I had heard of Red Mountain. It is on the East end of the Yakima Valley AVA in Washington and was all the buzz. I had even heard it called “Washington’s Napa”. I was skeptical, not of the wines, but of the buzz. So on our first trip to Washington for a wine conference in Walla Walla, we focused our extra time elsewhere.
Returning a little less than a year later, we had a little more time to spend and time to research. As we have been focusing on biodynamic vineyards, we looked for one in the Red Mountain AVA, and came across the Hedges Family Estate.
The history, the beginnings
As I started exploring their site and learning about the Estate and the family I was anxious to see the property and speak with Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the daughter of the owners and their winemaker.
The property is beautiful. Upon arriving you feel as if you have been swept away to a French Château. This is no accident. Sarah’s mother Anne-Marie, is originally from Champagne….but wait….let me tell this story in order.
Tom Hedges & Anne-Marie Liégeois
Sarah’s farther Tom is from the Tri-Cities area. His family arrived in Washington back in 1888, settling first in the Waterville area and farming wheat, then moving to Wenatchee to grow apples. Her grandfather got a job in Hanford, so the family moved to this area.
Sarah’s mother, as I said before is from Champagne. It was at a party in Mexico, that her parent’s met. Her mother, there studying language, her father, studying tequila production, while getting his masters in International Business. 3 months after the party they were engaged, a year later married. It’s a romance that is coming up on 45 years.
The beginnings of the Hedges Brand
They traveled the world with her father, Tom, working in International Produce sales, spending time in South America, North East Canada and finally ending up in Seattle, with Tom looking for a new direction. West Coast wines were becoming a thing, so they started brokering wines, starting with bulk wines internationally, then getting more specific when they started getting requests for Washington wines. The first Hedges wine was sold to the government of Sweden. 5000 cases blended from the bulk wine they sourced from Washington. It was popular and inexpensive compared to European wines. The 2nd year they doubled their volume and decided to try selling this wine in the states. This is when the Hedges Brand was born. They moved from buying bulk wine to buying grapes.
The decision to build on Red Mountain
Then came a trip to Vin Expo in Bordeaux where they were continually asked where their vineyard was. Her father was confused, but her mother explained. In France you are nothing without land. So then the decision to be made was, build a winery or buy land? Her father went to a High School reunion in 1989 and heard that Red Mountain was going to be big, with the best fruit in the state. So decision made, they bought 40 acres at somewhere around $1,200 an acre, and they got the last private water rights ever granted in the area.
In 1995 they broke ground on the Château. This is a place that with it’s attention to detail, transports you to France. Vines line the circular driveway leading up to the Château. You enter through the cobbled walkway shaded by Umbrella Calabra trees, with stone benches and lanterns that you can invision lit at evening. When you reach the entrance you arrive in a courtyard with seating under the trees and a large fountain. The large winery doors beckon, but so does the view of Red Mountain the other direction.
We will continue with our interview with Sarah, discussing the biodynamic practices they have chosen to employ on the estate.
This month the French Winophiles are diving into a French Wine 101. It’s timely as we all enter our comments to the government in opposition to proposed 100% European wine tariffs. (If you have not heard about this, I’ll post some links at the bottom for more information.) We have done a bit of writing on French wines and you will find links to those pieces. Many of these pieces were written in conjunction with the French #Winophiles, which means there is the extra bonus, of each of those pieces having links to other articles written by the rest of the #Winophiles! If you are interested in French wine, you will have plenty of reading available!
French Wine 101
I’m here to rally for French wine. If you are new to wine, French wine can be a bit overwhelming so let’s start at the beginning.
World vs New World
sure, when we say “Old World” in reference to wines, we think first of French
wines. But what does “Old World”
mean? From a scholastic point of view: Old
world wines are dominated by terroir, they are defined by place. Typically these wines are more restrained and
elegant. New World wines, on the other
hand tend to be reflective of the winemaker’s style and are often more fruit
forward and bold.
is a really broad definition of the differences, and doesn’t always hold true,
but when people say “Old World” and “New World” this is what they are thinking.
France, wines are named for the region they come from, not by the variety of
grape as we do in the new world. This
takes us back to that idea of “terroir” which is a sense of place, with soil,
and climate. So rather than speaking
about Chardonnay in France, you would speak of Chablis or White Burgundy. Both of those wines are made with Chardonnay,
but the wine is named for the region.
we think of Bordeaux, we think of age worthy reds. These are typically Cabernet or Merlot based,
depending on which bank of the river the region sits. And you will notice that I said “based”.
