Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Future of Wine Writing… Forget Poodles & Blobbers - Wordless #WW

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top 10 Things I Learned at Wine Camp

I really could have titled this post the Top 10 Things I Learned from DrinkNectar's Josh Wade because one day, at wine camp, I might have learned as much from him as I did from any of the breakout sessions. After a moment of reflection though, I realized how valuable that information he shared with me really was and decided to selfishly hoard (most of) it for myself. So, in my crazy Top- 1o style, I offer you The Top 10 Things I Learned at Wine Camp instead. I've tried to include the incredible teachers who enlightened me with their invaluable lessons, but periodically, the mass consumption of magnificent wine has fuzzied both my notes and my memories.

1. Don't just blog, write. (Steve Heimoff, SteveHeimoff)

2. Sometimes you're worthy in your unworthiness. (Hardee Wallace, DirtySouthWine)

3. You should have an "about me" page on your blog to draw people deeper into your site. (Josh Wade, DrinkNectar)

4. Unrequited love is the only kind that lasts. (Lettie Teague, lettieteague)

5. Think of wine as an additional condiment, like ketchup. (The Food Network's celebrity chef Jeffrey Saad, Passion For Food)

6. Acidity is a flavor, tannin is a feeling. (Overheard and beg to differ; acidity is a feeling too.)

7. A bad day in wine country is better than a good day in the office (William Allen, Simple Hedonisms)

8. Remember to use all of your sensory experiences when tasting wine. See it, smell it, feel it, taste it. (Meg Houston Maker, MakersTable) Shhhh, be vewy, vewey quiet… Can you hear the wine?

9. Walla Walla can mean water water in the native american lanaguage, but more traditionally it's defined as "Many Rivers."

10. What happens at Wine Camp, stays at Wine Camp.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How About a Little Toilet Wine?

It's official; toilet training is the job from hell. I think it's quite possibly the worst part of parenthood, well it is for me anyway. On day five of "Potty Training Boot Camp" I can't imagine how we're going to get from where we are now to being able to have freedom again. We've been trapped in our house, chained to the smallest room by the invisible shackles of stubbornness, leaving only for a quick trip to get Burger King fries and Fanta orange soda on day four, when Shayden figured out if he didn't eat or drink he wouldn't have to use the bathroom. Thankfully, Fanta and fries won that battle.

This past week, there have been a few frightening moments where I've found myself longing for a glass of wine before 1:00pm, something to just lighten my spirit and give me the boost I need to muster up that extra bit of patience and empathy. Was it potty training that turned many housewives of the past into raging alcoholics, making them drink all day long? Sitting in the bathroom for hours, one's mind tends to wander. While staring at that shiny porcelain bowl, I dreamily thought about "Toilet Wine," and like Homer salivating over a doughnut, the mere suggestion of some powerful hooch made by prison convicts made me realize at that moment, I'd probably even down a glass of Boones Farm.

So,as the aromas of my son's urine wafted up from the floor below filling my nasal cavities with the intense smell of ammonia, I tried to imagine it was cat pee aromas from a lovely French Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc from the New Zealand's Marlborough region instead--ahhhhh Cat Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, even a wine with a silly name like that could be a savior.

I keep thinking back on one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, and the main character Andy Dufresne  ... "who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side". As I clean up the floor and the toilet, and everything else within spraying distance, the one thing that's getting me through the week is knowing at some point it's going to click for him--it has to. We will come out clean on the other side. My patience is being tested, and my family duties (bad pun intended) have pulled me away from my blog, social media and the big wide world of wine. So, while I'm not busy celebrating new life or being consumed with diapers and feeding schedules like my good buddy Suburban Wino (who has still miraculously and unbelievably found time to blog and tweet), I am tied up with my family and, yes, I'm sure it comes as no surprise, there are some things that will always be more important than wine. Until we sip again.


