Wine making

We stumbled into our 2015 harvest this week

A single cluster of Pinot Gris grapes mutating
A single cluster of Pinot Gris grapes mutating from our WW vineyard source. Interesting…
Locati Cellars crush pad is prepped and ready for fruit to arrive... but the forklift won't start. Hmmm...
Locati Cellars crush pad is prepped and ready for fruit to arrive… but the forklift won’t start. Hmmm…

The excitement of GOTR Walla Walla Stopover (8/13-14/2015) still reverberating throughout the valley we received two white grapes early this week, Tuesday to be precise. Insane to think that grape harvest is well underway in mid-August; we are far from the first to bring in fruit.  So, what do you do when the fruit arrives and the forklift you need to dump the grapes into the press doesn’t work? You leave that to the owner and you go into the vineyards to pull samples because you know there are a few more varietals needing to be scheduled for picking.

Securing a bin of grapes to a forklift.
We are up and running: commence with Crush 2015 at Locati Cellars!
The owner helping the repair completion to get us up and crushing.
The owner helping the repair completion to get us up and crushing.
Forklift repairman putting a forklift back together.
The forklift repairman thankful that he is wrapping up this call.

The next morning we still had no forklift, so we started to press our seven tons of fruit in the early afternoon. Not ideal, but we didn’t have a choice. It was still dark for another two hours after I fell into bed exhausted, but we did it!

Cleaning the press I was stung by a honey bee; they are very fond of grape juice!
Cleaning the press I was stung by a honey bee; they are very fond of grape juice!

I returned to clean the press within the same 24 hour period.  Bottling of the 2013 reds is scheduled to take place on Monday, so all of the preparation for bottling (i.e. racking and filtering) will round out our first week of 2015 Crush.  Oh, already two of the three grapes we anticipated coming in are scheduled right after bottling.  Stay tuned, this looks like it will be a crazy harvest year!

Cheers!

Beer, Wine

An exchange of domestic cultures: wine and beer

One of my closest friends is from Wisconsin, a true cheese head,Green Bay Packers fan and fisher-person.  Her years in Washington State have provided her with a great palate for bold, red Washington wine, so when she visits we break out some Walla Walla wine.  We visited with wine and ate dinner with wine; all good.

This visit she came hard on the heals of a vacation in her home state, bearing gifts of beer from New Glarus Brewing Company. Three bottles of wine for three of us through the afternoon and evening, with dinner, was enough.  We will open the beers over the course of the week and report back.

I look forward to telling you all about the beers, cheers!

Beer, Traveling

Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise, Oregon

Terminal Gravity brewpub and brewing facility
Built in 1990 the front house was a sausage kitchen, with a bakery added later before Terminal Gravity added the brewery.

On our way back from Joseph, Oregon we stopped in the tiny town of Enterprise at Terminal Gravity Brew Pub, where Mutiny Brewing’s owner, Kari, interned before opening her brewery. Naturally, for us this was the only reason needed to justify a stop at a second brewery on the way back to Walla Walla.  We saw the sign to it on our way to Joseph, so it wasn’t too difficult to find the turnoff and then the brewery.  Looking like a craftsman style farmhouse built way back when with wide, dark stained wood trim and retro looking hardware and fixtures at the front and then built onto, it is really a 1990 built-to-look old building that housed first a sausage kitchen, then added a bakery, then the brewery minus the sausage kitchen and bakery to become what is now Terminal Gravity’s brew pub.  With picnic tables outside and a small bar inside where the still hot air seemed like a heavy winter coat we knew we were on a mission to taste what was on tap with the intent of taking something special home with us.

A retro icebox style fridge inside Terminal Gravity's brewpub in Enterprise, OR.
A retro icebox style fridge inside Terminal Gravity’s brew pub in Enterprise, OR.

Stirling, our bartender, and a part-time brewer, has worked there for the last five of the 18 years Terminal Gravity has been in business.  They produce a lot of beers, the pub seems to fill to capacity during the nice weather, they have quite a bit of swag for sale and we have seen their 22 ounce bottles for sale in a couple of places as we traveled Washington and Oregon; apparently they also distribute to Idaho.

