My Whirlwind Tour of Oregon Pinot Noir

How did I get from Idaho and Walla Walla back to California for the Petite Sirah Symposium? By way of some Oregon Pinot Noir of course!

Read on to get a taste and see where I went and what I did; more in depth blog posts to come about my stops in Willamette Valley AVAs including Barrel Fence in the Dundee Hills (pictured) and Coleman Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA (photos below).

After a Whirlwind Tour of Oregon Pinot Noir, Back in California for Petite Sirah! When I last checked in from my road trip, I had arrived on the coast of Oregon following a few days in the Walla Walla AVA (American Viticultural Area) and around Boise (the Snake River AVA)…  Read More

via art predator

PS I Love You: Let me count the ways!

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Here’s Part 1: a-few-petite-sirahs-from-the-ps-i-love-you-symposium-tasting

It is unfortunate but true that people are typically unfamiliar with the marvels of Petite Sirah. Hence the need for a Petite Sirah advocacy group like PS I Love You and for events like Dark & Delicious.

I’m fortunate that I was turned on to Petite Sirah back in my days working at Ridge and that I put a bottle of Storrs PS away in the cellar and forgot about it for 10 years which allowed me to taste the beauty that PS can become.

I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to whet my palate and taste a lot of PS wine in the past six months, thanks to invitations from Jo Diaz to attend Dark and Delicious as well as the PS Symposium.

I hope that these notes will encourage YOU to go out and try out a Petite Sirah or two for yourself! And while you’re at it, pick up a bottle or two to lay down in the cellar for 10 years or so!

Here are the rest of the wineries represented at the Petite Sirah Symposium tasting Tuesday July 26 along with notes about some of them. Sorry I couldn’t taste, take notes, and write about them all!

  • Diamond Ridge Vineyards ~ Lake County
    Winemaker Clark Smith aka Grape Crafter (pictured) gave one of the PS Symposium’s enology presentations where he discussed the impact of various barrels–French, Hungarian, American, and neutral– on the same Petite Sirah and at the tasting, he provided us with samples of the various wines he made. Personally, I really liked the one in the Hungarian Oak–this was a no fooling around, leather and chains with some blueberry pie thrown in version of PS.  He also did a French oak that tasted familiar, and American oak which was a bit on the sweet side with a lot of vanilla and not as much fruit. Lake County is above the fog line but cooling lake breezes keep the grapes from cooking.
  • Don Sebastiani & Sons ~ Sonoma
    This Petite Sirah was the standout wine for me in a twitter tasting of The Crusher recent releases. In one of the tweets, I said it was  “like the vampire that takes you in the night!” The California State Fair Wine Competition gave it a double gold/Best of Class award. Continue reading

Petite Sirahs From The PS I Love You Symposium Tasting: Part 1Wineries A-C

I usually avoid writing the kind of blog post that just lists a bunch of wines.

I like to tell stories.

And I think story telling is my strength.

But sometimes it is necessary to just resort to a few keys words to convey a story about wine when you’re trying to talk about many wines.

In this case, many bottles of wine–but they’re all Petite Sirah.

I am trying to remember if I’ve ever been to a tasting of one varietal like this other than Dark & Delicious which is also Petite Sirah and I’m scratching my head. I’ve been to New Zealand new release tastings where there was mostly sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir…but that wasn’t the point of the tasting.

I went away from Tuesday’s PS I Love You Petite Sirah symposium and tasting flabbergasted at how different these wines can be based on terroir and wine maker style and vintage and more. To suss out terroir a bit more, instead of organizing the tasting alphabetically, I’d love to attend a Petite Sirah tasting organized by AVA!

So here are the links to many of the participating Petite Sirah wineries, most of whom belong to PS I Love You, the Petite Sirah industry advocacy group organized by Jo Diaz, with a few of my notes from the wineries alphabetically from A-C. Continue reading

What to eat with your Petite? Ideas from Ellen Landis at PS I Love You Symposium

After over three weeks on the road, and tasting wine in Idaho, Walla Walla Washington and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, I made it Monday July 25 to Jim Concannon’s birthday dinner to celebrate his 80th and Petite Sirah at the PS I Love You Petite Sirah Symposium Tuesday July 26 at Concannon Winery in Livermore. (Links to participating wineries and those discussed below the jump; here’s a blog post by Jo Diaz about the events. Pictured below is Jim Concannon’s son John honoring him; pictured above is Karen Leslie who sat next to me).

What to eat with your Petite? If a summer time dinner or lunch outside under the table grape arbor at Concannon is any indication, it’s barbeque tri-tip, chicken, and beans!

But there is more to life than barbeque, so at Tuesday’s Petite Sirah symposium, Ellen Landis, Sommelier, proprietor of Landis Shores Luxury Inn, and author of Ellen on Wine shared some of her ideas on which foods pair best with Petite Sirah. I tried valiantly to take notes which she spoke; unfortunately, many of them were lost when I lost my internet connection! But basically, her main point was:

Drink what YOU like.

