Lucky me–I won a copy of Corked!

My pal Jo Diaz ran another contest, and yes, I won! Her granddaughter pulled my name out of the hat, the last name of six winners of a copy of a book that Jo recently reviewed on her site, WineBlog.Org. So what’s the book and why do I want to read it?
According to Jo’s post which reviews the book, Kathryn Borel is an important new author, who recounts a road trip in France with her dad in Corked, a memoir “that’s filled with love, pain, and emotional growth through pushing the envelope.”

Jo says, “Her style of writing is very easy, raw, and revealing as she and her father Phillipe Borel ~ a retired hotelier and former chef ~ drive themselves through Alsace, Burgundy, Cotes du Rhone, and the Languedoc.” She continues later in her review that, “The book is filled with little revelations, and we’re all included in their journey, from solving all of the things that can, and sometimes do, go wrong between a daughter and a father.”

Sounds good to me!

Thanks to Jo and Hatchet Book Group for the new book!

Wine Blogging Weds #67: Some Red Wines for the White Wine Lover

For the March rendition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, host Joe Roberts, @1WineDude, prompts us to find a red wine for the white wine drinker. Immediately, my mind went to an Australian sparkling shiraz, like Paringa: fun, bubbly, inexpensive, yet tasty. But no, Joe says which STILL red wine would you choose.

Since I am competing in the WBC-or-Bust campaign to get one of 12 spots on the bus to travel around Washington wine regions before and after this year’s Wine Bloggers conference in Walla Walla, a Washington red seemed an obvious choice. And since the following day is a Washington merlot Twitter tasting, the varietal and the region seemed clear-cut–I could get more bang from my buck!

Since there isn’t a lot to choose from around here, I asked the Wine Guy at Trader Joes, (who also blogs) which wine he would recommend. He suggested the 2007 Red Diamond which he felt was an excellent choice of a red wine for a white wine drinker. Bonus, it’s a Washington merlot AND a great value he said.

So I knew a Red Diamond merlot would be one wine I’d be tasting. But what else, I wondered.

Which got me wondering about the prompt itself: who is this mythical white wine drinker? What white wines do they like? Why don’t they drink red wines?

In real life, given this challenge, I would base my recommendation on what I knew or learned about the person. Then, I would base my decision on what was the occasion and what food was being served.

What food screams red wine to me? What food really elevates the experience of the wine–and vice versa? Which food demands red wine? STEAK!

I immediately imagined the scenario of the red wine drinker and the white wine drinker at a steak house trying to agree on a bottle of wine and settling on wines by the glass. If that mythical white wine drinker sticks to his or her white wine allegiance, he or she is missing out.

What else to try for this challenge was determined by the generosity of Shane Gelinas of the Gelinas Wine Group. Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending an industry tasting of Gelinas wines as well as wines from the Truman Wine Company. When the tasting was over, I asked Shane if I could take some wine home with me–especially wines that I didn’t get a chance to taste (because I spend too much time talking with winemakers!!). He told me to take what interested me that was open so I picked up two reds (a Folkway Cab which I hadn’t had a chance to taste and was VERY anxious to, a 2006 Latria Spanish grenache carinene blend, a 2007 Groundwork grenache I adored, and I was offered two whites which I had tasted and liked a lot.

Now that I had for wines for WBW#67,  the question was: what should I pair them with for dinner?

No surprise here: I picked up a ribeye steak for myself, and a chicken breast for my spouse which we prepared with pesto and oyster mushrooms, plus mushroom risotto and green salad on the side. (He’s recovering from a traumatic bicycle accident where he broke his C2; only yesterday was he permitted by his doctor to take his neck brace off. His “chew” muscles are still getting strong enough for a steak, even a tender rib-eye!).

First off,  we (my friend Dave, my husband and myself) tasted the 2007 Red Diamond Merlot, under $10 out the door from Trader Joe’s. We didn’t like the nose when I first opened the bottle–a little strange and funky with an alcoholic chaser. In the glass, the color was nice with some depth. There was a surprising richness to the wine, almost syrah like, with plum and cherry, but no cola. It had a bright, clean finish, and for how much fruit character it showed, it was also nicely balanced.

