Arts and Crafts Were Never This Fun

Sparkle and Fade

A Cabernet Experience

Exploring Terroir with Forgeron Cellars

Oregon's French Connection

Maison Louis Jadot's Résonance

The French Connection

Rhone to Columbia Valley: The Syrah Doctrine

C'mon Get Happy

New Growth at Matthews Winery

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Smackdown, August 31st

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

This week we're doing something a little different.

For the past year and a couple months, we have brought you a Northwestern wine bargain each and every Friday, except maybe 1 or 2 weeks.  But frankly, when you consider how much I get paid to write this wine blog, exactly zero dollars, missing 1 or 2 over the course of a year and a couple months, that's way reasonable. At least I like to think so. Hell, I even know people who read this blog and buy these wines we recommend. It's almost like it's working.

Next week on Thursday, September 6th we're throwing a bit of a party. It's called #PinotSmackdown and I cannot take credit for it. It was started 3 years ago by two guys from, Georgia or someplace, Ed Thralls and Joe Herrig, two famous wine "twitterers."  The idea was to put a spin on the very popular "virtual tastings" and make it into a regional competition.  The victor for the first ever #PinotSmackdown was the #WillametteValley. Last year Oregon Pinotphiles were a bit surprised by the up and coming New Zealand Pinot Noir taking the title.  Which brings us to this year.

This year it's about taking back what rightfully belongs to Oregon, the greatest Pinot Noir producing region in the New World.  The greatest Pinot Noir producing region without peer is Burgundy.  If you have not splurged on a Grand Cru or Premier Cru from Burgundy, save up your pennies, it is worth it my friend.  If only just once.  The combination of soil, climate and very, very old vines produce some of the most profound wine experiences that can be had on the planet (particularly white Burgundy).

This party I mentioned, it'll be a Pinot Noir tasting, and we'll be pouring 3 Oregon Pinot Noirs as well as 3 from Burgundy at Bin 41, perhaps the greatest neighborhood wine shop in Seattle.  You're not going to want to miss this.  A $5 tasting fee, refunded with the purchase of one of the featured wines will grant you access to what Oregon and Burgundy do best.  Bring your twitter machine, your phone that is, and tweet away, using the hashtags #OR and #PinotSmackdown will help Oregon reclaim it's rightful place at the top.  I'll be there and will be giving out high fives like they're candy. You'll get to sample wines from Amalie Robert, Anam Cara Cellars and Boedecker Cellars in Oregon, and the Burgundy wines are still being selected. If you're a wine geek, or even a burgeoning one, you gotta do this.

Today's Friday Find is a bit of a reach for us, it's not from Oregon, and it's not from Washington, our two usual suspects. Negative, it's from Burgundy.  Yes, a Burgundy Pinot Noir for under $20. Get on outta here you say.  Nope.  From a serious producer, the negociant, Albert Bichot comes the Vielles Vignes or "Old Vines" a blend of wines with a Bourgogne designation.  For $15? Seriously folks.  This wine is a blend of lots of vineyards that are 25-35 years old from both major the major growing areas within Burgundy the Cote de Beaune and the Cote de Nuits.  The wine is a reflection of that region's secret, elegance in the aromatics, with lots of dark fruit and a hint of spice, the wine comes through on the palate with gun powder minerality, black currant and a touch of the oak that was used.  You can find a better Pinot Noir than this, but for $15? You'll be looking real hard. I got mine at the Magnolia Thriftway but with Vinum Distributing carrying this wine you can probably track it down with some ease in Seattle and Portland, shoot them a note on twitter. See  you at the Smackdown.

Monday, August 27, 2012

#PinotSmackdown... Oregon is Pre-Ordained

The 3rd annual Pinot Smackdown gets underway on Thursday, September 6th.  Around the world, wine lovers in the know when it comes to using the twitter machine, will be convening over a bottle of perhaps the world's most noble of noble varietals to drink and tweet about their Pinot Noir of choice.  Pinot has come to be planted across the globe, migrating from it's most revered home in France's Burgundy. Pinot  Noir has been planted with success in New Zealand, British Columbia, Chile, Washington State, New York State, and even... California. Not sure why you'd drink that though.

