The chemistry of wine

Roussanne grapes at Elephant Mountain Vineyard

Wine. It’s simply crushed and fermented grapes.

Yep, that was me.

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 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.
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.
  • Water
  • Alcohol
  • Acid
  • Sugar
  • Phenolic compounds
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.

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.


Alcohol

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.

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

Acids make up just a bit of wine .5% to .75% by volume and there are two ways of measuring it.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.

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.
green apples
green apples
  • 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)
oranges
oranges
  • 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)
vinegar

vinegar

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.

Sugar

There are two main sugars that you find in grapes

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

  • Glucose
  • Fructose

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.


Phenolic Compounds

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.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.


Other stuff

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.

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Elephant Mountain Vineyard in Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnake Hills

Looking South from Elephant Mountain Vineyard across the Yakima Valley

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.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA

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).

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org
Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

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.

Want to get really geeky on this area?  Visit the washingtonwine.org page for Rattlesnake Hills  https://www.washingtonwine.org/wine/facts-and-stats/regions-and-avas/rattlesnake-hills

Elephant Mountain Vineyard

It was 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. 

We 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 grapes.

Elephant Mountain Vineyard
Elephant Mountain Vineyard, in Yakima Valley’s Rattlesnack Hills AVA

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

First 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 & Roussanne. 

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.

  • Cinsault grapes at Elephant Mountain Vineyard
  • Roussanne grapes at Elephant Mountain Vineyard
  • Marsanne & Counoise grapes at Elephant Mountain Vineyard

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 Hattrup speaking to us about his Elephant Mountain Vineyard
Joe Hattrup speaking to us about his Elephant Mountain 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.

Elephant Mountain Vineyard map
Elephant Mountain Vineyard map

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.

  • Desert, Vineyard and basalt. In Yakima Valley's Elephant Mountain Vineyard
  • Basalt at Elephant Mountain Vineyard

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.

The views

Spectacular panorama of the Yakima Valley from Elephant Mountain Vineyard
Spectacular panorama of the Yakima Valley from Elephant Mountain Vineyard
  • View of Mount Adams from Elephant Mountain Vineyard
  • Looking South from Elephant Mountain Vineyard across the Yakima Valley
  • Vineyard View Elephant Mountain.

The wines

The lineup 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.

  • Wines made with Elephant Mountain fruit WBC18

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.

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Yakima Valley Seminar

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

We spent a glorious evening at Owen Roe Winery, tasting wines and meeting winemakers from all over the Yakima Valley.  Now it was time to get into the nitty gritty geeky stuff.

Wine Yakima Valley,  set us up with a morning seminar for a video flyover of the Yakima Valley with Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels to orient us on the layout of the valley.

Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels talk Yakima Valley Wine
Yakima Valley with Co Dinn and Kerry Shiels

Co Dinn

Co Dinn Cellars

I had 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.

Co has 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 wines.

He 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.

Kerry Shiels

Côte Bonneville

We mentioned 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.

DuBrul Vineyard

Did I 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

This vineyard is recognized as one of the top in the state.

Part 1 – Overview and comparisons

In 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

Part 2 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 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 Rattlesnack Hills AVA, where Kerry takes over speaking of their vineyard.

Kerry gives us a great quote from Bob Betz, Master of Wine

“Every 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. 

We had 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)

Thanks to the Wine Media Conference https://www.winemediaconference.org/ (then known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) and Wine Yakima Valley https://wineyakimavalley.org/  for setting us the enjoyable and informative Pre-Conference tour.

Next up – Elephant Mountain Vineyard

From here we head out to Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the middle of the Yakima Valley

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Guilty pleasure – wine reading on the beach – Root Cause

Root Cause by the Ocean in Carlsbad

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!

Root Cause a novel by Steven Laine

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.

Root Cause Author, Steven Laine. (photo courtesty Book Publicity Services)
The Author, Steven Laine. (photo courtesty Book Publicity Services)

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.
 
Readers can connect with Steven on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads.

BookPublicityServices.com

How to find a copy

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.

