The Van Duzer Corridor… it’s the newest AVA in the Willamette Valley and it is also home to one of our favorite wineries Johan. We stopped last year and spent an hour or so with Jack Tregenza in the tasting room and were looking forward to getting back for a more in depth conversation.
Van Duzer Corridor AVA
There is a drop in the Coastal Range of Mountains, creating a Corridor where the cool air from the ocean can come inland. That is the Van Duzer Corridor. Highway 22 takes you out through this river valley all the way to Lincoln City at the ocean ( a drive we would take later that day).
The warm air in the valley pulls in the cooling breezes at night. That diurnal shift (warm days, cool nights) especially as the vineyards close in on harvest, help keep some acid in the wines as they ripen.
Dag Johan Sundby is from Norway. He came to the Willamette valley with his family to establish this winery and vineyard in Rickreall Oregon. The winemaker here is Dan Rinke. Jack…well Jack is indeed a Jack of all trades, assisting in the vineyard, the winery and managing the tasting room, at least, lucky for us on the day we stopped by. He is a wealth of information and is passionate about this place.
The valley is beautiful and we were out bright and early to meet with Jack. You drive into the property through the trees and come around to the winery and tasting room to overlook the vines.
We set up on the patio to talk with Jack. We covered quite a bit, including why the vineyard was biodynamic and the different certification processes.
A walk of the vineyard
After our interview we walked the vineyard and Jack showed us some of the newly grafted vines. We took in the views, talked about the blocks and the compost pile (I know, crazy that I get excited over a compost pile).
He also showed us a tree stump that they had inoculated for mushrooms.
Back to the tasting room
We returned to the tasting room for a tasting and talked about…so much!
The wines here lean toward Natural. I know that is not an official term. Let’s say many are unfined and unfiltered with minimal intervention. They have some really wonderful sparkling wines a pet nat of Melon that I am enamoured with. It is barrel fermented and hand disgorged and there are only 80 cases made.
We tasted though some beautiful Pinots, talked about bottle closures, wine pod cast, the use of argon…and so much more. Really I could have spent all day talking with Jack, but…he had other things to do and we were off to drive through that Van Duzer Corridor for a little Ocean therapy.
Applegate Valley AVA
The next day saw us up really early to make the drive south back to the Applegate Valley to visit with Herb Quady of Quady North.
I first heard Herb Quady’s name when I was talking with Leah Jorgensen about her Blanc de Cab Franc. She sources her Cab Franc from Herb and spoke really highly of him. As we were going to be in the area, I knew I wanted to speak with him. He was kind enough to meet us out at the vineyard.
We sat on the patio, by the house, the dog curled up under our feet at the table and talked about the vineyard and the varieties he is growing in Mae’s (the first vineyard) and Evie’s the newer vineyard. Both vineyards are named after his daughters.
We finished with a vineyard walk. Again, vines with views. The dogs ran around us chasing rabbits and we got in some good cardio (Herb’s a fast walker). Herb headed off to his day and we headed to Jacksonville to visit the tasting room.
The Quady North Tasting room in Jacksonville
Sarah met us in the tasting room and took us through an incredible line up of wines. Some are block specific, like the Ox Block Viognier, which we had just walked earlier that morning. Others like the Pistoleta are blends. The Pistoleta is a Rhône white blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne & Grenach Blanc.
They also do some canned wines! Their Rose comes in a 3 pack. A Southern Rhône style blend, it’s led by Grenache at 55%, then 39% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 2% Vermentino and a splash 1% Counoise. Canned wine is accessible and rosé is the kind of wine you want accessible in the summer. They have a canning truck that comes by (just like a bottling truck) to package this.
There’s lots more to tell, but you will get the full scoop later. This was the last of our wine stops. From here, we headed south to Yosemite for a little nature meditation before returning to the desert.
Watch for future posts with our in depth interviews with both Jack and Herb!
Our time in Washington was nearing it’s end. Morning had us traveling from Walla Walla west to the Yakima Valley once again to visit with Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. We met her for an interview at their tasting room in Sunnyside.
Driving through the small town of Sunnyside you come upon a quaint restored building that was previously a train station. When Hugh and Kathy Shiels moved to the area, Hugh set up practice as an orthopedic surgeon. The renovated Train Station was his office for many years. It has now become their beautiful tasting room.
Kerry is a wealth of information on the area and the science behind the vineyard and wine making. Kerry has an engineering degree, which she put to use with Fiat in Italy, before returning to get a degree in Viticulture and Enology and then taking over as winemaker. She is smart and intense, a woman who made her way in the male dominated engineering field.
We headed to their DuBrul vineyard before things warmed up too much. The drive up to the top was a little sketchy for our Kia hybrid, but we made it. The mountains were both out (Mt Adams and Mt. Ranier) as we reached the top of the vineyard to walk through the vines.
Own rooted vines
We talked about the aspect of this vineyard, which allows them to grow so many varieties well and discussed the difference with own rooted vines.
“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.
Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville and DuBrul Vineyard
This is certain to be a topic we hear more about and lamented over as phyloxera has been found in Washington and precautions will need to be taken. I will tell you that I find the difference in the character of the wines from own rooted stock undeniable and wonderful.
You can look forward to hearing much of our conversation in future posts. It was really a fascinating morning.
Co Dinn Cellars
We made a stop to visit Co at his tasting room at Co Dinn Cellars. Co also has a renovated historic building in Sunnyside. His winery and tasting room are in the old Water Works. It’s a gorgeous space.
He showed us around and took us through a tasting. We also had an amazing conversation on closures…more on that later.
We headed back to the Gorge and through Hood River then off to Hiyu on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge AVA.
Hiyu Wine Farm
Go to the website…the water colors will enchant you. I was sucked in immediately and knew that I needed to visit this place.
Hiyu is 30 acres of wine farm. There is a sense of wildness here. Nate Ready, a Master Sommelier and China Tresemer fell in love with the beauty of this region. This place is undeniably stunning, with it’s glorious views of Mt. Hood.
The idea didn’t begin with wine. They really wanted to cultivate a lifestyle. From 7 acres in 2010 it expanded to take in another 20 acres in 2015.
We arrived a bit early, and walked in to see if it was okay if we explored the property. There was a bit of chaos happening, the goats had just escaped and there was some scurrying to round them up.
Community within the staff
The farm has a staff that includes a handful of interns. Duties rotate weekly, so everyone gets to do each of the jobs. This insures that no one takes for granted the job someone else is doing. It has a little 60’s 70’s nostalgia feel to me. A little feel of a hippy commune, and I’m down for that.
The garden in front of the tasting room is an edible food forest. You will find Goji berries and rock herbs here seasonally. We headed up the hill to the garden. Wild and overgrown, the things that were complete for the season were taking their natural course, going to seed to prepare for the next season. There are flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, artichokes, favas and cardoons.
From here we walked the vineyard and then up to the hill where the view of Mt. Hood is simply breath taking. Winter to spring the cows, pigs and chickens wander through the vines, grazing and fertilizing. There is an acre of pear trees left. They have a green house and make compost on site.
Falcon boxes protect the vineyard. And they have grafted field blends. They don’t hedge the vines here, allowing them to be a little more wild, and do just 1 pass with a scythe. Cinnamon is used to prevent powdery mildew.
