Monday, December 24, 2007

Inaugural Holiday Pairing Guide - COMING SOON!

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Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy Festivus to you all! As this season of holidays is well underway, we at The Oregon Wine Blog have done little to recognize the season. That is because as you may have already read we are planning an inaugural Holiday Dinner and Wine Pairing Party! This is a staff celebration for the Holiday Season that will take place in early January. Timing and schedules did not allow for a pre- or mid-season Dinner Party, thus a post-season party is the result.

Alas, this is no regular holiday party, it is indeed a party worthy of a wonderful partner. For our inaugural party we are proud to announce that Willamette Valley Vineyards has graciously partnered with us to provide you, our readership, with the 2007 Holiday Pairing Guide. The pairing guide will provide wines to be paired with a traditional holiday turkey dinner from appetizers all the way through to dessert! Some of the staff favorites from Willamette Valley Vineyards will come out; look for wines like the Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, the Pinot Gris, and even the ever elusive Pinot Noir Port will appear (so elusive no link can be provided!).

Soon after the Holiday Party, when we've all had a chance to confer and compare notes, a summary of the party and subsequent pairings will be posted for all to read. Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to let us know! Our emails can all be found to the right in the staff contact list.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season and take time to enjoy some wonderful wine with family and friends. Also, give the gift to someone that keeps on giving and teach them to enjoy the wonders of the viticulture of the Pacific Northwest.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Duck Pond Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir

A recent article in a “newlywed” magazine (disclaimer forthcoming) which my wife subscribes to, asserts the trend that youthfully aged newlyweds meet and mingle with other youthfully aged newlyweds; the reason being that couples desire having those friends whom they can go camping with, go out on the boat with, etc. When our 40 something married couple neighbors were recently replaced by what appeared to be 20 something newlyweds, we knew we had to capitalize on this potential newlywed vs. newlywed friendship. We opted for a Holiday Style meal, which occurred Monday night.

While awaiting the first delivery on our Viticultural journey (A Whidbey Island White), my wife and I had to scramble for a quality red to compliment our inaugural meal. We’d planned a flank steak, paired with Asian Noodle Salad and a Red Rosemary/Italian Seasoned Potato Dish. Believing first impressions are everything, no chances were taken on the wine selection, opting for that “sure thing” I knew would represent us well. I chose, dare I say, an Oregon Varietal, Duck Pond Cellars - 2006 Pinot Noir.

Before I’m berated by my fellow bloggers, let it be known that Duck Pond Cellars utilizes Washington land for a good portion of their harvest. The Pinot family of grape, however, is grown in the Willamette Valley.

Fellow Oregon Wine Blog Staff Member, Josh Gana, and I, had the pleasure of enjoying a tasting session at Duck Pond Cellars a few years back (2005). I remember leaving the session thinking their Gew├╝rztraminer was good, but their Pinot Noir was great.

I used a couple tablespoons of the wine as a portion of the marinade I’d produced for the flank steak. Letting it marinate 12 hours, I was hopeful our main course would be a treat. Of course, having popped the cork, I couldn’t resist my first glass.

The wine glistened in the glass, showing off a purplish, more ruby colored texture. A swirl gave evidence to a thin mix, to some dismay. The nose offered a youthful aroma of cherry and berries, some of which I had difficulty pin pointing. The wine provided a balanced, smooth collection of flavors, while slightly light bodied. The finish was shorter than I prefer.

Had I had it over, I would have preferred a more robust wine as a marinade, possibly a Cabernet Sauvignon. In the context of conversation, tasting enjoyment, and making new friends, this Pinot Noir was no let down, while a little less enjoyable than I remembered back in 2005.

And yes, as you’ve figured, I do read articles in “girly” magazines!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chateau Lorane - Cuvee Prestige

This evening, as has become an unofficial tradition, I opened a new bottle of wine - Chateau Lorane - Cuvee Prestige. This happens to be a white table wine that should be served chilled, not cold, as could easily be done by error. As per the Chateau Lorane website, this is a blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Sauvingnon Blanc.

This is another wine that has a nose I really enjoy. Like a true Viognier, there is a great scent of a mixture of fruits - with a slight hint of possible champagne? By the scent alone, you would imagine that this wine would be one for those of us who are bigger fans of sweeter wines. However, when you take your first sip, the fruit sensation and anticipation of what could be is all gone. This is a very dry wine that has a flavor more tart than I would like. I don't like the harsh after taste that exists either.

