Thursday, July 22, 2010

This is the Story of a Post

So tonight, I was going to make a post. A real, legitimate post, all about wine and stuff. You see, I have three different posts swirling around in my head that just need to come out in prose for your on Le Tour de Pinot, Stage 3; one on the Pre-WBC Yamhill-Carlton Tour; and one on a RoxyAnn Claret that is delicious. Alas, I have failed, and all you get tonight is me rambling about why I haven't written a real post in like 2 weeks. In the time it is taking me to write this, I could have completed one of the aforementioned stories, but I figured this would be more entertaining and take less mental acuity. So there it is.

So let me start out by saying that my life is currently packed away in boxes. My wine collection is strewn among two locations, the wine rack currently empty. That's right, I'm moving. Rick is moving as well, this means two things. First off, the headquarters of The Oregon Wine Blog is being relocated to a different location in Corvallis (my place), and, we now have a writer working out of Portland (Rick). With writers in Salem, Corvallis, and Portland, we now will provide more comprehensive coverage of the Willamette Valley, in addition to our coverage out of Seattle, Spokane, and Sonoma. Word. What other wine blog gives you that type of variety?

All day, I was making plans for what my evening would look like. Dinner, some errands, the gym, packing, and then making a wine blog post. I really needed to get a post up, or my fellow wine blog staffers would be upset (even though I started the blog). I got home...cooked dinner...ran some errands...went to the gym...opened a bottle of wine...and did some packing.  Well, right around the 7th box of personal effects and 3rd glass of wine, all ability to coherently and intelligently post about a topic of value went out the window, or down the drain, or in a box, depending on your perspective. So, you're stuck with my rambling.

All this to say, look foward to some awesome content in the next couple of weeks. We've got the three posts mentioned above, the International Pinot Noir Celebration, some other enterprise articles, and I sent a bottle of Pend d'Orielle for review to Portland with Rick so now he has an excuse to crack that open.

Now, back to your scheduled programming.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Le Tour de Pinot Stage 2: Spindrift Cellars


On July 3rd, a much smaller crowd than our last stage departed to visit another familiar winery from last year's tour; Spindrift Cellars. Josh, Alyssa, and myself headed out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for what turned out to be a quick stop for lunch before a bit of wine tasting. In Philomath and craving for loaded hot dogs? High Five Sports Bar will hook you up! More on that when we decide to start The Oregon Processed Meats Blog.

For those of you not familiar with Spindrift Cellars, it is a small winery in Philomath, OR owned by Matt and Tabitha Compton. What only a year ago seemed to focus mainly on a few varietals has turned into a winery with very progressive growth and variety. They're also very committed to sustainability with many Salmon-Safe and Live Certified wines all bottled with screw-top caps. I know we've been hammering this in a lot lately, but three cheers for screw caps!

Now onto the wine. First, I want to point out that this is probably the sixth time we've written about Spindrift Cellars. Why do we write about them so much? Because everybody who works there is incredibly warm and welcoming and the wine is phenomenal. They also have one of the best lines of white wines of any winery in the Willamette Valley. That's not to say their reds aren't great, but I rarely get excited about trying whites and Spindrift is one of very few exceptions to that.

Upon walking into their tasting room, Meagan immediately greeted us and introduced us to a group of folks from North Carolina and Tennessee who happened to be tasting. Introductions out of the way, it was time to do some tasting. Since we've done reviews of Spindrift's offerings before, I'm going to highlight a few we haven't talked about much.

Our very first tasting was of their 2009 Gewürztraminer. While a young wine, this was a perfect way to cap off having just rode into town on a warm day. This wine hovered just around 1% residual sugar and provided just enough sweetness while also being refreshing. Even after the entire flight, this one stuck out as a top two or three favorite for all three of us. Very good bottle of wine to pick up for only $14.

The next wine I want to highlight ended up being Josh's, mine, and anecdotally Tabitha favorite; their 2009 Pinot Blanc. I'm going to go on record and say that this is tied as my favorite white wine of all white wines. The one it's tied with is almost twice as expensive and given the option, I rather have two bottles of Spindrift's Pinot Blanc. Preferences aside, this is the ultimate white wine for many reasons. It's refreshing, it's crisp, it's every so lightly sweet, and it provides a light tropical fruit profile not seen as often in Northwest white wines. It holds its own by itself on a warm summer day while also pairing well with a multitude of food options. If I had to suggest leaving Spindrift with just one bottle, this would easily be my choice.

Finally, we were in for a treat when they poured us 2005 Pinot Noir from the cellar. This was part of a small, limited re-release and Alyssa declared it as her favorite. This Pinot Noir aged well as it presented a light amount of fruit with a low-medium level of oakiness that makes it the perfect sipping wine. Not much left (if any at this point), so pick some up while you can.

All in all yet another great trip to Spindrift. Thank you to everybody who gives their their time and energy into producing some of the best wine in the Willamette Valley. If you haven't had a chance to visit Spindrift or try their wines yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle.

