Happy Memorial Day 2015

American Flag over tree tops, Walla Walla, Washington.
Liberty and justice for all; remember the fallen and thank all service men and women for fighting so we are free.

Thank you to all who have serviced, and are serving, in our United States Armed Forces.  Memorial Day can come and go with barbecues and parties, but 3:00 PM local time, take a moment to remember why this is a  holiday.  Our nation is free because of the brave; let their service and sacrifice not go unrecognized.

However you celebrate, stay safe and have fun!  Cheers!

Viticulture and Enology

We raise a glass

I took these pictures when we had a moment of down time.  Usually I am quite remiss about putting people in my photos, but today I was making a point to get everyone in a picture.  Not everyone is named, but all are part of our 2015 EV class.

With a crack in his voice our Enology Instructor told us one of our number had passed away last night: sobering silence.  Eternally hopeful, we all wanted our friend to beat his cancer and join us as we celebrate this journey.  As that is not to happen, I dedicate this post to Mike Bottoms.


Tempus Cellars

Tempus Cellars tasting room.
Tempus Cellars associate, Judy, took our picture for social media so I have a picture to share with you!

I have driven by Tempus Cellars many times as I drive to the Stan Clarke Vineyard or during crush at Lagana Cellars thinking I had to make time to get into that tasting room; it was at the top of the list to visit when my partner in wine and I decided to stay local and visit some Walla Walla wineries.  (No, we haven’t been to all of the wineries in Walla Walla yet.)

Tempus, Latin for ‘time’, refers to the time it takes to make wine, especially red wine.  From the moment grapes arrive at the winery to bottling time is critical to allow each phase of the process to complete for optimal flavor, mouthfeel and agability.  Winemaker Joe Forest prefers to age his red wines for 22 months in barrel and another six months in bottle before releasing them.  Joe is a graduate of the WWCC Enology & Viticulture program!   The first vintage of Tempus Cellars wines was in 2006, released in 2009.  The wines in our flight comprised 2010-2012 reds, 2013 Riesling and 2014 Rose'; the latter two not seeing oak didn’t require the additional time.

Tempus Cellars 2011 Red Mountain and 2010 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tasted side-by-side - yummy!
Tempus Cellars 2011 Red Mountain and 2010 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon tasted side-by-side – yummy!

The wines:

  • 2013 Evergreen Vineyard Riesling – 12.7% ABV, 1.1 RS, a delightfully crisp apricot and nectarine rich white with enough residual sugar to make the fruit flavors pop and balance the acid
  • 2014 Grenache Rose’ – 14.1%, kiwi and cherry on both the nose and palate
  • 2012 Yakima Valley Grenache – 14.8% ABV, neutral oak for 16 months presents the dark, acidic fruits from start to finish
  • 2011 Yakima Valley Syrah – 14.4% ABV, blending two clones (Joe Phelps and Tablas Creek) to arrive at the silky smooth, full-bodied fruit and earth Syrah with a subtle spice on the finish
  • 2012 Red Blend – 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc 14.7% ABV, easy drinking, smooth black cherry, black plum and fennel
  • 2011 Yellow Bird Vineyard Tempranillo – 14.2% ABV, a small lot of a very nice wine from dry-farmed Walla Walla grapes explodes with wild blueberry, herbs and leather with a hint of campfire
  • 2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.4% ABV, aged in all new French Oak the richness of the black currant and blackberry stand up well to the 22 month aging
  • 2010 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 14.2% ABV, more astringent than the Red Mountain CS, the black currant and blackberry are joined by Red plum and herbs

Happy to meet Molly, Co-owner and winemaker’s wife/assistant, for a fun visit.  Notice the turtles on the Cabernet Sauvignon labels?  They signify the naturally slow process, time, a key ingredient in making Tempus Cellars wines.


Beer, Celebrations

Celebrating Waitsburg’s Sesquicentennial Celebration

One of the bronze sculptures on Main St. Waitsburg celebrating the founding families from 150 years ago.
Bronze sculptures on Main St. Waitsburg celebrating the founding families from 150 years ago.

One hundred and fifty years as a city is a pretty long time in the western USA and we were happy to spend a bit of our weekend with friends from Ephrata at the Waitsburg Celebration, admiring the new bronze statues and tasting through a selection of ‘local’ beers at the Brewfest in the Town Hall.  I have written about most of the seven breweries and hope to get to the ones I haven’t sometime in the near future:

Brewfest commemorative glass from the Waitsburg's Sesquicentennial Celebration.
Brewfest commemorative glass from the Waitsburg’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.

Our group of four had two dedicated IPA lovers, a devotee of fruit beers, and a generalist and we were all able to try a few beers and find a favorite.  Since we didn’t all try all beers this is from our personal selections:

  • Raspberry Saison from Dragon’s Gate, 6.3% ABV 26 IBU
  • Bourbon barrel aged from Hermiston (can’t recall the name of the beer and details weren’t online)
  • Bullseye PA from Riverport (unlisted) tied with Burwood’s IPA, 6.8% ABV 75 IBU
  • Chocolate Stout from Dragon’s Gate, 6.5% ABV 35 IBU

Everything that we tried we liked, there were lots of other beers offered, but it wasn’t prudent to drink more before getting back on the motorcycle to head home.  Congratulations to Waitsburg on its first 150 years!



