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Meet The Winemakers: Doug Roskelley of Tero Estates

Date: Tue, Aug 17, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Another great production by Jeremy Gonzalez of the Union Bulletin - - and he lets me tag along!

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Tumbling Tumbleweeds: Writers & Bloggers

Date: Mon, Aug 16, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

See them tumbling down ...
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds. - Sons of the Pioneers

Honestly, as long as I have lived here, I have never seenclusters oftumbleweeds roll down the middle of Main Street Walla Walla. However, Iread aboutthese parades of weedsrolling down Main Street in various wine-related articles from writers based in New York, Los Angeles and even western Washington.If I didn't know any better I would think thatthese old tumbleweeds are being released on cue by Tourism Walla Walla, at least when I am not around, so the visiting journalist can write their usual, "Walla Walla has a "folksy" Western feel to it." One over-enthusiastic writereven left me witha colorfulimpressionthat Main Street Walla Walla was nothing but a dusty dirt trail complete with Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, Marshall Dillon, Doc, Festus, Chester,and Miss Kitty.

Of course the unwritten rules are this: If a wine blogger wrote about the tumbleweeds constantly rolling down Main Street, we would jump on their heads and dance the "You Are Wrong Again Blobber" dance and the very least would be take these words with a grain of salt. If a "writer" publishes this information in a newspaper or a magazine, it is the gospel even if I have never witnessed these clusters of round thickets rolling along with Main Street traffic.

As wine bloggers are growing by leaps and bounds, criticism follows and grows. Wine bloggers have been lectured to by 25-cents-a-word wine writers who talk down to us like parents to their kids, "Don't do as I do. Do as I say." Our wine blogging talents are being downplayed aswine-o consumerswho are merely postingan equivalent of ateenage online diary. We often get placed in thisbelow subclass of"wannabe wine writers" and we are all just jealous and want to be Robert Parker when we grow up - - so our critics say.

There is one thing I am beginning to agree with the critics on: Everybody wants to be a wine writer.Something tells me that the majority of newspapers and online magazine articles I read about Washington and especially Walla Walla, the reporter hasn't evenvisitedWalla Wallaor they wouldn't write the erroneous things they do.A writer from Los Angelestold herreaders that Walla Walla's remoteness was going to really devastate the 2009 Spring Release Weekend.Remote? We are (she says with sarcasm)?Now you finally tell us o'wise one from Los Angeles. Where wasthe big city LA writer and expert on Walla Wallawhen it came time to direct congested traffic on Main Street and the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway coming east into Walla Walla that busy event weekend? Did she follow up on her report to announce that it was one of the biggest Spring Releases, financially,in Walla Walla wine history?Of course not.

Then thereis the ever-so popular phrase thatmany destination writers want to claim as their own cleverly coined phrase, "Walla Walla is the Next Napa." Come on! That is getting as tiresome as"What goes on in (fill in the blanks), stays in (fill in the blanks)." If these writers really understood Walla Walla's remotenesslike they all seem to be an authority on, they would know that Walla Walla is never going to be another Napa - - nor want to be.

Like our critics said, "Everybody wants to be a wine writer." Fine. Let's all be wine writers. I have no problem with that, especially in today's economy. Let's all make a contribution and spread the word about wine, wineries and wine destinations, but when you report your findings - - GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! What are readers going to think whenthey aresent to restaurants that have been closed for months because you haven't been here for months and/orsendreaderson a wild goose chase to restaurants and wineries with incorrect and misspelled names?While peppering articles with recommendations of wine destinations, how about getting the mileage correct? The readers may decide not to travel to our Washington/Oregon Border wineries and vineyards becausethey readit was a 30-miledrive from downtown Walla Walla to the stateline border instead of an easy less than 10 miles with designated wineries along the way.

This is the kind of sloppy and irresponsible reporting, with zero to little fact checking, that can actually make the tourist's visit less than enjoyable and memorable, besidesnot helping a businessat allwhen tourists cannot find the location because they were given the wrong name.

In the mean time, would someone like to tell me why we have criticsabout wine bloggers being "sloppy and irresponsible" and yet they are not policing their own? I think we should take 25-cents a word away for every bit of misinformationthat is published in newspapers and magazinesand put it in a wine blogger's fund.

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Weird, Wild and Wacky Pairings: Skylite Cellars Malbec & Pickles

Date: Thu, Aug 12, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Sometimes you just have to go with it. Sometimes you have to trust the people who are telling you to try something different. They say, "Go ahead and try it. You'll like it."

Now, it's not as if they are making you eat something disgusting or do something gross like a high school locker roomprank. Logic soon kicks in. Okay. Youlove dill pickles, especially home made crispyand spicy dills, right?And you love Malbec. In fact, Malbec has become one of your favoritered wines. Sowhen you are told that dill pickles and Malbec are a great pairing,why not? You give it a try.

That's what happened to me when visiting longtime friend Cheryl Hodgins, owner of Skylite Cellars and associate, Becky Brammer. They werehosting me one evening fora special food and wine pairing.They poured me a glass of Malbec and brought out the dill pickles. Now, it's important to know these weren'tyour averagegrocery store slimey dull-green pickles with just a flavor of dill. Beckymakes thesecrunchy little slices of pickled goodness. They looked almost like a fresh thick-slicedbaby cucumber andwas also fresh tasting with agreat CRUNCHand a bit of spice and fresh dillgoing on. So, when they told mehow thesepickles paired with their Skylite Cellars Malbec - 2007(a Double Gold winner of the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards and a Double Goldwinnerat the 2010San Francisco Wine Chronicle Awards), I had to trust them.