These wines are blends of the different varieties of grapes that grow best in
There is one exception to this. In Alsace, the white wine region on the German border in the North East of France, wines are often labeled with the variety. This comes from the German culture and this area throughout the ages, has bounced back and forth between French and German control.
Without going too deep into the wine labels (that’s a rabbit hole best saved for another day), let’s talk about some of the most well known French Wine Regions, and I’ll give you a translation for what varieties you will see from each.
I love maps. It gives you a better sense of the geography and influences on a region. I could dive into the climates and soils in each of these regions (I do love to get geeky on these things), but this is French Wine 101! So let’s put together some dots for you, on what varieties you will find in each of these regions and what you might want to eat with each of these wines!
Loire Valley – Val de Loire
This is white wine country! You will find a bit of red, but the white wines are likely to be the ones you have heard of.
On the West end of the Loire Valley closest to the Atlantic Ocean. Melon de Bourgogne, which you will hear called Muscadet, is most prevalent here. This is a dry white wine that pairs really well with seafood. You will get citrus, and green apple and pear along with a lovely note of salinity. Go for shellfish with this wine
Moving east Chenin Blanc begins to shine. Vouvray and Saviennières are well known Chenin Blancs from the regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur respectively. The two can be very different. Vouvray can be made from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, and you will find you need to do a bit of research to determine which sweetness level you are getting. Saviennières has been called the “most cerebral wine in the world”. These wines have depth of flavor, great acidity and minerality.
Sauvignon Blanc, is mainly found in the Upper Loire, the area furthest east and inland. Here you hear of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are crisp and high acid. Pair them with fish or poultry. With cheeses these are wonderful with goat cheese or other creamy cheeses (think brie).
Not to be overlooked is Cabernet Franc which in this region is the primary red wine. Chinon or Bourgueil in the Touraine region produce elegant Cab Francs. These wines can be slightly spicy with raspberry and violet notes and are a favorite at Parisian Bistros.
Well you know what Champagne is! This region and it’s soil and climate produce some of the world’s finest sparkling wines primarily from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
These wines, while often looked at a just for celebrations or just with the hors d’oeuvres at the top of the meal actually are perfect during a meal. The bubbles and acidity clean your palate making every bite taste as amazing as the first.
There are plenty of classic pairings, but try potato chips, buttered popcorn or fried chicken! The bubbles and acid with the fat and salt are heaven.
This region sits on the German border and as I mentioned earlier has bounced back and forth between French and German control. The names and architecture here reflect that mixed heritage and the wines do as well.
These bright aromatic white wines are perfect to keep your nose in all day or dab behind your ears. But…if you must move on to drinking them, pair them with fish, aromatic cheeses, schnitzle, salads…there are so many great pairings. These are also wines known for pairing well with spicy foods like Thai! You will find riesling, pinot gris, muscadet and gewurztraminer lead the pack on varieties.
a few other varieties including Pinot Noir, but you are less likely to run into
This is Chardonnay land, but not those big buttery California Chardonnays that your Aunt might drink. These are sharp and bright with great mineral quality! Pair with fish or chicken, oysters or other shellfish, mushrooms or cheese (think goat cheese or Comté). The sharp acid makes this great with creme sauces.
Chablis, above, is in Burgundy sitting 80 miles northwest of the rest of Burgundy. Burgundy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The Côte de Nuits is the Northern part of the Côte d’Or and is the region that Pinot Noir calls home. It ventures further afield, but this is it’s homeland and you will find some of the most expensive Pinot Noirs on the planet, hail from here.
Pinot Noir is perfect for red wine with fish. It is the go to wine to pair with salmon. Many Pinot Noirs also have earthy notes and pair beautifully with mushrooms.
The Côte de Beaune is dominated by Chardonnay. These are likely to be aged in oak. They will be richer and more buttery than those lean Chardonnays from Chablis, but they are still dry. Try this wine with pasta, chicken, risotto, shellfish or salt water fish and with cheeses like gruyere.
There is more to the region, the Côte Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, but we will leave those for another day.
