the glass with a beautiful Ruby color. A nose of fresh earthiness that I love, is layered by odors of lavender, anise, and wild strawberries. On the tongue, the flavors are rich with strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and licorice. This is a highly complex wine that I enjoyed with parchment roasted salmon and red potatoes.

With a shelf price at just under $20 I would expect to see these wines in our region in the next few months. If they don’t make it here to the east side, definitely look for them when you travel to the west side of Oregon or Washington.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Your Opinion Needed!! I've been writing this little diddy for a few years now. My newspaper article, and the subsequent blog has become bigger and more successful than I ever dreamed. I have to say that I'm quite honored that people read my stuff.

The question that I have comes from a few discussions that I've had in the past few days regarding editorial integrity. I'm all about integrity. That is key to everything that I do.

When it comes to editorial integrity I have always taken the stance that if I don't have something nice to say about a wine, winery, or point of distribution I just won't say anything at all. You've even seen me rant a few times in the past years, and I didn't mention who I was pissed at.

On the other hand, some people feel that it would be refreshing for me to give my negative opinions as well. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The consequences could be quite negative. When you are negatively speaking about a winemaker's wine, you are basically doing the same as calling their children ugly.

The question that I have to ask is this: Do you, my readers want to hear about the ugly children in the industry as well, or will you continue to accept my don't ask don't tell policy?

You can reply to this by email, by responses to this article, through twitter, or on my facebook. I really do want to hear from you so I'm thanking you in advance for your responses!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Wines at Grocery Outlet Kennewick

Dane at my local Grocery Outlet store caught me as I was loading up on Creme Fraiche and strawberries and fruit last week. He had a brand new palate of wine to show me. We loaded a few bottles into my cart and here's what I tasted:

Rayes Hill 2004 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – Bright cherry flavors and faint chantrelle mushrooms on the nose. Cherry and rainforest flavors with silky finish. Perfect with grilled salmon.

Bixler Vineyards 2007 Union Island White – Banana and pear on the nose. Creamy textures with tropical flavors of banana and pineapple. Bright acidity on finish. Great with cream sauces.

Sassman Sassie 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – Leather and aged dark fruit on the nose with flavors of dark fruit, earth, and chewy oak and soft tannins. Great with grilled meats.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How About A Glass Of Salmon Safe Wine?

I was standing in a winery tasting room the other day and I looked down at a pamphlet on “Salmon Safe” wines. My immediate reaction was that this was a joke. First, I thought what salmon is going to drink wine? Then I thought about the fact that pairing Salmon with some wines can be unsafe for your palate.

What I didn’t think about was that vineyards, and winemaking can be hard on salmon habitat. I’m a bit of a throwback from the ‘70s when we used to throw our chemical waste into the rivers because it would wash into the sea eventually. Nobody even thought that it would affect the fish.

So, armed with a little pamphlet, I went on line and started doing some research. Of course the concept of salmon safe vineyard management came right out of Oregon and has spread throughout the western United States. The first vineyards to be deemed salmon safe were in the Willamette valley of western Oregon.

Founded by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon Safe is now an official 501 (c) 3 organization based in Portland. Their mission is to transform land management practices so that salmon can thrive in these Pacific Coast watersheds. The organization has grown and paired up with several other like minded organizations throughout the United States and Canada.

Let’s just say I’m a vineyard owner and I want to make my little piece of paradise Salmon Safe. What would I do? The answer appears to actually be quite easy. There are several organizations who are offering support in becoming Salmon Safe. In Oregon and Washington the organization to reach out to is called LIVE, or Low Impact Viticulture and Enology. Their website address is .

The next question I have as a consumer is how do I know if I’m drinking a Salmon Safe wine? The best way to find out is by going to and finding out for yourself.

Several of my favorite vintners from the Willamette Valley to Walla Walla, and everywhere in between are becoming Salmon Safe. Some are almost completely Salmon Safe because of their vineyard management practices, and many are on their way. Over 200 vintners from the region currently participate in the program.