Livestock & Animals
There are cows and guinea fowl. A 100 year old irrigation ditch feeds the pasture and gardens. We wound down by the pond and visited with the ducks and came around to the goats. Phoebe the matriarch stood on the fender of the horse trailer. They were fiesty, but contained once more.
There are hawthorn trees and over by the house there are currants. I was reminded of days as a child on mountain farms in West Virginia. Life is allowed to thrive and be wild and perhaps a bit messy.
The day ended with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We leave you hear with a bit of spectacular nature.
This month the French Winophiles are heading to the Sud Ouest of France. That south west corner that seems rather quiet. You don’t hear much about it. Within it you will find French Basque Country and Jurançon. On the coast is the Pays Basque with it’s wine region of Irouleguy. When you continue east you arrive at the Jurançon, which is our destination today.
If you watched the Tour de France you might have seen the time trials in this region on July 19th in Pau which is just 15 miles east of this region. (If you want to see a bit of the scenery… here you go…
Vineyards here sit in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The area is hilly with steep rolling hills, lush with trees and amazing views against a backdrop of the Pyrenees. There is a beautiful piece on Pau and this region on Wine Chic Travel.
The landscape is dotted with small vineyards and farms. If you put all the acreage under vine together, it would add up to about 5 square miles.
Petit Manseng – historically a great seducer
The area is best known for their sweet wines. These wines were a favorite of the French poet Colette. (If you do not know her…she wrote the novella “Gigi” which was turned into a movie with Maurice Chevalier singng the iconic song “Thank heaven for little girls”. I remember watching this movie when I was a little girl myself, I find myself not remembering it clearly. Perhaps it is time to find and watch it again.)
Colette called the Jurançon wines of Petit Manseng “seduction du vert galant”. She was quoted saying
“I was a girl when I met this prince; aroused, imperious, treacherous as all great seducers are”.
Her comments inspired winemakers to advertising “Manseng means Jurançon means sex”.
Colette also said “Time spent with a cat is never wasted”. How can you not love this wise woman.
Evidently, this wine is also given credit for giving King Henry the IV of France, the strength to keep up his philandering! Born in Pau, Good King Henry “…also became notorious for his sexual exploits, taking on many lovers and earning the nickname “Le Vert Gallant” (The Gay Old Spark).” biography.com
While Petit Manseng is well known and loved here, Gros Manseng is actually more widely grown. You will also find Camaralet de Lasseube. According to Madeline over at WineFolly Camaralet de Lasseube is very rare and Jancis Robinson in Wine Grapes called it endangered. This grape only produces female flowers. It also is prone to oxidation and has really low yields.
Indigenous to this region Petit Manseng is similar to Gros Manseng, but it has smaller berries and produces significantly different wine. Petit Manseng is aromatic with peach and citrus rounded out by tropical fruits like mango and pineapple.
This grape concentrates sugar in the berries during ripening and still maintains high acidity. The sweet wines made here rival Sauternes, but can be found at a much more reasonable price.
Henry Ramonteu, the owner and producer at Domaine Cauhapé is known to wait until January to harvest the last of his grapes for his sweet wines.
Many consider this to be the finest estate in Jurançon. The estate is 45 hectares on clay and siliceous soil. They grow Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Camaralet, Lauzet and Courbu.
2015 Symphonie de Novembre Jurançon
This is one of the first picks for this Domaine’s sweet wines, picked in November. It is 100% Petit Manseng and sits at 13.5% abv. This golden elixir comes from vines that are about 500 m (wait, perspective for those of us in the US…1,640 feet!) on steep vineyards.
Pairing the Jurançon
The classic pairing for this wine is Foie Gras. Baked fruit desserts and Roquefort cheese, as well as poultry dishes are suggested. We settled that we might as well go in for the Foie Gras. I know…I am typically against this. I’m feeling the guilt, but …it was delicious.
Cured & Whey to the Rescue!
I called Cured & Whey and they said they had it foie gras in stock, so we headed across town to see them. Michael the owner came out to talk with us about the foie gras. They have convenient little 2 oz packets of foie, and Michael suggested this was our best bet for two single portions. I asked Diana about a Roquefort, and while she had one, she suggested the Ewe’s Blue.
This award winning cheese is from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Old Chatham, New York. It is a rindless cheese made from fresh sheep’s milk that is similar to Roquefort, and delicious!
On the way home, I found a recipe to riff on…here we go.
Pan-seared Fois Gras with apple puree and orange reduction.
Remember…this is just a riff on a recipe. I started with the puree. It was just butter, thinly slice apple, a little jam (I used mango passion fruit) and a little wine (think dry white, although I actually used the rose in my glass). Toss in a pan until soft then toss in the blender.
Cut a couple of circles of brioche and toast them in the oven.
Carefully score the two pieces of fois gras, add salt and pepper and put them in a pre-warmed pan at medium heat. 2 minutes per side, then on a plate to rest.
Lastly, use a bit of the drippings, add fresh squeezed orange juice and a little bit of wine (I used the Sauternes I had on hand and open), a little orange zest and some finely chopped rosemary. Reduce, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate the crunchy bits.
We also put together a board of the Ewe’s Blue, sliced apple, dried baby pineapple and roasted salted pecans.
The Wine – taste the Jurançon
This wine was lush with great acid as well as that sweetness. It was definitely a food wine and is my kind of sweet wine, not cloying. I got tart apple, and pineapple on the nose and palate.
To Match or Contrast
With pairings, often we try to either match flavors or contrast them. The foie gras was delicious and both the apple puree and the orange sauce matched the wine perfectly with their acid and flavor profile. The Ewe’s Blue did the opposite, the tang and salt contrasting with the wine. Quite honestly, as delicious as the foie gras was, the pairing with the Ewe’s Blue was our favorite of the two.
A surprising pairing was with dark chocolate, which Domaine Cauhapé suggested. Michael grabbed a bar and I was really skeptical. This turned out to be a surprisingly delicious pairing.
The wines of Jurançon are certainly worth searching for and exploring. I will look for some of the Jurançon dry white wines to explore in the future. For now…if you are searching for a sweet wine, expand a little further than Sauternes and try the sweet wines of the Jurançon. You won’t be disappointed and your wallet will be happy!
Read on for other great pieces on the French Basque Country and the Sud Ouest by the French #Winophiles!
We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.
The White Wines
When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.
White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.
This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.
And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.
You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.
2939 Grand Avenue Los Olivos, CA 93441 Ph #: 805.693.5100 Open daily 11am-6pm No reservations. First-come, first-serve. Closed only on Christmas Day
White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.
Spier Wine Farm
This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…
More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)
You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.
Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/
White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño
We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.
The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.
Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.
The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.
Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.
The Red Wines
When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.
Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese
We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.
Sangiovese? Think Chianti
This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?
The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.
They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.
Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015
This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!
Don Miguel Gascón Wines
This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.
The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.
This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.
Aromas, flavors and pairings
Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.
Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon
If you have visited our site before, you know we are big fans of Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery. He helped to put Ballard Canyon and their Syrah on the map. He was instrumental in founding the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County.
Michael’s background is in geology and he is an invaluable resource for discussing the soils of the entire Santa Barbara Region. He is passionate about the region and it’s wines, most especially the Syrah from this little corner of the universe.
This wine is all Estate grown fruit that is aged 22 months in 33% new French oak and 8% new American oak (the rest is neutral oak).
Aromas, flavors and pairings
This wine was the biggest we served at 14.9%. With a complex nose, we set out scent jars of blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper corns, leather and earth. We paired this with our favorite bite with syrah, bacon wrapped dates.