I should probably mention, this blog post was actually composed in the body of an email, because after 10 very long years, my old computer finally died. Not to let that be the sucker punch that would land me face down on the mat, I borrowed my 22-year-old son's laptop (or what I thought was a laptop), but discovered it didn't even have Acrobat Reader or Word. When I asked him about not having basic programs on his computer, I was informed it was a media center, not a laptop. Ahhhh. Blogging via email it is. Thanks for your patience, in fact, let's drink to it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Wineries to Chill Out in Summer

This weekend's summer-like weather in Oregon reminded me that the warm season has probably already set in, perhaps even taking a choke hold around much of the country. As I continued my winery trek, with blue skies and a warm glowing sun finally accompanying me, it dawned on me how many people might now be looking for the optimum places to hang out and soak up some of this yummy sunshine while sipping some of the best wine around. Since I've already done so much of the legwork, allow me to share with you the following list of what I think are some of Oregon's best-kept secret winery outdoor spaces:

1. Bethel Heights

2. Adelsheim Vineyard

3. Cana's Feast Winery

4. Winderlea Wine Company

5. Vista Hills Vineyard

6. Elk Cove Vineyards

7. Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

8. Van Duzer Vineyards

9. Stoller

10. Anne Amie Vineyards

Though the season is typically not too long (summer really doesn't take hold until July in Oregon), the state takes its summer sunshine seriously. This list is just a sampling of the many great tasting rooms with lovely patios and decks to absorb scenic vineyard and valley views. Dig into my list of wineries and find out which ones are doing up the season just right, you'll find Bocce, disc golf, luncheons, bruncheons, views, music, hikes and much, much more. Summertime, and the living is easy. Until we sip again…


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small Wine Producers… For the Win!

Nothing could keep me from a Memorial weekend discovery of boutique wineries in Oregon's wine country. In fact, to ensure I wouldn't miss it all, I left the comfort of my family and drove until 2:30am until I finally arrived home in time to catch a few zzz's all so I could present you with the following (truth be known, it was worth all the effort).

Anam Cara
Founded by: Nick and Sheila Nicholas
Winemaker: Aron Hess
Vineyard: 35 acres, planted in 2001, including some of
Oregon's original David Lett Vadensville Pinot Noir clones

The words Anam Cara are Celtic meaning "friend of my soul" and symbolize the long journey they've taken to produce wine. The boys were busy digging holes in the vineyard, while Digger the hole digging dog was busy hamming it up for my camera. Sheila and Nick hold a "Garage Sale" twice per year (Labor Day & Memorial Day), but you can visit by appointment and you'll be welcomed. Though Sheila's Pinot noir's are excellent, and I've heard some think her Chardonnay is the best they've ever tasted, I was completely bowled over by her 2008 Riesling—bone dry and bright with complex yet elegant notes of jasmine, pear and honeysuckle… I love this wine!

Laura Volkman
Founded by: Jim and Laura Volkman
Winemaker: Laura Volkman
Vineyard: 3.5 acres of Pinot noir, planted in 2002

Laura Volkman Vineyards was planted in 2002. A true boutique winery, producing a mere 500 cases per year. With the exception of their Chardonnay, Laura carefully crafts all their wines from estate fruit at August Cellars, located just down the road.

Natalie's Estate Winery
Founded by: Boyd and Cassandra Teegarden
Winemaker: Boyd Teegarden
Vineyard: 2 acres of Pinot noir, the rest of the fruit is sourced from The Dalles and Yakima Valley

Natalie's Estate Winery, located in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, is named for the owner and founder's 12-year-old daughter. The winery released their first commercial vintage in 2000 and is now producing 2,300 cases a year of 12 different wines. The whites are all stainless steel fermented showing bright, crisp and true flavors, while the Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet and red blend were equally impressive. This is definitely a winery to watch.

Anderson Family Vineyard
Founded by: Cliff and Allison Anderson
Winemaker: Cliff Anderson
Vineyard: 16.5 acres on a mountain of fractured basalt with broken rocks hundreds of feet deep forming the foundation for the rocky terrace.