It worked. It really worked and in fact the pairing of the two made my mouth salivate andwanting more. It was quite addictive.If you understand food and winepairings,you know that if you match acid with acid, such as in this case the acids from the pickles and the wine, the acid in the pickles softens the acids in the wine bringing out the fruity notes in the Malbec.

I think we need to experiment and deep fry some pickles serve them with a side of Skylite Cellars Malbec.

What is theweirdest, wildest and wackiest food and wine pairing you have ever tried?

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Blackbird Blackbird: Otis Kenyon Merlot

Date: Wed, Aug 11, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise - Lennon & McCartney

Is it finally safefor usMerlot lovers to"come out of the closet?"In spite of the persecution that Merlot received during the times of "Sideways," many of us Merlot lovers had to go underground to sip on that often maligned redwine that's the poor relation to King Cab. Even novice wine consumers, who typically nursed on white zin, were trashing the black grape that derived it's name from the Old French name for a young blackbird (Turdus merula), a diminutive of "merle."

It's not that I happen to love every Merlot that comes along, but I have a strong affinity for our Merlots from Washington State.They are bold,expressive, food friendly and Walla Walla, in particular, is known for producing some of the finest Merlot in the world. I tell people often, that if you don't care for Merlots (or more like someone told you it wasn't cool to admit to liking them), keepsampling and keep an open mind and you will finally discover severalMerlots you will enjoy.

Otis Kenyon is producing Merlot that can make the most critical of Merlots change their mind with one sniff from the glass. These are fragrant wines and with each vintage,they are very different and very dramatic.Otis Kenyon is a family owned and managed wineryand four generations of deep historical ties in the Walla Walla Valley. They are a boutique winery that produces limited quantities of affordable Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines, not only with grapes from their estate, butfruit sourced from well-known Walla Walla Valley vineyards.

If it is still available, I recommend the Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2006. It is powerful! Alight snifffrom the glass filled my nose with violets - like Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse Eau de Parfum, one of my favorite old fashioned fragrances. It was heady! It was wonderful! Who knew that this dark red wine could remind me of spring? Once on the palate, flavors ofdark cherriesand plumscame out. Ithad an"earthy" quality that is so typical of Walla Wallagrown Merlots.Notes of milk chocolate rounded out the mouth.

One of the things thatmakes the tasting of wines so enjoyableis theunparalleled vintages and what the harvest of a particularyear brought us.Otis Kenyon Merlot - 2007 is a very differentMerlotfrom it's predecessor and yet still very enjoyable on its own. The nose was bright with notes of brambleberries reaching out. The acids were well balanced, yet made my mouth salivate wanting to keep sipping. More berries came through on the palate andit finished with wafts of smoke and dark cocoa.

Otis Kenyon are fine examples of two veryunique and well-made (and well-grown) Merlots that need to be explored before they fly away.

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Wine Geek Trivia: Appellations

Date: Tue, Aug 10, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

So you ask, "Catie what are you talking about? What exactly is an appellation?'

Well, my inquiring little friend, Wiki says an appellation is:

a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors, may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.

If you are an American wine geek and you talk a lot of wine speak, then you probably know that the term "appellation" is synonymous with the name "American Viticultural Area" or mostly referred to as "AVA." If you are not a wine geek, be very careful not to confuse "appellation" with "Appalachian" or people will point fingers at you and laugh. However, there are appellations in the Appalachians. Confused?

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States that is distinguishable by geographic features.Boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). There were 198 AVAs as of January, 2010. Prior to the installation of the AVA system, wine appellations of origin in the United States were designated based on state or county boundaries. All of these appellations were grandfathered into federal law. More wine-speak for the wine geek? Basically, "Bacchus Bureaucracy."

My mother tells a good story about appellations on a recent visit to New Mexico. She and her friends were doing the tourist thing and since their host knew how much my mother enjoyed wine and that she lived in Washington wine country, they traveled to a few wineries in New Mexico. One winery, in particular, boasted about their New Mexico Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Chardonnay being the best in the world, don't 'cha know. The person behind the counter especially touted his finest wine which was made from pistachios with real caramel food coloring - ahem. (Does this make me a wine snob?)

My mother was being polite and while trying to make conversation, she asked the man who owned the winery about their wine grapes and if they came from a local New Mexico appellation. The owner of the winery became rather frustrated with her and exclaimed, "Apple-ations? Lady, our wines are made from grapes, not apples!"

The tradition of wine appellations is nothing new. In fact, it is ancient. The oldest references are to be found in the Bible, where wines of Samaria, Carmel, and Jezreel in Israel are mentioned. This tradition of appellation continued throughout the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, though without any officially sanctioned rules. Historically, the world's first exclusive and protected vineyard zone was introduced in Chianti, Italy in 1716 and the first wine classification system in Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary, in 1730.

