Sunday, October 15, 2017

2015 Board Track Racer "The Chief"

Happy Sunday!  It's been a light weekend for blog posts as I was in Chicago on Friday visiting the Art Institute and didn't get back until late, and last night I had a wedding to attend, so that leaves just tonight.  But at least I have a nice bottle of wine to open, the 2015 Board Track Racer "The Chief" a second label of Mark Ryan Winery out of Washington.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), Malbec (11%) and Petit Verdot (4%) from the Columbia Valley of Washington, so let's see how she tastes!


The wine is a deep purple color, classic for a Cabernet.  The nose is a lovely combination of oak, overlaying some lovely black fruit, blackberry, cherry and plum with hints of mint and graphite over the top.  The taste is just wonderful, with a rush of black cherry up front that transitions effortlessly to some lovely mineral notes midpalate, only to treat you to a further evolution to dark chocolate and tobacco on the finish.  The tannins are young, but very smooth, leading to a lovely long, velvety and very dry finish.

A little Grant Wood painting I saw on Friday that prevented me from posting!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's just a lovely Cabernet and a great value, as I ordered this from the tasting room in Walla Walla back in August and I'm sure it was under $30.  This wine would be great with steaks, lamb or hearty Italian dishes, but tonight I am enjoying this wine with a Thai Chili rubbed Tagliata steak, with grilled leeks and asparagus and a big baked potato with sour cream and chives.  Cheers!

Monday, October 9, 2017

2015 Flying B Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Monday!  I had a rather unremarkable day, but at least it's time to make some dinner and have a glass of wine!  Tonight I've decided to open another bottle of my recent wine club shipment from the Bledsoe Family Winery, the 2015 Flying B Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (94%) with a bit of Malbec (6%) from the Bob Healy and and Seven Hills Vineyards, in southwest edge of the Walla Walla AVA.  So let's see how this one tastes.


The wine is a deep, brooding purple color in the glass, with bright garnet along the edges.  The nose presents aromas of leather, cedar, blackberry and smoke, perfect for a big Cabernet.  The taste is lush, with ripe black fruit bursting from the outset, but quickly settling in for some lovely notes of tart cherry, sage and black pepper midpalate.  The finish is warm, but very big, with still youthful tannins providing nice backbone for the long, smooth and voluptuous finish that urges you to take another sip.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, it's really a lovely example of a great Walla Walla Cabernet, but it's still young with a lot of potential to get even better over the next decade.  This is the type of wine that as wine maker Josh McDaniels said, "begs for a T-bone or ribeye steak" and wouldn't you know it, I stopped on the way home tonight and picked up an extra thick Hereford T-bone which I grilled Pittsburgh rare along with some grilled leeks and asparagus and some butter braised red potatoes with chives.  Cheers!

Friday, October 6, 2017

2015 Stolen Horse Walla Walla Valley Syrah

Happy Friday!  For those who've had a long week, the weekend is here, for others, it's still a reason to celebrate.  Today I have a special reason to celebrate as the Fedex man delivered my Fall wine club shipment from the Bledsoe Family Winery, the first such shipment from this new, more approachable spin-off from Doubleback, Drew Bledsoe's first effort in Walla Walla.  So tonight I've decided to open a bottle of the 2015 Stolen Horse Walla Walla Valley Syrah, a blend of fruit from the Loess (60%) and Les Collines Vineyards (40%) made from Syrah (95%) co-fermented with Viognier (5%).  The wine is from an interesting vintage, 2015 being quite warm, and as I recall from my vacation to Walla Walla that year, quite smoky from the many forest fires that were going on around the state.  So I'm interested to see how these wines developed.


