Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some Great News for My Newspaper Column

I've just not spent enough time promoting my newspaper column. Every now and then I'll send out some e-mail, but it's somewhat surprising how few editors even answer or shoo me away!

The feedback I've been getting has been very postitive. Here on the blog I blather on about specific wines and things. I try to keep the column more about issues, education, story telling and sharing some knowledge. I also think my journalism background has helped make it a success. I interview people and try to share others' knowledge.

I'm happy to make note today that I have picked up two newspapers. The Plymouth Pilot is giving the column a test run for its readers.

And just today the Anderson Herald Bulletin contacted me about adding the column to their food and feature pages.

Those two additions get my circulation up over 70,000 - I'm really pleased. I had hoped to get the column into 10-15 papers within a year and I'm at 7 so I guess I'm on target. I just need to spend more time working it.

You can always read all the columns on the link at the left of this "Grape Sense." That is just the newspaper columns.

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White Wine Lovefest Continues!

Maybe I'm just easily bored? Ha! I recently bought a few different bottles of white wine to write about for the newspaper column and for here. And, I think one of the joys of appreciating wine is trying new things.

I honestly go long periods of time without a taste of white wine and I'm learning what a disservice that is to my palate. I've opened several of those wines lately, bought mostly on recommendations, and I'm loving them.

For example, I had a little bit of rather spicy pasta sauce left over from the weekend and heated that up tonight. I looked at the reds and nothing jumped out of the rack into my hand then checked the white rack and found a Spanish white wine Ashley at Cork & Cracker had recommend.

The Basa 2006 Blanco was a dynamite white wine. And, it's a great value - you can find it from $9-$12.

This one is one of my favorites of the recent batch; and I've liked them all! This wine has a lime/citrus taste with very tart but mild acidity. Many white wines can have overpowering acidity and this is really just right for most people. This white wine has some body too, there is lingering taste in your mouth and it has a silky texture.

As a reminder: I write largely about these specific wines that you may or may not be able to find at your local wine shop. The education point to be made here is try new things. And in this case, try a Spanish white wine - there are many to choose from.

This Basa blanco just rocked - great grape juice!

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Story Wine Fair - What a Crowd!

It was an incredible spring day Saturday in beautiful little Story, Indiana, with an incredible crowd for the Indiana Wine Fair.

I haven't attended this one for a couple years so I have nothing to compare it to, but the crowd had to be a record one. There was a concert-sized crowd listening to the free music. Oenophiles were lined up 50 deep at the main food stand. And the more than 20 wineries pouring frequently had people waiting 10-15-20 deep for a taste of their wines.

What a great event in a wonderful setting, even if it is a bit of a drive and hard to get to!

My only complaint was the crowd was so big, it required a lot of patience to taste the wines. This is a great event and if you missed it, you'll get another chance in downtown Indianapolis in mid-June at the annual Vintage Indiana event.

About the product. Indiana continues to grow its wine business. There were several new wineries at the Wine Fair. Here's my complaint, though - there is a certain sameness!

A vast majority of the wineries who grow some of their own grapes, and/or buy some grapes from traditional wine areas have wines that all taste a lot alike. Indiana wine has come a long way and many of these wineries are going to have to find a niche to survive!

I tasted a lot of Traminette, which I like. Most of it was very, very sweet. Huber's was a bit drier than the others I tasted, but four wineries had Traminette sweeter than I could handle.

Winzerwald Winery takes Traminette a step further. They buy Gewurztraminer from Washington's Yakima Valley region to make a true Gewurzt, which is usually a bit more dry. I'd recommend you taste it at Vintage Indiana.

Winzerwald also buys Pinot Noir grapes from the same area. I tried their Pinot, the only one I saw of the 7-8 winery tables I visited. It was okay. My taste buds are probably skewed from the recent trip to Oregon, but I was surprised that it was really pretty drinkable.

One of the biggest surprises of the day for me came from Monticello, Indiana's Whyte Horse Winery. They have a Sangiovese that was absolutely accurate and tasty. They buy the grapes from the Lodi region of California, an attendant told me. It was nice take on the Italian grape.

If you get a chance to attend one of these two major Indiana wine events, go because they are fun. I hope Indiana wineries continue to grow and thrive. But I think they're going to have to show some differences to compete and survive in the future. Too much of the Indiana product is similar.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

This Wine is Why I Love Red Wine

Okay, for some reason I've opened a lot of wine this week. It just might be a record for postings in a single week!

That being said, what a way to end the week. I did some gardening, lugging around bags of mulch, soils, and digging holes and was a hungry guy when done. I took to pork America's Cuts and seasoned both with salt and pepper but one with a smoked cherry rub and the other marinated briefly in beer.