This Red Diamond merlot wine would be a great choice for a white wine drinker. And if he or she didn’t like it, you’re not out a lot of money. We were very happy with this wine at this price.

Second up, we dove into a 2006 Latria Montsant red blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Carinena. According to the bottle, Montsant is a region of northeast Spain in the province of Catalonia and these grapes are from a high elevation vineyard, about 1500′.

We really really liked this wine but agreed it would not be a go to wine for the typical American white wine drinker.

It was really pretty in the glass, and an overhwlming nose that made me want to swoon! David described it as “truffley.” The balance between fruit and spice and acids and tannins makes this a great wine for tapas or a meal of just about anything. However, we suspected that the minerality and tannins would put off most white wine drinkers–unless they like super minerally whites! This would be a good choice for a white wine drinker who prefers wines in a more European style while others would turn up their noses. We were surprised and impressed by its nice long finish. Great wine for only $12 at B & L; usually it’s around $15 which is still a marvelous value.

Third in line, we poured the Groundwork 2007 Grenache from Sans Liege. Jane and I loved this wine at Tuesday’s tasting and I loved it again today. It was excellent with my steak as well as my husband’s pesto mushroom chicken. It was beautiful all around–in the nose, the mouth, the soul. We all three loved this wine. The alcohol is a stunning 15.3%  but because it was so well balanced (and not at 70 degree room temp but about 60) it didn’t taste hot. It was very complex with floral, fruit and earth flavors including cherry, truffle, and caramel as well as spice; somewhat like a carnation.

It danced on our tongues–our enthusiasm alone would convince a white wine drinker to give it a whirl across the dance floor of a palate.

I assume this is not a cheap date but wow, is it great! This wine would make a grenache believer out of just about anyone.

DING DING DING! I just heard from Curt, winemaker at Groundwork that this wine retails for only $19! This is a screaming deal! FInd some, buy some, serve it to a white wine drinker and tell me how it goes! (Or just enjoy it yourself!)

Fourth and finally, we experienced Folkway’s Black Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an absolutely beautiful wine in every way imaginable.

How could a white wine drinker not fall in love this wine–and with the person who shares it? As David put it, “You don’t need a Ph.D to figure out and enjoy this rom-com of a cabernet.”

Not to say that this wouldn’t satisfy a more sophisticated red wine drinker because it certainly would! With plenty of blackberry and cherry fruit lively acids bringing it into balance, and a long savory finish, this cabernet is a steal at $36. It was supple, satisfying, pleasing–euphoria in a glass, and a knockout with my steak.

At the tasting, I talked at length with one of the brothers, Lino Bozzano, who is producing this wine and I look forward to visiting their winery and writing more about them! BUt for now, this post is clocking in at over 1200 words so that, my friends, brings this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday to a triumphant close: three winners for the white one drinker, and four winners for red wine drinkers!

How Will Extreme Walla Walla Washington Winter 2009 Impact Wines?

One of the blogs I read about wine and wine related issues is Ken Payton’s Reign of Terroir.

I met Ken at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa; we both took refuge under a shady tree during a tasting at Dry Creek Vineyard. We also ran into each other at the EWBC in Lisbon the following November and we both traveled to the cork forest.

Along the way, I’ve learned that Ken is a blogger of the journalistic vein; he’s willing to ask the tough questions. He’s quick to take notes and record conversations of interest. He’s bright, articulate, edgy, and opinionated–and he has weighed in on comments here in this blog as well.

Recently, Ken posted a two part series on climate change and viticulture based on conversation with climatologist Gregory V. Jones who Ken says is  “America’s most rigorous voice in the science as it relates to climate change and viticulture.”

I highly recommend both of Ken Payton’s blog posts on climate and wine but what caught my eye the most, because I’m thinking a lot these days about Washington Wine in order to be competitive for the WBC-Or-Bust contest, was this specific example:

The act of singular events like winter freezes are a little less extreme of late, but they still occur. Walla Walla this past December got down to 10 degrees; that’s at the damaging point for grape vines. Those kinds of things still happen. They just don’t go away. These extreme issues, whether they be with rainfall, hail even, of Winter freezes or Spring frosts, they are still risks to the industry depending on where you are.

