12
Jul
2017
0

Linkin’ logs: 7-12-17

Some refreshing summer reading from the InterWebs:

• Huge news: The “natural wine” movement has reached the Vatican.

• Anyone wanting to visit a cool Minnesota winery should start at Chankaska Creek, and not just for table wine. Kudos to Lauren Vogt for a stellar in-depth look-see.

• Oregon’s King Estate is making wine for Amazon. I’m a longtime fan of their pinot gris.

• The latest on the health front from a centenarian: Wine is a key to longevity.

• My pal Peter penned a nice piece on enjoying wine. Some great tips therein.

• I’d love to try a ’96 Madeira — in this case (actually two), a 1796 Madeira.

• Finally, an oft-bandied-about statement in another realm gets its day on the vinous front:

 

 

 

30
Jun
2017
0

Great Northwest gleanings

Some cool stuff I learned about people, places and fermented grape juice at the Northwest Wine Experience, by individual:

Chris Upchurch, DeLille Cellars
On malbec: “For years I never could see malbec on its own. It seemed everything it had certainly was provided from one of the other grapes. And then I went to Argentina and discovered there that it could stand up by itself. … We have a saying at DeLille, ‘never forget about delicious.’ Made properly, malbec never forgets about delicious.  … In Mendoza, they have high elevation and do extended maceration; they were doing six-week fermentations and even after that keeping it on the skins. Red Willow Vineyard is the highest elevation in Yakima, and we wanted to work to that Argentine aspect.”

David Merfeld, Northstar
On Washington merlot: “We have huge diversity [in styles]. You can create all kinds of different wines. You can do a Bordeaux-style with lots of acidity, or go bigger Napa style. … We used to say that cab softens the merlot, but to me it rounds out the blend.”

Walter Gehringer, Gehringer Brothers
On British Columbia’s wine evolution: “We went through a lot of hybrids. In the 1980s and ’90s, it was  a lot colder; global warming is a reality, and it has helped us. … What our region is going to be famous for is yet to be determined. Cab sauv does really well, sauv blanc, that genetic works here.”

On his journey: “We studied Germany. It just made sense: same parallel, similar winters. … We spent several years evaluating microclimates before we picked our land. It’s 13 miles north of the [U.S.] border, west side of the [South Okanagan] Valley. We have longer days and get more fruit flavor. The photogenesis thing trumps the warmer thing.”

Tony Rynders, several Oregon wineries
On Oregon conditions: PN needs a certain amount of stress to work … “We get about the same amount of moisture as Burgundy, but they get about the same [amount] every month. Our rain falls typically in winter and spring, and usually by early July it turns pretty arid. But be not afraid of rain because if you’re growing in Oregon, you’re going to get some. Mildew’s a problem every year. … Acidity is the lifeblood of pinot noir and something that’s very attainable in Oregon … 2014 was a wonderful year.”

21
Jun
2017
0

Linkin’ logs: 6-21-17

Scrollin’, scrollin’, scrollin’, keep those Web links rollin’ …

• For your lady’s birthday (or early Xmas) list: a wine purse.

• “Bring us wine, stat!” said soldiers in the 6th century BC.

• WWJD? Here’s more on wine from the Way Back Machine.

• As someone who is guilty of this practice, I welcome this look at adding ice to wine.

• Thank you! Research shows that what we eat generally has more sulfites than wine. Maybe now people will shut up about that.

• Finally, this is my kind of interior design:

 

 

17
Jun
2017
0

The latest on wine and health

My friend Bill Jacobs sent me this important announcement about health:

Do you ever have feelings of inadequacy?

Have you ever suffered from shyness?

Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. It can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you’re ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of Cabernet Sauvignon almost immediately and, with a regimen of regular doses, you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living.

Cabernet Sauvignon may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it. However, women who wouldn’t mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:

Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, loss of virginity, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night rounds of Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare, and Naked Twister.

 

Warnings:

  • The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may make you think you are whispering when you are not.
  • The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.
  • The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may cause you to think you can sing.
  • The consumption of Cabernet Sauvignon may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter and better-looking than most people.

Please feel free to share this important information with as many people as you feel it may benefit!

 

 

Now, just imagine what you could achieve with a good Shiraz.

16
Jun
2017
0

No borders for Chris Figgins’ exceptional talent

For some time, Chris Figgins has been my favorite Washington winemaker. He’s now in the running to become my favorite Oregon winemaker as well.

I got to break bread with Figgins (left) at the Northwest Wine Encounter earlier this spring, and also to hear him speak. He’s even more impressive, and just as expressive, as I expected.