Overall, I am unimpressed with this wine to the point that I struggle with what more to write. It has a great nose, which can be very misleading, both to those who like sweeter wines (and realize it is not), and the ones who don't like sweet wines (and think it is). Aside of that, not much else is left. There are some sporadic bubbles that I find to have developed in my glass, but not in the bottle.

Oh well, you cannot win them all, and you never leave a man down.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A point well taken...

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This evening I was reading a post on Beyond the Bottle, another blog covering the Pacific Northwest wine industry, and I was compelled to share it here on The Oregon Wine Blog. In the post, "Breaking the Unspoken Code" Thad analyzes what I would call a positive bias trend within the wine press. Essentially, the argument is that many leading wine reviewers write inflated reviews to continue the "gravy train" -- free wine provided by the industry to writers for review. Check out Thad's excellent post for more in-depth thoughts regarding that issue.

I certainly acknowledge that a positive reviewing bias exists in the wine press, in fact, it is an issue we have struggled with here but for different reasons. Many of us have a propensity to only purchase wines that we have tasted and enjoyed, otherwise it would be a waste of limited resources that could be used to purchase more good wine. The staff here are still in the "up-and-coming" stage of life, not "already arrived" status after all. These are the wines that get reviewed here for the most part, although Micheal has made a point of reviewing some wine that he didn't enjoy as much. Additionally, its just a heck of a lot more fun to review a great bottle of wine than it is to review suckiness.

The title of this post is "A point well taken" because I think we can take away a lesson in transparency from Thad's post. Now, The Oregon Wine Blog certainly isn't classified as leading reviewer and we pay full retail price for a lot of our wine, but there are some exceptions. We've developed great relationships with some local wineries that at times result in a free bottle here or there, an industry discount, or a special tasting--and I am a small shareholder in a publicly-traded Oregon winery (small enough where all the wine purchases in the world wouldn't positively influence my financial situation).

There is nothing inherently wrong with forming postive relationships and participating in the industry--the ability to do so is one of the things that make the Pacific Northwest wine scene such a great place. I am confident that these relationships and perks, which are minor in the scheme of things, haven't influenced our content (we'd buy / review the same without the discount). As a writer and editor, I strongly believe that the notion of transparency gives validity to our journalized experiences. The sheer nature of this type of media encourages personal opinions, but I don't want you to think that a mystical gravy train shapes our reality. In the future we'll take a page out of Beyond the Bottle's book and disclose sourcing information to allow our readers to make informed decisions about our work. We don't make any money off of this venture and surely wouldn't complain if a free case of wine showed up at *our* doorstep.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kiona - Red Mountain Chenin Blanc 2004 Ice Wine

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Yes, this is the Oregon Wine Blog. Yes, we already have a Washington Correspondent who does a great job, but why should he get all the fun? Part of the reason I am reviewing this wine is because it came in my recent Willamette Valley Creme du Cru quarterly shipment.

I first got introduced to Kiona Winery in December of last year when invited to go to some of the vineyards in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. I remember they were building their larger tasting room, which is now open, but at the time it was inside of the owner's house - very quaint and intimate setting. The Red Mountain Chenin Blanc Ice Wine is a dessert wine, harvested late in the season after the first frosts and freezes of the year. This is a sweeter wine, so for those of you who are not big fans, this might not be the one for you.

I enjoy the nose on this wine - when you sniff it, you can smell the sugar, initially, but then you are able to catch the full citrus aroma of the grapes. The nose almost makes you think that there might be apples and pears in it. This could be due to the fact that the Chenin Blanc "showcases aromas of citrus, melon, and pears" and has a "tart green apple finish."

When swirled, the glass gets a nice coat. The initial taste of this wine is one that will be a sweeter on the palate, but then subsides relatively quickly and you are left with a lingering citrus after taste. If you give yourself a few moments after each sip, you feel as if you have eaten a couple of sweet grapes.

I definitely find this to be a good wine to sit and unwind with or one to help start off the week on a Sunday evening.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Holidays and Block 15 Update

Happy holidays to all the readers of The Oregon Wine Blog!