If you want a bottle of this wine, or to taste his other wines, head to Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. You can find the tasting room at the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Ave next to the Los Olivos General Store. Grab a tasting and a sandwich from next door and sit at a table in front in the shade, behind the historic gas pump.
It was a fun evening and hopefully everyone discovered a new wine that they enjoyed! We got up today to 85 dirty glasses! I have a new appreciation for tasting room staff who deal with this, and then some, daily! Was it worth it? Damn straight! We got to explore the world with wine while sitting in the living room with friends. What could be better?
We’ve all had wines that we didn’t like. Perhaps it smelled a little funny, or was just bland. Sometimes, that’s a wine that is just not for us, or is poorly made, but sometimes it is the result of a wine fault.
Now wine faults can arise from poor wine making, but they can also come from sources that are out, or at least somewhat out, of the control of the winemaker. We will dive into a few of these in this post.
We discussed the chemical makeup of wine in the last post. Some of those chemical reactions we mentioned can happen at a level that is not so good in wine.
Sulfur and it’s potential faults
Sulfur is often used in wine making to preserve the wine. Adding sulfur keeps wine from oxidizing and it’s rare for a wine to be completely sulfur free. Even when sulfur isn’t added small bits are produced during the fermentation process.
A little sulfur is not typically an issue, but… if there is too much, or if it starts to combine with other chemicals in the wine, it can get stinky.
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is that rotten egg smell that you might smell at a volcano or a swamp. If you have lots of sulfur in a wine and then it sits without oxygen you can get this smell. It can happen with screw caps where there is no oxygen exchange like you get with corks or if you are aging on the lees or yeast too long.
Matches tipped with sulfur, when struck combine with the oxygen and you get that burnt match smell. In wine, you might smell this if there is too much sulfur or you might just notice it as a burning sensation in your throat. The way that you notice this is connected to the acidity of the wine. The more acid, the more SO2 you will notice.
We know that the alcohol in wine is ethanol. Well, ethanol can combine with sulfur to create “ethyl mercaptan”. This is the odor that they add to natural gas so you can smell a gas leak. I know, we said that hydrogen sulfide it the rotten egg smell, and if you are like me, that’s the smell I associate with natural gas. While I hope I do not have occasion to smell a natural gas leak, that is “ethyl mercaptan” which smells like garlic or onions. And sadly for winemakers, if you get ethyl mercaptan in your wine, there is very little you can do to fix it.
TCA or cork taint
We’ve all heard of corked wines. Perhaps you thought that was the reason that at restaurants they will hand you the cork? (It’s not, actually, they show you the cork to prove the wine is from the winery. There have been times when scandalous tricksters would re-bottle a cheap wine in a fancy bottle and try to pass it off as the higher end wine. The cork, if the wine was legit, would be stamped with the winery name.)
TCA is a mold. It actually has a much longer name: 2, 4, 6 Trichloroanisole. It is typically shortened to TCA for obvious reasons. While we think of it as “cork taint”, and indeed it can grow on cork trees, it can also grow in boxes, barrels or even winery walls. Once it gets in, it’s tough to get out. If it gets into a winery it can be transferred into the wine.
What does it smell like?
TCA can smell like a dark, dank, musty basement, or in lighter cases might just make a wine bland or muted. It’s not harmful, luckily and cases have decreased. The estimates on wines affected by TCA vary pretty dramatically from 1% to 8% of bottles. Distributors will typically refund clients for corked wines and at the table, if a customer says a wine is corked, it is unlikely that the restaurant will argue. Hence the differences in estimates.
Bacteria that make things stinky
So most bacteria can’t survive in wine. I mean, that’s how wine got started right? Water wasn’t always safe, but fermented beverages with their high alcohol killed off most bacteria.
Well there are a couple of bacteria that can survive in wine, one we like much of the time but the other….
This bacteria grows when ever wine is exposed to oxygen. This little bugger converts alcohol into acetic acid and ethyl acetate. Acetic acid smells like vinegar. Ethyl acetate, which can smell like florals in small quantities, can smell like fingernail polish remover when at greater quantities.
Beyond that, when ethyl acetate and acetic acid combine it’s called ascensence.
This bacteria is sometimes useful! Malolactic fermentation is often used to round a wine and make it less acidic. Malic acid is often found in cool climate grapes or under-ripe grapes and is like tart green apple. Lactic bacteria eat the malic acid and produce lactic acid, which is much rounder in your mouth and less acidic. It can also produce a buttery aroma.
Too much of a good thing and you get more lactic acid than you want which smells like sauerkraut. You can also get butyric acid which smells like rancid butter. Butyric acid can come from an over-vigorous malolactic fermentation, or it might be from a bacteria before pressing.
There is also the smell of crushed geranium leaves that is either caused by an incomplete malolactic fermentation or if sorbic acid has been used as a preservative, it can be from an improper breakdown of that.
Other stinky stuff
There are other stinky things caused by stuff in wine. (There, that’s scientific isn’t it!?) Some of these things people like in small portions and sometimes the style of wine means that you will create one of these situations. Let’s start with those first.
Oxygen will dissolve into wine and when it reacts with the phenolic compounds (from the skins) it creates acetaldehyde, which smells like caramel or nuts and can cause browning. Some liken the smell to jackfruit (yuk) or bruised beat up apples. Oxidation can cause a wine to lose most of it’s fruit character. However…they use oxidation to make fino Sherry. So in that case, it’s a plus!
A step beyond oxidation is maderization. You might recognize the word from Madeira. This is what happens when a wine is exposed to lots of heat or oxygen. You get a cooked or baked odor. When you get this in Madeira, it’s on purpose. When you get this from the wine you left in the back seat of your car that you parked outside in a parking lot in the Vegas sun…not so much. So generally this is considered a fault.
This one is tricky. Brett (it’s nickname) is a wild yeast. It shows up in wineries and can smell sweaty or horsey and will ferment right alongside the wine yeast.. Some people like a little brett, (I do). It gives that barnyard smell to red wines. Some people believe it to be a fault regardless of the level. It can smell medicinal or like band-aids or it might just deaden the flavors in the wine.
Sometimes this is called Light Strike. This happens in light white wines if they are exposed to light or UV rays. It will make the wine smell like wet wool. (don’t store your wine near a window!)
Other smells and causes
Moldy – that could be from actual mold in the winery or barrels
Green – using grapes that are not yet ripe can smell like leaves
Rubbery – this can pop up if there is too much sulfur or wines that are low in acid
Stemmy – underripe (unlignified) grape stems in a wine can have a green bitter smell.
Wet cardboard – Could be TCA (cork taint) or might be from filter pads that are not being used properly in the winery.
Leesy or yeasty – When you get overpowering yeast smell, that can come from too much time sitting on the lees (dead yeast cells). While this is good in Champagne and some sparkling wines, it’s not always good in other wines.
All in all if you get a bottle of wine and you think it has a fault, you should send it back. Too often people get a faulted wine, and will write off the region or the type of wine, thinking they don’t like the region. If you know these faults, you can tell the cause and distinguish from from the region or area. It would be horrible to write off an entire region over one bad bottle!
We will be continuing our series of educational posts on wine in all it’s complexity! Join us to explore and learn more about this fantastic and fascinating liquid.