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Owen Roe’s Union Gap Vineyard – A tour with David O’Reilly

Owen Roe Winery, in Yakima Valley Washington

Glasses 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. 

The 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.

You will get to hear about the Cider and Hops also, but we are about wine here, so….

David O'Reilly with Owen Roe Vineyard explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.
David O’Reilly With Owen Roe Vineyard

Vineyard 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.

Washington AVA Photo Courtesy of washingtonwine.org
Washington AVAs Photo Courtesy of washingtonwine.org

Here on this map of the Yakima Valley courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org you can see the Union Gap Vineyard all the way west.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org
Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

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.

Loess soil at Owen Roe's Union Gap Vineyard.
Loess soil at Owen Roe’s Union Gap Vineyard.

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.

Owen Roe 2014 Bordeaux Blend.
Owen Roe 2014 Bordeaux Blend in the vineyard

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

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington
Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

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

Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State
Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State

Cabernet 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”.

We 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)

Drip Irrigation, a necessity when growing in the high desert conditions in the Yakima Valley
Drip Irrigation, a necessity when growing in the high desert conditions in the Yakima Valley

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.

http://wineyakimavalley.org/climate/

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

Calcium Carbonate in the rocks at Owen Roe Vineyard.
Calcium Carbonate in the rocks at Owen Roe Vineyard.

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.

Ellensburg is found in high elevations.  In Walla Walla the famous Rocks AVA is all on riverbeds at the Valley Floor.

What 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!

And visit our Yakima Valley Wine page on our site for more details on this great region.

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Illahe Vineyards – Into the Winery

Illahe Vineyard, Vista View

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 Vineyard Tasting room
Illahe Vineyard Tasting room

Here at 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.

When 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 affordable.

2016 Bon Savage

Illahe Vineyard 2016 Bon Sauvage Pinot Noir
Illahe Vineyard 2016 Bon Sauvage Pinot Noir

At 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

Illahe Vineyard Tasting room
Illahe Vineyard Tasting room

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 harvest

stings and beer fine
stings and beer fine

We mentioned 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).

We headed 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 barrel!

As we 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.

The shape of the roof is curved and immediately you feel as if you in a giant wine barrel.

Illahe Vineyards Tasting/Harvest room
Illahe Vineyards Tasting/Harvest room

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.

Next we will head over to the cave!

Where and how to find them!

Illahe Vineyards is located at 3275 Ballard Rd, Dallas, OR 97338.

Give Kathy a call for an appointment at 503-831-1248 or drop her an email at [email protected].

Tastings are $25 per person and are waived with a $100 purchase.

While 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.

We did a quick primer on the winery ” Illahe Vineyards – stepping back to a simpler time” as well as a tasting and pairing with their Gruner Veltliner.

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Barrel Tasting with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

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

Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber
Montinore_Estate_Stephen_Webber, courtesy of Montinore Estate

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

Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate
Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate

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

Looking down the rows at Montinore

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.

Courtesy of Montinore Estate Vineyards

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.

Lagrein

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)

Teroldego

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)

Different Vessels

At this point we came to the beautiful clay fermentation tanks.

Andrew Beckham created “Novum”

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.

Person of the Year 2018 – Oregon Wine Press

Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi
Montinore Vineyards, Rudy Marchesi

What an amazing visit. Rudy Marchesi has such expansive knowledge and a drive to keep learning. He was so generous with us sharing his time and his knowledge. He was just named Person of the Year 2018 by the Oregon Wine Press

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:

Visit them! Montinore Estate

Montinore Vineyards Entrance
Montinore Vineyards Entrance

The Estate is beautiful. You will find it in the Northwest corner of the Willamette Valley in Forest Grove.

3663 SW Dilley Road Forest Grove, OR 97116

503.359.5012
[email protected]

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Biodynamics at Montinore Estate

In our conversation with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estates, we asked him about biodynamics. The winery was Certified biodynamic in 2008. Rudy had set this process up while he was still working for the Montinore Estate as an employee.

The Motivation & learning

Pheloxera was what originally motivated him to look at biodynamics. They had so much vine loss and he was looking at how to combat this, instead of just ripping everything out. So he started studying soil microbiology.

