Happy New Year – Year of the Monkey

Yeah, I missed the traditional American calendar New Year, so how about celebrating the Lunar New Year? Here is what's ahead for you and me in the year of the Monkey - 2016.
The positive and negative quality of the Monkey Year 2016 culminate in a year that anything can happen. There is little point in storing up goods or planning one’s life. The influence of the Monkey puts everything into flux. Things will get accomplished, but largely through personal and individual efforts. Group movements, such as political upheaval or revolutions, will not make a mark during this year.
This cheeky animal bursts with exuberance, bringing a lightening fast pace and fantastical motivation. The Monkey increases communication, humor and wit, helping us get through stressful times with grace and ease. Business flourishes and risks tend to pan out. The Monkey’s gift is the ability to find unconventional solutions to old ...

African Passion: Passionate About Chenin Blanc

Right. I know. I live in Walla Walla and typically write about Walla Walla and other wines from Washington State, but once in awhile one must "think" outside the box, or more like go beyond the border. Many of us locals have cut our teeth on the wines of the Walla Walla Valley, but as we explore in our pursuit to become knowledgeable about wines, it's important to explore beyond. 

The African Passion lines of New World wine were first debuted in the United States back in 2013, and created in the KWV Cellar from Paarl, Western Cape. The grapes as well are also sourced from the Western Cape of Africa where Chenin Blanc is currently the country’s most widely planted grape.

In 1918, the year Nelson Mandela was born, South African wine farmers founded KWV with the aim of stabilizing, supporting and structuring a young, struggling industry. Until ...

Tall Sage

“Find a Tall Sage and you have found a place that will sustain superior grape vines.” - Dr. Walter Clore, "Father of Washington Wine."

Goose Ridge Estate Winery in the Columbia Valley at Richland, Washington is located in the center of their 2,200 acre vineyard. Founded by the Monson Family in 1999, they have diversified with growth of their vineyard, as well as a new label, Tall Sage. Tall Sage is exclusively sold through Vintage Point, a small wholesale portfolio featuring small luxury wines. These wines made their first appearance around three months ago. 

Tall Sage is the Monson Family's tribute to the founder of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards, Arvid Monson. Arvid was an entrepreneur in the Yakima Valley, as well as an orchardist, cattle rancher, and in the fall of 1997 he started the development of Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards with the guidance of Dr. Walter Clore. Arvid died ...

Cool Climate. Cool Wine: Finger Lakes of New York

When I was asked if I wanted to participate in a Finger Lakes virtual wine tasting, of course I said, "Yes." I was particularly looking forward to it when they mentioned the wine tasting would include three of each, 2012 Cabernet Franc and 2012 Lemberger. 

It just so happens that Cabernet Franc is my favorite red wine grape, and I am always intrigued with Lemberger. Whenever I see a bottle of Lemberger (aka Blau Frankisch) on the store shelf, I will usually buy it.  My fascination with Lemberger is that it is Washington State's over-looked "heritage" grape, as it was first planted in 1941 by Dr. Walter Clore, a Washington State University researcher and "Father of Washington Wine." 




Considering the wines we tasted from New York, it gives us a hint that the Finger Lakes produces more than just Rieslings. Some little "fun facts" about the ...

Happy Birthday W5 – 10 Years!

Ten years ago, I never thought I would be writing this ... 

It was 10 years ago, June 14 when I first started my wine blog, Wild Walla Walla Wine
Woman. What a ride! I had no idea that anyone was reading it. It was merely a collection of my own tasting notes and amusements. I just rather hung on and let the experiences fly rather serendipitous. 
So, in the mean time a lot has happened because of the blog. I landed in retail, and I even wrote a book, Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History. Through the difficult journey of research and writing a book, while juggling retail; it brought me back to what I love the most - writing. With the "refurbishing" of my blog, I decided to extend it beyond just Walla Walla wines. It's tough not to share the experiences of a ...

Passementaries …

What is Passementaries? It's my newest journal. 

Oh no, I am not forsaking this Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman blog. She will be celebrating 10 year anniversary next month, and I will continue to write about my wine experiences and opinions. I am just mixing things up a bit. 




Passementaries is about the simple trimmings for an elegant life ... 

I'll even talk a little bit about wine. Please join me. 

Two Lands: California and Australia Fusion

We've heard of "Fusion Cuisine," the trend of cuisine that combines elements of different culinary traditions. Wine fusion? Jacob's Creek is Australia's largest wine brand, and one of the oldest Australian wineries since 1847.  Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker, Bernard Hickin reached out 7,982 miles crossing the equator from Barossa Valley, South Australia to Napa Valley, California, USA procuring Ehren Jordan 2008 San Francisco Chronicle's Winemaker of the Year. So together, winemakers, Hicklin and Jordan created a "fusion" using the handcrafted artistry of a boutique California winery and the senior vineyards of Jacob’s Creek.  