Should I win a spot on the WBC-Or-Bust bus, this topic will be something I will want to follow-up on: how climate change is impacting the wine industry in the Northwest and in Washington in particular. I’ve been curious about climate change since I was an undergrad environmental studies major at UC Santa Cruz (where I went following a stint working in Ridge’s tasting room and where we had as a test case Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyards!)  I wonder whether wineries will be willing to have front door conversations on this touchy subject. Certainly, the wineries should be prepared to discuss their sustainable practices and the ways they are reducing their carbon footprints.

Word count clocks in at over 400! And I thought this would be a short and sweet post!

Chateau Ste Michelle 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot takes the prize

I bet you’re dying to know what I drank the other night with my New York Strip steak–which wine took the prize so to speak. Let me give you a hint:

Day 2 Itinerary: Food & Wine Pairing at Ste. Michelle–The first stop of the day will take place at Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington’s original Chateau and founding winery. Following a guided tour, our guest bloggers will enjoy an informative food and wine pairing experience.

Yes, you guessed it, I went with the wine selection from Washington State to add to my collection of posts about Washington State wines to compete in the WBC-or-Bust contest. And like I said in the previous post, it’s the one Washington State merlot the grocery store had–a 2005 Chateau St. Michelle. Makes sense for my first WA wine to write about it the first stop on the bus, yes? Maybe this will be a trend–or a direction on where to go with this series of posts!

The 2005 Chateau St. Michelle merlot is soft, supple, smooth and easy to drink; in fact I drank most of the bottle last night save one large glass to enjoy today as I write this post! The alcohol is a reasonable 13.5 so it didn’t knock off my socks (or any other clothing items!)

The color of the merlot is a deep concentrated plummy red while the nose is cherry and cola with some berry, plum, and licorice: typical, not surprising. It’s got lots of nice friendly fruit flavor, mostly cherry and other dark fruits; again, to be expected. At first I thought it too flabby, lacking structure, but the wine grew on me and it nicely complemented my steak with stilton crumbled on top. It did NOT go with the leftover potatoes from Wednesdays corned beef (ohh, but with the black and tan I enjoyed on Wednesday they were scrumptiously delectably matched!)

According to the Chateau St. Michelle website, food styles that match well with Merlot include

Mild to Intensely Flavored: Grilled salmon, roasted lamb, wild game, and balsamic or tomato-based sauces work well with the jammy flavors of Merlot.

Chinese: Merlot has a softer taste that lends itself to the flavors of Chinese food. Peking duck, mu shu pork, braised soy pork.

I can totally see this pairing nicely with the plum sauce and flavors in mu shu whether it be chicken, pork, duck, tofu or beef! They of course suggest one of their cabs to go with the steak!

The following day I had it with some crackers and cheeses included aged gouda and an aged goat cheese gouda. The merlot paired well with both and was a terrific way to celebrate what my grandma Gwenn called “Wine-Thirty.”

Overall, while merlot isn’t my favorite varietal, I’m not one to turn up my nose just because it’s merlot; I’m willing to give it a go and I’ve had some good ones. This 2005 Chateau St. Michelle is a great value on sale at $10. Bring it to a party and everyone will enjoy it. It’s a terrific, mild, juicy red wine for the white wine drinker.

Now to find another Washington Merlot to taste by Thursday! And guess what we’ll be having for dinner? That’s right–I’m going for Chinese take-out of Mu shu pork!

(This post clocks in at over 550 words–nearly 4 posts for the price of wine! Ummn, one! I’m thinking instead of number of posts, the contest should go with number of words!)

Twitter Tasting Event Picks Washington Merlot Thursday March 25

Thursday, March 25,  I will join in on the third Twitter Tasting event: Washington Merlot. The first one focused on California Cabernets and I tweeted enthusiastically about Old Creek Ranch’s Napa Valley Cabernet. For number two, my friend Tim Cabrera and I went to Summerland Winery where we tasted and he bought a bottle of their sauvignon blanc which is one of his favorite summertime wines (and I could sure see why!)

