Friday, December 18, 2009

Aged Oregon Riesling

I couldn't stop thinking about it. It kind of haunted me. Back in July while I was at Argyle Winery for a white wine seminar during Pinot Camp. Rollin Soles, the winemaker/owner, waxed poetic about a '88 riesling that he popped a week before. He was trying to make a point about the ageability of riesling in Oregon. All wanted was some of that wine! So I raised my hand & asked him to go fetch a bottle so we could taste it for ourselves. He laughed & said he'd try to fish one out of the cellar. After the seminar we dug into lunch & I sort of forgot about the '88 since I was STARVING! The National Sales Manager, Chris, came over to my table & poured me a glass of wine. It was the '88!! Ever since then I've been lusting after some good, aged riesling.

Lo & behold! What did I come across today? Some Argyle 1996 Riesling! I was a little sketched out by it at first because it appeared as if it might have leaked. But I popped it open anyway & poured myself a glass. Its a beautiful straw, gold in the glass. On the nose I get petrol, preserved lemon, dried apricot & lemon curd. The palate is creamy but zingy with acidity, a little hazelnut & a menthol. I'm super impressed with how this has held up. The finish just hangs on & on & on! My mouth is salivating for more.

Seven Hills Riesling & Some Roman Style Gnocchi

My friends Justin (aka The Chubby Vegetarian, which doesn't really fit since he isn't chubby) & Amy invited Kelly & I over for dinner Tuesday night. Whenever we dine at Chez TCV its always unique, always interesting & always super delicious. After an exhausting day at the store Justin could tell I needed a stiff drink so he immediately offered me a glass of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old Single Barrel Bourbon. This heavenly Kentucky elixir was brimming with notes of brown sugar, vanilla, clove & smoke. Perfect to take the day's edge off. After we finished our Bourbon I popped a bottle of Seven Hills Rielsing 2008 Columbia Valley (suggested retail $14.99). This racy, bright riesling is a blend from Evergreen, Willard & Snipes Vineyards. At 11% alcohol is light, lithe & refreshing on the palate. Its crisp & clean with electric acidity that was perfect as an aperitif.

While we sipped on this tasty little riesling Justin worked on his pumpkin gnocchi.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wine to Cozy Up To

Its no secret that I feel as though Washington State is producing some of the best wines on the market. The quality far surpasses most California wines at similar price points as well as offering more uniqueness, layers of flavor & different dimensions. Right now I'm sipping on a glass of Nicholas Cole Cellars "Camille" 2003 $39.99. The wine is gorgeously textured with this leathery quality that caresses me as I'm sipping on it. It has earthy, pie spice & dark fruit aromas with a little anise note. The palate is luscious & gripping but not overwrought or cloying the way many other New World blends of this type can be. I could drink this & drink this until there is nothing left & to me thats a huge compliment.

The Anniversary Dinner

8 years! Its hard to believe that Kelly & I have been together for 8 years. I know its a cliche but time really does whiz by. This year alone feels as if it never even happened.

We made reservations at Chez Philippe in Downtown Memphis' Peabody Hotel. We were going to celebrate with our very close friends Marlinee & Max since it also happened to be Marlinee's 29th birthday. They've been to Chez quite a bit but neither Kelly nor I have dined there. I was really excited because this restaurant is supposed to be the best in town. I knew I wanted to start with some Champagne & I had been holding on to the perfect bottle.

This beautiful Champagne has been resting peacefully in my wine fridge for over 3 years. Its hard to believe how patient I have been with it because I could always drink bubbles! I think if we all drank Champagne more often we would all be happier. Gosset Grand Reserve Brut is produced in the Ay district of Champagne & is comprised of almost half chardonnay with the other half being pinot noir & pinot meunier. This gorgeous, sexy wine poured golden in the glass with barely noticeable bubbles. At first I was concerned that something was off given the lack of bubbles but on the palate it was a different story. Creamy, succulent, round, rich, toasty, apricot marmalade but really it wasn't about flavor it was more about texture & emotion. It sent ripples through my body that unraveled downward & then rippled back up into my head. It was like being touched by someone I was achingly attracted to for the first time.