This new wine, "Two Lands" was "fused" to over-deliver on price point, yet bringing together the best of these New World wine areas - - it's a California expression using Australian wine. 



Two Lands Pinot Grigio - 2014: The palest of yellow in the glass, and a perfect summer wine. The winemakers chose ...

Feast Walla Walla – 2015

There were a couple of years when I missed Feast Walla Walla, and several years when I had a  press pass and "worked" the venue by taking notes and videos. This is the first year when I
Me with Shane of Downtown Walla2 Farmer's Market
was on "my own" and it was fun to relax, sip some good wine, visit with friends, and sample many goodies. 

Feast Walla Walla is always a great venue and the magic happens on First Avenue downtown Walla Walla at Main Street. The gigantic white tent begins to take shape Friday evening and by Saturday morning, it can pack up to 600 people and several food and wine purveyors. The excitement begins at the tent entrance when guests receive an etched wine glass commemorating the event, a souvenir plate to hold the "feast" from local food vendors and 10 tokens to be used towards food and wine. 

The Marc - Asparagus! 
So let's cut to the chase. Some of the highlights for me was it didn't seem as crowded this year, therefore I didn't feel as "squished."  I am not sure if it was due to less people or larger space. I will also take the time to talk about some of my favorite food. Of course, one must not leave without dropping a token to get a little bag of chocolate truffles from Bright's Candies. 

The Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center, of course didn't disappoint with their selection of food. They served bites of local Walla Walla pickled asparagus rolled with house-cured prosciutto. Oh my! The Marc also served a bite of dessert with a Parisian-style milk chocolate, hazelnut, and apricot macaroon. Beautifully done.  

Sapolil Cellars
Sapolil Cellars really thought their presentation through ... (a hint to other wineries who serve food - - pair food and wine) ... Chef Peyton of Sapolil Cellars presented little bites of deliciousness that paired so well with their Sapolil "Dwelley" Reserve - 2009 (red blend). The bites were Sapolil "Dwelley" Syrah-infused salami chips topped with roasted garlic, goat cheese, and pickled red onion. I kept going back for more. 

Chef Paul and crew from the Bank & Grill Catering Co are usually one of the most popular booths and nothing has changed. I chose a crostini, spread with a blue cheese compound butter and topped with hand-carved beef steak from their generous platter of grilled meat. 
Bank & Grill Catering Co. 

I wished I could have visited more winery booths than I had, but one must be responsible ... I sipped on Henry Earl Estate Riesling - 2013 and Henry Earl Estate "Homesteader" (red blend),  Kontos Merlot - 2010, Plumb Cellars "Damn Straight" (red blend), Plumb Cellars ViognierSYZYGY Syrah - 2009, Waterbrook Winery Sangiovese Rose, and Dunham Cellars Riesling.  None of these wines disappointed. All very lovely, and especially paired with food - - which leads me to this suggestion ...
Zach of ...

Love in a Glass: Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Rose

The phone rang. I looked at the caller-ID and my little heart started racing as if it was a call from a former love. It was the call I had been waiting for. It was from Stoller Family Estate in the Willamette Valley. They were letting me know my Spring Wine Club shipment was getting ready to be packed and while they were at it, was there anything else they could send me - - perhaps more of their Stoller Pinot Noir Rose? 

Yes-yes-yes! Fill me up with bottles and bottles of Stoller Rose - 2014! Now I can finally finish up the last two bottles of the 2013 that I have been hiding in the wine cooler. Hiding from who? From me! There's also a few bottles of 2013 Provence rose, as well. I guess I feared there was going to be a 2014 rose shortage. It is also about storing some fond memories. 

I think it is very possible to fall in love with the experiences you have had with a wine, as much as it is to fall in love with the wine, itself. If your two loves go together, then as a lover of wine, you are blessed.  

One of the world's greatest wine collectors is Park B. Smith, a textile entrepreneur in his late 70's,  who lives in an New England town of Northwestern Connecticut. About eight years ago Mr. Smith left a quote with Eric Asimov, wine writer for the New York Times, and it has resonated with me, ever since. 
“Something happens to people who love wine. You really discover a camaraderie. It’s not like coin collecting or something cynical. It’s like sharing love in a glass.” 
Besides my love of a crisp cool dry rose, especially those from Provence, there has always been something about this Oregon Pinot Noir rose from Stoller that has captivated me. On a hot day, I will often crave the palate of this peach colored
wine that expresses notes of strawberries, raspberries, watermelon and the crisp fruity acidity of ruby red grapefruit. 