The wine is a lovely, deep purple color in the glass.  The nose is a wonderful combination of green grass, with hints of smoke, mint and red berries.  The taste is just lovely with a subdued array of raspberry, cherry and red currant up front that transitions to some some heart smoked meat and tobacco notes midpalate.  The finish is marked by youth, with the lush tannins providing for a lovely and long, dry finish that's countered by a bit of bright acidity to bring some balance.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 as I think it will mature a bit with some age to be more in line with the 2013 vintage I've tried in the past (see here).  This is one of those very versatile, food friendly red wines that I could see pairing with anything from barbecue to hearty steaks, to roasted beet salad, but tonight I am enoying it with some classic comfort food of stuffed peppers topped with aged parmesan and asiago cheese.  Cheers!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2013 Cadaretta Springboard Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Wine Wednesday!  Tonight I've decided to have a special treat, since it's been somewhat cloudy and rainy all day, I figured I should open a nice bottle of wine to make up for the dreary weather.  So I've opened a bottle that I brought back from my vacation to Walla Walla in August, the 2013 Cadaretta Springboard Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Malbec (23%), Petit Verdot (5%) and Merlot (1%) from the Columbia Valley of Washington.  I tasted this wine at the Cadaretta tasting room in Walla Walla and I liked it, so now I have a chance to share it with you.


The wine is a classic looking Cabernet in the glass, deep inky purple with bright ruby along the edges.  The nose presents aromas of leather, cassis and white pepper spice, a tribute to the heavy blend of Malbec.  The taste is a rush of black cherry and blueberry that transitions to some lovely mineral notes of dusty limestone, white pepper and hints of vanilla bean midpalate.  The finish is warm and voluptuous as the beautifully integrated tannins provide the necessary backbone for the long, dry and seamless finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's a wonderful example of the great quality of Washington varietals and how an inspired blending can further elevate a wine.  With the heavy Malbec presence in the blend, this is a perfect big steak wine, which is a good thing, since tonight I am enjoying this wine with a big Angus porterhouse grilled rare with some grilled asparagus.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2013 Helix Bacchus Vineyard Merlot

Happy Tuesday!  It's been a while since I've posted because last week I was actually in Houston all week helping with the relief efforts down there.  It was quite a bit of hot, sweaty, backbreaking work, but it was really worth it to see the appreciation of the folks down there that were in such desperate need of a helping hand.  In any case, I'm back now and ready for some wine!  Tonight I've decided to open a recent wine club wine from Reininger's Helix brand, the 2013 Helix Columbia Valley Merlot from the Bacchus Vineyard.  So let's see what this one has to offer.


The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, the ideal representation of the varietal.  The nose presents lovely aromas of strawberry, red currant, leather and oak that just make you want to dive right into the glass.  The taste is as smooth as can be, with lovely flavors of ripe red fruit, cherry, currant, marionberry that transitions to some lovely earthy mineral notes midpalate.  The finish is quite smooth, despite the tightly wound tannins, which provide a bit of tartness right at the end of the smooth and very dry finish.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's drinking nicely now, but will likely improve with a few years in the cellar.  This wine would pair well with hearty fall dishes from stew to chili to lovely Italian pasta, but as always I am going against the herd.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with seared sesame crusted Ahi tuna on a bed of baby arugula with some wild rice.  I know red wine and fish may not make sense to some, but after all, Tuna is the steak of the sea!  Cheers!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tinazzi Vinum Italicum Opera No. 3 Red Wine

Happy Wine Wednesday!  Tonight I have a special treat, a bottle of wine that was a gift from a former boss, so I've been looking forward to trying it.  This one is a little different as well, as it's a non-vintage red blend from Italy, utilizing grapes from three distinct regions, Veneto, Puglia and Sicily, each with their own specialties when it comes to red wine.  From Veneto we typically see Corvina, Rondinella and Merlot, Puglia is known for Primitivo, Negroamaro and Black Malvasia and Sicily thrives with Nero D'Avola.  With such a blend of grapes, this wine should be a real treat!


The wine is a deep, inky purple in the glass, with bright ruby edges.  The nose is a rich combination of leather, black currant, kirsch, green herbs and black pepper spice.  The taste is just lovely, with a rush of ripe black fruit up front, blackberry, cherry and currant that transitions nicely to some mineral flavors midpalate.  On the finish you're treated to a reprise of spice box notes that bring you right into an Italian kitchen, while the well structured tannins provide for the long, smooth and very pleasing finish.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 as it's a wonderfully pleasing and easy drinking red blend that would be quite versatile with a variety of dishes, from steaks to barbecue to hearty pasta dishes.  Tonight I'm enjoying this wine with a rare grilled Prime ribcap topped with bleue cheese, grilled corn and asparagus, a perfect end of summer dinner.  Cheers!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Taste My Vacation Dinner!

