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

Who We Are

The staff of the Northwest Wine Anthem, we're good

Monday, September 30, 2013

Two Frenchmen & a German Walk Into a Bar...The Story Behind Idaho Wine

When you think about Northwest wines, we all know about the elegant Pinot Noirs from Oregon and the big, bold reds from Washington.  But what do you know about the Northwest’s first wines? The state of Idaho has been making wine longer than anyone else in the northwest.  Idaho first started making wine in Lewiston, Idaho in 1864 and the story behind the beginning of Idaho's wine industry is something reminiscent of the start of a joke. 
the other Bill Murray of Sawtooth Wines
Two Frenchman, Louis Desol and Robert Schleicher, and a German, Jacob Schaefer, recognized Idaho's potential to produce world class wines.  Schleicher was the most successful as he won numerous awards and medals in various competitions in Omaha, Buffalo, St. Louis and Portland.  Idaho wines were nationally renowned and the industry was thriving until the state implemented prohibition in 1919, thus closing the industry down.

Prohibition ended in 1933 and took its toll on the region, its growers and winemakers.  It wasn't until 1970 that wine grapes were once again planted in Idaho, this time along the Snake River, in the southern part of Idaho.

Tammy and Mike of Indian Creek
Today, the Snake River Valley, established in 2007 and the state’s first AVA, is home to most of the state's wineries. It is there, in southwestern Idaho, that over 8,000 square miles of land is dedicated to the Snake River Valley AVA.

Growers and winemakers from around this great country of ours have certainly taken notice of Idaho's potential in the last ten years.  In 2002, there were 11 wineries and today, Idaho now has over 50 wineries and over 1,600 acres of grapes planted. 

Idaho’s industry is made up of an eclectic mix of original generation Idaho winemaking families like Indian Creek, founded by the Stowe family in 1982, to Idaho natives returning home after spending time in other winemaking areas along the west coast like Periple's Angie Shaltry and Cinder's Melanie Krause to transplants like Sawtooth’s Bill Murray.

Today, it is winemakers and wineries like these that lead the charge for Idaho's winemaking community. Indian Creek has stayed true to their Idaho roots, working with various vineyards throughout the valley, including their own estate vineyard. Second-generation husband and wife team, Tammy Stowe-McClure and Mike McClure, now run the show at Indian Creek.  When they're not climbing the best mountains the Northwest has to offer, this dynamic duo produces a wide variety of wines ranging from Germanic inspired Rieslings, to the ever-temperamental Pinot Noir, to red blends like their Star Garnet.  

Melanie and Joe of Cinder
At Cinder, another husband and wife team, Melanie Krause and Joe Schnerr, are looking to continue Idaho's rich winemaking heritage.  Krause has worked under  well known Washington winemakers such as Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau, Goose Ridge’s Kendall Mix and Bunnell Family’s Ron Bunnell. During her time at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Krause helped make over 400,000 cases of wine for the Chateau and in 2003, she was promoted to assistant winemaker at Canoe Ridge Estate Winery.  In 2006, Krause moved back to Idaho and started making wine for herself in addition to consulting for various wineries throughout the valley.  Today, Krause and Schnerr make various small lot wines, but really take pride in their Syrahs and Viogniers.

At Périple, Angie Shaltry, an Idaho native, is taking a different approach.  Shaltry got her start in the industry at Healdsburg’s Alexander Valley Vineyards, working in their lab.  She quickly discovered her passion for the art of winemaking and began working with California icon Helen Turley.  It was there that Shaltry discovered her love for Pinot Noir and has since brought that love back to Idaho in the form of different Pinot Noir offerings from both California and Oregon.  In 2008, Shaltry began working with Washington fruit, sourcing Syrah and Cabernet from various Red Mountain vineyards.

Angie of Periple
Lastly, let’s talk Bill Murray.  Yes, I too, love the idea of that cannonballing, gopher hunting maniac making wine, but alas, it’s not THAT Bill Murray that heads the winemaking team at Sawtooth.  However, Sawtooth’s Bill Murray is also charismatic, outgoing and hilarious, and he knows also knows his way around a vineyard and a cellar.  Murray got his start in California where he worked for Buena Vista Winery, Acacia and Bouchaine before moving to the Northwest to work as heir to his long time friend, John Abbot, at Canoe Ridge Estate Winery.

With its roots running deeper than most, Idaho knows that it lies in the shadows of its neighbors to the west, but that isn’t deterring anyone from working hard to prove that they, too, can make world-class wines.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Find, September 27th

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.