And since I am going on a Washington Wine tasting and blogging binge in order to compete in the WBC-or-Bust contest, it’s a no brainer that I will be participating in Thursday’s live Twitter Tasting for Washington Merlot.

Trouble is, I live in California, in a town some of us call “Ventucky.” It doesn’t boast much in the way of wine stores–although some people here do boast about our wine BARS. Granted, Nick’s Cave and the Ventura Wine Store is a wonderful place; however, he specializes in California wines, particularly local ones, and especially those that the distributor will give him marked down lower than some wineries are comfortable going.

So I went to Vons. We have five Vons in our small town, and fortunately for me, two of them have a decent wine selection. One of them, on Seaward by the beach, sells the most wine out of all the stores in California I’ve been told and makes the most money per square foot out of the whole chain. Probably because they carry and sell a LOT of pricey wine. CALIFORNIA wine.

I went to the Vons on Borchard. On their clearance shelf I got lucky and found one of my favorite inexpensive pinot noirs, Wild Rock, for 50% so I picked up two bottles for the price of one ($15)  plus a 2006 Babich unoaked chard for $5 and a Napa Valley White Oak Syrah for $13.

Unfortunately I could only find one Washington merlot, a 2005 by Chateau Ste. Michelle on sale for $10.

Since I bought six bottles, they took another 10% off. In addition, the other day I picked up two bottles of Ravenswood 2007 Vintners Blend at 50% off (two at $12), and I walked out of Vons with a 2008 St. Francis Chardonnay for $9!

This state of affairs is going to make it very very difficult for me to write much about Washington wines in the next month in order to be competitive in the WBC-or-Bust contest. I just bought nine bottles of wine and even at discounted prices, I spent some money, and I only ended up with one from Washington! And my Twisted Few wine club shipment just came in to my cellar up at my mom’s house!

If I get desperate enough, and move quickly enough, possible I could order wine for the event here:

One last dilemna: what to drink with the beautiful New York steak I bought for tonight? Do I drink the Chateau St. Michelle Washington merlot and get started on my challenge and prep my tastebuds for Thursday? Or do I drink one of these other fabulous wines I bought in the past 72 hours? I hope the suspense doesn’t get to you!

Want to join in the fun? Register for the Washington Merlot Twitter Tasting here; it’s free and you don’t even have to register to participate. Just get on twitter and let the tweets flow with the Washington merlot!

Word count: this one clocks in at nearly 600 words! I definitely should have turned this one into three posts!

WBC-or-Bust: Wine Predator Throws Hat Into Ring for Trip to WA Wine Country!

I’m signed up.

Signed up to what?

Compete in the WBC-or-BUST contest.

The what?

The WBC-or-Bust Contest!

Yeah, right!

No –Write! Write about Washington wines! Live it up! Be driven around to various top-notch wineries from Seattle to Walla Walla! Be wined AND dined! Stay in a way cool B&B along the way!

See the badge there on the sidebar? That means I’m official!

Well, can I go?

Only if you sign up and follow these “Rules & Guidelines”!

TO ENTER If you don’t already have one, create a free blogger account. Choose a “WBC-or-BUST” badge/banner from your account manager. Add the badge source code to your blog website, so that it is visible from any page.

Warning: This is a pain in the neck. But if I can do it, you can do it. They have a few badges to choose from. I like this one the best.

TO QUALIFY Once the WBC-or-BUST badge has been properly added to your blog website, simply blog about Washington wine throughout the span of the contest. No less than one Washington wine post must be published to remain eligible.

I don’t think this one will count, do you?

TO WIN 12 winning bloggers will be named at the conclusion of the campaign. Four (4) winners will be selected at random out of all qualifying participants. Two (2) winners will be chosen for posting the most Washington wine related blog entries (minimum of 150 words required for each post). Six (6) additional winners will be chosen for the best category based posting:

  • Top 2 Best Washington winery posts
  • Top 2 Best Washington wine or tasting note posts
  • Best Washington growing region post
  • Best Washington vineyard post

The huh? The final four winners will be selected at random out of all qualifying participants? Random? Can you see me scratching my head? Maybe 2 random and 2 because the writing overall was good or the person showed lots of potential or had proven her worth by blogging like a mad dog at other conferences?