I looked at the wine rack and saw a Spellbound 2006 Petite Syrah I had bought at Cork & Cracker in Indy. This is great red wine for under $15. I found prices online ranging from $12.99 to $15.99!

While not quite a fruit bomb as many Syrahs can be, it was big fruit on the front of the palate with amazingly smooth tannins. It's an easy-to-drink but big and full-bodied Syrah. One review described it as "big juicy black fruit flavors" and I can't top that!

In the glass its a very inky dark red wine. It's great for every day food. It's not a complex wine but should be really pleasing for those who like a Petite Syrah.

It was a really awesome match with that America's Cuts pork. This is a really nice glass of red wine!!!!

Now I'm going to grab a couple bites of chocolate, sit on the porch swing, and enjoy the rest of this Friday night!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quick Reminder About Saturday's Wine Fest

The weekend weather looks beautiful so you have no excuse not to head down to Story in beautiful Brown County for the Indiana Wine Fair.

Story is down 135 off of 46 and home of the famed Story Inn. Somewhere between 25-30 Indiana wineries will be pouring their wines. Admission is $20 and you get a souvenir wine glass, other gifts, and the chance to taste many, many Indiana wines.

There will be live music and a festive atmosphere.

There is something for everyone. A tip I offered in a previous blog was try Indiana Traminettes. It's a great summer wine that Indiana does well. Also, some of those wineries are starting to do well with dry Rose. If they are there and pouring, be sure to try Huber's dry Rose. I was quite impressed with it last summer.

It's a very fun event. I have an unexpected work obligation in the morning, but hope to get down in the afternoon and see you there.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hungarian White Wine - You Read That Correctly!

I write in my newspaper column frequently that wine drinkers should find retailers they trust, who can make recommendations they will like and stick with them!

I have about three! And, I recently took a recommendation from Ashley at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis that was good as it was unique.

I told Ashley I wanted to expand my knowledge of white wines and do some new things. She grabbed an Albarino which I wrote about just a few days ago. Then she said "for something really different" try this Furmint.

That drew the appropriate, "Huh?"

Furmint is grown in Hungary and used to produce dessert wines but can also make a fine dry white wine. I know nothing about it so I'm just going to provide a link to a blog I found which includes copy and a video on Furmint.

The bottle suggested fish or a mild dinner meal and I had it with some simple white fish off the grill. The fish was "so-so" which was my fault, but the wine was really a nice change of pace. I liked it a lot.

My Furmint was a 2006 Royal Tokaji. I got a little apple and oak on the nose and taste. But what is probably the most defining characteristic is how dry this white wine is and the lovely finish which lingers in your mouth. It has some acidity but nothing in the neighborhood of a Sauvignon Blanc or similar wine. It is higher in alcohol than most whites and that's one of the grapes characteristics. This bottle was 14 percent.

You can find this unique dry white wine for $11-$15. I loved this wine. It's got the citrus nose, a long finish, and dry enough to satisfy a red wine drinker. If you can find it, buy some and give it a try.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Visit to the Hoosier Wine Cellar

Several weeks back I heard from Allen "Ole" Olson who writes and does video segments for "Hoosier Wine Cellar." That blog serves the Bloomington Herald Times newspapers, a couple of other papers served by the same ownership, and a whole wine community.

Ole did an interview with me about my column writing and wine interest. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

If you click here it will take you to the short written intro. And on that page you can click video to see the interview.

We did a second segment with Craig Baker who has started an Oregon winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Chris and Craig formed Ancient Cellar Winery and have produced a Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

You can see that video here.

Craig lives on the northside of Indianapolis and markets the wine while brother Chris is the winemaker out in Oregon. I was pleasantly suprised to find that the "Gilt" Pinot Gris is available around Indiana including Ken's Liquors in Crawfordsville!

I visited Chris during my recent visit to Oregon and will have more on him in the near future.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Time to Start Buying Up Rose Wines for Summer

The sale of dry rose has gone crazy the last few years. Yes, pink wine is hot again but this is no white zinfandal. I intend on writing one of my newspaper columns about Rose' in the near future so I'll save the facts and figures for that!

By the way, if you click on the link at the left of this posting - the "Grape Sense" link takes you to all of my newspaper columns.

I opened a 2006 Cruz de Piedra 2006 Garnacha Rosada - or Rose tonight. I had this one in the rack for over a year and noticed the price sticker at the time was $9.99.

Most Rose' wine has a nice strawberry nose with a dry mid-palate and finish. They are crisp and refreshing. Rose' is great on the porch swing or patio and will pair nicely with all kinds of food.

And the best part of good Rose' is that its a great value. You can buy really good Rose anywhere from $9-$15!

