Lagana Cellars Inaugural Release

2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Riesling from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla.

2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Riesling from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla.

After a bottling run on a chilly October day, I was handed a glass with white wine from a tank and asked to identify it.  That lovely fruity nose, crisp and acidic ferment on the tongue could only be Riesling as it percolated in the tank.  Wine maker Jason Fox, my mentor during all 2013 off-campus crush activities, had shared one of his babies.

2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla.

2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Lagana Cellars in Walla Walla.

Last Month, Lagana Cellars bottled their 2013 whites, including the now off-dry (0.78RS) Riesling, just in time for Taste Washington in Seattle.  Today I picked up my case of Riesling!  I should have gotten some Sauv Blanc, but my wine fridge is hardly going to accommodate the Riesling at the moment.  So much wine, so little space/time… sigh.

Jason went through the WWCC program I am currently attending – he graduated the June prior to my August beginning.  During our orientation he came in to let it be known he would be needing help during crush.  Two weeks later, with a bit of experience from the College Cellars crush pad I ventured out to help and just kept at it.  I am looking forward to the 2014 internship experience I will have working with him again.

Walla Walla is primarily a red wine region, but Lagana Cellars will focus more on white wines, with some reds.  In barrel now are Pinot Noir and Syrah from 2013.  Jason has already been in contact with several vineyards in anticipation of 2014′s harvest.

Congratulations on a fantastic first release and best wishes for continued success with Lagana Cellars!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Wine | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Blind wine suggestion

Last week my partner-in-wine brought home a box with a bottle of a coworker’s secret family recipe of ‘apple pie moonshine’ and a request for a ‘good’ bottle of red for this new-to-wine-enthusiast coworker.  Shuffling bottles through the wine fridge brought to light a couple that we purchased at a city chamber auction a year ago; Ginkgo Forest Winery Ginkgo Red from 2008, which won a double gold at the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards.  I did a blog about the auction and spoke about our enjoyment of that wine just over a year ago (you can read it here).

Wanting to be sure the wine was as remembered, we popped the cork on one, tasting for any off flavors from storage.  The smooth tannins and ripe, red fruit forward wine would make a great beginning for this newbie; food friendly as well as solo.  Packaged in the original box that brought us the ‘apple pie moonshine’, which is a lightly apple, gently cinnamon apéritif, the bottle of wine made its way north once more to meet its destiny.

After a crazy weekend of wedding and reception for youngest step-son about 300 miles from home, we did a day trip so I could come home to do the remaining homework that I couldn’t accomplish before leaving.  A terrific head cold and allergies accompanied us through the weekend (still dealing with the head cold) and a test to study for drove all thoughts about this wine from my mind.

Sitting down after supper this evening hubby told me the wine was a tremendous hit.  Making a choice of wine for someone without the benefit of some conversation or knowledge was interesting; not surprised that he liked it but happy that it was so well received on the first try.  We will pick up some more Ginkgo Red, now the 2010 vintage, at some point.  In the meantime we will enjoy a nightcap of the ‘apple pie moonshine’ every now and again.

Posted in Wine | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Drip irrigation in the Stan Clarke Vineyard

New season house keeping of the irrigation lines - making sure there is no debris inside the line.

New season house keeping of the irrigation lines – making sure there is no debris inside the line.

Eastern Washington finally received enough precipitation in March to reach average levels for that month – but the previous five or six months were very low which put us at a deficit for water at the beginning of this season.  We were anticipating some rainfall, the internet resources actually concurred with this belief, so we put down prilled fertilizer.  ‘Prilled’ means it is coated for slow release.

Closing off the end of each row once the lines are clear.

Closing off the end of each row once the lines are clear.

Alas, we didn’t receive the precipitation which meant the fertilizer would be exposed to the sun causing costly damage and a need to reapply it.  Drip irrigation is standard here in our region.  Some of the most modern technology has the drip system beneath the surface, within the root zone, in a few of the local commercial vineyards.  We have a wire-tied, above surface system in the Stan Clarke Vineyard.  To expedite the fertilizer absorption we spent some of our lab time reconnecting the drip system and checking each emitter’s functionality, replacing where needed, and leaving the water on.  It was mid-seventies, sunny with minimal breeze – what a day to play in the sprinklers!

Faulty drip emitter, water shouldn't be squiring out the side.

Faulty drip emitter, water shouldn’t be squirting out the side.

Drip emitter working correctly - dripping straight down, beside the grape vine - that is prilled fertilizer.

Drip emitter working correctly – dripping straight down, beside the grape-vine – that is prilled fertilizer.

 

Posted in Viticulture and Enology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Merlot plantings

Holes dug for the dormant merlot starts.