That’s the first line in our Crushed Grape Chronicles trailer that we put together….years ago. And it’s true…mostly. (whole berry ferments do happen, but eventually the weight of the grapes on the grapes causes them to be crushed.)
So wine is made of 5 major components that go through some chemical changes, fermenting and such and create the tasty libation that we have all grown to love in all of it’s many forms.
5 major components of wine
Yes, there are other things you might find in your wine, but for the most part it’s these:
So as you would expect wine is a good portion (80-90%) good old H2O.
So wine’s a liquid, right? So as you would expect wine is a good portion (80-90%) good old H2O. This is mostly the water that came in the grapes (thank you mother nature), but upon occasion a winemaker might water down the initial grape juice or add water if the alcohol or phenolic compounds are too high for them.
This is one of the things we love about this beverage, the slight (or maybe not slight, depending on your style of drinking. We encourage moderation.) intoxication that comes with drinking it. That comes from the ethanol which is created in the alcoholic fermentation and is the main alcohol in wine (you will find glycerol, methanol and fusel alcohols in smaller amounts). The ethanol induces feelings of pleasure. As you drink, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and travels to the brain and relaxes you.
Of course too much…and you get drunk, which is rarely fun for the people around you.
Alcohol makes up 8 – 15% of the volume of wine. On the label you will see the abv (alcohol by volume). 8 % might be a cool climate white wine and 15% a warm climate red.
Ethanol is also a volatile compound, so it evaporates really easily and it helpful in getting all of those aromas to your nose.
Alcohol also with affect the “body” of a wine. You know how water and milk feel different in your mouth? Well higher alcohol takes the feeling in your mouth, closer to the milk end of the spectrum. You can see this when you swirl in big thick “legs” or “tears” running down the sides of the glass.
Acid keeps wines from tasting flabby. It gives wines that tart zing. Like a bright NZ Sav Blanc that is tart and tangy and so refreshing.
Acids make up just a bit of wine .5% to .75% by volume and there are two ways of measuring it.
TA – Total Acidity: which is the total amount of acid by volume
pH – the combined strength of the acids present
Keep in mind that some acids are stronger than others so TA is just the amount, and doesn’t give you the strength. So these are typically used together.
When you measure a wine’s pH keep in mind that the lower the pH, the stronger the acid. Wine typically lands between 2.9 and 3.9 on the pH scale, and a wine at 2.9 will be more acidic than a wine at 3.9.
More than one type of acid
There are 6 main acids that can be found in wine. Some of them are found in the grapes themselves and some are created during the fermentation process. A couple straddle that line.
Tartaric acid – This is an acid found in both grapes and wine, and it is the most prevalent. It is the strongest acid in wine when you talk pH. If you have ever seen “wine diamonds” little crystals on a cork, that comes from this acid. While not a fault in a wine, winemakers can avoid these forming by using “cold stabalization” or cooling down the wine before bottling.
Malic Acid – This is a grape acid. It’s sharp taste is like that of green apples. This acid decreases as grapes ripen, so cool climate white grapes and underripe grapes will have high levels of this acid. (Later we will discuss malolactic fermentation, which is used to lower the malic acid in a wine)
Citric Acid – Yes the acid that you find in citrus fruit. It’s not normally thought of in grapes because the quantities are so small that you can only find it with super specialized fancy equipment. However…sometimes it’s added to pump up the TA in a wine (just not in good wine).
Lactic Acid – You don’t find this acid in the grapes, but…remember I mentioned malolactic fermentation? Well…lactic acid bacteria munch on the malic acid and turn it into lactic acid, which is smoother, rounder and less acidic. This malolactic fermentation can be on purpose or not, but it is often used by winemakers to soften a wine. You also might get a buttery aroma and a creamy texture (think some chardonnays)
Acetic Acid – You will recognize this acid from vinegar (well, most vinegars). This is a fermentation acid, so you won’t find it in grapes on the vine. It can contribute to a wine’s bouquet as it evaporates quickly, but sometimes there is another pesky bacteria, this time acetobacter that can cause a reaction between the ethonol and oxygen that can ruin a wine.
Succinic Acid – This guy can be found in grapes and can also be created during fermentation. It’s found in small quantities in either case and is sharp as well as slightly both bitter and salty.
One of the measurements winemakers take to determine if a grape is ready to harvest is measuring it’s brix or sugar levels. Typically this will be 15% to 28%.
There are two main sugars that you find in grapes
These are both monosaccharides or simple sugars and are, lucky for us, highly fermentable! Those beautiful yeasts convert the sugar to ethanol. If they finish the job, eating up all the sugar, you get a dry wine. If not, you get a little residual sugar, leaving a little sugar in the wine and thus, a little sweetness. Typical detection of sweetness in a wine is at 1% rs, but some people can detect is at lower levels up to .5%.
In some cases, the winemaker might want a little sugar left in the wine to perhaps balance a high acid level. In some cases they are looking to make a sweet wine and in that case they can leave up to 24% rs in the wine (think late harvests, ice wines or Sauternes). Sometimes…in less lovely wines, the sugar might be there to cover up a sucky wine. We are suckers for sugar.
Okay, here’s where the real flavor comes in. Phenolic compounds come mostly from the skins and seeds and stems in the wine. They are also accountable for the color in a wine. These molecules are wide and varied and might be small compared to the other components, but they have a large impact on the taste, smell and texture of a wine.
Anthocyanins – Say that one 3 times fast! These guys give red wine it’s color, from red to purple to blue. Acids do play into this also, the higher the acid, the redder the wine, the lower the more blue.
Flavonols – Here’s where white wines get there golden tones. They increase with sun and ripeness. Hence, a wine that is very pale, is likely either from a cooler climate or less ripe, while a golden yellow color might indicate more flavonols (I really love that word) and might be from a warmer, sunny climate and have been more ripe at harvest.
Resveratrol – Okay another tricky pronouciation. This compound is thought to have health benefits. You’ve seen those posts on facebook about how red wine is good for you. Well…many studies have attributed this compound to anti-aging, cancer-fighting and disease prevention. (again…remember, all things in moderation)
Tannins – When it comes to phenolic compounds, this is probably the one you have heard of. They, like the others are found in the skin, seeds and stems of grapes, but you can also find them in oak. These are the bitter compounds you taste when you bite into a grape seed. They will dry your teeth if you swish them in your mouth, that’s astringency. They have a natural preservative that protects wines from oxidizing. Think about cabernet, a young one is sometimes so bitter and astringent that you almost can’t drink it. But…it can age a long time and gradually round. That’s those hard working tannins that cabernet is full of. This is also a reason for aging in oak barrels as the barrels themselves can help prevent the wine from oxidizing.
Vanillin – sound like vanilla right? Yep, vanillin is found in vanilla beans and in oak. That’s why you get that vanilla scent in wines or whiskeys aged in oak barrels!
You can get sediment from phenolic compounds. So you buy a nice bottle of red wine and cellar it for a while (quite a while). You go back and pull it from the cellar and notice, that it looks lighter in color and that you have sediment in the bottom. This is the tannins and pigments (which are phenolics) that have polymerized (they combine into longer molecule chains and get too heavy) and dropped out of the liquid to settle at the bottom of the bottle. With a cabernet again, this is good, it will mean the wine will be less astringent.
There’s more in there. We are just going to talk about a few.
Aldehydes – When wine is exposed to air the oxidation produces aldehydes. Sometimes you want that, like when you are making Sherry or Madeira, but most of the time you don’t. If you have ever left a bottle in the heat or just on the counter open too long and come back to find it undrinkable, that would be aldehydes.
