Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hooray for Olympic Provisions!

We had a stellar meal again there. With a fantastic wine. 2006 Cayuse En Chamberlain Syrah. The wine's bouquet faded after ten minutes, but at the outset it was amazing: forest floor, flowers, mushrooms, some pepper and lots of meat fat. What a nose! The wine was big and purply on the palate. Delicious. Had it with the French Board (wow) and a nettle pesto pasta. Amazing!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Check this out: A map showing areas of the world that will lose, and gain, the ability to grow quality winegrapes

This map shows scientists' best guess of the effects of climate change upon the world's winegrape regions.

Note that Tri Cities, Red Mountain, and Walla Walla will see loss of vineyard acreage due to the increasing heat. Ditto for the areas south of the Great Lakes. The Willamette Valley gains the ability to grow more kinds of winegrapes. Bordeaux and Napa are huge losers, as are much of Italy and Spain. This is why growers in Champagne are planting in southern England. Yes, southern England. It's a game-changer, folks.

The article is here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Say "Aye" to Scottish wines!

This article makes the incredible posit that Scotland (specifically the south-facing northern shore of the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh) is making good wines. And Champagne growers are buying properties in England, because their traditional region is getting too warm for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

Our adaptations to the continuing warming of our planet are very creative. When will there be a land rush to the PacNW?

And, I hope, I very earnestly hope, that we can PLEASE move on from arguing whether the world is warming, and focus on WHY it is warming, and what if anything we should do about it?  Between the escalating deficits of this utterly bankrupt nation called the USA, and the radical and rapid weather changes of the planet, we are handing over to the next generation problems of such magnitude that our successors may be simply unable to make any dent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clay Amphorae - Perhaps the next big thing for wine

Upon thinking on it, the ancients knew how to make wooden containers (barrels) fairly early on. I wonder if they chose to use clay amphorae for making and storing wine, because of some preference for the clay material? Wiki says the Celts were making what we'd consider modern wooden barrels for wine in about 350BC (how cool is that?), and Herodotus mentioned the shipment of wine in palm-wood casks to Babylon, much earlier than that.

See the attached article. A guy in the Chehalem Oregon area is making amphorae and then making wine in them. They impart earthiness and minerality to the wines (no kidding! really?). It sounds pretty interesting, really.

Here is the article I found about the modern use of amphorae for wine.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Vines sleeping under a rare blanket of snow

third great wave of snow hitting Portland, Oregon now 1pm 2-8-2014.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Basics of food-wine pairing

What a great article about food-wine pairing. Summarizing:

1. Most meat and dairy contains fat. There are three ways to choose wine to "marry" well with the fat:
a. A wine with higher acid, which balances the fat;
b. A with higher tannin (from oak aging, or from time on the stems and seeds) cuts the fat in the mouth; and
c. A wine with higher alcohol matches the heaviness of the fatty food.

I might add that wine also cuts the fat chemically--just sautee some fatty meat and remove it, leaving some fat and fatty bits in the pan, and then add wine and scrape--the wine breaks up the fat. This is simplistic, but in my mind I visualize the wine's breaking up the fat before it can be deposited in my arteries ;)

2. With an acidic dish, make sure the wine has more acid than the food. This can mean reducing the amount of vinegar in a salad, or looking for higher-acid wines. In a white wine, about 0.70% Titrable Acid (TA) is a good target level to consider; in a red, it's often closer to 0.60%. If acid gets much higher than those target levels, then most wines will need some residual sugar (RS) to balance the high acid. But bear in mind that copious fruit in a wine can fool the tongue into thinking a wine is sweet when it's really dry.

3. Salty foods call for sweet or sparkling wines. 

4. Desserts need wines which are sweeter than the dessert.

California's drought creates life or death situation for grapevines

The drought gets worse and worse in California. This is the normal rainy season, but rainfall is a tiny fraction of normal. Ditto for the snowpack.

Now, vineyard owners are concerned for the survival of their vines. Read about it here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So if we're in a phase of global warming, why do we see record cold temperatures this week?

Interesting: There is a logical answer: The warming of the polar caps means there's less temperature difference between the poles and the equator, and that slows down the jet stream, which allows more events that block the jet stream for longer periods. This effect contributed to the strength of Hurricane Sandy, and it also allowed the deep southward plunge of polar air this week, which is breaking century-old records.

Read the article here.