Punk rock, not sure the term means what it meant in the past, in fact I'm sure it doesn't. It's become gentrified like a borderline neighborhood in a growing trendy city. The original inhabitants have been bought out, pushed further into the hinterlands and the yuppies have come in and gotten urban access at cut-rate prices. That happens in real estate and it happened in punk rock too. You can thank Green Day mostly. 

What punk rock was exactly, was a new way, sure it became a choreographed revolt of sorts, but it was in it's essence a different path. A statement, sometimes bold and over the top and other times more "slacker" in it's message of "your way doesn't work for me." Early on there were classic punk bands like the Ramones and the Clash, and blown out of proportion examples like the Sex Pistols. Many people point to Michigan of all places for punk's roots. MC5 out of Detroit and the Stooges with Iggy Pop from Ann Arbor of all places as the genre's beginning.

In the 80s and 90s if anything punk became punker and it really became hard-core, like as in Hardcore music, not more hard-core. Black Flag, and those goth weirdos the Misfits these guys were anything but pop, and then in the UK you had The Exploited, and Subhumans. And while these bands became influences for later, dialed back punk rock, in NOFX, Bad Religion etc. It was really the Ramones, punk pioneers all along,but rather "poppy" that influenced the likes of Green Day and other bands that would go onto actually put a bullet in punk rock.

What happened overtime, like anything punk lost some of it's originality, it became commercialized. And then Green Day happened. They along with the band Offspring essentially assassinated punk rock music. Nice going fellas. Perhaps the most punk rock thing you can do is to kill punk rock? Ruminate on that one. (By the way this is more or less a recap of what I just read on wikipedia.)

Red Mountain has come to develop a reputation of one of the finest, and certainly the most consistent wine growing region in the state. It's point of fact the warmest site year in and year out in Washington. It's vineyards, some of them becoming legendary are producing some of Washington's most well known and powerful wines. Vineyards like Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval have come develop world class reputations. The AVA is a Washington flagship for Cabernet and Bordeaux style blends. In the mix, there's a little bit of punk rock though.

Kiona Vineyards is one of the state's oldest, and founding wineries. John Williams founded Red Mountain along with his former partner Jim Holmes. The winery makes a plethora of wines, and sells fruit that goes into some of Washington's finest bottles. They also make the most punk rock wine on Red Mountain, it goes it's own way. Today's Friday Find is the 2010 Lemberger from Kiona. It's a food wine. Imagine that. Compared to those around it, this funnily named wine is diminutive, elegant and carrying ample acidity to make it a great companion to a meal, and while many of the big bold wines of Red Mountain command star billing, the Lemberger is happy to play a supporting role. 

Medium bodied with red fruits and hints of dusty earth, a Red Mountain trademark, Kiona has been making Lemberger since 1980, America's oldest commercial bottling of the wine. Imagine a heftier Pinot Noir, or as the folks at Kiona like to call it, "Pinot on steroids." For $15 bones it's an enjoyable one-off and if wine can be punk rock, this is definitely Red Mountain's punk-rock wine. The Lemberger is largely available and in Seattle can be found at Wine World, and at grocers that carry Kiona wines.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Visions of Bordeaux on Red Mountain; Hedges Family Estate

from Emily Popp

Every routine, every production, every tangible figurine, cities and belief systems were merely visions at one point in time.

It’s a beautiful thing when one’s vision becomes reality. I experienced just this upon meeting Anne-Marie and Tom Hedges. Together, they turned their dream into a routine, into a chateau, into bottles and bottles of elegant wines, into tangible reality and way of life, and here’s just the very small glimpse of their story that I was fortunate enough to observe:

We drove by fields of vines, following our GPS set for the Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain. A perfect replica of a storybook French chateau grew larger in our windshield. Where we parked, ours was the only vehicle in sight and it occurred to me that we might be the only guests of this monumental building. I couldn’t help but feel slightly intimidated, but we proceeded around front despite.

A wide arched set of French doors sat beneath an even wider balcony as the center focal point of the statuesque residence and I wondered whether that balcony or my current position offered a better view. Parallel with the stucco exterior, symmetrical rows of low shade trees would guide visitors from left or from right. Where the rows would have met, a fountain patio parted them, offering cool shaded views of the vast rolling fields.