After sitting down at our table I perused the wine list & selected a Alsatian riesling for us to begin with. I was craving acidity & brightness & this bottle, I felt, was going to give it to me. Unfortunately, the majority of the list was simply overpriced wines that weren't very exciting. The food menu seems sleek & modern while the wine list just felt stodgy & boring. There was a little glimmer of hope so we stuck to that.

They didn't set the tone right at first when the amuse bouche of beef tartar was brought to all of us including the vegetarian at the table. He called twice the week prior to inform the restaurant that he was a vegetarian so the fact that they didn't have a veg-friendly amuse bouche ready for him was inexcusable. A restaurant of that caliber should never have set that down in front of him. He is paying just as much as everyone else at that table! I was concerned of course because I obviously wanted him to enjoy this just as much as me.

Domaine Schlumberger "Les Princes Abbes" Riesling 2006. Tautly wound at first but after a while it woke up & electrified my palate with bright acidity. I loved the classic note of petrol on the nose. That to me is what a good riesling should always have. Some people might not care for it but I CRAVE it. It paired perfectly with my first course of Salmon "Pastrami on Rye" which was perfectly cured wild salmon with dill, caviar & rye toasts (sorry for the lack of a pic). I wanted more. The next course was a Hearts of Palm & Roquefort Casserole. Which looked very pretty in its simplicity. However, the flavors were a little disjointed. The palm was bright & tart & the roquefort was rich & pungent. Unfortunately, the casserole itself was watery & the crumbs on top were almost not even connected to the dish itself. They just fell off as I tried to eat it.

Marlinee's course was rich, creamy, unctuous & oh so very delicious. Foie gras is god's gift to us all.

Max & Mar brought along a truly amazing wine for us all to enjoy. Marlinee isn't necessarily one of the most wine obsessed people I know. Honestly, she just wants something that tastes good but doesn't really want to dwell on it. On her recent trip to Denver a friend of hers poured her a wine that she absolutely fell in love with. I have never heard her talk about a wine this much as long as I've known her. Luckily we had some from that same producer at Joe's Wines. Behold the wine of the night (not counting the Champagne of course!):

Over 150 year old nerello mascalese vines are the source for this earthy, elegant, sensually spiced, velvet textured wine. I kept wanting to smell it over & over again! Honestly, if I would have blind tasted this I would have immediately hypothesized that it was Burgundy....sorry Sam.

When I first tasted this wine almost 2 years ago I remember being astonished at how exotic & expressive it was but in a way that was comforting & almost homey in its rusticity. Wow, wow wow. We have one & a half cases left at the store & I am going to stash 6 for myself so whoever wants it better get there soon!

My next course, Florida Keys Yellowtail with Periwinkles & Saffron Brown Butter was a very pretty course.

The fish was nice & crisp & the skin had a near perfect texture. I couldn't really taste the saffron in the sauce but the butter gave nice richness. The periwinkles were.....odd. The texture was interesting but they tasted as if they'd been marinated in algae. Very strange. I devoured my fish though.

Next course was a Duo of Neola Farms beef that was beautifully plated & had wonderful earthy, grassy beefiness. It was a perfect foil to the rich & bold Terrebianca Campaccio 2001. This SuperTuscan was almost too big, surprising given its 8 years of age. I loved the struggle between its acidity & tannin.

My apologies for the "crime scene" nature of this photo but by the time I realized I hadn't photographed my was too late.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Book

I'm reading what is fast becoming one of the most interesting, compelling & ultimately challenging wine books I've ever read. Great art, & therefore great wine, is supposed to do just that. Challenge. Over my short career in wine my palate has transformed & developed. It has been influenced by countless different wines & a small handful of individuals (not counting the few winemakers I've had the pleasure of interacting with). However, books have always been a sort of refuge. A place to teleport myself, get excited, become someone else & be inspired. Jonathan Nossiter's "Liquid Memory" is something else entirely. While I find it intriguing & intelligently well written, I also find that its challenging some beliefs & mindsets of mine.

Nossiter is a firm believer in "terroir". For lack of a a detailed description this is the mindset that a wine (or any agricultural product really) is, or should be, a direct expression of its place. The climate, soil, sun exposure, mineral content, etc. is what makes a wine. I believe that too. In my experience, some of the best wines I've ever had are indicative of their origin. Nossiter rails against the New World for its "Botoxification" of its wines. Why manipulate a wine to turn it into something that its not? He sings the praises of Burgundy, Jura & especially a small group of French winemakers who carry the torch of terroir that was passed on from their ancestors. To me it almost seems as though he is implying that only a few regions throughout Europe should be producing wine because only these regions make wine thats worth drinking. I have a big problem with that. How many of us can afford to drink, much less have access to, the great Burgundies of Jean-Marc Roulot or Dominique Lafon? I wish that I could drink aged Brunellos, Barolos or Riojas on a regular basis but I don't have access to them & I most certainly can't afford them.

Are New World wines inherently bad or of poor quality? Are they not what wine is supposed to be according to Nossiter? I credit many inexpensive New World wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile & (god forbid) even Australia for helping me get excited & interested in wine. I'm thankful for quite a few of them because having them in my arsenal has helped me excite many customers & has helped me lead them on a path to many different wine experiences.

Throughout the book some of the highlights are when the author is with a winemaker who is sharing an older vintage of their wine. He writes in a very experiential style that transports you to the whatever wine cave he is in. Its quite exciting. But they are mostly drinking wines that most of us will never have the pleasure of drinking or even laying our eyes on. Yes I feel like I'm missing out by not being able to explore Burgundy the way I would like to but I also feel like that isn't the end all be all of what wine is.

Many wine nuts out there don't have deep cellars or deep pockets. We scrape together whats leftover from our paychecks to buy bottles we feel passionately about & if we are lucky we have someplace in our home to put them. We wait patiently for the moment that seems right to open them & we drink them in. More often than not we share them with friends & fellow wine lovers because that to me is utmost expression of wine can be. Sharing can make a mediocre wine taste incredible. Sharing can make a great wine transcendent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Set A Good Example For Your Children

I just returned from a delicious brunch at an upscale Midtown Memphis restaurant & I just have to blog about it. The food, as always, is fabulous & the service is outstanding. However, the other diners.....not so much. A table of three children & four adults was seated next to us & it didn't take us long to boil over with loathing for them. People should have to take a class before they are allowed to dine out. The parents pulled out a portable DVD player to occupy one of their little demon spawn & the noise from that evil little device was so unbelievably annoying. The other two creatures preceded to squeal the entire brunch. Who in their right mind thinks its ok to disturb other diners with a loud DVD player??? What the hell is wrong with people? That isn't the worst of it. The adults were almost worse. The father rudely demanded chicken fingers for his children to which the server politely responded that they did not have such items. The man became indignant & demanded the wretched little digits saying that whoever he spoke with on the phone said they had them. Then he proceeded to demand(I'm not even kidding, demand...seriously? what an ass!) a grapefruit salad. Again the server apologized & said that they didn't have such a salad. He responded that they did in fact have that salad & it was on their dinner menu. The very patient server responded that this particular salad has not been on their dinner menu for three months. I'm sure these miserable people's children will grow up to be miserable adults if that behavior continues. Why in the world do people think its ok to behave like this in public? They shouldn't be allowed out of their house, seriously.