Variety is nice and all but as we've come to know, the greatest place on earth for the planting of Pinot Noir, outside of it's noble home in Burgundy is within Oregon's Willamette Valley. Earthen, dusty and elegant wines with that signature "fresh fruit" are what Oregon Pinot Noir have come to represent.  What can be lost in the beauty that is Oregon Pinot Noir, for the uninitiated, is it's ability to express vineyard site or growing areas as well as vintages with a clarity that is probably found in only one other place on earth, again... Burgundy.

If Oregon has a leg up on Burgundy, (IF, I said) it's that compared to that ethereal wine producing motherland, it's pricing goes beyond approachable to downright paltry. (Again, we're comparing the two regions.) What I'm not implying is that Oregon Pinot Noir is Burgundy, but it's been called "Burgundian" and "Old World" in style so many times to avoid the topic altogether would be foolish.

What is for certain however is that Oregon Pinot Noir is beautiful unto itself. It is not Burgundian, except maybe to be more Burgundian than anywhere else.  What Oregon and the Willamette Valley really is in terms of Pinot Noir is serendipity.  It just sets up beautifully, terroir city folks.  A long growing season and winter weather that remains temperate in addition to the perfect combination of soils and slopes and you've got Pinot Noir paradise.

What this means is that the writing is on the wall.  Over time the world is coming to recognize that the best Pinot Noirs in the new world, hands down are coming from Oregon's Willamette Valley.  California? New Zealand? The jig is up. This year's #PinotSmackdown Champion will be #OR Pinot Noir. I promise. I guarantee it.

So this #PinotSmackdown, next Thursday that is, you can mess around, act a fool and drink something not from Oregon. Or you can join the Anthem, we'll be popping #OR Pinot at two locations, one in Seattle at Bin 41, right in the heart of West Seattle's Junction as well as down in Pinotlandia itself at Portland's Enso Winery.  More details to come this week and expect lots of smack talk. It's only Monday. Come join us, or taste and tweet at home and follow along with the #PinotSmackdown hashtag.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Find, August 24th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Right now the newest Bourne movie, The Bourne Legacy is in theaters.  I haven't seen it yet, and I'm not sure I will.  I love the Bourne films, really I've seen all of them a whole bunch of times, and in fact, the last time I went to a movie theater it was to see the Bourne Ultimatum, that was like seven years ago.  The thing is this movie isn't about Jason Bourne, so what the hell is going on here?

I mean it people.  What the hell is going on here?

You can't have a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne.   There have been a few let downs out there in move sequel land.  Few hit home harder than Major League 2 or Teen Wolf Too.  This Bourne abomination however may just be the kill shot.  The difference here in contrast to those two films, in the sequel to Major League, you've got both Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger's characters returning to reprise their starring roles as veteran catcher Jake Taylor and wild pitcher Ricky Vaughn. Conspicuously absent however is the Wesley Snipes character Willie "Mays" Hayes, the movie was called Major League though, not "Willie Mays Hayes and Some Other Guys Play Ball" had that been the case, a sequel without Snipes' character would have been out of the question.

Similarly we have Teen Wolf, starring America's favorite Canadian Michael J. Fox who plays Scott Howard, a teen aged kid who turns into a werewolf. In the sequel, Jason Bateman who for about 25 years seemingly disappeared off of the planet before becoming relevant again played Todd Howard, related but a different guy, maybe they were cousins, I never saw the sequel, so I don't know. Had this movie been called "Scott Howard Does the Wolf Thing Again" but only had Todd Howard in it, it would have had some issues being taken seriously, and fact is, it probably did anyways.  My point though, and I think it still stands, you can't have a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne or at least his cousin, in the Bourne Legacy we have  neither, or so I've been told, I haven't seen it yet.

This week's Friday Find is from Southard Winery of Yakima Valley.  It's the 2010 Columbia Valley Red Wine.  The winery has received considerable publicity from Paul Gregutt and is kind of the new "it" winery going right now.  This wine is unique in a few ways, certainly not the blend, which the best I can tell is a Syrah and Mouvedre, but at $15 what you don't get is a supremely oaky luxuriant red wine. Instead the wine is restrained and mineral rich. I will go so far as to say you must let this wine sit open for a few hours, to enjoy it and point of fact, it's better on day two.  The Columbia Valley Red Wine from Southard has lots of chalky minerality on the nose and faint elements of blackberry, open initial opening it gives off green elements that would lead one to believe the fruit was under-ripe but over a few hours this transformed into black pepper, dusty cherries and minerality.  With a little time open, this can be quite the Friday Find.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Find, August 17th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

It's hotter than hell out there today. H-O-T.  Normally I would regale you with some witty story, history lesson or metaphor that would no doubt entertain you and make you think.  It's too hot for that frankly.