Since there are different styles of Petite sirah, the question really is which style goes with which food.

A basic rule of thumb is to match or contrast–match heavy meals with heavier wine styles, match flavor profiles or contrast them. Avoid pairing delicate dishes (like sole) with a powerful wine like Petite.

Here are some specific ideas:

How to gain creaminess with Petite Sirah? Landis suggest beef stroganoff paired with Rock Wall 2009. She also had specific suggestions of which Petite Sirah would go best with beef or pork tenderloin. At lunch I sat with Rock Wall winemaker Shauna Rosenblum (and yes I will be blogging about her soon! What a great story!) and tasted her Rock Wall 2009 Gamble Ranch that afternoon. This wine retails at $30 and is very rich and creamy in a cream soda or root beer float kind of way, very spicy, maple syrup, and chocolate malt.

Ellen Landis noted that the French pair red wines with fish–so don’t be afraid! She says try a blackened salmon with a PS; Ellen paired hers with a fruity Michael David PS which is 50% PS with 50% Petite verdot.

While most of us think of Petite Sirah as going with meat, vegetarians can enjoy PS with eggplant parmagiana with a variety of petite sirah styles. PS stands up to the fullness of the sauce and the creamy mozzarella allows the tomato sauce to work well and not clash.

Cheeses with Petite Sirah are great as a dessert course. For most palates, the wine should be as sweet as the dessert Continue reading

A Few Lessons & Photos from the Road: Idaho & Walla Walla

Hard to believe I’ve been on the road since July 2! In that time I’ve tasted wines from Idaho, Montana, and Washington, and I’ve spent quality time at wineries in Idaho and in Washington. I’ve tasted some fabulous wines from the Snake River AVA (Cold Springs vineyards pictured with owner Bill Ringert, Snake River winemaker Scott pictured, Cinder winemaker Melanie Krause pictured, Zhoo Zhoo and Hells Canyon family pictured below ) as well as Walla Walla (Sinclair Estates, Dunham Cellars, Amavi) and I’ve got lots of stories to share as well as tasting notes (subscribe!!)

Yesterday, Tuesday July 19, I spent the morning at Dunham Cellars with Eric Dunham then tasted through a number of wines including two reserve wines and a wine that Eric is making with actor Kyle MacLaughlan.

Then as a huge windy rainstorm rolled in, I did some writing at Walla Walla Roastery including the post that follows which I published at my The Write Alley blog. In it, I share two stories from the road–one about synchronicity and one about doing what you love which came from my interview with Eric.

My last stop in Walla Walla was to taste the wines and learn more about Amavi Cellars; pictured above is the beautiful new tasting room. There I met with Eric McKibben, son of Norm McKibben who was one of the first people to plant wine grapes in the region which he subsequently made into wine at Pepper’s Bridge (Amavi’s sister winery).

Now, after a day of soaking at Bagby Hot Springs,  I’m staying with friends on the coast in Newport, Oregon and gearing up to visit more wineries and learn more stories! I’m off to McMinnville tomorrow afternoon!! I’m ready for some Oregon PINOT NOIR!

Yesterday, Tuesday July 19, I spent the morning at Dunham Cellars with Eric Dunham then tasted through a number of wines including two reserve wines and a wine that Eric is making with actor Kyle MacLaughlan.

I have more stories to tell about these wineries in a subsequent posts, but in the meantime, here’s the post with two lessons from the road accompanied by photos of Eric Dunham with paintings that grace his reserve labels.

Tuesday Tips: Serve Up Some Synchronicity & Do What You Love I’m writing to you from Walla Walla Roastery, located not in the cute Main Street downtown of Walla Walla but out at the airport, home to a multitude of wineries! I spent the morning at Dunham Cellars interviewing winemaker Eric Dunham for my Wine Predator blog and a bigger wine writing project about family and sustainability. I’d like to say that I’d planned on talking with Eric but it just happened that way. I’d actually gone out there to talk … Read More

via The Write Alley

PS I Love You: Petite Sirah Symposium 7/26

As much as I am enjoying my NW road trip tasting and exploring and learning about NW wines in Idaho and Washington, I can’t stay here in Walla Walla any longer than today because I want to spend a few days in Willamette Valley before I zoom down to the Bay Area for the Petite Sirah symposium next Tuesday  June 26. I’ve also been invited to  the Jim Concannon Tribute Dinner the previous night which kicks off the Ninth Annual Petite Sirah Symposium at Concannon Vineyard. It’s also Jim Concannon’s 80th birthday,  so we’ll be celebrating 50 years of Petite Sirah and 80 years of life of this amazing thought leader in wine. (Photo montage by Jo Diaz).