We tasted 8 beers from Pilsner style lagers to Quad style Belgians were on tap that day.  We came home with two bottles of the Good Gravity, a collaboration of Goodlife Brewing in Bend (where the beer was made) and Terminal Brewing, we will evaluate that beer in another blog as we haven’t opened it yet.  Our favorite beers:

  • Dortmunder Export – 5.3% ABV 25 IBU, this is a German Recipe that works well with hard water, which is what Terminal Gravity has to work with.  Clear gold with a white head this lager is herbal and clove on the nose with a nice malt body and citrus finish of Crystal and Ultra hops
  • IPA – 6.7% ABV 70 IBU this is the original beer that put Terminal Gravity on the map of Northwest Breweries.  Copper colored with a light head, this beer is full-bodied with nutty, toasted malt mid palate with apricot and grapefruit toward the finish
  • Tap Out 9.7% ABV ~40 IBU is a clear, copper-colored Belgian Trippel with a creamy head, white flower/floral nose and sweet treat and spice body
Early art for Terminal Gravity that hangs on the wall of the brewpub.
Early art for Terminal Gravity that hangs on the wall of the brewpub.

We talked motorcycles with a couple of locals, Deep Sea fishing out of Alaska with Stirling and, of course, beer with those that waited for their order beside us.  Lots of t-shirts and caps (baseball and beanies) left during our visit.  We had come across the bottles in a couple of places, but we hadn’t purchased many.  As we travel we will look for the four or five that are bottled and distributed.  (Apparently Hawaii is a fortunate recipient of Terminal Gravity beers!)  Watch for our review of the Good Gravity bottles – 2015 grape harvest is underway in Washington, so good beer will be a necessary part of the wine making process!  Have you seen Terminal Gravity’s bottles by you?  Have you tried them? What did you think, bottled is certainly different than draft.

Cheers!

Celebrations, Wine

GOTR, stopover Walla Walla: aftermath

Fantastic music by international and local artists saturated our little town Thursday through Saturday; it was both exciting and exhausting.

Concert goers I spoke with in the tasting room and each evening when we ventured out lamented the distance of the camp ground from the downtown with no shuttles to quicken the pace and the delays in getting the campsites set up, hotel goers were less bothered by these things, of course, but parking and road closures made for interesting delays in getting to the festival the first time around. But everyone enjoyed the music. Sunday, gas stations had lines of vehicles of all descriptions preparing for the drive ahead. Alaska Airlines increased the number of flights in and out of our fair valley, that meant the airline and TSA workers were on overtime before all returned to ‘normal’ today.

Many locals emerged from self-imposed seclusion on Sunday, enjoying the cooler sunny day to explore the remains of this major event. Most had peaked in at the stage and various open-ground-turned-camp-ground earlier in the week. By nightfall Sunday, with the evidence gone, this music weekend will be relegated to social media posts and memories.

There is vocal discontent from some down town businesses as the rose-colored glasses distributed last winter were clouded with reality: the music and fans were great, business not so hot. The benefits to the majority fell short if my conversations are accurate. The City of Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce might have to offer olive branches before continuing on as usual.  Promises of leaving things better than before the concert are yet to be evaluated.

That said, GOTR shook up our status-quo, brought a whole new demographic of people to our beautiful valley and suggested the possibility that we didn’t have to be a wine tourism only community.  Fabulous wine, excellent food, a couple of breweries, theatre, symphony, and a smattering of boutique shops are our infrastructure, maybe some more breweries and a distillery or two would be good to round out visitor options.  I have enjoyed participating in music festivals in previous towns I have lived in.  Might it be time to host a music festival here each year, building upon the great foundation already in place?  We pride ourselves on being bike-friendly, would a bike event or marathon be worth pursuing?  There are visual artists here, maybe we need to encourage a major art event?

Transitions can be tough, but without change there is little or nothing to encourage growth and continued pleasant living.  As a transplant to Walla Walla I am happy with the joyful, low-keyed attitude that is here. It isn’t about stirring the pot, but about recognizing what is valuable in the pot and celebrating it. Last year Walla Walla was named as one of the top ten wine destinations in the world at a youthful thirty years, we are recognized for our warm, welcoming attitude and excellent colleges, but that doesn’t have to be all we excel at.

It was very fun to visit with people from South Africa, by way of Portland and Manhattan, and various other locations I would enjoy visiting some time. I hope the few that I exchanged contact information with will become better acquaintances before their next Walla Walla visit. I personally am quite happy with the GOTR stopover. That said, late nights (dancing with my hubby was a delightful part of a couple of them) and working each day, I am ready for a couple of days off to sleep in, try not to catch a cold that seems to have infiltrated my lowered defenses and wrap up some projects.  What do you enjoy most about your community? If you could add something to it, what would it be?

A few social media photo sourced photos to help you visualize our terrific weekend:

Cheers!

Celebrations, Wine

Walla Walla Stopover 2015, thank you Gentlemen!

Gentlemen if the Road tour is in Walla Walla August 13-15 2015.
Gentlemen if the Road tour is in Walla Walla August 13-15 2015.

Do you listen to SiriusXM Radio or Spotify? This summer’s ‘Gentlemen of the Road‘ concert tour includes Walla Walla, Washington: Mumford and Sons, Foo Fighters, Dawes, Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis, and several more are HERE NOW. Since it was announced in January the excitement and anticipation have been crazy. Road construction in town was sped up to be finished in time to accommodate the 40,000 expected visitors, roadies, vendors, and media descending upon our fairly remote corner of Washington State. Scuttlebutt about where the bands are staying, if Pearl Jam will make an appearance, etc,. have dominated Facebook and Twitter.

Locati Cellars white and rose' wines with #GOTR W2 commemorative glasses
Locati Cellars white and rose’ wines with #GOTR W2 commemorative glasses

Probably the biggest question in town though is whether these visitors will be interested in wine, not the grocery store version, but premium, Walla Walla wine. Beer, yes, that is even mentioned in their online description of towns they have visited; we also have a couple of fabulous breweries. All of downtown Main Street is barricaded for walking only. There are wineries and

#GOTR Walla Walla Stopover commemorative wine glasses.
#GOTR Walla Walla Stopover commemorative wine glasses.

restaurants in ‘The Zone’ with local bands playing  on a couple of street stages each night to encourage the visiting night owls to party as long as possible. The Airport wineries have people pitching tents and parking trailers all around them, they are extending hours too.

Marcus Whitman employee parking pass for #GOTR
Small town parking management during our big music weekend.

We, Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars, are not in ‘The Zone’ despite being downtown. The five wineries here in the Marcus Whitman Hotel and those on Rose and 2nd are gambling on decent numbers to bolster our summer sales. Collectable wine ‘glasses’ are all over town. Special shipping deals and bulk wine sale prices are announced. We have spiffed up our spaces, stocked as much as possible, and joked with each other about how this weekend might go. The wineries outside of town are hoping for some spill over of the expected flood. Boon or bust, it is an exciting time in our little town.

My hubby and I had the opportunity to spend an evening enjoying Hamilton Loomis at Sapolil Cellars, Blake Noble at Kontos Cellars, and a handful of other bands as we wandered Main Street last night.  Would you have liked your town to be one of the stop overs on the Gentlemen of the Road Tour?

Walla Walla stopover of #GOTR line-up poster
Walla Walla stopover of #GOTR line-up poster

Cheers!

Beer, Traveling

Mutiny is brewing for the last five years

Phillips Creek Forest Fire OR 204
Stopped to wait for the pilot truck to guide us through the fire next to OR204.

After the triple digit temperatures and anticipation of an early harvest (sparkling grapes have been harvested this last week, so Washington is officially in 2015 harvest) I scheduled myself off this weekend to spend time with my beloved.  We took advantage of the modest eighty-degree temperatures for a motorcycle ride from Walla Walla to Joseph, Oregon.  It took us through forested mountains, a forest fire, farmlands and small towns to picturesque Lake Wallowa in the Wallowa Mountains and the artistic town of Joseph.

 "He who thinks he is invisible." Shelley S Curtiss
Bronze sculptures in Joseph, Oregon. “He who thinks he is invisible.” Shelley S Curtiss

Six years ago we visited the same area during our honeymoon tour and Joseph was a charming art community but not much going on right before the Fourth of July.  Today we were pleased to see a bustling, post-Blues Festival town with more shops and eateries, including a brewery and a distillery that weren’t around during our last visit.  Bronzes, large and small are the prominent art.  Along the street corners, in private yards, and available for commission and sale are beautiful bronze statues.

Wallowa Lake from the south end, the Wallowa Moutains are behind me.
Wallowa Lake from the south end, the Wallowa Mountains are behind me.

We spent a bit of time wandering through the Wallowa Lake State Park to stretch our legs and take in the beautiful scenery. It was fun to watch the chipmunks scurrying in the rocks along the lake. On our previous visit there were hardly any people and the local deer were everywhere in the park! We didn’t see any this visit. The smell of barbecue wafting from various camp sites throughout our walk made my stomach growl with anticipation of our own delayed lunch.

