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The Next New "Other" White Meat

Date: Thu, Apr 28, 2011 Wine Tasting

Apparently, breeders have come up with the second "Other" white meat - goat! Seriously, I'm not kidding or just trying to get your goat. Really! Most Americans have never eaten goat and might even be turned off by the idea, but, trust me, many people around the world eat goat - all over South America, Mexico, Somalia, Eritrea, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Spain and our very own Southwest to name a few. Goat is good, but I recently tasted some that was truly denuded, neutered, no goat flavor at all. Apparently Turkey was the first white meat and pork was promoted as the "other" white meat after being "deflavored", now goat joins the list as the second "other" white meat. It was tender, but flavorless like lamb without any lambness, or veal without any vealness. After a long hard search, I found some goat online from a company in Colorado, but was the search worth it? It reminded me of pasteurized, homogenized, corporate American eggs. The last time I had a really flavorful egg was in the South of Italy where I was served eggs the color of the orange southern sun and bursting with flavor. Then there are the simulacra passing for strawberries, and tomatoes that look perfect and have no flavor. I mean, where's the beef? How about some locally grown, sustainable, non-genetically modified real food. The name of my next supermarket will be Real Foods. How about you?




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Crush pARTy In The Desert

Date: Wed, Apr 20, 2011 Wine Tasting

Please sir, can I have some Chard, actually anything chilled? A red on ice? Iced Tea? Some cold beer? Okay, okay, don't have a Twit in the desert! My wife found the first cold quaff. Nimbus ale, locally brewed, a cool draft at last. It seemed we had to hunt and peck for some chilled wine - La Chasse de Chardonnay! Finally, we scored. I had been hoping to score some Nichols and Nichols Chard but it was nowhere to be found. At this point Hess Chardonnay seemed like a good alternative.This was followed by fuller versions of Chard such as Decoy, ZD, and Stag's Leap. After cooling down we were able to summon some appetite and found the perfect Chardonnay pairings - tuna sashimi and marlin shashimi.- both were exquisite with any of the Chards. The marlin sashimi was incredible. In fact, the food in general was fabulous.

Tucson restaurants really put their best feet forward. Pulled pork sliders were the thing. At least half a dozen versions were presented - all good. Fabulous scallops prepared perfectly by the Grille at Hacienda del Sol greeted you just after the entrance. Scallops in the desert, tuna sashimi in the desert, marlin in the desert - a throwback to geologic times in Arizona? Nah, just fresh ingredients from some of Tucson's top restaurants.
So many restaurants, so little wine, but some of the wine was exceptional. We'll get to that in a minute. First, a list of restaurants to check out in Tucson: El Charro - a local chain of Mexican restaurants, Downtown - a bistro avatar of Janos , one of the top restauranteurs in the city, Harvest & Zona 78 new avatars of the Grille at Haciendo del Sol.

Survivors of the Depression II, excuse me, the Great Recession ( 45 Tucson restaurants closed in the fall of 2008): Vivace - old Italian standby, Acacia - moved North, Flemings - corporate steak house, Armitage - uptight apparently cool wine bar in the Foothills, Lodge On The Desert - remodeled and retrofitted just in time for the "recovery", Feast - still there, Azul - en el norte de Tucson a La Encantada. Pastiche - restaurant, wine bar and wine shop offered a unique and very useful feature - business cards with the wine name on the back and a brief description of the wine. The descriptions weren't that accurate, but then how many tasting notes are? Just to have the name of a wine that you like on a card is a tremendous help and reminder, clever marketing, too. How many times have you tasted a wine that you loved and you couldn't remember the name. What a great innovation which should be imitated at every wine event. Bravo, T.M.A. and Pastiche!

These little cards helped me to easily note the remarkable wines of the evening, Between all the food booths some interesting wines could be found. Although many of the wines seemed like the usual commercial fare, some wines stood out.In addition to the Chards already mentioned, The Henriot Champagne was a cooling fresh beverage that was a perfect match with the tuna shashimi. The reds that most stand out in my mindare from Niner, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. While the 2005 Heitz Cabernet wasn't exactly on a par with the famous 1974, it was quite good, a significant improvement from recent decades of mediocre wine. The 2008 Robert Craig Affinity was delicious as usual, but surpassed UMHO by the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for a monster Cabernet, look no farther than The Sledgehammer - big with explosive flavors. Doube T Red from Napa had a more modest profile, but full of black fruit flavors - a little friendlier, not such a brute.If fruit bombs are your thing, the 2009 Manifesto from Lodi will be your friend..If you are looking for something lighter still, become a fan of 2008 Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir.