My Cruz de Piedra tonight was odd. It was a bit flat and not the big strawberry flavor I remembered from this wine. I've had it several times before. I'm not sure but I'm going to blame the articial closure. I'm not a fan. The great debate between synthetic corks and screw caps is several years old, but my experience says screw caps! (That's another future column!)

The wine was not bad but a bit flat. This 2006 isn't old but Rose' is a wine meant to be consumed while young.

You'll find Rose' made from Cabernet, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Garnacha grapes ... and others as well. I really like the Spanish Garnacha (or Grenache) grapes. But it's fun trying all the others.

The mother of all Rose' is Tavel - a region in France that makes fabulous Rose.

Rose' wine is a big growing market in wine sales. Industry surveys showed a 50 percent growth in US Rose' sales between 2006-2007!

This one tonight was a bit flat, but I have two or three more I've purchased recently and I'm anxious to give a try. And, I'm sure as summer nears I'll be buying more.

I can't recommend Rose' wine enough .. dry Rose' ... it's a great summer wine! And, it's easy to drink for newcomers trying to improve their palate!

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spanish Albarino - Try it, You'll Like It!

I've been pretty serious about my red wine drinking for a good 5-6 years now. I've not been a big white wine fan. Beyond the occasional Sauvignon Blanc, nah not my thing.

But I think my seriousness about wine, the column and this blog, has gotten my interest piqued into white wine lately.

I've tried some new things and tasted a few surprising white wines that I really enjoyed. And I'm happy not to be the stereotypical red wine drinker if that is where this is headed.

First tonight, I opened a bottle of Salneval Albarino, a 2007 that is widely distributed and found in lots of places for $9-$11. I picked up this bottle, on Ashley's recommendation, at Cork & Cracker in Indianapolis.

Now to the wine. This was my first albarino and I really liked it. This is the widest grown white wine grape in Spain and it is a great alternative to some of the old standby wines.

I've had several "ok" Sangiovese wines with pasta lately. I made some simple pasta tonight using ground turkey and canned seasoned tomatoes (Red Gold and Del Monte work great!). This was far superior than of those recent reds.

It is a yellow-ish wine with a beautiful and very seductive nose. You could never just sniff this wine and set it down. There is a little hint of fruit, mineral, and perhaps even floral but not the acidity of many white wines .. and it has a very smooth finish.

This wine would work with seafood, perhaps Asian food, and even mild Italian. I'm anxious to try it with my spicier pasta combinations.

I did my usual research to find that amateur and blogging wine writers, like me, generally rated it in the very high 80s - 87-88 - on the 100 point scale. I don't do that, but it seems about right.

Pick up a Spanish Albarino and give it a try for something different. I found it very enjoyable. I'd definitely buy more of the Salneval, but I'm anxious to try others as well!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Great Bonarda in My Wine Rack

I've gone on and on here a number of times about Bonarda - my favorite obscure grape. Bonarda is grown mostly in Argentina and was the most widely produced grape there until Malbec took over.

Bonarda has a big, silky, smooth flavor with hints of an earthy/smokey flavor that is awesome with big flavored foods. I had picked up a bottle of Colonia Las Liebres 2006 Bonarda several months ago somewhere in Indy. I think it was Mass Avenue Wine Shop. I don't remember and couldn't rind the receipt, which I usually keep!

I found a link to a story about Bonarda and Argentina which you can read here.

This was really smooth glass of big-flavored wine. It was unfiltered and unoaked which immediately caught my eye. The tannins were very light and smooth. And since I don't remember where I bought it, that also means I don't know what I paid for it. But I found prices ranging from $9.99 to $11.99 on the net.

I threw a bacon-wrapped filet on the grill and the Bonarda lost a little of its pop - just not quite big enough, but it was ok. But alone again after the steak, very enjoyable wine.

For something different, look for a Bonarda. They're not easy to find. Some of the Bonarda blends are pretty good but I'd urge you to find a 100 percent bottling!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Nice Oregon Pinot Noir Under $30

I couldn't resist opening a bottle of Oregon Pinot this week. Having spent two days tasting so much great Pinot Noir last week I found myself aching to again enjoy the senusal aroma and the light touch of fine wine making!

Sorta geeky I know, but it's how I feel about Pinot Noir.

I mentioned in one of my Oregon postings that I had hoped to taste Scott Paul's Pinot during my visit to Carlton. The winery was closed and I went on about my business. While awaiting my flight at Portland's airport back home, I found Scott Paul wine at the "Made in Oregon" shop - post security.

By the way, in many places now you can carry on such things as long as the shop is past the security checkpoint and you have a direct flight or secure connection flight!

I picked up a bottle of the 2007 Scott Paul Martha Pirrie Pinot Noir. It's the winery's desire to produce a great Pinot under $30. I'd have to say this one comes pretty close. I believe I paid about $26 at the Oregon shop.

