- Written by Rand Sealey
Grenache - The Next Salmon Wine?
All of you, I am sure, are aware that Pinot Noir has been touted as the red wine to have with salmon. But I have found that this combination works with only a few Pinots, especially those from Oregon. Many have turned out to be too dull to stand up to the richness of salmon.
Recently, I have heard some makers of Washington Grenache (the first to do so was Jon Martinez of Maison Bleue) advocate that varietal as an alternative to Pinot Noir. I have been told (by Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars) that Grenache has a medium-bodied flavor profile that is similar to Pinot Noir, but in a different way: Grenache has more aromatics and better fruit-acid structure. So I have tried pairing Grenache with salmon several times and found it to work very well. I have tested the following Grenaches successfully:
2007 Isenhower Cellars "Rara Avis," Columbia Valley (reviewed in the November issue)
2008 Maison Bleue "La Montagnette," Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard (to be reviewed in March)
2008 Maison Bleue "Le Midi," Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard (ditto)
2008 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, Columbia Valley - 70% Grenache, 15% each of Syrah and Mourvedre (to be reviewed in March)
At this time of year, most wild salmon - King and Sockeye - is frozen. And Atlantic salmon is too bland. But I have found fresh farm raised Steelhead (a salmon-like trout) to be quite good. The fat content (the "good" Omega fats) is high since the fish are raised seasonally in cold waters. It is by far to be preferred to Atlantic or frozen fish. I have tried Steelhead with Grenache and found it to work beautifully. Also, when this year's catch of Kings and Sockeyes come on to the market, be sure to try them with Grenache.
Some Real Deals on Washington Wines
In my Blog of January 11th, I wrote about how wines were being offered at "Fire Sale" price reductions of up to 50 percent or more, and how many of them were flawed or unbalanced. I received Esquin's February newletter last week and tried these three wines which are real bargains.
2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon, Columbia Valley ($11.99 - Regular $16)
L'Ecole makes one of the best Semillons in the state. This one yields rich pear and fig aromas with a waxy fruit texture that is counterpointed by citrus undertones, all gliding into a rich, leesy, honeyed yet dry finish. 18/20 points.
2005 O S Winery "M," Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard ($16.99 - Regular $30)
This 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon combo offers a rich, smoky black cherry and black currant nose with loamy earth smells. The dark fruit flavors are mouth encompassing, imbued with a chewy texture, Red Mountain minerals, licorice, milk chocolate and spices, all gliding into a long finish that shows tones of dried fruits. 18.5/20 points.
2006 Zero One "The Wild Sky" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($23.99 - Regular $30)
Sourced from the Spofford Station Vineyard southwest of Walla Walla, this Cabernet delivers a rich wild berry and cherry nose, with scents of tobacco and rubbed sage. The rich berry fruit follows through on the palate along with a backdrop of licorice, chocolate, earth and graphite tones, and finishes off with ripe tannins and a vanilla bean note. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Wine and the Boeuf Bourguignon Craze
Ever since the movie, and then the DVD, of "Julie and Julia," there seems to be a craze for Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. While in Walla Walla last week, I saw an advertisement in the Union-Bulletin: "Don't Miss the Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon Cookoff Contest." The Cookoff was to benefit a local hospital and was to be judged by prominent Walla Walla chefs. Then, a few days later, Lynn and I were invited for dinner with Kathy and Troy Ledwick (of TL Cellars). Kathy served Boeuf Bourguignon and it was delicious, done with julienned carrot spears, pearl onions and lots of mushrooms. We urged her to enter it in the Cookoff.
Now, there are numerous ways to cook Boeuf Bourguignon besides the "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recipe. Some cooks omit the lardons, some use chopped tomatoes (which I do) instead of tomato paste. I omit the garlic, as the onions add enough flavor. As for the braising wine, Julia Child suggested "Chianti," which I think is an odd choice. Boeuf Bourguignon is a Burgundian recipe and traditionally should be made with Burgundy (Pinot Noir or Beaujolais). Just about any red wine will work, so long as it is a good wine (not corked or oxidized). I often have used Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. One time, I even used Zinfandel.
For the wine to serve with Boeuf Bourguignon, I usually use the same type of wine as that for braising. With a stew braised in Syrah, I generally serve another Syrah. I find stews a utiltarian way to use red wine leftover from my tastings for the Review of Washington Wines. Stews are also great to prepare in advance and reheat the next day. And leftovers can be reheated again. Boueuf Bourguignon has considerable leeway in braising time, so long as you don't leave it in the oven and forget it, as Julie in the movie did.