I guess the "good" news is that someday the poles will be much warmer, even than today, so when the arctic air plunges southward, it won't be so cold. (Of course I'm kidding--that is far from good news. Miami and NYC will be underwater long before that happens. What we all need to be doing now is to minimize fossil fuel burning. If we put solar panels on every sun-exposed roof on Earth, we could cut our fossil fuel burning by probably 75%.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wineries quietly up for sale

Spectator reports that as many as 50% (fifty percent!!) of the west coast wineries are quietly up for sale, or should be:

8. West Coast Wineries Are Up for Sale—Quietly 
With buyers snapping up leading California wineries QupĂ©AraujoClos Pegase and Mayacamas over the year, and other players investing in Oregon and Washington, it seemed like the market for wineries is suddenly hot again on the West Coast. But it's an under-the-radar market. Plenty of wineries, faced with tough finances or generational change, are looking for buyers. But they're not advertising the fact. One of the buyers, Charles Banks, estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of California wineries are either in financial difficulty or aren’t as profitable as they could be. “And everyone is trying to be quiet because they’re not broke and their name may be on the winery.”

Monday, December 30, 2013

Champagne glass styles

As we swing towards the new year, it's a good time to talk about the popular styles of champagne glasses. Check out this photo:

The glass on the left is the coupe style, popularized in Britain and purportedly based on a mold of Marie Antoinette's breast. While that is an enchanting story, it is scientifically a poor glass style for sparkling wine, as it over-aerates the wine and allows any bouquet to escape, and dissipates the bubbles too quickly.

The glass on the right is what you want for all sparkling wines. Note that the opening is smaller than the widest diameter of the bowl; this aids in trapping and concentrating the aromatics, thereby making them more detectable by the nose. And the taller, narrower bowl shape encourages and prolongs the formation of bubbles.

And this last bit is old hat for most of you readers, but please remember than Champagne comes only from that region in France. All other wines are called "sparkling wines" or, in some cases there is a different regionally-based name, like "cava" in Spain.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013's triple whammy of record weather for grapes in the Pacific Northwest

What a year this 2013 has been, for grapegrowers!

1. Some sites in the PacNW saw record heat in July. Above 90 or 95F, a grapevine suspends the fruit ripening process, so very hot days are "lost time" and they can impair the production of fully ripe fruit.

2. The entire region had record rainfall in September, which had heavy impact on a small portion of regional vineyards. Ripening earlier, many of the modern varieties were harvested before the rains, but most of the vinifera had to keep hanging. Fortunately, most of those were able to "hang through" into a dry late September and October. But too much water can dilute the desired flavors in the grapes.

3. In December, we saw very frightfully cold (and suddenly cold) weather: Hermiston OR got down to -8F, Ephrata WA and Yakima WA saw -2F (breaking a record held since 1972), and even sheltered Hillsboro OR (just west of Portland) saw a low of 9F with two weeks of all-day sub-freezing temps. These sudden, extremely cold temps can kill vinifera grapevines, especially younger ones.  Modern varieties of grapes (hybrids) are fine at these temps, however--a real advantage of growing them, as they have hardier American grapes in their lineage.

Fingers crossed for milder weather in 2014!

(image credit: Kendall Jackson winery)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why we need sustainable farming practices

Check this out.

The fabled migrations of Monarch butterflies to the central highlands of Mexico are ending, as populations of the insects dwindle. Numbers are falling because more and more farmland in the U.S. is being managed non-sustainably--factory farms that use massive quantities of inorganic chemicals to kill plants, insects, and other forms of life.

This is a global emergency, but likely very little will be done about it.

Think globally, and act locally. So: Ditch the killer sprays; compost; support local flora and fauna. Search for harmony in nature. Think like a steward.

And, if you grow grapes, grow modern varieties, which don't need any spray in drier summer areas like the PacNW, and don't need as much spray in the more-humid regions.

(Modern grape varieties are crosses between earlier-ripening, more disease-resistant American grapes and classical European grapes.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Red Mountain's last land grab

This article announces a sale of the last open tracts in the tiny, and justifiably famous, Red Mountain AVA in Washington.

John Williams planted first on Red Mountain in 1975 (that land is Kiona Winery now), and since then the area has seen more and more superbly-high quality grapes grown by many wineries.

Note that Duckhorn (a Napa winery with overpriced, substandard wines in my view*) is one of the bidders; I sure hope they don't win the Red Mountain land, as I fear that would drag down the quality, and push up the wine prices, out there. Fingers crossed, everyone, for a quality purchaser!

*I may be the only person alive who dislikes Duckhorn wines. Spectator gives them (overall) a bunch of scores in the 90s, but also many scores in the low 80s, and in the 70s, and even one score of 68! 68! Would a respectable winery issue a wine like that? All I know is that when I went to a Duckhorn tasting at Zupans once, the wines were shut down and terrible. Maybe that only means they don't know how to train a sales rep to make sure the poured wines are good/ready, but even that is a sign of a substandard winery.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2013:

It's always a list of some nice wines, but it's also good for finding some wines we hadn't heard of.

Here are Oregon Pinots on this year's Top 100 list:

#3 Domaine Serene 2010 Evanstad Pinot Reserve ($65, 95 pts)

#17 Alexana 2010 Pinot Noir Revana Vineyard (Dundee Hills) ($42, 94 pts)

#55 A to Z Wineworks '2011 Pinot Noir ($18, 90 pts) - 90 points and it makes the top 100?