Oh and FYI This post has 700 words if we count the title, well over the required number of 150 words per post. Since I tend to write posts of 750-1000 words, do you think I should break them into parts in order to be more competitive? Or add lots of extra words to my sentences?

A few more words in the fine print:

* Your blog has to have been started before the end of October 2009 (no problem there–I started this blog August 2008 and started psoting regularly October 2008; my main blog, Art Predator, I started November 2007).
* Washington bloggers/residents can’t compete (I’m definitely a Californian!)
* You have to have a ticket to WBC 10 (and those are selling out fast! I’m applying for a scholarship, but if that doesn’t come through, Reno is saving me a spot.)
* You have to make a 1 minute video and post it to you-tube and leave a link in your blog Just kidding! But here’s mine anyway! Just insert Washington Wine whenever I say M-G. I’m an equal opportunity blogger (within reason!)

Below are more details about this amazing opportunity. Check it out and you’ll see why I want to be on that bus or bust!

ROAD TO WALLA WALLA: June 23rd – 25th

DAY 1: Seattle & Woodinville Wine Country
WBC-or-BUST Preview - Day 1 Experience some of the best Washington has to offer from one of the premier food & wine destinations in the Northwest. {view itinerary}

DAY 2: Yakima Valley & Walla Walla
WBC-or-BUST Preview - Day 1 Travel across the Cascade Mountain Range to visit Washington’s premier growing regions and taste through a selection of premium wines. {view itinerary}

DAY 3: Start of the Wine Bloggers Conference
Arrive to Walla Walla in style just in time for the WBC with a deeper understanding of Washington and its thriving wine industry.

So here goes! Until this contest ends at the end of April, there will definitely be a Washington Wine slant to this blog. It’s gonna be a blast! And maybe I’ll get to blast off in June to my next wine adventure–in Washington!

Now to find my notes from the WA wines I tasted at WBC…they’re here somewhere!

Wine Blogging Wednesday #67 asks us to pair a red wine with a white wine drinker

What’s up for Wine Blogging Wednesday for March?

Joe, at, hosts Wine Blogging Wednesday #67 with a theme of Seeing Red For the First Time. Here’s the link to his blog to read his complete announcement.

Joe’s prompts us to “pick a red wine that you would use to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines for the first time.  Think of a person that only ever drinks white wine, and answer the question: What Red Wine would I use to convince that white-wine-only person that they should also drink reds?

“You can go as crazy as you like in your choices,” writes Joe.  “ANY still red wine is eligible.”

Participate by posting a comment to on or before March 24. Include the link to your review.

Joe’s prompt riled up reader Kevin who commented:

Dude, Pouring more red down the throats of white wine drinkers is like throwing a match on a forest fire, what’s the point and who will notice? I get sooo many knee jerk “I don’t drink white wine” whinges at tastings there is a greater good to be served. Expand consumers exposure to quality whites and the whole wine experience will be better for it. Tougher row to hoe but sooo much more satisfying. Saying that, very cool picture though.

I have no idea yet what I’m going to write about but I certainly don’t think it’s a lost cause to offer the right red wine to a white wine drinker. Maybe something from a tasting last Sunday up in Santa Barbara County? Something from the NZ tasting last week? Maybe inspiration will come from the bottling at Old Creek Ranch Winery this Sunday? Maybe this weekend I’ll spend a little time in the cellar or rummage through the empty bottles and notes I’ve been saving to write about?

What I should do, obviously, is choose a Washington red wine so I’ll have one more post up for the WBC-or-Bust competition. But that’s hard to do when I don’t know their wines very well.

Because what I really think this takes is knowing the white wine drinker. What kind of white wines a person likes will tip us off to what reds he or she might like…That’s what I’m going to be contemplating over the next week.

PS Happy St Patrick’s Day! I may have wine with my corned beef but what I’m really looking forward to is a black and tan and something Irish that starts with a “w”!