Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Too Can Become A Wine Slob

When people ask me about my wine experience I proudly tell them that I’ve now progressed into a wine slob. Most people just chuckle uncomfortably when I say that. They don’t quite know where I’m headed with my off-handed statement. Some even think I’m just being crude or flip. But, frankly, I do think that I’ve become a wine slob, and I’m damn proud of it.

Let me explain. Being a wine slob is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that I’m sitting on the side of the railroad tracks slurping on a bottle of Night Train. What it does mean is that I’ve consumed enough wine, in enough different environments, and with enough different people, that I’ve grown comfortable with my palate. That, and I don’t make judgments about people who don’t drink what I drink.

My twins turned 21 this week, and with their new age gained the ability to buy and consume alcohol freely. They both came back to the house the other night with a 6 pack of beverage in their hands. Before they even took it out of the bag I knew what they had bought. It was a Smirnoff lemonade.

How did I know that they would buy this? Because, as younger drinkers our palates tend to start with something soft and sweet. This is not a bad thing. It just is what it is. I remember being a young adult drinking my favorite wine, which was Johannesburg Riesling. I hated anything red at the time. You couldn’t force me to drink even a fruity Merlot.

My oldest son has bridged into the next generation with his palate. He likes red wine and hard liquors. His girlfriend’s dad is a scotch drinker, and they spend time together drinking well aged rye on the front porch of their house.

The other day this son ventured out to Fidelitas with some of his work buddies. His favorite wine was the Champoux Merlot and no one could convince him that there was anything else drinkable in the tasting room.

I was like this for many years. Once I had reached the maturity with my palate that reds were ok, I wouldn’t drink anything else. I even came up with excuses as to why whites made me nauseous. I can’t tell you the number of dinner guests that I have at my house any given year that won’t drink a white wine. I figure that’s just more for me.

At some time everyone grows to a level of comfort with their palate that all wine has its positives and negatives. I specifically remember the day that I became a wine slob. It was when Jean Francois Pallet from the Pepperbridge – Amavi fame insisted that I drink his Semillon and his Rose before I would be allowed to taste his Cabernet Sauvignon.

As I sat at this cafĂ© in Walla Walla eating lunch and listening to his stories I realized that I was drinking some of the finest wines I’d ever had. And…they weren’t red!

Since that day I have learned not to turn down a glass or taste of wine when it is offered to me. As I look at other very talented wine writers, makers, and servers around me I realize that they do the same. We’ve grown up. Our palates have grown up. And, we’ll never be able to go back to insisting that only one variety or flavor is the only one to drink.

Here is to wishing wine snobbishness on you!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wine On My Doorstep Makes Me Smile

I love the John Denver song that went “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, Sunshine In my eyes makes me cry….”. I was singing it this week when my doorbell rang and a friendly UPS guy with two boxes in his arms needed a signature for a wine delivery. I just love new wines on my doorstep. It always makes me smile!

The first box held two beautiful white wines from Italy. A bottle of Vesevo Falanghina, and a bottle of Lungarotti Torre Di Giano. The second box held two bottles from the Mossback winery from the Russian River Valley in California. A bottle of Chardonnay, and a bottle of Pinot Noir.

As you well know, we are finally having some heat units in this region, and I’ve been loving the sunshine. However, the thought of drinking red wines hasn’t been really something that I was too excited about. So, when these two boxes of samples from my friends Kylie and Kristen at Calhoun and Company arrived I was enticed to chill the bottles and give them a taste.

First, a little research about the wines, their vintners, and the areas they are grown in. The Italian wines come from two distinct areas known for fantastic white wines. The Vesevo winery is located in Campania. The region of Naples. Volcanic soils from Mount Vesuvius produce a couple of different varietals. One of which is the Falanghina grape. This grape, introduced by the Greeks to the region 2,000 years ago, offers a wonderful rich bouquet and acidity on the palate. The Vesevo Falanghina offered up flavors of melon and spring flowers with a nice minerality. I drank it alone on my deck, but really wanted a piece of seared sea bass to pair it.