A great example of a winery that produces almost exclusively Salmon Safe Wines is L’Ecole in Walla Walla. All of their estate vintages are listed with this designation. On the other hand, wineries such as Chateau Ste. Michelle have a harder time due to the number of wines they produce. Currently Ste. Michelle offers only their Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge labels with the designation.

My opinion on this whole concept remains pretty simple. I’m not much of an environmentalist. I’m not very good at recycling and I don’t see myself ever driving a Toyota Prius. However, if I know that I’m pulling the cork on a bottle of wine that didn’t impact the salmon habitat I figure that will be one more salmon I get to eat later.

For those who are environmentalists in this region I still wouldn’t admit it openly. However, if you can help make a really good bottle of wine that saves the habitat I’m all for it.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Finally Telling The Truth About Flavors In Wines

Blame it on the heat. Blame it on the people that only materialize at the county fair, or the WalMart lingerie department. For some reason I got to giggling as I sat down to write this column. My friend Barry Featherstone and I were visiting the other day and he said that I just haven’t been honest with you about where the flavors in wines come from.

Now, I know that I’ve written columns about this before, but he says that people are still coming to him confused and wondering. Heck. I realize that I’ve just downright been deceitful. So, once and for all, I’m going to tell you the full and complete untruth about wine flavors.

Yes…Wine flavors are the work of fairy gnomes. You heard it right here for the first time ever. I know that this will probably get me permanently banned from ever writing for a high-faluten publication like Wine Spectator or Wine Press Northwest. I’ll probably even be banned from attending events like Taste Ukiah.

You see. The fairy gnomes are paid henchmen for winemakers. The better known the winemaker, the more he or she has to spend keeping the gnomes quiet. It really is a racket. The problem is that gnomes can’t really be brought up on charges. They’re too small to catch, and if you do nobody will be able to flavor the wine any more.

Call it a symbiosis. An agreement between the winemakers of the world and their “little people” as they like to call them. The fairy gnomes get a little pay and all the beer they can drink for their nightly work. We all get to benefit from wonderfully flavored wines.

Since gnomes can basically live on beer, and they make their own clothes and furniture, they don’t need much else. I only know this because every time I go to a winery for a visit to one of my friends I must bring a 30 pack of Coors Light. When I don’t have a case under my arm the winery staff get a wild, scared animal look in their eyes. I don’t blame them. Those gnome wives can be vicious!

Ok. So here are some of the particulars. When I say that a Merlot has berry jam flavors I really mean it. Those little guys work all night slathering the inside of wine barrels with jam. It takes them hours for each barrel. The mis-truth that we’ve been telling all these years is that jammy flavors come from the reaction of malolactic fermentation and the oaking process mixing with the flavors in the fruit.

When I say that a Pinot Gris has a mineral finish, I’m saying that those little suckers really got even by rolling in the dirt and then swimming in the juice. It has nothing to do with the balance of low residual sugar and terrior.

It is the leather flavors that you really have to watch out for. Don’t worry though, racking and filtering usually catches the shoes before bottling.

If you don’t believe me on these new revelations I don’t blame you. I just want you to know some of these secrets so when the fairy gnomes flavor your wine badly you’ll know who to blame. And, you can always make a winery staff happy by bringing a 6 pack to share. It might get you a private tour of the gnome’s homes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Woodward Canyon Winery A Great Place to Start

If you follow my little train wreck of a column you'd know that I've been writing a series of articles over the past few weeks concerning a recent day trip I took to Walla Walla. I thought it would be fitting to end this series with the first winery that I visited.

From my house to Walla Walla is approximately an hour, depending on which state patrol officer I'm visiting with. At about 30 minutes into my ride I have the opportunity to stop at Woodward Canyon winery.