It is a lighter Pinot, for sure, but with a nice and traditional nose that I can just enjoy for hours. It had a screwcap, which I've come more and more to appreciate.

It is not the bigger and well-structured Pinots you'll find in Oregon at the $35-$50 price point but I wouldn't expect it to be.

With some of these wines, particularly a winery I did not visit, it's hard to know if they distribute or ship to Indiana. But if you see it anywhere it's worth your purchase for the price!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Big Ol' Austrailian Fruit Bomb

Many wine afficianados will on occasion refer to a wine as a fruit bomb. Not always, but more often than not, they are not being kind.

A "fruit bomb" simply means a big mouthful of fruit flavor on the first sip of the juice - and often without much going on behind it.

Recently I had noticed Layer Cake Wines in a number of shops, along with some hullabaloo about their arrival.

So tonight I opened a Layer Cake 2008 Shiraz from lower Australia. It's a bit of a fruit bomb for sure, but not a bad Shiraz for the $14-$18 price range. I thought it was big, chewy, fruity bang to the palate. That was about what I expected from an Australian Shiraz. I would have liked more of the spicy finish that good Shiraz/Syrah is known for but didn't think this was a bad wine. It also was very, very smooth but was not as dry as I normally like.

I almost always jot down a few notes before writing these entries then check the internet to see what others are saying. There was some pretty harsh criticism of this wine as one-dimensional. I wouldn't totally agree with that. I think this is probably a nice step for people into Shiraz. It is unquestionably big when you take the first swig but not badly made at all.

It's hard to call it structured or well balanced with a bit of a wimpy finish, but this is not bad wine. Pretty good stuff. It held up nice to pasta and seems to be popping up in wine stores everywhere. I'd say if you see it give it a try. I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has had the wine and ask you to share your opinions.

If I get a few responses, I'll share them here!

Here is more on Layer Cake.

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Make A Trip to Story April 25, Support Indiana Wine

Indiana has two major wine festivals each year and one is coming up. The 7th Annual Indiana Wine Fair in Story, Indiana, near Nashville, is Saturday, April 25. Approximately 25 of Indiana's nearly 40 wineries will be pouring their wines. It is a great and fun afternoon.

I'm going to direct you to Ole Olson's Hoosier Wine Cellar Blog for all the details.

Most of the wineries will be pouring their entire line or close to it. And you want a recommendation? Check out the great Indiana Traminette being made. It's an awesome summer wine for the porch or light meals. Traminette is quite similar to Gew├╝rztraminer for those familiar with that grape. It's floral, spicy and several Indiana wines are making great bottlings.

I plan on going down. Hope to see you there!

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A Work Entry Shared Here About Wine

Here is a blog entry I wrote for Wabash College, my employer, for a trip I made to the Northwest. It's about Lange Winery - some of the best Pinot Noir you're ever going to find. This entry ties to a book about the winery. And, more to come soon on Lange wine. Note at end of this entry, Indiana locations where you can buy Lange wines!

A common thread through my blogging about the trip to the Northwest was Brian Doyle’s great 2006 book, “The Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World.”

Doyle wrote “A Man’s Life” for this issue of Wabash Magazine and his aforementioned book was about Lange Winery in the Dundee Hills. I read the book on my way out to visit alums last summer and that paved the way to ask Doyle to write for the magazine.

The book was a year-in-the-life sort of thing about Lange Winery. The circle was completed April 9 for me when I spent part of the morning with Jesse Lange.

“Brian had been coming out to some of our wine club events here at the winery,” Lange explained. “We got to talking like any other conversation and he mentioned he was the editor of the University Of Portland Magazine. He wanted to do an article on wine coming from a neophyte’s perspective.”

Lange said the two quickly realized after a tour and interview that it was going to take more than one visit. “We just continued to go after a few more visits, a couple more tours, and through different parts of the growing season.

“We decided to get together every month and do a vineyard tour and a winery tour to see a glimpse of the life cycle of a winery and a vineyard/farm. The Grail was a combination of all that.”

While Doyle’s book did pretty well for a niche publication, Lange saw an immediate impact in his tasting room. “We get people who come from all over the country and say, “hey, I read the book or my friend gave it to me.” They come to the winery to taste the wine see the (family’s) dogs, see the farm and vineyard. It’s been pretty fun. It’s nice to be the beneficiary of something like that but also fun to see people’s enthusiasm for the book.”

Lange thinks the book succeeded because it was written not as a technical book, but “it allows people to feel unencumbered and not be afraid of wine.”

