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

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hoping to Answer Southern Oregon's Ultimate Question: Barrel 42

From Corey McTaggart

Herb Quady and Brian Gruber have worked together in both the vineyard and the winery for many years.This year they formed a new partnership: a custom crush business by the name of Barrel 42.

Herb Quady never guessed that he would be a winemaker like his father, Andrew Quady of the famous dessert wine Quady Winery in Madera, Central Valley, California. And yet, a political science degree later, Herb decided that “there is more truth in wine-making than politics”. He returned to Fresno State to study viticulture and oenology. 

Herb took a position as Assistant Winemaker at Quady for a time, then went on to become associate winemaker, working alongside Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon. In the summer of 2004, Herb and his family relocated to Southern Oregon, when he accepted the role of Head Winemaker at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley.

Brian Gruber specialized in logistics and accounting in Virginia, as well as tending wine grapes, before moving west to Southern Oregon to make wine at Troon Vineyard. Working together with Herb, Brian learned the fine art and science of wine-making and helped with the vineyard management business. Applegate Vineyard Management has raised the bar for the quality of fruit in Southern Oregon, giving the opportunity for local growers to receive the best yields and prices for their grapes.

While working at Troon Vineyard, Herb created his own label, Quady North (QN), specializing in Cabernet Franc and Rhone varietals, which he offers at his tasting room in Jacksonville. Barrel 42 evolved from Herb’s need for a crush facility for his 3400 cases of QN wines. An additional 6500 cases have been contracted with small vineyards throughout the valley. Herb and Brian continue to offer vineyard management services. The overall quality of the product is greatly increased when the men can take care of the vines and wines, all the way to the glass. “I think there is a need for custom crush facilities run by experienced wine professionals that understand all aspects of the business.

I'm really excited about the ability to integrate the vineyard management services with the custom winemaking. Control in the vineyard was a big part of my success at Troon and with QN.  We can extend that to our clients as needed at Barrel 42.” Herb relates. “Why 42?  In ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’, an advanced civilization builds a huge supercomputer to calculate the ‘answer to the ultimate question’. The computer declares that the answer is: ‘42’. The address just happens to be 42 West Stewart Avenue and it costs $42 to make a case of wine.” “The idea is to limit our production in order to focus on high quality wines that express the vineyard and achieve our client’s stylistic goals. We will be using top notch equipment that will allow for gentle handling, and devote a high level of attention to each lot.”

Barrel 42 calls SOS (Southern Oregon Select) its home.  The site is a historic fruit packing and storage facility, located in Medford, the heart of the Southern Oregon wine and pear country, it already offers wine storage and a wine shop dubbed Old 99 Road Wine Shop and Specialty Foods.  The owners’ concept is to create a Pike Place Market style experience for their local customers and tourists to the region. 

The formation of Barrel 42 marks progress and growth for the local wine industry. As the second custom crush facility in Southern Oregon, the competition will be friendly. With new vineyards adorning the surrounding landscape, there is no shortage of fruit.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Find May 23rd

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.

What does a light in the darkness look like? I mean, we know what it looks like in the literal sense, but when we're talking figuratively, that's a cliche that's thrown around quite a bit, but what might that kind of light look like?

I was in Detroit this week for some volunteer involvement that I have with the U.S.Green Building Council. The council's Mid Year Meeting was hosted in Detroit. I didn't really understand that frankly. 

Detroit has been through a tough stretch by anyone's standards. The decline began decades ago. The rapid rise of the auto industry saw a rather small industrial center become a giant almost overnight. Racism and the following racial segregation and frankly the mobility provided by the automobile saw many flee the city in the 60's. Infrastructure in the form of massive highway building allowed people to travel from their white collar jobs in the city to their lawns and estates in the suburbs. It also dissected the city into pieces, building in many cases right through what were vibrant Black neighborhoods. Detroit saw tensions with five days of violent rioting in 1967. 

Beginning even before then the city's population has seen a continual decline in what today is a 60% drop from it's automotive heyday. Detroit has suffered immense poverty and all of the trappings that comes with, violent crime, unemployment and folks are leaving. Government corruption and mismanagement turned a bad situation worse. There are some folks who will never who refuse to give up on the city they call "The D." Detroit was built, it could be argued by giants, and it grew so rapidly at a rate that was unsustainable. It's been feeling the effects of the failure of those giants for a long time. 