Dissolved Gases – CO2 in a sparkling wine is a clear example. You might see that in small quantities in a Pet Nat or even in other wines. It will make a wine feel fresh and helps to release the aromas. There are always dissolved gases in a wine, just often not in big enough quantities to notice. We talked above about oxidation, that would be dissolved oxygen. It’s the reason that winemakers add sulfur to wines. Sulfur absorbs those free roaming oxygen molecules to keep the wine from oxidizing.
Esters – They create all those wonderful smells in wine. Odiferous compounds that are the result of a little coupling of an acid and an alcohol. Most of the time we like these odors, but at high concentrations, they might not be as pleasant. Take ethyl alcohol, a little bit smells fruity and flowery, truly lovely, but high quantities smell like nail polish remover.
Sulfites – Small bits of sulfur are produced during fermentation, but just small bits. But remember I said that they protect a wine from oxidizing? Sulfur is widely used by winemakers out of necessity to protect wines from oxidation. Deal is, some people are really sensitive to sulfurs (not nearly as many as think they are, but a significant enough amount). As a result, here in the US wines with more than 10 parts per million of sulfur dioxide, must be labeled “Contains Sulfites”.
We will be continuing our series of educational posts on wine in all it’s complexity! Join us to explore and learn more about this fantastic and fascinating liquid.
We finished our breakfast and morning flyover seminar, courtesy of Wine Yakima Valley. With caffeine ingested and a little more information to give us a some perspective on the Yakima Valley, we headed to Elephant Mountain Vineyard.
This is a super nested AVA, inside the Yakima Valley AVA which is itself nested within the Columbia Valley AVA. (It is the darker region north of 82 to the West side of the map).
Located on the North Western side of the Yakima Valley AVA the Rattlesnake Hills AVA was established in 2006 with vineyards dating back to 1968. It’s about four miles south east of the city of Yakima, where we were staying. The AVA spans over 74,000 acres with around 1,800 under vine.
Rattlesnake Hills take in the hills running east to west, that are north of the Yakima River. Elevations for here are high, starting at 850 feet and going to over 3,000 feet, with most vineyards planted in the lower elevations.
October and harvest as we drove into Elephant Mountain Vineyard. We passed bins filled with fruit harvested
that morning and had to stop and take grape glamour shots.
climbed up the mountain through the vineyards surrounded by high desert
landscape. I will admit to it feeling a
little odd. We are from Vegas and to see
a vineyard in the midst of this landscape was a little disconcerting. We climbed the hill to the picnic area on
top, where picnic tables were set out with bottles of wine and plates of wine
The Vineyard itself is located on the southern slopes of Rattlesnake Ridge which sits at the base of Elephant Mountain. The ridge sits above the Missoula Flood plain. Elevations here sit from 1320-1460 feet.The high elevation here means that they have about 30 more frost free days than the rest of the Yakima Valley.
Varieties Grown at Elephant Mountain
planted in 1998 with Merlot and Cabernet, the vineyard has expanded to almost 120
acres which now includes Cab Franc, Mourvédre, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Petite
Sirah, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cinsault, Counoise, Barbera and Viognier, Marsanne
I mentioned the grapes on the table. It was a gorgeous line-up for tasting the ripe grapes of Cinsault, Counoise, Mouvédre, Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne & Roussanne.
Co got started giving us a little background on the area and then, Joe Hattrup, the owner of the vineyard met us to speak about the vineyard.
Joe has been a farmer all of his life, but when they started this vineyard, he was new to wine grapes. So they set up a test block to see what worked and learn about the grapes before planting them in the commercial blocks.
They began as I said with Cab & Merlot and quickly got into Syrah. From there they found tat this site with it’s high elevation was good for many of the Rhône varieties. Most Rhônes are late ripening and the elevation here gives them those 30 additional days frost free, as well a great southern exposure late in the year to help with ripening.
They do have a second vineyard, Sugarloaf, also in the Rattlesnake Hills. He mentioned that they had pulled out the Viognier here at Elephant Mountain to plant Grenache which is in high demand and grows better with the protection this site provides.
A little on the Geography
We mentioned the elevation here, but Co put this into perspective with a few stats. At this point in the Yakima Valley, the river sits at 900 feet, and we were standing at about 1450 feet. When you head east to Red Mountain, the river there sits at around 400 feet. So you can see the valley is much lower there.
We were standing in a ring of basalt lava rocks which informs the soils. Up on the ridge behind us, if you look closely, you can see a tree line. A band of trees sites at about 1600 feet, right at the line for moisture, fog and snow.
of wines on the table, all from wineries who source from this vineyard, was
diverse and impressive! The grapes are
concentrated and the wines from these grapes tend to be really inky.
We tasted a wide sampling of Rhône varieties and blends from an assortment of wineries, all with fruit from this vineyard. It was really interesting to see the reflection of the fruit with it’s similarities and then the expression of the various winemakers on top of this.
We were treated to a great lunch following this tasting. A food truck with Authentic Mexican food arrived to fill our bellies. I felt even more at home, with food truck the desert sage brush. Once full, we climbed back into our vans and headed to Walla Walla for the start of the Wine Bloggers Conference. But along the way, we took in some spectacular views and our driver filled us in on the history of the area, ancient as well as recent.
I’ll do yet another shout out to Barbara Glover at Wine Yakima Valley. This visit that she planned for us was entertaining, informative and beautifully paced. Thanks also to Co Dinn and Joe Hattrup for taking the time to give us these great insights into the Yakima Valley Wine Region. And of course to WBC18, without which we might not have visited this beautiful region.
met Co Dinn on the first evening in Yakima.
As the party was winding down, and the table emptying out, he came to my
end of the table and introduced himself.
We spoke for quite awhile in the shadows, my shot of the wine I tasted
with him, with attest to that.
been a winemaker in Washington for over 20 years. A UC Davis master’s grad, he worked in Napa
and then came to Washington in 1996.
Since then he has worked with vineyards all over the state to make his
spent 12 years working with Côte Bonneville before diving into his own label Co
Dinn Cellars, where he makes wines of the Yakima Valley and is devoted to learning
everything about this areas soils and climates.
His knowledge is expansive as you will see as he speaks with us.
that Co had spent time working with Côte Bonneville. The Côte Bonneville estate vineyard is Du
Brul Vineyard. It was planted by Hugh
and Kathy Shiels back in 1992 with the winery founded in 2001. Kerry Shiels, daughter of Hugh and Kathy and
the current winemaker at Côte Bonneville joined us for this conversation.
mention that Co was devoted to learning about the climates of the area. Yes, that was plural climates. When you talk about DuBrul vineyard, they
have multiple microclimates within their 45 acre site.
“In distance measured by hundreds of feet or less, we observe different growing conditions and tailor our farming practices to provide for the individual needs of the vine.
Quote courtesy the Cote Bonneville website https://www.cotebonneville.com/vineyard
is recognized as one of the top in the state.
Part 1 – Overview and comparisons
Part 1 below, we begin with Barbara Glover, the Executive Director of Wine
Yakima Valley giving us an overview of the Yakima Valley AVA, it’s sub AVA’s
and some of the surrounding area. She then
turns it over to Co Dinn. Co gives us a little perspective on the size of the
wine region here compared to other regions. He and Kerry move on to a
comparison of Washington to Burgundy and then moving on to talk about the soils
and geology within this region.
