Water water everywhere, and lots to drink!

It’s day 2 of the Wine Bloggers Conference, and we’re off on the little yellow school buses to explore some of the Walla Walla terroir.  Fortunately for us Bay Area folks,who aren’t used to the heat, it was a warm but pleasant day for walking around the vineyards and our bus was off and ready to go.  Armed with my trusty compatriots Lynnette, Ryan and Ward, we were joined by some new friends and headed off to taste some of Walla Walla’s wines.

Our bus was hosted by Walla Walla’s mayor, and we were off to Watermill Winery’s vineyards in Milton-Freewater.  Juts over the Oregon border, this area was first settled with orchards and vegetable farms.  Now, we were examining the hard packed cobblestone soil, which is the remnant of the alluvial fan.  With 200 feet of packed cobblestone, the soil is well drained suited perfectly for the big reds that we were tasting.  Saviah Cellars was founded in 2000, and Watermill first planted grapes in 2002.  This is a Certified LIVE vineyard, which in Oregon is Low Input Viticulture and Enology – very similar to a sustainable certified vineyard here.  They are only allowed one herbicidal spray a year, and believe that microbiological health of the soil and vineyard is paramount.

The 2007 Watermill Malbec tasted of blueberries and black berries with chewy plums and huckleberries.  There was a hint of smoke and white pepper, and we were told that growing Malbec on the rocky soil was unusual.  The result is a dense intense wine that I really enjoyed.  next we tasted the 2007 Watermill Cab Franc.  Being a girl who loves cab franc, I was a bit skeptical, but this was a lovely plummy red fruit example with spicy smoke.  the rich & smooth wine was a Tansy treat.  we also tasted the 2008 Saviah Cellears Malbec, which was a great companion to the Watermill verison.  This wine comes from the same vineyard, but showed more earth, leather and tobacco, followed by cigar box.

From Watermill, we headed over to Waters for lunch.  More on that in my next post!

You shook me all morning long

Hospices du Rhône.  Day 2.  What happens when you take several hundred (probably hungover, definitely tired) wine writers, bloggers, lovers, and somms, and throw them in a conference room at 9am with eight glasses of wine in front of them ?  Lots and lots of champagne.  that’s what happens.  wait…strike that.  Reverse it.  But you can’t!  I was pretty well baked by my Cold from Hell, but to be up bright and early so as not to miss the Walla Walla sneak peak, I was given a delicious treat of several glasses of some damn tasty grower champers that Chaz brought in at his own expense to wake us all up.  YUM!

Ok enough of the 9am drinkfest.  On to the syrah.

K Vintners was started by Charles Smith, who used to manage rock bands and lived in Copenhagen for 11 years before moving to Walla Walla.  Always having passion for wine, he’s an innovator, a marketing genius, and loud.  Roll all that together with walla Walla wine, and you get a larger than life character who defies the rules.  The winery is located at the base of the Blue Mountains, and opened to the public in 2001, producing wines from Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley, primarily syrah as well as field blends.

Smith believes K is about KOMMUNICATION and, bad puns aside, he says that people should use language that people can communicate with internationally; that language is wine.  Smith feels that too much of wine is making beauty where there is natural wonder; he focuses on showing off the unique fruit of Washington, and uses subtle oak influences as to not overpower the natural beauty of the wine.  He is, in some ways, the ultimate terrorist.  wine should be about a feeling, and here in Walla Walla, Rhone producers are small.  Wine is what they live for and they are passionate enthusiasts.

K focuses on syrah for several reasons; first, it has a distinctive quality that no other wine has.  Additionally, the high steep slopes in the Walla Walla area are difficult to work, which makes for more interesting wine and a challenge.  Syrah is global, with France representing the old world and ancient vines.  Australia shows us the AC/DC of the varietal, with a new world fruit bomb style (think Angus with the flaming red hair) that is indicitive of the passion and terroir of the Barossa.  Finally, when you get to Walla Walla, you have the geology of tumbled river rock, salty soils, and a long growing season o the high desert plains of Walla Walla.  There is a pioneer and rogue belief system in Walla walla, which allows them to do anything the want to with little thought about if anyone did it before them or was previously successful.

Charles Smith

2006 Syrah Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope – was a chewy caramel dusted in mocha bramble berry, with  baked plums and bittersweet chocolate.  I tasted black cherry, dried orange rind as well with just a slight hint of herbal flavors.  This is a very dense wine, but it was smooth and mellow with a plush finish.  It was quite refined and let’s just say I struggled to spit this out at 9am.  This vineyard was planted in 2000 along the Columbia River, on sandy loam and peaty gravel in the Wahluke Slope AVA.  This sandy soil makes for a more floral and herbaceous wine.

