Quady North: A Snapshot of Southern Oregon Wine

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by

Who doesn’t want to get to know a winery that’s involved in a love triangle…with grapes? (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Herb Quady of Quady North has a thing for Viognier, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Let’s head to Southern Oregon and explore the Applegate Valley and Rogue Valley.

That’s right, I’m talking Oregon wine with nary a Pinot Noir nor the Willamette Valley in sight. (Note: I love those two things, I just want to see other people. Whoa, now it’s sounds like I’m in a love triangle!)

The Applegate and Rogue Valleys stretch way down into Oregon, practically touching California. If you want to visit Herb in Jacksonville, it’s about 4 1/2 hours from Portland and only 5 1/2 hours from the Bay Area.

As a guest on my Wine Without Worry podcast, Herb and I talk about his location and Southern Oregon terrain. It’s a rugged, bucolic, and pastoral land.

southern oregon ava map

The Rogue and Applegate Valleys: Almost California.

(Note Two: This this is not the first time I’ve explored Oregon beyond the Willamette Valley. You can check out my conversation with Clive Pursehouse from Northwest Wine Anthem as well.)

So let’s meet in Southern Oregon through the magic of podcasting. Find out how Herb’s love of pink wine was born via afternoons pondering pétanque and poplar trees. And how to turn an (unsanctioned) motocross track full of rusting vehicles into a vineyard.

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes.

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon: Smashing Stereotypes One Vintage at a Time

Posted on: August 15th, 2014 by

Maybe “smashing” is too strong a word, but when I sat down with Aurelio Montes Jr., winemaker for Argentina’s Kaiken Winery, he did want to make a point regarding Cabernet Sauvignon.

To defy the preconception that Argentine Cabernet tends to age in a manner akin to falling off a cliff (cue Aurelio making a dramatic swoop of his hand to demonstrate the concept) to its death, he brought along a bottle of the 2007 Kaiken “Ultra” Cabernet Sauvignon for me to taste. It’s the kind of wine at a very interesting and exciting point. Just enough bottle age to start waking from its youthful slumber but still in all possession of fruit-forward charm and freshness.

Aurelio and I talked about the ubiquitousness of Malbec in Argentina and he shared with me the three “battles” he’s fighting to get people to know and appreciate a diversity of red wine grapes. He’s got his gloves on for Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. (Stay tuned.) Discussing the latter grape, which you’ll find in his 2011 Malbec-based “Terroir Series” blend that also includes Bonarda, he called it “the rugby player”. Which I think is the most awesome description of Petit Verdot, ever.

But since we don’t live by red wine alone, I also got the chance to try the 2013 Kaiken Torrontes. It’s a very floral, aromatic grape that can become soapy and perfume-y when it gets too ripe. Gross. Not that I have anything against the finest of hand-milled soaps or the most sublime of fragrances, I just don’t want them in my wine. The secret to Aurelio’s zesty version? He picks the grapes early so the wine isn’t heavy or flabby.

One final thing I learned has to do with food. The 2011 Kaiken “Ultra” Malbec was a really nice match with some chicken liver pâté dabbed onto toast and topped with a touch of mostarda. (The interview took place at Seattle’s Sazerac Restaurant, BTW.) Actually, all the red wines went well with it. The rich and creamy spread was a nice compliment to wines that displayed both power and drinkability.

So the moral of the story? Argentina: MORE THAN MALBEC.

(But the Malbec can be really good.)

See what Aurelio had to say during a Twitter chat earlier this year.

Aurelio explains how Feng Shui keeps his wines happy over on Vindulge.

Understanding Sustainability in the Winery and Vineyard

Posted on: August 13th, 2014 by

wente vineyard livermore valleyWhat does it really mean to say you are a sustainable winery, from the vineyards that bear the fruits of your labor to the building where you ferment your grape juice?

I posed this question and more to podcast guest Karl Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker and Senior Vice-President of Winemaking at Wente Vineyards (sponsor of my Wine Without Worry show). When it comes to day-to-day operations of the winery (and in the vineyards, too), Karl states, “First and foremost is water.” At Wente they recycle 100 percent of the water used for process tasks (like cleaning tanks) which, after going through a two-stage filtering system, allows it to be used in the vineyard.

So what about mitigating water use outside? Let’s get high tech. Wente has sap flow sensors that tell how much water the grape vine itself is using. Soil moisture probes? You bet. Measuring pre-dawn leaf water potential? Of course. And weekly aerial images of the vineyards to see where more water might be needed (or not)? Absolutely.

[Find out more about Sustainability Practices at Wente Vineyards.]