As you know, I spent a wonderful week of vacation in Walla Walla last month, and to help celebrate and share my experiences with my friends, I hosted a "Taste My Vacation" dinner with individual courses and wine pairings.  And now is my chance to share that with everyone else virtually!  So enjoy the photos and taste my Walla Walla vacation!


The first course was a classic summer Caprese salad, with fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella topped with 25-year balsamic, Tuscan herb olive oil and fresh basil.  This appetizer was paired with a lovely 2014 Maison Bleue Bourgeois Grenache, with lovely fruit and mineral notes that perfectly accented the sweetness of the balsamic and creaminess of the mozzarella.


The second course was wasabi seared sea scallops over a bed of baby arugula tossed with 25-year white balsamic.  This course was paired with a 2015 Helix rose, the dry rose was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the white balsamic.


The main course was a grilled price ribcap with roasted asparagus and butter braised Yukon gold potatoes.  This course was paired with a 2014 Seven Hills Clone 191 Cabernet Sauvignon which perfectly accented the robust flavors of the steak and the creaminess of the potatoes.


Ant to end the evening, we had a lovely summer dessert of vanilla ice cream topped with espresso balsamic, fresh raspberries and 86% dark chocolate.  A lovely finale to the taste of my vacation.  Cheers!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2012 Cougar Crest Dedication Ten Red Wine

Happy Wine Wednesday!  Tonight I am enjoying a lovely bottle of wine that I brought back from my vacation in Walla Walla a month ago, wow how time flies!  Anyway, the 2012 Cougar Crest Dedication 10 Red Wine is a blend of Syrah (55%), Cabernet Franc (20%), Merlot (17%) and Petit Verdot (8%) from the Walla Walla Valley.  This wine also has a special story, in that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the wine are donated to Doernbecker Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore. whose doctors and nurses were instrumental in the recovery of the winemakers' daughter from life threatening injuries.  So let's see how this wine tastes!


The wine is a deep purple color in the glass.  The nose is a lovely combination of leather, lush ripe black fruit, tart cherry and a bit of fresh green herbs.  The taste is a rush of ripe black fruit with an overlay of tart cherry that transitions nicely to some notes of dark chocolate and mocha midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, with well integrated tannins that provide for a long, smooth and very dry finish, with a reprise of vanilla bean as the Syrah makes its presence felt.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's an extremely pleasant and easy drinking wine, that not only supports a good cause, it's also arguably one of the best values in Walla Walla wine today, priced at just $20!  With this sort of blend, this wine would pair nicely with a variety of dishes, from salmon to grilled chicken to steaks and chops, but of course I opted for steak!  Tonight I'm enjoying this wine with a rare grilled prime ribcap, baked Yukon gold potato and grilled asparagus.  Cheers!

Friday, September 15, 2017

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Apogee

Happy Friday!  I trust you all has a wonderful week, mine was somewhat busy, particularly this afternoon as I was rushing around to get everything I need for my "Taste My Vacation" dinner party tomorrow night (more on that in another post!).  But at least during all that rushing around, I found a wonderful piece of meat for my dinner tonight and when I got home I found a lovely bottle of wine to have with it, the 2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Apogee, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (29%), Malbec (8%) and Cabernet Franc (3%) from the Pepper Bridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.


The wine is a deep, inky black at the center, with bright ruby along the edges.  The nose is that of a classic Bordeaux style blend, ripe blackberries, cherries and cassis with undertones of leather and basalt.  The taste is much less fruit forward than I was expecting, but really starting to sing beautifully, as an initial rush of cherries and black stone fruit give way to pleasing notes of cherry cola, dark chocolate and dusty limestone midpalate.  The finish is just lovely, as you have notes of fresh herbs and wonderfully integrated tannins that give this wine a wonderfully smooth, voluptuous and very dry finish that seems to last until your next sip.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9.5, as Walla Walla Bordeaux Style blends don't often come better than this one.  This wine would pair beautifully with hard aged cheeses, braised short ribs, or my choice tonight, a rare grilled USDA Prime tomahawk ribeye, with grilled asparagus and steamed red potatoes with butter and parsley.  The wonderful fruit and dry finish of this wine is perfect to accent a rich, prime ribeye, cheers!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2013 Waterbrook Icon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Wine Wednesday!  It's been a bit of a rainy day here in Indiana as the remnants of Hurricane Irma make their way up to the Ohio Valley, but at least I got a few errands done and made it to the gym this evening, where I saw an older gentleman wearing a bandanna ties around his silver hair that just reminded me of Lloyd Bridges when he played Izzy Mandelbaum on Seinfeld...good times... Anyway, tonight I've decided to open a bottle of the last office wine club selection, the 2013 Waterbrook Icon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley of Washington.  You can see my review of the 2012 vintage here, so let's see what this vintage has to offer!