The French doors opened, and the Hedges family welcomed us in, thus beginning a three-hour whirlwind of magnificence. They treated us to a tour of the estate and various bottles of estate grown, blended and bottled wines. We learned that the Hedges family not only made such delicious wine, but they also built much of the chateau themselves. We also learned their story and how their vision progressed into what it is today:

Anne-Marie was born in Champagne, France, where her upbringing was very much routed in traditional French culture and Tom was born in Richland, Washington, a product of the traditional American home. They fell in love and married in the later part of the 70s, bringing two distant cultures and distinct families together, yet a shared family-business mindset.

Ten years after the wedding they put that mindset to work with the creation of a wine export company based in Kirkland, WA. As opportunities arose and their vision developed, Anne-Marie and Tom molded their company, bit by bit into the classic European model of a wine estate and what is now Hedges Family Estate.

After our tour, we sat for a decadent lunch and discussed wine’s place in history and culture. Here we were in a new world wine region, sipping ‘99s and 2010s in a chateau that very much resembled that of the legendary Chateaux Haut-Brion. I couldn’t help but conclude that this was the epitome of all wine experiences: to enjoy the glorious wines on the very grounds where they were grown, authentically presented in a beautiful chateau the way wine has been shared in the old world for generations.

Three hours of the afternoon had melted away, and it was time to say good-bye. Waving, I thought how wonderful it was to have spent time with such inspiring people. Anne-Marie and Tom expressed such a passion for their dream and that passion seems to have been all they needed. Now they share their dream with all who enjoy their wines. Their story is a muse for all dreamers and visionaries. This life is yours to make of it what you will.

Monday, September 16, 2013

International & Domestic Terroirism: Rendezvous with Riesling

You're not drinking enough Riesling. Not nearly enough.

None of us are really. Riesling may represent the single greatest wine value in, er, wine.  No, I'm being serious, how often can you find some of the best wines a state or region is producing from a single varietal for around $20, aside from like Siegerebbe? Nearly never. Riesling does that for you.

Riesling is ready, right now, but Riesling is also ready later, much later. Riesling ages, very, very well. Twenty year old Rieslings from the Mosel Valley in Germany feel like "they're just gettin' warmed up!" (Picture Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, only Scent of a Riesling.)

The motherland for Riesling is certainly Germany's famously steep, slate stone vineyards where it's minerality and acidity are concentrated right along with the freshness and real sense of place that's imitated but never replicated. The Northwest, particularly Oregon and B.C. are making some outstanding examples of Riesling, and as I learned at Riesling Rendezvous (this summer), Riesling is particularly sensitive to where it's grown. That is to say, it's a wine that communicates it's terroir or sense of place as well as any, like Pinot Noir and Syrah. (Riesling Rendezvous is hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle, who happen to produce more Riesling than anyone in the new world, and maybe anywhere.)

I attended a seminar; Proving Terroir Matters with Dr. Ulrich Fischer, he's a wine scientist and scholar, he's German and he knows his stuff. His sense of fashion? Also, impeccable. I mentioned this already, but he's German. What Uli wanted us all to understand was that a: terroir really matters, in terms of quality of the wine, and so a designation of a vineyard as special, in Germany the Grosses Gewächs designation is Germany's highest for a vineyard. Think France's Grand Cru. B: terroir is fleeting. Uli pointed out that once fruit is allowed to attain a bit of over-ripeness that the wine made from it loses it's ability to communicate the sites terroir. C: Terroir isn't magic. Uli went on to explain that based on his scientific research they were able to identify components of soil, particular kinds of mineral concentrations.

These were strong correlations, not every single time mind you but for example, certain bedrock types tended to produce certain aromas. Basalt for example was often linked to lemon, grapefruit, and smoke aromas in Riesling, where as sandstone showed correlations to grass, boxwood and often times harsher acidity. Slate, which is perhaps the Mosel's greatest natural resource was known to impart apple, lemon, grapefruit and very distinctive acidity. There were other factors too, cantaloupe aromatics seem to be reliant on growing degree days, or temperatures. Floral aromatics tend to correlate to concentrations of sandstone and solar radiation that is released from the vineyard's top soils. Acidity equates to "something" in rainfall, only I can't read my notes. Any guesses?