Karl Wente

Karl Wente checks the grapes out and gets the Led out.

We also shift gears and talk about another of Karl’s passions besides wine: music. “I love playing my guitar and I try to touch it every day,” he reveals. Karl also tells me he could press “play” on his online music collection and go 263 days without repeating the same song. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the music playing in the winery is diverse: Mozart, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Mumford & Sons.

And what’s the first step to resolving a wine blend that just isn’t coming together? Karl will tell his staff, ”Well, we gotta change the music!”

Let’s rock! And roll on with the show:

Massolino Barbera d’Alba With Tagliarini and Meat-Free Sauce

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 by

One of the signs of a great producer is their more humble offerings are as an impressive achievement as the top wines commanding well-deserved and earned prestige along with a concordant price.

Case in point? One of my favorite wineries for Barolo: Massolino. Barolo, as well as Barbaresco, is tucked up among the particularly prestigious parcels of Piedmont in the northwest corner of Italy.

What’s the difference between Barolo and Barbaresco? Find out.

But rather than a place (like these two heralded addresses I just mentioned), let’s talk about something else from Piedmont that stars with a “B”: a grape, Barbera. I recently enjoyed the 2012 Massolino Barbera d’Alba at Seattle’s Staple and Fancy and it was a knockout. A pure and elegant red with a combination of being easy to drink yet hard to forget. Though not a Barolo (which is made from a different grape, Nebbiolo), the Massolino Barbera provided a window into what a great producer can craft even in a sub-$20* wine.

The dish I most enjoyed with this wine was notable not for what it had but for what it didn’t: meat. I was invited to a media dinner sponsored by Quorn, a meat alternative. What’s in it? How is it made? I turn to their website:

The main constituent of Quorn™, Mycoprotein, is a naturally occurring, high quality, healthy form of protein. Quorn™ is produced using a fermentation process very similar to brewing; only we harvest the solid as opposed to the liquid. 

The mycoprotein in Quorn is converted from “a tiny member of the fungi family”.

While there was Quorn in both nugget and patty form, the most successful integration of this product into a dish came via tagliarini made with a a ragù of Quorn grounds, marscarpone cheese, and mint. The grounds integrated seamlessly into the dish, pulled together by the creamy cheese and enlivened with mint. The latter ingredient perked up herbal notes in the wine, too.

This is not the first time I’ve sung the praise of a Barolo producer also making a knock-out Barbera. Though more expensive and with an eye on longer-term drinking, get to know Giacomo Conterno’s Cascina Francia Barbera d’Alba. I enjoyed a 2004 earlier this year and dubbed it “one of the most fantastically delicious and surprising bottles of red wine in ages.” Discover why.

*Average retail price on WineSearcher is $19.

Top Affordable Wines From Around The World

Posted on: August 7th, 2014 by

back of a ten dollar bill

I love talking about cheap wines. They are what I drink the most. Mary Cressler over at Vindulge asked me for my go-to picks costing less than ten bucks. You’ll find I’m a fan of:

  • Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Pretty much all of it.
  • White wines from the Côtes de Gascogne in Southwestern France.
  • Red blends a la “CMS”: one from Italy where S is for Sangiovese, one from Washington where it’s Syrah.

As a bonus, Mary also solicited recommendations from five other wine bloggers and, of course, added her own. I magnanimously didn’t poach a certain Spanish wine with a big “C” on the label because I knew Mary would want to use it. Who says bloggers are selfish?

It’s quite a diverse list, though Cava is well-represented. How did I not pick any bubbles? Sheesh. OK, I’ll add it here and keep the Cava love flowing: Mas Fi Brut.

Find out the specific wines I chose, as well as all the others:

Best Cheap Wines Under $10

Photo: “US $10 Series 2004 reverse“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wine Photo Tips: Get The Best Out of People and Places

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 by

vineyards eastern washington

You may remember Photographer Richard Duval from a previous post on how to make, as he likes to say, “memories, not mug shots” when taking photos of people. With my interest piqued to explore the topic more, we met up at Barrage Cellars (thanks, Kevin) in Woodinville, Washington (where Richard is currently exhibiting some unique photos) to record an episode of my Wine Without Worry podcast.

So how about three simple things to remember, even if you’re just shooting with your smart phone, that will make your vineyard photos distinguish themselves beyond the typical “I was there” point/shoot/move on technique. Here you go, via Richard:

  • Slow Down
  • Get Low
  • Get Close

Also discussed? The first photo Richard sold and how that catapulted him into pursuing photography on a professional basis. (Spoiler alert: It involved wildflowers.)