The only thing I can think of is that I wish it would rain or something. The fact is in the Pacific Northwest we have the world's mildest weather generally and no matter where you come from, after awhile you become used to it.  The sad reality is that you become a "weather wimp."  Take me for example. I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where in the winter time it gets quite cold and snows quite a bit. I recall one New Year's Eve a friend and I were out and he said "Man, I wonder how cold it is?"  as we rounded a corner a bank sign told us "2 degrees."  "Man I said, it is cold, it's 2."  That never happens here.  The other side of that coin is that in the summertime it's hot and muggy, and by muggy I mean disgusting.  You know how some people are close-talkers? They invade your personal space and make you uncomfortable? That's more or less what the hot muggy summer-times in Pittsburgh feel like.  Imagine someone in your face, sweating on you and making you feel uncomfortable constantly, that's more or less summer.  I really miss it.

My point is that when we get two or three days of warm weather here, we whine, at least I do, and so that is really all I'm getting at.  Essentially I'm actually whining in this post.  I think we should probably move on to this week's Friday Find.  This week's wine is probably one of the top bargains in the Northwest this year, for serious.  The 2011 Juliette's Dazzle Rosé is a creation from Allen Shoup and Gilles Nicault better known for their work on the Long Shadows project.  This wine is outstanding, and in some seriously sexy packaging. Think a bowling pin that you might find somewhere like Versailles.

This wine is selected from a special block in the Benches Vineyard up in Horse Heaven Hills.  The elevation keeps the fruit up at the Benches a bit cooler and preserves a fantastic acidity.  While most often we're used to a Rosé comprised of red varietals this wine is nearly 100% Pinot Gris, which has a pink hue to it when ripe. There is about 2% Sangiovese thrown in for both the fruit flavors and a touch of color.  The wine is fantastically crisp, loads of strawberry, plum blossom and watermelon aromatics and a clean crisp palate of stone and strawberry jolly rancher. At $14 to $15 you'd be crazy from the heat not to pick some of this up and drink what Washington wine legend Allen Shoup drinks all summer. With the super-cool packaging it should be easy to spot.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Seeker: Seattle Area Winemakers Find a Home in Manson, Washington

from our favorite rock n roll luchador, Lucha Vino:

"They call me The Seeker

I’ve been searchin’ low and high..."

You could easily call Angela from Wine Girl Wines and Charlie from Cairdeas “The Seeker.”  Both started following their wine making passion in Seattle eventually finding their ways to Manson, Washington.  If you are not familiar with Manson you can find it on the North shore of Lake Chelan.

Manson may be smaller than its neighbor Chelan, but that isn’t stopping the winemakers in this beautiful part of our state from turning out some powerful wines.  Imagine capturing, in a wine bottle, the magic unleashed by Pete Townsend when he winds up with that famous windmill guitar strum.  Now you have a good idea of what you will find when you visit The Blending Room, home of Wine Girl Wines, or Cairdeas just a bit further down the road.

"I asked Bobby Dylan..."

So what exactly inspired Angela and Charlie to end their search in Manson?

Both knew that they wanted to be in “wine country" and both felt a similar inspiration to seek a place smaller than Walla Walla, or Woodinville.

Angela started making wine in Seattle and had been eyeing the Chelan area for about 11 years before taking the plunge and moving to Manson.  One of the original draws for Angela was the possibilities for Pinot Noir in the region.  She thinks other vareties will take the lead now.  Perhaps Cabernet Sauvignon or Franc.

Angela sees potential for growth in the Chelan AVA and likes the fact that there are fewer wineries in the area.  Another appealing aspect is most of the wineries are family operations with great passion and camaraderie throughout the area.

Charlie also began his winemaking endeavors in Seattle, initially making wines in his garage for himself before going “pro.”  Charlie’s wife Lacey was helping to open a new Condo in Lake Chelan and through coming over and hanging out Charlie discovered a love for the Lake Chelan area.  During his visits he got to know the people at Tildio and Nefarious and saw how much passion they had for wine making and the family aspect of their businesses.  As I learned, family is very important to Charlie.