Just south of Burgundy you find Beaujolais. This is a wine you will know better by the region name than by the grape, Gamay, that it is made from. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine released each year on the third Thursday in November. These early release wines are fresh and fruity, but the region does have other Gamay’s that are meant to be deeper and more age worthy.
Beaujolais Nouveau will be fruit forward and downright perky! Sometimes you will hear people say that they smell bubblegum or bananas in addition to raspberries and cranberry.
Aged Beaujolais might have notes of forest floor, mushroom, violet, tart cherry and smoke.
These are lighter wines and can pair across the spectrum from salmon to barbeque. Visit the Beaujolais site for a great graphic to assist with pairings for all the varied wines from this region.
I am a lover of Rhônes. Guaranteed…many of mine come from the Rhône Rangers that you find in California, and many of which were brought from Chateauneuf-de-Pape in the Southern Rhône.
The region is broken into the Northern and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is the land of Syrah and Viognier and typically very pure and expensive versions of these.
The Côte Rotie is known for some of the most amazing Syrah on the planet. I’ve heard it described as bacon and violets. Which sounds pretty amazing to me.
Condrieu is well known for 100% Viognier. This white wine is full bodied and round with notes of apricot, pear and almonds.
There are other appellations like Crozes Hermitage above and Cornas, there is more to explore here, if you have the budget.
The Southern Rhone is warmer as it heads down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and you will find blends of multiple varieties. The famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape is here with blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more. Wines here lean toward blends.
Red Rhône Blends
These will have berry notes (think raspberry and black berry) baking spice, and maybe some garrigue (think underbrush), lavender, dried herbs. The more Mourvedre, the more likely you will have meaty notes to the wine.
These go well with mediterranean foods, like olives and red peppers, and herbs like rosemary or sage (or herbs de Provençe).
White Rhône Blends
Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier make up the body of most white wines in this area. These blends are medium bodied and have notes of beeswax (I love that), as well as moderate citrus, like a meyer lemon, then stone fruits like peach and apricot.
Pair them with richer dishes with white meat (chicken or fish or even pork) and perhaps with fruits that are stewed or roasted. Dried apricots are a definite must on a cheese plate with these wines.
If you have heard of any region in France other than Champagne, it will be Bordeaux. This is the region that Napa Valley wants to be. It is the big daddy of French wine with bottles that can be very pricey and many that need considerable aging. When people pull out dusty bottles from their wine cellar, typically they are Bordeaux wines.
Left Bank Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon based)
Red wines here are classified by which bank of the river the vineyards sit on. Left bank wines are west of the river in Médoc and Graves. The reds here are Cabernet Sauvignon based.
Right Bank Reds (Merlot driven)
The Right bank wines are on the other side of the river in the Libournais. These wines are Merlot driven. The Entre-deux-mers, the area in the middle between the two, has much more fertile soil producing less concentrated (but more affordable) wines.
The bold reds of Bordeaux are perfect with rich meaty dishes, like a big steak.
Sweet wines of Sauternes
Down in Graves you find the region of Sauternes. These are my friend Corinne’s favorite wines. These are sweet wines made from grapes with “Noble rot”. The botrytis fungus takes hold of the grape and dries them out considerably. They are pressed into tiny amounts of wine that when fermented becomes sweet and delicious. These are wines to pair with bleu cheese or with desserts.
This is Rosê country, more than 1/2 the output of wine from this region is rosé. The mistral wind that whips down from the mountains keeping the vines in this Mediterannean region dry and free from disease. The landscape is dotted with lavender fields. It’s pretty dreamy.
In addition to those delicate ballet slipper pink rosés you will find Bandol, which is a rich red wine from Mourvedre.
Pair pink with pink. It’s delicious and pretty. Smoked salmon, ham, prosciutto, crab, lobster….you get the picture.
Yes…these wines are great in the summer. Their high acid and bright flavors are perfect to help you cool down on a hot day. But don’t overlook them at other times.
Is there more to French Wine? Why yes…so much more, there is the island of Corsica, the black wines of Cahors, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Rousillon…and then there are the wines that I have yet to discover!
Oh and did I mention Crémant? That would be sparkling wine from any region outside of Champagne! You want bubbles and value? It’s your go to!
Dive deep into the links and the links in the links and take a little vacay to France sans airfare!
There are so many ways to dive into French Wine, I have only scratched the surface. Why not check out the other #Winophiles and their approaches to the subject! You can join us for the conversation on Twitter on Saturday Morning January 18th (8 am PST, 11 am EST) by following the hashtag #Winophiles!
