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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Monday, June 30, 2014

Purposefully Pink, Southern Oregon Rosé: Made With Intention

Summertime is off with a bang in Southern Oregon’s hot, sunny Applegate, Rogue, and Umpqua valleys. Barbecues, graduations, weddings and family outings are on the docket.  What will you find on the table during the summer season? Well if you're playing your cards right, chilled – and local – rosé.

Beautiful pinks are once again rising to the top, in the Pacific Northwest overcoming a lot of bad memories of sugar-added, chemically “enhanced” White Zinfandels from the 1980s and beyond. (editor's note: Thanks California.)  Since 2008, France has been selling more rosé wines than whites.  Rosé sales in the US climbed 39% last year, making it the eighth year in a row that double-digit increases have been reported.

The reason?  Rosé is becoming a better made product.  Instead of the run-off juice left over from a precious red, many wineries are now creating rosé with intention.  Winemakers are carefully planning the next vintage.  If a winery specializes in Pinot Noir or Syrah as a red, for instance, they may want to additionally showcase the varietal as a rosé.  Pinks are showing up on the finest wine lists, offering the best attributes of both reds and whites, often with a crisp acidity and lower alcohol that loves food, even difficult pairings such as salty and spicy flavors.

Rosé flaunts the same characteristics as the spring and summer seasons it shines in, light, playful, along with being sharp and varied.  The deep, dark fruit essence of the red wine it might have been is softened into delicate and delicious strawberry, raspberry, cherry and often rhubarb.   Citrus, stonefruit, and tropical notes may also be prominent.

Depending on the grape and the desired outcome, a rosé may spend as little as a few hours or as long as a few days in contact with the skin.  Lighter skinned reds such as Grenache are frequently soaked longer than are more potent varieties, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Hillcrest Winery in the Umpqua Valley of Southern Oregon even produces a Blanc de Noir, a colorless red with as little skin contact as possible. 

Most rosés are meant to be consumed in the first year, when they are at their brightest, fruitiest and most aromatic.  (There are wineries that produce oaked rosés which are intended to be aged, although these are rare.)  Pair a rosé with meats and vegetables on the summertime barbecue grill, fruit kabobs, salty cheeses and fresh salads tossed with olives and tomatoes.  Save a couple of bottles for Thanksgiving, too – rosé can be a perfect companion for heavy sauces, turkey or ham.  A rosé can be served very chilled, as it will quickly warm a bit in the glass, allowing the wine to open and reveal layers and complexity like one might expect when letting a red wine breathe.

PebblestoneCellars 2012 Rosé of Syrah
The 2012 Rosé of Syrah from the Rogue Valley was produced by crushing the Syrah grapes and then leaving the Syrah grape juice in contact with the skins for 6 hours. It was then pressed and cool-fermented in stainless steel. Approximately 5% Viognier was blended into the final wine to enhance aromatics and flavor. The resulting wine has a beautiful ruby color with aromas and flavors of fresh plum and dried fig and a dry, balanced finish. 

2013 Quady North Rosé  (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre)
The 2013 Quady North blended rosé was originally a blend of the "saignees" from the Syrah that went into their 4-2,A, a red varietal Syrah.  Over the last few years, they have begun incorporating early picked and pressed Grenache and Mourvedre with their favorite Syrahs from the Applegate and Rogue Valleys.  The wine wafts strawberry along with hints of lemongrass and honey from the glass.

2013 Quady North Rosé  (Cabernet Franc)
The 2013 Quady North Cabernet Franc rosé from the Applegate Valley is a medium cherry color with floral notes, candied lemon, strawberry and rhubarb.

South Stage Cellars Semi Sparkling Rosé  (Petit Sirah, Cabernet Franc)
Winemaker Joe Dobbes has made a fun, slightly sparkling patio sipper for South Stage Cellars in the Rogue Valley.  A blend of 80% Petit Sirah and 20% Cabernet Franc, they recommend this rosé sparkler as a party wine with fruit salad and cheeses

Wooldridge Creek Sparkling Rosé 2013 (Tempranillo, Zinfandel)
The Wooldridge Creek, Applegate Valley method champanoise sparkling pink explodes with fresh strawberries, mango, kiwi and watermelon.