Up next for Le Tour de Pinot is Stage 3 at Tyee Wine Cellars TOMORROW (7/17). Want to join us for the ride? We'll be meeting up at Avalon Wine in downtown Corvallis at around 11:30. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Visit Yakima!

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Though lesser known that some of the more established wine regions in the nation, Yakima, Washington and the surrounding areas have some amazing wineries. In fact, according to the Yakima Wine Association, grapes grown in Yakima and the surrounding areas are used in more than half of the wines made in Washington state. Last week, my husband and I escaped the hustle and bustle of our daily life and headed to Yakima to celebrate our first anniversary. We were looking forward to a relaxing time at the Orchard Inn Bed & Breakfast while tasting some of the delicious wines that Yakima has to offer.
The Orchard Inn Bed and Breakfast was the perfect place to rest every night and enjoy an amazing breakfast each morning. The B&B is nestled in the middle of a cherry orchard. We were blessed to be staying with Henner and Karen Krueger, owners of the B&B, during peak cherry season! Each morning we were treated to fresh cherries as part of our breakfast. The first morning, we enjoyed a delicious stuffed cherry french toast. On our second morning, we enjoyed fresh cherries soaked in sugar and balsamic vinegar, topped with Greek yogurt and cocoa powder as a side to a delicious egg dish with tomatoes and roasted asparagus. Each night that we returned to our room to find a homemade raspberry liquor on our table.

Our room was on the second floor and had its own porch. The weather was almost 100 degrees the entire time we were there but cooled down at night. We enjoyed sitting on our porch and watching shooting stars while listening to the humming of the sprinklers in the cherry orchards in the background. We slept like babies on great linens in a very comfortable bed. The room also had a microwave and mini-fridge, so we were able to store leftovers and pack a picnic lunch for our day of wine tasting.

My husband also wanted to surprise me with creme brulee, so he called Karen prior to our arrival to make arrangements. Karen was so kind as to call local restaurants to see who could accommodate this order (and let her take home their ramekins with a promise on her life that she would return them). She was so willing to go out of her way for this great surprise. Zesta Cucina in Yakima was willing to create these amazing desserts for us! We had original creme brulee and a raspberry infused creme brulee which was probably one of the best I have ever enjoyed. I highly recommend!

Henner and Karen were delightful hosts with excellent suggestions of wineries, restaurants, and sites to see in and around Yakima. As travel agents prior to owning the B&B, it was easy to see how the transition into running a B&B was a natural one for this generous couple. For anyone about to enjoy the delightful wines in Yakima or the surrounding areas, I highly recommend the Orchard Inn B&B! You will have a wonderful experience with service that makes you feel like you are just another member of the family!

More to come on the wineries later!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You're a Shining Star, You're a #PinotNoir


On July 15th the relatively famous #PinotNoir tasting will be "on and popping," as the kids say. A collection of twitterati have put together yet another varietal-focused virtual tasting. The trick here is that they've got it set up like some kind of battle royal thing, where the fake wrestlers all "fight" each other to determine world domination. In this case the organizers hail from some of the greatest Pinot Noir producing regions of the country: Atlanta, Georgia. Though I jest about Georgia's Pinot-producing acumen, these characters, Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite and Joe Herrig of Suburban Wino along with one of our favorite Northwest wine bloggers, Tamara Belgrade of Sip with Me, have put this little donnybrook together.

While there have been a plethora of twitter tastings lately, what I especially like about this one is the smack talking, fake wrestling element of it. Rather than all of us singing the praises of the wines of Washington or the Chardonnays of (gulp) California, we're talking smack and shouting out loud about our favorite Pinot spot. Californians will be talking about Carneros and Sonoma Valley and Napa (which I believe is an auto parts place?), and I of course will be flying the flag for the Willamette Valley.

The good folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards have sent me some exquisite weaponry for this "battle royale of Burgundian origins." While fake wrestler types often use things like chairs, ladders, or crow bars to bludgeon their opponent, I will use the 2008 Founder's Reserve Pinot Noir. This is far more effective than any old ladder, 'cause odds are, it's damn delicious. I haven't had it yet of course, but in one day... Boom.

So folks, get out there and hit the streets for Pinot Noir, and it's greatest growing region, the Willamette Valley. Some of the Willamette Valley's finest establishments are hosting tweet-ups to allow you to gather together and tweet from the same room. Some are offering amazing deals on their wine, like Duck Pond Cellars and the aforementioned Willamette Valley Vineyards. So it's really a win, wine, win situation.