To this day, Lange will meet people in his tasting room who mention the book. Lange is General Manager and Winemaker for the winery. His parents Don and Wendy founded the winery in 1987

Lange Winery is a boutique winery in the Dundee Hills of the Willamette Valley known for its outstanding Pinot Noir. It has been praised in Wine Spectator and other industry press. The wines just recently became available in Indiana at Cork and Cracker in Indianapolis, Vine and Table in Carmel, Vintage Spirits in Noblesville, The Corks in Columbus, and served in restaurants including The Saratoga in Terre Haute, Petersons, The Meridian, and Eddie Merlot’s in Indianapolis among others in the state.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Nice 2005 French Bordeaux

Of all the wines in the world, my wine knowledge thins when it comes to the French. A few weeks back I bought a bottle of Chateau Fourcas-Dupre 2005 at Jungle Jims in Cincinnati. I paid under $20 for it, about $19 as I recall.

If you are around the wine world at all, you know 2005 has been hailed as a stellar year for French wines. That's the main reason I picked up a couple of bottles.

This is a very smooth and well rounded Bordeaux wine. It was just great with a steak off the grill tonight.

I noted in a little research that both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator gave it a respectable 85-88 scoring range on the 100 point system.

It's one of those very old French wineries. The Chateau is on one of the highest points in the Medoc peninsula. The wine is a blend of 44% Cabernet, 44% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The Chateau dates back into the early 1800s.

Finding a specific Chateau's wine can be very difficult unless you're a real Franco-phile. But tasting this wine makes me think 2005 Bordeaux wines are worth pursuing.

I'm trying something here .. but unless you speak French, it will not be worth much. Here is a You Tube video interview with Patrice Pages, the winery owner - in French.

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A Quick Step Back to Seattle's Pike Place

I wanted to post an entry about the Pike Place Market for those of you who may never have been there. This is for all the foodies out there who are also into wine.

I visited it before my trip through Oregon's wine country and just never had time to post. Here are a few links to the really cool places I stopped, but there are many many more.

The Pike Place Market is easy walking from about anywhere in downtown Seattle. Going down there makes me want to live there with such a vibrant market of great, fresh products.

Coffee shops, pastry, flowers and fish just start the list of goodies. Some things I bought at some links:

Olive Oil: Sotto Voce sells wonderful handcrafted olive oils and flavored vinegars that are delicious. They import the olive oil from Italy and then season it and blend it to give it their own touch. I tasted three oils and a balsamic vinegar that were awesome.

Pasta: Pappardelle's Fine Art of Pasta is a really fun place. They have pastas of all shapes, sizes and flavors you can imagine. I counted more than 40 flavors in just the flat-cut dried pasta flavors.

You can probably guess a good 10-15 of the typical flavers about how about: Chipotle Pepper, Dark Chocolate, Veracruz Black Bean, Whole Wheat Toasted Onion, Basil Tangerine, Lemon Ginger, Orange Szechuan, Sweet Potato, and many others.

I can't wait to try the fruit and Italian blends I brought home.

Cherries: What would a Washington State market be without cherries? Chukar cherries has a big booth in the open market with all types of dried fruits and every imaginable thing you could do to a cherry.

The wonderful lady behind the county had me tasting all sorts of combinations. I bought some dried cranberries and some chocolate covered dried cherries.

The company is based out of Presser, Washington, but has a daily spot in the market.

Hazelnuts: Of course Washington and Oregon are both known for hazelnuts. The tasty nut is found on salads, crusted onto fish and used in all sorts of ways. Holmquist Hazelnuts is one of Washington's best.

If you've never tasted a hazelnut fresh, then you've never really had one.

Fish: The Pike Place Fish Market is a working market, sideshow, and big-time tourist attraction. You have probably seen the video where the guys are really hurling the fresh fish around. Trust me, it looks even faster in person.

There is almost always a crowd and the workers could not be more accomodating. They answer questions, hand out samples, and if you're taking pictures will invite you behind the counter to have your picture taken with them. They also chant, sing, and shout to the delight of the crowd.

I tasted some Applewood smoked salmon and brought a couple cans back with me. They can ship fresh-caught fish to anywhere in the nation overnight .. packed in dry ice.

In the photos: Top left, Pappardelle's pasta and lower right the Pike Place Market. note the fist flying past this guy taking a phone order. See a more complete photo album from the market from my Wabash College blogging about this trip here.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 2 in Oregon's Willamette Valley

Just like the previous entry of this two-day trip, I have several comments about wineries and will have more later. I've separated what I have here with bold sub headlines. My trip to the Northwest has come to an end and I fly home Friday morning.

Jesse Lange and Lange Winery
A round-about connection between Lange Winery and Wabash College led to a morning with Jesse Lange of Lange Winery. The Lange Winery has one of the premier spots in the Dundee Hills overlooking the Willamette Valley with a terrific view of the Cascade Mountains.