Sometimes, I will do a lamb stew using a similar technique as for Boeuf Bourguignon. Other times, I have done ragouts of beef or lamb, which consist of whole, rather than cubed, cuts of meat. I get any of these, whole or cubed, grass-fed, from Thundering Hooves in Walla Walla or the the Swinery in West Seattle. I have served either braised lamb or beef after winemaker get-together tastings. Once, after a Syrah tasting, I served lamb stew in Syrah. Another time, after a Malbec tasting, we had a ragout of beef braised in Malbec wine.
Boeuf Bourguignon - and its relatives - make highly versatile and easy to serve dishes. No wonder the movie has enhanced its popularity.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Walla Walla Wine News
I have been in Walla Walla for almost a week now. Here are some new developments in this town since I was here last in December.
T. Maccarone's Buys Merchants Ltd.
Tom Maccarone and Jake Crenshaw have purchased Merchant's Ltd. on Main Street and will rename it Olive Market Place. When its sister restaurant opens, T. Maccarones on Colville Street will end its lunch service. The Market's Ltd. location is being completely renovated. Even the sinks and toilets (which are piled up behind the building) are being replaced. The reopening will be good for those who like to discover new wineries, as Tom has always been a supporter of them.
Cayuse Moves its Release Party to April
The second weekend of November became "Fall Release Weekend" when other wineries joined Cayuse in releasing new vintages. Now, Christophe Baron has announced that Cayuse's release party will be moved to April. Baron says he needs the warmer weather. This is great for lodging and restaurants as it gives them another weekend for extending hospitality to out of town guests. But it makes things tricky for other wineries. Spring Release in early May, though, will stay there, as it is a scheduled Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance event.
Amavi and Pepper Bridge to Open Tasting Room in Woodinville
The sister Walla Walla Valley wineries, Amavi and Pepper Bridge, raised some eyebrows with the announcement that they would open a tasting room near the Hollywood School House in Woodinville. This continues the extension of outposts in this burgeoning area, joining Walla Walla wineries, Gifford Hirlinger, Dusted Valley and Isenhower. There is an undeniable logic to having a presence closer to Seattle and Bellevue, but Woodinville cannot possibly compare to the allure of Walla Walla, especially that of Pepper Bridge's own location with its sweeping view of the vineyards and Blues.
Locati Cellars and Faces Walla Open Tasting Rooms
Locati Cellars, owned by Michael and Penne Locati, has opened a tasting room in the old Railroad Depot. Watch for reviews of its wines in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Another new tasting room is Faces Walla on Main Street. It is owned by Rick and Debbie Johnson who also own Walla Walla Inns. I will be doing a write-up in the March issue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Promoting Washington Wines
When I started the Review of Washington Wines in December of 2008, it was with the mission of promoting Washington Wines. My stated purpose is "keeping subscribers informed about the latest releases and developments in the rapidly growing Washington wine industry." In sum, my goal is to help wineries and consumers alike through my wine reviews which are designed to evaluate and inform on as consistent and rational a basis as possible (hence the 20 point rather than the 100 point system).
Since its inception, the Review's subscriber base has grown steadily. Now there are nearly 250 subscribers. Not surprisingly, most are in Washington state. But many are out of state - Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, California and others. Most subscribers are consumers, but many are in the wine industry.
In reviewing their wines, I try to help the wineries by directing consumers to their products. This is why my reviews include links to the wineries' websites. Once, while I was visiting his tasting room, a winemaker told me he had just gotten an order from someone in Hawaii who had read about his wines in my Review. Wineries also have made use of my reviews. My reviews can be found in the websites of the following wineries: Couvillion, DeLille Cellars, Davenport Cellars, SYZYGY, Amavi, Gifford Hirlinger, TL Cellars. El Corazon, Kontos Cellars.
Above all, the Review of Washington Wines is a consumer publication. That is why I write detailed descriptions of each wine, so that the reader can see if a particular wine's style and flavor profile fits that person's tastes. The Review is not intended to be a "by the numbers" periodical.
I Would Like Your Input
I am always looking for ways to make the Review of Washington Wines more useful to subscribers - consumer and industry alike. I launched this Blog last summer so that I could broaden the Review's scope. And I am still looking for more improvements to my publication.
So, let me know what you think: what you'd like to see, what I could do better. And your input on wines and wineries I should be looking at will be appreciated. There are hundreds of Washington wineries, and I've just begun to cover them. Feel free to comment on anything I've written, or haven't written, or to ask questions. I will answer any inquiries or comments. After all, my goal is to help promote Washington wines in any way possible.
Finally, to all my subscribers, thank you!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Forecasts from the Crystal Ball
Wines on "Fire Sale" - In Esquin's January newsletter, I found many wines - mostly from Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, but some from Washington and California as well - at prices that were being slashed by 50-60% or more. I picked up a few of these to try. Some were flawed or unbalanced. One wine had ph imbalance and showed excessive acidity. Another had a noticeable aldehyde smell upon aeration. Caveat Emptor! Try before you buy.