what does that say?
We tasted through some amazing German Rieslings, Donnhoff, Loosen, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt and the 07 Christmann Kongisbacher Idig GG, which Uli described as a Burgundian Riesling. To quote him, "It has limestone, honeysuckle, rrrrawr, it's wonderful!" I was thinking of the fine Riesling from the Northwest, I tend to see emphasis on fruit forward robust aromatics from Washington, I'm generalizing. From Oregon and BC I get more citrus, minerality and acidity that tends towards what we've come to think of as a more complete Old World style.
At this point, I don't know that Riesling vineyards or sites are established enough to point to specific terroir here in the Northwest, but I do think that we see more obvious distinction in wine style when it comes to our growing conditions. Washington's Rieslings, and I'm generalizing are typically lower in acid, have higher sugars and thus are a touch sweeter. They are aromatically and in terms of their flavor a bit rounder. Think tropical fruit characters and ripe juicy peaches. Oregon on the other hand has some quite acidic Rieslings, loaded up with green apple and wet slate minerality.

I talked with regional wine experts Sean Sullivan of the Washington Wine Report and Cole Danehower of of Essential Northwest Wines who makes his home in Oregon about their take on the region's Riesling. Sean sees Riesling as perhaps the most well suited white grape for Washington, if perhaps a little under-appreciated. "...there are a limited number of high quality bottles being produced. I attribute this to a couple factors. First, growers don't farm Riesling the same way that they farm premium red grape varieties like, say, Cabernet Sauvignon. This has a direct effect on quality. For example, Riesling is often cropped at a relatively high tonnage, such as seven or eight tons per acre. The vines seem to be able to sustain this and produce good quality wine, but not typically great quality wine." For a sense of perspective in a vineyard like Ciel du Cheval, Cabernet might be cropped at more like two tons per acre. 

As Sean says, there are some economic factors driving this. "Consumers haven't shown - and few wineries have tested - a willingness to pay top dollar for Washington Riesling. As a result, most wineries in the state have focused on producing Rieslings that fall into the 'cheap and cheerful' category rather than chasing after quality. And, of course, with the wines commanding less money, growers receive less money per ton for the fruit and therefore farm the vines accordingly. It creates a viscous cycle." What this means, to Sean's point is that the lack of real focus on Riesling will likely delay us getting a true sense of what sites are capable of producing. That might change if we start to see vineyard designate Rieslings, or if we're lucky enough to get someone at perhaps Chateau Ste. Michelle to really dig into the state's site specific vineyard potential.  (Hint, Hint.)

In Oregon, Cole thinks the table is certainly set for fantastic Riesling, but are there enough chairs? "In 2011, riesling was the 4th most planted grape in Oregon. A whoop-dee-do 700 acres—down almost a hundred acres from the previous year. Actual harvested acres was even less at 550 acres—also down by about 100 acres. Note the declining trend." Cole points to a similar economic, price per bottle factor that Sean mentioned. But, as Cole pointed out, there's a more natural affinity perhaps for Riesling given the state's Pinot Noir dominance. As opposed to bigger brawny wines that might be cultivated in Washington, Riesling and Pinot have a reputation for elegance and a natural place at the dinner table as "food friendly" wines.

"Within the last few years there has been a new upsurge in riesling popularity in Oregon. Partly I think this is because Oregon winemakers have started working toward an “Oregon style” of riesling. While dry rieslings are still the predominant Oregon style, they share with Oregon rieslings across the sweetness scale a stylistic preference for high acidity and flinty fruit." 

What might be happening in Oregon, and something to get very excited about is a growing focus on a particular style of Riesling. What might follow from that is this sense of place, or terroir that so far has eluded northwest Riesling. Cole sees real sense of place in the Crow Valley Vineyard that is the focus of Teutonic Wine Company, the Brooks Estate and Corral Creek, the latter being the side from where Chehalem is making really profound Oregon Riesling. 

What's clear to those interested is that Riesling can and does communicate a real sense of place, and the most established of which being found in the Mosel Valley. However, if the right winemaker wanted, and it seems that Oregon producers Chehalem and Trisaetum are going in this direction, by making multiple Riesling each vintage, single vineyard Rieslings will give us a true sense of the kind of place Oregon might be for Rieslings. We'll have to stay tuned and see what happens.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Find, September 13th

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.

beer hand up.
This weekend Starcrossed is coming to the Seattle area. What is Starcrossed you ask? Well, it's the local cyclocross race that has the biggest breetches of all of them. And by that, I mean that it's an actual UCI race. The UCI is the Union Cycliste Internationale, these are the same people who govern the Tour de France and all those big European races. That means that all the pros are gonna be there. And I suppose I should fill in, that I love racing cycloross. The big names in American cyclocross on the men's side include Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Power, local Zach McDonald and Tim Johnson to name a few. For the ladies it's Gabby Day, Katie F-ing Compton, Georgia Gould and Amy Dombrowski.

