oe•no•phile Two Years In and "Retiring"

Hi all,

So today is the two year anniversary of oe•no•phile. I can't believe it's been two years already since I decided to sit down and really focus some energy on writing about wine. However, in the recent months I have been shamefully neglectful of my writing here given work and a number of other activities that have taken up a lot of time and left little time to write.

It occurred to me that I really have wanted to give my writing a more driven focus, and with that I'm pleased to announce the creation of Northwest Whites, a new website dedicated solely to exploring the white wines of the Pacific Northwest. Making my home now in the Willamette Valley, I realize that I came here for a reason—my passion for wine. My passion for the wines of this region, especially the under-recognized white wines, has developed quickly (and I've hardly scratched the surface in 11 months). 

You've read all about Oregon's world-class Pinot Noir and Washington Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon ... but what about Chardonnay? Riesling? Sauvignon Blanc? Pinot Gris? Gewürztraminer? Explore those and more white varieties from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.

So thank you for reading (sporadically even) here at oe•no•phile. I really appreciate your support, and hope you'll make your way over to Northwest Whites (launching on October 22, 2010) to continue following my wine journey here in the Pacific NW. 

Additionally, you can also check out my personal site, RyanReichert.com, for general wine education information and wine consulting. And for all my wine reviews, visit my profile on Adegga.


WBC 2010 In Short

So the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference has come to an end. I'm back in the car, not driving, but passengering back to Portland.

I'm sure everyone is writing similar summary posts on their respective blogs, so I'll keep this brief. Aside from seeing some good friends, meeting new friends, and trying a lot of wine here are some of my highlight moments:

  • Pre-conference Willamette Valley shenanigans
  • Arriving at a mini-party immediately after arriving at the host hotel and not 10 minutes later getting a visit from a staff person to tell us (read: Thea) to quiet down. [<3 you T!]
  • Taco truck luncheon
  • Live wine blogging - whites on Friday, reds on Saturday
  • Exploring downtown Walla Walla tasting rooms via the Walla Walla Walkabout on Friday night
  • Chocolate truffle buffet at Fort Walla Walla Cellars paired with Syrah
  • One of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I've had from Substance Wines
  • A gorgeous lunch and view at Waters Winery on a bus tour of the area
  • Roasted asparagus at dinner Saturday night - my one criticism was that hardly any of the meals were coordinated to cater to vegetarian or vegan diets
  • Army Worm "wine" - I probably don't need to say anything more
  • Oscar Quevedo's family Ports
  • Getting. "professional" tour of the Marcus & Narcissa Whitman art gallery
  • Meg Houston Maker's 24 Theses on more effective writing
  • Amazing food and wine pairing lunch on Sunday afternoon hosted by Click Wine Group
  • Learning that the 2011 conference will be in Charlottesville, VA, which might mean a trip to DC to see my friend Libby!
  • A fantastic car ride back to Portland

I'll endeavor to go through and post tasting notes for the wines I took notes on in the next few days, but for now here is the list of some of my top local favorites.

Sweet Valley
Sleight of Hand
Forgeron Cellars
Otis Kenyon
Long Shadow
Waters Winery
Substance Wines
Fort Walla Walla Cellars

Great to see everyone this year. Thank you to all the great donors, sponsors, and organizers. And a huge thank you to the Marcus Whitman Hotel. We had a fabulous conference - looking forward to 2011!

The Road to Walla Walla

So that time of year has come again - it's time for the annual American Wine Bloggers Conference. This year we're convening in the city of Walla Walla over the Washington side of the Columbia, the same river that runs through my new home in Portland. I drove past the area on my way to the Willamette Valley, and now I'm headed back, seeing the scenery from another angle.

It's a four hour drive from Portland to Walla Walla, but well worth the trip. The views and changing landscape along the Columbia are just amazing. And since Lynnette is driving, I can type on my new iPad!

The conference will offer a chance to reconnect with many people I met last year (and more importantly make a human connection with all the Facebook/Twitter wine folks I follow).

I'm excited about this year's conference, especially given the focus on wine AND food. It seems more and more I get into wine and talk about it, I nearly always come back to discussing it in relation to food. I find this an excellent way to bridge the imaginary gap between what people want to know and what they do know. Wine isn't always an easy topic to learn about, so what better than to relate it to something as everyday and basic as what we put in our mouths?

The Marcus Whitman Hotel hosts the 2010
American Wine Bloggers Conference
in Walla Walla, WA
I'm also anxious to get exposure to the Washington wine industry. Hardly six months in the Willamette and I'm ever eager to explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest. It's amazing to me that just across the state line there are incredible warm weather varieties being produced like syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel. I'm not by any means pinot weary, but it's a great opportunity to expand my tasting experiences.

So, despite my continuous absence from the blog-o-sphere over the past months (I actually got yelled at for not being a more active Tweeter!) I'll be making efforts to do some live updates while exploring Walla Walla. We'll be doing lots of tasting, learning about wine and food, discussing wine writing, visiting wineries and vineyards, and overall having a great time. There are bound to be things I'll want to share.