Anderson Family Vineyards has been growing grapes for Oregon's premium wine producers for years, and their grapes can be seen in a current collection (as shown in the photo above). In 2002, they crafted their own wines and released their first commericial bottling. They primarily grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (producing some of Oregon's finest unoaked Chardonnay I've had the pleasure of tasting) but have less than an acre of Pinot Gris which was accidentally planted after being mislabeled by the nursery. Producing under 1,000 cases a year, they were clearly thinking of the future when they built their magnificent new winery production and tasting facility.

Monks Gate
Founded by: Ron and Linda Moore
Winemaker: Ron Moore
Vineyard: 20 acres planted on the 50-acre estate

Monks Gate, located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, is a wonderfully unpretentious taste of history. With the old barn, rustic tasting room and the Moore's country hospitality, you're sure to feel right at home. The story of Monks Gate is as rich as the land. In 1988, on the day Ron bought the property (full of overgrown Christmas trees, scrub oak and blackberry bramble), he was surveying the land when two monks from the nearby Trappist Abbey walked out of the woods. After introductions, the monks inquired about Ron's plan for the land and he informed them he intended to grow wine grapes. They asked if he planned to put up a fence because this path was their shortcut from the Abbey to town, and he told them if he did, he would put in a gate for them, and he did.

Ghost Hill Cellars
Founded by: The Bayliss family
Winemaker: Rebecca Shouldis
Vineyard: 15 acres planted on the 234-acre estate

Ghost Hill Cellars is named for an old legend about from the 1860s when Oregon was in the midst of a gold rush. A miner traveling from southern Oregon to Portland with his hard-mined gold decided to camp for the night at the top of the hill that overlooks the site where the vineyard is now planted. During the night, someone killed the miner and his horse and stole his gold. Story has it, the miner is said to wander the hill with his horse, looking for his stolen gold. The farm has been in the Bayliss family since 1906, with the fourth and fifth generation now at the helm. Winemaker Rebecca Shouldis is crafting some very unique and memorable wines using only estate fruit. Her Rosé was gorgeous, and I so wished I had been able to include it in my review of Oregon Rosés, next year!!

Stag Hollow
Founded by: Jill Zarnowitz and Mark Huff
Winemaker: Mark Huff
Vineyard: 34-acre estate with a 10-acre designated wildlife preserve

Stag Hollow is an Old World-style family estate that's been producing wine since 1994. Stag Hollow will be at TASTE THE PLACE in Portland on Saturday, August 30,from 5-8pm (check their website for more information). They were offering tremendous discounts on their quality wine for the holiday weekend as well as selling futures of their 2008s. A testament to Stag Hollow's quality, their wine is currently being used by the prestigious Joel Palmer House for their private label Cuvée.

Founded by: Kevin and Robin Howard
Winemaker: Kevin Howard
Vineyard: One-acre of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris planted on the five-acre estate.

Séjourné is a small estate winery located within the Yamhil-Carlton AVA which, in addition to the vineyard, grows lavender gardens as well. They have a Wine Room in downtown McMinnville where you can taste the wines and pair them with small bites, but I chose to visit the actual winery and get a real feel for the place. Séjourné literally means "place of rest." The Howards wish is for their guests to enjoy their wines in the warm ambiance of their tasting room or relaxing in the adjacent garden patio while enjoying views of lavender fields, orchards, vineyards and the rolling hills of the valley below.

I was seriously amazed at the number of wineries I visited over two days, but still missed so many; I need more holiday weekends!! Lots of highlights on this day's outings, and it's so hard to narrow it down, but the best of the best for me (wine and experience) was Natalie's Estate, Anderson Family Vineyard and Monk's Gate. Until we sip again…


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fantasies and Oenoloompas

I love to imagine this… it’s really one of my greatest fantasies. No, it’s not a naughty fantasy—well, this one’s not anyway. The story goes like this.