In 1935, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture, was created to manage wine productionin France. However, before 1935, despite the fact that the INAO was yet to be created, Champagne enjoyed an appellation control by virtue of legal protection as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891). The treaty stated that only sparkling wine produced in Champagne and adhering to the standards defined for that name as an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée could be called champagne. This right was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

In Washington state we have a total of 11 appellations, each expressing their own unique area: Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Puget Sound, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain and Lake Chelan.

AVAs do not have to be inclusive of one state. There are several in the United States that blend into the borders of their neighboring states, just as we have seen in our area. The Walla Walla Valley AVA also includes the north east part of Oregon (Milton-Freewater/Umatilla County area), Columbia Gorge AVA is also Washington and Oregon, and the Snake River Valley AVA is Oregon and Idaho.

In the East Coast AVAs there are also blended states such as: Central Delaware Valley (New Jersey & Pennsylvania), Cumberland Valley (Maryland & Pennsylvania), Lake Erie (New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), Shenandoah Valley (Virginia and West Virginia), and Southeastern New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island).

Central AVAs: Mesilla Valley (New Mexico and Texas), Mississippi Delta (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee), Ohio River Valley (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia), Shenandoah Valley (Virginia and West Virginia), and Upper Mississippi Valley (Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin).

In the United States, as the number of wine consumers grow, more opportunities for wine education, expansion of agriculture and understanding our geology and the soils around us; there is no doubt in my mind that this list of AVA's will soon be obsolete. I'll drink to that.

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Wait for it! Wait for it! Waters Winery Syrahs of 2009

Date: Mon, Aug 9, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Last week seemed to be a week for me of tasting up-and-coming wines of 2009. How did it happen?Luck and good timing, I suppose.Now, it isimportant to know that these wines have notbeen released,let alone the red wines are still in thebarrel. However, the day they become available, these wines will definitely be worth seeking out.

One group of exciting 2009 vintages I tasted last week were fromWaters Winery. Waters Winery is a boutique winery located at the south of Walla Walla inches away from the Washington/Oregon border.Waters was founded in 2005 and their foundation was builtby the knowledge thatterroirs of the Walla Walla Valleyare capable of producing some of the best wines in the world. Their approach to wine making, under thehand and passion of winemaker Jamie Brown, is influenced by their preference for "old world" styled wines that are expressive of their "terroirs" - their place of origin. When I have tasted wines with Jamie, Ihave always beenimpressedby thesignificanceofshowing place of origin in the wines from Waters Winery, but also how important it is to him that each grape variety expresses its true characteristic.

The focus of wines from Waters Winery weretwo luscious Syrahs from two different vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.And with that said, each vineyard offered to the palate two very distinct noses and flavor profiles. It is always exciting for me to find such obvious differences in the same varietal from the same AVA.

Waters Winery Loess Vineyard Syrah - 2009: The Loess vineyard was planted in 2002 by Gary and Chris Figgins of Leonetti Winery - one of the oldest and most renowned wineries in the State of Washington.This 27-acre vineyard islocated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and just two acres are planted in Syrah. The rows of Syrah have been placed on a 30 degree northeast-southwest orientation to balance morning and afternoon ripening.

The vineyard name, "Loess" (pronounced Luss) comes from the name of one of the soil types thatis responsible for making upWalla Walla Valley over 15,000 years ago. In fact,there are days when westillsee these soils atwork with every wind storm in the valley. Loess is an accumulation of wind-blown siltwith lesser and variable amounts of sand, clay and some minerals such as fine-grained mica.Loessis a highly porous soil which makes for good drainage in the vineyards.

The nose of this Syrah was delicate.There were aromas of mocha and cherries with light notes of floral in the background.The mouth feel was round and silky. It continued on with the flavors of mocha and suddenly exploded with flavors of blueberries and spice.Thefruit continued to linger and announce itself.If I was to explain this Syrah in one word - - "elegant." Again, it is important to remember this is a young wine right from the barreland still needs time to age and reach its full potential.

Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Vineyard Syrah - 2009: During the Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 in Walla Wallawe had an opportunity to visit this vineyard with Christa Hilt of Waters Winery and Dr. Kevin Pogue, Professor of Geology at Whitman College.

Forgotten Hills Vineyard was originally planted in 1996 by Jeff Hill, a well known Walla Walla artist,andwas planted on the Hill family homestead. This 7.5-acre vineyard is at the eastern edge of the Walla Walla Valley AVA and is also at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. This vineyard is composed of three different soil types: basalt cobblestones, deep silt loam and sandy loam. Believe it or not, the old cobblestones not only provide drainage, but also radiate heat that continues during our cool evenings in the Walla Walla Valley. If you don't believe it, pick up a stone in 90 degree temps and see how long you can hold onto it before youare forcedto drop it - - unless you are wearing heat-resistant mitts, of course.

The harvest dates of this vineyard tend to be later in the season thana lot of thevineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. At close to 1,000 feet elevation, along with steady warm winds and less extremes in temperatures, the additional hang time on the vine produces complex fruitthat iseven and ideal in its ripeness.