Part 2 – Soil overview and Union Gap to DuBrul Vineyard
continues with details on the soils and top soils. They don’t have clay here, the soils here are
gravel or sand. As they don’t have clay,
they don’t have phylloxera. They are
also in a rain shadow. We zoom in and
begin our flyover where Kerry details some of the vineyards that we will be
driving by shortly on our way first to Elephant Mountain and then on to Walla
Kerry mentions the world class vineyard research happening here in the Yakima Valley. She also tells us about the Red Willow Vineyard. They focus on Syrah here and have a replica of the Chapel at Hermitage on the hill at the vineyard. They also are looking deeply into the nuances of the different microclimates of the vines on different sides of their hill. Red Willow is a vineyard and at least 18 wineries source fruit from this iconic vineyard. Our flyover takes us from Union Gap on the western end of the valley discussing areas and vineyards as we travel east. We get to DuBrul Vineyard in Rattlesnake Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.
Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine
grape would be red if it could. Every
grape would be cabernet if it could, and the best cabernet in the state of
Washington is DuBrul Vineyard merlot.”
Part 3 – DuBrul to Red Mountain
In Part 3 Co continues us east from DuBrul
ending in Red Mountain. This hill is an
extension of Rattlesnake Ridge. Red
Mountain provides excellent structure and tannins and is used often in
blends. This is a southwest facing
slope, not an entire mountain. It is one
of the warmest grape growing region in the state, so the cabernet grown there
always ripens fully.
a little time for questions which got into climate change. Kerry says the hillsides
help to protect them according to most projections, but they are working on water
management. (She goes into some great
details on why this is so)
I’m not a literary critic, but I love to read. I also find myself knee-deep in wine study these days, but I had vacation. How can you study wine and enjoy a relaxing vacation at the same time? Well, find a beach (or a pool) and pick up a copy of Steven Laine’s novel Root Cause.
I was lucky enough to have someone with Book Publicity Services reach out to me to see if I would be interested in reading this book, and with my upcoming vacation, of course I said yes.
This book is the perfect vacation read, and was especially perfect for me as it allowed me a piece of fiction filled with wine facts, so I didn’t feel too guilty as I took a break from my studies.
You don’t need to be a wine expert to enjoy this book, but if you pour a glass and read this adventurous romp, you will come out knowing wine trivia to impress your friends.
The basics on the story
The story follows a flying winemaker around the world as she investigates and tracks the plant louse “Philomena”. “Philomena” is actually a strain of phylloxera which is no longer put off by American root stock. (The name comes about due to a typo in a printed article).
Philomena (or phylloxera)
If you are in the wine industry, or just a wine lover, that may be enough to put fear in your heart. If phylloxera is a new term to you, let me give you the quick lowdown. This louse was taken to Europe on American Vines and infected vineyards all over Europe in the 1800’s. Vineyards were ripped out or burned to stop the spread of this louse. 70% of the vines in France were destroyed.
There was a happy ending to this real life story. It was discovered that American root stock was impervious to the louse and vines the world over were grafted onto this root stock. So the wine industry did not disappear, and many French winemakers set forth about the globe at this time, influencing wine making practices (and making them better) around the globe.
None-the-less, you can see that the word “phylloxera” sets fear into the hearts of wine lovers. So this is an edge of your seat ride to see if the vineyards of the world and wine can be saved.
A beach read
I said this was beach reading right? It is. While it is full of great information on vineyards around the globe, fancy wine auctions and cellars in Champagne, it gives you that information in an entertaining way. The chapters are set up in bite size bits, perfect for taking a break between chapters to take a dip in the ocean or refresh your beverage.
It’s easy reading, sometimes a bit contrived and silly. A little like a Dan Brown novel with the Scooby Doo gang. Okay….perhaps not quite that, but…it’s built to be approachable like Zinfandel or Shiraz. (There is a Super Villain with an underground lair!). We ARE at the beach! We don’t want to have to work too hard! This is perfect. I absorbed some great wine knowledge and got insights into different aspects of the industry.
This book is a page turner! I read this over the course of 2 days at the beach. I assumed the outcome would be good, but chapter to chapter…it was a quick breathe to look at the ocean, a sip of a drink and back in to see what happened next.
This is a perfect introduction to get you addicted to the complex world of wine. Are you a wine lover with a bunch of friends who are just casual wine drinkers? This is the perfect way to get them hooked on wanting more wine details, and guarantee you some better wine conversations!
About Steven Laine
Here is a little about the author provided to me by Kelsey at Book Publicity Services. He has a ton of wine knowledge that he works beautifully into this novel. You can picture the vineyards, the wineries, the cellars…and by the end of the book, you will probably be googling these places to see and hear more about the history and stories. I’m inspired to learn more about the cellars and connected tunnels underneath Champagne.
Steven Laine was raised in Ontario, Canada and has dual Canadian and British citizenship. He has travelled the world working in luxury hotels for international brands including The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Jumeirah. When he was Beverage Manager of a five star hotel in London, he learned all about wine and has since visited over one hundred vineyards and wineries in Napa, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, and South Africa. As the only North American ever invited to be a Member of the Champagne Academy, he had the privilege to tour the major Champagne Houses in France. His circle of friends is made up of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, restaurant managers, and wine distributors from all over the globe.
Steven’s debut novel, Root Cause will be released on February 19, 2019, published by Turner Publishing.
Steven currently lives in Singapore and is now working on his next novel. To learn more, go to www.StevenLaine.com.
This 400 page wine thriller can be found through Turner Publishing. You can download or order the paperback version. I like holding a book, especially at the beach with the sun, but it is also available to download on your Kindle.
were clinking, wines were being poured, great conversations were happening, the
weather was perfect and Flavor Camp was about to begin.
Wine Yakima Valley treated those of us who attended the WBC Pre Conference tour to 2 incredible days exploring the Yakima Valley. (You can catch our overview here). This first evening was spent at Owen Roe Winery. We managed an impromptu winery tour with Co-Owner David O’Reilly and now we were on to Flavor Camp.
Yakima Valley is an agricultural region and in addition to grapes for wine,
they also produce apples for cider and hops for beer. We were treated to an in-depth look at these
with Flavor Camp.
will get to hear about the Cider and Hops also, but we are about wine here,
Tour with David O’Reilly
We are at the Owen Roe Union Gap Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. As we climb into the back of the all-terrain vehicle with about a dozen wine writers, David explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.
“From east to west there is not a big temperature difference.” David tells us, but Walla Walla, where we would be going the following day, was at 30 degrees the night before, where as Yakima was at 40. The cold air rushes down the valley.
For a bit of perspective, take a look at this Wine map of Washington State, Courtesy of Washingtonwine.org you can see Yakima about at center east/west in the state, with the cascades to the west, compared to Walla Walla to the east.
Here on this map of the Yakima Valley courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org you can see the Union Gap Vineyard all the way west.
This tour would take us through 3 of the distinct soil types on the vineyard and we would taste the flavor profile from each.
Missoula Flood Loess and Bordeaux varieties
We drove up the hill and stepped out at the top, into soft loose dusty soil that immediately covered my shoes. As people walked, little puffs of dust erupted in their footsteps. “Loose soil” is your clue here. This is loess.
David pulls out his altimeter app to check the altitude (we all scrambled to find this app). We were standing at 1199 feet.