The Packard plant, often pointed to as a landmark of the urban ruin has been abandoned since 1958. It's not a new thing. Entrepreneurs who are striving to rebuild Detroit are doing it as small businessmen and women. Detroit's champions are looking at green business and design solutions and in one case proposing to turn many of the vacant and abandoned lots into the world's largest urban farm. It will require imagination and hard work and some patience, but Detroit is a tough town, I think they'll figure it out.

Today's Friday Find is more like a Friday Fudge, in that it doesn't quite fit our $20 price-tag, but it's only $22. It is so selected because of it's name, an homage to the Grateful Dead, but I think the moniker fits Detroit and it's future well. The 2009 Dark Star from Kana Winery is a Rhone blend made up of predominantly Syrah as well as Grenache and Mourvedre. Plenty of time in oak barrels, three years actually leads to a really aromatically robust wine, with lots of black licorice and ripe blackberry. The palate is velveteen with layers of black fruit and spice. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

All-Stars and Rookies: The Wines with Character Trading Cards of the Chehalem Mountains AVA

When I was a kid I collected baseball cards because the generation before me had nostalgia and money and they would and could spend ridiculous amounts of money on the baseball cards they had as kids but either lost, forgot or neglected. So, frankly my generation was set up believing that this was some kind of an "investment" along with comic books. Sucker bet. The thing that made baseball cards of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and my favorite player of all time and baseball's greatest humanitarian Roberto Clemente valuable was their rarity. Our Ken Griffey Jrs, Don Mattinglys, etc were a dime a dozen.

The reality is the value in those baseball cards was the joy I got from them, the fond memories, the reminders of summer playing and watching baseball, and of course the stale and frankly alarming bubblegum that they came with. The folks in my favorite sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley are capturing that same essence in their Wines with Character Trading Cards. As a way to highlight the Chehalem Mountains AVA as well as the twenty eight individual wineries the cards feature an image on the front and on the back interesting "statistics" not batting average or on-base percentage, but soil type, case production, varieties and clones that are planted.

The idea is "Visit, Taste and Collect" with each visit to the AVA and it's wineries you can request a card and collecting all of them could result in prizes including admission to the annual Chehalem Mountain Winegrowers grand tasting. Experiencing a wine is a sensory experience certainly, but behind that there is a story about a vineyard, a label and in many cases a family's commitment to their land and their wines.

The cards tell the story of the AVA and the people who make it up. There are it's more established labels like Ponzi. Adelsheim and Chehalem, think of them as All-Star cards, as well as favorites like Raptor Ridge, Anam Cara and J.K. Carriere. It's evident that the Chehalem Mountains is about family and frankly a sense of humor. At least two of the cards are dangerous in terms of you potentially finding yourself seduced, whether it's by the disheveled bed-head look of J.K. Carrierre's Jim Prosser or Paul Gates's of Gresser Vineyard's chest hair and well, outfit. Collect em all and trade with your friends.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Finds May 16th

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 Bike to Work Day today, did you bike to work? I did, but I do that every single day and so this day really only represents an opportunity to perhaps get a free doughnut or some schwag from Clif Bar. I think Bike to Work Day and Bike to Work Month, May, in case there was any confusion are good things in my opinion but for someone who rides everyday Bike to Work Month can be a source of frustration.

Let me explain. I wish more people rode their bicycles to work. It would result in a massive number of positives. Less pollution, less obesity, people taking fewer sick days, healthy people like me subsidizing fewer people's health insurance costs, there's a huge upside and I completely grasp all of it. The problem with Bike to Work Month is that most people don't feel safe enough to ride most of the year. Even when they should. This means that come May people who are not as familiar or comfortable riding to work flood the streets here in Seattle. I have had several close calls this month, all with cyclists. On Wednesday I guy almost ran into me head on. 

On Monday of this week I watched a guy blow two stop signs while "merging" with the road I was riding down. I overtook him because he was slower than I was and had to move into traffic to pass him. As the road continued downhill I got into the left turning lane behind the cars that were ahead of me. He stayed in the right lane and turned across the left turning lane. I was appalled and frankly scared for the guy. I caught up with him a few minutes later on a trail and told him in no uncertain terms that his behavior has a potential negative impact on those beyond him. My language was perhaps more colorful though. 

I want people on bikes, but I want them there safely and I think that folks who are riding during Bike to Work Month need to understand that their safety is in jeopardy in May, just like any other time they take a bicycle to work. To that end they should enjoy riding to work, but they should also be cautious. I think there is a real future in the bicycle as a daily "driving" vehicle for those in the city with commutes of under 15 or 20 miles it works for me our family has only one car. I don't want the stupidity of some of us to ruin it for everyone else. I also don't want to see anyone get hurt. Let's ride, but let's do it safely make every Month and or Day Bike to Work Month, and or Day.