I barely put my nose in the glass andthe Waters Winery Forgotten Hills Syrah - 2009screamed at me, "Coffee-Espresso-Macchiato-Americano!" The nose of thisSyrah would make Starbucks pale and run away. ThisSouthern Rhône-style Syrah has a lot to say for such a youngster.This inky wine couldn't help but to be described as, "Old World"as it brought out notes of musty earth and smoke. Dark fruitsand spices of cloves and pepper were on the palate.To desribe this Syrah inone word - -"robust."

These two 2009 vintage Syrahs from Waters Winery are a fine example of powerful red wines that express the true characteristics of this dark-skinned grape that isgrown throughout Walla Walla and Washington State and in fact, the world. They are truly worth waiting for. Cheers!

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Past and Future: Wine Bloggers Conferences and Breasts

Date: Fri, Aug 6, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

We take a look at this week's news, past and future, regarding Wine Bloggers Conferences and -well, - - breasts.

Earlier this week the sponsor feedback was posted on the North American Wine Bloggers Conference website. The event coordinators conducted a survey of 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference sponsors and received 16 responses. First of all it is important to know these sponsors did not include the wineries who participated in the Saturday's excursions. That morning's event was coordinated by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and the event coordinators of the WBC didnot havethe list of participating wineries.

An example of some of the questions asked:

Why did you sponsor the conference? 14 responded “I am hoping to connect with bloggers who will remember my product or company name for possible future posts,” four responded “I mostly want to support wine bloggers because it is good for our industry,” and no one replied “I was hoping for immediate online exposure from attending bloggers”.

Would you be interested to sponsor the 2011 conference in Charlottesville? Out of eight replies, six people said yes and two said no because of the distance from their winery.

Overall, this is great news thatthe sponsorsare understanding the importance of connecting with wine bloggers and social media tools.I know there have been critics that these new tools cannot be measured, but while you are dinking around with your measuring stick you are already behind ifyou aren't dipping your feet in the social media pool.How well canwe honestly track print media? Sure, magazines and newspapers will quote subscription numbers, but there are no guarantees the reader is going to read your ad amongst pages and pages of clustered advertising. And you wouldn't make your tasting room customers clip a damn coupon to count effectiveness, would you?

The facts are this:if you are a winery youhave to look towards the future. You have to understand who your new wine consumer is andundertand yournew wine consumer is already relying on social media - they grew up with it and those of us who didn't, their numbers are increasing in usage and familiarity.

Do I think that print wine media is on its way out? Of course not. I think we can all live harmonious together.We canfind creative ways to support each other and blend the two medias. One of my joys in life is winding down at night with my reading glasses hanging on the bottom of my nose, drinking a cup of tea or a glass of wine and reading through my monthly subscriptions of food and wine magazines. I love glossy! There is this element of surprise with each page I turn, as corny as it sounds.

Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post reports that the State of Virginia is putting money wheremouth is. New legislation passed this year, signed by Govenor McDonnell,doubles the state’s financial support for theirVirginia Wine Board to use in marketing and research.The growing dollars in their budget, from $580,000 to now $1.35 million, alsoincludesbeing a major sponsor of theNorth AmericanWine Bloggers Conference 2011, which will be held in Charlottesville.
This is great news to hear that another wine producing state understands thesignificance of wine blogging and social media.Unfortunately, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is up to, or in this casethe "right wing." Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) of Virginia is supporting HR 5034, the bill that will restrictor even eliminatesmall wineries ability to ship their wines directly to their customers.Interesting thought process going on here, Einstein. So your state is spending money to get the word out about their small wineries, but you want to limit who they can sell their wine to. Cutting your nose off to spite your face are you, Attorney General Cuccinelli?
But what can you expect from a man who covered the breast of Virginia'soriginal state seal showing Virtus, the Roman goddess of bravery and military strength, in his gifting of the seal.Thehistorical state seal was adopted in 1776and was designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Not only is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli trying to protect the children from the evils of ordering expensive wine through the internet with their credit cards and skipping recess so they can meet the UPS/FedExand fool the delivery person with false ID and a fake adult signature, but now he is trying to protect today's and future children from breasts. Interesting thatVirginia's children ofthe pastweren't too tarnished by looking at a Roman goddess's breast.

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Chill with Tertulia Cellars Rosé du Mourvèdre

Date: Thu, Aug 5, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

As some of you may know, I am such a wimp in this heat. I will never become one of those little ol' blueheads (Well, wait a minute. I guess I already have blue hair ...) who moves to Arizona to retire. Being a wimp in hot weather is nothing new as I was a casualty of heat strokes as a kid - - and well, even as an adult. You tell me how embarassing it was to pass out at the Field House at Washington State University one hot September afternoon while watching homie Drew Bledsoeon the football field - - oh yeah, and the only liquids in my system was water and diet Coke. So there!

Late Mondayafternoon I took a tour of Tertulia Cellars and their vineyards surrounding their estate with winemaker, Quentin Mylet and vineyard manager, Ryan Driver. It was warm, as usual - - HOT! We toured through the vines and as I watched the small green berry clustered vines soak in the water from the drip irrigation, all the time I was thinking to myself, "Like the vines, I am so happy to also besoaking upsome liquid,especially thischilled glass of Tertulia Cellars Rosé du Mourvèdre - 2008."

