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Sitting on Hands

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September is nearly two-thirds over. Looks as if we’re going to see a similar vintage as last year in terms of timing. So that means, crush “crushed” into about one month max.

The great warm weather we had in the beginning of September was a blessing in the vineyards, helping to move things forward far better than last year’s September when temperatures remained in the 70′s throughout the month.

So today, it’s cloudy with rain last night. It feels wonderfully refreshing as the air had gotten very hazy. Puget Sound returnith!

A little cooling over in the vineyards is fine, giving the vines a brief rest. And brief it is with forecasts calling for the mid-80′s all of next week. But by the last few days of September, the temperatures drop into 60′s and maybe even 50′s for daytime highs.

No doubt we’ll see the grapes ripening very quickly over the remainder of the month. So, I expect to see fruit on deck possibly by the end of next week and then “here it comes” the last week of September and into the first couple of weeks of October.

First off … Albarino and Two Coyote Clone 1 Tempranillo! Then, to be continued!

Seattle Celebration of International Tempranillo Day, September 8th, 2011

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In my prior post, I announced the emergence of International Tempranillo Day, a world-wide “lift your glass” to the King Red Wine of Spain. Being September 1st, it strangely conflicts with “Cabernet Day,” which seems somewhat of an enigma, puzzling no doubt.

I’m still confused as to how Cabernet Day evolved, but regardless, it’s still slated to be an occurrence with anticipation for much tweeting and twittering on the social media front. To what extent this will be significant, who knows?

Strangely, the first Cabernet Day was September 2nd last year, so when International Tempranillo Day was created, there was technically no conflict. Now we find Cabernet Day has been moved to the same day. If you Google the term, only about 25% of the first 20 listings refer to the one upcoming, the remainder to the one last year. More confusion …

Undoubtedly, it would be unfortunate to have a wine battle between the King of Spain and the King of France. That conflict was already fought in the early 19th century (actually, Napoleon was the French ruler), and eventually, France lost, although it was complicated.

All of this precludes our having made a decision to acquiesce in effort not to cause great consternation among Seattle wine lovers. So a week later, on September 8th, we’re celebrating International Tempranillo Day at Wine World Warehouse, David LeClaire’s massive wine store on north 45th just west of I-5. So this way, all can be copacetic and everyone will have two weeks in a row to celebrate both the Kings!

I’m pleased to express that this will be the very first gathering of Washington winemakers to explore the wonderful attributes of Tempranillo. It’s also a precursor to a larger event in 2012 where the members of TAPAS, an extensive winery organization focused on Iberian varietals, will invade Seattle for the first-ever Northwest TAPAS Grand Tasting.

Following a “casual mix,” we’ll spend the first hour in a panel presentation, exploring Tempranillo’s history and background as well as it’s evolution to the vineyard’s of Washington State and our perceptions on its future. Then we’ll host a tasting which includes six wineries: Vina Salida, Pomum Cellars, Cave B Winery, Camaraderie Cellars, Brian Carter Cellars and Stottle Winery. And to really kick things into high gear, Restaurant Tango (up on the lip of Capitol Hill above downtown on Pike St.) will be serving a variety of sumptuous tapas to round out the celebration. A little Latin music, maybe salsa, maybe Rodrigo, etc. should set the evening’s mood just right for a festival of “Iberia meets Washington State.”

I’d bet it would be a good idea to contact Wine World Warehouse and make a reservation to be certain that you can join in the fun. Best reach: events@wineworldwarehouse.com.

Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.!

Espana ha Llegado a Washington!

1st Annual Passport Event with the South Sound Wineries Association

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There’s lots going on down here in the south end as of late. A while back, an association called the South Sound Wineries came together and we now are conducting our first passport event. It will run beginning Friday, August 12th through Sunday, August 21st.

Passports can be purchased at each participating winery for $20.00. It entitles the bearer of the passport to one tasting at each winery and $5.00 off the purchase of one bottle. Also, the passport will automatically enter the holder into a drawing for a weekend getaway with two nights lodging and dinner, a Capitol Dome Stress Reliever, and a $50 gas card, all complements of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau.

The participating members of the SSW are McCrea Cellar, Vina Salida, Stottle Winery, Madsen Family Cellars, Walter Dacon Wines, Medicine Creek Winery and Northwest Mountain Winery. You can pick up a brochure called the South Sound Wine Trail at any of the wineries which maps out all of the winery locations and directions to get to each. Also, you can go to our website and check out all of the details at:

http://www.southsoundwinetrail.com/

No doubt, it’s going to be a busy August “Down South!” Come join us for a fun opportunity to experience the wines of this great group of folks! And “A Tip of the Hat” to the Visitors & Convention Bureau for their wonderful help in making this possible!