Woodward Canyon reminds me so much of the farmhouses from where I grew up. Large shady trees cover the picket fence and pretty lawn around a quaint farm house that looks like it could tell stories. Winemaker and owner Rick Small spent years building other successful wineries in this region, and when he had the opportunity to make his own he went for the keep it simple and fun. He lets his wines do the performing rather than fancy facilities.

I started with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. It was exactly what I was looking for on a 100 degree day. The nose was bright with minerality, lime, and grass. The taste was both citrus and creamy from the malolactic fermentation. A delightful acidic finish left the mouth feeling crisp.

Next, the staff poured the 2008 Chardonnay. The wine opens on the nose and the palate with ripe apples and pear. The wine crosses the mid-palate with a slight creaminess which turns into vanilla and hazelnut on the finish. A light acidity cleanses the palate. Rick makes his Chardonnays for long term cellaring and I would suspect that you could lay this one down for up to 10 years.

I had not tasted the Nelms Road 2008 Merlot, so I thought I'd give it a try. If you aren't aware, the Nelms label is Small's everyday brand. It is meant to be affordable, however not to be understated at all. The juice is still from top vineyards in the region and still made by a masterful winemaker. The 2008 is no exception, favoring towards the jammy side with flavors and odors of dark tree fruits and vanilla, this wine is among some of my favorites from the region.

Following the Merlot, I tried the 2008 Nelms Cabernet Sauvignon. Leading the way on the nose was notes of cherries and dried dark fruit. The berry flavors mingle and lead the way to notes of cassis, leather, and tobacco. This is a highly complex wine for the low price.

I've had the 2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon before, but when the staff asked I just couldn't resist. This wine offers up a nose of dark berries, cassis, and smoke. The flavors are deep and complex with notes of cherry, cassis, leather, spice box, vanilla, and smoke all swirling around on your tongue. It is an adventure in your mouth with each sip.

Last, I had to have the 2008 Estate Barberra. The nose offers up dark, rich fruits, with the spiciness and tannin that I love so much in Barberras. This wine would be perfect served with a chorizo and chevre pizza, or a nice venison pepper steak.

I highly suggest you start at Woodward Canyon on your Walla Walla adventures. It will help you in forming a great barometer for what the region has to offer in flavor and quality.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Watermill Winery A Good Reason To Visit Milton Freewater

Over the last few weeks I have been sharing on a recent day trip that I took to Walla Walla Valley. These articles are being punctuated by other articles as they arise.

It had been quite a while since I had been to Milton Freewater. As much as I enjoy the little town, it is not exactly a straight shot from my home in Kennewick. But, I was on a mission with my friends Phyllis and Becky Fergueson who run the annual Savor The Flavor event in the Tri-Cities.

After a quick visit to Petit Noir on the main drag through town to quench everyone’s need for the region’s most delicious handmade truffles, we headed back into the older section of town to visit Watermill Winery and its twin sister company Blue Mountain Cider.

It had been at least two years, if not closer to three, since I had been to the old Watermill building, and the now beautifully renovated tasting room that sits on the front of the property.

The Brown family established Watermill Winery in 2005 in conjunction with Rich Funk of Saviah Cellars fame. Rich and Andrew Brown set forth to produce wines together with the understanding that as Andrew’s skills honed, Rich would take more of a back-seat consulting role. That has happened, and now Brown is taking on the lion’s share of the winemaking tasks with Funk offering support. I was excited to see what Andrew has done with the reigns he’s been given.

I had to try the 2008 Viognier. I think I can openly say “scrumptious”. This is a really good Viognier. An English flower garden on the nose, with floral, apricot, and peach flavors. It finishes with creamed honey and minerals on the finish. I took a bottle home, and now I wish I had taken a case.

Next, I jumped to the Chances R Red Blend. A few vintages ago this was one of my favorite red blends from the region. Very affordable and rich. The 2007 has more of a grown up taste than the label suggests. After some air this wine offered up dark jammy nose and flavors, mixed with hints of leather, pepper, and spice box. At $15 it is definitely worth it.

