Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Rundown

Thanksgiving weekend was a very intense experience. So intense, that I'm needing to take a few days to get settled and back to normal. I'm going to be doing a very in-depth review of our experiences, including tasting notes of the 100+ wines we tasted. Please keep tuned in for more in the next few days.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wine and Football

I had an experience this past weekend that I just had to write about, mostly because it really fits into what this blog is really all about. Sirpa and I are the wine drinkers of our group of friends. A few others have gone tasting with us, or tried a few different wines, but nobody drinks and explores wine the way we do. It creates a very interesting dynamic when we bring out wine at a party, because most of the people there don't have a clue about what we are doing when we swirl, sniff, swirl again, sniff again, taste, and repeat.

On Saturday, I was over at a friend's place watching college football (Portland State, then Oregon, then Oregon State). Naturally, we were drinking beer throughout the day, as is usually what happens when guys and football are combined. Sirpa got off work and arrived around 7, and had brought with her the last of a bottle of 2003 Archery Summit Estate for us to taste and explore. I poured what was in the bottle into a glass, and proceeded to taste the wine. Now, I was in the kitchen during this time, with a small crowd of spectators watching me go through the tasting process. After getting a taste or three, and allowing Sirpa to taste a bit, I asked one of the guys if he wanted a taste. Now, there was still probably 5 or 6 tastes left in the glass, and I intended to let Sirpa have a few more before it was finished.

I handed the glass over, and after a quick sniff or two, the guy downed the wine like it was a shot, just opened his throat and let it go down. I really don't think it even hit his tongue. I was in shock, and I just stood there for a minute, not knowing what to say. It wasn't a huge deal, as both Sirpa and I had tasted it, and I wasn't planning on having any more, but I wasn't sure how to react to seeing somebody shoot a small glass of wine that was worth about $20. This just showed me how much the typical person does NOT know about drinking and enjoying wine.

Wine is not, and should not be, a chuggable beverage. Wine's purpose is not to get you drunk, though a good wine buzz can't be beat (probably has more to do with the good food and atmosphere than the actual physiological effects). Drinking wine is about exploring something new, and subtleties, and noticing how a Pinot Noir from one place can taste entirely different from the place next door. For a buzz, I'm going for beer, or maybe some mixed drinks. For enjoyment of atmosphere, experience, and reflection, wine is my beverage of choice. I'm just going to have to do a better job of describing the benefits of "tasting" wine, as opposed to "drinking" wine when I hand a glass to someone.

Monday, November 5, 2007

2006 Kathken Vineyards Pinot Gris Barrel Fermented

Kathken Vineyards is a little place in the Eola Hills, just west of Salem. It is a 51-acre vineyard, owned by Kathy and Ken Slusser (hence the name) and Ken is the winemaker. They've got a few different wines, mostly Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The 2006 harvest presented Ken with more juice than he had space to ferment in tanks, and so he put what did not fit in the tanks into barrels to ferment, and the result is two distinctly different wines, both from the same grapes and the same winemaker. The following review is for the barrel fermented version, and I'll do a review of the tank fermented version soon.

Color: A peach color, with more pink hues than most pinot gris

Nose: Peach, a hint of green apple, a touch of grapefruit and citrus

Palatte: Not a complex wine, good balance, no flavors really jump out at me. Some peach, with a hint of orange, along with typical Pinot Gris flavors. Really short finish, after 10-15 seconds the flavors have disappeared.

Overall Rating: 6/10 At a price point of about $12/bottle, its a good weekday wine, which is fitting as it was drunk on a Monday night while watching football. Kathken Vineyards is priced towards the lower end, but the wines are good for the price. All of their wines are easy to drink, and decently good.

Kathken Vineyards

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thanksgiving Wine Trip Planning

This week I decided to plan out our Thanksgiving wine tasting. The advantage to tasting the weekend after Thanksgiving (instead of shopping) is that many places that are not usually open to the public open their doors and you get a chance to taste some wine you normally would not have access to. That is, unless you just buy a bottle and take a chance on a wine you don't know much about besides reputation. The problem I ran into is that there are entirely too many places we want to go to, and not enough time to do it. We only have Friday and Saturday to taste, as Sunday we have family obligations. The other restriction is the times that places are open. The window of opportunity for each day is about 10am - 5pm, which really does not leave much time for tasting, especially when there are about 15 places we want to go. This does not include the places we are club members at, which would mean free tasting and other events at those places.

So the process of elimination came down to figuring out where we wanted to go, and figuring out which places are either the most bang for the stop, or are only open during this weekend. All of the places we chose are only open for this weekend, and many of them have pretty steep tasting fees. I'm not sure how I feel about that, and I'm planning on a blog post about tasting fees for the near future, but I digress. The following is the list of where we are planning to go to:


Owen Roe - $15 tasting fee, with a Riedel Bordeaux glass. Owen Roe has quite a few wines we are fans of, and being able to taste them at one location will be reallly nice. The other times we have had them, is just a bottle at a time, so exploring more of the portfolio will be nice.

Chehalem - $10 tasting fee. Chehalem Wines was founded by Harry Peterson-Nedry in 1990, but he planted is vineyard in Ribbon Ridge in 1980. He is one of the more influential people in Oregon winemaking, and so it almost seems like a necessity to taste his wines.

JK Carriere - $10 tasting fee, refundable w/purchase. This stop was requested by Sirpa, and looking at their list of wines, I can see why. I see they have a Anderson Family and a Shea Pinot Noir, so they've got to have some good stuff. Shea just doesn't sell his grapes to anybody (see below).

Lachini - $10 tasting fee. Lachini Vineyards was founded in 1997, and is getting great acclaim for their wines. They have a couple Pinot Noirs, and Pinot Gris, and their wines are very well made.

Elvenglade - Not sure of tasting fees. We've got some Pinot Noir futures to pick up, and that is the main reason we are stopping here. That, and they've got some pretty good wines, from a couple different winemakers.

Patricia Green - $20 tasting fee, partially refundable w/ purchase. Patty Green is another well respected winemaker, so visiting her is a must.

Shea - $10 tasting fee. Dick Shea might be the owner of the most respected vineyard in the Willamette Valley. According to Wine Press NW, Shea Vineyards is the #1 Vineyard in Oregon. Any Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir can expect 90+ points from any critic, and so trying his stuff directly will be a treat.

Anam Cara - $10 tasting fee, for all participating wineries. Anam Cara is made at 12th and Maple Wine Co., and a total of 4 labels will be represented there. Access to all of them will be through the one tasting fee, which results in the most bang for the buck. We have tasted their wine before, and was pleasantly suprised. Also there will be Battle Creek, Basket Case, and Cleo's Hill.

So I think this is our list. There's many more we'd like to get to, but that will have to wait until Memorial Day weekend. I'll put up a stop-by-stop review of the weekend, so let me know if there's anything you'd like to see discussed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Goats DO Roam

Eventually, repeated publicity has lead me to this wine: 2005 Goats do Roam red. I know that essentially, we have said that we would stick primarily to Northwest wines, but occasionally, it's an amazing experience to indulge yourself a little bit outside of the norm. So in this case, I headed to South Africa.

Ultimately, considering all the ratings that are out there, it was exciting to investigate an $8, decently rated wine.

What I smell: Deep, rich spice, and a soapy perfumishness. Graham crackers, and something else wonderfully familiar. Something like blackberry pie... mmmm

On the palate: Exudes herbaecousness and spice, black fruit.... bacony....... hints of chocolate and a big punch of spice on the finish, surely from the Shiraz (90%). Subtle hints of tannin, never too overwhelming, leaving you wishing that you had a little more.

Also, wonderfully complementary to a lovely, mild brie.

Seriously, a really decent value. I wouldn't say it's the most fantastic wine I've ever had, but definitely worth the $8

Monday, October 15, 2007

Things I learned this Weekend

1. Going wine tasting is much more fun with friends.

2. There is a huge disparity between the "good" wineries and the "bad" wineries.

3. Tasting Fees are hit or miss.

4. I really should keep notes throughout the days when we go tasting, as I usually forget about wines we've had by the end of the day. I guess that happens when you try a bunch of tasty wines.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Luxury Hotel in Dundee?

The question being debated right now is weather a 50-room luxury hotel, spa and restaurant should be allowed at the top of NE Breyman Orchards Road. It would be just up the hill from Domain Drouhin, and across the street from Wine Country Farm. The site is currently not farmed, but with all the vineyards surrounding the area, it has to be some great vine-growing ground. Just to the north of the site, on the next hill, is Knudsen Vineyards (grower for Argyle) and Erath's winery. In my opinion, a hotel is needed, but not in this location. Farmland should continue to be farmland.

The site should be turned into vineyards, and potentially a new winery. The peak of the hill is at about 1100 ft, which is one of the highest spots in the Dundee Hills. The location provides amazing and spectacular views of the entire Willamette Valley. I can see how a hotel would be desirable in this location, with the views, and vineyards surrounding it, but again, its farmland, and should be used as such. By creating a winery, you can embrace the incredible views and showcase them with the winery and tasting room. Visitors would come, and be very impressed, and probably come back with friends. With good wine added to the package, the winery that sits on the top of the hill could be very successful.

Currently, there is no real hotel in Dundee. There are some hotel facilities in Newberg to the north, and McMinnville to the south, but nothing that is right in the middle of wine country. I agree with the need for a luxury hotel in the area, and I think it is a smart business move for the local economy. The stretch of 99W between Newberg and McMinnville needs to embrace the wine business as a whole, specifically the tourism side of things. I think that a few smaller hotels should open up in that stretch. I'm not talking Motel 6 type of places, and no Mariotts or anything of that size. I think there would be sufficient demand for 3-4 10-20 room hotels sprinkled in the area. Some places with character, and maybe some history to them, that would tell a story of the history of the area. The key to these hotels, is they would need to be on or very near (a block or two) 99W. People would be coming to the area to visit wineries and vineyards, and locating the hotel should be really easy, as well as the ingress and egress to/from the exploration of the area.

Downtown Dundee is a perfect example of these needs. As the center of wine country, and the tourism that comes with it, Dundee does not have a hotel. If a 20-30 room hotel was located right next to the Dundee Bistro/Dapper Frog location, and across the street from Argyle, it would be a great central location, with easy walking to food and even a tasting room or three. From this one location, a tourist would be within a 20 minute drive of hundreds of tasting rooms. This would help the economy of the entire area, both wine related and non-wine related. I don't want to see the Willamette Valley become Napa-esque and too commercialized, but adding the infrastructure to help the locally owned businesses is a definite need. And don't get me started on the Dundee Crawl.

Collection of news stories about the Proposed Hotel

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Willamette Valley Harvest Update 2

Well, about a third of the way through October, and there are still grapes hanging on vines. The feeling I get from what I've read is that the grapes are not getting too loaded with water and that rot and other ailments are not much of an issue right now. The area has seen some rain, but not the soaking, non-stop kind of rain that happened the last weekend of September. There has been a bit of a breeze throughout the valley, so the grapes are soaking up the rain but then they're drying out thanks to the breeze.

Overall, this is looking like a good harvest. The additional hang time that the weather is affording should really develop the flavors, without causing the grapes to get overripen. From what I can tell, I'd say 2/3 of the grapes have been harvested, with the rest just waiting for proper flavor development and ripeness. The end of this week should dry out, so I would expect harvesting to be completed by this weekend. The overall yield will be lower than last years, but I'd go out on a limb and say the flavors could be more developed and complex.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Willamette Valley Harvest Update

The harvest in the Willamette Valley is a bit up in the air right now. As of Friday the 28th, we've been getting rain, and the kind of soaking rain that fills the grapes and dilutes the flavors. In some areas, the grapes ripened and matured enough to be harvested before the rain started, but in others, the grapes were not quite ready. At some vineyards we visited this weekend, about half of the grapes had been harvested. In Cristom's case, about 2/3 of their Pinot Gris had been harvested, and the rest is still on the vine.

The issue that is being presented will probably have to be decided upon in the next few days by vineyard managers and winemakers. The rain is expected to continue for about a week, and then there should be some dryer weather, there's just no certainty of how long this will last, if it comes at all. See, that's the thing about weather around here. Weather can reasonably be predicted about 3 days out. Anything more than that is a crap shoot. So the decision will need to be made weather to harvest the grapes now, in their rain-soaked and diluted form, or wait until dryer weather and hope the grapes dry out, and that the flavor and sugar levels can rise again. The problem with this, is that the grapes could be overcome by mold and over-ripeness, which could ruin the remaining crops.

Overall, I'd say that about 50% of the crop has been harvested, and we will just have to wait and see about the rest. We had a very cool summer, which means that the grapes have taken longer to ripen and mature. Normally, this is a very good thing, especially with Pinot Noir. If the rain would have held off for a week more, this harvest would have a ton of potential. With the weather looking like it is, we really wont know until late 2008, when the wines start to get released. Until then, I'll be looking forward to the 2006 vintage, which should be really good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Harvest and Wine Clubs

The Willamette Valley is getting ready for harvest time, and that means one club parties! Well, it really means lots of things, especially for those who make wine, but I'm not on that side of the world. With this in mind, I started to really think about the wine clubs that we are members of, why we are, and the benefits that we get. There are some places that we really enjoy being members at (Sokol Blosser, Erath, and LaVelle) because of the events they have. These events are fun and enjoyable, and they really make you feel appreciated as a customer. Other clubs we are members of (King Estate, and Cristom) are mostly just for the wine. Both of these wineries do not have events very often, so we are members mostly because we love the wine, and we get discounts on it, and in the case of Cristom, it forces us to buy some age-worthy wine that we might otherwise forget about.

So what makes a great wine club? I think this is a question that most wineries have asked, and that I've even asked myself, so I thought I'd take a stab at answering the question from my point of view.

I think the first thing is to have a really great wine club coordinator. This person is the face of the wine club, and many times, the face of the winery to club members. They need to be very personable, and really show interest in the people that come to the events, as well as be available and responsive to questions asked. I think the best example of this would be Brooke at Sokol Blosser. Its really amazing how good it makes you feel when somebody recognizes you, especially when we've only been members for less than a year. This friendliness would extend to the rest of the staff, but that should be a given for a winery/tasting room. Being treated a little special is really nice as well. King Estate is a great example of this. They have a list of wines that they are tasting for the day, and it is usually limited to 6-8 wines. When we go there, it feels like they roll out the red carpet for us. One time we went, I think we ended up with 20 or so bottles of wine in front of us that we had tasted, and most of it was stuff not on the list, and that they only let us try because we were club members.

The second thing is to have fun and accessible events. Sokol Blosser, LaVelle, and Erath all have fun events that we can usually attend. They are on the weekend, and usually free, and always fun. We just recently cancelled a wine club membership because the events were always on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, from 5-7pm. Now, I get off work at 5, and so trying to attend one of these events (after crossing through all of Portland's horrible traffic) would require me to leave about 3pm. Not only is the day and time not very convenient, but the events are not well planned out. The one event we actually made it to, you had to stand in line for about 10 minutes to get a 2-3 ounce taste of wine. On the other hand, we are heading to LaVelle on the 30th for their harvest party, which we attended last year as well. The wine was and is easy to get in your glass (from both the tasting room bar, staffed by 2-3 people, or the bar they set up outside, with 1-2 people working there, so never a line), the event is from 12-5pm, so plenty of time to come and go as we please, and we get to go pick some grapes, stomp them into juice, and potentially wine prizes. These are the kinds of events that make being a member worth it.

I think the quality of the events is the key determination if a wine club will be successful or not. Erath recently had a luau, with a roasted pig and everything. This was a really fun and engaging event, and makes me really glad to be a member. Having free events is also a requirement, especially being a 20-something with a new mortgage and still paying off school loans. Dinners that are $50 or so a plate (some I've seen are as high as $125) are out of reach for us. I'm fine with having those events, as I'm sure I'll attend them in a few years, but I also want to see some free, fun, and special events for those of us on a budget.

The last thing is the wine shipments and discounts. Now, I realize that the winery still needs to make money on the wines, so a 15-20% discount is what I would expect, potentially increasing to up to 30% if purchasing a case or more. I also like getting a variety of stuff in a shipment. Cristom and King Estate are really good about this, as whenever we get a shipment, its like Christmas in finding out what we got. I would rather have 3 shipments in a year, with each shipment having a variety, than 4 or 5 shipments where each one is a couple bottles of the same wine. I'm not afraid of getting a wine I don't like, because we chose the wine clubs to be members of based on the fact that we enjoy all their wines.

Now I don't think I'm an expert on wine clubs. I just know what I like, coming from my perspective and experience. I'm sure that different things work for different people, and that's what is great. If I owned a winery, I think my ramblings above would be how I would run my club, and I guess the only way to know if it would work would be try it out.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bryn Mawr Pinot

Let's chat about this guy:

on the nose.... cigar box, a touch of sweet perfume, and the earth.

on the palate, sweet fruit, a rush of pepper, good strong tannic punch, needs a little food just to temper that out.

Over all, better than I expected. Hopefully a comeback from the "bryn mawr experience."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cork taint guru!

I wanted to take just a moment and share with you an amazing compliment I received from one of my distributors the other day.

Apparently, I have quite the palate for detecting corked wines. Which might seem like a funny thing to get excited about, but in reality is really rather cool. It seems, in fact, that I am able to detect cork taint even when most people might not. So... neat! Then again, sometimes it makes me look kind of crazy--saying a wine is a bit funky when not everyone might notice.

Thanks, Doug =)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday night!

Methven 2005 Willamette Valley Chardonnay approx. $22 retail
Paired with smoky white cheddar/swiss, camembert & hard salami.

Tasting notes: just a hint of oaky vanilla, and a touch of flowers, orange and spice on the nose. Pulling out of the cellar it is at the perfect temperature for instant consumption (around 55/56 degrees F), I don't like them cold, it masks too much of the flavor. Beautiful golden straw color.

mouth feel - bright acidity that makes you crave a little something to eat, relatively refreshing and cleansing, especially following a bit of cheese.

Bone dry with a punch of minerality and a skimming of spice mid palate.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Le Cadeau 2004 Pinot Noir, Cote Est

We picked up the 2004 Le Cadeau Cote Est Pinot Noir for $22.74 from Fred Meyer. The normal retail on this bottle is ~$45. You've gotta love half price clearance wine when the wine steward is just trying to move some inventory. We picked up a total of three bottles of this wine, along with some other selections for super cheap.

The nose comes across as smokey, with black cherry and strawberry, and a slight hint of pepper. With about 20 minutes exposed to air, some hints of flowers comes through. Essentially, this wine smells like everything I love in a Pinot Noir. If I could make an air freshener with this scent, I would be a millionaire!

The initial taste of this wine had heavy tannins, pepper & spice, with strawberry and cherry flavors. It is a medium weight wine, not to light, not too heavy. With some time out of the bottle, the tannins smothed a bit, and notes of tobacco started to come through along with more pronounced strawberry and cherry. This is a wine that should age a few years to let the tannins smooth out some. With alcohol of 14.1%, this is a very well balanced wine. I definitely think this is a steal at $22.74. I'd probably guess this wine would be $35-40. I'm not sure about $45, but its a really great wine. I'd give it a 8/10 at the $45 price. Overall, its a really tasty wine, but it needs a few years to smooth out.

LeCadeau Vineyard

Friday, July 27, 2007

Air Effects on a Rose

Last night I opened up a 2006 Sokol Blosser Rose. When I first opened it, and was drinking it with dinner, the taste and smell were really subdued, and it didn't seem like there was much there. I've drank and tasted the wine multiple times before, and so I know what to expect, and this was just not living up to expectations. I sealed it up (rubber stopper, pumped the air out) and put it in the fridge, intent on drinking it later.

After returning from running some errands about 2 hours later, I decided to give the Rose another shot. I opened it up and took a taste, and whammo, intense flavors and nose. I was expecting the same wine I had drank earlier with little change, especially since it had been in the fridge and I had sealed it up. Turns out, this Rose needs a little time to open up, which really suprised me. I think the next time I drink the wine, I'm going to open it up, and let it sit out for 30 minutes or so. If it was a blind tasting between the two, you would've thought they were two completely different wines.

Sokol Blosser

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tasting v. Drinking

I haven't posted in a bit, but its not because I haven't been drinking any wine. I'm still drinking/tasting up to 10 wines a week, the issue just comes when I look at "how" I'm drinking and/or tasting.

When I'm critically tasting a wine to make some tasting notes, I really have to focus and write it down while I'm doing it. I don't have the skills to remember specifics about the wines I taste for a long time. I remember if I like it, and how good it was, but not enough to make good tasting notes later. My memory just isn't that good, I guess. Sirpa is the opposite, she can remember specifics about something she tasted 6 months ago. Its amazing really.

So that's the conundrum. I've been drinking wines lately, or tasting some wines while at a wine bar, and not able to write things down while doing it. I've had wine with dinners, and I've had some good stuff, just nothing worth writing home about. I did have a Pinot Noir while at Thirst (a wine bar in downtown Portland) that I'm trying to get a bottle or three of. When I do, and I drink it, I'll probably put some notes up about it.

This has all made me really think about the difference between tasting wine and drinking wine. To me, tasting wine is to really evaluate it, to pull it apart and see what is there. Drinking wine, on the other hand, is what you do when wine is not the focus, like when out with friends, eating dinner, or just watching some tv. Its when I want a glass of wine, and I don't evaluate it beyond just how good it is, which means that I don't put up notes about it. I think this is a good thing, because is shows that wine can be enjoyed in the same way a beer would be. Its tasty and satisfies the thirst, but I don't want to write about every time I drink a Drop Top.

Thirst Wine Bar

Monday, July 2, 2007

Airlie 7

I might have found one of my favorite summer wines tonight. The Airlie 7, from Airlie Winery. The wine gets its name from the seven varietals that are blended together to make it, Muller Thurgau, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Muscat Ottonel.

The nose has citrus, mostly grapefruit and lemon. On the palatte, it gives some lemon-lime citrus and just a touch of spice, with a hint of acid, and just enough sweet. This is a really well balanced wine. It is definitely not dry, but it is not sweet either. You can really pull out the different components of the wine by the taste, like the spice from the Gewurtztraminer, the citrus from the Pinot Gris, and the sweet from the Riesling. This is a really easy to drink wine, especially on a hot day. For $12, this is a really great deal, and I'd give it a 9/10. Its complex enough to make it interesting, but still easy to drink and affordable.

Airlie Winery

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rockin' Thursday

Good evening! Welcome to Thursday, and a fantastically rainy June day in the great northwest. What better to warm you up than a little Oregon pinot noir, eh?

Seriously though--we pulled out a 2004 Springhill Cellars Pinot, from McMinnville.

From the nose: dried fruit, perhaps plums, cherries or perhaps cranberries, and a hint of milk chocolate..

Going further, impressive mouth feel from a little producer, but not perfectly balanced--perhaps the alcohol (13.9%) emerges just a touch too much. The wine also has a good punch of acidity, which takes away a bit from the fruit, which shows the dried fruit flavors, primarily dark cherry that were found in the nose. On the finish there is a touch of pepper.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Noble Pinot and Steak

So we decided to go for a Pinot with steak tonight. Being that it was a Monday night, I wanted to go with something a little less expensive, so we decided on a 2003 Noble Estate Pinot Noir. Noble Estate is a small vineyard and winery operation in the Eugene area, and their tasting room is literally the guest house at their residence, right next to the pool.

On the nose, heavy aromas of blueberry and blackberry jam. We started drinking it a little cold, so there were not many flavors noticeable when we took our first sip. The wine is very heavy on the tannins, which probably has as much to do with the vintage (2003, a very hot year in the Willamette Valley) as with the winemaking. As the wine warmed up, it really didn't open up much, which was a bit disappointing. The wine was not very complex, and as I think back on it, it was a very forgetable wine. I'd rate it a 4/10, and give it a definite pass.

Noble Estate

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tasting Notes and Scores

I want to touch a little on my thoughts about tasting notes and giving wine scores.

First, on the subject of tasting notes. We plan to put up tasting notes for many of the wines we drink. You'll notice that Sirpa and I don't agree on everything most of the time, and that is what's great about wine. Different people have different palates, with different likes and dislikes. I'm not a fan of big, tannic red wines (Such as Cab Sauv or Syrah), but Sirpa loves those kinds of wines. Bottom line, if we recommend a wine, you should try it. Ha, that sounds kind of bossy. Don't take our word, or anybody else's for that matter, on what a wine tastes like. Try it for yourself and see what you think. You are the ultimate judge on what you like.

Now, about wine scores. I really hate how wine scores have taken over the marketing of wine, especially the 100 point system. Most of the time, the 100 point system isn't a full 100 points, but really only 30 points (70-100). Robert Parker's published system is only 50 points (50-100). So now what makes a wine score an 89 instead of a 90? That could come down to taste preferences (see above). For instance, Parker likes big, tannic wines, and scores those highest. This leads to Pinot Noir not getting very high scores, because it is a more elegant and delicate wine.

So my plan is to use a 10 point system, and truly utilize the full 10 points. Points will be awarded based upon all aspects of the wine, including: how complex the wine is, how nice it is to drink, what the nose is like, the color, the mouthfeel, and how good of a wine it is compared to similarly priced wines and wines of the same varietal. For example, LaVelle Vineyard's 2005 Pinot Noir would get a 8 or 9 from me, because it is a very nice wine at a really great price. On the other hand, Erath's Juliard Vineyard Pinot Noir would also get an 8 or 9, even though it is a better wine. The difference is in the price points. By price, the Juliard is more of a special occasion wine ($35-40), where the LaVelle falls into the every day drinker category ($20-$25). If the Juliard was priced at $20-$25, it would be a 10 point wine. Wines under a score of 5 should be avoided, and anything above a 6 is drinkable and good.

Now, also keep in mind that our palates change throughout time. I will try and revist wines when I have the opportunity, and we'll have to go back and compare scores and notes. As I said in regards to the tasting notes above, take my scores with a grain of salt. Hopefully the scores I give will just help weed out the bad wines, and maybe get you to try a wine you might end up likeing. I definitely want to compare tasting notes, so if you have any about the wines I try, please let me know.

Link to LaVelle Vineyards

Link to Erath

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cabernet Franc itch is scratched!

So tonight we decided to scratch John's Cab Franc itch, and we had it with marinated and grilled tri-tip and grilled asparagus. We drank the Andrew Rich 2004 Cabernet Franc, and our tasting notes are below.

John P: A simple and not complex or deep, multi-level wine. Pepper is dominant on the palate, along with the dark cherry and/or blackberry that is common in red wines. It is a medium bodied red, and I'd consider it a light-medium bodied wine overall. Its light on the tannins, so its a wine thats easy to drink, and it would be a wine that you'd want to drink sooner than later. Overall, I'd say its a 7/10. Its a good wine, especially for an everyday kind of drinker. You don't need a special occasion to drink this. A Thursday night BBQ is reason enough, especially when you're not in the mood for a delicate Pinot Noir or a big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sirpa P: Nice acidity, which might not always be noticed in a red wine... luscious, chocolate/blackberry nose... maybe a touch of mocha, if you really take it in. Perhaps the greatest part of this wine is the way that it could easily pair with a wide array of things, but happened to go particularly well with marinated and charcoal grilled tri-tip. What I really want to put out there, overall: if you see this wine, check it out. Cab franc is typically a blending wine, and having the opportunity to taste the wine on its own is incredible... I would also put my vote in for trying petite verdot on it's own as well, but that's another page in the book. :)

Overall.... definitely will have to do this one again!

Then, because we were still in the mood for more wine as we were watching The Office, we decided to drink an endcap special from the local grocer. Wow, what a bomb of tannics, acid, and alcohol. There was almost no fruit to be found. It was the exact opposite of Boones Farm wines, which are sweet and fruity. You can definitely tell the difference between a winemaker who cares about his craft (Andrew Rich) and one that just doesn't care. This wine was really hard to drink, even as a second bottle of the night.

Link to Andrew Rich

Wine chick extraordanaire!

Good evening, my wine loving friends!

If you'll allow me to introduce myself, I am the lovely "other half" to Mr. John P =) Most people know me as Sirpa; although as you can imagine, my rather unusual name has drawn quite the array of fantastic nicknames over the years. Regardless, I am the spark to the flame... my wine education started by buying random (and typically "affordable") wines on Tuesday nights in college, then looking up whatever I could about the varietal and the winemaker... and everything else that happened to come up.

Long story short: wine has just become an incredible passion of mine, basically the focus of my career at this point... I am currently working at a wine bar, and do an incredible amount of tasting, which greatly lends to my overall education and knowledge. The thing about it is, that a lot of people think it's probably an easy job, just "tasting wine all day." In reality, it IS work... a lot of work, taking notes, remembering everything (or at least close to everything) that you've tasted, and then being able to recall that if necessary in order to fit the needs of the bar.

So... from here on out, I look on taking my education/work, and pleasure--and sharing it with all of you.... my influences may not always be entirely northwest, but my heart and my passion lives and thrives here in Oregon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Cab and a Chard, all in the same night.

Yesterday, I was really in the mood for a Cabernet Franc. I'm not sure why I was in the mood for this, but it just sounded really tasty. Unfortunately, what we had for dinner (chicken and rice) didn't really pair well with red, so we decided to drink a 2000 Cristom Chardonnay. We don't really have Chardonnay very often, and the 2000 Cristom is about all we have in inventory right now. Cristom only has 4.5 acres out of their 65 acres planted with Chardonnay, so its a very minor part of their wine selection. Their Pinot Noirs are very big (for a Pinot) and the ones we have are going to be stored for a while. The Cristom Pinot Gris is one of the best I've had, and was one of the first wines I drank that I really enjoyed. I think the Cristom Pinot Gris and the King Estate Domaine Pinot Gris are the wines that got me into wine.

But I digress, so back to last night. The Chardonnay was a good drinker. It wasn't overly complex, and not very oaky, so it was a really great Tuesday night wine with dinner. I'm not usually a fan of Chardonnay, as they are usually to oaky and big. The way most Oregon Chardonnays are made though, they are lighter and usually fermented in stainless steel. The Cristom is oak-fermented, but it is still a good example of how I would make Chardonnay.

After dinner, and friend came over and we had a bottle of 2005 Erin Glenn Cabernet Sauvignon. I'm not usually a fan of Cab due to the high tannins, but Erin Glenn makes a Cab that is easy to drink, even for a guy like me with a "delicate" palate. This wine is definitely on the lighter end of the Cab spectrum, which I appreciate. It was a wine that was easy to drink on its own, and did not need food to go with it. Again, it wasn't a super complex wine, but a very drinkable, and very good wine overall.

Sometimes you don't have to have the most complex and superb wine to enjoy a dinner and nice evening with friends. A good bottle (or 2), good food, and good friends are all you need.

Link to Cristom

Link to Erin Glenn

1st Post

Welcome to the West Hills Wine Blog. The name has a few meanings, but I think is still universal enough to not limit itself. So why the "West Hills"? First, I live in the West Hills of Portland, OR. Second, the majority of the grape growing in the Willamette Valley happens in the west hills of the valley. Third, the Cascade mountain range could be considered the "West Hills" of the United States. So the name encompases the focuses of this blog, which will be as follows (in increasing priority):

1. West Coast of North America (CA, OR, WA, BC, ID)
2. Pacific NW (OR, WA)
3. Oregon
4. Willamette Valley (Including all 6 Sub-AVAs)

So you'll see most of the posts are about Willamette Valley wines and interests, but I'll also talk about the other AVAs of Oregon, as well as some Washington and Idaho wines. On a rare occassion, there might be something thrown in here about California, but I think that state gets enough press about it.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about everything wine. I got into wine thanks to my fiance. My friends consider me a "wine snob", but I think that just comes from knowing a decent amount about wine, and having an opinion about what I drink. I plan to blog about my experiences of being a 20-something in a culture of 40 and 50 year olds. I go wine tasting quite often, so I plan to blog about what I taste, what I like, and what I don't like. I don't have years of knowledge that make me an expert. I'm just a guy who likes wine, and I want to share my experiences with anybody who wants to read them.