Just remember: “It’s Always Warmer Down South!”

International Tempranillo Day @ OWTB

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Tempranillo is beginning to make a stir! The First International Tempranillo Day celebration has been announced for Thursday, September 1st, 2011. If you Google “Tempranillo Day” you can find several sources of what’s taking place that day, including participation by the illustrious organization, Wines of Spain.

Now to make things more interesting, it’s also been designated as Cabernet Day. I have nothing against celebrating Cabernet, however, just remember, David nailed Goliath. Worldwide, Tempranillo represents greater than 500,000 acres, but still trailing behind Cabernet which is presumed to be around 750,000. Considering a comparison of the awareness of the two wines among consumers, I would expect that Cabernet had better watch its backside as Tempranillo is quietly marching forward, stealth-like.

Least we not be remiss in joining in the celebration, we’re going to have a special evening at the Olympia Wine Tasting Bar raising our glasses to this wonderful grape. Details are still in the works, but we’ll certainly have plenty of Tempranillo, food goodies, and some latin music for the proper atmosphere. Maybe we can ask some of our local friends to bring a bottle of their favorite Tempranillo to share. Regardless, the celebration will commence at 6 p.m. and it’s end is when it ends!

We plan to make the courtyard available for everyone so there should be ample room for the celebration. Maybe I ought to obtain a pinata but it might get a bit too wild!

We’ll be sending out a Constant Contact notification to everyone on our mailing list and you can also watch this website for further information. Like I’ve said before, “Espana ha Llegado a Washington!” Don’t miss the fun!

Summertime Open House @ Eagleview Hill Winery

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I must admit admonishment for not having kept up on my blogging, as I believe my last post was somewhere back in the Jurassic Age. When I saw a pterodactyl fly over the other day I got a clue. Actually, it was just a turkey buzzard, but imagination got the best of me.

To the point! We’re going to have our first summertime Salida open house next Saturday, July 30th. In keeping with our Iberian theme, we plan some delicious Spanish-influence morsels, including Canapes, Gazpachos, Smoked Pulled Pork, Grilled Chicken with Peach Chutney and a great Pasta Salad on the side.

Our 2008 Tempranillo and 2008 Fuego Sagrado (the malbec and tempranillo blend) are rapidly diminishing, so this will be the last winery event where they’ll be available. We’re going to discount both wines for our summer celebration.

Then, we’re featuring our wonderful (and first) Albarino, Spain’s most renowned white wine, and our blend, Tres Vinos, both priced at a very reasonable $17.00 a bottle with a minimum purchase of six, and you can mix and match as you would like in any combined quantity.

The Albarino is very rich and bold, standing up to a host of foods (even our Gazpachos!) and redolent of pineapple, bosc pear, green melon and braeburn apple. Tres Vinos is a surprisingly big wine this vintage and very versatile, pairing with almost anything off the grill. So it’s perfect for this time of year, yet certainly is an all-season wine.

It looks as though we’re going to have beautiful weather with temperatures in the low to mid-seventies, so it couldn’t be much better than that!

Give us a call at 360.446.8466 if you’d like to join us. It always helps to be able to plan so there’s plenty of food for everyone.

Like we used to say down in Louisiana, “Ya’ll Come!”

It’s In Da – Even Albarino!

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Sometimes, something as simple as having successfully bottled wine is a greatly rewarding relief. The process is pretty tedious and exacting, so it represents its own level of intensity. Like working in a restaurant kitchen where “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” bottling must be done in a very clean environment and with utter attention to detail.

I’m happy to announce that over the past two weeks, we bottled the new 2009 vintage wines, including Tempranillo, ‘Tres Vinos’ and ‘Fuego Sagrado.’ All are now quietly resting at a cool 55 degrees, regaining their composure and awaiting their time to debut on the stage of the Washington wine world.

A new addition to the line-up is the beautiful Galacian grape, Albarino, which hails from a tiny appellation in Northwestern Spain called Rias Baixas. I think I have a personal affinity for the place, as long ago, Celts from Scotland and Ireland immigrated there, bringing their kilts and bagpipes. The climate is quite cool, similar to Scotland, and not unsimilar to our Puget Sound. It’s a lush, green place with a beautiful Atlantic coastline, and with a climate that greatly enhances the aromatic qualities of wines, particularly those of the white grapes.