If you don't follow California wines, poke around the wide selection of Italian wines from Zonin.The Prosecco was light and fruity - a perfect wine to start the evening on the patio. Seeing a Vermentino brought back wonderful memories of the Cinque Terra, but alas, this version from the Maremma was so fruity it tasted American, at least wasn't defective like so many Vermentinos from Sardinia. The big event was the Zonin Amarone, a beautiful, big rich version of this wine made from the unusual Corvino grape partially dried on bamboo racks in Valpollicella -rich, velvety, smooth, flavorful -perfect.

If you didn't make it to Crush this year, put it on your Facebook page next year. If you were there, we had a great time, didn't we? I even copped a few bottles of white Burgundy in the silent auction, maybe you will next year.

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Crush : A Moveable Feast @ Tucson Museum of Art

Date: Tue, Apr 5, 2011 Wine Tasting

Come and get it! Hot wine available for tasting. Hot food, too! April 1st, April Fools Day! To paraphrase a little, they say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the desert sun. The sun was setting, but the thermometer was not. The plaza of The Tucson Museum of Art was in the 90s at the start and cooled down to 85 or so as the evening wore on. Last time I attended Crush, the temps were perfect, in the low 80s. Once when we were in Britsh Columbia, we commented on the rain to the first native we saw. "Well, it would be British Columbia, if it weren't raining." Commenting to a Tucsonian about the heat, "After all, it's Arizona." I guess I'm still a Northerner at heart. Though I usually do well in the low humidity of the desert with temps up to 93 or so, the red wines did not. They all tasted "hot" with lots of acidity and tannin standing out. In old "English Houses" the room temperature could be 55 Farenheit. Somehow I think the right temporature for reds in 63 degrees. I once tasted Kent Callaghan's Arizona Reds during a January windstorm that brought the winery to about 45 degrees. Kent had a remarkably simple system for bringing the temperature up. Pour the wine in the glass, place the glass in a pitcher of hot water, place the thermometer in the glass, remove the glass from the hot water when the temperature reachs 63 degrees, taste It took me a little while to get the hang of it. My first glass of ultra cold red tasted like liquid sandpaper. No flavor, no nothing, except tannin - purple/black liquid. The next glass at 63 degrees was full of complex black fruit flavors, balanced with gentle velvety tannins giving some backbone. I've learned so much about what a difference temperature makes to the taste of wine in Arizona. Once in a while, I get a glass pour of a perfect Chardonnay at a perfect 55 degrees.. A fresh stream of "stony", "mineral" liquid flows down my gullet and I feel as if I am by a cool stony brook. The heat led us to seek out cool Chardonnay. We found some excellent ones among the multiple food stations scattered around the T.A.M. plaza. In fact, this year, Crush seemed more like a food tasting rather than a wine tasting event. Tucson restaurants were strutting their stuff. Wine shops were strutting their stuff. The food was excellent, the whites refreshing and many of the reds delicious. Look for more about the wine and food at the Crush pARTy in the coming days and weeks.

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2010 Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries

Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 Wine Tasting



This is the fifth annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2010 Unofficial Classification Of Washington State Wineries represents my personal, perhaps idiosyncratic or eccentric, opinions of the quality of Washington State wineries. Out of more than 700 wineries, thereare well over a hundred producing great wine. About half of the wine produced in Washington comes from wineries owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. The other wineries are mostly small artesanal family enterprises typically producing 2000-3000 cases, in some cases up to 20,000 cases or more. In contrast to other classifications of wine such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries is not set in stone and changes every year. Since it is retrospective, it does not necessarily predict future rankings, past performance is no guarantee of future results.Wines at the topof the list tend to be special wines for special occasions, whereas wines in the "Cinqieme"group tend to be outstanding values. Exclusion from this classification, in no way represents a commentary on the quality of a winery. In many cases, it may simply mean that I am not familiar enough with the wines or winemaker to form an opinion. On the other hand, not all Washington wines and wineries are great, so only the best that I am familiar with are listed here. Wineries are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked within each category. Wineries are listed as "deferred," if I have reason to believe they are worthy, but haven't tasted enough of their wines recently to form an opinion. There are exciting new wineries added to the classification this year. Pomum, Elsom , and Caderetta to name just a few. Be sure to check through the classification for new additions many of which were suggested by you in your comments last year. This year there are well over 100 classified growths in Washington State. I would be happy to drink wine from any of these wineries and you will be, too.


Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)

Cayuse

Leonetti

Quilceda Creek


Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)

Andrew Will

Betz

Cadence

DeLille

Januik

Long Shadow

Pepper Bridge

Spring Valley


Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)

Abeja

Adams Bench

Amaurice

Boudreaux

Brian Carter

Buty

Caderetta

Canon De Sol

Cougar Crest

Doyanne

Elsom

Fall Line

Five Star

Glencorrie

Gorman

Hestia

Hightower

Irlandes

Isenhower

Mark Ryan

Note Bene

O-S

Palouse

Pomum

Pondera

Robert Ramsey

Ross Andrew

Saviah

Sleight Of Hand

Sparkman

Syncline

Trio

Willis Hall


Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)

426

Adamant

Amavi

Baer

Barrage

Basel Cellars

Beresen

Bergevin Lane

Canoe Ridge

Chatter Creek

Covington

Darby

Davonport

Des Voignes

Desert Wind

Domaine Pouillon

Dusted Valley

Efeste

Flying Trout

Forgeron

Gifford Hirlinger

Guardian

Hedges

Kestrel

Kiona

L'Ecole

Mountain Dome

Nicolas Cole

Northstar

Novelty Hill

Pattterson

Red Sky

Reininger

Seven Hills

Sheridan

Syzygy

Terra Blanca

Tertulia

Three Rivers

Thurston Wolfe

Trust

Tyrus Evan

Vin Du Lac

Walla Walla Vineyards

Walter Dacon

Whitman

William Church


Cinqieme Cru (Best Buys)

14 Hands

Airfield Estates

Apex

Balboa

Boomtown

Barnard Griffin

Chinook

Columbia Crest "Two Vines"

Covington

Dama

Goose Ridge

Gordon Bros

Hogue

Martinez & Martinez

Maryhill

Nelms Road

NXNW

Pavin & Riley

Pine & Post

Red Diamond

Revelry

Ryan Patrick

Sagelands

Saint Laurent

Two Vintners

Waterbrook

Willow Crest

Wines of Substance


Deferred

Agate Field

Andrake

Animale

Cameraderie

Columbia Crest Reserve

Doubleback

Dunham

Ensemble

Glacial Lake Missoula

Gramercy

Grand Reve

Latitude 46 N

Local wine Company

Massett

McKinley Springs

McCrea

Pacific Rim

Parejas

Rulo

Sandidge

Sandhill

Soos Creek

Terra Blanca - Onyx

Two Mountains

Woodward Canyon

Zefina





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American Sketches of Spain -Tempranillo

Date: Fri, Jan 28, 2011 Wine Tasting

While Spain may not have successfully transformed its economy, it has radically transformed its wine. Back in the 1970s there was a lot of bad wine in Spain. Of course, there were some wonderful traditional wines with that distinctive smokiness, just perfectly matched to traditional foods such Roast Suckling Pig and Cabrito, Roasted Goat. More than any other European country, Spain has successfully created New World style wines in the Old World. Both Spanish food and wine have lightened up. The wine is younger, fresher, fruitier, and friendlier than those big old towers of smoke.

Tempranillo is the flagship grape of Spain. Originally the main grape in the Rioja region, it has spread throughout the counrtry and around the world. As a result of globalization, Spain adopted American technology such as stainless steel fermentation tanks, and America adopted Tempranillo. We wanted to see the result so we had a comparison tasting of Tempranillo from Spain, Washington, Oregon and California. Five of the wines were tasted single blind with our friends, Hans and Trude, and three were tasted stark naked with our friends Norm and Verni. The results were eye-opening.