I’m not going to claim to be any kind of expert on social media. I’m just a wine writer, trying to find her way and maybe find her tribe? We’ve been publishing pieces on Crushed Grape Chronicles for a while now. A bit before that there was an incarnation called Rootstock. We are always searching for new ways to get things out there, and find new communities where people are sharing wine stories. I thought, here at the start of the year, I might share a few we have discovered with you. Some of these are facebook groups, some are #hashtags, some are more active writing groups.
Wine Country Around the World Writers
Yep…it’s a long name. This group was founded by Sarah Strierch and is the group I participate in daily. Sarah based it on some groups she was a part of in the travel industry. The way it’s set up can seem a little complicated. I will admit to being a little intimidated when I first started, but now that I am familiar with it, it’s pretty simple. We even created a video to explain how it works.
It’s a great interactive way to get out on social media and I have met some amazing people through this group. Pop over to the Wine Country Around the World Writers facebook page and join us.
This #hashtag is a movement started by Sarah Tracy on Instagram (hmmm…there is a Sarah theme going on here). I met Sarah at the Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla Washington. The photo above is Sarah posing with a puppy after she gave a sparkling wine pairing seminar! You can follow her on instagram at @thelushlife.xyz . Head to her instagram page and click on the story entitled #youcansipwithus, to hear why she founded this group, from her own lips. I will tell you that it is a group that is meant to be inclusive of all people interested in wine. Some of these people may be writers, others may be social media influencers. It is a group that is not for bullying, it is for sharing new ideas and perspectives on this wonderful elixir that we all enjoy.
Friends who like wine in the glass
This was the first Facebook wine group I found. It’s founders Steve & Vashti Roebuck are actually Vegas based like I am. It is an public group where you may share and discuss all things wine. You can find them here Friends Who Like Wine In The Glass
The French #Winophiles
The French Winophiles is a writing group, which is actually one of 3. I am only active in the French #Winophiles due to time constraints, but I hope to eventually dip into the other groups.
The French #Winophiles is a group of writers who “Explore French Food and Wine pairings on the third Saturday of each month”. Together the active members work to create a calendar for the year of French regions to explore. A topic is chosen for the month, and someone volunteers to host,. That person posts an invitation for people to write pieces on the topic. The pieces are posted on the 3rd Friday each month and everyone includes the links within their piece. Saturday morning at 8 am PST (or a more reasonable 11 am EST), they gather on twitter following the hashtag #Winophiles. There is an hour of discussion on the wines their pairings. It’s a great fun interactive group headed by Jill Barth of L’Occasion …but it really works as an ensemble.
#WinePW & #ItalianFWT
There are two other groups. Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW gathers on the second Saturday each month. Italian Food Wine & Travel #ItalianFWT which takes the 1st Saturday each month!
All of the groups are welcoming and the invitation post gives you the details of how to join. Here’s a link to a this months invitation post for the French #Winophiles from Jeff at FoodWineClick. Jeff is the host for January’s Newcomers Guide to French Wine. Join us on twitter on Saturday January 18th on twitter to see what this group is all about. Or come any 3rd Saturday of the month!
A few more facebook groups
These groups are facebook groups where you can share your content (as long as it is not commercial content). With all these groups, read the fine print, see what they are about and what they allow. And don’t just post! This is meant to be a community! The best part is interacting! You will find great content on wines and regions from a personal perspective.
Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.
I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.
Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!
The Quiet Time
My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.
Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.
The Scenic Route
We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.
Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…
Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.
So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.
12 Days of Wine
Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.
Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.
Kristin Harmel’s novel “The Winemaker’s Wife” takes a story of Champagne during World War II and brings it to life. She takes us through the day to day of characters experiencing the events of the war in different ways, even as they walk the same vineyard. She also contrasts this story with a modern tale that in the end links the two. It is a page turner.
I received this book as a sample for review. All opinions are my own.
Champagne and Reims
The story is set in a vineyard near Ville-Dommange, a village that can be traced back to the VIVth century. The original name was “Villa Dominica” meaning “the farm of a Lord”. This Lord? Well it was King Louis I the first king of France.
This village is in the Marne department which, during the occupation of France during WWII was very active in the Resistance. The village itself is South West of the city of Reims, a place we get to explore in the book during the war and then in modern day.