Remember those Missoula Floods?
Now it’s time to talk a little soil history. If you read our piece on Montinore, you may have some of this history! If not, you can find it here, where Rudy Marchesi explains the Missoula Floods.
This property sits at the convergence of Glacial Lake Missoula. We would pass the Wallula Gap tomorrow as we headed to Walla Walla. This is where the Ice dam backed up the water, eventually lifting and flooding the valley, creating the Columbia River Gorge and impacting the land and soil all the way into Oregon.
The water here in Yakima came up to about 1150 feet, so the soil we were standing on was above the glacial flood. The soil here are silts (really fine). David pointed out the hillside where you could see the sub soils of basalt and ancient rock that are about 22 million years old.
Soils here on top are shallow making it good for Bordeaux varieties. At the top of the hill where we are standing, they grow their Cabernet Sauvignon. This is clone 47, David tells us, a clone with small berries, this wine retains it’s fruit and has beautiful acid. We are tasting the 2014 bordeaux Blend with is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Malbec blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard block.
In the summers, up here, the sun is up at 6 am and the soils tend to stay warm overnight. They have less of a diurnal (day to night temperature) shift then Red Mountain. Photosynthesis is maximized when the soil is warm so the grapes here ripen earlier and the wine is less tannic and more textural.
We strolled down the hill, creating little dust storms and ending at the block of Cabernet Franc.
Elevation, terroir and matching varieties
David explained the planting method. The soils that are most shallow are planted to the latest ripening grape varieties (cabernet sauvignon), the deeper soils toward the bottom of the hill are planted to merlot, which has big clusters that ripen early. Here in the middle is where the cab franc grows, ripening later than merlot and before the cabernet sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc at Owen Roe
Franc is a favorite of mine and of David’s it seemed. He spoke of this ancient grape, father to
cabernet sauvignon and how it likes cooler temperatures. In hotter years it gets finicky. This end of the Yakima Valley is about 4
degrees cooler than other sites in the valley during the day, but it stays
warmer at night. This gives the cabernet
franc “gorgeous texture and keeps that perfume in the grape”.
taste the 2015 Cabernet Franc. This year
was warmer and the cabernet franc was finicky.
They had to pluck out the green berries by hand from the bunches. The first major heat will shut photosynthesis
down. The 2014 by comparison was very
Bordeaux in style and was chunky and tannic.
Irrigation in the Yakima Valley
We noticed the irrigation drip. Washington is extremely dry and they must irrigate here to keep the vineyard growing. The water here comes from wells from the Ellensberg Formation Aquifer. Due to the soil type, it tends to be slightly acidic. The soils are basic and low in nitrogen so this is one of the nutrients they will add in the winery. (We talk about that in our winery tour)
In so many wine regions we are trained to think of irrigation as bad and dry farming is good. That would be to stress the vines and keep those roots digging deep. Here, with the lack of rain fall, it is necessary.
The region gets only 7 to 8 inches of precipitation each year, and the definition of a true desert is anything less than 10.
The cherries in the valley, David tells us, use 10 times the amount of water as the vines here.
Into the glacial soils & Rhône varieties
Further down the hill we get into the glacial soils where you find calcium carbonate, the white substance we had seen above. These glacial silts have a little deeper soil and give you rock and minerality, the wines are finer than if they were grown in loess & deeper soils, that present as more aromatic and textural.The Oldest soil type here is the Ellensburg Formation, which is old Columbia Riverbed. This predates the Yakima River & the basalt activity. These are actually “anti-clines” that formed through earth movement. The upthrust that we were standing on at this point was at almost 1200 feet. This is not glacial. Anything lower than this was not upthrust, it was just washed away.
is found in high elevations. In Walla
Walla the famous Rocks AVA is all on riverbeds at the Valley Floor.
makes this great for Grenache is that Grenache is cold sensitive, so you want
it high in the vineyard so the cold air rushes down. Sounds counter intuitive, it’s at one of the
highest elevations & yet it ripens early.
Okay…all this talk about soils and wine, are you thirsty now? Search out a bottle of Washington wine, Owen Roe if you can find it, and enjoy our video tour with David O’Reilly.
Washington Tasting room
Open Daily from 11-4 in the Yakima Valley, they do require reservations for more than 8 guests.
They also offer Barrel Room Tastings on the weekends started each day at noon. You can reserve this for a fee on their reservation page. It includes a tour, private tasting, an expanded flight and a cheese and charcuterie platter.
The Union Gap Vineyard and tasting room can be found at 309 Gangl Rd in Wapato WA 98951. 509-877-0454
Oregon Tasting Room
Again open daily from 11-4 their tasting room off Hwy 219 outside of Newberg requires reservations for more than 6 guests. You can bring snacks, or contact them ahead of time and they can have a snack plate ready.
Here they have a Cellar Table Experience that you can reserve to do a more private tasting geared toward your palate. Contact them ahead of time to set this up.
The Willamette Valley tasting room is located at 2761 E 9th St. Newberg OR 97132. 503-538-7778
More to come!
Watch for more on Yakima Valley Wine, coming out soon!
Last July we made the drive out to Illahe Vineyards in the southern part of the Willamette Valley. The vineyard is south west of Salem, Oregon, in the proposed Mt. Pisgah/Polk County AVA. Kathy Greysmith, the tasting room manager, took us through a tasting of the white wines and then Lowell the owner and grape grower walked us out front to look at the view of the vineyard. We then made our way back into the winery space.
Wines for the people
Illahe they have a wide range of wines and one of the things they find
important is keeping their wines at a price point that makes them accessible. They want people to be able to buy 2 bottles
rather than just one and they wanted the wines to be at a price point that their
neighbors could afford.
they released their 2004 vintage in 2006 they priced their Estate Pinot Noir at
$19 and the price has only increased to a still very affordable $25 for their
Estate Pinot Noir. The white wines across
the board are $19. Do they have more
expensive wines? Well yeah! These are the specialty reds and the block
designates. But even so, these wines are
2016 Bon Savage
this point we were tasting the 2016 Bon Savage, https://www.illahevineyards.com/our-wine/illahe-bon-sauvage-estate-pinot-noir-2015 which spends 16 months in barrel. It was
bottled in the spring so it was still quite new as we tasted it. This is a barrel select wine from the lower vineyard
sections. This lower section is less
influenced by the summer sun and is lighter.
They age in 25% new oak and get a more Burgundian style from this
wine. There is oak influence but you get
a lovely cedar on the nose. This does
have some tannins that will make this wine age worthy.
Simple Gravity Flow
Kathy gave us the tour of the winery, with the Barrel room to the side, the tasting room is on the winery floor. During harvest the tasting bar is rolled away, the barrel room emptied and the winery floor is busy. The winery is a very simple gravity flow design with the grapes coming in at the higher back level and sorting tables there, they come down into the winery floor through a garage door high on the back wall and drop into bins for fermentation. Gravity flow is just smart design. It allows for less energy use (use gravity to move things), it’s easier on people, (again gravity is your friend, moving things down is less work) and it tends to be easier on the grapes. For more on Gravity Flow Wineries, check out the article below.
The Percheron and the 1899 Pinot Noirs are foot stomped in the wooden fermentation tanks. Everyone takes a turn. Well almost everyone, there is a height requirement for safety sake and Kathy sadly is not tall enough to see over the top of the tank when she is stomping…so she is out when it comes to stomping.