When he started out, he was more into organic farming. I would imagine his own garden informed this. But working with the wholesale importer on the east coast, he just kept finding that the biodynamic wines he sold in the French Portfolio, were the wines he liked the best.

At the time there were only a few books available and only two places in the US that had training. He found a tiny college in NY state teaching a course. This was just 1 class per month for 5 months and then a 5 day intensive. He took this information and tried it out and had tremendous results right away.

…biodynamic practices were established as agricultural practices.  …Biodynamic winemaking is an extension of the thought process. 

Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.

Biodynamics the practical and the mystical

I expressed my skepticism regarding some of the practices. I have never been one to believe in “leaf days”,

Rudy told me a story about his home garden. He always planted fall vegetables. Two weeks before the recent solar eclipse in 2017, he planted his fall endives. He planted a second row on the day before the eclipse. He had read that you shouldn’t plant anything for a few days around an eclipse, but he needed to get them in. The first row was beautiful. The second row only had 15% germination.

Rudy says that big events are significant. They don’t pick on black out days. They have to prune from January 1st to March 20th and it’s all got to be done. So they don’t take days off, blackout, leaf day or not. With racking and tasting they just watch to see if it makes a big difference.

80% of wine making is done in the vineyard anyway. It’s all about the quality of the fruit you get.  I think that’s why, it’s perceptible but not understood, why biodynamic wines have that certain something that’s….  you put them in your mouth, they’re lively they’re interesting, they’re there, they have a presence. What is it? You can’t measure it.  There is so much in life we can’t measure anyway you know, so it’s some sort of life force that we are creating in the vineyard in the farm to begin with.  That translates through the vineyard to the fruit and to the bottle.  And that’s what I think it is.  You can’t measure that.  You can taste it!

Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.
Vines at Montinore Estate

There is more to come…

We will have more with Rudy…he took us to the cellar after this to do some barrel tastings which were delicious and fascinating. In the meantime feel free to check out the rest of our conversation with him:

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer and the amazing Sarah Tracey

The line up of Bubbles from Gloria Ferrer for the Bubbles and Bites Sparkling Pairing Exploration with Sarah Tracey

It’s the season for bubbles and this past October I was able to do an amazing tasting and pairing event with sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla Washington.

I met Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life the evening before her Bubbles and Bites Seminar at WBC18. At the dinner at Doubleback Winery, we finished with the hors d’ouervres in the winery and headed back into the beautiful tasting room to find a seat for dinner and as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to Sarah. We had great conversation throughout the evening (we both fell in love with the AMAZING lobster bisque) and at the end of the evening she mentioned that she was hosting Wine Discovery Session “Gloria Ferrer Bubbles and Bites” which I had signed up for.

The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life
The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life (and no, that’s not her dog, just a friend she made who was happy to pose with her for this shot!)

Sarah has quite the history! She writes a column for Martha Stewart (you can check that out here) . She’s a Somm, a wine educator and is spectacular at putting on events. She loves to travel and loves bubbles! (my kinda girl!).

The Bubbles

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard View
The view of the Carneros Vineyards from Gloria Ferrer

Before we get started with the pairings, I should probably tell you a little about Gloria Ferrer. This winery is located in the southern part Sonoma County. We visited one early morning and enjoyed glorious views from the patio while doing a seated tasting. I love their sparkling wines. We loved them enough to join the club. When a morning is tough, I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting there on their patio with a glass of their sparkling in hand. It inevitably makes the day better. We wrote about our visit in Bubbles to Start the Day at Gloria Ferrer and give you a little background in Gloria Ferrer – a Little History

The wines of Gloria Ferrer, while always well received, particularly by the critics, have continued to improve over 30 growing seasons. The family legacy of uncompromising quality is passed down through generations. The Pinot Pedigree born of decades nurturing our Sonoma Carneros Estate vineyards. The patience-testing méthode champenoise process of aging and blending is paramount. It’s all coming together in the perfect blend of savor and celebrate. Find them on Facebook, Twitter at @GloriaFerrer, and Instagram.