"I asked the Beatles..."

So how did you get into wine making anyway?

Angela worked in the Seattle restaurant industry while attending the University of Washington and studying Chemistry.  She found that she wanted to pursue something that combined art with science and felt like wine really filled that niche for her.  Angela’s original wine label was Fira, named after the capital of the Greek island Santorini.

Since that original start Angela has expanded and makes wines under the label My Derby Wife and Kamari.  The My Derby Wife Wines are all single varietals while the Kamari wines are all organic and sustainably made.  Kamari is another Greek reference, a black sand beach found on the island of Santorini
Charlie started making wine as a personal adventure.  His wife saw Charlie’s passion for winemaking and gave him the push he needed to explore making wine for the rest of us with the simple question: “You really love making wine.  Why don’t you start a winery?”  Charlie’s first vintage was 2008 when he made two barrels of wine.  He started slowly, wanting to make sure that people would like his wine.  He really didn’t have anything to worry about.  He had to close his Harbor Avenue tasting room on Alki in 2011 when he sold all his inventory.  Fast forward and Charlie plans to make between 1,000 and 1,200 cases of wine for 2012.  That is some serious growth!

"I asked Timothy Leary..."

The next best thing to Lucha Libre is Roller Derby.  So, I asked Angela to tell me about My Derby Wife wines.  Angela spent four years skating with the Rat City Roller Girls (yeah baby!).  During that time she started making the My Derby Wife wines naming the wines after her fellow Rat City Roller Girls personalities.  For example, her spicy Malbec was named for “Sarah Problem.”  The 2009 Merlot is “Scarlet Leather” and 2007 Merlot is “Killer Bee-Otch.”

What was the inspiration for the Cairdeas name for Charlie’s winery?  Pronounced “car-des”, Cairdeas is a Gaelic word that translates to friendship, goodwill or aliance.  All three are important to Charlie which also includes the love of family.  His Nellie Mae (60% Viognier and 40% Rousanne) is named after his Grandmother.  She was curious about winemaking and ended up helping with the crush for this wine.  Likewise, Charlie’s son, Eugene is named after his Grandfathers.

"He couldn’t help me either..."

Tell me again, why did you move to Manson?

You can see for miles.

"They call me The Seeker, I’ve been searching low and high...."

Both wineries have release parties coming up.  If you have been seeking a change of pace this is your chance to get over to Manson and get to get what you’re after.  Do it now, do it before the day you die!

Cairdeas Tri Gailic for three this is a Non Vintage wine made from grapes from three vintages and three vineyards.  It is a blend of Syrah and Dolcetto with notes of cherry, clove spices, earthy licorice and light chocolate with nice tart spicy finish that includes a hint of pepper.

Kamari Cabernet Franc 2010 I’m a sucker for Cab Franc and this one doesn’t disappoint.  Dark fruit, green pepper and herbal notes including light pepper and licorice that trail on to a dry tart spicy cracked pepper finish.

Cairdeas Release Party August 18th 2 - 7 PM.

Wine Girl Release Party on August 11 celebrated the release of their latest Cab Franc.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Coming Soon to PDX: Savor Southern Oregon!

The Southern Oregon Winery Association (SOWA) has given their annual tasting event a makeover and parading it around for all of Portlandia to see – introducing: Savor Southern Oregon! This event, typically held in late Fall, is coming to downtown Portland, Oregon on Sunday, September 16th fully embracing its new time slot (and complementary weather!) in the gorgeous, urban, outdoor space of Director Park.

Together with agri-tourism and event company Farm to Fork, SOWA has broadened the scope of this tasting to partner Southern Oregon farms with several Portland chefs and restaurants as an accompaniment to the over 100 Southern Oregon wines being presented that day. This event is a fantastic opportunity to get acquainted with 25+ wineries and taste the wines of the Southern Oregon region including Roussane, Tempranillo, Malbec and other unique blends. Pair your favorites with gourmet cheeses or artisan chocolates, enjoy live music, enter to win a Southern Oregon getaway, or go back to school with wine education seminars.