2006 Syrah The Deal – Sundance Vineyard Wahluke Slope – shows a meaty smoky wine with blackberries and tar.  The refined tannis show notes of tangerine, and while it was a bit gamey at first int he glass, that soon blew off to a smooth long finish and nice mouth feel.  The Deal is all about respect, integrity and doing what you want to do in the vineyard.  The Sundance Vineyard has a slight northerly slope which creates a cooler site, in a very warm region.  This wine tastes of cool climate syrah, and is grown in sadny loam over coarse sand which provides excellent drainage.  Only two miles from Pheasant Vineyard, it was planted in 1997 and creates a very different wine profile.

2006 Syrah Cougar Hills, Walla Walla – has more minerality than the first two wines, with lots of lavendr and orange marmalade, followed by graphite.  the Couger Hills Vineyard is located in the southern region of the Walla Walla valley, and has loamy soil with river rock and gravel, as well as a layer of volcanic ash.  This ash adds complexity to the vines which were planted in 2000 and are sustainably farmed.

2006 Syrah Wells, Walla Walla With only 1.5 barrels made of this wine, we were in fro a rare treat.  that’s about 35 cases in the world, and it was made as an experiment in 100% whole cluster fermentation.  the Wells vineyard is half an acre that sits 1500 feet up on the south fork of the Walla Walla river, and has rocky cobblestone soil.  I tasted fresh cherries, strawberries, and vibrant red and black fruit.  This was brighter and fresher than the earlier syrahs and just lovely.

2006 Syrah Phil Lane, Walla Walla – is the estate vineyard.  Three barrels of this wine were made from 1.5 acres of grapes planted in 2001, which produces a highly aromatic wine with bright raspberries, rose petals, and flavors of mole sauce.

Chief Mutineer Alan Kropf "moderates" the champagne bottle

2006 Syrah Motor City Kitty – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley is created from a resurrected vineyard which lay fallow on the ground for years before Charles Smith rescued it.  The Stoneridge Vineyard has very rocky soils, and with six different rocky types, produces very different wines.  It is windy up there on the hill, and the the thick skinned fruit creates inky black juice with robust and smooth wines.  I found a very dense, sweet cherry wine with flavors of cough syrup.  The wine sits for 23 months in neutral barrels and is then hand bottled, to produce 50 cases of a powerful and rich wine with whole berry fermentation.

2006 Syrah Royal City – Stoneridge Vineyard, Royal Slope Columbia Valley – includes some of the Stoneridge Vineyard fruit and had flavors of coffee, milk chocolate, and black cherries.  It was chewy and dense but well balanced and had some lovely spice notes on the back end.

In closing, ALL of these wines that were poured were rare and small production.  They were all amazing and each one shows a slightly different slant ont he Walla Walla terroir and what is going on in Washington wine.  I am very much looking forward to tasting more Walla Walla wines in a few weeks at the Wine Bloggers Conference!

Special thanks to the Hospices du Rhone team!



Moo! Ved! Rah!

Trio Vintners is a partnership between three Walla Walla winemakers; Tim Boushey, Denise Slattery and Steve Michener.   Each member of the triad has a unique perspective, and so together they do a bang up job created amazing wines and sharing their love of wine & food.  They are part of the incubator wineries that have cropped up near the Walla Walla airport, where small wineries can foster entrepreneurship and help each other grow, using shared resources.  In this case, each of three incubator wineries can produce 1000 cases of wine collectively, and wade through the legalese that the Federal government has graciously given the wine busienss.

I first became aware of TRIO Vinteners through my friend and wine supplier Catie, of the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman.  Through the magic of all things twitter, I then began a conversation with Denise Slattery, who, in my estimation is almost as irreverent, funny, and amazing as I am!  Ok well, I’m modest too.  As we got to talking, i mentioned that I really wanted to get to know more Washington, and specifically Walla Walla wines, before the WBC.  I turn around, there is a box of Trio’s current releases for me to examine.  thanks Denise!

Since Washington has some unique growing regions, trio has chosen to focus on these unique attributes.  The wines represented celebrate a special sense of place, and really focus on the local terroir.  In the case of the first wine i’m trying, the 2006 Yakima Valley Mouvedre.  The Yakima valley AVA was the first AVA established in Washington, and is now part of the much larger Columbia Valley AVA.  

This Mouvedre is a funny & charming wine, with black pepper, smoky meat, cedar, and blueberry flavors.  I also found a lot of s’more flavors, with some prune &b molasses thrown in for godo measure, followed by cardamon.  It was almost as if I was drinking a good cup of Chai with a s’more on the side.  This is not a bad thing in my estimation – and 4% of Syrah rounds out the masculine shoulders.