Games you don’t really want to win at
that this is a family affair, with the extended team included as family. During harvest they have a team board and
have a bee sting contest, which Assistant Winemaker Nathan won easily. They also have the beer board. If you do something stupid, you are required
to bring a 6 pack. Sadly, Nathan won
this also this year. (Rough year Nathan).
up the steps to the upper level and Kathy pointed out the wooden basket press
they use for the 1899.
Feel like you are standing in a
got to the top the open-air crush pad was stacked with bins and equipment as
well as a tank that was doing cold stabilization on the 2017 Estate Pinot Noir.
shape of the roof is curved and immediately you feel as if you in a giant wine
I asked about bottling, did they bring in a bottling truck? Up to this year they had hand bottled. This year with the growth they have seen they updated to a bottling system. A bottling truck is limiting. You have to schedule in advance and who knows if that is really when the wine is just right for bottling? So they had a local company design a bottling rig on a trailer. They keep it in a storage building below the vineyard and bring it up when they are ready to bottle. It can be easily moved and allows them control on their bottling.
will head over to the cave!
Where and how to find them!
Vineyards is located at 3275 Ballard Rd, Dallas, OR 97338.
a call for an appointment at 503-831-1248 or drop her an email at [email protected].
are $25 per person and are waived with a $100 purchase.
they don’t serve food, they have a lovely patio with tables overlooking the vineyard,
where you can bring your own lunch and enjoy the view.
After a wonderful interview with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate discussing the Missoula Floods, the history of Montinore estate and their wines as well as Biodynamics in the vineyard and garden, Rudy invited us to the cellar for a barrel tasting.
Winemaker Stephen Webber
On the way, we went through the lab, where we met Montinore Estate winemaker, Stephen Webber. Stephen started with Montinore as Assistant Winemaker over a decade ago in 2006 coming from DiStefano winery in Seattle. He became the Co-Winemaker in 2009 and took over as head winemaker in 2016.
On to the tasting
We stopped briefly in the tank room for a taste of the Red Cap Pinot that was fermenting in tank. Before heading to the cellar with room after room filled with barrels and a few clay amphorae style vessels (which we later found out were on loan from Andrew Beckham).
The original plantings of Pinot Noir in the Montinore Estate Vineyard in 1982 were very typical of the early Oregon plantings and were Pommard and Wadenswil clones.
High density vineyards
The vineyard we tasted from next were some of the first high density vineyards in the area, planted 2500 vines to the acre. Rudy feels high density works better here. With high density vineyards, each vine is asked to do less work. Here, instead of each vine needing to produce 6 lbs of fruit, they are only asked to produce 2 lbs per vine.
I remember speaking with Jason Haas about high density vineyards. He was very much against them in Paso Robles. But here is where perspective comes in. High density planting in Central California during a drought is much different from high density planting in Oregon, where moisture is much more abundant. So much of vineyard practice is determined by location and climate and available natural resources.
Soils and their affect on the taste of a wine
We moved on to taste from another barrel that came from a block about 100 yards from the first. The difference was immediately apparent in nose and color. This was the same elevation. The soil is Missoula Flood loess over basalt. Rudy conjectured that these 35 year old vines had worked their roots into the basalt and this was where the differences came from. This pinot had more earth with herbal and cherry notes. Basalt, Rudy explained, often had this cherry note. The first block we tasted from had deeper loess. He noted that the basalt in Dundee was different, but still had these cherry notes.
The Red Cap Pinot Noir is a blend of all of their Pinots. Everything is barrelled separately, then they pull reserves from each vineyard and block and the remaining blends into the Red Cap. The very best blocks make up the estate reserve. They then make several vineyard designate wines. They make 200 cases of a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Parsons Ridge. Which we tasted next.
We tasted again, from a block in Helvetia soil. This is a different soil series but still part of the Missoula flood loess and is known as Cornelius. The slope on this block is a little different. The color in this wine was more purple, which they seem to get from the southern part of the property. You could taste a bit more wood (the barrel this was in was newer oak) on this wine. There was more floral, and the fruit on the nose was more boysenberry than blackberry. This is the soil on Rudy and his wife’s 1 1/4 acre property
The next wine was from the Tidalstar vineyard which has marine sediment soils. This vineyard is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on it’s western edge. This wine will be part of the Red Cap, as well as all 3 tiers of single vineyard wines. They are thinking of creating a new brand exclusively from this vineyard.
Michael commented on this being the perfect way to taste wines. Comparing blocks and soils in the cellar and seeing and smelling the differences, guided by someone who knows the vineyard.
This is the beauty of Pinot Noir, it is so expressive.
Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)
More than just Pinot Noir
As Rudy searched for the right varieties for his early vineyards on the East Coast, he set up a research project to go to Northern Italy and explore indigenous varieties. His father was born there, so he had some people he could contact. They went to 5 different cultural research stations. He learned quite a bit, but didn’t put it into practice until he arrived in Oregon.
We tasted the Lagrein. (disclosure – a varietal I love and find all too rarely). Lagrein’s parentage is Pinot Noir and Dureza (which is also a parent of Syrah). In the glass it is very Syrah like.
You can really see in the glass, something syrah like going on. This has been doing well. We just bottled the 2016. I planted these in 2010-2012, so they are just starting to come in stride.
Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)
We moved on to Teroldego a grape related to Pinot Noir, Lagrein & Syrah.
Elisabetta Foradori, she inherited her family winery at 19 or so, they grew Teroldego, at the time it was meh. She went through and selected the best vines and clusters and bred for quality….I got material from her. We only have 2 acres of it, like the Lagrien. But I think it needs warmer sites, this might be our global warming hedge.
Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)
At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.
Clay breathes more than concrete, you can feel it. That’s what we want. I want that evaporation of water through clay just like barrel. In amphorae you get alot more fruit. Pinot producers worry, they get so much fruit…would it have the ageing ability without the tannins from the wood? As a blending component it could be very exciting.
Rudy Marchesi (our interview in July 2018)
Unfortunately, the Clay tanks have no sampling valves. So there was no tasting to be done there. Andrew Beckham is making him several of these clay vessels which Andrew calls “novum”. (these clay vessels are rounded like amphorae but do not have the conical bottom). You will get to hear all about the “novum” soon, as we spent a morning at Beckham and some time with Andrew on this trip also.
This was the end of our joyous trip to the cellar with Rudy. He was off to lunch with the grand kids and led us back to the tasting room for a tasting of their wines already in bottle.
For his work in Biodynamics and its advocacy, and, more importantly, for his generosity of spirit, OWP is pleased to honor him.
Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm
I knew of his work in Biodynamics. We spoke with him during our interview about it. But I truly had no idea of what a true leader in this field he is.
Most recently, Marchesi was one of nine growers — and the only American — asked to join the International Biodynamic Viticulture Group. This new committee will endeavor to integrate more viticulture into the annual Biodynamic Agriculture Conference held in Dornach, Switzerland, and to create a web-based forum for exchange of information among the world’s Biodynamic winegrowers.
Oregon Wine Press, January 8, 2019 by Jade Helm
Here, here Oregon Wine Press! Well done! And well done Rudy. I am humbled at the time and knowledge you so graciously shared with us.
More on Montinore
We documented all the time he spent with us that morning. The fascinating information fills 4 posts in addition to this one. There are links below as well as a pairing we did over the holidays that Rudy’s daughter Kristin (President of Montinor Estate), so graciously shared with us: