Walla Walla Continues the Love Affair


, ,


The Blue Mountains near Walla Walla

One reason I find wine fascinating is that wine lovers form a genuine aesthetic community organized around a shared interest in appreciating the aesthetic qualities of wine. There are of course commercial interests involved. Wine isn’t liquid manna—someone must make it and that requires substantial resources. There are those in the wine industry for whom wine is nothing more than a way to make a quick (or slow) dollar. But they are a minority. Most people are in the wine business because they love wine for its intoxicating flavors, infinite variations,  and the sense of celebration and community that wine enables.

It is intoxicating to be among people who have a deep love of an aesthetic object, because love can cut through the ulterior motives and manipulative agendas of modern life and revel in moments of pure enjoyment.

That is the magic of the Wine Bloggers Conference, which held its 11th meeting this past weekend in Walla Walla Washington. The vast majority of wine bloggers earn no money from their efforts and posts can often take hours to write. We do it simply because we love wine and enjoy writing about it. When we get together it is really all about the wine—and at the conference there was lots of wine to sample. The conference is in part supported by local wineries and winery associations, who pour their wines and tell us their stories hoping we will write about them.

There is of course a transactional element. The wineries want us to talk and write about them; the bloggers would love to get free wine samples. And most of the workshops and informational sessions are about how to increase your media reach and influence. But none of that would matter if we didn’t love the aesthetic qualities of wine.

three rivers

Three Rivers Winery

The hosting wineries go all out to impress, throwing lavish dinners to show off their wines. Where else will you find such a concentration of wine lovers most of whom have a good deal of wine knowledge and tasting expertise? Does it pay off for them in dollars and cents?

I doubt it.

But winemakers and winery owners love wine as well, take intense pride in their art, and it’s a chance for them to engage with people who understand and appreciate what they’re doing. If it sounds like a big party, well, yeah, that is the point.

For example, through the luck of the draw, for our Saturday mystery dinner, a group of about 20 attendees were chauffeured to Three Rivers Winery, a mid-size producer of mostly Bordeaux varietals with a Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling to round out their lineup. Winemaker Holly Turner decided she wanted to serve her ideal menu of favorite dishes so she brought in CIA-trained Chef Matt Antonich and his team from Coer d’Alene, Idaho to meticulously pair Three River’s best wines with an elaborate five course dinner.

The menu: King crab saffron risotto with seared scallops; an Elk Chop with huckleberry gastrique, elk demi glace and fresh chanterelle; Cabernet braised lamb shank with roasted tomato/lamb glace over blue cheese corn grits;  an Impossible burger-filled empanada with red mole, tomatillo verde with queso fresco and chipotle lime sour cream; and for dessert pear poached in Riesling served with huckleberry mousse and vanilla bean Frangelico cream.

desserteditThe meal was lavish, over-the-top delicious, and inventive. The wine pairings were spot on reflecting a very careful, detailed approach in developing the dishes.

I enjoyed all the wines, especially the 2016 Trivulet, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. But for me the show stopper was their 2016 Malbec which had great balance and life on the palate. Holly Turner spent a year working in Argentina as she was learning the wine business and that background is reflected in her skill with Malbec.

Could Holly and her team have made do with a less impressive meal? Of course. But that isn’t what lovers do.

Wine communities such as Walla Walla host events like this in order to increase their profile and visibility among the wine community. To succeed, they must create memories. Ordinary, good-enough-to-get-by events will not be memorable. The folks in Walla Walla get it.

Many thanks to the Walla Walla community, the conference organizers Zephyr Conferences, and especially Three Rivers Winery (and the many others who exceeded expectations) for the wonderful memories from this weekend.


Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 10/10/18



solera systemA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist, wonders if the Prosecco boom is sustainable,

Winemaker Allison Crowe reports on how the 2018 vintage in Napa and Sonoma is taking shape.

Margaret Rand makes the case for Sherry as a value wine.

Jamie Goode airs his views about how we can effect change.

Golfer Phil Michelson is good at popping corks at the Korbel Spray-off,  reports Tom Wark.

The Wine Curmudgeon covers smoke taint, wine advice, and non-alcoholic booze.

L.M. Archer profiles the sparkling wine of Willamette Valley.

Alison Levine profiles Argentinean winemakers Susana Balbo and her son José Lovaglio Balbo

Lisa Johnston reviews the Kelvin K2 wine monitor, a device that keeps track of the temperature of the wine while in bottle.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

Jamie Goode profiles Tony Bish an urban winery in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

Lisa Johnston explores Bordeaux, the city behind the wine.

The Good Vitis continues his visit to Willamette Valley visiting Tendril Cellers and Belle Pente Winery.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Ramey Wine Cellars Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley

The Reverse Wine Snob reviews Hope Estates The Ripper Shiraz 2014 from Geographe Western Australia.

Tom Lee reviews the 2002 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley.