The City of Reims
You will find yourself itching to visit, to see this place in person. Well… to hold you over, I offer a small gallery. The Reims Cathedral, Notre Dame de Reims is similar in style to the beloved Notre Dame de Paris. This cathedral celebrated 25 coronations of French Kings, including one attended by Johan of Arc. The Fountain Sube is topped with Winged Victory. The victory, with its bronze wings, was taken by the Germans in 1941 and replaced in 1989 thanks to patronage. The city is the site of the Armistice of Reims, where the Germans surrendered in May of 1945.
The story and it’s characters.
The story explores the history of the region, introducing us to historical figures like Herr Klaebisch who was the “weinführer” during this time as well as Syndicat Géneral des Vignerons, and Robert-Jean de Vogüé from Maison Moêt & Chandon. It weaves these historical figures with our fictional characters. While it is not a “true” story, it is inspired by the history and stories told by those who lived through the war.
the Champagne Houses and Growers protect their region, cooperating while
quietly resisting the Germans, many of them working with the resistance to get
people out, hiding families in the cellars and caves under their vineyards.
The web Kristin weaves gives us characters that we love and hate, sometimes simultaneously. The characters all have flaws that make them human and her two story lines allow us perspective, from a view in the midst of the war, to a look back from today.
When choosing a Champagne to pair with this book we went with a Non-Vintage from Taittinger, the Brut La Francaise. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, Champagne Taittinger hails from Reims and we wanted to stick to this region.
Second was due to a beautiful piece I came across in “Decanter” that told the story of the vineyard owners and champagne houses during the war. It included a bit about François Taittinger that I’ll sum up here. I do encourage you to read the entire piece in Decanter, as it is fascinating.
François Taittinger was just 20 years old when he was called before Klaebisch. Taittinger had been sending inferior bottles of Champagne to the Germans. It was a quiet practice of resistance that many in the region participated in. It is said that Klaebisch admonished him “How dare you send us fizzy dishwater!” Taittinger was a bit of a smart mouth, and answered as all the champagne houses wished they could “Who cares? It’s not as if it’s going to be drunk by people who know anything about Champagne!”. He was tossed in jail, just for a few days (the germans still needed their bubbles after all). His brother Michel fought in the war and lost his life on his 20th birthday defending the last bridge over the Seine.
I will tell you that with Champagne being a celebratory beverage…you may wish to wait until the end of the book to pop that cork. This book gives you a glimpse of the hardships faced France during WWII, with rationing, losing loved ones, as well as the fine balance of cooperation and resistance for survival.
You will finish the book and find that Champagne perhaps tastes a little different, is there a touch of salinity in that glass? Perhaps a remembered taste of tears.
Let’s start with the name. Syncline…where does that come from? It was a new word to me. This winery & vineyard in located in the Columbia Gorge AVA. Vineyards are typically in scenic areas. Grapes like a view. But the Columbia Gorge? Come on…this is a pretty stellar backdrop.
So…back to the meaning of the word Syncline, from their website
syn-cline (‘sin-klin) a trough of stratified rock in which the beds dip toward each other from either side
The Syncline winery is located on the Washington side of the Gorge on their Steep Ranch Vineyard. West of the property 300-foot cliffs rise up from the Columbia River…this is the Syncline, locally called the Coyote Wall Syncline.
The Columbia Gorge AVA
The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004 and is overwhelmingly known for white wines. This is the sweet spot where the rainy western part of the Gorge and the more arid Eastern Gorge meet. Syncline is on the South Eastern edge of the AVA.
We spent a wonderful morning, talking with Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and Co-Founder of Syncline, James Mantone. Sitting in their beautiful gardens, we spoke about biodynamics which they are putting into practice here on this vineyard as well among other things before we walked the vineyard to take in the spectacular views at the top of the Syrah block.
But alas…in addition to the wines he makes from grapes grown on the estate vineyard, he also sources some fine grapes from elsewhere to make some beautiful wines. Such is the case with this Picpoul.
Picpoul is a favorite of mine. I have enjoyed Picpoul de Pinet which comes from the South of France right on the Mediterranean coast, as well as some lovely California Picpouls. You can read about those in Picpoul from Pinet and California and a seaside pairing. The name “Picpoul” means lip stinger in French. It is a zippy high acid wine.