By the way, the 18 month old child at our table was perfectly well behaved because her mother actually raised her right.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 4 Washington Wine Road Trip

On day 4 of Road Trip 2009 I got the opportunity to spend the morning with Chris & Kelly Sparkman of Sparkman Cellars. Their facility is in the "winery ghetto" of Woodinville, WA. Small producers call this area home because of lower overhead & the ability to reach the millions of people right next door in Seattle. I was thrilled to be going here not only because Chris is a sommelier turned winemaker but also because both he & Kelly are fellow Tennesseans! Chris is from Knoxville & Kelly is from Germantown.

While at dinner at Chateau Ste Michelle the night before, Chris & I were discussing his Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet. I love love LOVE Klipsun! He was explaining how hard & tough those grape skins are & offered me the chance to punch some down. Well of course I said yes, I mean why the hell would I pass up that chance? So when we entered the back of the winery I saw it. An open top fermenter full of Klipsun...I nearly wet myself. After taking a stab at pigeage I almost just gave up. I couldn't break through the grapes, it was if I was hitting cement they were so damn hard. After a few tries Chris laughed a little & said "I told you they were hard! C'mon over here & I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself.". He took me over to a vat of fermenting malbec from the Double Canyon Vineyard.

This was much easier, but still a workout. I submerged the cap with the plunger over & over again & really got the grapes swirling around like a cauldron. For me, this was just ridiculous fun. To be a part of the process, to help make wine that I'll be sipping on in a few years was almost overwhelming to me.

After I worked up a good sweat & did my part in the making of outstanding wine we adjourned to the barrel room to taste Kelly's sauvignon blanc. One barrel held a sauv blanc that had finished fermentation & one had not finished. The difference was staggering, one was pure pineapple juice while the other was a perfect stylistic blend of Sancerre & South Africa. I had to return to the back room to look at a deeply purple & bubbling vat of fermenting Boushey Vineyard Syrah.

This was an incredibly hands on experience that gave me a peek into how much hard work it is to be a small family winery. Sparkman Cellars' wines are exquisite & I can't wait until they are in the Memphis market. Meanwhile, we will just have to satiate ourselves with the other insanely delicious Washington Wines in the market, such as Nicholas Cole Cellars.....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Art Opening at the Majestic Grille

This Wednesday head down to the Majestic Grille for a new art opening.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday Night Dinner Alone

Last night I got off work early & after a long walk with one of the dogs I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. Kelly was at work so all bets were off. I could cook anything I wanted to! At the local Whole Foods I went straight for the butcher & seafood counter. I always prefer to purchase meat & seafood from Whole Foods because both are at LEAST sustainably farmed or sustainably wild caught. The scallops looked fantastic, not all uniformly colored (to indicate bleaching) & large & plump. The fish guy said that their scallops are not treated or injected with anything & that these particular ones were fresh, not previously frozen. I grabbed three, moved down to the meat & got two slices of applewood smoked bacon & one medium sized lamb chop. Hey it was Saturday & I was treating myself so why not?? I knew I had arborio rice at home so I planned on a risotto. All I needed now was some stock, cream, fennel, garlic & a nice little chocolate bar to nibble on.

Upon arriving home I got the stock warming in a pan, browned some butter, reduced some beef stock with parmiggiano rinds (always helps to save those!) & sauteed the onions & garlic for the risotto. Once the risotto was going I chopped up some fennel & threw it in a hot pan to caramelize. Whoever doesn't like fennel should really try this. It is absolutely delicious & very wine friendly. Next I got a cast iron skillet SCREAMING hot & seared off my lamb chop. As soon as it was nicely browned I transferred it to the oven to stay warm while I turned my attention to the scallops. With the skillet still ragingly hot I added a little more olive oil & dropped in the quivering, pale pieces of heaven. Once crusty & brown I took them out, placed them on a creamy mound of risotto topped with the fennel. I took the rinds out of the reduced stock & whisked in the brown butter & some truffle oil. This was just about the most heavenly meal I had made in a very long time. Paired with a Lachini Ana Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005 Dundee Hills, Oregon it just sang. The wine was earthy & laced with bright cherry, mushroom & had a bright elegant acidity.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima Valley

There have been few moments in my life when I have felt as if I'm standing on hallowed, sacred ground. Visiting Mike Sauer's Red Willow Vineyard in western Yakima Valley was one of those very moments. When I stepped off the charter bus a sparse quiet surrounded me. Sunlight was beating down & just a faint breeze was evident. I looked up the steep vine covered hill rising up before me & thought "are we in Hermitage?"