Since it’s  becoming more common to see a single varital Mouvedre on the market, it’s great to see this single vineyard example from Washington where the den Hood Vineyard sits at 1300 feet above  the Yakima Valley floor.  Here, the grapes ripe slowly, adn and were aged in Hungarian, American, and French Oak for 20 months before being released to the public.  The resulting wine is chewy, dense and powerful, and perfect for a big steak or BBQ.  the spicy finish on the wine makes it an interesting choice for almost anything, and I hop you’ll give it a shot!  At $26, it’s well worth it, and it just gets better on the 2nd day of being open.  Go BUY some and support your local winemaker.  With less than 150 cases made, this wine will not last long.

This Veddy (or maybe it’s Mourie?) was graciously provided by Denise Slattery at Trio, but you should get some of your own.  Because I’m not sharing!  please follow Denise and Trio Vitners on Twitter.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you certainly won’t be sorry!

Are you ready for some meatballs?

Those of us who great up in the 80s will appreciate Morty’s summer camp trip on the lake at the end of the summer, Wudy da Wabbit’s run through the woods, and Tripper & Roxanne’s canoeing as they sang Let’s Walla Walla down by the mango tree.

This summer, I will be doing a lot of Walla-ing, and this is just a sneak peak at one of the wineries.  L’ecole No. 41. resides in a 1915 schoolhouse, just outside of Walla Walla.  The first wine I am sampling from them is the 2006 Perigree, a Bordeaux blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  The name has an interesting history as Perigee is the point at which the moon is closet to the earth.  the winery uses this name to express their wish to be close tot he earth, and to reflect the earthy character of the wine.

When I first opened the wine, I got a lot of dark blue and black fruit, including black cherry, blackberry and fig.  Then the power went out.  Suffice it to say, I couldn’t continue my tasting notes, and I did continue drinking.  This was a very pleasant wine, with lots of fruit adn medium body.  I rather enjoyed it but I’m not sure about the $49 price tag.    I look forward to getting to know more of their wines, as they sent me a large selection of current releases.

While my summer camp beared no resembleance to camp North Star, we did sing.  Just not in canoes.  And I was a CIT for one summer, but they CERTAINLY had more fun than I; thank you to L’ecole no. 41 for the tasty treat i enjoyed while plunged in to darkness.  No thanks to PG&E for the darkness.


The Road to WBC!


Wine Blogger's Conference 2010 - Walla Walla, WA

So, as you know, we here at the WBC Scholarship are all about getting a diverse group of bloggers together in Walla Walla to have some great wine, learn a few things, and have a great time.  As you may have read, before & after the official conference, there are excursions to the Yakima Valley and Red Mountain regions.  In addition, several of us are going to Portland for some pre-WBC tasting and fun.

I’d also like to mention that the good folks over at WineCHATr are holding a contest for out of state (non-Washington) bloggers, for a 3 day road trip through wine country.  The WBC-or-Bust campaign is hosting 12 bloggers from Seattle to Walla Walla, and they taste wine, explore the wine regions of Washington, and get to know each other for 2 days before the Wine Bloggers Conference.

The road trip begins on June 23rd in Seattle, where you will be picked up downtown and taken out to Woodinville for an afternoon of wine tasting!  The itinerary is:

  • Food & Wine Pairing at Ste. Michelle
  • Woodinville Grand Tasting at Willows Lodge
  • Lunch at Barking Frog.
  • Palate Refresher at Pike Brewery
  • Ending up at the downtown Renaissance Seattle Hotel
  • A grand Winemaker dinner will close out Day 1

Day 2 you will be carousing through Red Mountain and Yakima, to visit some premier growing areas and wineries.  More information will be available shortly on that day, and you will end up in Walla Walla at the Marcus Whitman for the kick-off to the WBC!

In order to qualify for the “WBC-or-BUST” campaign wine bloggers need only signup on WineCHATr.com, add a contest badge to their website, and then blog about Washington wine. At the conclusion of the campaign 12 bloggers will win a seat on the all expenses paid road trip headed to Walla Walla and the 2010 WBC.

The contest ends in April 2010 and a total of 12 bloggers will be chosen on the following basis.  Two winners will be chosen for posting the most Washington wine related blog entries (minimum of 150 words required for each post). Six additional winners will be chosen for the best category based posting:

  • Top 2 Best Washington winery posts
  • Top 2 Best Washington wine or tasting note posts
  • Best Washington growing region post
  • Best Washington vineyard post

For all the details on how to enter, head on over to WBC or Bust for the complete rules and instructions.