Holes dug for the dormant Merlot starts.

Preparing the dormant start to go into the ground.

Preparing the dormant start to go into the ground.

Making sure the hole is deep enough for the roots.  Grape roots can't be curled up when planted.

Making sure the hole is deep enough for the roots. Grape roots can’t be curled up when planted.

Mounding the soil over the new plant provides it with some insulation while it adjusts to its new home.

Mounding the soil over the new plant provides it with some insulation while it adjusts to its new home.

Nearly everyone was in shorts today as we worked in the vineyard.  One of the chores of the moment was to plant the dormant Merlot vines where they have been missing since they were frozen.  It will take a few years to get theses vines up to production.  First they have to produce a solid root system, and canes for photosynthesis.  The second year canes that will be long and strong enough to be cordons are encouraged and then tied to the lower support wires of the VSP (vertical shoot position) trellis.  Again the majority of the plant’s energies are geared toward producing a strong and healthy support structure with photosynthesis being the emphasis rather than fruit production.  It is the next year that enough fruit is left to be considered for use in production.  We use self rooted plants here in Eastern Washington, so should there be a freeze in the next few years, the strong root system  might be sufficient to avoid repeating this process again right away.

Posted in Viticulture and Enology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bud Break in the Barbera!

Bud break in the Barbera! Stage 05 in the "Modified E-L System.

Bud break in the Barbera! Stage 05 in the “Modified E-L System.

Exciting news!  We have bud burst in the Barbera of our Myles Anderson Vineyard.  We are now in the third growing season of this vineyard with anticipation of some fruit to play with come harvest.

Wooly bud, stage 03, in the Merlot.

Wooly bud, stage 03, in the Merlot.

In lecture yesterday we were provided with the Modified Eichhorn-Lorenz system.  The original is a communication tool devised in the 70′s for all viticultural stages during the growing season; it was modified in the 90′s to reflect an average of certain stages due to varietal differences.  We were still in the first, winter bud stage last week – tight small buds.  To see so much change in five days is exciting.  I expect we will see progress in the Merlot, in the Stan Clarke Vineyard, before the end of the week as we have such warm, sunny, Spring weather this week.

Now we hope and pray for no frost as we begin to monitor the progress and observe the insect/arachnid varieties present.  Naturally, we hope to keep the bad bugs to a minimum and the good bugs close by should they be needed.

Posted in Viticulture and Enology | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A pleasant pairing

Butternut squash ravioli & Basel Cellars 2009 Claret - beautiful together!

Butternut squash ravioli & Basel Cellars 2009 Claret – beautiful together!

When my hubby suggested we take out the butternut squash ravioli we had in the freezer as part of dinner I was reluctant to eat it.  As much as I love butternut squash (roasted, mashed, with mushrooms or quinoa, etc.) I am not at all fond of these little pasta packets; they are way too sweet!  We were in Bone Fish Restaurant a couple of weeks ago when the waiter announced butternut squash ravioli as a side dish recently added to the menu – I was not impressed.

As we dished up and sat down we poured a glass of wine; Basel Cellars 2009 Claret.  Hoping to minimize the flavor of the ravioli I took a bit of wine first – wow, what a lovely surprise when the pasta joined it!  The acidic nature of the wine reduced the unfortunate sweetness of the filling while the butternut squash/pasta supported the fruitiness of the wine.  Needing to confirm the experience I took another bit of pasta and another sip of wine – BINGO, it worked again.

Despite the buzz inside me, I calmly suggested to my dear hubby that he pair the pasta with the wine and let me know what he thought; nice he says shaking his head.  We laughed – he saw right through my facade and knew my opinion about the ravioli had shifted as we drink this wine with great regularity and I love it.

Just about the end of dinner he received a business call that he needed to take (hey, it is planting season & he was home for dinner, I accept the phone call).  I poured a bit more wine and took a couple more ravioli from the pot.  Having neatly sliced them in quarters I was just about to appreciate another bite/sip when he returned to my side, “You took more pasta!”  Ok, I admit, I was delighted to extend the experience a bit longer.

We always enjoy the challenge of pairing a wine from our stash with a meal, but as good as most pairings are, there are some that really stand out; this was one such pairing.  The left over ravioli and the last of the bottle of wine will likely be my supper tomorrow night since my hubby has to travel across the state tomorrow leaving me on my own.

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Vineyard maintenance

Color coding the vineyard: pink for missing vines, black for two year or older wood and green for year old canes.

Color coding the vineyard: pink for missing vines, black for two-year or older wood and green for year old canes.