His Figgins red blend has been my favorite Washington wine for a while, and he also makes the swell Leonetti Cellars reds. At the gathering, he shared his new Oregon pinot noir, Toil. Yum! I liked it so much I ordered three bottles from the winery.

Some highlights from Figgins’ presentation:

• Why he started Toil after spending decades making Bordeaux-style wines: “In the Northwest, you can only eat so much beef and pasta, especially in the summer when we have such great salmon and want lighter dishes. Seven years ago, I started looking around, and five years I really started thinking about it, and bringing in a little fruit.”

• How it evolved: “Initially going into pinot noir as a cab/merlot guy was kind of intimidating. People say pinot is fickle and difficult, and it is all that. I did a lot of listening to winemakers and a lot of experimentation with stems, fermentation, clusters.”

• How he chose Willamette’s Ribbon Ridge AVA for his sourcing: “I really like the sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, and the black fruit flavors you get there. The volcanic sites [much of Willamette] are more red-fruited.”

• Juggling the duties of three wineries in two states: “Well, in 2016 we had all the pinot noir fermented and in barrels before we started picking cab and merlot in Washington.”

• Finding the vineyard for Figgins: “The day I found the site [left], I pulled the ‘for sale’ sign out of the ground and put it in the back of the truck. … We have super-deep soils, 30 feet of loess. And we’re in an area of Walla Walla that’s the backstop of the Blue Mountains, so we get 22 inches of rain a year, while other areas are getting as little as 4 inches.”

• How clay affects the vines: “You get more roundness and density, and in the midpalate it develops that thickness, but because of our high elevation we also get freshness.”

• Washington misc.: “In Washington the vines are all own-rooted, and so you can get really great wines off of young vines. … There are not a lot of whites where I work, but I think there will be more exploration of whites at higher elevations.”

• Why he makes sure his vineyards are farmed in an environmentally friendly manner: “We live, work and play there, and our kids run through the vineyard.”

13
Jun
2017
0

Sauer’s grapes among the best in Washington, and beyond

I have always admired, and often loved, the wines of Washington state. But it is hard to delve deeply into every swell wine region in the world and to my everlasting discredit, I had not done so with the Evergreen State.

Until now.

After spending a fabulous weekend covering the Northwest Wine Encounter, I’m a bigger fan than ever. I tossed some hosannas Washington’s way in my newspaper gig, but this week I’m delving more deeply here with a look at some of the people and places that make it special.

Starting with a guy who typifies this underappreciated region: Mike Sauer, owner/caretaker of Red Willow Vineyard.

Even plugged-in wine folks likely don’t know the name of this once and future pioneer, who might be the most respected grower in all of the Great Northwest.

“We’re almost certainly never gonna have a designation like Grand Cru in this country,” said vintner Chris Upchurch (left) of DeLille Cellars, “but if we did, there would not be a single argument that this would not be a Grand Cru vineyard. It’s got the soil, sun, exposure, but you can’t forget the people who work it. This is a real craftsmen elevating Washington state.”

It might have helped that Sauer learned literally from scratch. In Washington’s early days, he said, “the emphasis was finding wines that would survive the winter. In the 1950s and ’60s we had a lot of rough winters.”

In 1973, Sauer planted some cabernet sauvignon in the westernmost and highest-elevation vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Some of those vines are still producing exemplary juice.

But the real exploring came when he hooked up with Associated Vintners’ David Lake, the only Master of Wine making wine in the U.S. at the time. “He had a European mentality,” Sauer said, “and wanted to emulate the great French wines. Instead of just doing cab or merlot, he wanted to find grapes that showed a sense of place.”

So they planted some nebbiolo and some syrah. They held picnics and pseudo-ceremoniously buried some bottles of Barolo and Rhone syrahs in those respective vineyards. “My son tells the story that we buried the bottles so the grapes would know what they were supposed to be thinking about,” he said with a chuckle.

The syrah worked beautifully, the nebbiolo not so much. But Lake made good to spectacular wines along the way, and the pair developed a seriously special bond. “He always made me feel that those wines were mine,” Sauer said, “and I always made him feel that those vineyards were his.”

Along the way Sauer decided to focus strongly on two red grapes, neither of them nebbiolo. “I think we’re emulating some of the best places in the world with cab and syrah,” he said, “but I don’t think we’re gonna put Piedmont out of business.”

He also has been having a blast experimenting. “The new and exciting thing now is looking at different clones of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. It’s amazing the nuances these bring.”

Regardless, the grapes thrive at Red Willow because of soil (“above the Missoula flood line, we have gravel and pumice”), sun (“at our latitude, degree days make a huge difference in the character of these wines”) and the climate (“as we get near the fall equinox, the days get shorter [and cooler] much more rapidly than Napa”).