We didn’t have very much Albarino to work with, just about a ton. So we had to barrel ferment rather than in stainless steel. As expected, the barrel fermentation gave a more supple and textured wine with a somewhat higher pH and lower acidity than its typical Spanish counterparts. Customarily, the grape is renowned for its bracing acidity, somewhat like our McCrea Cellars Picpoul. But we’re awfully happy with the results, as the aroma is huge and redolent of pineapple, pear and white peach. I believe it’s the most powerfully aromatic white wine I’ve ever made.

So this weekend brings a good feeling of accomplishment, and yet with reflection of those brave hearts who have served our Country, and of those who lost their lives in defending our freedom. Let’s lift a toast to all of them with a glass of wonderful Washington State wine and a deeply felt “Thank You.”

The Scotsman’s Return To Golf (sort of!)

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On Friday, May 13th (yup that’s right) we’re doing a winemaker’s dinner at the renowned Chambers Bay Golf Course. Since the game of golf began in Scotland, it seems appropriate and the surroundings are uncannily similar to Scotland. This is the location which will host the 2015 U.S. Open Championship!

I got together with the F & B Director, Anthony Shipmen, and Executive Chef, Dustin Joseph, and among the three of us, we’ve developed a great evening of food and wine pairing. It astonishes me that the evening is only $75 per guest including sales tax and gratuity!

If you’d like to join us, contact Anthony by email at: ashipmen@kempersports.com or call 253-460-4653, ext. 115.

As for golf itself, well ……. I was once accused during lessons by a pro that I was using the club like a tennis player. What a coincidence! I was a very serious tennis player during college. He kept saying “Don’t HIT the ball, SWING the club!” Oh well, I don’t have time for golf anyway in this moment.

Of course, we’ll also have a “Spanish Invasion” of the golf club that evening, including the tempranillo and our new release of Fuego Sagrado, the malbec-tempranillo blend. It’s actually ironic, but I’ll tell the story during the dinner as it goes back to our homeland in Scotland and the renowned McCrea castle Eilean Donan (featured in the James Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough).

Anyway, the final course is a chocolate molten cake with blackberry froth and lavender-blackberry smoke. I’ve never smoked lavender or blackberry. Have I been missing something? Maybe that’s where the “froth” comes in. Regardless, I’m already frothing at the menu … Hood canal oysters, thyme infused duck confit, rosemary lamb leg … yummy! But where’s the haggis Chef Dustin?

‘Spot On’(s) … Been Spotted!

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We were really surprised at how quickly our first Third Thursdays event, ‘Spot On,’ filled with over two dozen guests. There were so many requests for another one that we’re repeating it again in April, and it’s already completely booked as well!

We had a really fun evening for our first outing, and it was great working with Lenny White, wine director of Waterstreet Cafe and Aqua Via. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue with our guests, and it was all I had hoped for in anticipating a successful evening.

I think the big surprise of the night was Picpoul, “the little stinger,” which few in the room had ever experienced. But it’s not surprising, as there probably aren’t even ten bottlings on the planet.

The positive response to the wine was very rewarding, particularly considering it’s racy, high acid profile. Paired with a Bruschetta Catalan, I would have though everyone would prefer the rich character of the Roussanne, but the Picpoul seemed to end up the favored wine.

The second course, a pork pate with cherry compote and ground mustard, was a great foil for comparing Syrah produced in French oak and American oak. It pleased me to see that, on the whole, the majority of participants preferred the French oak version. Not that I have anything against American oak, after all, the barrels are virtually half the price of a French barrel. I simply relish the subtlety of French oak, and the complexity achieved simply from one forest to another, like say, Allier vs. Bertrange.

The last course featured the intrinsic differences between two grapes, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. The feature was lamb, personally my favorite red meat. Topped with a pistachio-olive tapenade, the dish clearly brought the best out in both wines, and not surprisingly the room was split on which was a “favorite” pairing. Over time, I’ve learned that vine age really is a factor in advancing the quality of a wine. The Mourvedre was from the 2008 vintage, from vines planted in 2002, so considered to be eight year old plants. Contrasting that, the Tempranillo, also a 2008, was from vines half the age, yet I was happy to see how well it showed, being something like a baby in diapers in comparison.

So thanks to all of our guests for a very enjoyable evening, and again to Lenny! We’ll be moving on with our May Third Thursdays. I’ve actually not made a decision yet as to the specific topic, but we have quite a few choices. I only wish we had even more space, but regardless, the courtyard is a very special venue, beautiful in its architecture and ambience. My kind of place!

‘SPOT ON’

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It’s taken some time, and with a few delays, but we’re finally launching our monthly program called ‘Third Thursdays’ beginning March 17th at the Olympia Wine Tasting Bar. Yeah, I know it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, but not everyone wants to drink green beer that night!