Read Richard’s detailed post about Wine Country photography on Grape Collective.

grapes in tuscany

Grapes in Tuscany.

And though Richard takes numerous photos on a variety of subjects (as you’ll see below), he’s carved out quite a niche for himself in the world of wine, particularly here in Washington.

Additionally, I also shoehorn in some recommendations on vintages in Washington, specifically my thoughts on 2009 versus 2011.

Finally, in a moment of pathetic insecurity, I  ask Richard not to photograph my visible bald spot.

cinque terre morning

Morning in the Cinque Terre.

One thing about all these photos that’s unique? Normally Richard isn’t one to undertake much post-production work, but here he’s “indulged” himself and done something a bit different: adjusting color, manipulating detail. Furthermore, you really appreciate these photos in person as each image is printed on metallic-coated paper fused to an aluminum sheet. (Shout-out to Seattle’s The Color Group for the printing.) As the light changes in the room, and while you stroll around, the images become altered in a most hypnotic way. Sip on some wine from Barrage Cellars and watch the perspective shift before your eyes.

Now give your ears some shifting perspectives. Listen to the show:

Wine Country Photography 101: How To Take Great Pictures in the Vineyards

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes

All photos courtesy Richard Duval. Find out more about Richard and his work:

Duval Images
Vine Lines

How I Overcame Sherry (Wine) Anxiety

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by

sherry cellarI’ve had my struggles with Sherry, but recently attended a seminar conducted by Holly Wing of De Maison Selections and felt like I turned the corner. Let me note that this was about my fourth time sitting down for some Sherry sermonizing, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while (years) to start digging it. All knowledge or insight below has been gleaned from Holly and filtered through my pen. And now my keyboard. So if something is lost in translation, blame this guy.

So what’s the deal with aversion to a style of Fino Sherry like Manzanilla? (Which I infamously called “Manzanita”, a town on the Oregon Coast, when speaking with Master Sommelier Christ Tanghe.) Here are a couple reasons via Holly:

  • It’s on the dessert menu. (D’oh!) This Sherry is dry; have it at the beginning of the meal. And if you like dry martinis, you might really be into this style .
  • It’s old. Like, Methuselah old. It should not be brown.

(I’ll also add it can be bracing at first, so try having a beer back with your Fino or some almonds and/or olives close by.)

What about a richer style of Sherry, one with a little more heft, yet still dry? If Oloroso is on the menu, Holly believes it belongs with the entree. That’s right, Sherry and a steak.

Most versatile for food pairing? Holly’s answer: Amontillado. It’s darker and richer than Fino, but still dry. Well-chilled, it’s great with tuna marinated in a bit of soy sauce. Or all your fancy hams.

Beyond pigs and fish, Amontillado is a classic with (and in) turtle soup. But if you’re object to eating turtle because of your allegiance to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, try Amontillado with rich soups like a creamy bisque. Oh, and consommée (aka “broth“). Additionally, Holly suggests you also try your fancy broth with a rarer style of Sherry, Palo Cortado.

So if you love martinis, seafood, steak, bisque, and/or broth, there’s a Sherry for you! And we haven’t even begun to discuss sweeter Sherry styles like PX. Which smells like raisins and figs, tastes like toasty caramel with orange-y zest. Pour it over your pancakes. Or ice cream. Or crepes topped with ice cream. Or soak a cake with it/in it. Mind blown.

Sidebar: To capitalize or not capitalize, that is the question regarding Sherry. Or sherry. Here’s what William Safire had to say in 1985

Sherry cellar via Wikimedia Commons.

Where, When, How It’s Made: How Much More Do We Care About Food Than Wine?

Posted on: July 30th, 2014 by

Baby Carrots

Over on Grape Collective I reviewed a book called Wine and Identity: Branding, heritage, terroir. I was struck by this assertion in the introduction:

“Unlike milk, flour, fruit or vegetables, consumers seek information about where, when and how wine is made, and this is a major factor in their purchase decisions.”

My response? “I see it as the opposite. While consumers will scrutinize food for being local, organic, and produced with an artisan bent (see ‘Portlandia’ for the ultimate parody of this ethos), they’ll pull a random bottle of Chardonnay off the shelf without giving it anywhere near the consideration.”

How big a part does the where/when/how of something you put on your plate or in your glass influence what you buy?

Read the entire review: Wine and Identity: Constructing Authenticity in the Glass

Carrots via ilovebutter. I love carrots cooked in butter.