For the uninitiated  cyclocross is only the greatest thing you can do on a bicycle. Imagine steeple chase, you know, with the horses, but on a bicycle. You race over a closed circuit. There are a myriad of obstacles and terrain, so gravel, dirt, pavement, mud, sand and grass. At various points throughout the course you may need to dismount your bicycle. All the while, you're being cheered, heckled or both by the spectators who surround the course. In addition to either giving you grief or cheering  you on, they're often there for you in the form of the hand-up. Hand ups consist of bacon, beer, whiskey or money. They can be delivered by hand, mouth, or sometimes tucked into underwear. The idea is that the riders grab for the dollar, or cup of beer mid-race. Dropping a hand up usually results in more heckling.

If you wanted to treat your favorite wine drinking cyclocross racer to a proper hand up, I think Oregon Riesling would fit the bill.  The state is producing some phenomenal Rieslings that run the gamut from dry and austere to slightly sweet and spiced, in the style of those from Germany. They all tend towards great aromatics and soaring acidity.  One that comes to mind makes up our Friday Fudge, as opposed to our Friday Find, as it comes in around $23, slightly higher than our $20 cut off point.  The Ribbon Ridge Estate Riesling from Trisaetum is absolutely delicious. It's got lots of great mouthfeel, fleshy flavors of peach, and melon along with wet slate and fantastic spice and acidity. The wine is incredibly aromatic with lime, and lemon zest and lots of stony minerality. 

To call this a hand-up Riesling is not to diminish it's elegance, but from me this is the highest compliment. I'll be racing in the Cat 3s tomorrow, it's going to be warm, and if someone were to offer me an Oregon Riesling hand-up, I'd be thrilled if it were the Trisaetum. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

It's New School (not Old School) at the NW Wine Academy

Pouring and selling the school's wine in the new NW Wine Academy tasting room prepares students for professional jobs in wineries and wine retail shops
Sunlight glints off of polished concrete floors. The ceiling soars two stories tall and light filters in through Solatubes - round skylights that drop sunshine through the roof and layers of insulation and into the main space. Near the back of the gracious room is a tasting bar - white Ecotop slab counters hovering above gabion cages filled with river rock. The rear wall of the room is wrapped in horizontal cedar planks - century-old reclaimed water tower walls, sanded and stained. Tucked into the cedar wall are sleek white cabinets, keeping glassware within reach but out of sight.

While this modern, elegant tasting room could be mistaken for a boutique winery in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not in Woodinville or Walla Walla or Yakima. This tasting room is the public face of the new, state of the art wine-teaching facility for the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College - and it’s a beautiful face. 

The NW Wine Academy during demo and construction 
However, this new wine school had the humblest of beginnings. The facility is a simple metal building that was used for years as maintenance storage for the college. While these types of buildings are engineered with steel and intended to last for decades, they are poorly insulated - less than ideal for a winery, which requires minimal temperature changes. Additionally, to bring the building up to Seattle’s strict energy codes, and since the space will be inhabited by students, instructors, and wine lovers, insulating only the wine production and aging areas was not an option. Classrooms, tasting room, and offices also needed to be comfortable and inviting. 

Thankfully the school’s selected architects at Boxwood - the firm behind sustainable wineries for Carlton Winemakers Studio, August Cellars, and the internationally-recognized Col Solare - are also experienced at repurposing a metal building as a winery. They designed the remodel and expansion of Hightower Cellars on Red Mountain, which required extensive climate control to adjust for the temperature swings in the AVA. 

While some might argue that the school should have built a new winery, incorporating these architectural concepts from the beginning, project architect Joe Chauncey felt differently: “One must ask why should we repurpose or remodel an existing building. One of the answers should be because it saves embodied energy. This is the total energy it takes to create a building product – extraction of the raw materials, transport, manufacture, assembly, etc.” 

Incorporating sustainable design into wineries not only works to reflect the values of many winemakers and vineyard owners, but it makes fiscal sense in the long run, like lower energy costs to control temperatures, natural daylighting to keep electricity bills lower. But the embodied energy in existing construction is often the most compelling reason to choose remodeling over new construction.  “For this building made predominantly of steel, we saved enough embodied energy in the steel alone to power 70 average Seattle homes for a year,” said Chauncey.
The new NW Wine Academy at SSCC
A patio is under construction for the N end of the school

And thus, a very extensive gutting and reworking of the former storage facility began. The transformation, both on the interior and the exterior, is nothing short of remarkable.