Syncline 2018 Picpoul Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley
We tasted this wine in the tasting room with James when we visited. Since I tend to think of Picpoul and ocean, this was intriguing to me. The grapes for this wine are sourced from Boushey Vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Boushey Vineyard sits at a high elevation (700-1200 feet) on southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. Dick Boushey is considered one of Washington States top wine grape growers.
Soil and the long ripening time at this vineyard allow for lots of complex flavors to develop.
The fruit was hand harvested and transported to the winery on October 2nd. It was whole cluster pressed and settled overnight. The juice was then racked to one of our stainless steel tanks. Fermentation completed with no malolactic fermentation. It was aged in stainless steel and bottledin March 2019. 300 cases produced • 12.4% Alc. By Vol.
James tasting notes mention “Bright lemon verbena and key lime blossom” as well as “citrus zest and wet stones”. When we opened this wine, the first thing I smelled was chalk and dust followed my notes of tart citrus fruit. It opened further with some floral notes and then lemon zest and yes wet stones. This wine was completely enjoyable on it’s own.
We paired this wine with herbed goat cheese and olive oil on bread to start. The pairing sweetened the cheese and brightened the wine and was kind of magical.
Then we went to a classic Picpoul pairing of shellfish. We had mussels in garlic and butter dusted with lemon zest. Which is indeed a perfect pairing with this wine. Often you think of oysters with Picpoul and somehow those didn’t hit me as the right pairing. Perhaps it was me thinking of the photos I had recently seen of the hoarfrost on the vines in the Yakima Valley. None-the-less this wine wanted a warmer version of shellfish and these mussels did the trick, warm with savory flavors and a bit of brightness, they snuggled with the wine and brightened a chilly evening.
I totally told you all about the vineyard at Syncline, but I skipped right over the stunning gardens and grounds at their winery and tasting room. Here…take a look.
Head up there in the summer, on a weekend. Drive the Gorgeous Gorge and then stop for a tasting and to enjoy the garden.
That’s a wrap!
All the unwrapping is complete on our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Hopefully you enjoyed the journey and perhaps have a few wines to search for, or a vacation to plan to take in some of these places.
We wish you all a very happy holiday and a wonderful New Year. Here’s to a spectacular 2020!
What wine list of ours would be complete without a bottle from Johan.
The Van Duzer Corridor
The Van Duzer Corridor is one of the newer AVA’s in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The TTB approval of the AVA happened in December of 2018 (7 years after they started the process). So what is this corridor and where is it?
1st, this is a nested AVA lying within the larger Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. It is in the southern part of the AVA, north of Salem. Encompassing 59,850 acres, there are but 1,000 acres planted to vines. The soil here is marine sediment. It is named for the area 10 miles to it’s west, the actual Van Duzer Corridor, where there is a drop in the coastal range that funnels cold air into the interior. This happens daily at around 2 pm. The breeze, or should I say wind (it often gets up to 8 mph) does a couple of things. It cools things down and it dries out the berries, keeping them free from mold and fungus (think the Mistral in Provence). It also forces the berries to protect themselves. To do this they thicken their skins and tend to grow smaller and fewer. This gives you more tannins and anthocyanins (which give you color). Lower yields, smaller berries, thicker skin…this all means more flavor.
I have a great love for the wines of Johan. If you know me, you are probably surprised that this was not a Pet Nat! (I do love their Pet Nats). But today we dive into their Estate Grüner Veltliner. But before we get into that…a little on the vineyard.
Johan Vineyard is 85 acres certified biodynamic. More than that, the winery is certified biodynamic. A holistic approach is important to them here. We walked the vineyard with Jack when we visited and saw the compost heap, and the oak stump innoculated for mushrooms. They have a garden and their wines…most lean toward that “natural wine” style, with many deliciously unfiltered.
For more on Johan you can catch a couple of our previous pieces
Grüner Veltliner can be an underappreciated variety. Hailing from Austria, this grape can often trick people in tastings. That is until they get to the finish where white pepper is the give away. These wines can be citrus, or herbal, lean or full. Flavors as well as textures can vary dependent on climate and style.
In Austria white wines dominate, much of that due to the climate and Grüner is the definite leader covering about a third of the vineyard acreage.
2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner
The grapes are crushed and destemmed, then barrel fermented through primary and malolactic fermentation in puncheons and aged 10 months sur lie (that’s on the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom). They do not stir the lees. It sits at 13.6% abv and runs $34.99.
