top 10 northwest wines of the month(s)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Returning to a popular, monthly feature; this time around I’m going back two months, as the blog was ‘en vacances’ in August. Here is the new list (ranked in order) from all the Oregon and Washington wines tasted in July and August.

It's based upon both price and score – the 10 wines listed will all be very high scoring, but the ultimate order also reflects the price. A less-expensive wine with a score comparable to a more expensive wine will have a higher ranking. Somewhat arbitrarily, I have elected to list just one wine per winery. So some of these wineries have other wines that could have been included, but the one listed is the top scorer.

A new wrinkle – the last two wines on the list (#9 and #10 for you bean counters) are the highest-scoring wines with a retail price of $10 or less.

sulf-ragette city

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A reader writes: “Your article on reading wine labels got me to wondering about sulfites in wine. As we understand the labeling situation, wine companies only need to use the statement "contains sulfites". My wife believes that different brands use different amounts of sulfite and prefers those that have the least. But actually, we have no way of knowing the amount unless the label specifically states that there are no sulfites used in the bottling of the wine. We would sure appreciate any information which you could send our way on finding the amount of sulfite used in various labels.”

wine temperature – cool is the rule

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fussing about the right temperature for serving wine may seem like yet another instance of the extreme lengths wine lovers will go to in pursuit of perfection. Kind of like the owner of that show-stopping toy Affenpinscher fussing about which brush to use on its tail. It sometimes it seems as if every single aspect of buying, storing and serving wine is a mine field, laden with bottle-busting decisions. But in this case it really does matter. Temperature has both long term and immediate impacts on the quality of your wine tasting experience.

If you drink a wine that is too cold, you are missing virtually all of its bouquet and most of its flavor. If you are drinking wines too warm, you are enhancing volatile aromas, such as paint thinner or nail polish. Warm wines also tend to taste hot and alcoholic, and to feel soft and flabby in the mouth. The hallmark of any good wine is balance, and when the temperature is wrong, whether too hot or too cold, it plays havoc with that balance.

we don’t need no stinking badges!

Friday, September 23, 2011

I’ve been enjoying Matt Kramer’s excellent collection of past essays and columns (On Wine) – a provocative, thoughtful and entertaining collection from a man who is truly at the top of the field.

An essay entitled “Does America Need Masters of Wine?” rang a particular bell for me. It was originally a column in Wine Spectator way back in 1994, but if anything, it has more relevance today than ever before. Kramer’s point, if I may be so bold, is that this is a British – not American – institution, deeply rooted in the British class system, here transposed to a particular industry. He calls it “a college of wine cardinals” and says, quite rightly I believe, we don’t need it.

what’s in a name?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Naming a wine (or winery) may seem to be the least challenging aspect of this complex business, but guess again. We’ve long ago run out of rivers, rocks, hills, valleys, mountains, slopes, creeks etc. to bring any distinction to a new entry. All the colors have been taken, as have vehicles, animals and articles of clothing.

There were brief forays into vaguely salacious double entendres (Fat Bastard, Bitch) and bodily functions (Frog’s Piss, Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, and my personal favorite – Le Vin de Merde).

The wild west had a turn too, with Purple Cowboy, Wily Jack, Cowpoke Pinot – you get the drift.

But finding anything usable, let alone distinctive, keeps getting more and more difficult. Recently one of Washington’s brightest new stars, with multiple vintages released under the brand name Grand Rêve, had to backtrack and re-invent itself as Force Majeure. The reason?

the many virtues of prosecco

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is the time of year that wine writers begin to craft their annual barrage of sparkling wine columns. Though I have written about bubbly – notably Champage – at all times of the year, there is irrefutable evidence that the last quarter, which includes the Halloween to New Years holiday season – is when most folks buy and drink sparkling wines.

I confess I love these wines, and look forward to tasting as many as possible during the prelude to the season. This year I am working on several different columns at once, and will post updates here on the blog as well.