It has also been about the experiences I have had at their winery, the camaraderie I had with friends who had joined me at the estate; from the stroll through the Stoller Estate Vineyards talking about the soil, the canopy of the vines, and even my personal future; to another visit at Stoller enjoying a picnic sack lunch out on the beautiful winery grounds with other wine writing peers. In those visits we were sharing camaraderie and most certainly we were sharing "love in a glass."  

My last visit to Stoller was three years ago, and the winery gave me one of their signature etched Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses. It was a token that meant a lot, as whenever I look at the glass, whether it is in the cupboard or I am using it, the glass brings back so many wonderful memories of events ...

Thoughts From A Former Tasting Room Staff

The other day I was working on my blog. I decided to change the coloring and just freshen it up. As I was "cleaning" it, I happened to notice some former blogs I wrote, especially one where I ranted about some of the customers I have met along the way.

Now you could wag your finger at me and admonish me for "picking" on the customer, but technically the wine customer is typically savvy about the world and if not, usually eager to grow and learn. However, like any group of people, there are always those who will try manipulate, mangle, and mash things up to get their way.

The lesson to be learned here is that no matter what kind of bullshit the customer gives you, it is important to keep smiling and/or refer the customer to your manager. If there is no manager around, then just keep smiling and create scenarios and dialogue in your mind to get you through it. For example, it is okay for you to visualize in your mind how when the customer isn't looking, you pour wine from the spit bucket into their glass. Of course, you really don't want to do that, as you want to still sell them some wine.

Here are a few tidbits of dialogue I created in mind of things I wanted to say - - but didn't. Just remember, keep smiling.

Me saying to customer: "Gosh, as much as we would like to accommodate you, we don't stack discounts. Our computer doesn't recognize them."


Me thinking: "Oh forget about all of those discounts. Why don't we just give you a key to the winery so you can help yourself to as much free wine anytime you want? Can I come over and clean your toilet, too? Really. I don't mind."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer: "No problem. It's easy to see how we get mixed up."

Me thinking: "Ahem - and earlier you were telling somebody on the phone that the manager was your best friend, so you could get a special deal and now you don't remember what your "best friend" looks like."

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to new hot shot industry person who brings his friends in to dazzle them with his self importance two minutes before closing time: "Really, that is amazing! You sure know a lot about wine."

Me thinking: "You effing idiot. I know about you and I also know that you finally got your first job when you were 38 years old because your folks called in some favors and you've been living in their basement. Tell your brilliant wine data to the wine association. Do your friends know that your self named title of "Distributor" really means that you are the delivery person?"

But I don't say that. I just smile.

Me saying to customer who claims the Cabernet Sauvignon ...

Scintillation: Syncline Wine Cellars

Scintillating Definition: (adjective) 
sparkling or shining brightly, effervescent: "the scintillating sun"
brilliantly and excitingly clever or skillful: "the audience loved his scintillating wit"

Exactly! The audience loved his scintillating "Scintillation." 

When I first saw this exciting label and the fact there was a new bubbly in the Northwest, I searched it out.  I had no idea where this new wine was coming from. I even asked a distributor, who also happened to be the rep for Syncline Wine Cellars if they had heard of this new sparkling wine. They hadn't - - yet. It had to be the best kept secret around. Finally, it showed up in print on the distributor's catalog, and I was thrilled and rather anxious to get a hold of it. Indeed, it turned out this new bubbly was from Syncline Wine Cellars, located in Lyle, near the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in the southern part of Washington State. 

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to visit Syncline with a group of other wine and travel writers. We met up with James and Poppie Mantone at their modest facility tucked away in the gorgeous green woodsy setting. It is a working farm, yet a peaceful setting that takes you away from all of the problems of the world.  The Mantones wine emphasis is on Rhone varietals, biodynamic farming practices, and of course their beautiful location.  

James Mantone (photo by: W5)
Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Syncline was also producing a sparkler, and I was able to purchase a few bottles last spring. Knowing the reputation of the Mantones and their passion for beautiful and well made wines, I was comfortable to purchase this bubbly without a preview of tasting. 

The Scintillation label is produced as a brut and also a brut rose. Lately my passion has been sparkling dry roses and I always get so excited to spot a new one.  

Scintillation Brut Rose is produced with 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay from the Celilo Vineyard.  This vineyard rests on a bluff at Underwood Mountain, and overlooks the Columbia River Gorge. The vineyard can boast as having some of the oldest vines in the area....

Revisiting an old friend: Morrison Lane Syrah – 2005

Syrah is one of France's most noblest black grape varieties. This dark inky grape is known for its dark brooding color, distinctive and intense nose and palate. Here on the West Coast people will often think of California for Syrah. However, I will differ on that. Washington State, notably those Syrah vines from Walla Walla AVA, and especially now with the new "The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater" AVA across the border from Walla Walla, is known for some of the finest Syrah in the world, especially in North America. 