It was a glorious early Spring day and I had the good fortune to spend much of it in the vineyard.  Between classes I raked beneath the rows of our Viognier block to neaten it up; hoping to finish that block tomorrow morning.  The afternoon was in the Stan Clarke Vineyard and our newest addition, which we unofficially call the Myles Anderson Vineyard.

We pruned last quarter, earlier in the week the trimmings were mowed over.

Winter kill a few years ago left this gap - planning to fill it in a couple of weeks.

Winter kill a few years ago left this gap – planning to fill it in a couple of weeks.

Today we took colored tape to the vineyard: pink to designate missing vines, black to secure cordons over two years old to the support wires and green tape to secure the younger canes to the support wires.  A few years ago we had a very cold Autumn, freezing several of the Merlot vines completely and some back to the ground.  We plant with self rooting stock so the latter ones grew back on their own.  Cuttings taken the following year are now rooted and will be planted where the pink tape indicates a missing vine.

Black tape on a two year old cordon extension.

Black tape on a two-year old cordon extension.

Securing the regrowth and extensions of cordons to fill the gaps along the row, bending the younger cordons back toward the wire and replacing damaged tape on older cordons is done with black tape.  Once around, overlapping the tape a bit to be sure it sticks to itself is all it takes.  Too much or too tight and the tape constricts the cordon over time, which is unhealthy.

Young vines tied to the wires last year with green tape.

Young vines tied to the wires last year with green tape.

There is a bit of give to the tape, but the weather eventually makes it brittle, which is why it occasionally needs replacing.

Green tape, loosely tied to keep the young cordon along the support wire.  Sometimes it helps keep a new trunk vertical by supporting it against a metal post or a second trunk bent in the opposite direction.

Bending open the metal tab that keeps the mid-wire in place.

Bending open the metal tab that keeps the mid-wire in place.

Once all the tape was on we had to loosen the mid-wires and remove them from their supports.  The wires will hang below the spurs until we have canes long enough to support inside them.  Then we will gently replace the wire in the supports, secure the tabs to keep them there and tighten the wires to create the vertical lift desired.  There is a top wire that will eventually have to be loosened to contain the longer cane growth up as well.

The mid-wire hangs below the spurs until this year's canes grow long enough to top the mid-wire.

The mid-wire hangs below the spurs until this year’s canes grow long enough to top the mid-wire.

Weeping pruning wound - a very good sign of health.

Weeping pruning wound – a very good sign of health.

Early next week we will be turning on the irrigation water, flushing out the system and checking each emitter to be sure it is functioning.  Our plethora of rain in the last month has been a boon; several of the pruning wounds are beginning to weep, which is healthy.  This indicates the vascular system that brings nutrition and water from the roots throughout the plant is functioning.  That weeping also keeps germs out of the fresh wounds – much like cuts we get seep to keep germs out of our bodies.

Bird netting clips from last fall fading in the sun.

Bird netting clips from last fall fading in the sun.

Locally we don’t have bud break, but there are vineyards north-west of us that have reached that milestone this year.  We will keep busy all quarter with the unfolding needs of our plant charges.  Last fall we came into the vineyard to clip netting, harvest and then put the vineyard to bed after harvest; it is good to complete the cycle this season.

Posted in Viticulture and Enology | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Last free night before Spring Quarter 2014

Alas, there was a deadline unmet; I didn’t get the cuttings I brought home from my old backyard into their new pots.  I will do that tomorrow after classes as they are in a cold, dark place, waiting patiently for me.  I did get all of the rooted plants into the garden, all of the little projects done and cleaned up, laundry completed and thankfully I am well rested again.  It took all of Spring Break to shake the exhaustion that plagued me through Winter Quarter.  The visit with old friends on Monday was fabulous, but the drive was long and by the time I was home my hip and knees hurt.

Knowing I have to be in the vineyard in the afternoons several days a week I made my sunscreen a few days ago.  Last quarter I had my Carhartt coat in the truck for the cold days, this one I have the sunscreen; the rain jacket is still there as Murphy would find the humor in my unprepared moment to let loose with a spring deluge.

Funny how I feel like I have to batten-down-the-hatches and prepare for a three-month ‘siege’ when I begin each quarter.  This one only has 18 credit hours and the hours are much more reasonably spaced in the day.  I am psyched to get into it again!

Posted in Viticulture and Enology | Leave a comment

2010 Pinotage, MAN Vintners, South Africa

I am scrambling to finish some of the things I wanted to accomplish during Spring Break; but I have a tendency to over plan so finish is the key word here as I won’t start anything more, but I don’t want partially complete projects out when I return to school.