How do you play along, you ask? Get your twitter machinery and a bottle of Pinot Noir ready to roll; if it's not Willamette in its origins, then I wonder about you. From there, taste that wine in your glass and unleash a torrent of twitter descriptions on the whole wide world, making sure to use the hashtags #PinotNoir (one word) and #WV for Willamette Valley. There are other hashtags for California Pinots, but I don't believe in that sorta thing. It's unnatural. Tweet away about your #WV #PinotNoir and we'll make sure that the world's finest Pinot producing region get's its due.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Southern Mediterranean Festival at Cana's Feast

I know what you're probably thinking. Yes I'm still alive and yes, I still write for The Oregon Wine Blog. Where have I been? I have a new job, moved to Portland, and have been bouncing back and forth from Corvallis. Expect more frequent writing and a whole lot more articles about wineries and events in the Portland area. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the reason why I'm writing.

While at Edgefield's Celebration of Syrah last April, Josh and I met Patrick Taylor from Cana's Feast Winery. What immediately clicked between us was a shared viewpoint on the wine industry and how to best get younger people interested in Northwest wine. One topic lead to the next until he mentioned an event at Cana's Feast that I knew I had to be at; their Southern Mediterranean Festival.

The SoMed festival is all about highlighting varietals from Southern Spain and Southern France grown specifically in Oregon. Everybody in Oregon has a pinot noir or pinot gris, but what about trempranillo, grenache, roussanne, or counoise? As a huge fan of seeing Northwest wineries try new things, it was my job as a respected wine journalist to find out. I also decided to bring my sister, Laura, with me. She had never been to a wine event before, so I figured she's the perfect person to test how an event like this is perceived from a novice wine drinker.

Before I get to the wine, let me first take a moment to share a bit about Cana's Feast and its property. Located in Carlton, Cana's Feast is immediately distinguishable by it's beautiful Spanish-themed tasting room / wine making facility / restaurant. This happened to be one of the most beautiful days of the year, so I was immediately excited to see the outdoor tents and seating areas. I didn't get a chance to check out most of the indoor facilities due to the event being outside, so let's get to the wine!

My first stop was at Grochau Cellars' station where Laura and I tasted their 2007 tempranillo and 2008 Tinto (tempranillo/syrah blend). Both wines were great with Laura preferring the tempranillo and myself liking the Tinto just a tad more. Both are very affordable and I'd highly recommend picking up either.

The wine aside, we also had a chance to chat with Grochau's winemaker, Carl Giavanti. I hadn't heard of their winery before and having just moved to the Portland area the day before, I was excited to hear that their tasting room is located downtown at NW Industrial St. and NW 30th Ave. I haven't hit up any urban wineries yet, but give me a few months and I'll be giving Clive a run for his money. Carl was incredibly hospitable and did a great job explaining to my sister what each wine was in easy to understand terms and in a very non-intimidating way. This is the kind of thing I love from wineries and I'll definitely be hitting up their tasting room soon with some friends.

After a few more wines, we decided to trade in our meal tickets. Out options were:

Braised Beef Cheek Croqueta and Salt Cod Croqueta with Romesco Sauce,
with Orange, Red Onion and Black Olive Salad
~ or ~
Roasted Vegetable Sandwich with Manchego & Romesco,
and Orange, Red Onion and Black Olive Salad

While the roasted vegetable sandwich looked good, we both went with option #1. I'm so glad we did because both items were absolutely delicious. Laura doesn't even like fish and she really dug the salt cod croqueta. After talking with their catering staff a bit and looking at their menu online, I'm definitely going to have to stop by for dinner soon.

With a bit of food in us, it was time to stop by Cana's Feast's station and say high to Patrick. He immediately introduced me to his friend as the guy from the blog who wrote about wine and doughnuts. Yeah, I like that article too =)

Aside from being a cool guy, he also makes some phenomenal wine. We both tasted his counoise and agreed that it was our favorite for the day. Not too bold, not too fruity, but a perfect mix of everything that would make it phenomenal by itself or with a meal. I also enjoyed how Laura pronounced it similar to "mayonnaise."

In short, The Southern Mediterranean Festival was a really fun event that let us try some small production Oregon wines. Tons of people came out and I can't imagine it not being a huge success for Cana's Feast. I highly suggest stopping by their winery and attending their Italy In The Valley event in August.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Red Mountain Revelation


Blogger types came to Washington in droves this past weekend and went to Walla Walla for three days of the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010. I followed a good deal of it online and from the sounds of it, they had an amazing time. On Sunday the lucky ones, or the smart ones, whichever, hopped on a bus out of Walla Walla and came to Washington's most unique AVA, Red Mountain. Gwynne and I were invited out by Keith, ReNae and Heather from Terra Blanca to take in the event as well.

What happened over the next five to six hours was a crash course in the exquisite terroir that is unique to Red Mountain. The Red Mountain AVA Alliance had organized a tour de force of what makes the soils, the vines, and by extension the wines, so incredible.