It’s an interesting time here in the Willamette Valley where an infrequent day of sunshine, like today, provides respite from the normal fare of rain, rain, and more rain. Here in Corvallis, the exodus of college students leaving after finals has in an instant provided easy access to restaurants, stores, and other services in town that isn’t possible when school is in session. This time of year is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy all that this blog is about – fellowship, fun, and the culinary bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Last night a group of us went to a Chanukah party, with a traditional serving of latka and kosher Jewish wine. In addition, off of the shelf also came a bottle of Barnard Griffin Syrah, Eola Hills Merlot, and Ste Chapelle Riesling Ice Wine. All the elements came together for a wonderful evening.

As noted back in early November, our staff has been closely monitoring the progress of a new restaurant and brewery in Corvallis – Block 15. Opening the doors in mid-January with a twist of “Independent, Local, and Unique”, Block 15 is going to add a refreshing take to the culinary scene. We have been privy to some menu tastings and have also been in the facility throughout various stages of development, and excitement is abound. The other night I tried a delicious smoked salmon spread that will call for an evening at the brewpub with a bottle of Riesling. The Oregon Wine Blog has assisted in developing the wine list for the restaurant, and while the final list will take shape based on availability of distribution, price point, and the preferences of the founders, our recommendations included wines from the following wineries:

With that, I’ll bid adieu as we take off for another holiday party this evening. In the coming weeks you can look forward to a feature on pairing wine with a traditional holiday dinner, using wine from Willamette Valley Vineyard’s Wine Guild, in addition to the usual smattering of wine reviews, winery visits, and industry analysis.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pursuing the 1%

Let’s face it; much like wines of Oregon, the origins of Washington Wine can be predominantly traced to one specific region in the state. In Washington this area is identified as east of the Cascade Mountain range. In fact, eight of the State’s nine official American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) are located in this general area. These include the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain area, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills area, Wahluke Slope, and Rattlesnake Hills regions. Data as recent as 2006 suggests these eastern regions grow 99% of Washington’s wine grapes. The one western AVA you ask? The Puget Sound Region.

Why bore you with mind-numbing Washington Wine facts? I have a purpose!

Take a stroll down any wine aisle advertised as “Washington Wines”, and the number of varietals with “Columbia Valley”, and “Yakima Valley” roots can be overpowering. I’ll argue with no regrets, that wines from these regions are what placed Washington on the world wine map, and as such, a majority of the press and publications are well deserved. I, however, have a different mission.

Prior to Thanksgiving, and as early as Halloween, I searched all my usual hot spots for a wine which classified as an estate grown wine of Puget Sound, the 1 % of Washington Wine I’d like to think. At Safeway, no luck. At QFC, no luck. At the Purple Caf├ę and Wine Bar, no luck.

My bitter pursuit of the 1% taught me two things. First, my wine knowledge surpasses that of the local wine stewards at my local markets (yes, I’ve graduated from nearly snooty wino to snooty wino), and secondly, any consumption of such estate grown wines, will more than likely require a ferry ride across Puget Sound, where most seem to originate. Before I divulge into my most recent (non Puget Sound AVA) delectable treat, let me first give space to those wineries neither appreciated by my markets, nor their stewards.

Bainbridge Island Vineyards, Black Diamond Winery, Carpentery Creek Winery, Eagle Haven Winery, Glacier Peak Winery, Hoodsport Winery, Lopez Island Vineyards, Mt. Baker Winery, Perennial Vintners, San Juan Vineyards, Vashon Island Winery, & Whidbey Island Vineyards. In months to come, look for entries relating to varietals produced by these wineries. I’ll admit some reluctance in opting for these lesser known wineries, but look forward to the adventure that awaits.

On to a more soothing subject, I recently opted for a psychedelic red, pertaining to a more than funky mood I’d obtained while searching for the 1% representatives. You could say I was duped by clever marketing, highlighted by an extremely plain label with black writing stating “House Wine”. The price caught my eye at less than $15.00, however, the kicker was it’s noted combination of four of Washington’s five most prominent red varietals, notably, Cabernet Sauvignon 54%, Merlot 30%, Syrah 11%, Malbec 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. The winery, “The Magnificent Wine Company” states it is produced and bottled in Prosser, WA. Grapes are grown in the Columbia Valley.

The nose offered a smooth collection lavender and floral currents. As expected, the wine tasted predominantly of its Cab and Merlot distinction, yet the true winner in this “House Wine”, was the Syrah, offering a powerfully flavorful and full-bodied complement. There was no evidence of oak barreled scents, rather a velvety application of peppered enchantment.