According to this blog post “Concannon Is Pulling Out All of the Stops For Petite Sirah’s 50th Anniversary” by Jo Diaz:

It was Jim Concannon who was the first to embrace Petite Sirah as a variety, taking it from the obscurity of its hearty Burgundy days, and recognizing it as more than a simple blending grape. It was he who first labeled Petite Sirah as such in 1964 with a 1961 vintage.

Jim Concannon

Seven O’Clock
The Arbor
Concannon Vineyard
4590 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA 94550

 Media Luncheon & Tasting of Petite Sirahs

Celebrate 50 years

Following the Ninth Annual Petite Sirah Symposium
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Lunch ~ 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Media Tasting ~ 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Arbor
Concannon Vineyard
4590 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA 94550

Learn more about Petite Sirah and PS I Love You, an industry advocacy group which also organizes “Dark &  Delicious” each February. This consumer tasting event introduces many to the delights of this definitely dark varietal paired with various tasty and delicious bites, many featuring pork!

Thanks to Jo Diaz of Diaz Communications and Wine Blog Org “Juicy Tales” for the invitation! I am very excited to be able to attend the event this year!

Check out her blog post Concannon Is Pulling Out All of the Stops For Petite Sirah’s 50th Anniversary to see a list of all the wineries involved as well as the wine bloggers and other media folks in attendance and you’ll see why this is a MUST attend event for Petite Sirah lovers, advocates, and wine media!

PS Sorry if you read this before I made all the Petit Sirahs into Petite Sirahs! I think I caught them all now! Please email if you ever see an egregious error! (Compliments and samples are nice too!)

NW & CA Wine Tasting Road Trip 2011: exploring “family” & “sustainability”?

Instead of going to my fifth Wine Bloggers Conference this July in Virginia (I went to Sonoma 2008, Sonoma/Napa 2009, Walla Walla 2010 and Lisbon 2009), since I wasn’t teaching summer school I decided to take advantage of the time off and have proceed on a wine tasting road trip that focuses on two big stories in wine: “family” and “sustainability.

It seems to me that just about every winery claims to be “family” run and operated, so much so that the term has lost its meaning.

Same with sustainability. As a lifelong environmental activist, and a UC Santa Cruz environmental studies major, so much of what’s passing as sustainability seems to be greenwashing. And just because a wine is “organic” doesn’t mean the winery is “sustainable.”

So to learn more about these two topics which I find to be intertwined, I have set out on a road trip to find and write about both sustainability and family–and I am taking my family along with me and we will be traveling as sustainably as possible in our 1990 VW Westfalia VW camper van.

Pictured up top: We’re camped in our 90 westy with our custom tie dye (I did it with lots of help from my husband and son!) along Granite Creek near Granite Creek Hot Springs in Wyoming south of Jackson; the Granite joins the Hoback which joins the Snake…more on that later! The wine, Hard Core by Core Winery, is a favorite of ours; my husband loves rhone blends with some cab in them–this is  60% Mourvedre and 25% Grenache from Alta Mesa Vineyard and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Barbara Highlands vineyard. Aged 21 months in 70% new French and 30% American barrels and aged 7 months in the bottle. These folks are one of my favorite families in wine; yes I will be including them in this project!).

I will be blogging about as many wineries as I can along the way as I search out and meet “winery kids” to explore what it’s like growing up among the vines in the Wild West…and discussing sustainable practices too.

The plan is to use the blog posts as a backbone for a book about “Winery Kids” (a topic I personally find more interesting than winery dogs!) The book will ultimately include information about the winery, the family engaged in the winery, and the winery’s sustainable practices. Family life includes wine and food so the book will have family friendly and favorite menus matched with a wine or two from the winery and with at least one family recipe to go with the wine. While it won’t be a guide book to family friendly wineries, it will include wineries that are family friendly.

I’m starting out near the headwaters of the Snake River in Wyoming. Pictured above are two Idaho wines in our Grand Teton campsite that we had with elk burgers, and the same wines which we enjoyed the next night along Grassy Lake Road near Yellowstone with buffalo burgers!  (In case you’re wondering, I prefer elk. And both syrahs were different but awesome. More on that later.)

Then I’ll travel south then west and north west along the Snake River AVA in Idaho. Then I’ll drive north east to Walla Walla and along the Columbia to write about a Washington AVA or two, then head south into Oregon’s Willamette Valley, down to Sonoma and Napa and Santa Cruz. I intend to include Calaveras County in the Sierras and, later Temecula wine country in the south. Since I live in the central coast, I will attend to the region in my backyard during day and weekend trips.

Come along! It’s easy–just subscribe to this blog and you can read about our adventures from the comfort of your own computer!

And check out my twitter feed–that’s where I will be posting pictures and notes as often as possible.