Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!




Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Simple Cellar Solutions Uncorked


Here’s another timely article written by guest contributor Christy Bonner. Who can currently be found in the offices of Grotto Custom Wine Cellars, sorting through wood wine rack samples and assisting customers with who need assistance with their wine cellars that are spiraling out of control. Feel free to visit their page on You Tube. She’s another proud vino-sapien who can be found on many warm evenings sipping her favorite Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

If you are as passionate about wine collecting as I am, you have surely run into the problem of how and where to store all these precious gems. Where are your fabulously famous bottles stored? In a hall closet, in the basement, don’t tell me… under the bed?!

Arrgh, Wine, Wine Everywhere: I know many of you have dreamed of owning your own customized wine cellar or wine storage area, a place where you could add some personal touches that caters to your particular specifications for keeping and storing your wine collection. And thank goodness, there's actually a wide variety of options readily available to people who aspire to construct their very own customized wine cellar and lack the do-it-yourself skills and desires.

With all the well accounted for options available out there for wine storage,
wouldn't you like your own wine cellar to surely be a place which reflects your good taste and your personal style as well? After all, you put so much personal preference into building your wine collection why shouldn’t the place you store your vino reveal it?

With that said, below I've put together a couple thoughts on how you can approach building the cellar of your dreams or just something to get by on until then. I've also included a video presentation below featuring Joe Roberts , known to many as the 1 Wine Dude, who takes his out of control collection [including samples] and with the help of Grotto Cellars makes it into a workable cellar space.
An Easy Solution: Modular wine racking arrangements are the simple remedy to designing and building your wine racks from scratch and still achieving a completely customized look and feel. Modular wine racking is available in various, sizes, grains and finishes. In general, the least costly of those made from pine. Many folks [purchasers] of modular wine racking systems looking for a more personal feel tend to prefer finer woods species like mahogany or premium redwood offered by Grotto Cellars.

Why Modular: The beauty of using a modular wine cellar is it takes the guess work out of the design. The wall configurations are contrived by someone else, a wine storage expert, and they tend to mix and match individual bottle cubicles with bulk wine storage. And because many companies make kit racks that have a similar look and feel, the racks you may already have can be easily combined with several varieties adding to its personality and customized feel.

Beyond that there are numerous wine rack companies that go a step further and offer crown molding, trims and radius curved corners to really complete the look of a wine storage area. Recent designs that I have stumbled across even include built-in stemware storage and table top systems within the racking scheme. By adding this feature it creates character and ambiance, as well as adding to the functionality of the space.

Bang for the Buck: The most cost-effective kind of wine storage is the dozen-bin, or bulk racking system. This type of racking can accommodate a dozen or more wine bottles in one compartment. This can be extremely useful for wine fanatics who buy their favorite wines in bulk. But the main drawback of this type of storage is the bottles stack directly on top of one another restricting air flow and possibly damaging the integrity of a wine label.

The second most efficient way to store your wine in bulk is through the employment of case racking. Case racking is a unique and efficient way to store wine bottles in their original packaging. This preserves the look of the bottles, and creates an easy way to locate each variety.

Entry Ways: If you have the luxury of turning an entire room into a wine cellar, you can’t forget the most visually important aspect of your wine storage area will be the entry door. Wine cellar doors come in numerous looks and finishes, with glass inserts, and wrought iron options the possibilities are endless. Be creative, this will be first thing your guests will experience when entering your cellar and you want it to be a preface of what lies inside.

Wine Shops: Maybe your a wine shop owner reading this and you're wondering what's available to you? Good question, check out the Grotto’s Commercial racking line which is designed to provide maximum storage and brand exposure in minimal spaces. Some features include top shelf displays, double isle storage, horizontal shelf displays and toe kick to ensure no bottles touch the ground and are available in four different types of wood to blend with a variety of decors.

Where are they: There are many ways that you can contact one of their friendly design consultants in your area to help you choose the perfect products for your wine cellar.  They are located in Laguna Design Center, 23811 Aliso Creek Road, Suite #105Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 or give'm a call at 1 (877) 5-GROTTO or catch them online at Grotto Cellars



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hedges Family Estate: Red Mountain Smack-Down Challenge

Are you ready to rumble?