Here are the results of the blind tasting ( 1=highest)

Score

1.75 2006 Lan Rioja, Rioja, Spain - about $15 in supermarkets

2.13 2007 Pomum Tinto, Columbia Valley, Wa.- about $30 at the winery

2.37 2007 Opolo Tempranillo, Paso Robles, Ca. - about $30 at the winery

3.13 2009 Temenal, Yecla, Spain - about $4 at Trader Joe's

3.50 2006 Dominio IV "Sketches of Spain", Columbia Gorge, Or.- about $25

So, one could simplistically say that the Rioja was the winner and the Sketches of Spain the loser, but this is not so. There was so much variability among ratings that these are probably not meaningful differences. One of our number was a winemaker who was rating to his prototype of Tempranillo rather than simple hedonistic pleasure. All of the wines were good, but made in different styles. The blow away wine was the "Tinto" from Washington. So Spanish in style, yet fresher, fruitier and rounder than the Lan. Perhaps this should be no surprise as it was made by a winemaker from Spain, Javier Alfonso, a Boeing engineer who lives in Seattle.The Opolo was big, round and fruity, very American, very California. The Dominio had more tannin and seemed to need some more age, though it would be fine now with a roast or stew. The "Joker" or "Ringer", the "Four Buck Tempranillo" from Trader Joe did quite well. It was much rougher with too much tannin and acid, but it, too would go well with food. Don't try this one as a cocktail alone!

Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It may be a little early to tell ( tempranillo means a little early in Spanish), but it definitely is a candidate, especially in Washington. Since the overall quality in this tasting was so high, we thought we would check out a few more wines. We tasted two different vintages of Montobuena Rioja (about $10 at Total Wines), the 07 and 09. The 09 was lighter brighter and more acidic than the 07 which was more structured, more balanced and fuller flavored. We had the the 09 with the salad, the 07 with the Chicken Tagine, and the 06 Abecela Tempranillo, from Rio Vineyard in Southern Oregon, with the appetizer. Abecela was a Northwest pioneer with Tempranillo, but I've always found it to be kind of flat and dry. It did have enough fruit in it for one taster to describe it as being like Merlot. More good Tempranillo!

It looks like Spain has joined its former colonies in the New World, Argentina and Chile, in making high quality wine at reasonable prices. And North America, seems to have taken Tempranillo to a new level of fullness and fruitiness. Is Tempranillo the next new thing? It's a lttle early to tell.






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The Caviar Indicator

Date: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 Wine Tasting

Finding decent caviar this past New Year's was quite a trick. Years ago, in the last century, I ruined my palate for caviar by eating several large helpings of Beluga in Turkey and elsewhere at very resonable prices. Let's see, I think it was $7 for two ounces, or was it four, plus a water glass full of ice cold Vodka. I never should have acquired the habit as it has become progressively more costly to the point of being totally beyond reach. As my deceased friend Bill B. used to say, well, at least I had my share.

Still, this doesn't stop me from searching every year. In the current century, the sweet spot for me has been American Sturgeon and Paddlefish caviar, farmed or wild. Of course, I never object to Ikura, or red salmon caviar. This year turned up very little in this middle range. The Romanoff on the supermarket shelf hardly qualifies as caviar. The other available option - Osetra for $100 an ounce and up is equally unworkable! Luckily I coped a jar of wild American Paddlefish for $20 an ounce at trader Joe's early, just before it disappeared for the season.

What's this got to do with wine? First, it appears that people are buying caviar, but not the ultra expensive varieties. So it's like they don't want to spend an arm and a leg, but are willing to spend for good value.
No two buck chuck, but no Opus one either. To put it another way, no Cold Duck, but no Crystal either.
So it appears that under $20 or $30 at the most is the new normal. Sure I saw lots of folks walking off with cases of $45 Mauritson Zin at the barrel tasting in December, but how many wineries can sell at $30 or $45 price points? How many have the magic of Mauritson?