The education in the importance of 'Place,' and that Red Mountain is indeed so different, began at Col Solare, the beautiful estate winery that is a partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Antinori family of Italy. Col Solare makes one wine; it's damn good. Kevin Corliss, head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, talked about making a decision to move to Red Mountain for the partnership between the Antinori family and Chateau Ste. Michelle. Based on the wines that were already coming out of Red Mountain, particulary with regard to tannin structure, the move was a natural choice. Marcus Notaro then took participants through a tasting of the 2006 Col Solare, which was what you've come to expect from this wine. It was an experience of leather, tobacco and deep mahogany. As a counterpoint to the 2006, Marcus had us barrel taste the 2009 Cabernet. This really tripped me up; the nose was like a flashback to the old Strawberry Shortcake paraphernalia, a bright strawberry punch in the nose (No, I didn't own any Strawberry Shortcake stuff, ahem...) and the wine was a mouthful of tannins.

From there Dr. Alan Busacca, geologist and owner of the Alma Terra wines made in concert with Robert Smasne, gave us a quick geology lesson. The bloggers had already heard about the Missoula floods that formed all of Washington's fertile wine growing regions. Alan focused on the variety and diversity of Red Mountain soil, caused by the turbulent eddies over the top of Red Mountain, which stuck up towards some of the shallower levels of the flood. During that flood these changing currents and flows made for differing deposits and tons of various soil ranges, leaving Red Mountain, acre per acre, with greater soil diversity than any AVA in the Northwest.

From Col Solare the bloggers were broken into groups of 5 to 8 and led through the vineyards down to the Hedges Estate. Along the way folks walked beside Red Mountain legends and experts like Jim Holmes, Ryan Johnson, Chris Upchurch and Dick Boushey. I was with Dick Boushey's group and he said, "well these two goofy engineers decided 'let's give it a try' and they struck grape growing gold." After the clif notes version of Red Mountain history, Dick went on to explain that the real challenge for the future of Red Mountain is going to be irrigation. This part of the state only gets 6 inches of rain a year and that allows for a variety of soil not seen in Walla Walla, for example, which gets at least twice as much rain. It becomes difficult to keep the grapes alive without good water options. (Only days after this did Red Mountain get really big news.)

Arriving at Hedges Estate bloggers were greeted by Christophe Hedges, who looks a little like Daniel Craig, you know, the blonde James Bond guy. Christophe said that Hedges Estate firmly believes three things: 1) scores have had an influence on the wines being made; 2) the idea of place is more important than brand because brands will die out, but place will remain even once we're all gone; and 3) the concept and proliferation of non-estate vineyards have shown that people have lost control of place.
I got the first two, and am apt to agree with him; the last, I don't know that I necessarily agree with, and not so sure I even entirely get. We proceeded inside the Hedges Estate, which is beautiful and very French-like. Inside we tasted four different Red Mountain wines against wines of a similar (and high) caliber from the world's famous growing regions; Napa Valley, Cote Rotie and Barossa Valley. This was a great way to show the distinction of Red Mountain terroir and it was interesting to taste the differences and similarities between the varietals.

After the stop at Hedges we made our way to what is perhaps the most famous and sought after vineyard in the winemaking state of Washington: Ciel Du Cheval. Jim Holmes, one of the "goofy engineers" who originally founded of Red Mountain (and who, with John Williams, founded Kiona Winery) met us there. Jim explained the plans he and John had, and how things have changed so much. Jim talked about the wines that come from the various blocks of Ciel Du Cheval, and the idea of how important the 100 point wines made out of this vineyard by Quilceda Creek have been to the development of Red Mountain, as well as Washington as a whole. Jim then led us through some soil testing exercises right there in the vineyard. It was a bit surreal for me to be standing on such hallowed ground playing in the dirt with Jim Holmes, Alan Busacca and Chris Upchurch.

Or final stop was the beautiful facilities of Terra Blanca Winery and the much needed cool of the wine caves there. Winemaker and Owner Keith Pilgrim talked about the structure of Red Mountain wines and focused specifically on ageability. Keith started the bloggers out with a barrel sample of 2009 Cabernet and talked about the size and structure of that wine and how the structure and tannins allowed Red Mountain wines to really age well. At this time something of a vertical tasting of the Onyx blend took place. Wine Bloggers were treated to pours of the 2006, 2001 and 1999 Onyx. The group I talked with were impressed not only with the wines, but with how much life they still seemed to have, even with the 1999. It was a classic case of Red Mountain structure allowing them to age for a good long time.

The education adjourned for the evening and the bloggers were treated to an incredible Grand Tasting and dinner by Chef Frank Magana of Picazo 717. The Grand Tasting had wines from 11 wineries and Jim Holmes was pouring wines that were made from Ciel Du Cheval fruit. These wineries were not messing around, Jim poured the 07 Quilceda Creek, and Delille Cellars poured both their Grand Ciel Cabernet and Syrah. In addition to some of the wineries who played host earlier, wines were poured by Andrew Will, Cooper Wine, Fidelitas,, Goedhart Family and Grand Reve Vintners. Red Mountain originals Kiona as well as Portrait Cellars and Hightower were poured as well. From the Grand Tasting we adjourned to dinner with a glass of Terra Blanca's 2005 Block 8 Syrah, and Frank Magana showed us how he gets down with BBQ. An amazing Tuscan white bean salad preceded a carnivore's delight: ostrich skewers, wild boar sausage and some serious St. Louis style spare ribs. The evening wrapped up with strawberry shortcake, berry cobbler, and some of the best conversation for miles around.

