This winter in the Walla Walla Valley has been one of the coldest on record. There have been two week-long spells of sub zero temperatures and much more snow than usual (which is typically an inch or two, not six to twelve inches). Twice Graybill Pond in front of our house on Kendall Road froze solid. One morning, our thermometer registered minus 2.6 degrees. Our January heating bill was horrendous. We spent ten days in Southern California (with two days of heavy cold rain in Pasadena) and returned to Walla Walla for another six inches of snow the next day.

The winter weather has had an impact on the wine industry as well. There was an article in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about how local businesses experienced a downturn. Icy streets have deterred people from going out of their homes. This has affected wine tasting rooms as well. A couple of wineries reported that sales were down 30%. The same for restaurants. January and February are normally slow months, but this year has been slower than usual. There was a February for Foodies promotion and we attended a winemaker's dinner at Forgeron Cellars which was very nicely done. The 2012 Anvil Cabernet Sauvignon was a hit (to be reviewed in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines - 19.5/20 points).

Another concern with the extremely cold weather has been about the grape vines. Fortunately, the vines went into dormancy in November and December, before the freezing weather hit. But some younger vines may not make it, and will have to be replaced. Also, some varieties are less hardy than others. We will have to wait until bud break in the Spring to assess the extent of damage.

Things are starting to get back to normal. Temperatures have been in the 30's, with early morning lows in the 20's. Spring will be coming before long!

March Cellars and Vital Wines at the Oscars

On another winter note, Ashley Trout's March Cellars and Vital Wines will be poured for attendees at the February 25 pre-Oscars gifting event at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This is a first for a Walla Walla Valley winery. Vital Wines provides medical care for seasonal winery workers at the SOS Clinic, funded by proceeds of the sales of wines produced from donated grapes, equipment and supplies. March Cellars is Ashley's own winery, a tribute to those who moved westward in the 1800's.

March Cellars and Vital Wines is offering "The Oscar Pack" for $150 (plus 1 cent for shipping). It consists of three bottles of the 2015 Vital Wines "The Gifted" Red Blend, two 2014 March Cellars Chardonnay and one 2014 March Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc. (See the October and December 2016 issues for reviews of these wines.)

Our Valentine's Day Wine

On yet another winter note, Lynn and I had filet mignon with a 2012 Domaine de la Charbonnière Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Vieilles Vines. From 80 to 100 year-old Grenache vines, with a bit of Mourvèdre, it was superb, with intoxicating aromas of wild berries, orange peel, lavender and oriental incense. The flavors comprised an intricate composition of of multilayered fruits, robust yet velvety, marked by pepble minerals and a long complex finish. 19.5/20 points.

Next Week: On February 22, the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines goes on line along with a Review Blog posting about current wine trends.