Bontzu Cellars: old world traditions, new world wines

Sorin Dumitru, owner and winemaker at Bontzu Cellars a brand new winery in Walla Walla!
Sorin Dumitru, owner and winemaker at Bontzu Cellars a brand new winery in Walla Walla!

In keeping with new Walla Walla wineries, Bontzu Cellars had a Grand Opening over Spring Release Weekend here in the valley.  I had classes with owner and winemaker, Sorin Dumitru before he graduated from the WWCC Enology & Viticulture program June of 2014, and knew he was doing everything he could to open his own winery.

Antique shoe molds on the window sill, newly planted vineyard outside the window.
Bontzu Cellars: honoring the past by making wine in the present.

Born and raised in Romania, Sorin brings old world traditions, including the memories of his Grandfather, a cobbler, who made wine for his family from a small vineyard, together with his passion for Washington State wine.  A soft-spoken mad, Sorin has a vision for Bontzu Cellars and we wish him Good Fortune as he pursues this dream!

The wines:

  • Traditional Romanian sausage with Bontzu Cellars wine.
    Traditional Romanian sausage to pair with Bontzu Cellars’ wines.

    2014 Rose’ – 65% Counoise, 20% Cinsault, 15% Syrah, a Rhone Style wine with 12.5% ABV, strawberry color and flavor

  • 2013 Cockburn Ranch Grenache – a delightful red that paired very well with the Romanian sausage Sorin prepared for the Grand Opening
  • 2013 Malbec – 14.8% ABV, violets and Cassis with lovely oak notes to finish
  • 2012 Syrah – 14.1% ABV, a young wine from the new sub AVA ‘The Rocks’ is a warm, smooth wine with warm, dark fruit and lingering oak finish
  • 2014 Gewürztraminer – 1.4RS, 13.5% ABV, gardenia and honeysuckle nose with lychee and mango on the palate



Plumb Cellars and JK Vineyard

1910 historic Walla Walla building is home to Plumb Cellars.
1910 historic Walla Walla building is home to Plumb Cellars.

What do an accountant, a builder and owners of an art gallery have in common?  Wine, not just enjoying a glass of wine, but growing grapes, making and sharing that wine; they have Plumb Cellars in downtown Walla Walla and a vineyard, JK Vineyard, south of town in the most scenic wine country around.  The J & K represent last initials, a simple but effective name; it is planted to Sangiovese and Viognier.  His use of the plumb bob to ensure the vineyard posts were set perfectly straight when JK Vineyard went in prompted the name of the winery.

Original 1910 door was found encased in brick, now it leads to the patio on the west side of Plumb Cellars.
Original 1910 door was found encased in brick, now it leads to the patio on the west side of Plumb Cellars.

Gary, the builder, was busy getting the antique door that spent the last several decades  walled in with brick ready to admit patrons to the new patio that overlooks the Mill Creek waterway in town, adjacent to the cobbled town square.  Working with less than square corners, settled bricks and mortar and discoveries such as the door, in the 1910 building that houses the tasting room didn’t seem to be a problem.  Live music on Friday and Saturday nights with wine on the patio seems like a fabulous pairing; we will have to check out an evening event sometime soon.

Plumb Cellars 'Plumb Crazy' wine
Plumb Crazy: 60% Syrah, 38% Sangiovese, 2% Viognier, 13.7% ABV, bright red fruit with warm, toasty vanilla.

The wine:

  • 2013 Afternoon Delight – floral and spicy 100% Viognier
  • 2012 Sangiovese – 13.7% ABV – 100% estate Sangiovese was released early this month
  • 2010 Plumb Crazy – 60% Syrah, 38% Sangiovese, 2% Viognier – 13.7% ABV, is red fruit and warm vanilla
  • 2010 Syrah – 13.8% ABV, is smooth fruit and spicy oak
  • 2010 Damn Straight – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot – 13.9% ABV, black cherry, bell pepper and blackberry with a hint of vanilla and spice on the finish
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.9% ABV, big, smokey blackberries with a lovely smooth fruit and spice finish

A fine blend of art and science, of precision and ease, and a welcoming attitude in the tasting room make Plumb Cellars a must visit when you come to Walla Walla.


Wine, Wine making

Mustard Seed Cellars: seek and you shall find

Walla Walla, world recognized wine destination, is also a recognized winemakers destination.  There is something to be said for arriving in this small, friendly town with a significant winery per capita ratio and making a name for yourself within the local wine industry.  Some, like me, come here specifically for the industry, others find themselves lured in, captivated and driven to take part, like my friends Gary and Dawn.  They came to Walla Walla for reasons totally unrelated to wine and found within a few years the desire to grow grapes and make wine; this has manifested in Miracles Vineyard and Mustard Seed Cellars.

Gary attended the WWCC EV program, graduating June 2013; the same program I will graduate from next month.  Both he and Dawn have been working at established wineries, learning more about the business of the industry while taking the necessary steps to launch their own label and grow their own grapes.  This March I helped bottle their first wine: 2013 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine will be released for sale in early August, just a few months from now!