I am soloving these crisp and cool rosés that are coming out of the Walla Walla Valley and I just happened to have found another one that is worthy of a good rant. If you are a lover of the red grape and often ignore white wine (you know who you are) then you should really open your mind to rosés. You have all of the taste of a red wine, but presented to you in a much lighter and refreshing style like a white wine - - and even better with a chill.

The 2008 growing seasoninthe Columbia Valley started with one of the coolest springs on record, therefore a very late bud break. As spring transitioned into summer, the temperatures remained mild.The longsunny, warm weather in autumn allowed for longer hang time, developing complexity and fully mature grapes, just as we tasted with this Mourvèdre rosé.

Mourvèdreis a red grape withFrench roots and is known to produce tannic and high in alcohol wines. It is most successful in Rhone-style blends. Thisbrilliant-colored red rosé from Tertulia Cellars was barrel-fermented in 100% used French oak giving it just the right amount of roundness and still allowing to show off the fruit's bright acids without a visit from the "oak monster."

During fermentation, temperatures were kept below 60° F in order to preserve the wine’s aromatics of strawberry-rhubarb pie with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Yes - - that's my visual - - strawberry-rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream. And the flavors of this summer dessert continued on in the palate.So how can you pick up a flavorand/ormouthfeel of vanilla ice cream, you ask?

The wine's lees were stirred weekly for two months which gave the rosé a creamy mouthfeel in the finish. Lees (in France known as "sur lie") refers to deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles (like grape skins) thathang atthe bottom of the barrel or tank during fermentation and aging. "Stirring the lees" (also known as "batonnage") provides that creamy mouthfeel that isoften describedin the finish of red and also white wines.

Okay, now with science of winemaking behind us, let's get back tothe Tertulia Cellars Rosé du Mourvèdre: It is one of those summer wines, that is not only the perfect porch sipper (yes, I could have finished the bottle by myself ...) buta wine to be explored witha summer menu of grilled vegetables, hamburgers,shish kebabs and BBQ pork. If and only if you can hang onto a bottle by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I highly recommend it with the turkey feast. Cheers!

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Meet the Winemakers: Holly Turner of Three Rivers Winery

Date: Thu, Aug 5, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

When Jeremy Gonzalez, Online/Social Media Coordinator for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, asked me to hang with himwhile shootinghis new video series, "Meet the Winemakers," I was thrilled.

Holly Turner, winemaker and general manager of Three Rivers Winery was fun to interview - - and as you will see for yourself, the camera loves her. Enjoy this video and stay tuned as there will be several more "Meet the Winemakers" videos on the way.

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Open Your Mind: Revisit the Grapes

Date: Mon, Aug 2, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

A few days ago I was visiting with a long-time friend who was also raised in the Walla Walla Valley. She also enjoys writing and was telling me she is starting a wine and writing club, but then confessed to me - - she has never really cared that much for red wine.SKIDS-SCREECH-HALT! WHAT?

She then confessed she tried Cabernet Sauvignon once with a steak and didn't think it was too bad. Well, now you're talkin'. I then went on to tell her that perhaps she should start with a softer red grape since shethought theCabernet was okay. Just when I barely got "... such as Merlot" out of my mouth she exclaimed, "I hate Merlot!"

"What?" I said, "How can you hate Merlot?" She went on to tell me thatherfirst encounter with Merlotwas even a L******* Merlot. She said all shecould taste was strong oak and nothing else. I asked her how long ago it was that she partook of thiscoveted wine and she had figured it was about 10 years ago. Yeah, there was atime in the Walla Walla whenthe oak monster visited the valley. I told her that we could revisit that same wine today, same vintage, andmore than likely she wouldenjoyit. I then suggested that she starts visiting the wineries around the valley and to try all of the Merlots, because chances are she is going to find a Merlot she will enjoy. Which leads me to - -

I cannot tell you how many wine tasting customers I have run across, during my days of pouring in a tasting room, who; when it was time to pour the Chardonnay would always say, "We hate Chardonnay (que to turn down the nose with a wrinkle and hiss).We only do redsss."

Sigh. Here we go again.

It was often a challenge, but more than often I could eventually get the "Chardonnay Hater" to sample a sip and even walk out the door with a bottle (or two) as Itriumphantly "tee-hee'd"quitely to myself. The key to this success? I told them the truth, but honestly? I think it was the term, "Made the Burgundian style by our French winemaker." The suggestions and whispers of Francophilia got them everytime. It was just the visions of the "Old World" that finally made them open their minds - open their minds to try something new or in this case, something"old." And I have my own guilt to bear as in the past Ihave been guiltyof closing my mind to Semillons without even trying them. Finally, I am free as the more I keepsipping on Semillons, the more I am enjoying them and finding a winemaking style that suits my palate.

TheAmerican consumeris guilty of following fashion and trends and unfortunately wine is being treated no different than purchasing aknock-off shoe that imitatesthe tootsie coverletParis Hilton wore to visit Lindsey Lohan in jail. We tend toviewvarietals based on trend instead of our personal palatesorwell appointedfood and wine pairings.In the "New World," especially in North America, Merlot and Chardonnay were trends at one time and now the trendy wines to drink are Pinot Noir and Grenache. "Move over Chardonnay, we want Roussanne!"

