- Written by Rand Sealey
Coming Up in the March Review of Washington Wine Issue
On next Wednesday, on the third day of the month, the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines will go on line. In it, you will see the the first wine ever to be awarded 20 out of a possible 20 points in this publication. The identity of the wine remains secret until then.
Accompanying this issue will be next week's Blog which will elaborate on how the 20 points came to be awarded.
The March issue of the Review has also been revamped. The profile of the Maison Bleue Winery and its exceptional 2008 reds has been postponed until April, by which time the winery's website should be up and running. The March issue will review new releases including the outstanding 2007 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill, and the fine 2008 reds from Rotie Cellars. Also, there are two Highly Recommended Cabernets from O'Shea Scarborough. Plus, I have discovered some excellent values from Columbia Crest, Ch. Ste. Michelle and Precept Brands, including new releases from Waterbrook.
So, watch for this special double issue of the Review and the Blog!
Washington Wine Grape Production Up 8 Percent
U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics released February 9th, states:
"Washington's 2009 wine grape production totaled 156,000 tons, a record high level, and is up 8 percent from 2008. Of the top four varieties, Chardonnay showed the largest increase and was up 19 percent from last year. Of the major varieties, Malbec received the highest average price per ton at $1,473. Growers received an average of $989 per ton for all varieties in 2009, down $41 from last year's record high of $1,040."
For more statistics, go to www.washingtonwine.org, and then click PRESS ROOM.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Valentine's Release Weekend in Woodinville
Yesterday (Saturday, February 13), we drove over to Woodinville to visit a few wineries which were releasing new vintages. It was Valentine's Day weekend, so there was a festive lovers' holiday atmosphere, with some wineries offering red wine and chocolate pairings. Here are some highlights:
Our first stop was at DeLille Cellars where the 2007 Chaleur Estate and Harrison Hill Reds were being released. The Harrison Hill (19.5 points - to be reviewed in the March issue) was a classic, complex, terroir-driven wine. Tasting it alongside the Chaleur Estate (reviewed in February - 19.5 points) revealed two stylistically different wines even though the blend compositions are closely matched. The Chaleur Estate seemed a bit less fruit-driven and a bit more smoky and minerally. Qualitatively, I found the two a tossup.
Then we went to Barrage Cellars which we visited for the first time. There, owner-winemaker Kevin Correll took us through a collection of wines with names like "Trifecta" (100% Merlot from three vineyards) "Outcast" (100% Cabernet Franc) and "Secret Weapon" (100% Boushey Vineyard Syrah). All were striking wines. I will report on them in the April issue.
Next, we went over to William Church where a mobile bottling line was bottling the winery's 2009 Viognier and 2008 Reds. The day's bottling was being offered for immediate "adoption." Customers bought the wines on the spot and took them home for either immediate consumption or to lay away for at least a couple of months to recover from bottle shock. The Viognier was lovely, and the reds highly promising.
After that, we crossed North Woodinville Way to a loop that passed through a townhouse complex down to some more warehouse wineries. At Covington Cellars, we found David and Cindy Lawson who have an attractive tasting room where they do winemaker dinners as well. We tasted some lovely wines which will be reviewed in the next (March) Review issue.
Our last stop of the day was at JM Cellars on "Bramble Bump," a knoll overlooking the Sammamish Valley. The tasting room was hopping, as guests sampled the new 2007 releases. Paige Leighton and the rest of the crew were busy pouring wine and ringing up sales. All four new '07's were exceptional (to be reviewed in March). Also released was the 2008 Bramble Bump Red which, though just bottled, was delicious.
Watch for the March and April issues of the Review of Washington Wines to learn more about these wines!
Winery News: Precept Wine Brands Acquires Corus Estates and Vineyards
On January 1st, Seattle-based Precept Wine Brands acquired Corus Estates and Vineyards. Corus was owned and operated by the Dan Baty family. Dan Baty is co-owner of Precept Brands, so this represents a consolidation that will better coordinate the marketing and distribution of the new entity's products. The newly acquired brands include Alder Ridge, 6 Prong, Zefina as well as other Oregon and Idaho (Sawtooth) brands. As part of this marketing expansion, an Alder Ridge tasting room has been opened in Woodinville to present Horse Heaven Hills AVA wines, including Zefina, produced by winemaker Rob Chowanantiez. The tasting room is open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 11 to 6, with extended hours to begin in May.
Note: Back in January, I visited Precept Brands' tasting rooms in Walla Walla: the Waterbrook Winery on Highway 12 and Walla Walla Wine Works on Downtown's Main Street. I found some exceptional values which will be reviewed in the March issue.
- 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.