I recently read an interview with the CEO of the company that produces Ugg boots. He figured he was right in the sweet spot between Family Dollar and Tiffany. Similarly Coach offers value luxury that appeals to the new consumer. It seems there are too many wineries trying to sell $45 bottles of wine. I'm sure most of them are conviced that their wine is worth it and in most cases the wines are probably quite good, but why should I fork over $45 for your Merlot, when it is so similar to Joe's and Tom's and Dick's and Harry's.

My advice for the New Year to my winemaking friends? You need an under $20 bottle, good value and some character in your wine that distinguishes it from the rest of the shelf. Happy New Year everyone.Look for the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wines coming soon.

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Vintage Matters

Date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 Wine Tasting

In the matter of vintages, A. Brock complained in a recent comment on "Holiday Gifts I Oregon" that an online company sent him a vintage other than the one advertised on the website. Does this matter? If it were a Bordeaux, it would certainly matter as there is so much variation in the weather of Bordeaux from year to year, although it does appear that Bordeaux is getting warmer. A 2004 St. Estephe is not the same as a 2005. Mother nature is possibly even more fickle in Oregon than in Bordeaux or Burgundy. My son-in-law recently had a 2006 Monte Antico from Italy and loved it. Without thinking I bought him a bottle of 2007 Monte Antico and it wasn't half as good. After tasting the 2007 Quivera Zinfandel, I was so enthralled that I went back to the winery to get some more. Sold out! So I tasted the 2008. It was okay, but nothing compared to the '07. I used an old trick and stopped at the local grocery where I was able to cop three bottles of the 2007. Phwew! So even in sunny California vintage makes a difference. Indeed, vintage matters!.

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Dry Creek - The Sequal

Date: Thu, Jan 6, 2011 Wine Tasting

Just out of the chute, off highway 101 on Dry Creek Road the first winery you come to is Wilson winery. Wilson owns a whole stable of wineries, including Mazocco. Our favorites at Wilson are the spectacular 2008 Wilson Family Red, a blend of 43% Zinfandel, 29% Petite Sirah,14% Cabernet Sauvignon,and 14% more back Syrah, and the 2008 Tori Zin grown at 2500 feet, a wine with significant backbone, needing perhaps a few more years of age. Just up the road is Nalle, a family owned winery. Next up, Mauritson,where a Holiday celebration and barrel tasting was in full swing. When I arrived I knew I was about to crash a party as the parking lot was overflowing. The Barrel tasting attracted a large crowd of club memebers and the tasting room was full, too. No wonder! It was obvious that the six generation plus family of grape growers had a winner on their hands. Somebody in the cellar had the magic touch with the family's high qualiity fruit. A long list of winners were going for around $45 a throw. Unfortunately, 2010 was a rough year for Dry Creek Valley, but this is truly one of the wine roads less traveled, truly a find.

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A Week In San Francisco

Date: Mon, Sep 13, 2010 Wine Tasting

You might have thought that I would have gone to the French Laundry or Rubicon or Masa or even Boulevard. You might have thought that a trip to the Napa Valley or Sonoma was in order. But this week we stayed chez nous and drank well for so much less.

Carole brought a bottle of 2002 Jacob Toft Elizabeth's Cuvee from Paso Robles - smooth, very California, soft, medium-bodied, fruity, very friendly, a Rhone Blend (55% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, %20 Zinfandel) that has mellowed into seemlessness. It was great with something as light as salmon or as big as roast leg of lamb with lentils. This was purchased from Jacob's mailing list. You probably can still get on this list. This is one of those insider underground wine secrets. Toft works with Stephan Asseo at L'Aventure and has quietly set off on an adventure of his own The wines are priced at about $30 and worth every penny. No need to be on the Screaming Eagle list when you can join Jacob's list.

Having recently had a bottle of William Fevre Chablis in Walla Walla at Brasserie Four which was superb with perfect mineralityand flintiness balanced by good fruit and body, I couldn't resist a bottle of 2008 Chablis from "Jacques Bourguignon" at Trader Joe's on Masonic for only eight bucks. I must admit that "Jacques Bourguignon" sounds like a made up name to me, but the label claims he is a negociant in Chablis. The wine is not estate bottled, but so what? For $8, it is a phenomenal bargain with good fruit, body, and balance with just the right hint of citrus in the finish. The style, the shape of the wine is similar to the Fevre, though no where near as classy. This is almost cheap enough to be an everyday, well almost everyday, wine. It is definitely worth four times the price of Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay and a good sniff of the real thing. Great on it's own, great with grilled halibut or salmon.

My son-in-law discovered 2008 Feudo Franco Stammari Pinot Noir from Sicily. This is one of the many Pinots from worldwide vineyards in such places as Italy, Chile, and France. A number of these are marketed as coming from such well known American names as Fetzer and Beringer, but if you look carefully at the label you will see that they are not actually from Napa or Mendocino. The Stammari had the guts to present itself as what it is - Sicilian Pinot Noir. It must come from a hilly part of Sicily as it is so hot there. Pinot has a reputation as a finicky cool climate grape. The Stammari is big and a little rustic, but actually has real Pinot flavors. At about $10, it is a great "everyday" wine that goes with everything red - pizza, ragu, burgers, stew, steak, you name it!

Pascual Toso Malbec from Argentina scored a "90" from the Wine Spectator a few years ago.The 2008 is super-fruity, super-jammy and totally delicious. We had it before dinner, but, again, this one would go with almost any red dish. Another amazing bargain available at Bevmo, K & L, and Costco for about $10.

I brought a bottle of Willamette Valley 2008 Ken Wright "Canary Hill" Pinot Noir with me from Seattle. It's pricey at about $45 a bottle but worth every penny. Round, soft and fairly light-bodied with classic sour cherry flavors, it was perfection with BBQed salmon.

What is Madiran? We were first introduced to Madiran by Chef Daguin at his fabulous restaurant in Auch in the heart of Gascony in the 1970s. In those days, these wines were veritable monsters. Made from the black Tannat grape they aged forever and needed a dish such Joues de Toro, or Bull's Cheeks cooked in a rich wine-drenched sauce or daube. Other amazing French wines from the Tannat grape are Cahors and Irouleguy from the Basque country north of Gascony. All of these wines were huge inky monsters to age for twenty or thirty years. Now they have been domesticated and tamed. They are still big, and brawny, but they have less hair on their chests. For most Americans, they are still probably an acquired taste. A good place to start would be the Tannat from Tablas Creek. This American version from Paso Robles is fruitier and friendlier than its French cousins. The 2004 was a big, spectacularly luscious example. The 2006 was lighter, that is medium bodied, but stil quite delicious. Oh , yes, the 2000 Chateau Lafitte - Ceston we had with leg of lamb and lentils- truly a perfect wine food pairing. Medium bodied with big rustic flavors, tasting a little old,
this was truly a treat. I can't wait to open my bottle of 1990 Chateau Montus. Like Dolcetto from the Piedmont in Italy and Chinon from the Loire Valley in France, these Tannat based wines are consistently good and very reasonably priced since they are relatively unknown. You ll have to hunt and peck or go to Tablas Creek (you can probably order online) to sample these amazing wines. If you like Syrah and Mourvedre, you'll love Tannat

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Thank You Mary

Date: Sun, Sep 5, 2010 Wine Tasting

Thank you Mary for a great evening of food, wine and company - Jim , Judy, Bill and Merry. You are definitely a Rhone Ranger and what a range of Rhone style wines we had. What a great chance to taste Syrah, Mourvedre and blends of other Rhone grapes from Washington and France. The Cairanne and Arbois reds you served from France were definitely food wines. The 2005 Denner Syrah from Paso Robles was bigger and softer, just as you might expect from a California wine. The Reininger Syrah from Washington seemed more subdued, balanced, and refined. Your 2005 Cayuse "Les Cailloux" Syrah that Jim shared with us was a typically big Cayuse red, though a little too cold to be able to taste all the nuances. The 1995 Cornas that Jim shared was the perfect contrast to the Cayuse illustrating the difference between French and American wines. A perfect evening - thanks Mary and thanks Jim for sharing your wine.

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Big Bash for the Arts

Date: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 Wine Tasting

Okay, so if you go in for this sort of thing, I hope you didn't spend all your money at The Auction of Washington Wines. I just got my invite to the Big Bash by Poncho scheduled for October 2nd at the Sheraton. Frankly, like most of you, I can't afford the fees, let alone the wines at these big bashs. I stopped attending the Poncho wine auctions several years ago, when the cheapest silent auction item was more than $500. At one time, I used to donate to the Poncho Wine Auction. Don't get me wrong, if you can afford it, these "black tie" events can be a lot of fun and raise money for worthy causes. Frankly, though, I think the best auction and most worthy cause is the wine auction for Farestart which raises money to train the homeless in culinary arts. Not only do they provide training in culinary skills, they offer training in crucial life skills. Eighty and eighty means that 80% graduate and 80% have retained their job one year later. Of course, with these hard times, these figures may have changed. For years, I was on the procurement committee for the Farestart wine auction and donated wine to the cause.

Poncho supports some forty plus arts organizations in the Puget Sound Area - Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Intiman, Seattle Rep - the list goes on all the way to the most important part of the arts at the Fringe. It seems to me that the Arts and the down and out are suffering much more in this economy than those in the health care system and wine education, so while Children's Hospital is a worthy beneficiary of the Auction of Washington Wine, the hospital has had the support of its well organized guilds for years and wine education gets funding one way or another. Frankly these are all just excuses for a big party for rich people anyway. As I said, if you can afford it , it is fun, but in this day of 9% + official unemployment and 17% real unemployment it seems a little obscene. So if you must, I would say, support the Arts which are suffering the most in this economy. Layoffs, furloughs, take backs and unemployment plague our most developed citizens who bring us spiritual elevation, inspiration, and beauty in a world run by heartless politicians and corporations. One hundred sixty-five million dollar bonuses for CEOs who brought this country to its knees, and nothing for creative people who represent the apotheosis of society? Where are our values?

Much as I love all of my winemaking friends around the state, if you've got the bread and the inclination, devote your wealth and energy to the Arts and the homeless, rather than fat cats like Children's Orthopedic and wine education

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The Suspense Is Killing Me

Date: Tue, Aug 10, 2010 Wine Tasting

The suspense is killing me. Will I or won't I get that coveted media credential to the Auction of Washington Wines picnic and barrel tasting and auction or whatever it is? I try to take advantage of every venue to bring you the best and latest info on new Washington wineries and the latest wines from some of the best wineries in Washington State. Some of the best will be there such as Adam's Bench, but will yours truly be there? Only the shadow knows!

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Love Potion #9

Date: Mon, Aug 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

So I'm sitting there on my favorite bench (quick get away, good breeze and all that) at the Olympic Music Festival and I see these two middle-aged couples smooching away. Then I spy the ostensible cause of all this lovey dovey behavior - a bottle of red hooch, so I says to myself, I gotta find out what dat is. So I goes up to the couple, tells them I'm a wine writer, and ask them what they drinkin' . From the bottle shape I woulda guessed some kinda Napa Cabernet. Got the Cab part right, but one of the guys, Patrick Coleman by name, tells me he made the wine himself and been doing so for some thirty odd years. So he offers me a taste, and it's really good stuff. So is the Syrah. Name of the 200 case unbonded winery is Desperation Ridge. Not sure if that is quiet desperation or the noisy kind. In any event, hey, man why you keeping it to yourself. I know why. Same reason, my expert winemaker friends in Sebastapol, King & Bim don't go public either. They don't want to ruin it! Try to commercialize your passion and you acquire a whole bunch of headaches. Who needs it, especially when you own "homemade" wine doesn't give you a headache.

I'll let you in on a secret. the Olympic Music Festival @ Quilcene is a major wine event, each of eight weekends in July and August. Picnics to the right of us, picnics to the left of us. all the way from a blanket on the lawn to an elaborate over the top baroque/ rococco groaning board elaborately tricked out with damask and colorful wine glasses. I'm tellin' ya, these retirees and retiree wannabes, know how to do it.
Ahh, wine and music, somebody once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Well writing about wine is like writing about music - like a Beethoven Symphony, like a Mozart Quintet, like a Chopin Polanaise, like you should get yourself to the Olympic Music Festival. Support the arts, enjoy the arts, drink wine, enjoy wine!