Lange Winery was the subject of Brian Doyle's book "The Grail" ... essentially it was a year-in-the-life sort of thing that is a great read for any wine nut. It did well across the country.

Jesse gave me a tour of the facility while talking about the family's approach to wine, the wine industry, and reflected on the book.

Their wines are some of the best Pinot Noir you'll ever want to taste. But that's not just my opinion, Lange has gained wide praise. They are not at the top of the price scale by any means, but are clearly one of the state's leading producers.

Don and Wendy Lange, Jesse's parents, started the winery in 1987 just after pioneers like Erath, Adelsheim, and others.

The really impressive thing is how they put so much detailed effort into their wines. They work in very small batches to produce their wines. That is not the case at many wineries. But its also the advantage of buying your better wines at these smaller boutique wineries. They also pay particular attention to the 'terroir" or the land where the grapes are grown.

It really was just great to walk the grounds, then taste the wines with the man who's growing those grapes and making those wines.

I'm going to write an entire piece on Lange in the next week or so. And, I'll be writing a piece about Lange, The Grail, and how it relates to Wabash College sometime over the weekend. I'll link that here when it's live.

Now here is some really good news. Lange Wines are distributed in Indiana. I have the name of their distributor and am trying to find out where you can buy the wines in retail outlets. I did find it at Sahara Mart in Bloomington. I'll post something here when I get that information.

Now the bad news. Because of Indiana's insane shipping laws, Lange can not direct ship because they have a distributor here.

I have to note here how gracious and willing to answer questions Jesse was this morning. He was generous with his time and knowledge.

As noted, I'm going to have more on Lange. After two visits to the Valley, I think I can say its my favorite Pinot Noir.

Carlton, Oregon - It's About the Wineries
Many of the Willamette Valley's little towns are all about the wineries but perhaps none so much as Carlton with its population of about 1,500.

There are tasting rooms up and down all the streets, or so it seems. It's the home of Ken Wright wines - one of the Valleys pioneers. And this is for people of my age, it's also the home of Scott Paul wines - Scott Paul Wright! That name probably doesn't mean anything to anyone outside wine country. But, if I said "Shadow Stevens" would that ring a bell?

The famous disc jockey and Hollywood Squares celebrity is now a winery owner in Carlton. Unfortunately, they are only open on weekends and I was unable to taste their wines.

I did stop into The Tasting Room which pours Jay McDonald wines. Can you figure the logo out?

Think: "Old McDonalds Farm."

They also pour other wines there which is a great way to visit wine country in any of the major regions.

Lemelson Vineyards
Lemelson Vineyards is a unique place in more ways than one. They have a beautiful and unique facility just northeast of Carlton. They have this incredible facility and tasting room but it is not open to the public. You have to have an appointment to taste the wines. I was hooked up Wednesday with a chance to visit by the tasting room manager at Four Graces.

The winery is owned and run by Eric Lemelson who was an environmental attorney. The winery markets itself as on the area's top tier wineries. They have a one of a kind "sorter" that can move up and down between rows of stainless steel vats that is just fascinating to see.

Eric Lemelson is the son of the late Jerome Lemelson, "one of the 20th century's most successful and prolific independent inventors. If you have a second click the link and read about him. He held patents on some of the most common items you see and use every day. As a matter of fact, only one man in U.S. history held more patents than Lemelson - a guy by the name of Thomas Edison.

But the wines are beautiful and their dedication to the environment and sustainable farming is top notch. They have a long stretch of solar panels next to the facility that provide up to 40 percent of the building's electrical needs.

It's a gravity flow winery, one of just a few in the state. That means just what it sounds like - the grapes, the juice follow gravity's course in making its way through the production cycle. It's old world style winemaking.

Penner Ash - A Well-Respected Winery

Last summer when I visited the Valley I had several winery people tell me Penner Ash was one of the spots not to miss. I didn't make it last time so I got there for my last wine stop of the trip.

They have one of the most beautiful tasting facilities I saw in Oregon. And they have an incredible location with a view rivaling that at the Lange Winery.

Their Pinot Noir was light in style but beautifully structured. They also poured for me a Dry Rose of Pinot Noir that was absolutely stunning! The most stunning thing was the fact the Rose sold for just $10.

Oregon Pinot Noir Wine Prices
A quick note about these wines, buying them, finding them, and the cost. I've tried to make sure I included a link to every winery in each entry. I'll keep reviewing this over the next couple of days. I thought it was more interesting here to share the wine country experience than alot of nuance about a lot of great wines.