Further north is the Region of Umbria. The Lungarotti family has been producing “local” wines for many generations. The Torre di Giano is a blend of Trebbiano and Grechetto to produce a rich and zesty acidity. I had this with some rolled anchovies on cracker bread and started speaking Italian right away it was so good!

The other night after a long day I broke open the Mossback Chardonnay and fell deeply in love. As I mentioned earlier, the Mossback winery is located in California’s Russian River Valley, just north of Santa Rosa.

The Mossback winery is named after the old fashioned term for a farmer. The winery, owned by the Giguiere family has been successfully making and marketing wines for many years. They founded the R.H Phillips brand and Toasted Head.

The 2009 Chardonnay is unoaked, which allows the flavors of fruit to shine through. This Chablis style retains the acidity and also a lot of the green apple, honeysuckle and pear to come to the top. There is a slight creaminess, but not butterscotchy like most Chardonnays.

Last, I enjoyed the 2009 Pinot Noir. Made from 97% Russian River Pinot Grapes and 3% Syrah from Dunnigan Hills. This wine is beautiful, supple, and smooth on the palate. It features full strawberry, and black cherry flavors with a hint of rhubarb and a light spice on the finish. Fantastic!

I know you’re thinking “where can I get these wines”. Well, this is a good hint that these wines will be available on Washington and Oregon store shelves in the near future. I suggest you look for them and give them a swirl.


Keep Your Cool With A Wine Cocktail

I was sitting on my deck this last weekend thinking I needed something really cold and alcoholic. As my mind wandered through my fridge I thought about Margaritas and Mai Tais. “No”. I didn't want to go that high-test. Then I thought about enjoying an ice cold beer. “No”. I wanted something different. That is when I remembered an ice cold “Wine Slush” that I'd had last summer. Mmmm!

There is a home-based business out there that produces a wine slush mix. All you do is pour your favorite red wine into a bucket, mix it up, and put it in the freezer. A few hours later you pull it out and Zowie! You have a delicious wine slush to enjoy.

My problem was that I hadn't gotten in touch with anyone and ordered one of these “slushie” kits. Well, as somebody said, necessity is the mother of invention. I had a great level of necessity and needed an invention really bad, so I got on Google and looked a few things up.

One recipe that I found was quite simple and delicious. It takes a bottle of your favorite red wine. The recipe also calls for a cup of Pomegranate Juice, and a pint of raspberries. I didn't have pomegranate juice, or a pint of raspberries. What I did have was a bottle of Ocean Spray Cran-Blueberry juice and some frozen raspberries that I found in the bottom of the freezer.

I took a cup of the juice, and a bunch of the frozen berries and blended them in the blender. I decided that I wanted my slushie to have some sweetness to it so I put in a ½ cup of sugar just for fun. I poured my mixture into an old ice cream tub that I found, and mixed in my bottle of Syrah. I threw the bucket into the freezer and waited. About two hours later I opened up my bucket to find a wonderful slushie concoction. I spooned it out into my glass, sat on an Adirondack chair in my back yard and proceeded to slurp my slushie down. Yum!

After getting my wine slushie fix I decided to look for more recipes. It seems that sites on the web have hundreds to choose from. I suggest that you just go online and find one that looks like it has the flavors that you prefer.

If you don't want a slushie, another summer favorite of mine is a good old-fashioned Sangria. Sangria usually offers a mixture of wine, fruit, and some form of liquor to balance the flavors. One of my favorites is to use a Pinot Gris or Riesling. I mince up a bunch of sweet strawberries and other fresh fruits, and add a little Contreau. Mix it all into a large pitcher and let it sit one or two nights in the refrigerator. On the third day you can enjoy your amazing creation.

If you're tired of those options there is always the opportunity to kick it old-school. Back in the day, before Mr. Bartles and Mr. James, we used to make our own wine coolers. I know! It sounds kind of crazy, but we used to mix a bottle of sweet white wine like a Chenin Blanc with lemon-lime soda. Add some fruit and turn up the AC/DC baby!