#79 Ken Wright 2010 Savoya Vineyard Pinot Noir ($55, 93 pts)

Certainly we could name some equally-good (or better) Oregon Pinots that are not on this list. I wonder how a 90 point Pinot made it on the list! Maybe Spectator is flabbergasted that any decent Oregon can be found for less than $20 ;)


Friday, November 8, 2013

Better to go hungry in Hungary,

. . . than to be a thief:

Read this:

In Hungary, a winemaker fed up with thefts of his wine, laced some bottles with antifreeze, and six people were poisoned as a result (the thief, and five friends). The thief died and the winemaker is in prison.

This was reminiscent of an incident years ago in Hungary, when winemakers added antifreeze to their wines, to contribute body and sweetness (from the propylene glycol), but that was in such small amounts that one would die from alcohol poisoning long before drinking enough to get sick from the antifreeze. Still, it was illegal and the winemakers were punished.

And: years ago, a Hungarian cucumber farmer, fed up with thieves of the oblong green fruits, electrified his fence with 220 volts and killed a human thief as he climbed over the fence. "I didn't know that 220 volts would be so lethal," said the farmer.

Clearly, nobody should mess with Hungarian winemakers or farmers . . .

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kishmish Vatkana

This grape, from Uzbekistan, is vinifera but has developed powdery mildew resistance.  And what a fine-looking cluster!

(See this article)

It may be that the genes responsible for the fungal resistance can be classically bred, or genetically engineered, to make other vinifera grapes fungal-resistant. Until that happens, I will continue growing Modern varieties (vinifera-American grape hybrids) for disease resistance.

Life, and knowledge, keep changing. Thanks to the poster "Anonymous" who informed me about this grape on Oct 28 through a comment to my earlier post.

Found some good wines lately

Of my recent good finds, these wines stand out:

1. Tamarack '09 Syrah: 94 points and well-deserved. Great dark fruits; great complexity.

2. Kir-Yianni Akakies Rose: This dry pink wine, made from the Xinomavro grape in Macedonia (NW Greece), has full body and great flavor, and is far superior to most rose wines of the world. "Akakias" are the acacias that grow near the vineyard.

3. '08 Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel: Mind-blowingly rich. Unctuous, drippingly heavy Zin. Curtains of velvet.

4. Vietti 2010 Nebbiolo Perbacco: One of the faves at my recent tasting event. A youthful cousin of Barolo.

5. Scholium Project's NV "Gardens of Babylon": Wonderful wine (Napa fruit: Petit Syrah with Zin, Syrah, and Cinsault) made by a professor of Greek and the Classics. Tremendous effort! Violet nose, raspberry glass.

Record winegrape harvest in Washington for 2013

Can you believe it? One winery (OK, three affiliated ones: Chat. St. Michelle, 14 Hands, and Columbia Crest) produces two thirds of all Washington's grapes, and their harvest was up 10% this year from last year's record harvest.

So 2013 will see another record for grape production in the Evergreen State.

Read the article here.

Note, in the photo from the above article, how mechanical harvesting is used--much more sophisticated (IMO) than the machinery needed to harvest wheat! That vineyard is in the Columbia Valley's Wahluke Slope.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Resurrection is indeed possible in the Holy Lands:

Only this story is not about a Jewish carpenter whose death founded an obscure sect that burst into prominence with the conversion of Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century. No, this story is about Judean Date Palms.

How cool is this?  Ancient seeds were unearthed in a clay pot, and this date tree, driven to extinction millennia ago, sprouted and lives anew!

Pardon my saying so, but that is cooler, in real science and in our real lives, than similar stories that are not supported by scientific evidence.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vineyards Marching North

This article says that French wineries are buying up land in southern England, in preparation for the continuing climate change which would make it difficult to continue growing Bordeaux varieties in SW France and Rhone varieties in SE France. Those climate changes are already noticeable but the point of Bordeaux leaving Bordeaux is surely not very imminent.  But perhaps it's not as far off as one might think.

We see the same threats mentioned as to Napa Valley in California, and I hear more and more about Syrah planted in the Willamette Valley. Another way this is manifested is the planting of grapes higher and higher up the mountains; as the mountain slopes warm and undergo fewer deep freezes in winter, they become more favorable for grapes. There are wonderful grapes being grown in New Mexico's mountains (check out Gruet sparkling wines), so perhaps we can look for quality vineyards in Colorado's mountains someday? Can you imagine Chardonnay being grown here:

And (this sounds impossible to one who has grown Pinot Noir here in NW Oregon, and so often could not get it fully ripe), could it be that someday NW Oregon will produce a great Cabernet? No, surely that cannot be--Cab is one of the sun-hungriest grapes--but who knows? If a trend continues for long enough, strange things will finally happen.