We're giving away two pair of tickets to Savor Southern Oregon this week on our Facebook page, so click over there to see what the fuss is all about (like our page and answer some trivia questions to win).  Like mom always says, you can't win if you don't play.

Savor Southern Oregon is Sunday, September 16th from 2 – 6PM in downtown Portland. Nab your advance tickets for $39 here. For those of you more spontaneous folk, tickets are just $50 at the door. Director Park, 815 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Find, August 10th

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

I'm always mystified by the comment "I only drink _______ wine." The missing word is not "expensive", or "German" or even "single vineyard", as at the very least, all of those would be slightly more interesting.  No, folks who make these statements usually fill in the blank with one of two words, "white" or "red."

Sometimes, it's "white."  There are those folks who are, or believe they are allergic to red wines. "It's the sulfites" they usually say, even though many white wines actually contain higher concentration of sulfites.  I don't mean to debate or dismiss the "allergic to red wine"crowd.  That's another post for another day, but I do want to focus on our friends who "Don't drink white wine."

More often than not, with folks who've chosen one "type" of wine over the other, they typically don't drink white wine, they dismiss it as sweet, cheap, for summer, for girls, for kids, for Germans.  Whatever.  I have my own theories and I'll run them down for you here, as well as offer this week's Friday Find, a take on a white blend that I think just might be a white wine for red wine drinkers.

I believe that people who "don't drink white wine," make this mistake for three primary reasons.

Reason 1: They don't think of white wine as "serious" wine.  This could stem from a number of things: a bad experience with bad white wine, sweet Moscato, Franzia, or a more simplistic understanding of what makes wine "serious".  As people begin learning about wine and the winemaking process they learn that often times, (but not always) it's red wine that's put away to age and ferment in barrels and white wine goes into stainless steel.  How can that be a serious wine they might ask, I mean, barrels are what wine is all about.  Well, this logic requires a very simple response.  White Burgundy.  There, if you don't believe that white wine is serious drop somewhere in the $50-150 range on a Chardonnay from Burgundy (these are aged in barrel by the way). You'll change your tune in a heartbeat.  The white wines from Burgundy may be the most profound wine experience you can have, period.  They age for decades and they deliver a complexity that almost no wine, of any color can match.

Reason 2: Fruity Mc Fruiterson.  People may have had some "white wines" that were loaded with tropical or citrus fruits, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly a different flavor profile than they've experienced in their red wines.  This is often a result of a fruit forward varietal done in a crisp style and it's absolutely fantastic, but for "red wine drinkers" who are used to having a significant oak influence on their wines, it can be off putting.  "Where's the smoke? The vanilla? The cedar?"  It's not here my friends, and it doesn't belong. Diversity is a beautiful thing and so not all wines should taste alike.

Reason 3: Body.  I think that for the majority of "red wine drinkers" what they experience in a white wine comes off as thin or overly acidic, angular instead of rounded.  For the record, I disagree with them, but this is the conclusion I've drawn as to why many folks are put off by "white wines".  For me there are few things more beautiful than the brilliant acidity of Riesling or a Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire.  Red wine drinkers however are used to more rounded flavor profiles, often a result of that aforementioned oak, but also because of the ripeness and fuller body that is common for many, but not all red varietals.

To that end and hopefully to provide a gateway wine we bring you today's Friday Find.  From Syncline Wines, the 2011 Subduction White, a white Rhone style blend.  The reason I think this just might be the gateway white for "red wine drinkers" is the body that many of these white Rhone varietals have.  This wine is a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne which give the wine a body and fullness that "red wine drinkers" will love is balanced with Viognier, Picpoul and Grenanche Blanc.  The wine balances bright fruit aromatics with layers of complexity on the palate, honey, hay, beeswax and wet stone mix with flavors of citrus fruit and pear. At $20 it's a well priced gateway wine.  You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Oregon Pinot the French Translation; 1789 Wines

I participated in the Northwest Wines To You Tasting Games and was able to taste a vertical of the 1789 wines from 2007 through 2009 and participate in an online question and answer session with the winemaker.  

Winemaker Isabelle Dutartre came from France to Oregon's Willamette Valley to make Pinot Noir.  With a substantial background in Burgundy, studying there as well as working for Joseph Drouhin for 12 years, Isabelle began a long commute back and forth between France and Oregon several times a year.  In 1993 she decided to quit fighting the trans-Atlantic traffic and settled in the Willamette Valley. With about 28 years of winemaking experience she's finally come out with a wine all her own.

