top 10 northwest wines of the month

Monday, January 30, 2012

Here are the top 10 (score and value) wines I have reviewed in the past month. As always, I list just one per winery, in order to spread the cheer. This new list is heavy on the Chardonnay – a pleasant surprise. The listed retail is as the wineries suggest; you may find some wines for less.

annals of clever retailing – wine clubs

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wine clubs have proliferated in recent years, and come in many forms. They are not always connected to actual wineries. Newspapers, magazines, for all I know auto repair shops (somewhere) offer customers the chance to sign up for “special” wines shipped directly to their door. The pitch is pretty much always the same. These are wines you Cannot Find Anywhere Else!

That is because these are wines that were sitting in a big tank somewhere – until someone from the club came and slapped a label on them. There is rarely anything special about them, except you pay the sellers a special premium.

Actual winery-owned wine clubs are another thing altogether.

when average is no longer good enough

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In his New York Times column today, entitled "Average Is Over", Thomas L. Friedman writes that "In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. Everyone needs to find their extra – their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over."

Friedman is talking about the greater economy, of course, but the idea applies equally well to the wine business. At yesterday's Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, new statistics on winery growth in this hemisphere were unveiled.

the new introduction to wine may not be wine

Monday, January 23, 2012

My father drank beer, every night, with dinner. Not some snooty micro-brew, just plain old supermarket beer, nicely chilled, in a silver cup that we’d put in the freezer about an hour before sitting down.

After dinner, as often as not, he’d mix up a pitcher of martinis. He made them almost straight gin – the vermouth was waved over the top of the pitcher – and he liked them with a twist of lemon rind, rather than olives or onions. His every day gin was Gordon’s; his special occasion gin was Tanqueray. Not Tanqueray 10 (which didn’t exist). Not any “craft” gins (which didn’t exist). Whatever the selection of gin may have been back then, it wasn’t much.

I never saw my father with a glass of wine. Never. He was quite content with his beer – the drink of his army days – and his martinis – the drink of his ad man career.

Today, I think, for a young man or woman, embarking on an exploration of the pleasures (and perils) of alcohol consumption, it might be quite different.

congrats to washington's newest "hot small brand" – barrister winery

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wine Business Monthly releases its influential top 10 lists around Unified Symposium time each January, and Washington wineries have been well represented. I have no personal stake in the choices, but follow them with great interest, and am always pleased to see a (relatively) new, small, perhaps not well known but very deserving winery find its moment in the spotlight.

Today it is Spokane’s Barrister winery drawing the accolades on the Wine Business blog.

The winery, founded by a pair of attorneys in 2001, was singled out in particular for its excellent track record with varietal Cabernet Franc. I have been an admirer of Barrister wines, and in particular the Cab Franc, for many years. The winery earned 4 stars in the second edition of my book, Washington Wines & Wineries – one of just 45 to do so.

Here a sample from that entry:

examining oregon from afar

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two interesting perspectives on Oregon wines appeared yessterday. On the Jo Diaz blog – Juicy Tales – the headline “Oregon Is Not A One Trick Pony” led into a discussion (prompted largely by last summer’s Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium, for which I was the keynote speaker) about her ongoing efforts to re-brand the state’s most important white grape.

Diaz wrote “Our client [Greg Lint of Oak Knoll] is constantly challenged when he visits the national market. When he makes presentations, all the buyers can think about is Oregon pinot noir. This is pretty frustrating, considering that they grow other grapes in Oregon and make other varietal wines. The thrust of this group is to focus on the fact that Oregon has more than one grape variety and they’d like to have buyers around the nation get used to Oregon being more than a one trick pony.”

Meanwhile, from the UK comes this story, with the disarming headline “Oregon Pinot Puzzles UK Trade”. The report went on to state that at something called the Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting, which goes by the acronym SIPNOT (I kid you not), some five dozen members of the UK wine trade did a 12 wine blind tasting of pinot noirs from around the world. Apparently, they were utterly boggled by the two entries from Oregon.

take some walla with ya!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yes it's mid-January, as bleak a time of year as can possibly be imagined (well, it could get worse – Pro Bowl weekend is really the pits). But it is not too soon to start planning your springtime visit to Washington wine country. Many fine options are available, but one you may not have considered is flying rather than driving. The Walla Walla Wine Alliance and Alaska Airlines want to make it as attractive as possible, and today are launching an interesting promotion linking air travel, tasting room passes, and special deals on dining and lodging throughout the region.

Continuing a successful marketing partnership launched this past fall, Alaska Airlines and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance are now offering special savings on round-trip airline tickets, waived tasting fees at over 75 wineries, special lodging and restaurant offers, and 2 for 1 ski lift and museum tickets. Take Some of Walla Walla Home with You is the name of the new campaign. And as before, you can still take home a case of wine with no baggage handling fees.

WWWA Executive Director Duane Wollmuth explains that “the thinking behind this campaign is for Walla Walla visitors to take home not only wine, but a barrel full of memories as well. That’s what makes the Walla Walla area so attractive. Not only do we have great wine and wineries, but also outstanding lodging, restaurants, historical sites, arts, and outdoor recreation. We want visitors to have the opportunity to experience it all.”

Here are the details.

dogged bloggers

Friday, January 13, 2012

Anyone who reads the wine blogs regularly must agree – there are certain topics that get worked to death over and over, apparently with no end in sight. Unlike my dog Cookie, who eventually reaches the end of her chewstick and has to replace it with something new (and who knew that cow’s noses and pig’s ears could be so tasty?) – unlike the average pup, bloggers never tire of chewing on the same old topics. Forever...

Here’s the A list: Parker bashing. Parker stand-in bashing. 100 point system bashing. Blind tasting rules, dude! Critics suck. China rocks. Hey, have you tried (insert totally obscure wine from middle of nowhere here)?

Once in awhile, something truly unique crosses my blog-dar. Some bizarre food and wine matchup from Dr. Vino. A note from across the pond about a beer made especially for dogs. Something about penis wine from China. But by and large, it’s all pretty predictable.

make me a palate on your floor – not!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012












In my UC Press book, Washington Wines & Wineries, I took the opportunity provided by a discussion of terroir to note, in a bit of a rant, that terroir is not spelled terrior. If you pay attention, you will find quite a few examples, in press releases, tasting notes, and even back labels, of wineries boasting about their special terrior. Which is not, I noted, a small dog attached to the winery.

Oddly enough, never having been a dog owner, I suddenly find myself the proud parent of a rescue dog, a terrier – chihuahua mix, which we have noted makes her a terr-hua. Better to be a terr-hua than a terrior!

organizing a wine cellar

Monday, January 09, 2012

Yesterday’s Wine Adviser column in the Seattle Times was designed to help readers organize a new wine cellar. Space (always the final frontier when writing for a print publication) was limited, so I couldn’t dive all the way into the topic.

A reader wrote: “Thank you for writing this column. I thought it was a concise, practical summary and a good jumping-off place for a discussion my husband and I needed to have, regarding our tendency to haphazardly buy bottles of wines we've tasted and liked and thought would be even better in a few years, then stash them in the wine fridge, forget about them, and run out for bottles of $12 Chianti. Would you please consider doing a column on ways to organize wine collections/cellars?”

I will do that column at a future date, but here are some quick thoughts to get you started.