Usually you can find on most websites whether they ship to Indiana direct or distribute. The price point is a particular sticking point for some people, but when you understand these are hand-crafted wines it just makes more sense. Most of the wineries I've written about the last two days have a Pinot Noir in the $25-$35 range, $35-$50; $50-$75 range.

That is a generalization, indeed, but one you'll find to be mostly true. More to come on these wineries from both day's blogs here and at least a column or two for the newspapers.

Many of these smaller, great-great wineries do not ship to Indiana because of our legislature's refusal to pass open border laws and get their hand out of lobbyist's pockets. So if you take any advice from my two days blogging form Oregon, it's try Oregon Pinot Noir!

It's late and I fly out tomorrow. Pick up a Pinot Noir for your weekend.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 1 in Oregon's Willamette Valley

New Winery with a Hoosier Connection
This is going to be a rather long entry I may update over next few days. But there wil be several sub entries throughout.

My day in the Valley started with a visit to Chris Baker at one of the state's largest wine production facilities in Dundee. Dundee sits along Highway 99 a collection of old buildings that used to be a hazelnut production plant.

The operation makes the wine for a number of Oregon wineries. They don't talk alot about what specific wineries, leaving the mystique in place that the folks behind the label make every bottle. But they have several labels, own vineyards and may become one of the biggest in the business outside of California.

Aron Hess is the chief winemaker who has his own winery (more on that below) with Baker as assistant winemaker.

Baker and brother Craig have just started their own label - Ancient Cellars. I met Craig in Bloomington on Saturday at a taping of a video blog for

Craig lives in Indianapolis and is working the marketing end of the new venture while Chris makes the wines. He gave me a tour of the facility which was really fascinating. I've toured wineries but nothing like this place that last year made about 140,000 gallons of wine. Obviously, everything is on a different scale.

And each time you visit any real wine making operation you come away with a new appreciation for the amount of labor, love, and chemistry needed to make good wine.

Chris hopes to grow the Ancient Cellar label. Right now the Pinot Gris is in release and available in Indiana. The Pinot Noir has only been in the bottle a few weeks and will follow. Chris has Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in oak barrells aging now for future release. He hopes the label can grow from a a couple hundred cases to a few thousand necessitating a tasting room and Willamette Valley commerical presence.

I am going to write more on Craig in the future.

Daedalus Cellars, Dundee, Oregon
I went from the wine production facility almost across the street to Aron Hess's tasting room for Daedalus Cellars. He has had a hand in many Willamette Valley wines through his young career including Rex Hill.

He has one real niche wine that stood out for me during the tasting. He is making a Gruner Veltliner which is usually associated most with Austria. It is a lighter minerally wine with a bit of a white pepper finish. I've not drank much through the years but thought his was really outstanding. And, I learned there are only two vineyards growing the grape in all of Oregon. He had a range of nice Pinot Noir. I was impressed that he had a $20 offering that was not being tasted today but available for purchase. His $32 Willamette Valley Pinot was a great wine at the price point and I grabbed one at that price.

Daedalus can ship wines to Indiana.

Grape for Charity
You meet the most intersting people in wine country! A gentleman was tasting at the wine bar when I entered Daedalus. We started chatting about the wines and why he was visiting. He is a member of the Oregon Mozart Players and was buying wine for the 18th Annual Dinner and Benefit Auction for the organization. He was in the process of buying one wine from every Oregon winery and said he would reach 175 bottles of wine some time this day.

I wonder how you get that job? You can go to the organization's web page and bid on items for the April 10 auction which includes items like a trip to Paris, and many other wonderful products, trips, and services ... and oh, wine!

The Four Graces Winery
The delightful woman at the Daedalus tasting room gave me a complimentary tasting pass for Four Graces Winery. So I drove just a mile down the road and tasted some fabulous wine.

I had not heard of the winery before today but have to say their moderate to expensive bottlings hold up against any I have tasted.

Steve and Paula Black are the owners and the winery's unique name comes from the couple's four daughters - Alexis, Vanessa, Christiana, and Jillian. Brother Nicholas is the "Keeper of the Four Graces" according to the winery's marketing materials.

The tasting room was the most lively of the three I visited. People from Georgia, North Carolina, Califonia, and other states were in and out the short time I was there talking wine with other visitors.

The sales manager Jason Senior, an Aussie native, kept the pours coming and the information about the wines and family flowing. They make the obligatory Pinot Gris, doesn't everyone, but also a really beautiful Pinot Blanc that I loved.

There Pinot Noirs were all goregous wines in the $30-$75 price range. I bought a bottle of their Doe Ridge Estate Pinot that's one of the best I've ever tasted.

Four Graces does not currently ship to Indiana, but Jason said they expected to add the state when they sort through the laws. (You hear that a lot!)