One of the items to check off of my list is meeting some friends during our typical Monday morning ‘coffee’ (I used to partake of this ritual each week before moving to Walla Walla)  - since it requires my driving 2.5 hours to get there, I am going to be up and out of the house before this even posts in the morning.  While I am so close, I will stop into our other house, the one that flooded in December, to see the progress being made.  December 11th was the date of the flood, March 11th we finally saw some restoration begin.  There are subfloors, drywall and texturing – hoping to get some things out of the kitchen before they start painting.  Wonder if they can get all of the inside work done before the end of April and then the weather cooperate to get the outside paint completed shortly after.  Looking forward to putting the place back on the market.  Fingers crossed, prayers said and the best real estate agent available to sell it; hoping it goes quickly.

ManVintners2010Pinotage_03222014

Pinotage, raspberry colored South African wine.

Pinotage, raspberry colored South African wine.

Meanwhile, another local find in our favorite shop downtown, Salumiere Cesario provided a 2010 Pinotage by MAN Vintners in South Africa for our Century Wine Club list.

An offspring of the Pinot Noir grape that is so prolific along our west coast, this was light bodied with soft tannins, summer fresh berries followed by a long finish of baking spices.  This is an easy drinking wine that could become my daily drinker with its modest price point of $12.  (Pinot Noir’s that we like are in a much higher bracket.)

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two Columbia Valley Chardonnay

Two Columbia Valley, stainless steel fermented Washington Chardonnays

Two Columbia Valley, stainless steel fermented Washington Chardonnay

Wrapping up Washington Wine Month for 2014 with a couple of Chardonnay wines.  I believe the Jones of Washington 2013 Chardonnay is sourced from the Wahluke Slope AVA while Revelry Vintners 2012 Chardonnay is both Yakima Valley AVA & Wahluke Slope AVA.  Basically the same ABV of 13.5%.  Both are stainless steel fermented.  2013 was a much warmer vintage than 2012.  I believe the Jones of Washington Chard didn’t go through ML.  Both wine makers are in Walla Walla!  Victor Palencia, alum of the WWCC Enology & Viticulture program I am currently completing, is wine maker for Jones of Washington (he also has his own winery here in town: an article about him).  Jared Burns is Revelry Vintner’s owner and wine maker.

My partner in wine works with the owner of Jones of Washington for other crops, but they talk wine quite a bit when they visit.  This week he arrived home with a couple of samples, so we opened the Chardonnay.  Knowing Victor from his local winery puts a personal touch on that particular wine.  I have met Jared Burns while tasting at Revelry and really enjoy his wines, but I know less about him.

Jones of Washington 2013 Chardonnay

2013 Jones of Washington Chardonnay

2013 Jones of Washington Chardonnay

Pale straw color of the Jones of Washington 2013 Chardonnay

Pale straw color of the Jones of Washington 2013 Chardonnay

In a word: cherimoya.  The aroma, the texture, the flavor all remind me of this delicious fruit.  Each spring I make an effort to get some while it is in season; Mark Twain considered it ‘the most delicious fruit known to man’.  With a smooth, creamy texture and a cross of papaya and banana, maybe some light citrus notes I describe both the wine and the fruit.  It has been nearly a year since we last shared a piece of fruit and I am now excited for the season to start!  I really loved this wine with its nice crisply acidic finish.

Revelry Vintners Columbia Valley 2012 Chardonnay

Revelry Vintners 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay

Revelry Vintners 2012 Columbia Valley Chardonnay

Similarly pale straw color of the Revelry Vintners 2012 Chardonnay.

Similarly pale straw color of the Revelry Vintners 2012 Chardonnay.

Can’t quite sum up this wine in one word, but the crisp apple and peach aromas segue into a smooth, spiced apple slice with a twist of lemon in the mouth.  When I first had it in the tasting room I was smitten, I brought my hubby back to taste a week later and, despite his original reticence about white wine, we brought home this bottle.  That was still during fall harvest, which seems like a very long time ago although it was only six months.  I made quinoa pilaf with mushrooms, garlic and winter savory that went very well with this wine this evening.  Delightful wine.

It is remarkable how similar in many ways these wines are.  The drastic differences in growing season temperatures (growing degree days) could probably account for the rounder, creamier, softer mouth feel of the Jones of Washington Chardonnay vs the more crisp Revelry Vintners.  They are both excellent examples of what Washington State Chardonnay is.  In February I was at WAGG (Washington Association of Grape Growers) and attended the Chardonnay workshop where California, Oregon and Washington Chardonnay wines were discussed and compared.  Thankfully, we seem to have left the overly oaked Chardonnay behind us and wines like the two we had tonight are able to showcase the excellent fruit we have available to us.

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments