Wednesday, March 29, 2006

From the “Watering Place” Comes Impressive Wine

The state of Washington continues to impress as its vines and wine grow and mature. When it comes to Washington state wines the most impressive growing regions is the American Viticultural Area (AVA) known as the Columbia valley, stretching across the state from the Canadian border to Oregon. Within the Columbia valley region, near the center, is a newly recognized AVA called the Wahluke Slope.

The Native Americans who first settled in the area referred to this region as "Wahluke" meaning "watering place". But to wine markers, this roughly 81,000-acre region features more than 20 vineyards, one winery and two wine production facilities, with plans for several new winery openings in the near future.

One of the new facilities currently under construction belongs to the Desert Wind winery. Since the early 1990's, the Fries and Jenkins families have been growing grapes and producing wines in the valleys of northern Oregon and the slopes of eastern Washington, with a total of 820 acres under cultivation. Both families are closely involved in every aspect of wine production ensuring the quality of their wines represents the passions of their family. They established the Desert Wind winery in 2001.

My first introduction the work of Desert Wind winery was an intense blend of reds called Ruah. The wine is a blend of Merlot (45%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%) and Cabernet Franc (25%). Each variety is aged separately in oak for one year to allow each variety’s character to develop before the final blend. The blend is then aged an additional year to allow the components to meld completely. The resulting wine of intense fruit is elegant and complex. Dark and dense in the glass, the wine is spicy showing characteristics of toasted oak, herbal notes and plenty of fruit, backed up by a rich, heavily tannic finish.

Ruah is the Hebrew word for breath or spirit, or it can mean the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure the Desert Wind Ruah is quiet “holy” but for under $20 it is a wine I would be willing to enjoy again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wine in a crystal ball?

Nope, I'm not suggesting anyone drink wine from a crystal ball. But it wouldn't hurt to read this feature article from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine posted 21st of January 2006. This article written by Catharine Lowe, Anthony Rose is the closet thing I've got to predicting my future, since I can guarantee in the coming years I drink wine from the regions discussed. Never hurts to know what you are drinking. Read below and enjoy.

Next year will be the new 2005, that much we know. Straining to see into one's crystal ball can be as much of a mug's game as failing to notice the writing on the wall. No matter how hard you try to conjure up the future, divination has a habit in retrospect of coming back and biting you in the nether regions.

Forecasting, on the other hand, is an altogether more respectable pursuit and, unless you're Michael Fish, less likely to leave you with egg on your face. So, with a heightened chance of not falling completely flat on our face, let hindsight be our guide as we gaze into 2006.

The Sideways knock-on effect will continue to favour Pinot Noir over Merlot, with a positive impact on the 2004 Burgundy En primeur offers, which kick off in January. The vintage looks sufficiently interesting to spark off a lively campaign, especially in the case of Chablis, whose stars are likely to be Verget, Droin, Raveneau, Dauvissat, FÃvre and Billaud Simon. After Sideways, wine will again hit the big screen in the shape of Vineyards of Death, a low-budget mystery-cum-comedy shocker written and directed by George Boyce that takes place in the Finger Lakes, an area noted for fine Riesling and Cabernet Franc.

The waning popularity of Chardonnay and Merlot will...
[click here to read more]

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In Search of the Grail – A Worthy California Chardonnay

For the last few weeks I have been in search of a California Chardonnay to get excited about. I had found many to be over oaked for my taste. It seemed that I all of California was against me, supplying no chardonnay’s worth uncorking. Yet I knew my “grail” was out there, I just wasn’t looking in any of the right places. Awaking one morning from what seemed a trance, I remember a winery that I’d always heard good things about but hadn’t yet sampled any of their wine. I knew then, I need to find a wine from Sonoma Cutrer, confident their expertise could quench my thirst.

Sonoma Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay was the answer I had been seeking. Crisp, clean and “Grand Cru” elegant, the wine seemed almost regal in the glass. Aromatic notes of fig, honey and hazelnut had me at hello. But as the wine maker puts it, “The surprising aroma of a spark of struck flint and crushed granite hint at the mineral notes which add layers of depth and interest to the wine.” From presentation alone I knew this was the wine that had launched my quest, which only made for greater anticipation of the tantalizing first sip.

In the mouth the wine has a generous, creamy feel, with a faint toasty/oaky character that gives way to an explosion of green apple, warm comforting bread crust and citrusy lime notes, finishing with more citrus zest. Or at least that is one way to describe the experience. To me it was pure pleasure in a glass. Relaxing with a glass of Sonoma Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay in hand makes one no longer the adventure in search of some truth, instead I find much more enjoyment in becoming the story teller, happy to share the wisdom I’ve gathered, or a glass of wine.