While Isabelle continues to make wine for established wineries within the Valley. she also has started her own venture, a "personal revolution," in her 1789 Wines. (She's currently the winemaker at De Ponte Cellars.)  For Isabelle, the label is a nod to her French heritage (marking the year of France's great revolution) but it wasn't "too French-y" in her words. Isabelle is putting a French accent on the Oregon fruit, and hoping produce a more Burgundian style of wine. Finesse, elegance and complexity are what she appreciates in the Pinot Noir from her home country and she's hoping to emulate that here in the Willamette Valley.

For her first vintage in 2007 Isabelle was able to source fruit from my personal favorite Oregon AVA, the Chehalem Mountains.  She only made about 70 cases that year from the acre of fruit she got and for Isabelle this marked a special moment, it was all hers, the label, the wine all of it.  In many ways, it was like "another baby" that she had to take all the responsibility for. (Isabelle is a mother of three.)

By now many people know the story of the 2007 vintage in the Willamette Valley.  It was a challenging one, with late season rainstorms making for a very perplexing and stressful harvest. Ultimately, with the way these wines are now drinking, I hope we have many more vintages like that, but of course, I don't have to go through all the stress of actually making any decisions about whether to pick, or wait.  In 2007 this was an enormous factor. With pending rains on the way, many wineries picked before the rains came, not willing to risk the fruit this late into the growing season. For Isabelle, the decision was to wait, and ultimately it was the right decision for her, as she believes that as a winemaker she can taste that decision in Willamette Valley wines of that vintage.

"The tannins were not ripe, it was not there. There's a bit of greenness on the wines that were picked early." For Isabelle waiting out the rain resulted in a beautiful wine with fantastic aromatics. "The aromas are clean, elegant and the palate follows the nose."  To me the wine is a classic of this cool, challenging vintage and that AVA with loads of earthen aromas, gunpowder minerality and fresh ripe raspberries. For Isabelle the 07 vintage is what a classic Oregon vintage is, despite all its stresses.

These wines were provided as samples and are all available from Northwest Wines to You. They are all really, very good, and the 2007 is bordering on brilliant.

1789 Wines 2007 Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir A classic and my favorite of the bunch with rich and haunting aromatics of dried violet, black tea, gunpowder and forest floor.  The wine delivers the same character on the palate with elegant raspberries and red currants. An absolutely beautifully balanced, acid driven Pinot Noir. $60

1789 Wines 2008 Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir From a warmer and what Isabelle calls an "easier vintage," the aromatics are not as forward, highlighting early season blackberry and clove.  The wine is more fruit forward and broader in body than its younger sister.  Black fruit flavors along with clove and baking spices carry through the finish. The warmer vintage is handled deftly by a talented winemaker and the more muscular fruit is balanced with an elegance and finesse through the finish.  $60

1789 Wines 2009 Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir "The middle child" in terms of taste among the three Pinot Noirs.  Aromatics of red fruit and sweet notes. The acidity is slightly less obvious, the palate is elegant with red fruit and herbal notes, the wine has a very pretty mouth-feel and is beautifully balanced.  $48

Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday Find, August 3rd

Each Friday we highlight a wine from the Northwest that we think is a real "find." By find we might mean that it's a steal, as all of these wines we'll feature weekly are at or under $20. We might also mean "Hey, you really need to go find this" and it might be a wine that we feel not enough people know about. In any case, with the weekend pending we're hoping to help you "find" a wine to kickoff the weekend right. We'll tell you a little bit about the wine and try to help you track it down here in the Northwest.

Oregon has come to be known for it's world class Pinot Noir, and rightfully so.  It's some of the most beautiful wine you'll find in the new world.  But Oregon, and most specifically the Willamette Valley is far from a one trick pony.  Chardonnay is finally starting to get the notice it deserves here, as well as Riesling and the seeming "obligatory" white wine, Pinot Gris.  While I feel like the Chardonnays and Rieslings are really coming into their own, I'm not as big a fan of Oregon Pinot Gris.  Sorry, just being honest. I feel like generally it's a bit dull.