Uncorking Summer Entertaining: A Conversation With Christine Wente

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by

Though fond of rosé and summertime grilling, as well as outdoor warm-weather festivities, I’m mostly a participant at such activities rather than a host. Because this 42 year-old bachelor does not have a PhD in entertaining a crowd. Hosting a fresh-air fête? I’m flustered.

Fortunately, I can call on (and literally called) Christine Wente to appear on my Wine Without Worry podcast. She’s a Fifth Generation Winegrower at Wente Vineyards (the sponsor of my show) and also President of the Wente Foundation Board. Christine gives me the guidance I need to face my hosting fears with a modicum of grace.

wente vineyards restauarant

Visit Wente’s restaurant in the Livermore Valley for this feast. But keep it simpler when entertaining at home. [Photo by Nader Khouri.]

I have to say I took an instant liking to Christine for saying that my knowledge of, and experience with, wine demonstrates my abilities to entertain with savvy, regardless of my insecurities on the matter. And who I am I to argue with her conclusion?

Questions posed and answered in this episode:

  • Burgers and rosé? [Spoiler alert: A OK!]
  • How do you combat memories of past unruly Chardonnays?
  • Can you drink Cabernet in the heat?
  • What wines are vegetable-loving?
  • What decade did Wente start labeling wines as “Chardonnay” and “Sauvignon Blanc” The 1970s? 50s? 30s?
  • Do you call it a “crock pot” or “slow cooker“? WHERE DO YOU STAND?!?

Whoa, getting a little worked-up here. Let’s just get to the show:

Wine Without Worry: How To Uncork Great Outdoor Entertaining

Get Wine Without Worry on iTunes. And if you like it, please rate it.


The Greatest Seattle Sunset Ever and Four Rosés

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 by

Piling on, but WOW! #seattle #sunset #nofilter

I have seen some beautiful Seattle sunsets in my ten years here, but none better than this recent one. Viewed from the top of Capitol Hill looking down on Lake Union, this and many other pictures blew up my Instagram feed. And for good reason.

With so many colorful shades and textures, it got me thinking about…rosé.

All these wines were sent to me as samples for my consideration. Starting with not one, not two, but three rosés from Ousterhout Wine. What did each have in common? All were from the 2013 vintage in California’s Russian River Valley (RRV), made from Pinot Noir, and exceptionally pale.

Ousterhout Rosé

Rosé plus The Golden Mean equals The Golden Rosé.

The label logo is an instrument you can use to produce the “Golden Mean“, which is a 1 to 1.6 ratio. The winery website explains the story behind this choice:

“This number reflects the relationship to perfection and beauty that is pervasive throughout nature such as the adjacent bones of the fingers, a chambered Nautilus, the Parthenon, the American flag, and female facial beauty….As a plastic surgeon specializing in facial feminization, Dr. [Douglas] Ousterhout uses the instrument that measures this ratio daily in his surgical procedures. For this reason, we have chosen it as our logo as we continually strive to craft the perfect wine.”

The Golden Mean is not something I’ve ever considered regarding how I perceive facial beauty, male or female. And fortunately I don’t have to disclose my ratio on Tinder or OK Cupid, which might put me in some sort of Leaden or Coal Lump Mean. Anyway, Dr. Ousterhout lets his winemaker make three rosés, which is my idea of a Golden Mean. Or, rather, a Rosé Mean.

The first two Ousterhout wines, the the RRV and RRV Woods Vineyard drank pretty similarly, but the 800 Vines Vineyard stood out for having the most prominent Pinot Noir character. In flavor and structure, it approached some of those qualities you’d find in an elegant red Pinot. I enjoyed all three.

Oh, and here’s what the Golden Mean looks like:

the golden meanRosé number four also comes from Sonoma County but rather from the RRV portion, the 2013 Tin Barn Vineyards  ”Joon” hails from the Sonoma Coast. Normally I back away slowly from rosé made from Syrah and likewise one with a color closer to red than pink. But there go my preconceived notions! It certainly had some backbone to it, but showed off an exuberant perkiness that made it really fun to drink. Joon will have red and pink wine lovers holding hands like sleeping sea otters.

tin barn vineyards joonI first heard of Tin Barn Vineyards thanks to my pal Elaine of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. You may remember Elaine from my podcast episode with her. Anyway, she introduced me to Amy Tsaykel over at the winery. I read an old blog post of hers and thought her writing was fantastic, and was really happy to get her to write on Grape Collective. Amy’s home is a 35-foot RV parked in a Sonoma vineyard, and she tells here tale here:

Vardo in the Vineyard: Romance, Uncertainty, and The Simple Life