Once upon a time, there was this man, Mr. Willy Wineka, who was fed up with the evil politics of commercial competition and wine scores, so he escaped society and had been secretly making exceptional wine for years behind the locked gates of his castle-cellar. Rumor had it that no one had ever seen him, or anyone else, come or go and people speculated about how he was still producing such amazing wine after all this time. One year, Mr. Wineka sent out an invitation to a few select people around the world and I was one of the lucky few who received that rare purple ticket to attend a tour and tasting of the most famed wine producers of all time. Here’s a glimpse at some of his best-kept secrets and what went on behind the castle gate.

The man, the myth, the legend himself opened his gates and greeted me and the other anxious and excited guests and then proceeded to escort us into what could have been one of the Seven Wonders of the World. After Violet Beaujelais, Augustus Gulp, Charlie Dumpbucket, Veruca Sekt, Mike Winelibrary Teevee and I had our ID's checked, we each signed contracts stating we wouldn’t divulge any of Mr. Wineka's secret formulas to Mr. Whatsitworth or anyone else, the cellar doors were thrown open to reveal a most magnificent site. There, before our eyes, was a river the color of wine running right through the middle of the castle. Recognizing our surprise, Mr. Wineka told us that not only is this the only winery in the world to do punchdowns by waterfall, it’s also the only winery to blend their wine by river. “It’s the only way… if you want it just right”, he said. I started to question him, “But what about the exposure to oxygen?” and like he himself had trained Cesar Milan The Dog Whisperer, he shushed me with a firm shht sound and quick snapping of his fingers as if imitating a duck’s beak quacking.

Looking around, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Located on bars all around the room where little Riedel crystal wine glasses filled with liquids of all colors, ranging from the color of sunshine to the darkest night. Mr. Wineka recommended the snozberry port, said it was a very good vintage for snozberries. While I was sampling the array of dessert wines, Augustus Gulp got it in his head to taste the wine in the river and of course, proceeded to topple right in. Unfortunately, he couldn’t swim and wasn’t handling the waterfall well when we last saw him. Mr. Wineka assured us not to attempt a rescue and said everything would be taken care of before fermentation.

Slightly alarmed, we walked with some trepidation until he took us on a tour of his barrel room where we forgot all about big, old Augustus. Mr. Wineka showed us how each barrel was in fact a giant keg, and ideal for on-the-spot pours or custom blending, and then we all played winemaker for a bit while he told us about his Everlasting Corkstopper. Mr. Wineka has designed a new closure that permanently removes any possibility of cork taint, virtually guaranteeing the integrity of the wine like the world has never before known. Apparently, this is one of the products Mr. Whatsitworth has been trying to steal, so Mr. Wineka was quite emphatic about making sure we had given him back all his Corkstoppers. When he came up one short, he didn’t waste any time and immediately sent out the corksniffers who discovered Mike Winelibrary Teevee was packing more than just his hands in pockets. Mr. Wineka blew a little whistle, and out of nowhere came these little purple men who gave Mike the boot. Who were those little purple men,” Violet asked. “Haven’t you ever seen an Oenoloompa before? They come from Oenoloompaland, surely you’ve been there. They do a lot more around here than just provide security”, replied Mr. Wineka. And then I heard her say it, the words that would eventually do her in. “I want an Oenoloompa!” Mr. Wineka pretended not to notice and continued on with the tour.

We took a wild boat ride that delivered us downriver to an entirely new section of the castle where we learned we’d be touring the bubble room. Um, did he say bubble room? He opened the door slowly and as he did, I could see the whole space was teaming with bubbles. Oh, I thought he was talking about Champagne. As if he heard my thoughts, Mr. Wineka said “Bubbles, bubbles everywhere and not a drop to drink…” and then spinning on his heels, he turned, pointed his finger at me and said “yet”. “This is called Champagne Fizzy Lifter—it’s a sparkling wine I’m working on that actually lightens the mood and elevates more than just your spirit. But, it’s still in R&D, we’re still trying to work out some of the bugs.” Veruca said she wanted one, but it was Charlie who was hanging around the bubble room a bit too long—and when I saw him sneak a sip of the Champagne Fizzy Lifter, I knew there was going to be trouble. Charlie immediately started to float upwards towards the ceiling and the fans above and though Mr. Wineka was aware of Charlie’s dilemna, he just turned to us and said “Three greedy little boys gone, three sweet girls remain.” We wondered if Charlie was with his Angels now.