As the sun set on Red Mountain it was clear to these weary travelers that Red Mountain wine is in a class of it's own, and its terroir is responsible.

(I do have to once again tip my hat to ReNae & Keith Pilgrim at Terra Blanca, they are amazing hosts, and great amabassadors of Washington Wine and Red Mountain.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

There's wine in Texas?

Life is inherently unfair, this I know.  This timeless wisdom offers little console when I get the short end of the stick, or make crappy wine easy to drink when the rest of the staff is drinking the crème de la crème, as was the case this last week.

This past weekend, our staff had the opportunity divide and conquer some of the best wine events the Pacific Northwest has to offer; Rick visited Cana’s Feast in Carlton for the Southern Mediterranean Celebration, Clive was on assignment on Red Mountain for the Post-WBC event, Micheal served on the judging panel for the East Valley Winery Association New Release Festival in Canby, and Jesse was enjoying California’s finest Three-Buck Chuck.  Reviews forthcoming on the aforementioned.  As Managing Editor of this humble blog, you may think it’s all truffles, champagne, monocles, and top hats for me.  While that’s often true, sometimes I slum it with the common folk as I did this weekend – in Austin, Texas – Texas of course being the Napa Valley of the Gulf Coast region.   They tell me that sarcasm is sometimes hard to infer from prose.  Rest assured, there is plenty in this post.

With the twitter machine humming from WBC, my pals Steve, Rich, and I decided to make the most of Texan hospitality and promptly located a liquor store to inquire on the vinological offerings of Texas.  Did you know Texas made wine?  Don’t worry, I didn’t either.  In the midst of a quite impressive wine collection, we found a rack of approximately 15 wines labeled as Texas creations, so we picked up 4 reds covering a few varietals and price points.  When in Rome, right?  What follows is chronology of two evenings of passion, love, and retching spent with the fine wines of Texas as transcribed from text message records.

Bottle 1:  Becker Vineyards 2005 Syrah (Tallent Vineyards, Texas, $13.99).   This wine had a shelf-talker denoted it as a “Twin Liquors Wine Committee Pick”, so we were feeling like it had the best shot of not sucking. There were immediate notes of coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate on the nose.  Upon taking a sip, Steve and I looked at each other with a glimmer of hope in our eyes. It wasn’t that bad!  According to Steve, “I’ve had much worse.  Starting to feel a bit of heartburn, but that could be because of all of the meat we just ate.”  Having just consumed a large BBQ dinner, I agreed with Steve.  The bottle didn’t last long, this was to be the best wine of the offerings.

Bottle 2:  Alamesa Wine Cellars 2001 Syrah (Tio Pancho Ranch, Texas, $16.99).  This was the oldest Texas wine we found, so old that there was a nice layer of dust on the bottle.  We soon found that the dust wasn’t due to fine aging practices, rather, was certainly because of the fact that not even a hobo would enjoy this wine.  Rich’s glass was poured first, and we noted an immediate grimace on his face as he swirled and smelled.  Upon taking a sip, the gag reflex was nearly immediate.  I soon repeated the swirl, smell, and sip; Steve reported that I mirrored Rich’s reaction with more intensity.  Steve grabbed the wine out of our hands, and down the drain it went.  “If I’m going to have a night cap, I’d like to know that I’m not going to vomit,” he said as he was dumping.

Bottle 3:  Becker Vineyards 2008 Reserve Merlot (Texas, $19).  We cracked this bottle open in an attempt to erase the taste of bottle 2 from our palates, hoping to end the evening on a good note.  This wine was fair to decent, but nothing special.  #1 was still in the lead.

Bottle 4:  Sister Creek Vineyard 2007 Red Blend (Texas; Cab Sauv, Merlot, Sangiovese; $14.99).  The next evening, bottle 4 emerged.  Out of three wines, we had experienced good, mediocre, and horrible.  This wine was very drinkable, however, not notable for any particular characteristic.  It took a place as number 2 in our unsophisticated rating system.

Now I’m told there is some really good wine in Texas, however, I can report that it isn’t available at Twin Liquors in Austin nor did we see any on wine lists in the area.  There was some great local beers and vodka, but wine lists were dominated by California Central Coast and Oregon offerings.  As they should be.  Three of the bottles we had were definitely drinkable, and if your palate isn’t programmed for Washington and Oregon stuff, I’m sure it’s fine.  I have a bias, and left Texas disappointed.  I’ll give Texas another shot when the opportunity arises, as Dallas Wine Chick wouldn’t do what she does if there wasn’t something to it.

Until then, Clive, Rick, Micheal, and Jesse will taunt me with tales of their awesome wine weekends.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Woodinville Winery; Convergence Zone Cellars

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It was quite some time ago that I found Convergence Zone Cellars on Twitter, actually it may have been they, and by they I mean Scott Greenberg found me. Scott had announced via the twitter machine that he was starting up a new winery in Woodinville and that we should be on the lookout.