Break out of the trends. Revisit the wines that you have forsaken and especially say hello to wines that you have decided you just didn't like because - - well, you really have no answer or reason. Probably the same reason you chose not to eat your green beans as a kid without even trying them (But I bet you would now eatharicots verts if it was presented to you with that name - you know who you are).

If you are a true wine lover at heartor want to learn more about wines, you will find the Semillons and the Merlots of your dreams if you keep an open mind. Cheers!

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Double Back Home: Drew Bledsoe

Date: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

It was football that took him away from his home town, but it was wine that made him double back.

When you are invited to an Inaugural Release and first Open House event for a wine by a former All-Star NFL quarterback in your minds eye there are visions of fans crowding a locker room, but this wasn't the case. The sunny afternoon in June was a friendly and casual atmosphere that allowed all of the guests time with the stars of the day and of course, all eyes were on the Doubleback Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 2007.

Drew Bledsoe is a"hometown boy"that many of us in the Walla Walla Valley have kept an eye on. We watched him play football at Walla Walla High School and we continued to watch him during histhree-yearfootballcareer at Washington State University before he was drafted in 1993 by the New England Patriots.As if we all had ownership in him, I can remember how the draft became a big discussion even in the local coffee shops, "Should our hometown star quarterback have continued to stay in college to get his education or was being drafted by the NFL the best choice for him?"

Like many students in Eastern Washington, especially those attending WSU at Pullman, Drew's drink of choice wasn't wine, but that golden beverage that is often fermented with malted barleyinstead ofgrapes. It wasin later years, after college,when Drew and his wife, Maurastarted ordering wine with dinner and discovered thefascinatingqualities in wine and even toured Napa Valley visiting with winemakers. His passion for wine grew and at the same time he became fascinated by the tremendous growth of the wine industry back "home" - home being Walla Walla, of course.

In true Walla Walla fashion, we nativesnever seem to have a problem reconnecting with each other no matter where we live or what we are doing. Kevin Bacon has nothing on us with his seven degrees of separation, because if you are from Walla Walla, we can connect within three degrees. And that is exactly what happened with Drew Bledsoe and Chris Figgins,winemaker of Leonetti Cellar and consultant/ownerof Figgins Enological. The two had grownupa "stones throw" away from each other and from their point of reconnection, it became acollaboration from dirt to bottle to form Doubleback.

In 2008, the McQueen Vineyard was planted in cabernet and merlot.The 52-acre partially planted vineyard is on top of a hill in the SeVien Vineyard project southwest of Milton-Freewater in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. It was truly a family project as the Bledsoe children helped plant some of the vines.Compost tea and water practices are followed under the growing practices ofVINEA, the Walla Walla Valley's wine grower's sustainable trust.Doubleback is currently being made at Artifex Wine Company (a custom crush facility)in Walla Walla under the direction ofChris, with plans to builda winery on the McQueen Vineyard site in the near future, as well as completion of the vineyard.

Inside of the high shouldered dark bottle of wine, with itselegantlogo of silver and gold arches signifying the monogram of Doubleback, is a Walla Walla wine in truecharacter - the finest character, as the 2007vintage is a blend of older Cabernet Sauvingon vines from the Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge Vineyards.Only 600 cases were produced and each bottle is numbered.

At first taste I knew the dark wine inmy glasswas going to be age worthy. The nose was typical Walla Walla fruit with it's notes of rich earth, Autumn leaves, dark cherries with waves of cigar box. Oh how I wished for a decanter, as I knew this wine was trying to tell me more than what it could being stifled in a glass.There was structure to the tannins, butharmoniousallowing for the dark fruit to show through.Rich flavors of cherries and plums were on the palatecombined witha silky mouthfeel, leaving a finish of cocoa and spice. If possible, I would love to revisit this wine in another five years andof course, another five years after that - 10 years total. If I know the Figgins style, thisCabernet will age gracefully.

So, as I refer back to thetopic that had the locals buzzing about Drew leaving WSU at Pullman to latch onto a dream, thatvery fewyoung men willever realize. I think Drew took the right path - and now with the realization of Doubleback, it is a path well taken. I will be looking forward to future releases.

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20 Something Wine Drinkers

Date: Mon, Jul 26, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

In December I happened to run across this site, 20 Something Bloggers, so I marked it hoping to get back to it someday and blog about it. It was a very impressive and organized collection of bloggers. Oh sure,there are a few idyllic 20-Something bloggers who are convinced that world peacewill come if everybody sits down at the same time with a cupcake. However, I can't be too critical of those feelings, after allthere weremany of us fromthe "Pepsi Generation" who thought "We couldteach the world to sing in perfect harmony ... All standing hand in hand (and with a bottle of Coca~Cola) and hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land?"

Today's20 Something winedrinkers are not your typical young drinkers, anymore. They are not at all like us Boomers whodrank right out of thebottles of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill while passingit around to be shared at a concert or if you were fortunate enough to hitch hike through Europe you might buy a cheap bottle of Côt and feel as if you were really "continental" and sophisticated. How do I know about how Boomer's drank wine, well I didn't hang onto my suede fringed purse with the brass studded peace symbol on it for nothing. Nor are today's 20 Something's like theyoung drinkersof the 1980's who were swooned over to drink plastic liters of citrus "wine"featuring polar bears wearing sun glasses on the labels and advertisements.For the most part, today young wine drinkersare sophisticated and well read about wines, and even "retro" cocktails. They are actually thinking about the Riedel glass specials on Amazon.com. No bottle swigging for them.