It was easy to decide where lunch would be: Mutiny Brewing Co. The thought of a local beer to go with our lunch was too much to pass up.  Friendly, with house made food offerings that took into account the gluten-free and vegetarian options and didn’t limit me with my allergies to one menu item!  Six beers offered became a flight to accompany our soup and salad lunches. This was probably my favorite meal out in a very long time; the garlic-beer clams (soup) were everything I hoped they would be!

The beers:

  • (S)Wheat – 5.0% ABV this light gold ale came with a slice of orange on the side of the glass.  Before adding it we enjoyed the lemony smell and true malty palate, after adding the orange that dominated the taste of the beer (This is the beer in my clam broth!)
  • Pitcairn Pale – 5.6% ABV was toasted whole grain bread with a mild pine finish that became more intense as the beer warmed up
  • Super Pale – 6.6% ABV has a slightly herbal nose with a nicely complex malt and herbal hop mouth full
  • Pi-Dog Porter – 6.0% ABV while cold the nose is barley and cocoa but as it warmed up it became a rich caramel, the palate is nutty and cocoa and very smooth
  • Brown – 5.5% ABV a slightly metallic nose (iron?) and finish with a primarily malty palate throughout
  • Haze Maze – 6.8% ABV mild citrus nose with a creamy mouthfeel and a balance of malts and hops from start to finish

Have you been to Joseph, Oregon?  To the Wallowa Mountains/Lake?  If you are in the Boise, Idaho area, have you seen their beers offered yet?

Cheers!

Wine, Wine making

On “The Rocks”

Wine made in the USA is grown primarily within American Viticultural Areas (AVA).  It has recently come to my attention, in the tasting room, that many wine drinkers aren’t familiar with this system, similar to the European designated areas in each country where wine is made.  The Federal Government, via the TTB, has the power to approve the suggested areas.  It also provides guidelines for label usage that wineries must follow; labels won’t be approved if they don’t meet all of the rules.

Basalt cobbles and grape vines.
The basalt cobbles run very deep in this area dubbed “The Rocks District of Milton Freewater”.

The Walla Walla Wine Alliance lead a tour of the newest AVA, a sub AVA of Walla Walla AVA, called “The Rocks District of Milton Freewater” for members of the Alliance, so local industry people.  This is a distinctive AVA in the US as it is defined solely by the soil type in the area.  It isn’t very large, but it has already caused some consternation for wine makers that use the fruit as it is located in Oregon, within the dual state AVA of Walla Walla Valley, which is itself a sub AVA of the dual state Columbia Valley AVA; the TTB approved the Rocks District February of 2015. As a wine has to be finished within the state the AVA is in this presents an interesting conundrum for the Washington State wineries that claim estate vineyards in the Rocks District – will the TTB consider making changes to the existing rules or will Willamette Valley wineries begin using the fruit as much as possible to claim the new AVA (yes, with the scores wines off of these vineyards receive make them very valuable)?  Time will tell.

Basalt cobbles and vineyards with people.
Walla Walla Wine Alliance brought a bunch of us out for a tour of a few of “The Rocks District” vineyards – very informative.

It was a lovely, not too hot August morning to be out in the field.  I came away with some new information and a better idea of what is already growing in the AVA.  If you are interested, there is a site listing the vineyards and information for grape growers to make informed decisions about purchasing grapes: Everyvine, under vineyards and open the search box for Walla Walla or The Rocks District of Milton Freewater, of any off of the list to see what is available.  It is a great tool!

See for yourself why this new AVA is called “The Rocks”!  Cheers!

Umbrella covered patio tables with people eating lunch.
A delicious lunch in the shade of Watermill Winery after our morning tour.
Wine

Strip mall to Tuscan Villa, Gordon Estate

The four Reserve reds at Gordon Estate.
The four Reserve reds at Gordon Estate – all were lovely.

By now you probably know my hubby works with potato farmers, sometimes multiple generations as he has been in the industry for a while.  Change is perpetual, so when we drove by the back of a small strip mall going through Pasco he pointed out the big sign advertising ‘Gordon Estates Wine Bar‘ he told me he knew the Gordon Brothers because they grow potatoes. I guess they liked the idea of grapes and wine from the early days of Washington’s wine industry as they began planting vinifera grapes in 1980.  There are about 100 acres of red and white grapes in the northern area of Walla Walla County, along the Snake River as it enters the Columbia River.  They are the oldest Estate Winery in Washington State!