Scott did a little "sumpthin sumpthin" for the #WAWine event up in his space in the Warehouse District and is getting ready to finally unleash his wines upon the wine drinking world with his grand opening on July 10th.

As Scott prepares to open he invited me up to check out the place, and to give his Convergence Zone Cellars wines a whirl. Scott is going to be rolling out two white wines in July his Riesling ($15) and his Sunbreak ($15) which is 100% Chenin Blanc. I was able to sample the Riesling from the tank (at the time of my visit nothing was in bottle). The wine was fruit forward with a little residual sugar, a certain palate pleaser for the summer. I wasn't able to taste Scott's Chenin nor did he have the Storm Front ($24 blend of Merlot and Cab) blended at the time. Scott plans to release the Storm Front in Autumn. We did barrel sample some of his 09 Cabernet Franc from Red Mountain, which was showing very well. Scott is looking to have three of the four 2009 wines he releases come from Red Mountain fruit. He has Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Red Mountain, and Malbec from the Gilbert Vineyards.

Scott is not a meteorologist but has a passing interest in the subject. He has always referred to Woodinville as "The Convergence Zone" and Woodinville has played a major role in his decision to make wine. The epiphany if you will came while out to dinner with his wife at The Barking Frog. Scott looked for a really nice bottle and settled on a Covington Cellars Cabernet. Scott was really blown away by wines that were being made just down the street from him.

Scott is in his fifth year dabbling in wine making, he got his start with simple kits. He started taking classes at the Northwest Wine Academy and has really appreciated the support that the Washington wine community has shown. Scott emailed a guy in Walla Walla asking a question and he got a very thoughtful two page response. It's that kind of camaraderie that has Scott thinking he's made the right move going into wine, and Woodinville.

A fun anecdote Scott shared was the origin of his labels. The design came from Pennsylvania, my home state. Scott's son is an online gamer and a guy he played World of Warcraft with collaborated with him on the bottle design. (Which is very slick looking by the way.)

Scott Greenberg is making wine because it's a sincere passion of his. This is usually a combination that leads to success for the winemaker, and a real treat for wine drinkers. Go see Scott in the Convergence Zone on July 10th and tell him I said hello.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wine & Cheese Party for Three

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Aaron that I was interested in having him and Heather over for wine. Over the last maybe 13 months I have been sharing a bit of my love for wine with the two of them by telling them about wines, wine events going on, and giving them some bottles of various kind of wines for them to enjoy. Aaron tends to be a Cab Sauv fan, while Heather has a preference for Pinot Noir. I was reminded that Heather was working on a large project for work, and was excited when Aaron let me know of a date that worked in their schedule.

I prepped what would be a miniature Wine & Cheese party with a homemade platter of cheeses, peperoni, salami, various types of crackers, bread, some dip, and of course, wine. I had hoped to start the evening off with 1998 bottle of Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir from their Hoodview Vineyard. However I found my bottle with a dry cork that crumbed as I attempted to pull it out, and breaking into two pieces. I still have to figure out a way to open this bottle with a different corkscrew that I don't currently own and hope to avoid any of the cork getting into the wine. More importantly I am praying to the powers that be that the wine has not gone bad.

I "settled" for staring with a 2006 Reserve bottle of Barnard Griffen Cab Sauv. I believe that Josh got this bottle for me when he was in the area a couple of months ago. I knew Aaron and Heather would like this one because I think actually might have given them one, perhaps just a different year. As expected, it was an enjoyable wine that the three of us wished there was more of, but sadly, there was not. At least not in my possession.

As we munched, drank, and conversed, I began to think about what I would open next, and I thought it was the time to open a very special bottle. You may recall that Josh made a post about the Best Wines of 2009. In that post, I wrote about a bottle of Pinot Noir I had from Westrey Estates, which I received after my first year at Willamette University. As I was switching departments, it was a send-off gift from my then director. Along with the bottle from Westrey, I also received a 2006 Pinot Noir from Grochau Cellars. I was incredibly nervous about this wine, but not for what you might think. I received this bottle in May of 2008, and the heat of the summers of 2008 and 2009 caused a couple of my bottles of wine to go South. As a result my main concern was that this was a cooked wine that would put the evening on a sour note.

I was the first of the three to try it, wanting to make sure it was good. I couldn't get a good feel for the nose. It seemed like it might be okay because it was not completely pungent, nor was it void of any odor at all, but I still couldn't tell. I tried again, this time to get a deeper, stronger, fuller sense of the nose. Again, I still couldn't tell much of anything. The next real way to tell if a wine is good...d'uh, the taste. I could not believe what I was tasting. I immediately told Heather that she would enjoy it. She smiled. I didn't know if Aaron would like it as much, but I knew he wouldn't hate it.