Oh sure, you still have a cluster of 20 Somethings who are drinking the Barefoot label and no doubt is swayed by the pretty pink wine labels marked "Bitch" and "Hello Kitty," but they are thinking about wine. They arereading wine blogs and downloading wine apps for their "Berries, Pods, and Droids - Oh my!"Wine "country" areas are popping up in just about every state of the nation and wine appreciation classes are being taught in our colleges. The student who may have been swayed by aCarlo Rossi jug-o-wine spritzer at a Greek party will soon become bored and want to expand his or her palate.

My last couple of years spent pouring wine in a tasting room, I finally nailed down my favoritegroup of wine consumers. It was the students from our four-year liberal arts collegeand thestudentsvisiting on holiday break.They were thoughtful and open minded. They didn't have tight-assed preconceived notions about "white wines or off-dry wines"like some of their parents. They were adventuresome, asked the best questions and at the same time contributed to conversation about the wine, either in front of them, or about the world.

After the wine blogger conference, wine bloggers, winemakers and marketing directors asked the same question, "Is social media measurable?" Well, how do we track print media? Sure, we are told by magazines and newspapers about their subscription numbers, but there are no guarantees the reader is going to read your ad, unless the ad is in a specialized magazine. Even then,withpages and pages of clustered advertising, it doesn't guarantee your ad will be the focus unless it is a full page ad. You can measure print media with coupons, but again coupons are often specific with expirations and require "work." Someone has to really be inspired to clip your coupon and make a special trip to your winery before the expiration date.

Generation Y representsan average of births from the late 1970's through the 1980'sand early 1990's.They were the first generation to grow up with the Internet andaremarked by the increased use and familiarity with communication and media technology - there is no stopping them. Social media maynot be"measurable" at this time, but you are already behind your measuring stickif you aren't participating to some degree. Honestly? We don't have time to worry if social media is measurable. Social media anda new generation of wine buyers are growing and growing up.A study done by PR firm of Burson-Marstellerafound 79 percent of the largest 100 companies in the Fortune Global 500 index are using at least one of the popular social media platforms to communicate with theircustomers and other stakeholders.

If you are a winery or a wine store - say hello, or more like tweet and text,to your new customers, especiallyas their incomes advance. They aren't being referred to as the "Net Generation" for nothing. Then be prepared - - by the time your winery is meeting the social marketing needs of GenY, say hello to GenZ. We have to keep thinking ahead and have to grow in our marketing as our generations grow of drinking age.

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Malbec Love: Watermill Winery Estate Malbec - 2007

Date: Thu, Jul 22, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Malbec, malbec candlelight
Doin' the town and doin' it right
In the evenin'
It's pretty pleasin'
(With apologies to Muscrat Love sung by America)

Malbec has become one of those grapes that when I see it at a winery, Iget veryexcited and immediatelyhave to taste.This dark inky grapehas a long history and known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wines. These French vineyards are found in Cahors which is in the South West region of France. Known as Malbec in Bordeaux, it is also referred to asAuxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors and Pressac in otherareas.

Unfortunately, Malbec lost its popularity in Bordeaux whena frost killed off 75% of the crop in 1956. It was later replanted, butas the acreage of Malbecwas declining in France, in Argentina it was quite the opposite. Malbec in Argentina became a "national variety" and is identified now with Argentinian wines. The success of Malbec in Argentina led some wine producers in neighboring Chile to try their hand at this uniquevarietal, as well.

Trivia: Did you know that the McClellan Family at Seven Hills Winery in Walla Walla planted the first Malbec vinesin the area in the late 1990's at the Windrow Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley AVA (locatedat OR/WA Borderand now owned by Tero Estates Winery)? Which brings me full circle from Malbec in Bordeaux back to the Walla Walla AVA at the OR/WA Border.

Watermill Winery, located at the old Watermill Building, is one of the first wineries in Milton-Freewater, Oregon and of course, located in the Walla Walla AVA. This winery is no stranger to agriculture or to the area. In the 1950's the Brown Family planted orchards and three generations later, they are producing premium apples, award winning cider and now award winning wines. It's only a natural that one of their finest wines is a Malbec, considering the rich history of the vineyards they use for this exquisite dark and inky varietal.

Watermill Estate Malbec - 2007 started its roots at the McClellan Estate and Watermill Estate Vineyards. The McClellan Estate vineyard, planted by the Brown family in 2003, sits adjacent to Seven Hills Vineyard and borders the acclaimed Windrow Vineyard. And even more interesting is the Watermill Estate Vineyard, planted in 2006, is located in the immediate vicinity of famed Cayuse Winery.The site for thisvineyard was selected due to the well drained and rocky soil.

Okay - okay, so how does it taste? Well first of all, the nose made me very happy. Laugh at me if you will, but to me a good Malbec must smell like grape jelly on graham crackers. It's that memory that takes me backto my childhood. It was one of those childhood treats my grandmother would give us while spending time at the grandparents small farm on School Avenue in Walla Walla. Of course, the grape jellywas never the commercial stuff, but made by my grandmother from the grapes she grew inher backyard - local Walla Walla fruit.