Wooldridge Creek Rosé 2013 (Tempranillo, Zinfandel)
Wooldridge Creek also makes a lovely dry still rosé, also from the Applegate Valley, which is smells of lemon zest with cherry on the palate and a little creaminess to soften the crisp acidity a bit.  Behind the tasting bar, Shelly’s eyes light up as she relates pairings with cheese, salami, calamari, and even burgers.

2013 Troon Vineyard Foundation ’72 Dry Rosé  (Sangiovese, Montipulciano, Primitivo)
Troon Vineyard has produced a light-colored rosé with aromas of key lime and meyer lemon finishing clean on the palate with strawberry and melon.  The grapes hail from one of the original vineyards in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley.  Suggested pairings are pasta, shellfish, salads and mild cheeses. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Find, June 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.

Yesterday I accepted an award as the Washington State Formal University Educator  for Sustainability 2014 from an organization called E3 Washington. That's cool. I don't usually get awards, for anything. In my other life where I earn money to pay for things, as opposed to just writing about wine a couple times a week for zero dollars, I do work in sustainability outreach and education at a University. A really large one. My job in this capacity is to try and get university students to pay attention to and understand the various elements of the campus that contribute to a more sustainable planet, and to participate in those elements in a way that allows us to maximize the potential of green buildings, composting, recycling, etc. 

I was thrilled to receive an award for my work; but over the course of the evening I learned about the work of a woman named Frances Charles, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe's successful efforts and collaboration in the removal of two dams along the Elwha river and the restoration of the river ecosystem as well as important land to their heritage and ancestry. I felt like the work I do paled in comparison. 

The deconstruction of two dams began in 2011, the first, the Elwha Dam, built in 1910 began the destruction of one of the more important salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. Forty-five miles of river and one hundred additional miles of tributary were soon reduced to five miles of salmon access. This cut the tribe's people deep, but the salmon and the health of the area even deeper. A second dam was built in 1927 further mucking up the river's ecosystem. Through lobbying, hard work and collaboration with the National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation the dams are coming down and the land and waters are beginning to return to their natural state, the salmon will come back. 

The work of Frances Charles, the tribal council chairwoman and the people of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe point to proof that we can fix what we've broken. As our planet continues each day and our climate and environment continue to deteriorate there are stories of people getting it right. Those stories give me hope that if we can get together, and present real solutions we can see real progress. Maybe I am an optimist after all.

It feels trite to present to you a value priced wine after introducing you to such serious issues, but this is a wine blog after all. Today's Friday Find is not a tough to find wine by a small indie producer, not at all in fact. It comes from fairly sizable label, Snoqualmie Vineyards. Snoqualmie is one of the Chateau Ste Michelle brands and it's vineyards are the largest certified organic vineyards in the state of Washington. Their Eco line of wines, highlight many of the practices that they use across the board. These include the use of Eco glass, a lighter bottle that results in overall carbon emission reduction of 13%, this includes the shipping and transportation realities of  the things we consume, in this case wine. I was asked by Grape Collective what one sustainability element I'd like to see more wineries pursue and the lightweight glass would definitely be it. Snoqualmie has gone further though, their new packaging looks at various issues that can be addressed:

Snoqualmie Packaging Sustainability Overview: 