Participating in their experiences, cheering them on where we couldn’t help, and knowing that each step toward success has obstacles and hurdles to overcome.  It has been enlightening, exciting and educational as my graduation looms large and we look at the next few years to determine what path we want to take through the same course, what other lessons will we need to learn to reach that goal of being recognized in the Walla Walla wine world.  Look for it: 2013 Moving Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon this August!


Viticulture and Enology, Wine making

Pro, Con or no opinion: Sulfuring, Fining, Filtering

Blending trial for 2013 College Cellars Merlot.
My teammate, Fiona, carefully blending Merlot and Malbec dying our blending trial.

It is midterms of my last quarter; five weeks until finals are done and I will graduate with my Enology and Viticulture Certifications!  As we have been working on our red wines from 2013, Stan Clarke Merlot in my case, we have had to make decisions and act on them prior to bottling on the 21st of this month.  This brings me to ask here for your opinions about sulfuring, filtering and fining?  It seems these concepts related to wine are fairly polarizing.  Be frank, this is a no judgement zone, open conversation is what I hope to encourage.

We chose to blend our Merlot with a Malbec (4%) that didn’t go through MLF for a couple of reasons.  This decision was made to enhance the nose and fill out the mouthfeel.  We saw no value in fining the wine because 2013 was a warm year and the fruit came in perfectly ripe and fermented well. Sulfur levels are good to ensure no microbial population growth before we bottle.  On the way into the bottling truck the wine will be finely filtered to ensure stability.  I am comfortable with this; sulfuring, fining and filtering have a place in my winemaking tool box for when they are needed.  We have traveled a few places where the culture is to shun these practices on principle and I wonder what you think about them.



First Farmers Market of 2015, with wine tasting

The 2015 Farmers Market season began last Saturday!  As I worked or left town every weekend of last year it was nice to get up and wander through the stalls.  We brought home fresh vegetables, local honey, goat/sheep milk yogurt, and two Anaheim pepper plants for the hubby to nurture along with some wine.  Last April (in 2014) wine tasting at the market was approved so there was a fenced-in booth where you could taste up to two ounces of wine.  Since we moved from a very small community that wouldn’t have qualified to have wine tasting, I began wondering how many markets have approved this and have wine poured during the market.  So, putting this out there – does your local Farmers Market have wine tasting available?  Is it a winery or a wine shop that pours?


Traveling, Wine

Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow, Idaho; a Mead specialist

Jeremy and Heidi Ritter, owners of Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow, Idaho.
Jeremy and Heidi Ritter, owners of Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow, Idaho. A neighbor got Jeremy hooked on winemaking almost ten years ago.

Downtown Moscow, Idaho, is a charming, old town tucked in by the University of Idaho, another land-grant college, all of about ten minutes away from the Washington State University.  We were fortunate enough to find a parking space on Main Street, right by Camas Prairie Winery, our immediate goal.

Camas Prairie's bow to local University of Idaho, 'Ewe Eye White'
Camas Prairie’s bow to local University of Idaho, ‘Ewe Eye White’

Meeting Jeremy and Heidi Ritter, owners and winemaking team, it was natural to ask how they got started and what made them decide to grow their production to commercial size.  A neighbor of theirs got Jeremy into making wine in the garage; he discovered he was a natural at it and they decided to purchase the Camas Prairie Winery in the quaint downtown spot.  It was a turn-key operation allowing them to focus on sourcing grapes from Julietta, Idaho, the Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima AVA’s.  Local star thistle honey is

Two special labels on Camas Prairie Winery's Raspberry Mead for fundraising purposes it is so popular.
Two special labels on Camas Prairie Winery’s Raspberry Mead for fundraising purposes: it is so popular.

the base of the Camas Prairie Meads.  A couple of wild-sourced fruits (huckleberries, blackberries and plums) as well as cultivated berries round out the raw ingredients; quality.  Camas Prairie Winery produces the wines for the  University of Idaho’s official label, ‘Vandal Crest Wines.’ They also bottle other specialty labels for local fund-raisers.

Camas Prairie Winery mead varieties, Moscow, Idaho.
Meads, lots of them, are Camus Prairie’s claim to fame. local and wild crafted, fruits lend their flavors for an amazing variety.

I have to tell you that my partner in wine maintained his dislike of mead; that all changed when he tasted through the five available honey-based wines Jeremy made.  They were all between 5-5.5% residual sugar but none tasted SWEET.  Each of the fruit infused meads was a lovely color (with the huckleberry being a pale lavender) and their flavors were distinctly ripe fruit.  He became a convert that day.

Camas Prairie Winery distributes wine/mead and they ship to twenty states and DC.  There are dry whites and reds, besides the sweet/dessert wines and meads.  There is something for everyone!  My favorites were the Lemberger from the Champoux Vineyard with its smokey blueberries and the Ewe-Eye Gewürztraminer, also sourced from the Champoux Vineyard, at 3.5% RS and tasting of lychee and mint with a light spicy finish.

It was a fun visit to a winery with some fun surprises.  Cheers!