They look to make this wine rich and exotic, choosing to pick appropriately and going through malolactic and sur lie aging to increase the texture.
It should be noted that white wines from the Van Duzer Corridor have a few things in common. They tend to have bright fruit and acid that is compimented by weight and texture. The Oregon Wine Board also notes that you will often find Iodine and Nori characteristics in these wines.
Exotic and rich…lime, lemon, herbs, white pepper, poprocks, nectarine, ginger, honey are all typical aromas and flavors for Gruner.
This wine was a deep golden color in the glass. The first thing on the nose was bruised apple, then white flower and nectarine. It exploded out of the glass and bottle when it was first opened. It perfumed the air for a several foot radius around the bottle and glass. Then it quickly became shy, making me search for aromas. The acids were firm and the wine had a depth of texture.
We paired this with camembert cheese and found that it brought forth the floral notes. It was lovely with our asparagus risotto. This is one of those rare wines that can pair with asparagus! We also tested it with a split pea soup and found it was less exciting. Perhaps a lighter style of Grüner would have worked with this. I did struggle to find that signature Grüner white pepper on this wine. On a second pour tropical notes came forward and it opened again in the glass with rich warm baked apples.
Other pairing suggestions
Grüner can pair beautifully with Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets quickly fried). It also pairs well with fried chicken. In addition it is one of those rare wines that will pair with artichokes! Try it with cauliflower, trout or gnocchi!
Noooooo….Only 1 day left!
Thank goodness there is Christmas to cheer us after tomorrow! Otherwise what would we do? The sadness as the 12 days comes to an end would be unbearable! Come back tomorrow!
If you have tried today’s variety I want to hear about it! This is Baco Noir, a French American hybrid created by Francois Baco from folle blanche (which is a wine grape from France) and a red grape of the vitis riparia species (comes from America, but the exact grape is unknown). This variety is often found on the east coast and chilly North American regions like Ontario and New York.
Baco Noir at Girardet
The vines for this wine came from New York. In the late 60’s Philippe Girardet was bored of rocket science so he and his wife Bonnie headed north in their VW bus. They settled in the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon bought some land, built a cabin and decided to plant a vineyard.
Well to plant a vineyard, you need vines. So they headed cross country in the VW bus and picked up vines in New York, among them Baco Noir.
It was 1990 before Girardet did a single varietal bottling of Baco Noir, the first time this had been done. In 2009 it was Matt Kramer hailed as one of Oregon’s best reds in the Oregonian.
We are here to make discoveries, not to follow the beaten path.
Philippe Girardet, Co-Founder Girardet Vineyards and Winery
Marc Girardet was born in 1975, so the vineyard had just recently been planted. He grew up on the vineyard and then in the winery as that was built. He was away for a bit in the Air Force, but the vines called him home. In 1999 he took over the winemaking from his father. It was time for dad to enjoy the fruits of his labors.
We spent an afternoon with Marc, talking on the patio, driving through the vineyard and tasting wine. Marc has planted the back vineyard(Shale Rock Summit) to Italian varieties now including Sangiovese, Barbera and Teroldego. We watched the jackrabbits, talked about the vines, the bush training he was doing and took in the view.
This wine sits at 13.4% abv and they note plum, blueberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice in the tasting notes. It ran $34.00. Yep, sorry, this vintage is sold out, but never fear the 2017 has been released and sounds even more delicious with additional notes of clove, tobacco, cedar, vanilla and caramel. It also runs $34.00
This wine came with the promise of notes of plum, blueberry, black cherries, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice.
The first thing I got on the nose was brambles and dried herbs, with a backing of that black cherry and then blackberry with spices in the background. It had great acidity (think sour cherry) and lots of red and black fruit on the palate.
Okay…this was a late night tasting. I was soooo hungry at work, and I was craving pasta. I mentioned this to Carlo (a handsome Italian I work with, who is a great cook). He rattled off sauces…bolognese, puttanesca. Both sounded delicious, but I didn’t have the time to make those this evening. Then he said a word I had not heard…amatriciana. What is that? “You chop up bacon and sauté it, but don’t let it get crispy…” (Then he left to do a cue and I was waiting breathlessly for the rest of the recipe!). He returned to tell me to add peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper, maybe a little basil if you have it. So…a late night grocery run on the way home for these simple ingredients and voila!
We also paired with Gouda, bleu cheese and blackberries and a little dessert pairing with brownies. All good choices.
Only 2 more days! Noooo!
Yep…there are just 2 days left in our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Come back tomorrow…
We are sticking to Southern Oregon today, but…we are into a white wine. Viognier is a white Rhône variety that has found a home in the new world. It is thought to be the leading white variety in Virginia, where it does very well. You will find it in California where it can vary in style from a more full bodied style in warm climates to a more elegant style in cool climates.
Last year we did a Viognier from Maryhill Winery near the Columbia Gorge in Washington. This year, we bring you a Viognier from a bit further south in Oregon.
We visited Wooldridge Creek this past summer and did a tasting and pairing. The property is a beautiful farm with goats and a garden in addition to the vineyard. They make cheese here on site also, as well as other delicious things from the garden.
Our tasting at the time took us through the gammit of their wines, as well as a tasting array of cheeses, charcuterie, mustard and chutneys, all produced on site. It was a treat for the senses as we sat on the crush pad with a view of the vineyards and gardens and enjoyed this feast.
Wooldridge Creek 2018 Viognier
This wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel. They noted flavors of peaches, creme, candied orange zest and vanilla. It sits at 13.5% abv and runs $25.00.
The nose on this gave me wet stone, white peach, mineral and citrus zest. On the palate it had great acidity and I got tart white peach that was still a little crisp. The body is medium and the alcohol heats your mouth and makes your gums tingle.
We paired this with roast chicken, butternut squash and mac & cheese. The acid allowed it to cut through the fat in the chicken as well as the mac & cheese to pair well. I found that it also paired nicely with the bleu cheese we had.
We are sticking with Southern Oregon today, but we are heading into the Rhônes. No…I’m not giving you another Syrah. Today we focus on Grenache from Cowhorn in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley AVA (which is nested in the Rogue Valley AVA).
We’ve done a bit on Bill Steele and his wife Barbara recently
Feel free to dig into these, but I’ll give you the quick run down here.
Bill and Barbara Steele, were working in the corporate world and trying to live a homeopathic lifestyle. Finally it came time to make this life they wanted, full time, incorporating it into everything they did. They chose the Applegate Valley and settled on creating a vineyard and farm. After meeting some biodynamic vineyard owners, they knew this was the way forward for them. After having the soil analyzed they settled on Rhône varieties and planted their vineyard. They also grow asparagus and have a really wonderful lavender patch that is home to multiple varieties of bees, as well as some really beautiful decorative gardens.
When they decided to build their tasting room, they went for the Living Building Certification and became the 1st tasting room in the world to be built to these standards. The tasting room is beautiful as well as energy efficient and is made from sustainable products.
Cowhorn 2016 Grenache 6
Why is this wine called Grenache 6?
Well…it’s Grenache. The “6” comes from the number of mornings that Bill was raised before dawn in the coldest hours to turn on the frost protection for the vineyard. So as you can see, 2016 was not a bad year for frost!
Here are Bill’s notes on this wine from their site.
Vibrant and acid driven, the 2016 Grenache reaches a new level of boldness. Intense aromas of cherry, blackberry and licorice pour over the glass. Juicy ripe strawberry appears on the palate with a perfect balance of oak on the finish, making this fun red wine perfect for your favorite BBQ fare. Chill slightly for a refreshing zip in the summertime.
Cowhorn.com Tasting notes
James Suckling gave this wine 93 points. It sits at 14% abv and runs $45.00. Oh…and while I sort of mentioned this, it is important to note that this is biodynamic.
The first thing that hit my nose with this wine was stewed strawberries. You know like when you are cooking down some strawberries to make a sauce. Then the spice hit my nose followed by anise (licorice) and then cooked blackberries.
The tannins were lighter sticky tannins and the wine had a medium intensity. This is an elegant wine that evolves in the glass.
On our cheese plate with the above pictured berries, we included included manchego cheese which was heaven with this. A small bite of manchego, honey, black cherry and rosemary was heavenly with this wine.
Our dinner pairing was barbecued beef, which again was lovely with this.
This is a wine that I will look forward to tasting future vintages. For Bill, he is not looking to create the same wine over and over. He looks to create the best wine for that vintage, which will make each year different in it’s own unique way.
On to the 9th Day of Wine
Onward! 4 days left, 4 wines to go. Are you still with us!?