"That's really good," said Heather. "I like that a lot" came out of Aaron's mouth after they both tasted this wine. We all agreed on a couple of things:

- The nose was not an accurate prediction of what you were about to consume (something I think could be that I just opened the bottled of wine and we began to drink it almost immediately)
- This was a Pinot that went down surprisingly smooth with not much of an aftertaste, and one that was the tiniest bit of sweet on the palate
- This was a great bottle of wine

The three of us thought that this was an excellent choice for the evening, especially since it was a week day and we all had to work the following day.

I have to say that I was really excited to have been able to host Aaron and Heather for a couple of hours during the evening. Anyone who knows me, knows that I enjoy hosting and providing an atmosphere for people to relax and enjoy themselves in a setting where they don't need to worry about much of anything. This was a fun evening that was honestly just what I needed. I am reinvigorated for my love of wine, and my sharing my wine experiences with you all.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Salad

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This post is a little aside from the traditional here’s-your-recipe-laden-with-wine post. Instead, I want to review the Pomegranate OrangeVinaigrette I picked up at Willamette Valley Vineyards over Memorial Day weekend. In fact, I owe a lot of my love of wine to WVV. About this time four or five years ago was the first time I had every really participated in tasting wine. I was so lucky to have such an amazing experience at WVV during that tasting. I had walked in quite intimidated by wine and all aspects of wine--drinking wine, wine glasses (so breakable!), opening wine (a man must have invented this corkscrew thing!), simple wine, complex wine (a woman must have invented this!), the legs of wine (Do they wear flats or stilettos?) and so much more. After a few sips and some great conversation with the person behind the counter, I was inspired to see that wine was truly approachable and, in fact, inviting. I’m forever grateful that my mind and taste buds could be opened by this great experience at Willamette Valley Vineyards.

For me, a trip to the Oregon Coast is never complete without a side trip to WVV. Late in May, I was blessed to see, smell and taste WVV again! As I was stacking a few choice bottles next to the register, I noticed a rack of vinaigrettes and other kitchen delicacies. I’m a sucker for anything with pomegranate, so the Pomegranate Orange Vinaigrette was quickly added to my bill. Below is the salad recipe I used it on—DELICIOUS! This is a delicious and light summer salad, perfect for the big holiday tomorrow!

Lime-Honey Glazed Chicken Salad

6 tbsp honey

6 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tsp freshly grated lime zest

6 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp crushed red pepper

4 large chicken breasts

4-6 cups torn romaine lettuce

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cups mandarin oranges

Mix honey, soy sauce, lime zest, lime juice, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken pieces. Stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2-24 hours.

Once marinated, grill or cook chicken thoroughly. While chicken cooks, mix lettuce, cranberries and mandarin oranges. Remove from heat and cut chicken into bite sized pieces. You can choose to add it to the salad immediately or cool the chicken and add it to the salad mixture later. Either way, toss with Willamette Valley Vineyards pomegranate orange vinaigrette.


Chicken recipe adapted from

Friday, July 2, 2010

Le Tour de Pinot Stage 1: A Journey to Belle Vallee

On June 19, five riders from The Oregon Wine Blog's cycling team braved the elements -- sun, some clouds, and a light drizzle -- on a grueling ride totaling 3's of miles to complete the first leg of the 2010 cycling season!  Stage 1 of Le Tour de Pinot 2010 began with an spark of excitement in the air and a noticeable lack of spandex as the team assembled at TOWB world headquarters in Corvallis, OR to kick off the series with more than double the number of riders from the previous season.

In addition to series founders and blog regulars Rick Goranflo and yours truly, we were joined by three dedicated cyclists:  Scott Alward, an OSU student training for a week-long cycling trek this summer, Andrea Flatley, a native Wisconsinonion who is slinging news in Portland these days, and Craig Newcomb, perhaps the most talented television photographer in all of mankind.  Our crack team of riders saddled up, 15 minutes late, for what was self-admittadly a short ride, meant to get our less experienced riders comfortable with the tour so we could trick them to come on longer rides later in the season.  As we started pedaling, the wind whipping through our helmets,  there was an immediate sprint as 3 of the riders left the peloton in their dust.  OK, so what really happened was the super athletic Rick, Scott, and Craig left the not so experienced Andrea and the injured Josh in their dust.  Luckily for us, stoplights served as an equalizing factor in this city stage so every 2 blocks we caught up.
A short 1.4 miles later, the group arrived at the destination: Belle Vallee Cellars, located in the Water Street Market building at 1st and Monroe. Belle Vallee was stage 4 on the inaugural Tour last year, and we were excited to hit them up again for some outstanding hospitality and great wine.  After taking far too long to lock our bikes up, we walked in to the winery and settled in to some bar stools for some good old fashion wine tasting.  Between the 6 of us, having been joined by Megan in the team car, we got 5 different flights of wine at a very reasonable price and shared all around. Offering the full spectrum of Pinot's and big reds, as well as three Pinot Gris and a port, there is something for everybody's taste at Belle Vallee. We also got a sneak peak of a chardonnay that was nearing release.  Two wines stuck out in a very positive way:
  • 2003 Rogue Valley Merlot:  We loved the 2002 vintage of this, and the '03 is damn near as good.  With currants on the nose and black fruit flavors, this bottle is worth every penny of the $24.99 it is normally priced at.  This was no normal day, however, and the merlot was on sale for an amazing $8.99 a bottle. If you are in town, you should walk (or run) down there and pick up a case if it is still on sale. You won't be sorry.
  • 2009 Chardonnay:  The dijon clone chard should be released in the very near future.  This was equally enjoyed by our chard fans and those who usually shy away from the whites.  If it had been bottled, we would have had a problem getting all of our wine home on our bikes.
After more than adequate tasting and great service, the team wandered around the Corvallis farmers market for a few minutes until it started to rain, and homeward bound we went.  All in all, a successful and relatively uneventful Stage 1; a great start to a great summer of riding.  Stick with us as we hit Stage 2 tomorrow and don't forget to email us if you'd like to participate in Stage 3 on July 17, as we head to Tyee Wine Cellars!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bringing NW Wine to the California Airwaves; Grape Encounters Radio