David Lake, the father of the Washington Wine industry, passed away not two days prior to us arriving at this vineyard. This was the vineyard that produced the grapes that he fashioned into world class wine which got the attention of the whole world. At some moments it was difficult to keep the emotions from overwhelming me... but then again whats the point of holding back?

As the story goes, David was explaining to Mike Sauer that Red Willow reminded him of Hermitage. So Mike, being religious, decided to build a Chapel or a "La Chapel" so to speak. The syrah grown here rivals the Northern Rhone yet it doesn't necessarily seek to emulate it so much as build on that foundation & become something different, something distinctive, something varietaly correct of course, & definitively Red Willow.

I couldn't help myself so I hiked up a vine row all the way up to the top where the La Chapel was. It was one of the most difficult hikes I've taken. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to harvest this particular parcel of the vineyard site. But the hike brought me closer to the site itself & made me feel a part of it, an appendage I guess.

Once I made it to the top the quietness was interrupted only by my heaving breath & stronger wind than what I felt on the valley floor. It was overwhelming to experience. I looked down through the rows & tried to imagine how many people have been effected by the wines these vines have produced over their lifetime. How many people had a taste altering experience with a Red Willow Syrah from the very spot I was gazing down upon? The beauty was staggering.

Once I was back down on the valley floor I was greeted with a very special wine indeed.

Columbia Winery Syrah 1988 Red Willow Vineyard La Chapel Block. I was stunned by its elegant beauty; leathery, meaty texture; smoky spice & fine grained tannin. What I didn't realize is that I had an ear to ear toothy grin on my face that just wouldn't go away. Its that smile that had been plastered to my face the entire trip & wouldn't leave until long after returning home.

After sipping some wine a group of us climbed aboard a trailer that was hitched to a farm tractor which was about to carry us up the hill back to the Chapel.

Slowly chugging up the hill we passed by the block of nebbiolo that Peter Dow (winemaker/owner of Cavatappi & former owner of Cafe Juanita) talked Mike Sauer into planting many many years ago. The 2003 Cavatappi Cuvee Madellena Nebbiolo from Red Willow was an absolutely incredible bottle of wine. Very Piedmontese if not for the riper fruit but the texture was what was so beguiling. As we passed by the vine rows I leaped off the tractor & grabbed a handful of nebbiolo grapes then ran back to the tractor. I couldn't NOT taste fresh nebbiolo grapes, are you kidding me??

Being in Red Willow & feeling the same feeling for this site that David Lake felt will be something I shall never forget.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Impromptu Tasting

It was Sunday & I was craving some good wine & good wine-based discussion. So a few texts & phone calls later I gathered Richie, Meagan, Lance & Fiona at our home to pop some bottles, snack & chat. Wine always tastes so much better with good friends around. Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of all the bottles we tasted (& we had quite a few) so what I have here is just a selection.

I'd been hanging on to this Loring Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 for 4 years. It was the from the very first order I placed with Loring & something made me hold on to one bottle just to see....what it would do. Upon release it was a big, brawny, mouthfilling pinot noir. Almost...well un-pinot like, I guess. After a few years of age it had settled into a luscious wine with earthy barnyard aromas, dried black cherry, & cola. The texture was gripping but supple & silky.

Up next was an absolute treat from Richie. Thank you thank you thank you!!

Quilceda Creek is not only one of the best wines Washington State produces, I think its one of the best wines PERIOD. There was absolutely no concern about the 11 year bottle age. Knowing what we know about QC, we were all excited to see how it had developed. One whiff of this & I could have sworn we had poured a Bordeaux. Notes of cedar, leather, cigar box, dried currant & wild herbs emanated from the glass. The palate was gripping, leathery, herb laden & had a beam of currant fruit that ran straight down the middle. Thank you to Richie's Uncle for sending this along for him to graciously share with us!!