The Gourmez profiles D-Cubed Cellars and their many Napa Valley Zinfandels

Amber LeBeau reviews the 2014 Ch. de la Perriere Beaujolais cru from Brouilly.

Wine Review: Ser Winery Graciano John Smith Vineyard San Benito County 2015


, ,

ser gracianoNatural wine has a (for the most part undeserved) reputation for being funky or rough, but Ser Winery’s whole lineup is as polished  as a river stone. Nicole Walsh makes about 1000 cases of low intervention wines using fruit from vineyards in and around Santa Cruz and the Cienega Valley. (She also helped develop and continues to manage Randall Grahm’s Popelouchum Vineyard). Like most winemakers associated with the natural wine movement, she uses native yeasts, neutral oak and minimal sulfur to make wines that express the character of the varietal, vineyard and vintage. The result, in Ser’s case, is wines of sophistication and refinement.

Graciano is a relatively rare grape in California. It hails from Spain where it is used in Rioja as a blending partner for Tempranillo to add structure and aromatics. It was a real treat to find it as a varietal wine at Ser where it is blended with 3% Tempranillo.

It’s beautifully crafted with pretty aromas of blueberry, threaded with violets against background hints of candied fruit and earth. On the palate, juicy fruit is accented by a spiced, wood note gracefully balanced by a seam of vibrant acidity that persists from prelude to finish. Glossy and caressing with refined tannins, there is a leisurely upward motion as the wine glides toward its mouthwatering finish.

Concise, confident, yet tender with a languid ease like Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why

Technical Notes: From mountain vineyards, mostly dry farmed, 5-6 day cold soak, 6 day maceration after fermentation, aged in neutral French oak puncheons for 18 months.

Score: 91

Price: $32 (Purchase Here)

Alc: 14%

Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 10/9/18



photo-1502624753130-3bfbdf71c320A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

The Wine Curmudgeon reports on the state of value wine in 2018

Winemaker Nova Cadamatre reports on the 2018 vintage in Napa and the Finger Lakes

The Wine Gourd reports on the distribution of wineries in the U.S.

Tom Wark reports on a study by Sonoma State MBA students about wine drinking habits across generations.

Jo Diaz has a report from Georges Deboeuf on the 2018 vintage in Beaujolais.

Amber LeBeau proposes a solution to a recent study showing wine consumption is lagging behind beer and spirits among millennials.

Artisan Swiss responds to the controversy over replica wines prompted by Christy Canterbury’s recent blog post.

Foxress reports on her visit to the new vineyard site of Force Majeur Winery and a potential, future sub-appellation in the North Fork area of Walla Walla just across the border in Oregon.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts

Jamie Goode visits the very fine Hermann J Wiemer Winery in Finger Lakes.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2014 Weingut Winter Dittelsheim Riesling from Rhinehessen.

Meg Houston Maker reviews the NV Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Rosé Champagne

Fredric Koeppel reviews the 2017 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc.

Amber LeBeau reviews the 2011 Lynch-Bages.

Wine Blog Daily Friday 10/5/18


native yeast fermentA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Vicki Denig makes the case for using native yeasts.

W. Blake Gray wonders whether a recent cancellation of a big grape contract is because of smoke taint or revenge.

Hawk Wakawaka reminds us of the start of the fires exactly one year ago in Napa/Sonoma.

Wine to Five’s podcast this week addresses wine and health with Dr. Matilde Parente, MD, CSW.

Jamie Goode has photos from the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards dinner.

Pam Strayer takes Jancis Robinson to task for several alleged inaccuracies regarding biodynamic wine.

Allison Levine reports that the official sparkling wine for the Emmys this year was from Italy—the Ferrari Trento Brut DOC.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

Jamie Goode visits Zarate, makers of fine Albariño in Rías Baixas.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2017 Massican Annia White Wine from Napa Valley

The Wine Curmudgeon asks whether American Airlines wine is worth $9 per glass.

Jameson Fink reviews several of Paso Robles’ top wines.

Jeremy Parzen is feeling groovy about three Italian wines worth seeking out.

Cindy Rynning pairs Pedroncelli’s Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon with a slow cooked beef stew.

Tom Lee’s Zinfandel of the month is the 2016 Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel

Replica Wine


, ,

replica wineI have to think more about this article by MW Christy Canterbury before commenting but I just wanted to flag it as important. The main issue is what to make of replica wines. Replica wines have been reverse engineered through chromatography and mass spectrometry to duplicate the flavor of a more expensive wine that would be otherwise less available to ordinary wine consumers.