  • The new ECO glass bottles are among the lightest in the industry (397g) and result in a 13% reduction in carbon emissions. 
  • White wine labels now use EarthLabel™ by Smart Planet Technologies, Inc., an adhesive label system that provides improved barrier performance while reducing plastic content. 
  • Labels and other printed materials are on 100% post‐consumer waste materials stock. 
  • Corks and labels are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; guaranteeing sustainable practices at the source of origin.  
  • The corks are also certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an international group committed to conserving biodiversity through sustainability. 
The Snoqualmie 2012 ECO Gewurztraminer is a $12 bottle of one of my favorite wine grapes and one I wish I could find more often. Gewurztraminer commutes a bit of rounded fruit and spice with an acid that makes it super food friendly. Ripe pineapple, and honeyed floral aromatics, and a palate with lush, ripe tropical fruits, as well as a kiss of spice and sweetness. The 2011 ECO Cabernet Sauvignon is a well made and approachable example of a cool vintage, fruit focused Cabernet. The wine offers bright red fruits, hints of clove and nice acid. Sixteen months in oak with only a small portion of that being new has mellowed the wine and given it nice mouthfeel with out going overboard. At $13 it's a great buy. The Snoqualmie wines may not be as hip, or indie as a lot of the labels we tend to present but when the big guys are doing the right thing it deserves acknowledgement.   

Monday, June 23, 2014

Frozen in Carbon: From Han Solo to Beaujolais to the Willamette Valley

Back in the days of the Galactic Empire, when the Imperial Fleet was wreaking havoc all across the galaxy the Rebel Alliance made it clear that they were more than just a band of rag-tag fighters by striking them where it hurt and destroying the Death Star. As if often the case, the Empire knew that they had to send a message and the plan was, capture Luke Skywalker, freeze him in carbonite and take him straight to the Emperor. Period, end of sentence for our heroes, or at least that was the plan. Only carbonite freezing was not a 100% thing, so his wing-man, Han Solo was chosen by Vader as a sort of test case, to be carbonite gift-wrapped and delivered to Jabba the Hutt. The rest as they say is history, or at least, good science fiction.

Much like carbon freezing, carbonic maceration is a technique that's got it's start long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, called Beaujolais. Or at least that's the French wine region that's become synonymous with the use of this particular method of fermentation. With carbonic maceration an oxygen free environment is created, when carbon dioxide, rather than carbonite, is pumped into containers where whole grapes, as opposed to crushed grapes, or Han Solo, begin their fermentation. What's interesting about that you might ask? We'll smart guy; the fermentation happens in each intact grape, within the skins as opposed to in the juice that is released when grapes are crushed. The latter being how wine is typically made.

The resulting wines are super fruity, low in alcohol and tend to be almost bereft of tannin whatsoever. Think of the Beaujolais Nouveau style. The wines undergo fermentation in steel tanks, again happening in each single berry, and then they are immediately bottled, as opposed to spending any time in a barrel. While freezing someone in carbonite preserves them so that you can deliver them without much fuss to your evil henchmen boss types, carbonic maceration preserves a fresh fruit forward wine that rather than preserving you should drink typically within a year of the vintage.

Wines fermented using carbonic maceration don't carry with them the structure and tannin that can lend itself towards a long life. When wine is typically fermented, after being crushed, it's exposed to various skin, seed and stem tannins, and it usually undergoes a much longer fermenting process which develops that structure and longevity. Additionally, wines done with carbonic maceration, because they were exposed to so little oxygen early on also tend to really open up over two to three days of drinking. The only problem there- these wines are so easy to drink they tend to disappear quickly.

While carbonic maceration is associated with Gamay and Beaujolais, not to be confused with Boba Fett and the Dune Sea of Tatooine, where one might associate carbonite freezing; folks in Oregon's Willamette Valley are looking to carbonic maceration to create a juicy, fresh and frankly fun drinking Pinot Noir. The style of wine has seen a bit of a boom recently with many of Portland's urban winemakers creating Oregon Nouveau style wines to coincide with November's Beaujolais Day, but the trending style of production has been around a long time at one Willamette Valley stalwart. 

Willamette Valley Vineyards probably makes Oregon's best known carbonite, I mean, carbonic maceration Pinot Noir in their Whole Cluster Pinot Noir. The wine started out in the early nineties as an experiment in style, says WVV's Jim Bernau "We were just experimenting in 1991 with Pinot Noir styles. We thought, 'What would happen if we made a Pinot Noir like the French were making Gamay Noir?' We just started off with 190 cases that first year with our Winemaker, Dean Cox. Then, the next year on a trip to the Willamette Valley. Robert Parker Jr. came into our cellar and told us we were making the most accessible Pinot Noir in the world. The wine took off and it is now one of our leading wines."