Veruca, Violet and I looked at each other scanning the other’s faces for a sign, any sign we should leave before we got into trouble too. The suspense was terrible, but we hoped it would last. No matter how afraid we were, in the end, we were dying to know what other surprises lay around the next corner and what other brilliant covert projects he might be working on, so we stayed.

For his next act, Mr. Wineka decided to show us the golden eggs. “Have you ever heard of a fish that lays golden eggs,” he asked? When we entered the room with three fish tanks, we had no idea what we were in store for. Mr. Wineka was keeping three rare albino sturgeon that produced the most magnificent and exceptional golden caviar, the perfect complement to his sparkling white wine (Surf and Turf Bubbles). When Veruca and Violet heard the words golden eggs, Veruca said she wanted one now and Violet said she was so tired of hearing that. The two got into a hissing match and cat fight until Veruca really showed her fangs and bit Violet’s ear off. Violet’s face was turning violet and when the two rolled over and hit one of the fish tanks, a security measure that was in place released a lever in the floor, dropping both girls into the unknown depths below. Mr Wineka quietly smiled an eerie smirk at me and said, “They were both bad eggs.”

Just the two of us remained. Mr. Wineka and I took the Winekavator, and as if drunk on our experience, I could have sworn we were going sideways and slantways and longways and backways and frontways and squareways and any other ways that you can think of. Mr. Wineka confessed to me that he was getting old and realized he couldn’t go on making wine forever. He knew he needed someone he could trust when he left the business, someone passionate about wine, someone who would take care of the Oenoloompas, so he sent out the invitations and used the tour as a test of character. He put his arm warmly around my shoulder and said, “Tamara, the winery is yours. You can move in anytime.” And as the tears filled my eyes, he looked at me and declared, “But don’t forget about the girl who suddenly got everything she ever wanted… she lived happily ever after.”

Unitl we sip again…


Monday, June 7, 2010

Boutique Wineries Offer Rare Tasting Opportunites

Like the “Shot Heard Round the World,” Memorial Day triggers the start of the wine tasting season and since many of the smaller boutique wineries are only open two holiday weekends a year, it was also the shot that signaled me to get out and taste as many of them as I could.

Quailhurst Vineyard Estate
Founded by: Dr. Marvin Hausman
Winemaker: Joe Dobbes
Vineyard: 35 acres planted in 1998 on 75-year-old estate

Quailhurst has a stunning location, perched high atop Parrot Mountain in Sherwood and makes exceptional estate wines of high quality and character. The grounds of their unique estate also feature riding arenas, stables and pastures to support their horse breeding and Dressage center located adjacent to the grape vines.

Hawks View Cellars
Founded by: Jack and Willie Kemp
Winemaker: Ryan Harms
Vineyard: 130-acre estate, 45 acres since in 1991

Hawks View Cellars is a relative newcomer on the scene and making a huge splash with their finely crafted wines, comfortable tasting room, stunning five-peak view and their proximity to Portland.

Vercingetorix (VX)
Founded by: the Hall family in1959—owned and operated by the grown children since 2009
Winemaker: Laurant Montelieu and Jason Silva
Vineyard: 11 acres planted on the 210-acre riverfront farm


No, it’s not the name of a newly discovered dinosaur but rather a fun and unpretentious winery tucked away in Newberg next to the Willamette River. Vercingetorix is named for a Gallic hero who is recognized for saving Burgundy’s Pinot noir from Roman invasion, VX converted an old apple orchard to vineyards and is producing grapes using a Geneva double curtain trellis (Oregon growers typically use the Scott Henry trellis system).

