Posts Filed Under commentary

Walla Walla Syrah QED? and “Days of WA Future Past”

Vinted on July 6, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road, wine review

Has the case for excellent Walla Walla Syrah been definitively demonstrated?  Q.E.D.?

I’m not going to go quite that far.  But I will say that they might be pretty damn close, especially in those cases where the balance beats out the brawn in their Syrah bottlings.

Two wine producers that I encountered recently in Walla Walla (while there for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference) in particular made good cases (ha-ha!) for Walla Walla Syrah being the wave of the future; one which officially took part in the WBC activities, and one that didn’t (in fact, their winemaker skipped town during the event).

The first of these was Rasa Vineyards, led by the Naravane brothers who have engineering backgrounds, and are fascinating folks to talk to, provided you can follow their scientific leanings.  They were part of a panel about WA wine at Three Rivers Winery (part of the WBC events), and certainly talked up the potential of Walla Walla Syrah when I asked the panel what they thought the future held given that Walla Walla is still a relatively young wine producing region.

The proof, fortunately, was in the juice, and their appropriately-titled 2007 QED wine, sourced from Walla Walla and Yakima fruit, is powerful, expressive, but balanced; it’s also expensive at $50 – but overall a decent value when compared to more expensive but not-quite-as-solid Syrah-based wines being made elsewhere on the Left Coast.

The second was pretty much the entire portfolio of wines from Rotie Cellars, who were kind enough to host a handful of us bloggers in their downtown Walla Walla tasting room while lunch activities took place during day one of the WBC.  Winemaker Sean Boyd is certainly playing with fire with their wine names (“VdP” for example), which I am sure the French would be none-too-happy about, but he has some Syrah-based wines with significant promise; they might have been some of the most deftly balanced WA reds that I’ve ever tasted.

But with all of this focus on the future going on, the WA wine scene, I quickly learned, would do well not to forget its past…

Read the rest of this stuff »




On The Road: Santorini And The (Marketing) Trials Of The Greeks

Vinted on July 5, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on the Greek island of Santorini (press junket via Wines of Santorini and the Brand Action Team) to get a first-hand view of Greek wines, Greek wine history and winemaking, and seeing if I can vigorously outrun anyone offering me a glass of Retsina.

The Greeks have, of course, been making wine since ancient times, not that you’d know it from any recent marketing pushes (or lack thereof) made by Greek winemakers and/or the region in general. In fact, at first blush I’d say that Greek wine generally (and wines from Santorini in particular) has a very rough and very long marketing road ahead of it if it wants to wine over the American market.  Look at it this way:

  • There has been little-to-no effort to exploit the amazing history, breathtaking winegrowing landscapes, and food-friendliness of Greek wines.
  • Most wine stores in the U.S. treat Greek wine as an afterthought, giving it little shelf-space likely due to the fact that it doesn’t sell like hotcakes because…
  • …consumers are scared to death when they see grape names like Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano and Nykteri that a) they can’t pronounce, b) most wine pros can’t pronounce, either, and c) they have no idea how they taste because so few restaurants offer them.
  • Adding insult to injury, regions like Santorini sell the majority of production and therefore have little incentive overall to compete on price, which is usually $5-$10 more than comparable wines on the shelf made from grapes that consumers in the U.S. can pronounce and are familiar with.

Yeah – not quite as rosy a picture as those photos of the Santorini sunsets, is it?

We’ll see soon enough, I suppose – more reporting to come!  In the meantime, we’ve got Walla Walla coverage and an amazing interview coming up this week here on  Enjoy!






Ode to a Wine Teacher

Vinted on July 1, 2010 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

I could tell that I wasn’t quite myself based on the number of business cards in my backpack.

There were dozens of those little cards left, staring back at me when I opened my pack.  Cards that I should have given away to friends old and new at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla.  The “normal” Joe would have been handing out those cards left and right. Instead, they were practically shouting their futility – after all, what good are they to me? I already know who I am.

It wasn’t the fact that I had been in a new place for the first time, seeing new faces (I’m well used to that scenario); it also wasn’t the fact that back home one of our 100+ year-old trees came down on our neighbors garage in a fierce storm, cleaving it nearly into two (no one was hurt, apart from the trees).  The reason I wasn’t myself was that my teacher was dying.

My teacher was my dog, Sam.  He passed away while I was at the conference (if you were in attendance and I appeared out of it or seemed dismissive, please understand that it wasn’t you, it was most definitely me).

Sam was pretty sprightly for a guy in his 80s (people years, of course), still weighing in at 85 lbs. of mostly muscle.  Still fairly strong, too (he had once accidentally broken my left hand when we were out for a run).  Stubborn, too – in fact, I used to joke that I could sum up Sam’s thoughts in one sentence (“Hey guys – this is what I want to do now”).

Our experience with Sam was more Marley and Me than Lassie – he had a penchant for stealing bread, licking the icing off of cakes on the kitchen counter, eating through metal cans of dog food, and practically destroying the house during thunderstorms.  BUT… he was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.

Sam taught me a lot about how to really appreciate wine (yes, I’m serious – read the post).  But his greatest lessons were in teaching me compassion and patience – the latter being something that I’ve often cited as the ‘secret sauce’ of wine blogging (and life in general, really; yes, I’m serious – watch the vid).

My only real regret is not that I wasn’t there to say goodbye when Sammy passed – it’s that I wasn’t the quickest study when it came to fully grasping all of those lessons in compassion and patience that Sammy tried to teach me.

Here’s to a friend, a sweet soul, an old teacher – long may his lessons be remembered.





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