Every third Thursday of the month (I think I’m being redundant) we’ll present a unique topic featuring a guest host, scrumptious small plates, and wines produced by both McCrea Cellars and Vina Salida Wines.

We’ll begin at 6 p.m. in the lovely courtyard of our New Caldonia building in the epicenter of downtown Olympia at 116 5th Avenue Southeast, between Capitol Way and Washington Street.

Our goal is to offer a broad range of fun and insightful glimpses into many worlds, including the culinary arts with guest chefs, artisan cheeses, olive oil crafting, visual arts, agritourism, travel adventure, winemaking and viticulture, sommeliers and wine critics, shellfish farming, native American culture, our downtown merchants and their many wonderous shops, and on and on.

Our first feature is called ‘Spot On,’ presented by Lenny Young, wine director of two top downtown Olympia restaurants, Waterstreet Cafe and Aqua Via. We’ll explore the basics of successful (and maybe not so successful) pairings of food and wine by offering examples illustrating the diversity of choices one can make by contrasting two wines with each of three courses.

We’ll also explore how the basics of smell and taste affect our preferences and how elements such as sweetness, acidity, pH, texture, etc. interrelate when pairing food and wine. The dialogue should be really lively as we exchange individual perceptions of the pairings. Hopefully each participant will gain some insight and be even more confident to host their very own ‘Spot On’ culinary-wine soiree.

If you’d like to join us simply mouse over and click on “contact” in the tool bar, then either give us a call or send a return email confirmation. There is a $20 charge to cover the food and wine cost (and the plates are really delish ’cause Lenny and I have already reviewed them). We’ll also offer a 10% discount that evening on bottle purchases of all of our wines we pour at the Tasting Bar.

There are only 24 reservations available for the inaugural event! Black tie not required, but alas, shoes and shirt are a requisite, even here in Olympia.

The Next Big Thing In Washington

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O.K., O.K., I’m seriously guilty of not posting a blogster for a very long time. No excuses, but got caught up in the seasons going ’round and ’round and the painted pony going up and down.

Also, my new post title was lifted from today’s blog by Paul Gregutt, so I’m admitting my guilt No. 2. Probably Paul won’t mind, but just in case, advance apologies are appropriate.

I can’t help but agree with Paul that Iberian grape varieties are beginning to hit the spotlight. It’s been a very long road since my first grenache in 1989 … holy smokes! Now, grenache has become a fairly precious commodity in Washington State, and it’s seriously contracted in many vineyards.

I find it surprising that mourvedre (monastrell in Spain … it’s home of origin) hasn’t gained far greater ground, but I’m fine with it. Secrets never last very long, and sooner or later, many more winemaker’s will wake up and realize it’s greatness. We’ve been making mourvedre under the McCrea label for about nine years now and it’s one damn fine grape (thanks Jim Holmes and Ryan Johnson). Also, no surprise, it’s been a very good success in our Rhone portfolio. I find people really love the wine.

There’s certainly no current stampede for tempranillo plantings. I’m fine with that as well, but having experienced the syrah glut (after now 19 years of working with the grape), I truly hope it never suffers the same fate. All the chillins wanted a piece of the action.

For those of you who weren’t in the Tri-Cities last week at the W.A.W.G.G. convention, there was a total morning panel called “Syrah or F.U.B.A.R.” And to his credit, it was Paul Gregutt who nailed the primary issues as to syrah’s current demise. Personally, I’m glad he didn’t have a winery to talk about. A couple of times I was nodding off. But regardless, a word to the wise. Babies, pick your spots and do your homework, or take a look at the February issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine. It’ll give you a wake-up call! Once again, kudos to Patrick Komiskey!

As for tempranillo in our state … it’s a natural! Flavors are true to character and it’s translating from it’s digs in Rioja and Ribera very accurately. As usual though, we suffer from the “Baby Plant” syndrome, but I’m willing to suffer a bit. Once I figure out how to reincarnate, everything will be fine! I plan on transmigrating when the plants are 40+. I just need some help from my Hindu friends.

Regardless, my gratitude to Paul for his wonderful complements in his blog today. I really love what I do, but only remember, I’m just the messenger. If one is willing to listen, the vines will speak.

So here’s the link, and if you haven’t followed Paul’s blog, I truly recommend you do. It illuminates so much about our state’s wines. Thank goodness, Paul avoided the “points.” For one, I simply enjoy the journey! Hello!!

http://www.paulgregutt.com/

Incidentally Paul, one day, I’m ‘gonna whip out the sax, and look out! I have a tune for you …

Espana ha llegado a Washington!

gato malo