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Le Grand Tour De Walla Walla

Date: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

We started out West on HY 12 at Waterbrook where we tasted a whole bunch of good quality inexpensive wine. We had to double back to Cougar Crest, where all the wines are good, we particularly liked the **2006 Estate Cabernet Franc. We smelled violets, pepper and spice and swallowed twice. We swallowed the *2006 Estate Anniversary Cuvee after getting a whiff of it's mind-blowing nose. The 20% Petit Verdot in the cuvee was to our taste. Both the 2006 Estate Cab with it's real cassis character and the 2005 Estate Syrah with it's blackcurrant merited a swallow each. The highlight for me was the Petit Verdot which is an acquired taste I acquired from the Mike Januik's 2004 Petit Verdot. At Glencorrie, we "swallowed all of the wines, but had trouble swallowing the prices. Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas fame made the wines at Victor Cruz's Conon de Sol facility, but the wines were much more reserved than Fidelitas, more in the style of Jean Francois's Pepper Bridge wines. Good stuff, but where's the buzz.

To the North at the airport - we visited the "Five Incubators" only to find the WBC bus got there about the same time. No matter, all of the Trio wines were excellent including the Sangio, Zin and I believe a Tempranillo. Diane Slattery and spouse are moving out of the incubator early. They are graduating to a new downtown venue near Forgeron. At Adament, Devin continues to adamantly turn out adamentine gems. About the 2007 Nalin Bordeaux style blend, my notes only say,"WOW - that's awesome." We also "swallowed" the 2006 Red Blend, a great buy at about $20. Devin reminds us of some of the outstanding Boing wine club graduates making wine in the South Park area of Seattle such as Tim Narby at Note Bene. We skipped Buty because we had tasted their excellent reds and whites at Taste Washington

Down south, we tasted Pepper Bridge wines all of which were excellent and very European in style:

  • **2006 Walla Walla Merlot - black cherry, beautiful and smooth
  • **2007 Walla Walla Merlot - dirt, earth, big, concentrated, tannic, needs age - delish!
  • *2006 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon - sooo much black cherry!
  • 2007 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon - "Oh, Man!", smooth but with some tanin,needs a little age
  • 2007 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Blend - Merlot, Cab, Malbec, Petit Verdot - BIG, this is a mouthful
  • **2007 Seven Hills Blend - Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc - soft and spicey - Yum!
    Totally awesome wines. Don't forget swallows are an immediate response to the taste in the mouth of yours truly, so some of the bigger wines don't have swallows but will be fabulous with time, eventuallythere will be six swallows or would it be twelve or more? We didn't visit so many other worthy wineries in this neck of the woods because of time constraints. However, we were able to taste Isenhower and and Dusted Valley at their Woodinville tasting rooms and you can. too. Lots of "swallows" there, too.

    Out East, a few blocks east of Rose on 2nd, that is, we found the two girls from Portland occupying their new digs in a storefront close to Forgeron. Their SuLei wines were even better this year - the 2009 WW Rousanne was light and bright, the 2007 Beet Red was more substantial and bigger, the 2008 WW Roller Girl Red, a Bordeaux style blend of equal parts Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and and 11% Merlot was a delicious big swallow and a phenomenal bargain at $17. Definitely the the best value in Walla Walla. Roll on girls! Sadly, next door we found Yellow Hawk going out of business, selling their very good wines for a pittance. The Barbera was outstanding as it has been for a long time. At Forgeron, Jesse served up a long list of excellent wines. The *2007 Chardonnay was round soft and light with just a hint of European citrus crispness - definitely one swallow. The 2009 Marsanne was so typique - full, fruity and spicy. Among the reds, the 2005 Merlot was perfectly mellow and easy, the *2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - "a real wine"- lots of pepper, *2005 Syrah -m" I love the nose, a real meat wine, needs two years, 2006 Zinfandel - Kathy says, "My mother would even drink this wine", *NV Walldeaux Smithie - "That's good stuff!" Walldeaux? A hybrid of Walla Walla & Bordeaux and a great value @ $16.

    Look for our comments on wines from non-Walla Walla wine regions and our spectacular night on the town.

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