2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir The 2013 iteration of the Whole Cluster isn't 100% carbonic maceration and it varies from year to year but the goal is always approachability. Jim has come to refer to the Whole Cluster as "Pinot Candy."  Aromatics are forward with the aromas of cut strawberries, raspberries and there's a sweet note that's a bit reminiscent of cotton candy to be honest. Juicy, fresh fruit and fun, like I said before. The palate is crisp but at the same time softened by the juiciness of early season blackberry, candied cherries and slight hints of signature Oregon Pinot earthiness. Great balance and approachability by the suitcase-full. $22 

2013 Division-Villages, Methode Carbonique is part of the Division-Villages line up, all awesome wines, that pay an homage to the easy drinking affordable wines of France. (More on that later.) The Methode Carbonique from Portland's Division Winemaking Company underwent carbonic maceration before moving into concrete tanks.While carbonic maceration is done sans oxygen the concrete does allow for a bit of micro-oxygenation without the the tannin that barrels would impart. And wines that spend time in concrete will often take on chalky or soft stony characteristics. The wine is effusive with floral and bright fruit aromatics, the palate is bright and vibrant but not lean or angular, the carbonic method makes for a soft and super drinkable wine from the jump. Loaded with flavors of early season red berries and smacking freshness. The wine opens up over two to three days of drinking, if you can make it last beyond one sitting. $19

These wines were sent as samples from the wineries.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cool Vintage, Cool Customer; Saviah Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2011 vintage for Washington wine may be nearly as cool as Miles Davis
The year 2011 was a tough one for Washington wine folks. It was a cold vintage, and not just that, it started out bad from the jump, as the kids say. As soon as harvest 2010 wrapped up. A nasty November frost laid waste to lots of vineyard acreage particularly in Walla Walla and the Horse Heaven Hills. Cabernet was hit hardest, likely because it is one of the most commonly planted wine grapes in Washington, King Cabernet dropped nearly 30% in 2011. 

The vintage began with a tough set of circumstances for growers and continued to be one of the coldest on record for Washington, in fact, perhaps the coldest ever for the wine industry. As a late ripening grape Cabernet Sauvignon can prove to be particularly finicky in a cold vintage and by finicky I mean, doesn't always ripen. Bud break began two to three weeks late in 2011 and largely much of the state never caught up to the "normal" years. Harvest began in warmer sites in late September and continued well into November.

In the 2011 bottlings you are seeing just how different, and in some ways difficult the vintage was for both winegrowers and winemakers. Under-ripe Cabernet Sauvignon often exhibits "green" or herbaceous characteristics, the common comparison being bell pepper flavors. This is attributed to a compound called Pyrazine, which is prominent in bell peppers and other vegetables. It's present in Cabernet Sauvignon and as the grape ripens, its exposure to sunlight actually destroys the Pyrazine compounds in the grape. Not a lot of sunlight? A whole lotta bell pepper. With a challenging vintage like 2011 and a  harvest that went late into November, particularly in cool areas, some folks may have picked the grapes too soon resulting in those green characteristics.
this photo of a frozen vineyard was taken in a completely different state, cool though right?
I am a cool vintage fan, almost universally. My favorite vintage in Oregon has been 2007, the 2010 wines in Washington, when well made are some of my favorites, see the Waters Winery 2010 Tremolo. When looking for dialed in Cabernet Sauvignon from Washignton State from it's most challenging vintage, look no further than the 2011 Saviah Cellars Walla Walla Valley Cabernet. A prime example of how elegant and complete a cool vintage wine can be.

The Saviah Cabernet is sourced from five different Walla Walla vineyards, some well known ones of course like Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge as well as lesser known, Ana Marie, McClellan Estate and Summit View. The wines complexity is present in both its aromatics, which exhibit dried rose petals, dried herbs, chicory and its layered palate which exhibits fresh and juicy fruits in currant and berries, hints of mocha and absolutely outstanding acidity and structure that are the hallmarks of well made cool vintage wines.