This bad boy was a hedonistic dark beauty. Garretson has never been one to produce a shrinking violet. It had super rich boysenberry & blackberry fruit with pungent tart acidity & succulent bold texture. I wish we had a flourless chocolate cake. It would've paired perfectly.

Last but not least is Ridge Carignane. I must tip my hat to Richie once again for providing a stupendously good wine. I was shocked at how "old-world" this wine was. I've always had the utmost respect for Ridge but this shined a whole new light on what they can do. Spicy, earthy, gripping, & kinda sexy. I shoved my nose deep down into the glass & inhaled. Gorgeous.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Two Blondes Vineyard

I was so absolutely, unbelievably psyched to find out I was going to Chris Camarda's Two Blondes Vineyard. First of all, because the wines that Chris crafts from this special plot of land are incredible. Second, because my very good friend Elizabeth identified the Andrew Will Two Blondes Vineyard in the blind tasting portion of her Certified Specialist of Wine exam. We arrived at Two Blondes a little early & found Chris & a few of his vineyard workers quite busy. As I stepped out of our charter bus I instantly could tell how different this place was. We were quite high in elevation which made it one of the warmest sites we had been to all week. The wind kept up a fairly consistent pace as it whipped around us. Chris led us through a few different blocks of vines including a parcel that had been destroyed by a sandstorm just a week prior. It was startling to see vines that had been stripped bare of everything but a few grape clusters. An audible gasp escaped my mouth when I first walked into a particularly bare row. Chris described how scary it was to first pull up to the vineyard after the storm. This plot of land has been somewhat of a battle for Chris & his crew. After describing the aftermath of the storm he went on to discuss how he has had to replant Two Blondes TWICE! One time was to re-orient part of it to exacerbate airflow & prevent sunburn. As he was detailing these trials we sipped on the '07 Two Blondes. Knowing all the info that Chris just shared with us I just thought "damn! The good stuff doesn't come easy at all!" Chris could have given up on this plot of land but he truly believed that this place would yield something special. It was shocking to taste how expressive this wine was. Especially given the fact that the vines were so young. I love this wine now but I can't imagine how much better they will continue to get as the vines age.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Check out my latest article on my excursion to Oregon Pinot Camp. Click here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kiona Vineyards & Winery

Kiona is one of those wineries that unfortunately I've just neglected. Their wines are of very good quality but I guess I've just gotten caught up in other Washington wines. So I was very excited when I saw my itinerary for Day 2 of Washington Wine Road Trip & saw that Kiona was my winery exercise for the afternoon. Scott Williams was very down to earth & kind of reminded me of my uncle who is a farmer back home. Scott picked us up from lunch & drove us up Red Mountain to his winery. I still wasn't used to the sparseness of the landscape & how remarkably beautiful the arid region was. As we pulled up near into the estate vineyards I saw Ciel du Cheval Vineyard to my right. Holy crap! We were adjacent to one of the most incredible vineyards in the world, in my opinion. Scott explained to us that this site used to be part of the Kiona Estate but his former partner, Jim Holmes, got this site when they parted ways. On the other side of Kiona lies Patricia Gelles' Klipsun Vineyard, another world class growing site. This was a plot of land that grapes absolutely loved. While Klipsun & Ciel have gone on to become world renowned, Kiona was smack in between producing outstanding wines maybe just a bit quieter.

We entered the vineyards first to grab a few plastic bags to take a grape sample. Scott led us into the vineyard & had two of us do a whole cluster sample & the other two a berry sample. I was gathering berries so my method was to walk deep into the vineyard block & randomly pluck grapes off clusters at different heights & orientations.