The 2007 Midnight Red is an Estate Blend from the McClellan Estate. It offers 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, mixed with equal parts of Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. This wine is quite complex and elegant with bright cherry up front, leading to tobacco, leather, and berry pie as the wine slips across your palate.

I’m a sucker for a good Cabernet Franc, so I had to try Watermill’s 2007 vintage. This wine offers cloves and pepper on the nose. The flavors are rich with black cherry cola, pepper, and wonderfully silky tannins on the finish.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from several acclaimed vineyards reaching from Walla Walla to Kiona on Red Mountain. With a balance of 25% merlot, this wine hits all the corners of your palate. Dark fruit on the front, leading to dark cocoa, figs, walnut, and finishing with vanilla and a light smokiness this wine is one to have with a nice grilled rib steak.

One of the best parts about Watermill is once you’ve tasted through the wines, which I’ve only given a short list of, you can walk across the room to the Blue Mountain Cider tasting counter. I’ll leave that for a later article though.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Goodbye Jack. You'll Be Missed

The wine industry in Northeast Oregon lost a very important person this week. No, he wasn't some haughty taughty winemaker, or some vineyard owner with thousands of acres. But, I can tell you that if you purchased a bottle of wine from any location in Northeastern Oregon in the last 10 years, the bottle had been carefully handled at some time by my friend Jack Huth.

The industry isn't all fancy winemaker's dinners and $100 bottles of wine pouring over the counters of artsy tasting rooms. For the most part, the wine industry is dirty hard work. It is stacking and unstacking dusty boxes and bottles of wines thousands of times each day.

This truth was taught to me 7 years ago when I took a job as the Marketing Director with Graybeal Distributing in Pendleton. One of the best teachers I had in this was Jack.

One of the things that I did to familiarize myself with the thousands of products we offered was to work on the warehouse floor at least a little every day. Quickly I found the best way to learn the wine products was to follow Jack around. He knew everything we carried, and exactly where it was at any moment.

One lesson that Jack taught me happened in my first week. He watched me clumbsily grab for a bottle of Lambrusco on the warehouse shelf. Like a flash he was there at my side. Little did I know, but Lambrusco is quite dangerous. If a bottle drops the pressure will send glass shards back into your face. Jack knew this from experience, and he had the scars to prove it.

Jack was not only a good educator to us rookies in the business. He was also a generous, warm personality. You could hear his loud laugh several times echoing through the warehouse in a day. He would always welcome back drivers and salespeople from their routes. One of the first to arrive Monday mornings, and one of the last to leave Friday night.

There was one thing about Jack that I always found odd though. For all the bottles of wine he touched in his career, I don't think he ever found one that he liked. The best I could ever convince him of was to take a sniff out of a glass before he would turn up his nose and go "phsssssh!" No. Jack's drink of choice was Keystone Ice. So, in honor of you Jack, tonight I am drinking Keystone Ice and I'm going to offer the readers of this blog my tasting notes:

24 oz. Keystone Ice straight from the can (best by date - October 11). The nose is fizzy with a little mineral overtones. I can't really swirl it to bring out more, but my first taste is cold and refreshing. Afterall, it is 85 degrees out at 9 p.m. and any beer seems right tonight. The flavors are malty and sweet, with some bite from both the faint hops and the alcohol as it hits the back of my throat. A finish that is short leaves me ready for another slurp. At 5.9% alcohol I'd say not too bad for a buck fourty nine! Guess you were onto something Jack!

Thanks Jack, and my hope is that you'll be golfing, bowling, and enjoying an endless supply of Keystone Ice from now on. We'll miss you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Taking A Trip Down Avery Lane Tastes Pretty Good

Ok. So something happened this week that I thought was totally cool. I got asked to taste some wines. I know what you're thinking: "So what? You're the wine guy and you're always tasting somebody's wine. Right?"