For Saviah winemaker Rich Funk, it was a memorable vintage. "Cool vintages require strong viticultural focus and a commitment to picking when the fruit is ready. I am usually mostly done harvesting by the end of October. But in both 2010 and 2011 we still had two thirds of our fruit hanging at that time. All my chips were on the table so to speak. We finished harvesting the Cabernet mid-November without being disappointed with any of picking decisions. For many, picking a little early in 2010 and 2011 resulted in angular tannic structure and under ripe phenolics."

The key to colder vintages is timing. It's balancing getting those last ripening days out of the fruit on the vine against the risk of rain, that could lead to mold, or an even more frightening prospect; frost, a real possibility in the Walla Walla Valley in November. A frost that could in fact that leave you without any fruit to make wine with. " Nerve racking to say the least...up checking weather stations every morning at 3:30, hoping for another five days without rain or frost and November cooperated beautifully."

A cold vintage like 2011 though can sometimes play the role of bellwether and really illuminate where the state's most experienced and talented winemakers are found. From the Washington Wine Report's Sean Sullivan "You could say that the cool 2011 vintage separated the men from the boys in the vineyard and in the winery in Washington, and while that was sometimes true, it's also a bit too simplistic. Mother Nature dealt some a tough set of cards and they simply did the best they could with what they had. In other cases, some who were dealt a pretty good hand overplayed it and produced wines that were at odds with the vintage. Others kept their cool, played their hand well, and produced some truly lovely wines."

While Rich's Cabernet shows he was up to the task for the challenging 2011, he's not necessarily looking to relive it any time soon. "While I enjoy a good challenge and the wines turned out well, I prefer the vintages like we have had in 2012 and 2013. The pace is much more comfortable, the risks fewer, the overall experience much more pleasant and the wines are excellent to boot.'

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Selective Sites from California to the Willamette Valley: WALT Wines

The Walt Family got their start in the California wine industry on the vineyard end of things. Bob and Dolores Walt started planting vineyards, 63 acres in Mendocino County's Redwood Valley that included six different varieites. From Cabernet Sauvignon, to Zinfandel, Gamay to Sauvignon Blanc; the Walt's were early adopters of sustainable vineyard management practices and their fruit was sold to California producers like Beringer and Parducci.

Kathryn Walt Hall has taken the family tradition of attention to vineyard sites and importance of place into the WALT wines label that she directs today named in honor of her parents. The WALT wines direction has moved away from those six original varieties that Bob and Dolores planted and instead has focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from very specific well placed vineyards up and down the West Coast. And that is what landed this story on a Northwest wine blog. The WALT wines focus on single vineyard or AVA blends of Pinot and Chardonnay with an emphasis on site, soil and fruit that expresses those elements of place resulting in unique and expressive wines.

Among their many California bottlings the WALT wines also has one Oregon Pinot Noir from the prestigious Shea Vineyard. After receiving samples of the wines I wanted to get a sense of how WALT a very successful part of the WALT/HALL wines ended up pursuing an Oregon Pinot Noir. Winemaker Megan Gunderson: "Our focus is on sourcing cool climate Pinot Noir from specific vineyard sites along the Pacific Coast to create wines of depth and character; that speak of where they were grown.  Soils, aspect, and micro-climate are key in determining our vineyard sources.  We are minimalist in our winemaking approach, utilizing native yeast fermentations, and all wines are un-fined and unfiltered.  The goal is to showcase the appellation or specific vineyard in the finished product.  We are very fortunate to work with passionate and dedicated growers in all of our WALT vineyards; many of them pioneers in their respective appellations."

For the WALT portfolio, with consistently well known and sought after vineyards from California like Gap's Crown, Clos Pepe and Griffin's Lair they selected an Oregon vineyard designate wine that would bring that kind of name recognition and most importantly, site signature to their only non-California wine. They believe the found it in Shea Vineyard"Dick Shea’s vineyard is a brand in and of itself; very well respected and consistently producing great Oregon Pinot Noir.  Willamette Valley is a truly unique terroir and I really like the flavor and aroma profile of this region." 