Thewine filled my mouth with inky black liquid. It was supple and full of dark brambleberries, ripe cherries, plums and espresso with notes of milk chocolate. It was really quite alucscious wine.The tannins werevisible, butdidn't get in the way of the fruit.There is a reason why it received a Double Gold at the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards.

So how would I pair the Watermill Estate Malbec? Well, I would definitely look to Argentina for advice. Pair it with spice! Something "beefy" and spicy - from a grilled adobo flank steak with a fresh summer salad of tomatoes and grilled corn or even something simple like a carne asada taco - - or don't pair it at all. Just pour a glass and enjoy it whilerevisiting old memories of grandma and grandpa's little farm ...

And they whirled and they twirled and they tangoed
Singin' and jingin' the jango
Floatin' like the heavens above
It looks like malbec love

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I Want to Be a Wine Blogger When I Grow Up.

Date: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 Wine Tasting Wine Business

It is very doubtfulthe GenY, GenX and the Boomergenerations of wine lovers ever said, "I want to be a wine blogger when I grow up."

My friend and wine blogging pal, Thea Dwelle ofLuscious Lushes got me to thinkingabout this theother day after she posted the questions,"Are writers bloggers? Are bloggers writers? Are we the same? Are we different? Should we play by the same rules? What’s going on here?"

Right. What exactly is going on here? I started this blog in 2005 and far too many times Iwouldn't talk about it in usual conversations or if someone mentioned my hobby to others, I usually brushed it off, while trying to change the subject. The idea of wine blogging wasjust too hard to explain andtoo many timesI was patronized with, "Oh isn't that cute, she writes about wines from Washington DC." However, things have changed. I no longer hide my hobby. I am really proud of what it is and who wine bloggers are.

Sometimes the public, members of the wine industry,and even wine writers have looked at wine bloggers as if we were from another world.I especially noticed it at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa, CA. There seemed to be several small groups of marketing people who followed some of us around and were quite captivated with the "care and feeding" of wine bloggers.

Wine blogging is nothing new, but it has certainly evolved. I'd like to think Robert M. Parker, Jr.as the first wine blogger. Hewas an independent who wrote his own "wine consumer guide" and by 1978 he was sending his thoughts about wine via snail mail. I can see him in my mind's eye nowdrafting his notes on a yellow legal pad from his law office and finalizing his notes on an old typewriter.

If Parker would have started his quest to share his wine notes with others during the rise in technology, there would have been advantages to him such as digital communities such as Usenet and BBS (Bulletin Board Systems). In many ways, these new online services were the earliest form of blogs with their continuing "threads" of single topics.

Early blogs in the 1990's were really nothing but manually updated diaries or information on standard websitesand weren't even referred to as "blogs." It was later when we saw a unique class of online publishing software that produces the blogs we recognize today.

So as the number of wine bloggers have grown and we are now holding our own conferences, seminars and being included on lists of media passes atwine events, we are now being scrutinized under the microscope by traditional wine media and even the wine industry. Sure, we have been criticized by traditional wine media and even traditional media who now have their own wine blogs who will blog parental-type messages to us, "Don't do as I do. Do as I say."

In the mean time, wine bloggers arecrying like acheerleader wholost her pom-pomsto the football team(if you know what I mean), "Please love me! Please let me fit in your world oh great King of Wine Media." And at the same time, wehave traditional wine media calling us names such as, "Blobbers, Carping Gadflies and Butt Sniffing Poodles,"while they are busy writing their own "new" wine blogson their mountain tops they have built for themselves andeventeaching seminarson wineblogging and social media.Then comes the buffers and the coaches. They want towave theirmagic wand over the wine bloggers and announce, "Ta-Daahh!Youare nowall wine writers instead of wine bloggers. You can now leave the kingdom of wine media and go throughout the landfeelingbetter about yourselves."

Here is what I know. Here is what I was taught when I was a youngster dreaming about being a grade school music teacher and a book author when I grew up: I was taught when someone feels threatened and threatened beyond reason, they resort to name calling (Blobbers, Carping Gadflies, and Butt Sniffing Poodles) and in any kind of a fight or debate, when you resort to name calling, then you have lost the debate.

As I wrote to Thea in her comment section, in this whole discussion of writer v. blogger, here are two things that I know of as being true for me when I sit down at my computer to write about wine:

When I send an invoice to a publisher and later receive a check in the mail, then and only then, I am a wine writer. When I write about wine during my free and personal time on my blog format with no assistance from an editor, then I am a blogger. Frankly? I am tired of everyone trying to gloss over the term “wine blogger” by trying to make it respectable in the eyes of traditional media. Who gives a flying f ... umm - - fig? Why do we care, especially when we see traditional wine media jumping on the wine blogging bandwagon? We, as wine bloggers,must bedoingsomething right.

I am proud to be a wine blogger and the day we all gain that sense of pride and realize the milestones we have made and the crap we have overcome, the better off wine bloggers and the name "wine bloggers" will be.

It is possible though, thatsomeday when we all get this new form of wine media figuredout and whatdirection and the importance wine blogging has in today's wine media, there will be some enthusiastic teen ager with a gift for writing that will someday say, "I want to be a wine blogger when I grow up."

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