The wine is a deep indigo at the center, with nice garnet tones around the edges, very typical of a Columbia Valley Cabernet.  The nose is a lovely combination of leather, oak and black fruit that's very appealing.  The taste is a rush of black cherry and blackberry up front that transitions to some modest notes of mocha and spice box midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, with well structured tannins providing for the long, smooth and very dry finish.


Overall, I'd rate this wine a solid 8, as I do prefer this vintage over the 2012, since it's much more of a classic Cabernet.  This wine would pair well with a nice steak, hearty Italian dishes, or as autumn approaches rapidly, hearty roasts and stews.  But tonight, I am enjoying this wine with a Thai chili rubbed prime sirloin, grilled leeks and asparagus and a nice baked potato.  Cheers!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2015 Intrinsic Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Taco Tuesday!  Tonight I've decided to open a new bottle of Washington Cabernet that I picked up at the local Costco, the 2015 Intrinsic Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a second label from Columbia Crest.  From what I've read, the winemaker has been experimenting with some extended maceration on these particular wines, resulting in a remarkably different flavor profile and finish than Columbia Crest's traditional Cabernet.  So let's see how this one stacks up!


The wine is a deep ruby color in the glass, with nice clarity.  The nose presents aromas of black fruit, vanilla bean and cassis.  The taste is a somewhat subdued expression of fruit up front, with a bit of black cherry and some earthy mineral notes.  The fruit seems to linger as the somewhat youthful tannins pick of the pace, resulting in a long and very dry finish that's quite a departure from the warm finish that I usually associate with the parent label.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's different than many Columbia Valley Cabernets, but in a pleasant and approachable way.  It was also a solid value as I recall this one was under $20 at Costco.  I am enjoying this wine tonight with tacos of course, tonight it's carne asada steak tacos, with all the trimmings, as the fruit and dry finish of this wine really accentuates the rich spiciness of my dinner.  Cheers!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2016 Domaine La Sangliere Cotes de Provence Rose

Well, here it is, my last gasp of summer!  As the temperatures have been coming down, with highs only in the 60s and 70s and lows reaching into the 40s, I thought I needed one last bit of summer before the leaves start falling in earnest.  So today I've opened a bottle of 2016 Domaine La Sangliere Cotes de Provence Rose!  I saw this wine at Costco a few weeks ago and was fascinated by the blend of Cinsault (70%) and Grenache (30%) and the price was such that I couldn't resist getting a bottle even though it was late in the rose season, so let's see how this one tastes.


The wine is a lovely peach color in the glass.  The nose is a lovely combination of peach, strawberry, white floral notes and some minerality.  The taste is somewhat mellow when compared to the nose, with subdued flavors of citrus, mango and strawberry that transitions to some warm mineral notes midpalate.  This wine displays the classic French stealth finish, with mild acidity and incredible dryness that is feels like there wasn't a finish at all.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, as it's not a spectacular rose, but one that would be ideal with a variety of food on the patio during the summer.  It was also a wonderful value at just $8!  This wine would be ideal for summer salads, or a variety of seafood, which is handy since I'm enjoying this wine with my end of summer crab boil, featuring Alaskan king crab legs, corn on the cob and red potatoes with parsley and butter, the kind if dinner that you never notice you've just eaten a stick of butter!  Cheers!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

2013 DaMa Wines Cowgirl Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Saturday!  It's been a lovely, lazy day of just watching college football and really not accomplishing much of anything, which is what Saturdays are supposed to be!   So tonight I have decided to open a bottle of wine I brought back from my recent trip to Walla Walla, one that I only seem to get every few years, the 2013 DaMa Wines Cowgirl Cabernet Sauvignon (you can see my review of the 2009 vintage here).  This particular vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Merlot (20%) from the Gamache and Stillwater Vineyards in the Columbia Valley of Washington.  So let's see what this girl has to offer!