Special thanks to WineChatr and WBC or Bust for their support of the WBC and the WBC Scholarship!  Creative ideas like this are always welcome, and the unique experience for out of state bloggers is guaranteed to delight.  plus, it’s easier and cheaper to fly to Seattle, so enter and good luck!

It’s Bloggership Time!

Happy New Year!  Boy am I glad 2009 is over.  While there were some fabulous times last year, the last few months were pretty wretched for me.  Today is 1/02/2010 however, and as a palindrome, I’m thinking it’s good luck.

To kick this year off with a bang, I’m here to announce the 2010 Wine Bloggers Scholarship applications and donations are open!  This year, we are headed to Walla Walla in June to talk about wine, blogging and social media.  As with the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, this 3 day symposium brings together professionals, bloggers, winemakers and more to discuss the impact of industry and citizens bloggers, social media, and the adult beverage industry.

We will spend 3 days in Walla Walla drinking great wine, learning the basics of wine blogging, blogging live while tasting, touring the Walla Walla wine scene, and also doing a whole lot of networking.  After the 2009 Conference in Sonoma, many connections were made, many bloggers blossomed, and several people got some killer careers going in wine.  What could YOU accomplish?

In an effort to support bloggers that wish to attend to learn more, perfect their craft, or see what it’s all about, the WBC Scholarship sets out to raise funds to assist citizen bloggers (those unaffiliated with a  winery or other professional organization) get to Walla Walla and participate in the event of the decade.  Ok well the first year of the decade anyway.

To find out more about the WBC Scholarship, please visit our site at http://wbcscholarship.wordpress.com/.  If you’re a citizen blogger and would like to apply for assistance, please see the Application page.

If you would like to donate, or you know someone who would be a good resource, you may do so directly at our Paypal page here:

If you prefer to send a check, or if you have any questions, please email us for details at wbcscholarship at gmail dot com.

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I’m going to hell in a handbasket!

thirst⋅y

[thur-stee] –adjective, thirst⋅i⋅er, thirst⋅i⋅est.

1. feeling or having thirst; craving liquid.
2. needing moisture, as land; parched; dry or arid: the thirsty soil.
3. eagerly desirous; eager: thirsty for news.
4. causing thirst: Digging is thirsty work

pa⋅gan

[pey-guhn] –noun

1. one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks.
2. a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
3. an irreligious or hedonistic person.
–adjective

4. pertaining to the worship or worshipers of any religion that is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim.
5. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of pagans.
6. irreligious or hedonistic.

Thirsty Pagan Communion Red:

This little gem of a red blend was sent to me as a sample to the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman’s Smooch Club, which, if this is any example, promises to WOW you. Upon first glance, you might think this is an average wine, with it’s stevlin closure.  Thirsty Pagans pride themselves on the fact that they only produce a minuscule 250 cases a year, so they didn’t want to risk cork taint.  I’m all for it, as screw caps provide easy access for this Lush.

Then, you notice the label.  See?  Over there to the left?  Yes, that is the label.  Three monks drinking with a wench.  It got you to look right?  Of course, they have had their share of controversy, and if you ask a certain Catholic from Idaho, we are all going to hell for supporting them.  Clearly, if I can have this wine in hell, i’m happy to go there for admiring the religious iconography on the lable.

Now, about the wine.  This 2005 red blend comes from Horse Heaven Hills.  Where the HELL is HOrse heaven Hills you ask?  HHH is a part of the much larger Columbia Valley AVA in southeastern Washington state, and is one of Washingtons newest AVAs.  This appelation is known for it’s award winning cabernet sauvignon, and this blend is 75% cab, the shining star.

Additionally, the Communion Red has 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec, and 5% Petite Verdot.  I taste delicious dark fruit, particularly cherries, and blackberries, with a back end of  smoke, tobacco and mincemeat spices.  I also taste a hint of plum in there.  Even though i don’t taste bacon, I can taste smoked meats, and I bet this would be a treat with bacon & caramelized onion pizza as well as a BLT.  This is a big boy, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s big, bold and spicy, but with a smooth finish.  Kind of like an Isaac Hayes song.

I absolutely LOVE this wine!  Thank you Catie for turning me on!  To the wine.  Now, I know you all want your own Thirsty Pagan so head on over to Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman and pick yourselves up a few!  $26 is a small price to pay for this much sinning.

If you haven’t checked out her Smooch Society, you really should.  Why?  Because you’ll get hte best in Walla Walla Wine is why!  4 shipments of 2 wines per year, for the measly price of $45.  Such a deal!  I have only recently discovered the joy of Washington State red wine, and I plan to continue my adventures as much as possible.  This wine is GOOD!   5 smooches.

 

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