Ah-yes, who doesn't like a good old fashioned Smack-Down? I for one love the idea or the premise of seeing different wines go head to head, like some steroid induced freaks in tights; talking trash and hurtling themselves toward each other and throwing chairs [sorry I'm no fan of WWF]  etc. and no I'm not insinuating the wines were juicing by any stretch of even the most vivid imagination.This isn't major league baseball ya-know and Barry Bonds trainer, well he's no where in sight [oh-snap].

Part of the fun of being a wine-blogger is the opportunity to sniff, swirl and slurp through a voluminous amount of different vino each and every month and the added bonus, you get to participate in events with the producers and rub elbows with the decision makers [wine-makers]. I'm no longer just the casual spectator or even the garden variety consumer. I get to watch the unfolding of the wine-biz from behind the scenes and take a look under the hood and sometimes even the so-called "romantic" world of vino things can develop into proverbial “fisticuffs” [figuratively speaking] bruised knuckles [bruised egos more like it] smack-down.

In Red Mountain wines I found what some have called “enlightened traditionalism” or the ability to marry the best of the old and new while producing wines true to their origins, but stay tuned and see for yourself, begging the question you see above, "are you ready to rumble?"


Throwing Down the Gauntlet: In "smack-downs" and life there's an art form which can be really informative and it doesn't always involve snarky language or trash talking. No my friends, sometimes the best smack-down are the ones that take each and every part of what is argued against [for example some folks believe only old world wine styles are best] the backdrop of a head to head, a Mano a Mano showdown pitting enlightened traditionalists in a war between traditionalists and modernists. If you want my two cents, you'll find it between the two, this where you find the ideal balance.

I really wasn't expecting anything like this and neither were many of the other bloggers [of whom some I could hear grumbling about this set-up]. To me what this "smack-down" did was take the debate out of the realm of conjecture, and let the wines speak for themselves. Many folks have preconceived ideas about what New World and Old World wines represent, but in this smack-down I think many quickly found out, "what it is or isn't" backed up with the facts in the glass [via a little tasting contest]. 


Rules: What are the rules of any good smack down? This is a good question, as I had no-idea and had to do some research myself to come up with the rules. First it's necessary to lineup the target which is what Hedges did, by having a different Red Mountain wines in a direct face off with another well known wine. Wines which were of a similar weight class in all respects. With the target set, time for shot number two, know your product and in this case know your wine to greatly increase the chance for success. 

Time for the kill shot, show you know something about the other wine’s home turf or the terrior, vineyards, winemaker etc and you may just end-up selling a few cases of vino, instead of a just a few tastings. So yep, all in all it was a smack-down, one as good as you would see on the WWF or on a typical episode of Jerry Springer, but it was a lot more fun and the only trash talking was done by a few unhappy campers.

The Setting:
Okay to be honest Hedges didn't refer to it as any kind of Smack-Down, that was just how I viewed it, so as I walked into their barrel room I saw it was filled with red carpets, big red wines, Wine Bloggers and the ambiance of a candle lit room and the combatants [open wine bottles] were ready for the face off. As we entered through the heavy towering doors of Hedges Family Estate Chateau and moseyed into their barrel room [arena] on the Red Mountain AVA, in eastern Washington, located just east of the Yakima Valley AVA, and just north of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and is the smallest of Washington's AVA's . 

This part of the trip was for me was the "icing on the cake" I've had some familiarity with their winery before and had written a review of their 2007 Three Vineyards, but never had a full appreciation for all the wonderful wine being made and their Three Vineyards as wonderful as it is, is just the tip of the iceberg.


This tour was part of the optional post Wine Bloggers Conference agenda and as I'm sure you are familiar with the saying, "saving the best for the last" well this trip to Red Mountain certainly summed up for me as being exactly what that familiar phrase engenders.

Round One: In the first match in one corner we had the 2008 Descendants Liegeois Dupont "Cuveé Marcel Dupont" this powerful lip-staining Syrah from Red Mountain weighing in at 14.2% ABV versus the Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 2008 an assemblage of six different sites of inky darkness weighing in at 15% ABV and both in the $20 - $30 price range.

Winner: While I like both wines, I picked the Hedges, even though their individual score cards were very close, Hedges gave that final kick to win the match.



Round Two: In the second match up we have the 2006 René Rostaing who's the closest thing to a true cult star that Côte-Rôtie has yet produced, this wine is very difficult to obtain and sell for $70 and up most places, weighing in at a mere 13.5% ABV. While in the other corner we have the 100% Red Mountain 2006 Goedhart Family Bel' Villa Syrah an elusive and somewhat exclusive wine with a very small production. Selling for $50 or more.

Winner: Since I found both wines were so evenly matched on their respective score cards, it was just too difficult to call, and the match ended in a draw. Both wines were rich, velvety, deeply complex wines with subtle smoky, bacon fat, flowering aromatics lapping over an opulent base of roasted blackberry and plum fruits.



Third Round: In one corner we had the 2007 Obolisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain weighing in at 14.1% ABV a amazing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (with a bit of Merlot and Malbec) selling for just over $60 and sold out at the winery. In the other corner, the 2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley, selling in the neighborhood of $60 described as "Ripe and fleshy, dressed to impress and freshly bathed in the lime-light of a 92 points Wine Spectator and weighing in at 14.8% ABV.

Winner: Checking over the score card; hmmm it would appear that both wines are mostly sold out and are unavailable. I'll have to minus points for that below the belt move. But in the flavor profile category Oblosico Estate got the nod. Both wines were equally matched in weight, color and complexity with lingering finishes and similar price points. This one is tough to call, but if you want to drink a great Napa Cab, there are so many to choose from, but for it's uniqueness alone the Oblosico Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the winner on points.

Round Four: Pitted the 2007 and their 2006 Hedges Family Estate, Red Mountain, Three Vineyards, a monster of finesse and layers of flavor, weighing in at a mere 13.6% ABV and selling in the neighborhood of $15 - $25 a lot of wine for the small price. The competitor was the 2006 Chateau Talbot, St-Julien, a savoury and even considered a little juicy in character, weighing in at a flat 13% ABV and selling between $40 and $50, a formidable foe with a rich heritage of distinction, but with limited availability.



The Winner: But alas the poor 2006 Chateau Talbot was no match for the Hedges 2006 Three Vineyards as it lured it in with the old "Rope-a-dope". Sorry Chateau Talbot fans but reading the scorecard was not even necessary, this decision was made by knock out! The Hedges 3 Vineyards 2006 clearly dominated the entire match, with its great price, clearly layered and nuanced flavor profile, it said Bordeaux even more loudly than its opponent.  I left the Chateau [arena] with six bottles of this wine in tow. I could not pass up such a great deal and I would recommend you give their 2007 a swirl as the winery is near the end of the 2006 with only a few cases remaining.

Decision: Well that was a great match up and the in my [not always so humble] opinion Red Mountains wines really won the day and showed the wine-blogging world that, "it's not always the size of the dog in a fight, it's the size of fight in the dog." Well done Red Mountain and congratulations, you really turned some heads this day, as I know many others were very impressed by your wine-making efforts there, in making great juice for reasonable prices and not letting points monster get in your way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Breezes, California Zinfandel and the backyard BBQ season

Well how's everyone's summer going thus far? I know for many of you it's hot, hot, hot which is not the most comfortable of situations to be in and maybe you're not embracing the summer thus far, but for many it's "grilling season" and to me and many other wine lovers, that means one thing will be coming out of the cellar and being uncorked in more plentiful numbers than anything else, what's that you may ask, Zinfandel.

Some of you could be thinking um- no, Rosé  is my go-to wine of choice during the warm summer months and I agree it does have its place as well but, it can't stand up to charred delights the way a good Zin can and if you give a swirl, I'm sure you'll agree.

What you have when you open a bottle of Zin is powerful dark fruit flavors, distinctive spice, pepper and cinnamon notes, swirling around hard to define floral undertones, all culminating in an effort to balance the high alcohol, resulting in the what many will call the perfect barbecue wine. I've described Zin this way to friends willing to listen to me blather on, as the ultimate party wine, because it requires no decanting or coaxing it from its shell. Zinfandel just jumps up out of the bottle and into your glass, ready to impress even the most finicky of palates, cooling, sweet fruit flavors and good acidity combine to create the classic complement to whatever charred and smokey item you may cook up this summer.

Just the other day I posted the "live" version "summer breezes" on my FB page as I was reminiscing [cause that's what you do when approaching the half century mark] about my days as a youth growing up here in San Diego, hearing "Summer Breezes" playing on the radio in seventy two, whilst on my way to the beach. It's a song which to me succinctly says summer is here, it's time for beach-side, backyard barbeque's, and longer sun-lit days filled with sand, surf, sun and most of all fun. Here are a few lyrics from the song, which speaks so much eloquently than my own words could possible convey and please watch the video to be fully transported to the past.

"Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune, When I come home from a hard days work, And you're waiting there, not a care in the world, See the smile a-waiting in the kitchen, Food cooking and the plates for two, Feel the arms that reach out to hold me, In the evening when the day is through, Summer breeze makes me feel fine, Blowing through the jasmine in my mind".....Seals and Croft 1972

But for me, its not jasmine blowing through my mind, it's a wine-tastic Zin I just encountered still swirling about my palate, reminding me of what many consider the quintessential summer wine [love using that word] quaff. That's why today I want to introduce to everyone my thoughts on a wine which you may have previously encountered where you shop. As it can be found just about every where you look and that is the Ravenswood Vintners blend a blend in more ways than one as you will see when I break it down for you below.

First Swirl: Once I uncorked the bottle and poured myself a glass and tilting it down to examine the color, I found it to have typical, zesty red berry colored core and lightly colored cranberry rim.

First Sniff: After giving it a few good swirls in my glass and sticking my fat half Irish nose against the rim, I found a not too impressive array of cherry, cranberry, tar, and fruity floral scents. Meaning it didn't jump out at me, right away, I had to give more thought about what I was smelling.

First Sip: Okay maybe my first slurp, no really I just sipped it at first to get a general feel for this wine. I would say it lacks a tight focus, but offers wild berry and blackberry fruit that's supported by tangy acidity, firm tannins, with a undefined finish.

Aging and ABV: This wine was aged 12 months in 100% French oak, with 25% of those barrels being new. The ABV is 13.5%.

The Blend: This wine is mostly 77% Zinfandel, but 18% Petite Sirah is added for color and 5% Carignane to fill out the background, with the fruit sourced from 3 different areas in Lodi, Amador and Mendocino.

Price and where to Purchase: This wine is selling for the SRP of $9.99 and on sale some places for $7.99 depending on where and when you shop. It can be found just about anywhere wine is sold, but typically at a grocery outlet near you, with massive availability.

The Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 87 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale.

Full Disclosure: Hello FTC and everyone else, yes this bottle was sent for review to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog, by Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma.

About Ravenswood: One of the more interesting aspects of who Ravenswood is exemplified is their a rally cry which states, "No Wimpy Wines" and has defined them as a winery for decades, in fact for more than three decades, according to their website, " it has been the mission of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California to embrace the bold and avoid the bland." I've had a chance to visit this winery myself about 5 years ago and I was very excited then about what I tasted, brought back home and look forward to giving some of their other wines a swirl once more [It has been far too long].

With/Without Food: I hear so often the question, oh my what to pair? It's a good question and one easy to answer if you've been invited to a party or perhaps you're throwing a backyard barbecue, just about Zinfandel will work marvelously as your go-to wine of choice in these situations.

My Recommendation: Okay first of all let me say, even my dog liked this wine. He normally only likes white wines, but when he tasted this wine he lapped it up like no tomorrow. Now that you have the endorsement of this little Mini-Poo here's what I think, this is a readily drinkable little quaff that will delight most of the BBQ crowds and would be great for impromptu entertaining. It's easy on the wallet and a fantastic value for the money. You can find this wine just about anywhere and really anytime you could need it. Until next time stay thirsty, sip long and prosper cheers!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I like my wine to be Dirty, yet Sexy: San Diego Twitter Taste Live

Well the first ever San Diego Twitter Taste Live, has come and gone, it was fantastic. This was the first time I actually met some of the folks behind their respective twitter icons and all were as genuine, knowledgeable and gracious as their "tweets" indicated, despite the understandable misgivings of meeting folks you've only known online. Just real everyday folks with a genuine passion for sharing their love of great vino.
It was a great event and we are already planing the next one and in the words of Beau's Barrel Room it's going to be "epic." We opened a little over 15 bottles, ranging from Sauvignon Blanc to Grenache and beyond. It was quite the eclectic collection.

There was 6 different wine blogs represented in this group, with widely different approaches to reviewing wine and the vino lifestyle. Here's line-up of bloggers who participated: Wine Harlots, Beau's Barrel Room, Brain Wines, Wine for Blondes, and myself and a big shout out to La Jolla Mom who knows her way around a wine bottle.

Thanks to the folks at Santasti who provided their fizzy palate cleansing beverage for us to sample and as they are fond of reminding us, "we at Santasti know that a clean palate is vital to a full sensory experience" and to that point I say mission accomplished and well done to team Santasti. This was my second time using their product and used it in cleansing my palate and my glass. Please check out the link above to find where you can get this product for yourselves.

Rioja: We had a lovely line-up of wines to sip and sample, many of which I had never tried before, I brought the lovely Marqués de Riscal 2004 Reserva  and we did indeed decant it, but didn't really open it till near the end of the tasting, so it was one of the last wines we examined. Which means for it to show this well after all our palates were exposed to, is quite impressive. I found it to have a fading medium-cerise core. vague cherry-vanilla, earthy tobacco and dried raspberry aromas on the nose, with subtle baking spices, a nice cedar box and herbs adding to its overall complexity, there was also an underpinning of suave red fruit, playing a fleeting vanilla from its contact with oak.

I think it was Keith of Brain Wines who dubbed a it, "a dirty sexy wine with an En-Fuego type brashness" and Beau of Beau's Barrel Room concurred and was surprised at the brimming quality of each quaff, slurp and sip. I was as well quite amazed considering how little it cost and having found it at Trader Joe's for only $14.99 which is a great price and makes this bottle a QPR champ.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Keith from Brain Wines provided two exciting samples, which were both a pleasure to sip and swirl and slurp [okay that was just me slurp'g]. This wine comes from the Stags Leap area of Napa Valley and if you are familiar with the AVA you have some idea already just how wonderful these wines were to experience first hand.

These 100% Cabernet Sauvignons are produced by Malk Family Vineyards, we sampled their 2006 and the 2007 and both are currently available as of the moment, selling for $65 each. Both were well built, good structure, layered and multi-faceted wines worthy of your undivided attention and just screamed Napa Valley Cab, [does anyone do it better?] They both exhibited sleek, rich layers of mocha scented oak, currant and coffee notes bouncing around the long and complex finish, drinking great now but both exhibited aging potential for years to come. If had to choose, I would give the 07 the nod over the 06, and this was the conclusion of a number of us, but clearly not all. Some of the others didn't want to dub one better than the other. Both wines were deftly balanced, but I thought the 06 was just a bit chunkier, the 07 was money!

Pinot Noir: The Wine Harlot brought two Pinot Noirs, which were really great examples of California Pinot. One from Sierra Madre Vineyards on the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley, in northern Santa Barbara County and selling from $39 to $44 depending on where you shop.

Light in body and appearance, burst of crushed berries and earth note aromas, melding nicely with soft and silky mouth feel and nice underpinning of freshly crushed berries and dried herbs, I would hold onto this another year before opening, to give it a chance to come into its own. The other Pinot Noir we sampled was the Foppiano "Estate" Russian River Pinot Noir 2008 wonderful aromas of raspberry jam with an added suggestion of sweet spices; nutmeg and clove and a mouth feel which evoked a sense of cherry cobbler, a touch of leather and wrapping itself around some mellow toasty oak in the long and fruity finish with trailing remnants of white pepper. This wine sells for an amazing price $23 most places and represents what I think is a screaming deal in Pinot Noir from the RRV, an uncommon luxury at near a paupers price, well done. Folks if I were you I would buy a case of the Foppiano, considering it myself.

Reviews: Now I'm not going to cover all the wines we drank or sampled that day, just some of the highlights as I saw it and I'm sure if you look on each one of our respective sites you will get a few different view points of views and take aways, these notes I've shared here are just from my perspective, recalled from my Vincellar note book. I won't be reviewing the Torres Celeste Crianza in this post, but instead review it on its own. I think it deserves a whole page.

Grenache: Okay last but certainly not least, we reviewed two different Grenaches which Katie the La Jolla Mom was nice enough to bring along with the wonderful home-made Chocolate Chip cookies [thanks they were so good]. She brought along Herman Story and I confess [and I'm embarrassed to say] to never having heard of him or his wines before, I am a huge fan of Grenache and love, love Paso Robles with their incredible wine scene going on there. Now speaking of Herman Story Wines and the beautiful expression of their grenache [although it needs decanting] in the glass expresses an inky dark core, on the nose of decadent plummy fruit and hint of well worn saddle leather. It can come off very tight if poured directly from the bottle [please decant first]. Once decanted I'm sure there it will reveal, what I only suspect could be its true character, what's that you ask? A New World style Grenache showing off ripe cherry, blackberry, tar and smoke with subtle floral framed around the mocha notes, it would do well if it had a place in your cellar and not be open for another year or two. Oh btw in case you need extra persuasion some guy named Robert Parker really liked it, gave it 93 points and the wine sells for $36, great price for a big wine.

The other Grenache was from Core Winery ,a family run winery located in Santa Maria Ca. Their primary vineyard is the Alta Mesa vineyard, located in Eastern Santa Barbara county and they are selling this wine for about $20 through the wineries website, most likely it will sell between $14.99 to $16.99 in retail shops, btw just found it at the San Diego Wine Company for $14.95, if they still have it in stock [geez can I pick prices or can I pick prices]. The whole group was curious about this wine, while some thought it to be very un-Grenache like, with the appearance and flavor profile of a over extracted Pinot Noir. But while looking up later at home, what a Grenache is suppose to be, I found that this style of Grenache is not A-typical at all, instead this style is thee most common [according to the Wine Lovers Companion]. It was a bit hot and the RS [residual sugar] seemed to be a little high side, but again consulting my copy of the Wine Lovers Companion [3rd edition] high RS and ABV are part of the equation when it comes to Grenache, wines which tend to be sweet, fruity and low in tannins. Even though my palate was fatigued near the end of tasting, this wine really shone through and I look forward to grabbing a few for myself to re-sample and enjoy.

Someone who goes by the handle UltraMarathoner rated this wine 92 points and had this to say about this wonderful wine, "A fantastic Grenache and could be my QPR of the year so far. Pop and pour. After an hour the wine became something completely different. The texture added weight and has a smooth, round feel. Nose has crushed rocks and floral\lavender tones . Deep red raspberry flavors with an orange-liqueur and red/dark fruit. Mouth watering acidity and firm, but ripe tannins that shorten a what could be a longer finish. Well balanced. Complexity well beyond the price point. I'm getting more of these." I couldn't agree more with the majority of these tasting notes or the score, my palate was nearly blown by the time we reached this very last bottle, that said I still highly recommend it to you. If this wine still had this much to say after I had tasted so many different wines, that's is quite impressive.

For our next event, it will be something far more focused and we will follow some general guide lines to make this a more authentic event. I've been talking it over with Beau and I think we have the makings of a new bigger and better event, which will pit Red Mountain Syrah vs Paso Robles Syrah in a face to face [blind tasting] smack-down of epic proportions. It should be winetastic and of course stay tuned here for the blow by blow results. Until next time stay thirsty my friends and cheers!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

5 things I learned about the Washington State Wine Scene during WBC 10

Well the Walla, Walla wine bloggers conference has come and gone, I was sad to see it go, but very appreciative of this opportunity to get reacquainted with Washington State Wine scene as I like to call it [don't think anyone else is calling it that]. It was fantastic to meet many of the other bloggers who've I've only known through Face Book or Twitter, [as there was over 300 folks it was hard to meet everyone] it was great to make those connections in person and get a chance to talk a little shop live. The Washington Wine Commission in conjunction with the Open Wine Consortium, Producers and Zephyr Wine Adventures put on a fantastically well organized conference. The number of different wines we were able to encounter over the three day period was just incredible [a virtual tsunami] of red and white wines, even bubbly made an appearance and the fantastic folks behind the label were equally winetastic.

Just speaking from my perspective, my sense of the of the overall satisfaction from other wine bloggers is that, the conference was a huge hit with all attendees, it would seem that no one can stop talking about the wonderful Washington Wine Scene [of course there were and still are a few dissenters]. Taking a look around and across the net and you can still see it's still a huge trend [with plenty of buzz] on Twitter and many of my FB friends are still talking about their experiences. As for me, my overall impression was very good and I have a lot to write about in the coming months and I would say further that the, [please feel free to quote me], "Washington wine is a force to be reckoned with" and the bloggers [myself included] are going to get that message out, not just in the few weeks afterward, but in the week and months ahead, but continuing on like a ripple on the proverbial pond once a few [huh, what? I mean a few asteroids striking the surface] causing waves to crash on beach and flood coastal communities stones a thrown into the still surface, sorry that pap I just typed out sounded a bit too reflective, anyways you get my point, they are and will continue to make a big splash in the world of vino.

That said, I thought I would just share a few "leftovers" [as some are fond of calling this blog] with you about the Washington State Wine Scene, that I didn't know before? Apparently there's is plenty, as I discovered for myself in more ways then one, through our various excursions and speed tastings. As I travel from wine destination to wine destination, meeting producers, winemakers, vineyard workers, wine bloggers, PR professional and others behind the label, I continue on my quest to learn all I can about this wondrous love affair with the Vitis Vinifera or the "wine-bearing" grape. Think about this statement the next time you pour yourself a great glass of vino, "In water one sees one's own face; but in wine, one beholds the heart of another"....an old French proverb.

The first thing I learned that they [producers in WA] make some fantastic Merlot in Washington State, single variety Merlot and or Merlot dominated blends which are not flabby or soft, wines that actually has some very nice structure and nuanced flavors. I will admit this openly, I'm not a big "Merlot Fan" just look at my many reviews and you will be hard pressed to find even one or take a look in my 200 bottle wine vault, there's no Merlot. It's not that I dislike the grape and I won't have Merlot-Meltdown like Miles expressed to the character Jack in the movie "Sideways" regarding his hatred for the grape [or as some suggest his loathing of having loved and not being loved in return].

No, no nothing like that, I just have not come across a lot of Merlots which have impressed me enough to say, um I wanna buy that or not enough to want to recommend it someone in a review. Typically I love Merlot when it is blended, and not the lead grape. So yep that makes me a "Left-Bank" kinda guy and speaking of blending and I hope I get this quote correct, in Washington State, "they [producers] don't add Merlot to a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften the Cab, no instead they add Cabernet Sauvignon to the Merlot to tame its massive structure." as I was sampling Merlot after Merlot, I said to myself, "wow that statement is right on" and has me leaning to the right in the context of Washington Wines.  Check out this trailer below for the movie Merlove, which features many producers from  Washington state.




The second thing I learned is Walla, Walla Washington is a great place to to go for a wine tasting adventure. If you're like me and there's a chance that some of you are, then this one of those great wine destinations that you will want to make plans to stay there for a least a week and explore everything they have to offer. This was my first time in this particular area and I must say I was really impressed with atmosphere in Walla, Walla. Fantastic people, charming accommodations [many great B&B's], inviting little restaurants, and many downtown tasting rooms, I really got a great vibe being in their downtown late at nite, strolling through their city. Walla, Walla reminds of downtown Paso Robles quite a bit, with the very welcoming atmosphere and down to earth feel, I am sure you will be just delighted by the experience as I have been. This picture to your left is the one I took inside the B&B I stayed my first night in Walla, Walla and to me exemplified everything you will experience when you stay here, Stone Creek Manor. or anywhere else in town as there a number of B&B's in Walla, Walla.

Third I learned, the wines I encountered could be characterized as a Bordeaux blend, I found this is a very common thread during my tastings and you'll most likely find the same at many Washington State Wineries. I personally was thrilled with many Bordeaux inspired blends I found being poured at the conference and during our forays into the vino landscape that is Washington Wine. It was not just the red blends either, there were a good number of white-Bordeaux being poured as well. Now of course one of the better, if not best thee known producer in the state is Bob Betz  of [Betz Family Winery], known to many as Washington’s favorite boutique winemakers and a very familiar figure in vino circles for creating Bordeaux inspired blends. It was also my great privilege to meet him and his daughter during the Willows Lodge hosted, "Woodinville Grand Tasting". In the line-up there was also some other favorites of mine at this tasting, DiStefano Winery, Sparkman Winery, Baer Winery, Northwest Totem Cellars and Des Voigne Cellars who stunned me with their Meina Flor, a Rhone inspired Rousanne and Viognier blend, excellent!

If you're new to the world of vino, you may very be scratching your head thinking, "what’s a Bordeaux Blend?"  Okay here's the typical text book answer, it’s a blended red wine that contains two or more of the varietals which are authorized for use in the red wines of France's Bordeaux region which is divided left and right. Typically you'll find these varieties in the blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. A typical Bordeaux blend will have Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as the primary grape (up to 85%), with other grapes making up the remainder. On the lesser known side of the ledger, if you are talking about "White-Bordeaux" then of course you speaking of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle composing the most typical blends.

Ah the perfect segway to my fourth thing I recently learned about the Washington State Wine Scene, is the fact that Sémillon is a widely planted grape variety in this North West Wine Region. In fact Washington Wineries are known for their Semillon, and while this wine is most often enjoyed young or blended with its companion Sauvignon Blanc, Washington Sémillons are known to age beautifully into rich, honeyed, nutty wines. In their youth they offer a broad spectrum of  flavors, ranging from crisp citrus to melon and fig, and fresh pears to vanilla. A wine typically lower in acidity than Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon is luscious, yet light and the two blend marvelously together. Semillon being lower acidity makes it's more susceptible to botrytis  [or Noble Rot], resulting in a fair number of late-harvest bottlings, which make for a nice after dinner quaff with some paired cheeses in place of dessert. My favorite was is the one pictured to the left here, Chaleur Estate Blanc from Delille Cellars, it was fantastico!



The fifth  and final thing was something I learned so much more about, than I had previously known or experienced and what is that you may ask? Well it's the AVA called Red Mountain, it freaking rocks and is one of the smallest in the state. The Red Mountain AVA has become the epicenter of Washington States Bordeaux blends, thus raising the caliber of Washington wines to a whole new level.

It all started with Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges of Hedges Family Estate, who took a chance buying acreage on this obscure little hill and produced their first vintage in 1987. See my review of 2007 Three Vineyards  Get Over Hedges Red Mountain Three Vineyards  which I wrote before my trip and which I recently re-tasted in their barrel room, alongside the 2006, which I gave the edge to over the 07, perhaps its still a bit too young, but since they had a few cases of the 2006 left, I grabbed [paid for with cold hard plastic] 6 bottles of the 2006 and will be here shortly via Fed Ex [btw, the Chateau Talbot in that pix above, didn't hold a candle to their Three Vineyards]. The Hedges Family Estate Chateau gave us a first class head to head match up of some of their wines versus some other heavy hitters [eye opening experience] and wow I was blown away by their entire operation and want to thank them for literally rolling out the red carpet for me and many other lucky bloggers who got to be there on this optional part of conference. Thinking back to my time I spent with the folks at Hedges and hearing the passion about their vision expressed by Chris Hedges, you can’t help but reflect on how rapidly the region has grown from those humble beginnings to become a behemoth of quality well made and yet very diverse wines, cheers to Red Mountain!

I must say I was very happy to visit this region for the second time, as I've been through the Woodinville Winery loop before and this second time through I refreshed my palate and understanding of the great things going on in WoodinVille, Walla, Walla and Red Mountain, the opportunity to visit great places like Cave B on the Columbia Gorge, Col Solare on Red Mountain and see the Wallla, Walla Wine Scene first hand was just a fantastic trip and one I would highly recommend as a way to expand your palate and your mind in relation to finding and consuming world class new world wine. I have much more to say on this subject so please stay tuned, until next time cheers everyone!

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