Analyze the liquid in an array of bottles that you want to replicate, access a long list of vineyard sources, work with a talented palate or two alongside a skilled winemaker, and you can make what is apparently an excellent “replica” of a highly successful wine….Replica is the name of a wine brand that does just that. Replica aims to recreate the taste of some of the most popular wine brands in the world. Their targets are large, not limited – as is often the case with fine wine fakes, production items. The company proudly claims that its labels are almost indistinguishable from the “real” bottlings. (I have not tasted them.) Replica makes all of its wines by homing in on a wine’s chemical profile then painstakingly tweaking wines assembled from a variety of sources then further refined in their winery. Replica uses nothing but widely accepted and entirely legal winemaking techniques to create its array of “master forgeries”, as its website calls them.

Canterbury goes through the benefits and potential problems with this concept and is rightly concerned:

Now and with haste, we (and especially prestigious brand holders) need to address these admittedly creative and innovative, yet highly worrisome approaches to crafting a beverage. While certain positive outcomes could come from these two methods of reverse engineering, the horizon looks fuzzy. How the scenery turns out will depend on how these reverse engineering methodologies are used in the longer term.

The wine industry has sold the public on the idea that wine is in part made by nature and the unique characteristics of regions and vineyards matter. Replica wines threaten these assumptions.

My immediate response is that we tend to value originals more than copies and it’s not obvious that wine  that has been reverse engineered will taste like the original. I have not tasted these wines and neither has Ms. Canterbury. No doubt wine is a solution of chemicals but when and how the chemical bonds occur matters. Wine making is a process and what is being replicated is not a process but only the outcome of a process.

But it surely is worth thinking about and addressing.

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 10/4/18


pexels-photo-1277181A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Jamie Goode reports on judging the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards.

Steve Heimoff provides perspective on Charles Krug Vintage Selection Cabernet 2008 and tastes a flight of  Bordeaux’s Légende.

Tom Wark shares his expectations regarding the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Walla Walla WA, which begins tomorrow.

1 Wine Dude clarifies his views on wine and politics

Jameson Fink explains why Port should be chilled before drinking.

wineORL reports on the viticulture and winemaking practices of the “finest” Champagne grower-producers

Bob on Sonoma explains why every wine tastes different.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2013 Buglioni Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso

The Wine Curmudgeon’s wine of the week is the Mont Gravet Carignan 2017

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2016 Intrinsic Red Blend from Horse Heaven AVA in Washington.

Martin Redmond’s wine of the day is the 2015 Markus Wine Co. Zietlos Red Blend, Lodi AVA.

Talk A Vino blind tastes the lineup from Willamette Valley’s Tendril Cellars.

Travel Wine Chick reviews the 2014 Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé, Carneros

Susannah Gold’s wine of the week is the Argiolas Turriga- Isola dei Nuraghi IGT 2014 from Sicily.

Tom Lee reviews the 2003 Chateau Clerc Milon a 5th growth from Bordeaux.

Rockin’ Red Blog profiles left bank Bordeaux producer Château Pédesclaux

Strong Coffee to Red Wine profiles Russian River Valley’s Hanna Winery.

The Color of Life



gardens2garden3I had this thought while strolling through the wonderful Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island a few weeks ago. Imagine a world in which all we see is color transforming space into an entirely abstract form with no pathways, no lines, no boundaries, no objects. In other words, a world with nothing to do. A sea of color has an inchoate enveloping power charged with the potency of a genetic eruption, the plenitude of life, yet detached from any antecedently-existing world—an experience both cerebral and ravishing.gardens-1

Savoring a great wine with eyes closed tuning out that pre-existing world, has much the same effect, a phantasmagoria of swirling sensation requiring nothing of us but attention.

Our brains don’t handle such experiences well. We always slip back into that extant world. To linger too long would be frightening, psychotic.

But experiences such as strolling through gardens or savoring wine creates a fissure in our ordinary lives, an intimation of something inexhaustible, a world of pure sensation resting on life’s endless fertility.

We need a new brain to fully appreciate it.


Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 10/3/18


A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

mickey mouseLisa Zimmerman reports that Disneyland is about to begin selling wine.

Tom Wark describes a connection between wine and the #MeToo movement.

The Wine Economist reviews Elizabeth Gabay’s Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution and Rebecca Gibb’s The Wines of New Zealand Wine.

The Wine Cumudgeon’s weekly news report covers Drink Local’s book, plus three-tier and the Supreme Court and Dave McIntyre celebrates his 10th anniversary at the Washington Post

Pam Strayer reports on pop star Pink and her organic wine project.

Foxress reports on the virtues of Fino Sherry as a partner for some foods.

wineORL locates the “finest” artisanal grower-producers in the Champagne region

Winery Visits and Travel Posts

The Drunken Cyclist profiles Longshadows Vintners in Walla Walla WA.

Vino Sphere profiles natural winemaker Darek Trowbridge of Old World Winery in Russian River Valley

Wine Travel Eats visits Fazeli Cellars in Temecula.

Selected Reviews:

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the Avalon CAB Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Tom Lee reviews the 2011 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard from Walla Walla.

Pull That Cork reviews the 2016 Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vine Zinfandel, Contra Costa County

Lisa Johnston reviews the Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2017 from Santorini.