The wine is a lovely deep purple color, classic of a Cabernet.  The nose is a rush of ripe purple fruit, cherries and plums overlaying some lovely notes of green grass and spice box.  The taste is classic Columbia Valley Cabernet, with a rusk of ripe plum and cherry that just dances around your palate before transitioning to some dark chocolate and mineral notes midpalate.   The finish is just wonderful, with firm tannins and just the right amount of acidity to support the long, supple and very dry finish, with just the faintest hint of Bordeaux-style funk at the very end.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's a really wonderful everyday Cabernet and a spectacular bargain at just $19 from the winery!  This wine would pair well with anything from pizza and pasta to baby back ribs, but tonight I am going with a Cowgirl classis of a cajun reasoned grilled Angus porterhouse, big baked potato with sour cream and chives and some grilled leeks and broccoli rabe.  Cheers!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2015 Mark Ryan Wild Eyed Syrah

Happy Thursday!  I've been running around a bit this week, but today it was rainy most of the day, so a good day to open up a nice bottle of wine.  Tonight I've decided to open a more recent vintage of wine from Mark Ryan Winery, the 2015 Wild Eyed Syrah.  This 100% Red Mountain Syrah is a blend of fruit from the Ciel du Cheval and Olsen vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA in the Yakima Valley of Washington.  So let's see how this one tastes!


The wine is a deep, brooding inky red at the center that almost looks like a Cabernet.  The nose is a pleasant combination of black fruit, green grass and bay leaf that practically screams this wine is a great food wine.  The taste is a rush of ripe fruit, blueberries, plum and currant that transition nicely to some notes of black pepper and pipe tobacco midpalate.  The tannins are wonderfully structured, to provide great body and a voluptuous mouthfeel that supports the long, smooth and very dry finish.

I realize I've been neglecting the food part of "Wine, Food and Fun" so let me try to correct that!

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's still a quite young and could do with a few years in the cellar, but it's still drinking quite nicely right now.  This wine is also an ideal food wine, as I could easily drink this with a variety of dishes, from robust pasta dishes and paella, to barbecue and burritos, but tonight I am enjoying this wine with a mango marinaded grilled pork tenderloin, roasted cauliflower and pesto linguine.  Cheers!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2013 Carel Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Taco Tuesday!  And what's better to enjoy with some nice beef tacos than some wine?  Tonight I've decided to open a bottle of Cabernet that I bought a few months ago from Wines Till Sold Out, the 2013 Carel Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, so let's see what this wine has to offer!


The wine is a deep, inky purple color at the center, with brighter garnet along the edges.  The nose presents aromas of leather, smoke and blackberry over a hint of black pepper spice.  The taste somewhat of a classic, big bold Napa Cab, with a rush of ripe black fruit up front that transitions nicely to some notes of black cherry cola and dark chocolate midpalate.  The finish is pleasant, with youthful tannins and bright acidity accenting the long, smooth and very dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's a good everyday red wine and it was a good value at just $20 from Wines Till Sold Out.  This wine would be good with steak, beef brisket, or tacos, which I'm enjoying on this Taco Tuesday.  The fruit and acidity pair nicely with the spice and richness of the beef in the tacos.  Cheers!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

2014 Doubleback Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Sunday!  I just came back from Niles, Michigan where I loaded up my pickup with watermelons to hand out to folks at the Labor Day Parade tomorrow, this is what happens when they ask for volunteers at church and you say yes!  In any case, now I need to have me some wonderful Sunday dinner, and I've got a good one on deck tonight!  And of course I need a good wine to go with it, and tonight it's a special one, the 2014 Doubleback Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, a product from Drew Bledsoe's retirement project when he moved back to his roots in Walla Walla.  So let's see how this one is tasting!


The wine is a deep, inky color at the center, with nice bright garnet along the edges.  The nose is a rich combination of blackberry, currant, oak and a bit of kirsch.  The taste is a velvelty burst of ripe black fruit, plum, blackberry and cherry that envelops your mouth as the flavors transition to some wonderful earthy, mineral notes of dusty limestone overlaid with mocha and dark chocolate midpalate.  The tannins are still youthful, leading to a bit of acidity on the long, smooth and very dry finish.


Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, it's a super effort from Doubleback and although this wine is drinking well now, but I can imagine it's going to improve a lot by the early 2020s!  This wine would pair beautifully with braised short ribs, or a big steak, which of course is lucky that I went to Costco yesterday and they had a case full of prime cowboy cut ribeyes!  So I'm enjoying this wine with a rare grilled cowboy cut ribeye, grilled leeks and broccoli rabe and a big old baked potato.  Cheers!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2002 Kelham Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Cellar Saturday!  The first Saturday of the month, when I raid the cellar and find a bottle that's at least a decade old to open just for fun.  Today I've decided to open a bottle that's only been in my cellar for a few weeks, the 2002 Kelham Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville region of Napa Valley.  I've let this one decant for about an hour now, so let's see what this wine has to offer!


The wine is a deep, inky black at the center with a bright ruby along the edges.  The nose presents aromas of blackberry, currant, cured meat and a bit of earth, very intriguing!  The taste is a rush of ripe berries, blackberry, currant and rapsberry that transitions nicely to some notes of mocha and dark chocolate midpalate.  The finish is quite interesting, as the tannins are smooth and well integrated, but you are revisited with a rush of acidity on the finish that brings notes of tart cherry at the end, which is certainly unexpected.

Overall, I would rate this a solid 8.5, it's a very nice Cabernet, but it certainly didn't knock my socks off.  This is a big, board-to-the-face sort of Napa Cabernet, so it would work well with a big grilled steak, or as I'm having tonight some steak fajitas!  Cheers!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

2017 Vacation to Walla Walla Wine Country - The Last Day!

Well, my last full day in Walla Walla was sure busy, and although I wish I had one more day, this was still a fun filled and relaxing vacation (and my first vacation of the year too!).  My day started at 11:00 am for a lovely pairing menu at Seven Hills Winery.

Seven Hills Winery founder and winemaker Casey McClellan at the head
of the table as Danielle pours some Artz Vineyard Reserve Cabernet.

I have to thank Julie and Danielle at Seven Hills for arranging a wonderful tasting menu with the help of Chef Sarah of Sipid Bites Catering.  And the best part was that founder and winemaker, Casey McClellan was able to join us for a while and talk about his wines, the upcoming harvest and the recent vintages.

The wonderful line up of small bites and fantastic wines!

As for the pairings, we enjoyed the 2014 McClellan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with a tartine with roasted tomato, whipped chevre and fresh basil.  Then a sauteed mushroom risotto cake with arugula paired with the 2014 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot (this was my favorite pairing by far!), followed by a Panamanian grass-fed beef empanada paired with the 2014 Pentad and finally a lamb ragu polenta with Romano and fresh herbs paired with the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Artz vineyard which was drinking beautifully!

Barrel tasting the 2015 Summit View Cabernet Sauvignon.

Then we were off to the barrel room to taste the 2015 Summit View Cabernet that will be released this fall, and it was fantastic with a very limited production.  We also had the chance to see the new catwalks that were recently installed which should make punch downs so much easier this year.

The recently remodeled tasting room at Rotie Cellars in Walla Walla.

Next I was off to Rotie Cellars for a tasting of their wonderful Rhone style blends.  We tasted through the whites and rose, then the Northern blend and Southern blend, all of which were very well done, old world style blends.  Ultimately I settled on a bottle of the 2013 Homage to bring home with me.

Pepper Bridge winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet in the library room.

Then I was off to my last stop of the day, down to Pepper Bridge Vineyards for a tasting with Jean-Francois Pellet, partner and winemaker.  After the winemaker dinner at Ox & Cart the night before, JF invited us to do tour and tasting with him.

The barrel room at Pepper Bridge Winery.

We toured the facilities and library as well as the barrel room which was very impressive.  There were five of us on the tour, so I spent most of my time taking it all in!  We tasted through the 2014 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the 2013 and 2014 Trine, all of which were delicious.

The view as we relaxed on the deck at Pepper Bridge, I can't imagine a
more pleasant way to spend an afternoon!