Well, this is sort of true, and sort of not true. Usually I dive bomb into wineries without staff knowing who I am, pay my fee, and walk out just like any other customer. That is unless somebody knows who I am. This situation is a little different though.

My relationship with the owners of Grocery Outlet in Kennewick has been growing over the past few months. This week, Dane approached me and asked if I would taste some new wines that he had just brought in. These are wines from Avery Lane, one of the Precept Wine brands from Walla Walla.

Precept is well on its way to becoming one of the largest wine producers in the United States. Using talented winemakers from throughout the state, the company uses juice from many of the state's famous vineyards, bottles it, and markets it. Frankly, some of their wine brands are simply fantastic. Not only that, but the prices are out of this world!

One of the Precept brands is Avery Lane. A beautiful label, bottle, and cork. This wine is fit to be served anywhere from weddings to dinner with friends and they'll have no idea unless they read this column how much you really spent.

The wines I tried are as follows:

2008 Riesling: Peach blossoms and honeysuckle aromas fill the nose as you inhale. The initial taste is brilliant citrus, followed by a nice creaminess on the mid-palate. The finish is crisp and sweet with just the right amount of sugar balanced with acid to cleanse the palate. Enjoy with spicy home-made ceviche for a great meal pairing.

2007 Merlot: Cherry and vanilla fill the senses both on the nose, and in the mouth. When the wine is decanted or swirled in the glass the alcohol flavors make way for a delicious layering of cherries, dark berries, and vanilla. The jammy flavors make you want to have another sip! Enjoy with pork, beef, or a grilled salmon fillet from our freezer section.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark cherries, blueberries, and currents on the nose. The flavors are dark berries, vanilla, and a hint of leather. Silky tannins on the finish. This bottle tastes like a rich, dark berry cobbler ready to be gobbled up.

Now for the kicker...this stuff hit the shelves today at $3.99 a bottle at Grocery Outlet. I don't know how much there is, but I've already picked up my case!

Grocery Outlet is located on the corner of 4th and Olympia in Kennewick. I hope you can make it down there and check out some of their great wines. When you do, let them know I sent you!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Matchbook Ready To Set Fire To The Wine Scene

“As a farm kid growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, John Giguiere was a confirmed pyromaniac starting various things on fire such as his father’s wheat fields. He and his brother graduated to launching rockets which often blew up at some stage of the journey resulting in more random fires and calls to the local fire department for help.”

This paragraph stuck out to me as I read the attached letter from a recent box left on my doorstep by the UPS guy. My friend Katie from Calhoun Wine Company had once again sent me another interesting label to try.

Matchbook wines is a new winery located in the Dunnigan Hills of California just east of Napa County. John and Lane Giguiere, founders of the R.H. Phillips Winery back in 1983 had grown the empire into basically what it is today. A force to be reckoned with in the world of wine. R.H. Phillips, who’s labels include Toasted Head, are part of the family that locally includes Hogue Wines in Prosser.

In 2005 the Giguiere brothers left R.H. Phillips in 2005 with the idea of pursuing a new winery that took them back to their childhood. They wanted to get back to their roots of growing and making wine that they could have their hands on.

The first bottle I tried was the 2008 Old Head Chardonnay. The grapes are sourced mostly from the Dunnigan Hills Matchbook Vineyard. An additional 7% of the juice comes from Russion River Valley, and the balance is 3% Paso Robles Viognier. Basically, this being said, the wine from the estate vineyard is mostly fermented in used oak barrels, with the balance of the wine from other vineyards being fermented in stainless steel.

I found the wine to be very favorable indeed. The wine is dry, however the fruit flavors of melon, apple, and white peach show through and add sweetness. There is a little malolactic flavor of honey and cream, with a wonderful mineral finish. I served this with roasted chicken salad on a bed of romaine, and topped with a fresh blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. The wine balanced perfectly between the flavors of the chicken and the balsamic.