I expect dumping of wine at deep discounts will continue well into this year. There is a big backlog of unsold wine, especially from overseas, that will continue to pressure the market. Unfortunately for the consumer, the mediocre wines will be dumped first. (See below for a few Real Deals.)
A Return to a Rational Market - As more excess inventory gets unloaded - along with many "clunkers" - consumers will learn that "Fire Sale" wines are not all bargains. Washington wineries that offer quality and value will gain momentum. And higher-end wineries that deliver outstanding quality will hold their own.
More New Wineries - The urge to strike out on one's own is too strong to resist, and more new wineries will crop up. The commitment of many striving Washington winemakers is truly remarkable.
Greater Awareness of Washington Wines - More and more consumers around the country will become aware of the qualities that make Washington wines exceptional - the dedication of the people who make them as well as the geography and geology.
Wineries to Watch in 2010
Bergevin Lane - With Danish winemaker Steffan Jorgensen, this winery is on the upswing to new even higher levels with its 2006's (see the November Review issue) and 2007's. Also watch for the 2008 Francisca's Vineyard Syrah.
Forgeron Cellars - In a visit to the winery in September, I found Marie-Eve Gilla to be a talented winemaker. I liked what I tasted from the tank and barrel as well as in the tasting room. (See the September Review issue for the Roussanne and Barbera). Look for more to come.
Rasa Vineyards - This winery, owned by Billo and Pinto Naravane, is off to a highly impressive start. See the January Review issue for reviews of the 2007's and the 14 December Blog for the 2008's.
Reynvaan Family Vineyards - This is certain to be the next cult winery (Christophe Baron of Cayuse is a consultant there). Watch for the 2008's which are being offered as futures - buy them! Scroll down to the 14 December blog for my notes.
Robison Ranch Cellars - This Walla Walla winery was bonded in 2008. Owners Jim and Jane Robison and their winemaker partners, Brad and Ruth Riordan, will start releasing their 2008's this spring.
T.L. Cellars - With his departure from Hence Cellars. Troy Ledwick can concentrate on his own wines. His Releases No. 1, 2 and 3 all have received 19 or more points in my reviews. Look for Releases No. 4 and 5, and possibly No. 6 later this year.
Tertulia Cellars - See the January issue of the Review for a profile on this winery. I liked what I tasted from the barrel for the 2008 vintage.
Sleight of Hand - Trey Busch continues to make exceptional wines. His 2008 reds are sure to be knock-outs, so watch for them!
Davenport Cellars, El Corazon, Gifford Hirlinger, Maison Bleue and SuLei Cellars - All of these offer terrific quality for under $30. Some of their wines have already been reviewed, and watch for new releases from them.
Note: to see my notes on 2008's scroll down to the 13 December article. The date at the top is that of the post creation; the posting date appears at the bottom.
The Real Deals
Among the "Fire Sale" wines I tasted from around the world, I found a few winners. A lovely, aromatic Pinot Noir from Chile and an engaging Cotes du Rhone. Some so-so wines included a pleasant but uncomplicated Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a Petit Verdot that promised more on the nose than it delivered on the palate. Some disappointments included a cloying, banana-like Washington Chardonnay as well as the flawed wines mentioned above. Here are three "Real Deals" from Washington state.
2008 Milbrandt "Traditions" Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($8.99)
After tasting the aforementioned Chardonnay, this was a real relief. It offers a fragrant pear-apple and lilac-scented nose with a hint of anise. The flavors are fresh and lively, yet well-nuanced, imbued with wet stone, a touch of lime juice and a hint of creaminess on the crisp, yet finely-fruited finish. This is a fine rendition of this variety at a bargain price (previously $16). 18/20 points.
2005 Sandhill Merlot, Red Mountain ($9.99)
The Sandhill facility has been sold to the Corliss operation which will create a new sister winery on Red Mountain. Consequently, Sandhill had to move its inventory. As a result, Esquin purchased a large quantity of this Merlot which formerly sold for $25. It exhibits a rich, smoky raspberry and wild cassis nose with tobacco and sandalwood scents. The flavors are classic Red Mountain Merlot - rich chewy and minerally, but with plenty of ripe, plush fruit to carry it over. The back palate is laced with licorice, chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean and roasted berry notes on the dryish tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2005 Ridgefield Cinnamon Teal Red, Columbia Valley ($6.99)
This is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc from Sandhill which once sold for $14. It delivers a rich, spicy raspberry and cherry nose with scents of anise and rubbed sage. The flavors are full and generous, with tones of cocoa, cola and coffee on the back palate, followed by a squeeze of berry juice on the chewy finish. A bit of astringency shows up after a couple of hours aeration, so use this for casual quick drinking. 17.5+/20 points.