I was sent samples of two of the WALT Pinot Noirs, the Shea Vineyard Pinot from 2011 and a 2012 La Brisa, which is comprised of fruit from five different Sonoma County vineyards and the 2011 Shea Vineyard from here in the Northwest. Very distinctive wines showing the range of Pinot Noir itself as well as the stylistic and resulting wines. "The WALT brand is about the diversity in vineyards that we have, allowing us to highlight the effects of terroir.  From the big fruity extracted Pinot’s of the Central cost, to the floral and blue fruit Pinot’s of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, the differences are astounding.  The Shea Pinot is very structured and full of true Oregon character – forest floor, freshly turned earth, crushed rose petals, and cranberry.  This is one Pinot in our line-up that gets better with age."

2012 WALT La Brisa Sonoma County Pinot Noir
An opulent and showy cool climate Pinot Noir. A blend of vineyards that includes the well regarded Sonoma Coast's Gap's Crown and four vineyards from the Russian River Valley. The resultant wine is a fleshy Pinot Noir with deep, rich aromatics of dried violet and blackberry. The wine is a palate coating richness of juicy layered blue fruits, clove, and dried figs. The wine's balance and finish are quite impressive. $40

2011 WALT Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Aromatically forward after some breathing time this cool vintage from Oregon speaks of the wine's potential more than it's current personality. Bright aromatic notes of red currant and cranberry and a structured palate of fresh fruit, early season raspberry and blackberries. Fresh mint and soaring acidity mark the finish of a wine that is far from finished like much of the 2011s these wines are really just starting to explain themselves to us.$50

Friday, June 06, 2014

Friday Find, June 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.

It's Father's Day coming up. June 15th. That's next weekend. I'm here to sort out your last minute shopping issues. Firstly, as a father let me say, we love getting gifts, but be more discerning, no novelty ties. Unless you're our kid and then you can get us anything. Well, unless you're an adult kid. We expect more from adults. If you're a child, what are you doing reading a wine blog? Not sure that's cool by your parents, but none the less, I'm impressed and thanks for the web traffic.

What do all men want? To be handsome, seriously. But other than that, we'll take something that's going to make us come off as cool, in the know, and if possible, more handsome. Remington Steele was handsome. I don't know if he's a father but it doesn't matter. But you can't buy handsome.  You can however buy cool wine gifts. I've got a few recommendations for you and a couple guide lines.

A: get us something we can actually use. I don't know about most folks but I live in the city in a small house, I don't really have room for things to keep just because. If someone buys me something that I can't use, I actually usually take it back and exchange it for something I'm going to use, sometimes that's something as mundane as dress socks. I need those. B: Get us something tasteful, so we don't look goofy, you know. 

Corkscrews are good: Here's two from local company True Fabrications that can be a splurge or a budget minded gift:

Oak Barrel Sommelier Knife from LaguioleThe Laguiole sommelier knife is about as serious as it gets. Hand crafted in Aubrac in Southern France, each knife made by a single artisan and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. It is a finely crafted tool, meant to be handled with deference to tradition and expertise.  The Laguiole originated from a folding knife used by the region’s cattle farmers, and so its original handles were made from cow horn. This particular Laguiole is crafted from used oak barrels as a further homage to the French wine tradition. $139 

Timber Wooden Double-Hinged CorkscrewForm follows function, and the functionality of the Timber is hard to argue with. Frankly, to the untrained eye, it looks a fair bit like a Laguiole. At $11.99, though, the Timber gets the job done on a budget. With the same features as the Laguiole and a similar look, the Timber is a bit easier to use, with a doubled-hinged pull-tap that allows for a bit more assistance removing the cork and a bottle opener that lets your beer-drinking friends feel included. $11.99