This week I'm dropping two Friday Finds on you, both from the Horse Heaven Hills. The reason being is the weather. What's going on with it? It's been beautiful all week but when it really counts, when we really need it, ie, the weekend, it might be bailing on us. I think you should brave the uncertainty and get the grill ready in either case and so these wines will fit either circumstance. In case this loveliness sticks around we encourage you to pick up the 2013 Rosé of Grenache from Mercer Estates. Pale pink and loaded up with strawberries, grapefruit and a kiss of fresh mint. The folks at Mercer left a touch of residual sugar behind and that doesn't make for a cloying sweet pink wine but rather it gives the fruit character of the wine a sort of juiciness and it balances the acidity well. $14 

Should the fouler weather return go with the 2010 Bombing Range Red from McKinley Springs. This is a wine that I prefer much over last year's vintage and I attribute it to the earthen, smokey character that play a role in the wines aromatics as well as the palate. Dark fruits, clove and the aforementioned smokiness should pair well with those burgers, or steak, or whatever it is you end up grilling in the rain. $16

Buy them both and hey, drink them both.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Instant Gratification; Fresh Northwest Rosé

There's a statistic about how quickly Americans drink their wine, and it's fairly shocking, in my opinion anyhow.  The average wine purchased in America is consumed within 40 minutes of purchase. So, basically how long it takes to get home from the store. Those of us who've had the patience, luxury and budget to purchase wines with the intent to hang onto them for a few years know what that experience can be like. Some wines that are good now can become transcendent over time, given a few years, well made wines can really achieve their full potential.

But the reality is these days most wines are made to be drunk now, or at least 40 minutes from now. And that's okay too. I'm a huge advocate for holding onto wines, certainly particular vintages but when it comes to Rosé, there is no time like the present. Drink it now.

There is a plethora of pink being produced in the Northwest these days, and it's funny because you only have to go back five or six years and a dry rosé was fairly rare around these parts. However in a very short time pink wine has become a staple of many if not most of the best wineries in Oregon and Washington. And we're the beneficiaries.

There are definitely some perennial greats. Maison Bleue, Syncline, Stoller, Bergstrom and the amazing Glass from J.K. Carriere. Last year I was floored by a new discovery coming out of Southern Oregon in the Troon Vineyards Rosé. The great thing about this sort of rosé revival is that there's enough of it out there that new discoveries are being made all the time.  Today I present you three that are new to me and one stand by rosé that I recommend you get your hands on.

2013 Winter's Hill Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir At Winter's Hill Vineyard in the Dundee Hills AVA they're dedicating a specific block of their Pinot to rosé production. The block is located such that there's afternoon shade which might be at the root of the wine's crisp acidity even with some time in neutral oak. The palate features bright but nuanced fruit flavors of early season strawberry, spring watermelon and apricot apricot and a mouthfeel that's a tad rounded. $19

2013 J. Wrigley Rosé of Pinot Noir is from the McMinnville AVA, where the folks at J. Wrigley Vineyard planted Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Gris back in 2008. This wine is bright and lively and comes with just a dab of residual sugar. Vibrant pink hued with juicy ripe fruits like sweet strawberries and cherry. The kiss of sweetness is carried off well with great balance and acid. The fact is I find wines with a touch of sweetness often work amazingly with smokey or barbecued meats and so I recommend giving this a whirl on the patio. $20

2013 Bartholomew Winery Rosé of Carmenere Okay, maybe I'm being lazy here, this will mark the third time we've talked about Bart's new Rosé but there's a reason for it, it's excellent. Loaded up with complexity and frankly wholly unique the only Rosé of Carmenere we've ever heard of, and Bart says the only one in the States. I came across it again at the Belltown shop Champion Wine Cellars, those fellas are discerning. This wine almost takes on the hue of an orange wine, the aromatics are dried flowers and stone, on the palate its got loads of bright citrus fruit and a screaming good acidity. This wine is a silly good deal at $15

2013 Gilbert Cellars Rosé of Mourvedre Mourvedre is the cornerstone of the great rosés of Bandol and this one is a tip of a cap to those wines. I look at the pink wine from Gilbert Cellars to be one of the best bangs for your buck in Washington year in and year out and you can find it around $15. Super lean and crisp, with a zippy acid this wine offers layers of flavor, wet stone, grapefruit, strawberries and rhubarb ending with a kiss of fresh mint. The use of lees also gives the wine a touch of creaminess. $16