With our bags of grapes in hand we went into the lab to do a little analysis on the sugar & pH. Once we had our numbers Scott turned to me & said "we're going into the vineyard probably by the end of the week". I really felt part of the "when do we pick?" process & that to me will be one of the coolest things I've ever done.

I was itching to get down into the barrel room & sample some resting wine. I could feel the temperature drop with each step as I climbed down the steps into the below ground room. I saw a sleeping barrel of petit verdot & absolutely HAD to try it. Instead of shrieking out like a banshee I just waited patiently until Scott asked us if we wanted to taste anything in particular. This was so good I can't even...yeah. It was dark & deep with a concentrated "black hole" color, aromas of blackberry/rosemary sauce, a dusty/earthy note & a rich, viscous texture that was cleaned up & balanced out with super bright acidity.

I quickly crawled over to the next barrel I was aching to taste.

This isn't Chianti or Brunello by any means at all but I don't think that was the point. This wine was like a new world descendant of an esteemed, elegant Tuscan gentleman. I could smell fennel, licorice, cranberry & hint of violet. It had a solid grip to it with a fresh, zingy acidity. I wanted to keep drinking it, however Scott whisked us up to the tasting room to sample his finished wines. Gazing out over the estate with a glass of syrah in my hand, the feeling that this was a very special place for grapes was palpable.

Thank you so much, Scott!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Washington Wine Road Trip, Day 2 Morning

On the morning of Day 2 we piled back onto our bus & sped off to Goose Ridge Vineyards outside of Richland. Goose Ridge is the largest vineyard in Washington at 1400 contiguous acres. They do have more holdings but not attached to this particular plot.

We did a quick tour through some blocks of vines & stood adjacent to one of their mechanical harvesters as it made its way down a row.

This is a huge operation. We made our way through the winery & sampled through pretty much all the wines they produce. I really enjoyed their rieslings & syrahs but especially their G3 bottling.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Notes of hazelnut, jasmine & a luscious round texture. Beautiful

Course 1

Reach Island, Deleware Bay & Fanny Bay oysters with citrus essence

Oyster & Wine Pairing at Sole Restaurant

Look at this menu. If you aren't here then it's your own fault.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dinner at Woodward Canyon

Uh...yeah. This was a crazy good meal.

Washington Wine Road Trip, Day 1 Afternoon part 2

After the riesling comparative tasting we chowed down on tacos & burritos from the La Monarcha taco truck. The burrito was as big as my head, seriously! Sweet Walla Walla onions, beef, peppers & avocado. So good I'm getting hungry right now.

Once we were thoroughly stuffed 4 of us hopped into Jean Francois Pellet's truck & he sped us off to Pepperbridge Vineyards & Winery.

After an espresso pit stop (thanks again, Jean Francois!) we arrived at the winery to begin our winery exercise for the afternoon. J-F led us through each area of his state of the art facility. From the fermenters to the barrel room to the bladder press & so on.

We tasted some press juice & compared it to free run, which was amaaazing. I obviously know the difference & know that free run is better quality...but I never experienced first hand why that is. The free run was so rich & concentrated with complex layers of flavor. Actually the press juice wasn't half bad at all. It had nice grip but was a bit hollow in comparison. Jean-Francois explained that he blends in some press juice into the free run. I need to learn to trust my instincts because before he said what varietal we were tasting I just knew it had to be syrah. Lo & behold it was!

Here's J-F showing us what kind of yeast he likes to use to ferment.

J-F also let us try our hand at punching down some estate merlot, it does need to be done 3 times a day & they could use some free labor!! Here's my new friend Toni Ketrenos from New Seasons Market in Portland working over an open top fermenter.

She's doing a pretty good job, no?

After a serious workout in the winery we retired to the patio to gaze over the gorgeous estate vineyards & indulge in their wares. The afternoon had turned serene, cloudless & calm. The wines were simply stunning. A bright, luscious 2008 Semillon; a vibrant, dark 06 merlot; & a round, supple 05 red blend.

Thanks Jean-Francois Pellet & Norm McKibben!!