After dinner I opened the bottle of 2007 Tempranillo. As I have shared before, I have become quite the affectionado of Spanish varietals over the past few years. With so many being imported to our region at really good prices, combined with the new growth of Tempranillo in this region, I have to admit I opened this bottle with a little trepidation.

The 2007 Tempranillo is actually 88% Tempranillo, with 8% Graciano, and a balance of 4% Petite Syrah. Frankly, I was impressed with the low acidity of the wine. Most of the Tempranillos I have tasted this year were way too acidic to enjoy more than a small glass. This wine offers some acidity and spiciness, mixed with layers of dark cherries, and berry basket. The finish is full of blueberries. I would gladly serve this with lamb shanks, roasted pork, or possibly with a spicy seafood stew such as cioppino.

There is a possibility that these wines will be distributed in the near future in this region. If you see them on the shelf, I highly recommend you buy and try them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fun And Artistic Is The Dunham Cellars Way

One of the things I like most about visiting different wineries is getting to see the personalities behind the wines. One winery that has always stood out to me as being fun and artsy has been Dunham Cellars. I made a special stop though on my trip through last week and found some rather fun new surprises that I hadn't expected. Some of those were in the wines, and some were in the fun atmosphere that they offer.

Dunham Cellars, owned by Mike and Joanne, Eric and Luana Dunham, is located in the airport district in Walla Walla. It was well over 100 degrees that day, and as we were entering one of the winery dogs was lazily laying in the stream that winds through the courtyard.

We were greeted by the tasting room staff as if we were old friends and soon had glasses of the 2008 Lewis Vineyard Riesling in our hands. This wine is sourced from the Dunham Estate grapes and has wonderful orange and peach scents. Flavors of tree fresh peaches, pears, and a slight minerality at the finish. This wine quickly refreshed me and left me feeling like the dog outside in the stream.

The next wine that we enjoyed was the Shirley Mays Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was beautiful and solid. It offered up a beautiful combination of fruit, oak, and creaminess. Well worth the under $20 price for a label that goes to support Breast Cancer research.

On we went through the Four Legged White blend and the Three Legged Red blends. Both have been delicious under $20 blends that I have enjoyed for years. These wines are in honor of the winery dogs that grace the property. The Four Legged is to honor Maysy, Eric's companion around the winery. Three Legged Red is in honor of Port, who was the original Dunham Dog. Port passed away in 2008, but his legacy lives on in every bottle.

Going on, we tasted the 2006 Trutina. This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 17% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc offers up an old fashioned cherry cola on the nose, with flavors of cola and caramel apples. The finish was a rich mocha.

The 2006 Lewis Vineyard Syrah offers scents and flavors of dark cocoa, vanilla, and caramel. Unlike most Syrahs of the region, this is one that stays away from the veggie flavors and finishes smooth.

The 2005 Columbia Valley Syrah has earned many awards, so I was excited to taste it. It opens with dark cherries and blueberries, then turns to sweet tobacco and finishes with chocolate and soft leather notes.

Last but certainly not least was the 2006 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Eric Dunham's specialty is Cabernet. This one is filled with dark cherries and plums, with a background of baking spices and minerality. It finishes very velvety with soft tannins. Well worth the Wine Enthusiast score of a 93.

One thing that I started to mention earlier was the artistic quality both of the wines and the facility. Eric is not only a winemaker, but also an accomplished artist and chef. Basically everything the guy does is art from the time he wakes until his eyes close at night he is creating some form of art or another. The tasting room is a beautiful gallery of his works. I encourage you to come to the winery and check it out.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Take A Detour To Cougar Crest

With it being 100 degrees out, and the 4th of July in my recent memory, I decided to extend last weekend with a day visit to Walla Walla. Coming from the Tri-Cities on the highway I suddenly realized that I wasn’t on the same old highway anymore. Finally, after what seems like years of construction, the new highway is now complete.