Durant Vineyards at Red Ridge Farms
Founded by:Ken and Penny Durant in 1973
Winemaker:Partner with different winemakers who their purchase grapes such as Jesse Lange and Dean Fisher.
Vineyard:Over 60 acres of some of the oldest vineyards in the Red Hills of Dundee.1

Durant Vineyards sells their fruit to 73 premium wine producers in the Valley, finally creating their first estate wines in 2003. Their tasting room is located on Red Ridge Farms, which also showcases the family’s herb and specialty plant nursery, a unique gift shop, intimate Bed and Breakfast and Yamhill Valley’s first olive oil pressing facility. Cottonwood Winery and Cancilla Cellars were also pouring wines there for the holiday weekend.

Le Cadeau/Aubichon
Founded by:Tim and Deb Mortimer in 1997
Le Cadeau Winemaker:Different for each bottling
Aubichon Winemaker:Jim Sanders
Vineyard:: 28-acres of rocky soil planed in 1999

Aubichon purchases all their fruit to produce their acid-driven wines while Le Cadeau uses only estate fruit from their Parrot Mountain vineyard located on basalt and volcanic soil. Le Cadeau wines are each made by a different winemaker and each show an honest commonality of vineyard.

Ken Wright Cellars
Founded by:Karen and Ken Wright in 1994
Winemaker:Ken Wright
Vineyard:55 acres located throughout the Willamette Valley

Ken Wright has the distinction as being known for being one of Oregon’s first winemakers to craft single vineyard designates. I have to put this out there too, though they very nicely let me in at closing time, they were also the first tasting room I’ve visited to charge me a fee. And though I at first balked at the $20 charge (I don’t drink, I don’t eat, I don’t linger and I’m going to write about them), but Ken Wright was so damn charming, in the end I nearly forgot I paid them money to blog about them.

Carlton Cellars
Founded by: Dave Grooters and Robin Russell in 2001
Winemaker: Dave Grooters
Vineyard: 22 acres in the Yamhill Carlton AVA planted in 2003

Carlton Cellars opened their modest tasting room in 2007, debuted its first commercial bottling in 2007, and as a tribute to the ocean, which so profoundly influences and defines its wine, they’ve named each of their wines for a special place along the Oregon coast. Saturday, June 19th kicks off their not-to-be-missed Summer Vineyard Lunch Tour where for $35 (or $90 for all three), you’ll enjoy a lunch feast and tour of the vineyard at three integral times of the growing season (bloom, lag and veraison).

Raptor Ridge Winery
Founded by: Scott and Annie Shull in 1995
Winemaker: Scott Shull
Vineyard: 18 acres on the northeast side of the Chehalem Mountains

Raptor Ridge (who placed third in my recent tasting of Oregon Rosés) acquired its name from all the birds of prey that share the winery’s 27-acre estate. Their vineyard is actually named Tuscowallame, which is an indigenous word meaning “place where the owls dwell.” Taking their names seriously, instead of naming the vineyard blocks after family members (like so many wineries do), each block is beautifully named to honor the foreman who planted it (Adalfo, Macario and Dustin).

Tasting so many wineries in a day left little time for detailed tasting notes, so while I haven’t highlighted the standout wines like I typically do, I would like to mention my favorite wines of the day came from Quailhurst (though the horse stable tasting room added to the overall experience, the smell unfortunately didn’t contribute to the bouquet of the wine at all), Durant Vineyards and Ken Wright.

Inspiration for the photo collages comes from fellow blogger Josh, whose blog PDXploration details cool fun and unique things to do in this fair city and always features gorgeous photography. You can find him on Twitter: @PDXploration.

The whirlwind weekend wrap-up unbelievably continues next with Anam Cara, Laura Volkman, Natalies, Estate, Anderson Family Vineyards, Monks Gate, Ghost Hill Cellars, Stag Hollow and Sejourne. Until we sip again…


Friday, June 4, 2010

Vintage 1968 - It Was a Very Good Year

I was born the day after Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed; vintage 1968 was ripe with assassinations—starting first with Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights Act was passed, the country was at war with Vietnam and peace demonstrations and reports of the dead led the news. However painful a time, the turmoil and unrest around the world birthed some amazing music; the Beatles released the White Album, Simon and Garfunkel were on the rise and Louis Armstrong was singing about the wonderful world.

Put the political mayhem aside and remember the year also marked the premiere of the futuristic movie 2001 A Space Odyssey, the opening of the arresting Broadway musical Hair, Yale College finally unchained the locks on its Old Boy’s doors and admitted women to study the same programs as men, and to every little boy’s delight, Mattel introduced Hot Wheels cars.

Speaking of cars, talk about an epic vintage: ’68 Corvettes, Mustangs, Cameros, Shelbys… muscle cars the world will never know again. And aside from myself, movie stars like Daniel Craig, Will Smith, Gary Coleman (RIP), Molly Ringwald and my least favorite, Rachel Ray (though if she's wearing that, who cares what she's serving up) also hail from the 1968 vintage, and while I hear it wasn’t the best year for wine, at the very least, it sure delivered some interesting people.

Sadly, a rainy summer made for a poor harvest in France and Italy, but Spain and Portugal are rumored to have a few decent (though obscenely expensive) wines from that era, as is California. So, being that I was born in California, circa 1968, one may conclude that makes me a decent vintage too, no? Let’s all drink to that and until we sip again…


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Seduce Your Palate: Why Wine and Food are Better than Sex

Recently, while out for a very romantic dinner at Allium Bistro, I was seemingly participating in what could have been a culinary orgy when it occurred to me that wine and food might just be better than sex—even really good sex! Yeah, that's right, I said it. Read my guest post on DRINKnectar and find out why!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Savvy Marketing Ploy Leads to Sweet Costco Wine Score

I recently found myself diverted from my typical Oregon wine tasting excursions to honor my mother-in-law who retired after 36 years of teaching high school English. We were having a big party for her and made a special trip to the Kennewick, Washington Costco to pick up some cheesecakes (as if you could just go to Costco for one thing). Since we had to pass through the wine section to get to the bakery, my eyes were browsing all the lovely local offerings along the way, with no intention of buying a thing. As I strolled past a certain bin, however, my eyes became locked… I was mesmerized by what I was seeing. Were all those bottles really hand signed? It was as if they were a hand written invitation, sent directly to me. I read all the different ways the winemaker had signed the bottles, “Cheers, Salut, Prost, Skal… ” and I knew I would be buying one. Fortunately, my mom-in-law saw my interest (or the puddle of drool pooling at the side of my mouth) and she bought it for me. So, cheers to you Marcie, both for your heartfelt dedication to your students and for supporting me as a writer/blogger/person. Congratulations, and I truly hope retirement rocks!!

The wine that caught my eye like a handsome man across the room at a boring party was a 2008 Tamarack Cellars Chardonnay; I was familiar with Tamarack Cellar's wine as they make some killer reds. I liked the name (or its similarity with my own anyway). The price point was extremely attractive—at $15, if it was good, it would be an affordable luxury. But, I have to tell you, what really sold me on that bottle was the personal touch—the autograph. I try to be a savvy consumer and not fall for clever gimmicks. Animals, sexy women and funny names don’t typically suck me in, but a signed bottle, well that’s obviously a whole other story. What a cool conversation piece.

Tamarack Cellars, founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman, is located in Walla Walla Washington, though they source their fruit from premium vineyard sites located within several different Washington AVAs (American Viticultural Area). The winery must be a site, as it’s housed in a restored WWII fire station and barracks at the Walla Walla Airport Complex, which I sincerely hope to visit when I go to the Wine Bloggers Conference at the end of this month (woohoo!).

I admit to some trepidation purchasing this wine; I was afraid I was being suckered in by a silly signature that added a perceived value. That signature (which was actually that of the Assistant Winemaker—as opposed to the Head Winemaker and founder—so, feeling ever so slightly duped) was enough to change my expectation of that wine, after all, Danny Gordon put his name on it—it had to be good. I worked through my fear, brought the wine home, chilled that bad boy down and poured up a glass that didn’t make me imagine Mr. T saying he pitied the fool who fell sucker to a dumb marketing ploy. Until we sip again…