Source Gloria Ferrer

Pairing Strategies

The Bubbles and Bites Session with Gloria Ferrer, was more than just showing you a pairing…this was meant to get your brain thinking about what makes a good pairing and why. Think of colors. There are complimentary colors and contrasting colors. Food and wine are the same way, you can match or contrast

Sarah laid down 4 pairing strategies

  1. Acid needs Acid
  2. Flavor Match
  3. Contrast Pairing
  4. Texture Match

Within these strategies, she paired a Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine with a small bite. Let’s walk through these delicious pairings. While we do this, keep in mind the flavor profiles and how you can use these to create your own pairings.

Acid needs Acid

For this strategy Sarah chose the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. This wine is 86.5% Pinot Noir and 13.5% Chardonnay. It is aged in stainless steel and then aged en tirage for a year and a half and you can find it for about $22

The pairing Sarah chose for this wine was a Classic Bruschetta with grated parmesan and a balsamic glaze. The acid in the tomatoes and the vinegar call for a high acid wine, a low acid wine would end up tasting flat.

This pairing worked! Keep this in mind when pairing dishes with tomatoes, lemon or vinegar and reach for a wine with higher acid to keep the flavors bright in both the wine and the food.

Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back  Bubbles and Bites
Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back

Flavor Match

The second pairing strategy is one that I often employ. Flavor Matching pulls from the wine and matches the food (or vice versa). I often use this when I picking up a wine I have not tasted. I can read the tasting notes on the shelf talker (or that I have looked up) and pull from that for my pairing. Syrah’s often have blackberry notes and I will pair them with a dish that has blackberries or a blackberry sauce. Spice notes on a wine, can inform the direction of your seasoning.

The wine for this pairing was the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. This wine is 91.6% Pinot Noir and 8.4% Chardonnay. (I know, they are so exact with their percentages!). This wine is hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. They blend 5-7% Vin Gris (cold-soaked Pinot Noir juice) into the base wine. This Vin Gris with it’s skin contact gives the wine it’s bit of color. It is again stainless steel aged and a year and a half en tirage.

Sarah paired this with a Turkey pinwheel with Cougar Gold, strawberry preserve, boursin & arugula. Okay…if you are asking, “What is Cougar Gold” you are not alone. When she announced this half the room murmured with smiles on their faces while the rest of us looked about bewildered. Okay here’s the deal.

Cougar Gold

Cougar Gold is a cheese. A canned cheese developed in the 1940s at Washington State University, funded by the US Government. The idea of a canned cheese that would last indefinitely was appealing at this time. It’s a white cheddar. You can find it online at the WSU siteor on Amazon, where a 30 oz can will set you back $64.99. You can watch a quirky fun video called The Making of Cougar Gold Cheese on Vimeo.

Okay, now that that is out of the way…so this pinwheel is turkey with Cougar Gold, which we now know is a white cheddar, plus boursin (a rich crumbly Gournay cheese made of cows milk), strawberry preserves and fresh arugula.

The strawberry notes in the wine match with the strawberry preserves enhancing both the wine and the food.

Contrast Pairing

We head now to pairing the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé. This wine is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. To get that lovely pink color they macerate half of the Pinot Noir on skin for 36-48 hours. This also developes the nose and flavor. This is aged en tirage for 2 years. This wine runs about $29.

The pairing is Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger. The wine with it’s vibrant fruit sits in contrast to the heat and umami in the dish with the seaweed, sriracha and ginger. For other contrast pairings think, sweet and salty or sweet and tart. Think Thai food and Riesling or lambrusco and chinese food. (somehow I’m always drawn to Asian pairings here, but there are many more!)

Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli
Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli

Texture Match

Wine, most especially sparkling wine, has a definite texture in your mouth. Sarah used this pairing to highlight this. The wine was the 2010 Anniversary Cuvée by Gloria Ferrer 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay this wine only uses the first press of juice. It ferments in stainless steel and spends 5 years en tirage. The growing season for this vintage was very cool. This lovely bottle runs $45.

Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée
Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée

The pairing here was elevated, as was the wine and was a bacon wrapped scallop with meyer lemon aioli. The creamy texture of the scallop and the creamy texture of the wine are gorgeous together in your mouth. Then you add the fat and salt of the bacon…yep…pretty heavenly.

The wrap up

Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs
Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs

These 4 strategies for pairing wines, work with sparkling as well as still wines and you can use them beyond that, with beers and spirits and even with creating a menu or a dish.

I encourage you to drink bubbles often. They are not all the same! And put them in a wine glass, not a flute, you will be able to enjoy the aromas in the wine even better.

Bubbles are joyful and these bubbles we discussed are affordable. Don’t just hoard your bubbles for an “Occassion”, life is short, make Thursday an Occassion!

Thanks to Gloria Ferrer for sponsoring this seminar and to Sarah Tracey for such an interesting seminar. And of course thanks to the Wine Bloggers Conference (newly rechristened the Wine Media Conference) for making this all possible!

A couple of quick disclaimers. I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference as a Citizen Blogger and this tasting was part of the conference. The conference is offered at an amazing rate for citizen bloggers to entice us to write about the different wineries and areas we visit. So…this great tasting and pairing, cost me next to nothing. BUT, I assure you that had it been crap, I would not have written about it. So there you have it. Second side note, I’ve written about Gloria Ferrer before and enjoy their wines on a regular basis as a paying wineclub member, so yeah, I like their wines.

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Day 9 of the 12 Days of Wine with Beckham Estate AD “Creta” Pinot Noir & bacon wrapped dates

Chehalem Mountains AVA from Beckham Vineyards

Andrew Beckham has merged his two loves, ceramics and wine.  The bottle for this wine lists it as “Creta A.D. Beckham MMXVI Amphora Pinot Noir”.  This wine was made in a terra cotta vessel.  A vessel made right here in his studio on the vineyard. 

There is a long story to go with this.  A beautiful and very real story, patiently told to me by Andrew’s wife Annedria, when we visited them at the Beckham Estate Vineyard this summer.  That story will have to wait for another day.  Soon, I promise.  Today,  we are going to talk about this wine.

A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

Ad Beckham 2016 Amphora Pinot Noir
A.D. Beckham 2016 “Creta” Amphora Pinot Noir

“Creta”  is latin for clay and this wine was fermented and aged in terra cotta and bottled un-fined, un-filtered.

From Beckham Estate Vineyard http://beckhamestatevineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0076/2016-AD-Beckham-Creta-Pinot-Noir
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room
Beckham Vineyard the view from the tasting room

The vineyard and winery sit in the Chehalem Mountain AVA on Parrett Mountain, where the vineyard elevation lands at 412 to 568 feet.  Soils here are Jory and Saum. This wine, of which there were only 100 cases made, is unfined and unfiltered, and if you want to get all geeky, the Pinot clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 115 and 777.  This is 30% whole cluster.

Beckham Vineyard, The view West
Beckham Vineyard, The view West from Parrett Mountain

What to pair?

Annedria Beckham got back to me with a beautiful recipe that she had just paired with the Creta Amphora Pinot Noir.

Hello Robin,

As we just had our 3 pigs butchered we have a wealth of pork in our freezer. I made this recipe the other evening and it went beautifully with the AD Beckham Creta Pinot noir’s  bright cherry and cranberry notes. You could substitute duck breast for the pork for an equally delicious meal.
 
Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce
modified from Epicurious
INGREDIENTS
·         1 teaspoon ground coriander
·         Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
·         2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 large shallot, thinly sliced 1/4 cup
·         10 sprigs thyme
·         1 1/4 cups dry red wine
·         1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         1 (10-ounce) package frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed, halved (about 2 cups)
·         1-2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter 
PREPARATION
1.       Combine coriander, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture.
2.       Heat oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (do not wipe out skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, cook shallot and thyme in skillet, stirring, until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits and stirring frequently, until liquid is reduced by about half and shallots are tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in cherries, any accumulated juices, and 3/4 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and swirl skillet to combine. Pluck out thyme sprigs,  taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Slice pork and serve with sauce.
Cheers!

Annedria Beckham of Beckham Estate Vineyard

This recipe had my mouth watering. Sadly, this was a late night pairing and the recipe arrived too late for us to gather all the ingredients.  I look forward to them releasing the 2017 Creta Pinot, so I can get a bottle and try it with this amazing recipe. The cherries, the balsamic, the thyme, the pork…all would be perfect with this wine. And actually, Annedria’s suggestion of duck, is really what I may try! But for tonight, we will have to do without.

Michael made do with gourmet sliders and bacon wrapped dates waiting to pair with this wine.  Michael wrapped the dates in a maple bacon, so we had that sweet and savory combo and found that it went brilliantly with the wine.  With the sliders, I have to admit, I slathered one bun with lobster pate and the other with tomato marmalade, the sweet, the savory, the rich…all played perfectly against this wine

Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir
Beckham 2016 Creta Amphora Pinot Noir

The Wine

So what does it mean to the wine to have the wine fermented and aged in clay rather than wood? 

Maybe it was just my brain making the association, but I felt like I could smell the clay on this wine.  On the nose, it starts with baking spices and deep red fruit (that is the cherry and cranberry Annedria mentioned).  It is medium bodied, but flavorful, so it feels bigger in your mouth.  The tannins are smooth, but lively and long lasting.  As it opened up I got more mocha/cocoa on the nose, and it felt darker in my mouth and more savory.  Later as I tasted I got wilted rose petals and a little salinity.  Going back to the clay, the nose always hit me as very fine particles (like clay and cocoa powder), which gave the wine a smoothness that I found really appealing.

I was really enchanted by this wine.

Need some?

I will apologize for taunting you with this beautiful wine.  This vintage is sold out.  But…new vintages lay ahead ( I think they are bottling the 2017 Estate Pinot Noirs currently) and you can purchase their wines from their site.

Want to Visit?

The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road
The entrance to Beckham Vineyards from SW Heater Road

They are typically open Fridays and Saturdays from 11-5. They are closed from December 17th, 2018 -February 1st, 2019 except by appointment. (So schedule an appointment or plan your trip after Feb 1st)

To schedule an appointment email them at [email protected]

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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Illahe Vineyards – Stepping back to a simpler time

Illahe Vineyards, Tasting Room

Well, I suppose “simpler” is all about perspective.  They have a wine here called 1899 that they do with all the conveniences that could be had at that time.  That means no tractors, no electricity, no motorized vehicles. 

Illahe means “earth” or “place” or “soil” in the Chinook local dialect.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

We visited Illahe this past July and spent the morning with Lowell Ford, the owner and grower.  He and their Hospitality Manager Kathy took us through a tasting and a tour of the Winery and Vineyard. 

The proposed Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA

The winery and vineyard are located in the middle part of the Willamette Valley, West of Salem near Dallas Oregon.  This area is part of the overarching Willamette Valley AVA and Illahe winemaker Brad Ford (Lowell’s son) has started the process of creating a Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA. 

The AVA covers 5,850 acres, 15 miles west of Salem and home to 10 commercial vineyards, including Freedom Hill, and two bonded wineries: Amalie Roberts Estate and Illahe Vineyards. Mount Pisgah, named by settlers in the 1800s in honor of a hill back home in Missouri, has 531 acres of vines — mostly Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay — planted from 260 to 835 feet in elevation.

https://www.oregonwinepress.com/gaining-ground

The Vineyards at Illahe

Grape Varieties

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

While the Primary focus here is Pinot Noir, they have planted Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier and then small bits of Lagrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.

Sustainability

The vineyard is LIVE-certified and they take pride in working by hand.  They are using native flowers as cover crops, which is good for the soil and makes for stunning vineyard shots.

The winery is built on the hill and is set up to be gravity flow. They also use solar power.

The site and soils

The site is south-facing with spectacular views from their patio in front of the winery.  Their elevation here ranges from 250-440 feet.  They get earlier budbreak and a bit of the Van Duzer Winds. On Mount Pisgah they get a little less of the extreme temps and winds than those vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

Soils here are Willakenzie sedimentary clay (Bellpine, Dupee, Wellsdale) with sections of volcanic Jory soil.