The new road is great, but my old friends who have wineries from Touchet to College place on the old highway are now only reachable through a detour route. Thankfully there are plenty of signs and a newly paved road that will take you right down to the old route.

One of the stops I made after making the detour was Cougar Crest. If you haven’t been to the Cougar Crest tasting room since their big move from the airport years ago, you are truly missing out on a beautiful facility.

Debbie and Dave Hansen started Cougar Crest after moving back to Walla Walla in 1996. Debbie, a pharmacist, and Dave, a veterinarian, started their business small, with a simple love for wines. Debbie fell in love with making wines, traveling back to University of California, Davis, to earn her Enology degree.

Since then the Hansens have grown their business to be a very successful part of what makes Walla Walla a famous winemaking region. Each year, Debbie makes internationally award winning wines, earning high scores in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and many other highly respected wine magazines.

The warm and friendly atmosphere of the tasting room and staff compliment the wines very well. As I arrived I found Dave himself standing at the counter visiting with a few couples. Other tasting room staff were right there ready to pour and explain their large wine selection.

I’ve had many of Cougar Crest’s vintages over the years. Some of my favorites are their Viognier, their Dedication red blend, and their Anniversary Cuvee. This visit I decided to taste a few vintages and blends that I hadn’t enjoyed before.

First, the 2007 Estate Viognier. As I mentioned Debbie’s Viognier is always one of my favorites. It wins awards year after year. This one opens with orange blossoms on the nose. Melon and white peach mix with the floral notes on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing.

Next, I tasted the Dedication Four blend. Where does the time go? I remember falling into the Dedication One blend just a few years ago, then being surprised at the quality of the Dedication Two. I never even had the Dedication Three blend. The Dedication Four is a wonderful blend of 44% Syrah, 32% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a nose of roses and herbs, plums and dark cherries on the mid palate, finished by soft tannins.

The 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc was a special treat for the day. This is a true, 100% Cab Franc, filled with a balance of dark fruit, tannins and bright acidity. The finish is a long mocha flavor.

Last I tasted the 2007 Estate Port. Blended from traditional Port varietals Tinta Cao, Touriga, and Souzou, this fortified wine is definitely in a tawny style. It opens with bright fruit, fills the entire palate with complex flavors, and then finishes in a deep, rich, cocoa.

Hopefully next time you are in Walla Walla you will take the time to check out the new highway, and make a detour down to my friends on old Highway 12.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Casa Silva Offers A Great Taste Of Chile

Some weeks, like last week, I really struggle to come up with a fresh idea or winery to talk about. Other weeks, like this one, I have it given to me. In this case, literally! This week I received a couple of sample bottles from my friend Kylie Garrett of Calhoun & Company Communications.

Calhoun & Co. is a marketing firm that specializes helping good vintners get their wines noticed and consumed. The winery she asked me to consider this time was Chilean wine producer Casa Silva.

Located 90 miles south of Santiago Chile is an area called the Colchagua Valley. Much like Napa Valley in California, the area is located between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. It enjoys warm arid days, good drainage, and cool evening breezes. Perfect growing conditions for many different species of grapes.

This is where Emile Bouchon, a French immigrant, decided to settle in 1892, and carefully plant the cuttings that he carefully carried from his old home in Bordeaux. The Bouchon family went on to be one of the top producers of wine grapes in Chile, supplying other winemakers for nearly 100 years.

Emile’s great grandson Mario suggested in 1997 that the family needed to step beyond just being grape growers and become winemakers as well. Their specialty grape is Carmenère, Chile’s trademark wine.

So, with great anticipation I opened my box and dove in to find a bottle each of Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenère.

I cooled and opened the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc first. Sauvignon blanc is a grape variety that grows well in arid climates. Casa Silva carefully hand-sorts their fruit and crushes whole grape bunches. They then ferment the Sauvignon Blanc in 100% stainless steel.