Beyond the tasting room, fermentation and barrel rooms, laboratory, classrooms, and demonstration kitchen complement the program’s three certification options: Wine Making, Wine Marketing & Sales, and Food & Wine Pairing. The students are learning important elements of the winemaking industry in a fully-functioning, start-to-finish process winery. And with the school’s history of crafting award-winning wine year after year in its cramped facility across campus, Washington wine lovers should have high expectations for the Northwest Wine Academy’s upcoming vintages, which will be crushed, fermented, aged, blended, bottled, and sold at this new winery.

Boxwood designed insulated barrel rooms, keeping temps at 55F
From the tasting room, looking through glass overhead garage-style doors into the corridor and production area, two barrel rooms are tucked away, insulated from temperature swings. The walls are made of Faswall, a sustainable product of chipped-up wood pallets mixed with concrete and formed into giant building blocks. These insulated blocks are covered with
plaster on the inside of the barrel room to assist with temperature control, and the outside of the blocks are trimmed so that the individual splinters of wood are revealed.

The teaching and demonstration kitchen is used for wine and food pairing classes
Across the corridor from the barrel rooms is a multi-purpose demonstration kitchen classroom. Also accessible from the tasting room by glass overhead doors, this kitchen allows students to watch food preparation and learn wine pairing in an environment similar to what they might experience if they were working in the wine industry, preparing tastings at wineries or restaurants. The college also offers a culinary arts program, and frequently students from both academies work together to pair hors d'oeuvres and wines for special events and tastings.

The new fermentation room, still waiting on tank installation
The large fermentation area serves as the hub of the academy, with space for the school to produce 3,000 cases of wine. Another overhead glass door leads from the fermentation room to a covered concrete crushpad in the rear of the building, which can double as storage and outdoor space most of the year. At the rear of the fermentation room are two large classrooms and office space, above which is a storage mezzanine - wineries always need more storage.

The new laboratory classroom helps students learn about the science behind wine
Across from the tanks is a large laboratory, with 25’ long black counters complete with stainless steel spit troughs and water spigots - it’s enough to give you flashbacks to high school chemistry class. This room, however, is about the chemistry of wine and the only periodic table visible is the Periodic Table of Washington Wines, which was designed by the school’s architect. The firm originally formulated the chart of wine varietals for their branding client Wines of Substance, but the table is a teaching element for anyone interested in learning more about the types of wine grapes grown in the area. 

The flexibility of the facility is what makes it ideal as a teaching winery. The project manager, Jeremy Reding of Boxwood, explained it this way: “One aspect of maximizing the space was to provide visual connections between rooms so that students, faculty and visitors can feel connected to the overall process.  Large overhead glass doors were installed throughout so that you are continually connected to the different stages of the winemaking and education process.” A large landscaped patio next to the tasting room, slated to be complete in mid-September, will complete the school’s new reputation as an event space for fundraisers and special tastings.  

With a line of sight through most of the building, daylighting through oversized glass doors, carefully placed windows to reduce glare in classrooms, and skylights dropping light into most of the spaces, the facility can be used throughout the day without artificial lighting, which makes economical and environmental sense, as well as boosting the well-being of all who work and learn in the space. 

Large overhead doors allow all areas in the wine school to remain connected and bring natural lighting into the space
These new labels feature photos
by Orshi Kiss
To complement the transformation of the school, Boxwood also redesigned the school's wine labels, presenting a unified brand for their bonded winery while incorporating students' original photography, with a different image for each vintage. Several of the labels for their upcoming releases feature architectural details from the new winery, celebrating the school's new facility. 

The wine program at South Seattle Community College officially opened in 2004, and in less than a decade the school has grown to include certifications and Associates Degrees in Wine Making, Wine Sales & Marketing, and Food & Wine Pairing. The school's tasting room is open to the public most Thursdays and Fridays from 12:00 to 4:00, and on weekends for special events and seasonal wine releases. Check the school’s calendar for specific dates and times.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Find, September 6th

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.