Perhaps they also are “blessed” by a fabulous chapel Sauer had built atop one of the blocks (left).

But none of it works without the right person overseeing everything. That’s where Sauer’s experience and exactitude come to the fore. “I like to make the analogy between a vineyard site and a tennis racquet,” Sauer said “There’s a sweet spot where you get power, consistency and accuracy. And if you have a broken string, forget about it.

“As a grower I’m trying to constantly bring the vines back to the sweet spot.”

And he’s succeeding with all manner of grapes. To wit:

• Westport Red Willow Vineyard “Captain Gray” Gewurztraminer ’16: gorgeous semi-subtle nose, juicy, vibrant, super-tasty tropical fruit.

• DeLille Cellars Red Willow Vineyard Malbec ’14: blue/purple fruit, great acidity, loaded with stuffing for aging.

• Manu Propria Ex Animo Red Willow Vineyard Cabermet Sauvignon ’13: fab expression, sturdy but approachable, great purity of fruit, loooong.

Basically, it says here, if you see “Red Willow Vineyard” on a label, pounce. And you can thank Mike Sauer while you’re savoring the wine.

16
May
2017
0

Linkin’ logs: 5-16-17

Work, play and incarceration are on this week’s agenda via the World Wine Web:

• OK, if I were a bucket-list kind of guy, this would definitely be on there: going to an idyllic Italian island to drink jailbird juice.

• In the meantime, I’ll seek out some rosé and Prosecco popsicles.

• I love my work, but this job — as a “canbassador” — would not blow.

• Here’s a clever bit about, well, BS-ing on wine.

• Just what the world needs: a wine-themed Disneyland in China, costing nigh onto a billion bucks.

• Finally, a question for the ages:

30
Apr
2017
0

Linkin’ logs: 4-30-17

People, places and playfulness are on docket on today’s “surf”:

• Here’s a nice overview of up-and-comers in the wine world, if (predictably) a bit too hipster-leaning,

• What the world has decidedly not been waiting for: blue wine.

• Spit-take alert: Chris Figgins of Leonetti and Figgins touted this look at “single-berry fermentation,” and with good reason.

• My friend Mike Dunne, an ever-enterprising soul, delves into wine in Thailand.

• Just in time for a certain Hallmark Holiday: Why wine is good, if not essential, for Mumsy.

• Speaking of which:

27
Apr
2017
1

Judgment days: Pacific Rim gleanings

Master somm Fred Dame is a daunting figure in the movie “Somm” and has a reputation in some circles of being, well, prickly. So upon learning that I was to be on his panel at Pacific Rim, I checked with my somm friend Peter, who told me not to be at all concerned.

As we began our judging, Dame (left, behind our best-of-class sweepstakes flight), perhaps mindful of his reputation, quipped “oh, I left my cattle prod at home.” The rest of us on the panel laughed, and did so again early and often as we plowed through about 130 wines. Dame was a stone-cold delight, open with his knowledge and with his family life, warm and collegial.

As usual, there were highlights — of seven sangioveses entered, we gave gold medals to four and silvers to the rest — and a few lowlights. The latter, of course, provided fodder for more than a few gibes.

As one of the staffers came to empty the dump bucket for a particularly uneven flight, Fred quipped, “Better bring in a Haz Mat Team for that.” But he edified as well as entertained, pointing out with a misbegotten cabernet that “it smells like the ML [malolactic fermentation] went way wrong on that.” Now I’ll know what happened next time I encounter that aroma.

The worst group by far was “Meritage Under $30,” which made me wonder why wineries are using that pretentious designation for less expensive stuff. Best guess: to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear, but that actually is an insult to our porcine pals.

Anyway, two of the entries were mephitic miasma in a glass. And of course when encountering something this olid, one has no choice but to share, in this case with another panel. It rendered them speechless, except for my clever friend Spreti, who said in all seriousness, “It smells like a donkey took a bath in it.” To me, it smelled like a donkey had pooped in it, but no need to quibble in this case.

Most of the wines in the thousand or so entries (above) were actually worthwhile. The winners (all worth your while):

Red: Frank Family Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $53
White: South Coast Winery 2016 Dry Gewürztraminer, Temecula Valley, $20
Rosé: Abacela 2016 Estate Grenache Rosé, Umpqua Valley, $18
Dessert: Navarro Vineyards 2016 Late Harvest Riesling, Anderson Valley $49
Sparkling: Barefoot NV Bubbly Brut Cuveé, California, $10
Nongrape wine: Ackerman Winery NV Red Raspberry, Iowa, $13 (I loved this wine)

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