The thing that impressed me most about this wine was the gentleness. The Casa Silva was very delicate and floral on the nose. The taste was slightly tart like gooseberries, with a nice finish of ripe banana and orange blossoms.

I had this wine with butternut squash ravioli and a nice butter cream sauce with roasted red peppers and herbs. The wine was acidic enough to break the creaminess of the dish, and yet was delicate on the palate.

After dinner I sat on my deck and enjoyed the 2008 Carmenère Reserva. The Carmenère was somewhat tight at first and needed to be swirled or decanted in order to open it up for drinking. I prefer to just sit and swirl, which worked quite well for me.

Half of the wine ages in French Oak for 6 months, and the rest remains in stainless steel for the duration of the process. The wine begins on the nose with aromas of dark bing cherries and plums. The fruit opens up in the mouth to include pepper and a hint of cardamom. The finish is warm and long with balanced tannins. I would highly recommend either drinking this with lamb, venison, or other spicy meats. Or, like me, looking out at the sun setting over the Cascade mountain range and a glass in my hand.

There are several negotiations going on for distributors in our region, with hopes to have this wine launched in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington soon. At suggested retail prices of around $12 per bottle I know you’re going to want to try these wines out.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

How To Drink Wine Like A Pro

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot of people that like to drink wine, but most of them just don’t know how to do it. Sure, anyone can screw the cap off of the bottle of Arbor Mist Blackberry Merlot and slug it down in the store parking lot. I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is really learning how to drink and enjoy wine.

To begin, a wine needs to be smelled. Yes. Smelled. I was told the other day that the reason dogs are so good at smelling is because their noses are so close to the ground. At first this made me snortle a little. Of course their noses are close to the ground. But, after thinking about it a few moments I thought “how profound”. Ask any teenage boy who wants to wear a shirt for the second day. If you put your nose close to anything and breathe deep you can smell everything.

For years I’ve been preaching to people that they need to smell their wines. There is so much in the enjoyment of wine that comes from putting the glass right up to your nose and giving it a deep sniff, just like fido would do.

To intensify the esters coming off of the wine, and helping it lift the odors a bit you need to swirl the wine in the glass. This requires you to not pour a full glass. Instead, pour just 1-3 ounces in the bottom of a large wine glass. Swirl it using the base or the stem. With some practice you’ll be able to keep that white silk blouse from becoming burgundy colored.

Once you’ve adequately swirled your wine, and adequately equals intensely, go ahead and put the glass to your nose again and breathe deep. Do you notice any nuances or changes? Do you detect any odors of fruits or spices? Are there any odors such as sulfurs or dirty odors that make the wine not so pleasant? All of these things are more easily found when you’ve learned how to smell your wine like a dog.

After you smell and swirl your wines multiple times it is now time to take that first sip. I always take a small sip and let it pass over the tongue from front to back and side to side. Let it slip down the back of your throat, swallow, and take a deep breath to get all of the flavors.

Does the smell of the wine match the flavors? If not, why not? A perfect example of a wine that has a completely different “nose” from the flavors is Bergevin Lane’s Oui Deux Syrah. The nose is intensely floral from the blended Viognier, but the flavors are full bodied Syrah with dark berries, vegetable garden, and a complete spice box.

Next, I suggest doing the same swirl and sniff technique, followed by another small sip, and then suck air in between your teeth with the wine still in your mouth. Doing this will blend the wine in your mouth and break up the dullness of any tannins or acids that are present. This method allows you to get the full body of the wine in a single mouth-full.

If you are in a winery tasting room and you do these techniques the staff will assume that you are some amazing wine critic and they will ask you to come back to their VIP area for private tours, dinner with the owners, and free cases of your favorite beverage. Just kidding! However, you will amaze your family and friends with your wine tasting skills.