They use some Acacia barrels here, and the winery was designed for it’s roof to make you feel as if you are inside a barrel.

The 1899 Pinot Noir

Without electricity for their 1899, they revert to bicycle power to do pump overs.  Everything here is done by hand.  The Percheron’s plow the fields, the harvest is by hand, the bottling, labeling etc.  Then they have a carriage take the wine to the river and there is a two day canoe trip north and then they bicycle the wine to market.  Yep… maybe not “simpler” right.  But worth the effort.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

To visit Illahe

You can look forward to a journey through the winery and into the cellar with Lowell coming up.  In the meantime if you want to visit them To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.

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Montinore Estate – About the wines

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Continuing our conversation with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

 After looking over the Willamette Valley AVA map and having Rudy give us some background on the soils and the impact of the Missoula floods we sat with him to talk about how these soils influence the wines at Montinore Estate.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very expressive and Rudy told us that pinot grown in the windblown loess here tend to be brighter, with berry flavors rather than the cherry notes that are so often associated with pinot noir. The pinots here also are very spicy with baking spices.

They produce several different Pinot Noirs here.  Here is a sampling.  I can’t promise that I have not missed one.

  • “Red Cap” Pinot Noir:  This is a blend from all the vineyards giving you multiple areas and soil types blended into one bottle. 
  • Reserve Pinot Noir:  Again from multiple sites but all within the estate. These are the best blocks and lots. They ferment and age separately and then blend the best.
  • Parsons’ Ridge Pinot Noir:  This vineyard block sits on a part of the vineyard where the vines face two different directions.  The lots, as they are different, are fermented separately and then blended.
  • Keeler Estate Pinot Noir:  This is a 25 acres Biodynamic vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills that they source from.  This gives you another opportunity to taste and compare the terroir.
  • Windy Hill Pinot Noir: This comes from the Southern part of the Valley and is influenced by the winds of the Van Duzer Corridor.
  • Cataclysm Pinot Noir: Comes from their Block 1 which has mineral rich soils.  They pick the most expressive barrels from this block to make this wine.

Pinot Gris

 He finds the white wines to actually be more distinctive.  Pinot gris grown in the Missoula flood loess, is very complex.  Rather than apple and pear, they get citrus and herbal notes. In warmer years there will be tropical notes.  Always he finds pinot gris here to have lots of texture.

Riesling

The riesling he find distinctive, but without as much difference although he feels sure some might disagree.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is new here.  They had quite a bit planted early on, but it was the clone brought up from California.  This clone was a late ripener and had tight clusters which were prone to rot.  It was a great clone when there was good weather in a vintage, but that was about 1out of every 4 years.

They have now planted the new Dijon clone, which has looser clusters and is an earlier ripening clone.  They are back in the Chardonnay business in a small way.  He is encouraged by the quality, but it’s too soon to know what they will get stylistically from the vineyards with these clones.  They will need a few more vintages to figuring this out.

Bubbles

They are currently producing a prosecco style bubbly, and have a Traditional Methode Champenoise Sparkling wine of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which is yet to be released.

Other Varieties

In addition they are growing bits of Teroldego and Lagrein, Gerwürztraminer and Müller Thurgau.

Blends and specialty wines

You will find Rosé, Orange wine, fortified wine (Ruby), Ice wine (Frolic) and Verjus also on their wine line-up which is very diverse, having something for every palate.

Everything here is done on site, and they try to be as Estate as possible.  The 2016 Pinot got away from 100% Estate because they had too much demand and had to contract a couple of other growers.

Speaking with Rudy and walking the winery, you can see the pride they take in making the best possible wines here.

You can learn a bit about the estate with our posts.

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-estate-a-recent-history/

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-the-deeper-history/

And check back here as we will next talk to Rudy about Biodynamics before heading with him to the cellar for a tour and barrel tasting.

If you are in the Willamette Valley stop by and give the wines a taste for yourself.  You can find them a:

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
503.359.5012

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