At the end of the tour, we went out on the deck overlooking the vineyard and the Blue Mountains and JF opened a bottle of Seven Hills Rose (back to where I started the day!) which was interesting as I thought it really spoke to the sense of community in Walla Walla.  After the rose, we had a chance to open a bottle of 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which was spectacular!  I couldn't think of a better way to end an afternoon of tasting than in that perfect environment.

Dinner on the patio at Passatempo, wonderful pasta!

II ended the day with dinner at Passatempo, a new (well new since my last visit in 2015) pasta restaurant in the old Pastime Pub in Walla Walla.  It's a lovely environment as I enjoyed an al fresco dinner on the patio, including a lovely beet salad and pesto bucatini.  It was definitely well worth it!  And alas my wonderful Walla Walla Wine Country vacation came to a close as I type this before heading to the airport.  I just need to make sure it's not another two years before I return!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 Vacation to Walla Walla Wine Country - Day 3

Well my third day of vacation presented the opportunity to accomplish some of the things I failed to get to the day before.  I started the day going back out to the west side to visit the two wineries that started may affinity for Walla Walla nearly two decades ago.

The school bell that you can ring at the entrance to L'Ecole No. 41.

My first stop was to the old school house on U.S. 12, the home of L'Ecole No. 41.  I had the chance to meet with Jaime, the wine club manager (though I''m not sure what her current title is), and she's always a pleasure to spend time with.  We had a nice conversation over some wonderful 2014 Perigee and 2014 Ferguson as well as the new vintage of Candy Mountain red wine, all wonderfully delicious!

The Woodward Canyon Tasting Room.

Next it was off to Woodward Canyon which it right next door.  I felt bad as I'd met Cory, the tasting room manager at the pre-harvest dinner a few nights before and said I'd visit the next day but I failed!  So I made up for it as we tasted through some wonderful wines, including the 2010 Estate Reserve, a classic Bordeaux style blend of Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Now the 2010 and 2011 vintages were very cool, and although they were somewhat disappointing when younger, they are really starting to shine now.

The Maison Bleue tasting room in Walla Walla.

After Woodward Canyon, I went back downtown where I first stopped at Maison Bleue where I tasted through some of their wonderful Rhone blends.  They have one of the most beautifully decorated tasting rooms in Walla Walla, and Cynthia handles the tastings so well.  I am not a huge Pinot Noir fan, but I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed their new Pinot under the J. Meuret label.

The newly re-branded Bledsoe Family Winery tasting room.

Next I stopped at Graze for lunch and then to the Bledsoe Family Winery tasting room.  Bledsoe has undergone some changes recently as they established the Bledsoe Family Wines label to be a somewhat more approachable family of wines while retaining the Doubleback label positioned at the premium end.

Photo of the "Cadaretta" in the Cadaretta Winery tasting room.

After Bledsoe, I went across the tracks to visit Cadaretta to taste some wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon and blends.  They have also gone through some changes as they sold the Buried Cane and their other secondary labels.

The DaMa tasting room on Main Street, be sure to taste the Tempranillo!

I went to the DaMa Wines tasting room next, which is always a pleasure.  I was fortunate that Mary, the proprietor and winemaker was there, so I had a chance to chat with her a bit and taste some of the new 2014 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon which will be released this fall (and I'm really looking forward to that release!).

Pepper Bridge Winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet and Ox & Cart Executive Chef
Jacob Crenshaw provided for a wonderfully tasteful evening.

I ended my day at the Ox & Cart for a winemaker dinner featuring Jean Francois Pellet, the partner and winemaker at Pepper Bridge.  He's been doing this since 1999, and interestingly enough I remember having dinner with a good friend and mentor when I lived in Seattle in 2003 and he brought a bottle of JF's first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon to dinner!

Caramelized Wagyu beef, chanterelle mushrooms and butter braised potato puree
paired with 2014 Pepper Bridge Winery Trine.

Ox & Cart is a wonderful farm-to-table restaurant in Walla Walla that exemplifies the wonderful array of produce available throughout the Walla Walla Valley.  We had a wonderful four course dinner with pairings at each course, but by far may favorite was the caramelized Wagyu beef with chanterelle mushrooms and butter braised potato puree paired with 2014 Pepper Bridge Winery Trine.  Of course we were invited to come out to Pepper Bridge for a tasting, but you'll have to wait for a future post to hear about that!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 Vacation to Walla Walla Wine Country - Day 2

You know there is certain truth the that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men...Today was my second day of a fabulous vacation in Walla Walla Wine Country, and although I had plans to visit several wineries, I ended up at only two, and of course that was just fine because it was the most awesome day anyway!  First I have to thank Jacque from Seven Hills who was so kind to lend me her car for the afternoon so I could head out to visit the wineries on the west side of town, it's just so amazing that the folks here in Walla Walla are so friendly and helpful!

The veggie hand rolls at Soi 71.

But first there was lunch!  There are many classic restaurants in town the I love to visit when I'm here, but then there are new ones, like Soi 71, a new Thai restaurant located next to another great restaurant, Saffron.  Had a lovely lunch of veggie hand rolls and Pad Kee Mao (which is the dish by which I judge all Thai restaurants) and it was delicious!

The beautiful tasting room at Cougar Crest Winery

Next I was on the road to the west side where I stopped at Cougar Crest to taste some wines (I am a big fan of their Dedication wine, as it's a great everyday wine for just $20!) and I also tried their "Syrillo" which was a blend of 50/50 Syrah and Tempranillo and it was very good.

The entrance at Reininger Winery

Next I was off to Reininger Winery, as I'm a big fan of their wonderful red wines, and I'm always impressed with the creativity of Chuck Reininger in combining different varietals and vintages to come up with some truly outstanding wines.  Over a nice charcuterie board, I had a very pleasant conversation with Chuck, as we share an appreciation for the wines of the Walla Walla Valley.

The painting the graces the label of "Mr. Owl's Red" as Chuck's kids had trouble
pronouncing winemaker Raul's name, so it came out "Mr. Owl"

So many other regions are known for particular varietals (think Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz, Lodi Zinfandel), but Walla Walla doesn't really have a signature varietal.  To me, this region is much more like Bordeaux, where different areas and varietals really exemplify the terroir, or sense of place where these wines were made.  This also makes the wines more subtle and nuanced, more of a thinking person's wine, not like some big bold wines that practically hit you in the face with a figurative 2x4.  These are the types of wines that you can sip on the patio for an entire afternoon and continually taste something new.

Cia and I in the barrel room, she was a wonderful host with an interesting background,
as she grew up in Walla Walla but then spent time teaching in Columbia.

Next it was off to the barrel room for some barrel tasting of some future wonderful wines.  I have to thank my hosts, Cia who hosted my entire afternoon, along with Dorian and Keith who were busy racking barrels.  For those unfamiliar with the process, as the wines are barrel aged, they are usually racked three times.  This is a process where the barrels are emptied and then the sediment is removed, after which the wine is returned to the barrel to continue aging.  The result is the removal of most of the sediment by the time the wine is ready to be bottled.

Dorian and Keith, Dorian is enthusiastic and great at walking me through what we
were tasting and really helping understand the reasons for how things come together.
Keith was a great young man who was working for the summer while attending college. 

The fun of barrel tasting is that you are literally tasting the future, and I must admit the future is looking very tasty at Reininger!  We had the chance to taste the third and fourth editions of CPR, a creation that exemplifies the creativity of Chuck Reininger.  The current, second edition CPR is a blend of seven varietals from five vineyards across vintages ranging from 2005 - 2012!  The third and fourth editions were quite delicious and I anxiously await their release.

Some wonderful future Reininger wines still growing up in the barrel!

In addition to CPR, we had the opportunity to taste the 2013 Cima (this should be another big winner), 2015 Malbec, 2016 Syrah and 2016 Cabernet Franc.  That last wine was interesting as it was fermented with skins of Viognier, which rally imparted a lovely floral note over the finish of the wine, again illustrating the creativity here and appreciation for old world techniques (think Cote Rotie, though this was done with Cabernet Franc instead of Syrah).  After this wonderful afternoon, I was back downtown to have a dinner of Moules Frites at Brasserie Four, always on my list of favorites when I visit Walla Walla.  Overall, it was a fantastic day, even though I didn't accomplish everything on my list!