Is this it for summer? It certainly feels that way these last few days. Despite it's seeming end, this has to go on record as one of the finest summers the Puget Sound area has ever seen. While I'd hate to see it go, and frankly it seems a bit early to welcome the autumn weather it's hard to complain about the amazing summer we've been given. The good news is, the fine weather is predicted to continue next week. However it seems like that near predictability of sunshine and warm 70 degree temperatures is not so predictable anymore. We had a good run though.

The vintage from a wine growing standpoint is way ahead of schedule, two weeks at least, and Red Mountain is being harvested as we speak. In a warm vintage like this rising sugars make it imperative to pick early so that you're staring at high alcohol wines with nary a hint of acidity. From a ripeness standpoint it's a balance, you want ripe flavors, but you also want that acidity and sometimes you may be at the mercy of rising brix, picking before flavors are fully developed. For those of us waiting to drink the 2013, we'll have to wait and see what the vintage and the winemakers of the Northwest do with it all.  

While we wait let's throw something on the grill. I'm going with burgers made from ground elk and beef from Walla Walla's Blue Valley Meats. (We've been fans since they were Thundering Hooves.) Throw in some tarragon, chives, shallots and salt and pepper and bam, I need a wine for this. 

We love burgers and burger wines here at the Anthem. Today's Friday Find is a transitional wine for us, it's certainly capable of providing a great option should the current weather pattern of rain and cooler temperatures prevail, but it's also a match for grilled burgers on the patio. The 2011 Momentum from Cor Cellars is a substantive, fruit forward blend of  Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot from Horse Heaven Hills. The cool vintage is marked by higher acidity which delivers in the pairing, particularly in the burger category. The fruit is dominant on the palate, red and black berries abound and it's loaded with spice aromatics as well as some dusty earth. Great balance and well made for the $17 price tag. 

So does summer have enough momentum to carry us into October or is winter here? I don't know, but with some nice savory burgers and this red blend from Cor Cellars, we'll be okay either way. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

ENSO Winery & Friends' Pinot Blanc Smackdown - August 2013

We all know Oregon can bring the proverbial heat in the world of Pinot Noir, but how do we fare with Pinot Blanc?

In August, ENSO Winery hosted the Pinot Blanc Smackdown in the recently polished Barrel Room space connected to their SE Portland tasting room and lounge. Each winery brought their best Pinot Blanc, with grapes sourced from the Yamhill Valley Vineyards, located near the Oregon Coast. Participants included Yamhill Valley Vineyards, Helioterra Wine, Grochau Cellars, BoedeckerCellars, Holden Wines, Viola Wine Cellars and of course, ENSO Winery. With a grape source in common, the tasting proved to be a true testament to the specific and inventive ways in which both the urban and valley winemakers manipulate the fruit and cultivate their product throughout the fermentation process.
all lined up, ENSO wines
As key players of my meek but growing wine collection, it was unsurprising to enjoy the wines by Helioterra, a SE Wine Collective partner, as well as the ENSO selections – both of which consistently produce delicious and accessible bottles year after year. (I’m still hoarding my last bottle of ENSO’s Resonate #4 from last summer).
Much of my tasting experience tends to find Pinot Blanc produced on the dry side and, being that I gravitate toward the sweeter bottles, my favorites included Yamhill Valley Vineyards’ 2012, the sweetest of the bunch, and Grochau Cellars’ 2012 Pinot Blanc, also carrying the sweetness to match the full fruitiness on the nose, albeit slightly dryer than the Yamhill Valley Vineyards.

Winemaker to watch: Sterling Whitted’s Holden Wine Company. Sterling occasionally guest-pours at ENSO and featured a promising 2011 Pinot Blanc with very fruity, creamy aromatics and a tart green apple finish. As an admittedly label-driven wine consumer, Holden Wine Company also racks points for their artistic, watercolor toadstool label, which may prove handy as a new label on the shelves for those of us buyers attracted to pretty, shiny things. There isn’t much information out there now on Holden Wines, though I expect this to change as this newbie continues to produce wine.

Here at the Anthem, we drink what we like. If you’re looking for an introduction to an Oregon white, I might still first recommend picking up a bottle of Oregon Chardonnay over a Pinot Blanc, perhaps due to the fact that I have yet to get over how impressive Oregon Chardonnay has become, then have a go at the Pinot Blanc.

If you’re a Portlander and haven’t yet visited ENSO, it’s the perfect open-air summer//fall lounge, and gets just as cozy reviews during the winter months. Note: ENSO’s Barrel Room is also available for events!

ENSO tasting lounge