Concrete Thermal Wine Chiller 
The concrete wine thermals by Montana based Angle 33 fit the bill for functional and handsome. These coolers are designed to cool the wine without water and they look great. There are different sizes for Bordeaux style and Rhone/Burgundy style bottles so you'll want to make sure you get the right size for your imbibing needs. Throw the thermal in the fridge and keep that white, pink, or frankly red wine chilled throughout dinner all summer long. The company is a family business and you can get the Thermals in any color, even customized. I say keep it classic and go with the plain concrete one. That's what Remington would have done. $65

Speaking of Remington Steele this weeks Friday Find would suit him as well. The 2013 Steel Chardonnay from Three Rivers Winery is crisp and refreshing. It comes in a screwcap so you don't need one of those cork screws but a wine chiller would be an excellent companion. Crisp and clean with aromatics of stone and early season grapefruit. The palate is also citrus fruit, with smacking acidity. $14 

Monday, June 02, 2014

We Like to Mourvèdre,Mourvèdre, We Like To...Mourvèdre

Mourvèdre. Know it?

Depending on who you talk to, and how cool they are they might call it by its proper name, Mourvèdre, pronounced (moor-vay-dra) or they may just say it like moo-ved. That's if they're down with this oddly named Rhone variety. That's how the cool kids say it.

It's mostly known for its solo role in the great wines of Bandol in southern France, and it's a major player in the southern Rhone blends, that typically are dominated by Syrah but also include Grenache, along with our new friend Mourvèdre. As Washington has shown itself to produce some of the finest Syrahs not just in the New World, but the World World, we're seeing a rise here in other Rhone varieties. This awesome turn of events means that you can explore other varieties and there's now a fair bit of 100% varietal Mourvèdre being produced. 

It's a late ripening variety, very similar to Grenache and so Washington Mourvèdre will likely be coming out of the state's warmer growing areas. Kiona's Heart of the Hill Vineyard on Red Mountain has long been producing some great Mourvèdre that has been part of single vineyard bottlings done by Syncline, Dowsett Family and Portland brand Helioterra. Perhaps the most famous Mourvèdre in Washington was the Case of the Missing Mourvèdre from the Force Majeure vineyards. A whodunit that until this day (as far as I know) has yet to be solved.

In 2012 Washington State raised Mourvèdre from it's "other reds" status to mark that 800 tons of fruit were picked that vintage and given the success that the wines are showing that number will continue to rise. Old world versions of Mourvèdre don't tend to be super showy or fruit forward. Instead, think stony, gamy wines that have more nuanced aromatics and much of the same is happening here in Washington. Mourvèdre typically creates a "thinking woman or man's" wine, its often deeply hued, with herbal, meaty and earthen characteristics. For folks looking to be smashed in the face with jammy round fruit, you can find that in some of these wines but you're more likely to be met with something a bit more serious.

Washington winemakers have also been going to Mourvèdre to produce some of the state's best pink wines. Rosé of Mourvèdre are being made by Maison Bleue, Gilbert Cellars and Robert Ramsay to name a few. In any case the diversification of Washington's Rhone offerings offer us a variety of engaging wines to continue to explore.

2010 Flying Dreams Monastrell Columbia Valley Would Mourvèdre by any other name taste as complex? Yes. The Spanish name for Mourvèdre is in fact Monastrell, and it's most notably produced in the Jumilla region. Those wines were the inspiration for this bottling from Woodinville's Flying Dreams. This is a serious wine from a cool vintage. Aromatics of crushed granite, leather and iron followed by a palate of late season blackberries, a refined structure and incredible ever-lasting finish. $36

2011 Darby Mourvèdre Columbia Valley A bit more voluptuous in terms of aromatics with deep aromas of rich, ripe plum, fennel and iron. A palate loaded with black fruits; currant, plum and black berries along with spice and black licorice. Great balance and a bit more ripe and showy than the Flying Dreams. $?

2012 Ardor Cellars Mourvèdre Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard A Mourvèdre of an all together different color this offering from Ardor Cellars is lighter hued and bodied. It gives you a sense of the Old World with a bit more angularity (juxtaposed to round) and ample acid, oh and a much lower alcohol percentage than the other two at only 13.5%. The palate of the wine is bright raspberries, blue fruits and a kiss of fresh mint. $40