One Willamette white wine however, that's both wildly under-rated and misunderstood is Pinot Blanc.  Let's clarify a few things shall we.  Pinot Blanc is not white Pinot Noir.  Those of you with rudimentary French skills, like myself may have mistakenly come to this conclusion. Some folks are starting to make a White Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, but it's called White Pinot Noir and let me tell you, it's delicious. (Please don't ever assume it's like White Zinfandel is to Zinfandel, nothing could be further from the truth.)

Let's dig into Pinot Blanc a bit shall we?

Pinot Blanc is a mutant.  Like the X-Men but real.  Also, it's very much not like the X-Men because it's just a wine grape.  Pinot Noir is a bit unstable and so it's not uncommon for it to have a few one-offs or mutations show up on the vine, everything's going fine and there's all these dark clusters and then, BAM! white grapes on a shoot or two, one such mutation is Pinot Blanc.

Pinot Blanc has come into it's own, mostly through the Alsatian wine region, it's a grape that factors into Cremant d'Alsace as well as the Pinot Blanc varietal, which actually doesn't have to be all Pinot Blanc, it can be Pinot Blanc, but it can also be Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and the aforementioned white Pinot Noir. Alsatians, confusing.  The grape can also be found blended in Burgundy and Champagne but for the most part it is fairly under-appreciated.

Oregon might just put Pinot Blanc on the map.  If folks would take the time to put down the often times drab Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc might just surprise you.  Aromatically more interesting and ranging in styles from a bright, crisp and sharply acidic wine to one with a bit of rounded character, Pinot Blanc might just be the other Oregon Pinot.

This week's Friday Find is just one of two Oregon Pinot Blancs I had this week.  The Amity Vineyards 2009 Pinot Blanc is a bit rounded in style, with pleasing aromatics of ripe Bartlett pear, rounded honey and soft floral notes.  The wine brings about a more rounded style on the palate with lots of ripe Granny Smith Apple and ample acidity to carry through the finish. This wine retails in the $15 range and at least in Seattle you can find it at the tiny and lovable City Cellars in Wallingford.

(As an aside we're giving away a pair of tickets to a Seattle wine event, Blend this coming Wednesday, head on over to our Facebook page to participate in the competition.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Beyond the Varietal... BLEND Seattle

Ask any winemaker and they'll tell you that "great wine is made in the vineyard." Often times they'll go on and on about how it's really just their job to "get out of the way" or "not mess it up."  Winemakers are so humble (sarcasm).  While claims to the contrary are rampant, the winemaker is making the wine after all. With single varietal wines there are several variables that a winemaker must consider.  Nowhere however, is their able hand more present than in a wine blend.

The blend has long been a staple of winemaking, from Bordeaux to Champagne to Chateauneuf du Pape blending wine has allowed winemakers to use their palates to help the vineyards along.  Blending various varietals together to create an expression of the vintage, a particular style of wine, or a completely new concoction.  For a long time, traditional blends ruled the day.  Bordeaux varietals blended with Bordeaux varietals, and Rhone Varietals with Rhone Varietals.  In many cases this is still the most common blending that you'll find even here in the Pacific Northwest, but many winemakers are beginning to set aside that tradition and blend together Cabernet and Syrah or Riesling and Chardonnay.  These outside the box blends often create flavor profiles that are unique and surprising.

On September 16th, Washington wine fans will get an opportunity to try some of the state's most tried and true blends, along with some of it's newest wine creations.  Over 40 wineries from Washington and the world, along chefs from some of the region's most exclusive resorts and inns like the Salish Lodge, will be sharing their wines and food pairings with guests at BLEND, at the Bell Harbor Conference Center.

While wine tastings are always a good time, BLEND hopes to have guests learn a thing or two, about their own palates and some of the wines on hand.  A few select wineries will be demonstrating what went into their blends at the Barrel Blending Station. Guests can taste the blend, as well as the different varietal components and hear the winemaker explain what that particular blending does to the wine.

Additional highlights will include international tasting stations, the Bubble lounge that includes Champagne and sparkling wines  and ciders to pair with oysters from Taylor Shellfish, and a special blending of Project V and Fonte Coffee to create an espresso martini.

Throughout the event there will be giveaways that include stays at some of the region's top destination resorts and getaway locations.  Tickets will go fast and they are only $49, get yours here. Or check out our Facebook page this week where we'll be giving tickets away between now and next Wednesday (August 8th).