Not long ago, I noticed that Seattle Wine Gal had been on a radio show talking about screw cap wines, boxed wines and the youth wine demographic. I gave a listen to the show and agree with some of what she had to say, particularly about screw cap wines. Unfortunately, her argument for boxed wine did not sway me. Sorry, Barbara.

The gentleman on the other side of the radio sounded like a nice guy, for someone from California. He was, however a bit dismissive about the idea that there were wines in screw capped bottles worthy of serious consideration. Worthy of a fancy meal, a special occasion, a night of romance, etc. This California wine wizard said it just wouldn't do, and that bothered me a little bit. Nay, a lot bit.

So I fired off an email to this guy and said, "Hey Fella, let me say, you're wrong." It was actually a much longer email than that. All the same, my point was that there are great screw cap wines, and that I felt he, as an AM Radio wine king of the west coast, as well as folks like Barbara and even myself need to be careful about being dismissive of wines. That includes wines from odd places, varietals, or wines in a bottle topped with a screw cap. For some reason, people might actually listen to what we say, and so as wine lovers, we need to be a bit more open minded.

So this guy, David Wilson, writes me back. Considering I was a bit rough with him, he's very nice and he says, "Come on my show, man." That's not a direct quote, mind you, but more or less. So, I started thinking, well, I know for a fact that there is some wine being made right here in the Northwest in screw capped bottles that is to die for. I send out the word on the street, aka the internet, to the Dusted Valley crew, and Argyle Winery that I would like to have some of their wine sent to this California character to set the record straight. After all, they say that your word is your bond. More or less.

What followed was a great experience, and I have to give David Wilson and Grape Encounters a lot of credit. They do a fun radio show for wine fans and have a very similar philosophy to The Oregon Wine Blog. That is to say, wine is about the experience, and wine is about having fun. There was nothing too serious and nothing pretentious about him. At one point, he even did a show with topless women who were painted up like mermaids. So, while I decided to leave my clothing on for the show, David and I and his friend Tom talked about wine. (To hear the actual show, click here.)

David set the scene for how we ended up with these two wines on the radio. He mentioned the email I had sent him and serious reactions to his comments on screw capped wines. This led me to explain a little bit about the philosophy behind The Oregon Wine Blog, and how we're about making wine approachable for the younger crowd. Being snooty about the different closures may not only turn some folks off, it may relegate some really brilliant wines to the proverbial scrap heap.

We opened and tasted the two wines on the show. We started with the 2006 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir. This wine is a real treat; a big rich and ripe Pinot Noir owing to that warm growing season of 2006. David said that while this wine was much bigger than the Pinots he was used to drinking out of the Santa Rita Hills area, he was thoroughly impressed. I said, yeah, I know. From there we moved on to the Dusted Valley Cabernet from the same vintage, 2006. This wine is a game changer for Californians who enjoy those big over the top Cabernets. The complexity, layers and nuance that Washington Cabernets offer was a welcome change for David and his colleague. Again, David's reaction was, "This is a great wine." My reaction was, yeah, I know.

In one fell swoop, I settled the score that not only are the Northwest Winemakers keeping it real, as the kids would say, but some of them are keeping it real with a screw cap. David had to concede. I had come up with two screwcap wines that David admitted were worthy of a romantic evening, they were that good in his estimation.

I couldn't leave it well enough alone though, and may have gotten myself in a jam. I told David that I loved Oregon Pinot Noir so, and it was such a unique expression of terroir that I could pick it out of a crowd any day. He said, "You're on." David is in the process of arranging a blind tasting of 10 wines, 5 from the Northwest and if I guess right, I get a case of California Pinot. I better get practicing.

Check out David's show each week on Grape Encounters Radio, he has a very similar philosophy to our blog, and a great radio voice. Plus he called me handsome.