Over the past few days I’ve done some lovely tastings of cavas, Proseccos, and a few oddballs (sparkling gruner veltliner anyone?). Some real gems showed up, but the Proseccos were so good as a group that they warrant a post all to themselves.

2011 vintage – a blanc canvas?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The much-delayed harvest is officially underway in Washington as this announcement from Woodward Canyon (sent yesterday) confirms:

"Crush began at Woodward Canyon’s Walla Walla Valley Estate Vineyard this morning. Four clones of Sauvignon Blanc are being harvested in a field blend.

Rick Small, Owner and Director of Production, is particularly pleased with the quality of the fruit. 'The weather has been perfect, with moderate daytime temperatures and cool nights which have maintained acidity, with low pHs. The fruit is at optimum physiological maturity and we are excited to be bringing it in today.'

In a winery tradition, the Harvest Bell will be rung at the winery when the first load arrives for processing."

which side of the ganges?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A few weeks ago the announcement was made that Washington wines were going to be showcased at a series of events in India. Certainly the appeal of the Asian markets has never been greater, and there is no question that the opportunity for significant sales at some point in the future is compelling. But now?

I’m not sure that Washington wines are all that well known in Indiana, let alone India.

The Hangover Diary – Part Three

Friday, September 09, 2011

As I stumbled out of bed last Sunday morning, I was immediately struck by the inescapable knowledge that I had 'jumped the shark' stomach and head-wise. Things were heading rapidly downhill, and coffee alone was not going to restore order to my gastrointestinal malheur. In my wine drawer, which holds a wide assortment of corkscrews, stoppers, gizmos and wine paraphernalia, I had stashed the samples of a hangover relief product with the somewhat unsettling name of Blowfish.

Not sure what blowfish might actually be referencing, but being uneasily aware that it was something I was in some jeopardy of experiencing, I grabbed a package and read the front cover.

“New!” it cheerily proclaimed. “For Hangovers” (note the capital H – definitely the sort of Hangover I was heading into). “Pain Reliever. Alertness Aid. Two Effervescent Tablets.”

The Hangover Diary – Part Two

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I reached the bar shortly after 7pm on a Saturday evening. Not just any Saturday evening; this was Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Now after living in Waitsburg for the past six years, I more or less know what to expect of the town on a holiday Saturday. But the joint was jumping, even more than usual.

There was a party setting up in the adjacent space that Jim German calls Heaven. As is customary, Jim was in the midst of preparing a massive paella. Guests were out in the garden in back, sipping wines. I drifted back out of idle curiosity, and bumped into Chad Johnson of Dusted Valley, who was hosting the party for a group of visitors from the midwest. Merf and Lynne Anderson were there also, and we chatted aimiably for while. Chad mentioned that some older wines would be opened with dinner, and invited me to come taste. Intending to do so, I returned to the bar and a bite of food, along with a glass of white wine.

The Hangover Diary – Part One

Monday, September 05, 2011

The blog is back. Summer vacation was great, but I am excited to return to my personal platform for thoughts and opinions, discourse and dialogue on the widest possible range of wine-related subjects. In the weeks to come a new design and blog template will debut, but for the moment I am sticking to the tried-and-true.

Some weeks ago the following PR pitch arrived in my e-mail:

“Whether it happens because of a family holiday party, a bachelor or bachelorette party, a wedding, or a wine tour that was one stop too long, most people have experienced the dreaded “one-too-many” syndrome. Fast food, soda, saltine crackers, aspirin, sport drinks – we all have our methods for curing the day after effects of a night spent partying with friends into the wee hours. But, no matter what you swear by the headache, upset stomach and altogether “gross” feeling of a hangover always seem to linger with you the entire day. [X] is a new cure that is the first to effectively treat all the symptoms of a hangover with an effervescent tablet you dissolve in water and drink the morning after a big night out. Would you be interested in more information and a sample to try?”