It's been my opinion, Syrah grown on rocks aside, that some of the best Syrah has come out of the old vineyard of Morrison Lane. Long time Walla Wallans, Dean and Verdie Morrison planted their first blocks of Syrah in 1994. It was a four-acre block. Now known as their "Old Block Syrah," more Syrah vines would come, as they planted 2.8 acres in 1998 and a year later, 6.5 acres. Local wineries such as K-Vintners, Walla Walla Vintners, Bunchgrass Winery, and others have had great success using the Morrison Lane fruit, especially the Syrah. So, it only made sense when the Morrison family opened their own winery in 2002, and produced their own estate Syrah along with other interesting estate grape varieties such as Counoise, and Carmenere. 

The first time I sampled Morrison Lane Syrah - 2005 was in June 2009 at a Vintage Walla Walla library tasting. A few weeks after that event, I made it a point to stop by the Morrison Lane tasting room to purchase a couple of bottles. Last year when Sean Morrison, Dean and Verdie's son, brought a few out of the library and was selling them, I added a few more bottles of Morrison Lane Syrah - 2005 to my collection.  In January I brought a bottle out to share at a special birthday party for my mother. Oh it was so lovely, I am happy to say I still have a few more bottles hidden.  At our family event, those family members and good friends, who are wine drinkers, made it a point to ask me about the wine in their glass, as they commented about how elegant and smooth it was. 

The Morrison Lane Syrah - 2005 was inky, rich, and indeed so smooth....

Saying Goodbye: Mannina Cellars

Time rolls along and before we know it, we look at a landmark and it is ten years later. Indeed. When I think of the time Mannina Cellars was first getting their start, so was this wine blog - ten years ago.

Don and Jason 
It's with a sad heart that I read last night Don and Nicole Redman have chosen to close Mannina Cellars after ten years of operation. It's bittersweet news, but I am very happy for them. They are free of the liabilities, the rigorous responsibilities, and hard work that goes along with owning a winery and vineyards. As they can tell you first hand, that owning a winery is not at all like the critics will lead themselves to believe, that winery owners sit in their chateau every evening overlooking their land and the sunset while sipping on a vintage wine. Even if an active owner of a winery does have a chateau, he or she is probably working his or her butt off in the cellar or working long hours during out of town events. And quite too often, winemakers usually wear more grapes than they drink. A winery like Mannina Cellars is no different than any mom and pop business. Don and Nicole have a young family and now have more time to watch their daughters and son grow and be a part of those monumental times of their children's lives.

A young friend from Wyoming, Jason Baggett, was looking to extend his education and go the winemaking route. We encouraged him to come to the Institute for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla instead of  the U.C. Davis winemaking program. Jason was looking for an internship before he would land in Walla Walla and start school. He called me one day and asked what I knew about Mannina Cellars and the guy that owned it. I told him it was a perfect fit and to take the job. I remember calling Don and telling him that Jason would be the perfect fit - - and they were. To this day, even though Jason has moved back to Wyoming, Jason and the Redman family have a lifelong friendship....

Bubbling Over: Champagne Tasting

The last couple of years I have really paid attention to Champagnes, and other sparkling wines, such as Cremants and Cavas. We seem to have this attitude that Champagnes and other sparklers are reserved for special occasions. Not so! The older I get, every day I wake up is a special occasion. Possibly the myth behind it all is that Champagnes are expensive. Not always true. There are many affordable sparkling wines on the market, and again, especially Cremants, Cavas, Proseccos, and good domestic sparkler can be found at affordable prices - - and I am not referring to those cheap American ones that are nothing but cheap white wine injected with carbon dioxide, either. 

Whitehouse-Crawford restaurant in Walla Walla held a Champagne tasting last week. The perfect time of the year to get us out of the slumps of a long winter and Valentine's Day around the corner. Of course, I had to attend, as I couldn't let such an opportunity slip by. Jenna Bicknell, manager of Whitehouse-Crawford was our host for the evening. She poured for us a total of eight different labels of bubbles.  All of them were Non Vintage, except one.  As always, I do not score, but instead will visit each of the wines and give my notes. 

Pierre Peters, NV Brut Grand cru, Blanc de Blanc, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
This is a sixth generation grower's Champagne.  The  estate is located in one of the villages that has received Grand Cru status, as well as the estate uses sustainable vineyard practices. Pierre Peters is a recognizable name for many Champagne lovers, but not one that can easily be located on the grocery store shelves, either.  It is 100% Chardonnay with very clean and crisp notes. 

Agrapart & Fils, NV Brut, Les Sept Crus
Sept Crus (7 Crus) means 100% of the fruit is produced from each of the seven villages in the Cotes des Blancs: Avize, Oger, Oiry, Cramant, Avenay,  Val d'Or, Bergères les Vertus, and Mardeuil. This translate into 70% Grand Cru, 30% Premier Cru....