It took us a while to make time to stop in to see this tasting room, although conveniently just off of the highway, it isn’t where we exit for anything in general. Purposeful planing brought us there on a relatively quiet weekday. Parking in the lot of the half empty mall we marveled at the lack of businesses there and the sad state of the economy to bring a once thriving commercial block within a booming housing area so far down. Proceeding to the corner of the ‘L’ shaped building we went through the double sets of doors entering a space reminiscent of pictures (someday I will get there in person to validate) I have seen of Tuscan Villas. Charm and quiet affluence to counter balance the reality of the outside world: textured paint on the walls, wrought-iron style wall sconces and candelabra, as well as decorative wrought-iron gates.

All three Chardonnay wines from Gordon Estate: 2014 Kamiak, 2013 Chardonnay and 2013 Chardonnay Reserve.
All three Chardonnay wines from Gordon Estate: 2014 Kamiak, 2013 Chardonnay and 2013 Chardonnay Reserve.

There are a lot of wines on the wine lists, a classic that includes the Kamiak label (from grapes grown in the Palouse Falls area and not necessarily estate fruit) among the Gordon wines and the Reserve list of 2009-2012 reds considered special, and the 2012 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer.  I had the realization that I had worked with one of the wine makers for the Kamiak label when I was with Seven Hills Winery.  It is a very small world!

Some highlights of the wines we enjoyed:

  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay – 13.4% ABV, a Chardonnay my hubby truly enjoyed with its smooth, buttery texture and I loved the juicy lemon finish
  • 2012 Block 3 Merlot – 13.8% ABV, tobacco and red currant nose, raspberry and spice on the palate with smooth tannins and a subtly lingering finish
  • 2012 Tradition – 13.8% ABV 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah, cocoa powder and pie cherries to open both the nose and palate with a brisk tannic finish, probably the most abrasive tannins of them all, but they play well with the flavors
  • 2009 Tempranillo – 13.4% ABV 80% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, is a campfire with hints of pepper on the nose, a bowl of mixed berries and more pepper on the palate and a smoky, dreamy finish… my favorite

It was a great visit, we were glad we made the time; there is another wine bar in Woodinville if that is more convenient to get to.  I believe the Kamiak brand is well-distributed, let me know if you find it locally.  Cheers!

Wine

Canoe Ridge Vineyard

Canoe Ridge Vineyard logo on brick wall of the tasting room.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard, on Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River, invokes the Lewis & Clark expedition through the area.

On a basalt ridge looking south over the Columbia River there is a vineyard, originally 44 ares, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 1989 by some names now big in the Walla Walla and Prosser wine scenes.  Lewis and Clark traversed the area, leaving a journal entry remarking that the ridge resembled an overturned canoe, and they should know what a canoe looked like, right?  That vineyard is claimed as ‘estate’ by Canoe Ridge Vineyard.  With wide distribution (15-20 thousand cases) in many regions,they are likely something you can find locally wherever you purchase wine.

The original trolly house:  The Walla Walla Traction Co. on Cherry St. is home to Canoe Ridge Vineyard's tasting room.
The original trolley house:
The Walla Walla Traction Co. on Cherry St. is home to Canoe Ridge Vineyard’s tasting room.

We visited our local tasting room, opened in 1994.  It was too chilly to sit outside the day we visited but they have a charming patio area to relax in with nice trees on the west and south corner to provide a bit of a sun break.

Charming, warm, and Lita, the tasting room manager, with her Italian Greyhound, Dolly, were ever so welcoming.

Wines:

  • 2014 Cinsault Rose’ – 14.2% ABV is a summer fruit salad with a drizzle of honey and grapefruit
  • 2014 Sauvignon Blanc – 13.2% ABV is lemon grass and just ripe gooseberries at the front of the palate, a distinct minerality in the middle and lovely, smooth pineapple finish
  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay – 14.1% ABV 9 months on new American oak with a honeysuckle nose, ginger spiced pear and buttered toast finishing with a light marshmallow
  • 2012 Reserve Cherry Street Red Blend – 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 10% Malbec with ~33% new French oak, 14.2% ABV is cedar and pomegranate with darker berries and fresh sawn wood to finish

The best part is they have a growler system for us locals, called the Villager with rotating wines!  Currently the Waistburg Cellars “Three” white blend and the Waterbrook Viognier are available.  Precept, the parent company of all of these wines, is still privately owned; Waterbrook Winery is where we came across the wine growlers a couple of years ago (also a Precept brand), so this isn’t a surprise.

I would like to know if you have tried Canoe Ridge wines.  How did you like them?  Do you seek them out?  Are they competitively priced?  We brought home wine, it is of a price point that makes it a nice daily drinker.

Cheers!