Monday, June 18, 2012

Two New Wine Shops To Make Me Smile!

Wine and More in Kennewick
I’m so excited when a new wine shop opens. It’s like Christmas, my birthday, and the 4th of July all mixed into one. This month, with two new wine shops opening nearby, I’m like a kid on Halloween candy as well.

I want to start off by telling you about my long-time friend Patty Wolk, and her new wine shop in the Southridge district of Kennewick. Patty and her friend Anita Kenfield have opened a great little shop on 3600 Zintel Way called Wine And More.

Having been around the wine business for a long time, Patty new the magic combination required in order to make a shop like this successful. The shop includes the wine and gift items that you find in many wine shops, but also includes a little bistro where you can get some great food and just sit and enjoy a glass of wine with friends.

As a matter of fact, that is just what I did yesterday. As I sat in the shop enjoying a San Pelligrino I started visiting with newlyweds Mark and Marsha Reis who were enjoying a lunch of Chardonnay and a couple of small plates of food. We got to talking and sharing food, and became the best of friends in just a few minutes.

We enjoyed the Northwest Steak Planks, which are crostini planks with hand-carved beef and gorgonzola. We also had the Red Mountain Flat Bread with artichokes, feta, grilled chicken, and herbs. Absolutely fabulous!!

Wolk and Kenfield were very thoughtful in opening their shop together. Anita, who has a long career in retail focused on gift items that are unique and fun. Jewelry and art adorns the store that isn’t available just anywhere. It is hand made and selected.

Patty, who really understands the wine business wanted to focus on wines that are unique. Her thought was that anyone can get a bottle of wine from the Northwest. She focused on varietals and getting the best wines from regions where those varietals shine. Her selections of world wines are as fabulous as her local wines.

I see Mary Ann and I hanging out with Mark and Marsha and numerous other people at Wine and More for years to come.

If you’re looking to come to Kennewick this weekend, their Grand Opening Celebration continues Saturday with a visit from the amazing Charlie Hoppes from Fidelitas. Champagne tastings are on Sundays, and every day there are wine flights available.

Second, I know that I’ve been ranting and raving about how the sky is falling here in the Tri-Cities when it comes to alcohol sales. On the other hand, the new laws here In Washington have allowed for us to have a wine megastore here in the area. Mid-Columbia Wine and Spirits has opened in Richland this month, and a Kennewick store opening in July.

The store’s owners, Micheal Shemall and Rajiv Malhan, who own, were able to use the new laws to leverage their business into the retail environment. The selection is the largest I’ve seen, with bottles ranging from 375ml to 6 liters in size, and from just a few dollars to thousands.

You can find just about anything your heart desires when it comes to selection. If you’ve been looking for a rare Brunelo di Montelcino that you enjoyed on your honeymoon in Italy I’m pretty sure you’ll find it there.

My good friend Sabrina Griever is one of the wine stewards and managers at the store. Tell her I sent you.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Interesting Facets of Tempranillo

I’m a big fan of wines that aren’t Bordeaux. Don’t get me wrong. Oh, do I love the rich flavors of a good Cabernet or Merlot. Although, there is just something so mysterious about wines that aren’t like anything else. So many times I just want to step out of the box and try something a little different and mysterious for a change.

One of my favorite regions for wines with an interesting set of flavors is Spain. And, one of my favorite wines from that region is Tempranillo. Named from the diminutive Spanish word “Temperanillo” which means early, the grapes are some of the first harvested in the warm Spanish growing season. Often times Tempranillo is harvested weeks before any of the other varieties.

This grape, used to make Rioja, is considered to be the noble grape of Spain. It was used up until just a few decades ago to produce mostly jug wines. Over the past few years it has become more and more popular as a blend or single variety high end specialty wine. Tempranillo has gained quite a following in the last few years, and now it is becoming a popular grape even here in the Western U.S..

What I like about Tempranillo is it’s rich and spicy flavors of berries, plum, leather, and fresh tobacco as a general set of characteristics. It is low in acidity and sugar making it great for those who don’t like acidic wines. Other flavors such as vanilla can be easily infused through the oak of good barrel aging.

In my very difficult research for this article I decided to talk about two different methods for Tempranillo out of the same winemaker. I received two bottles from Matchbook wines out of Dunnigan Hills. I chose a bottle of mostly Tempranillo blend, and another bottle that was a Tempranillo Rose’.

The Matchbook 2009 Tempranillo is 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine offers rich flavors of black berries, cinnamon, clove, cocoa, and vanilla. It is dark in color and has just enough umph to hold up to a pesto or tapas.

The 2011 Rose’ of Tempranillo. Unlike the blend I just talked about, this wine was bled from the skins right at crush before the colors would darken. It was then cold fermented in stainless steel for 3 months rather than barrel aged for up to 18 months in oak barrels. The result is a much more delicate wine with a nose of cream soda, with flavors of watermelon and peaches. With a residual sugar of under .5% this fairly dry wine has most of its flavor from the fruit and malolactic fermentation.

These versions of Tempranillo are very soft and delicate. I’ve also had many from the northwest that were much more full bodied. The results are always an overall spiciness with great food pairing abillites.

The next time you’re a little weary of the same old merlot I hope you’ll give Tempranillo a try. There are several offerings on most grocery shelves, and many of our local wine shops have even more choices.


Gallo Wines Buys Into Northwest Wines

Gosh!! I Love it when I’m right! I’ve been saying for years that E & J Gallo Company from Modesto, California was going to join the Northwest winemaking scene soon. It was only a matter of time until the Gallo family owned a piece of the Washington and Oregon wine biz.

Guess what got announced this week? You got it. The Gallo family purchased both Columbia Winery, and Covey Run from Ascentia Corporation. Ascentia, who also sold off their interest a couple of weeks ago of a couple of other northwest wineries to Precept Brands, must be doing some pretty stealthy capitalization because they are cutting loose some nice properties.

I’ve been a big fan of Gallo wines ever since I sold for them through Graybeal Distributing. Gallo is really a company that’s really got it together when it comes to making, marketing, and branding their wines.

The one thing that has always held the company back from true success in the northwest was that we are pretty proud of our own wines. In most cases it is nearly impossible to convince a person from this part of the world that a Californian wine would be superior to any rot gut from around here. Truly, wine in California or Europe is overall significantly better, and sometimes cheaper. But, we here in this region are proud of our own brands.

A couple of years ago Gallo started to really get it right. They looked at the success of brands like Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and Precept Brands and realized that they needed to produce wines through other local labels like those companies do. Box and jug wines are way out of vogue and the Gallo numbers were dropping quickly.

Gallo started by picking up some big European brands like Gascon Malbec. Everything at Gascon stayed the same, but the ownership and money flow was different. Great wine at a great price.

Recently, before the big 1183 fiasco hit us here in Washington I picked up some booze to stock up. I picked up a bunch of New Amsterdam Gin. One of my favorites. The Lady at the store told me that they sold tons of the stuff. When I told her it was a Gallo product she just about passed out.

Now, with Gallo picking up stock in the northwest we are sure to see the lines get a lot more blurry. One thing I can tell you is that the Gallo distributors are going to see a huge increase in their numbers out of this.

Covey Run was founded in 1982 in Prosser, and was one of the benchmark wineries that kick started the Washington wine industry. Helen Willard, one of my good friends from the Prosser area started Covey Run as Quail Ridge with her late husband Leon. Helen still walks the vineyards of the winery every day with her dogs.
Columbia Winery started in the garage of Dr. Lloyd Woodburne in Laurelhurst, Washington in 1962. In 1979 they were joined by pioneer winemaker David Lake and the rest is history. Known as Washington’s first premium wine brand, the winery has grown exponentially through the years.

Congrats to all in this purchase. I know that both the winemaking staff, the founders, and the Gallo brand will be strengthened by this.