So if you're on Twitter, be sure to follow the hash tag #WBC10. Lots of folks will be using this to track their experiences. I'll also make some more updates to oe•no•phile too! Happy following, thanks to all our hosts, sponsors, and organizers, and here's to a good time in Walla Walla! And if you're able, please try and support the WBC Bloggership Fund - receiving a scholarship last year was what got me into this whole glorious mess to begin with.


Need a wine consultant?

Wine is something that many people enjoy and I find that there are a lot of people who would love to learn more about it. Whether it's something simple like finding that perfect pairing for dinner or challenging yourself to find new obscure grape varieties there is a ton of stuff to learn about wine. What is it? How is it produced? How do you taste it? What makes all those grapes or regions or vintages so different?


Summer looms

Despite the wet spring we've had in the Willamette there have been a handful of absolutely gorgeous, warm, sunny days. We erected a fantastic backyard canopy on our deck that provides a beautiful space for us to enjoy dinner on those warm evenings. We've even fired up the grill and enjoyed some delicious smoky fare. Lynnette has a knack for making perfect grill marks on both her chicken and the tofu Amy and I enjoy. Vegetables have made a large appearance as well: spring potatoes, red and yellow bell pepper, asparagus, and an assortment of summer squashes.

Summer is looming, and it's just a matter of weeks before this becomes our daily routine. With this all in mind I start thinking about quintessential summer beverages. For my purposes one thing comes to mind: gin and tonics.

However, there's plenty of excellent wine to quaff in the summer heat, and one of my favorites is Sauvignon blanc. With aromatics and flavors that include herbal, vegetal, and citrus qualities sauvignon blanc might just be the oenological equivalent of the G&T.

Sauvignon blanc hails from France where it is used for blending in Bordeaux, and on its own in the Loire Valley's Sancerre. Outside of France the grape has seen wide plantings around the world from South America to New Zealand to even the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Recently at Vino Paradiso in Portland's Pearl District I was thrilled to find a flight three Sauvignon blancs from around the world. And lucky me, it was the last day the flight was available. The three wines up for consideration:

2009 Willamette Valley, OR Sauvignon Blanc by Patricia Green Cellars

Appearance: clear, pale, gold with a soft green tinge
Nose: clean, medium-light intensity (perhaps it was too cold?); stone fruit, apple, grass, cut hay
Palate: dry, medium body, acidity, and finish, waxy mouthfeel as the acidity dissipates; lots of citrus, lime, stone fruit, tart green apple
2008 Reuilly AOC, FR Sauvignon Blanc by Denis Jamain

Appearance: clear, medium-pale intensity, golden yellow
Nose: clean, aromatic; grass, grapefruit, unripe cherries, citrus, lime
Palate: dry, medium-full body, medium-high acidity, long finish; fresh grapefruit and lemon
2008 Marlborough, NZ Ranga Ranga Sauvignon Blanc by Barker's Marque

Appearance: clear, medium intensity, golden yellow
Nose: clean, aromatic; grass, green vegetable, asparagus, pea shoots, citrus
Palate: dry, medium intensity and body, alcohol is slightly off balance, long finish; lemon and lime, green vegetal
Vino Paradiso via Google Maps
I have to say this was a fantastic flight (kudos to the folks at Vino Paradiso for putting together such an exemplary S.B. comparison). I kept going back and forth between each, swirling them and sticking my nose back in the glass. The aromatics alone were completely different for each wine. I've bolded those above which I think stood out the most between the three styles.

While each wine was very good and well priced—the D. Jamain maxes out as the priciest at just $20!—I have to claim the Reuilly as my favorite. This region is just southwest of Sancerre in the Loire Valley and focuses on whites made with sauvignon blanc and reds from pinot noir. The wine was knock-you-out-of-your-seat aromatic, had an amazing texture on the palate, great flavors and acidity, and a finish that had me licking my lips in anticipation for the next sip.

The Patty Green came in a close second ($18 retail) with the Ranga Ranga ($12) as my final choice.

All of these were great wines to enjoy throughout the summer on their own or with food. The classic pairing to Sauvignon blanc is chèvre but I'd quickly match these with salads, grilled veg, chicken (or tofu in my case), or anything in a light cream sauce.

So while I'm sure the limes, gin, and tonic water will be in great demand this summer I'm also looking forward to plenty more Sauvignon blanc as well.


Quick Sip: 2007 Vouvray, floral but searing

Château Gaudrelle Vouvray, Sec (2007)
Château Gaudrelle
Chenin Blanc
Vouvray, Loire Valley, France
Chenin blanc
Another wine from our Loire Valley tasting. Vouvray is produced from the chenin blanc grape and can be dry to sweet. Always though you'll find a floral, "sweet" smelling nose. Like riesling, this grape can produces some truly deceiving wines.

Appearance: Clear, light gold color.

Nose: Clean, medium intensity with honey, floral, apple, and pear aromas.

Palate: Dry, medium body, medium-high acidity, soft citrus, green apple, stone fruit.
Vouvray is produced in four levels of sweetness: Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, Doux. In terms of residual sugar, that left in solution after the wine is finished with fermentation, they can range from 0 grams per litre up to 45 (4.5%). Though people might associate these smells, or even the tastes with "sugar" these wines are not always actually sweet.

That said, they pair very well with richly flavored dishes with similarly concentrated characteristics.