Winderlea Winery
This stop was a repeat from last year with the husband and wife team of Donna Morris and Bill Seat. Winderlea is just in its second-year release with beautiful Pinot Noir offerings.

I spent a good amount of time with the couple last summer during my visit and although their tasting room is not yet open they set up a pour for me during this visit.

I was just blown away by their 2007 Chardonnay. They made just 345 cases of the wine that retails for $30. It does not have the big oak characteristics of a California Chard yet more body than most of the Chardonnays you'll taste here which are aged laregly in stainless steel.

This is their first Chardonnay offering and has already landed in one of Boston's top French restaurant's wine list. It is an interesting interpretation of the old standby grape.

They poured their three Pinot Noirs for me and I was particularly taken by their 2007 ANA Pinot. It was a nicely structured wine that was light on the palate with a big Pinot flavor. It was beautiful on the nose. The wine comes from some of the great French clones planted in the Dundee Hills. It's a marevlous wine at the $45 price point, if compared to some wines in the $60-$80 wines you taste up and down the country roads of the Valley.

I spent a good deal of time with the couple today and will do an entire newspaper column on them in the near future. Unfortunately, their wines are not yet available in Indiana. But they'd definitely like to widen their distribution and grow the winery to near 5,000 cases. They have done 400, 1,600, and 1,300 with three vintages. So lots of opportunity to grow.

Their wines are premium Pinot Noir which dominates a large portion of the Oregon wine production in these hills.

I keep nagging. Maybe we can find enough Hoosiers to make the licensing process profitable.

Dundee Manor
I really enjoy staying in bed and breakfast accommodations whenever possible. I learned about Dundee Manor on the internet and since have had nearly every wine person I've talked to praise the efforts of Brad and David and assured me I'd be well taken care of at the Manor. They were right. This 100-year old home is stunningly beautiful with incredible and tasteful antiques and decor.

The "Two Gentlemen on the Hill," as described in some of the advertising also built a beautiful kitchen, manicured lawn and gardens, and top notch client service. No, I got no break because I'm gushing. I've stayed in a few of these places and the Manor is tops.

Tina's Restaurant
If you come to the Willamette Valley someone is going to recommend you have dinner at Tina's Restaurant right on Hwy 99 in Dundee. And it's more likely several people will tell you if you're having just one meal or one night here, it's got to be at Tina's. Listen to those people carefully.

I didn't get there last year because I was under the weather. I did tonight and it was one of the best meals I've had in some time. Allow me to go all "foodie" for a moment and share what I enjoyed.

Great wine is meant for great food. Tina's has its own Pinot Noir label but its made from grapes sourced from many of the same vineyards as the area's other great Pinots.

I started with grilled scallops wrapped in a smoky bacon. A beautiful and fresh salad of greens with a light vinagrette, parmeson cheese and Oregon's hazelnuts. For my entre I had a beautiful roasted duck breast served with carmelized onion rosoto and braised greens. The duck was moist, tender and just perfectly cooked with a tad of pink/red in the middle. The skin was crispy.

Paired with the Pinot it was a delightful meal. Not cheap at $51, but I can say I have paid the same or more for less quality.

I start my Thursday with a visit to Lange Winery and a chance to sit down and talk to Jesse Lange. Then I'm off to Carlton a little farther to the west for s handful of winery visits that promise to be special. That will be Day 2!

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Three Great Wineries in Willamette Valey

DUNDEE, Oregon - I'm in Oregon's Willamette Valley and specifically today and tonight in the Dundee HIlls. I'm going to be writing about today's visits and tasting experiences briefly later this evening.

I'm off in a short bit to the iconic Tina's Restaurant in Dundee for dinner.

I'm staying at the incredibly beutiful Dundee Manor tonight before a less incredible stay Thursday night at a non-descript airport motel.

Tomorrow I have a couple of stops here in the Hills and then it's off to Carlton for a couple of fabulous and unique wineries.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Washington State Red and White

As has been noted a couple times on this blog, I'm in the Great Northwest this week. I arrived in Portland today and drove up to Seattle. I'm excited about my work reasons to be here, but also about visiting the Willamette Valley Wednesday and Thursday and tasting so many great Pinot Noirs.

But business comes first and is the purpose of the trip. But that doesn't mean it's not without wine. Washington State wine has consistently gained accolades over the last decade and the wineries are making a wide range of varietals.

Tonight I dined at Tom Douglas' Palace Kitchen in downtown Seattle - a place worthy of any Iron Chef. I had half a chicken that was roasted on their Applewood grill. It was served with Yukon mashed potatoes, lacinito kale, and garnished with rubarb and hazelnuts. Crazy huh? It was incredibly delicious.

There was no Pinot available by the glass, which was my first choice, so I thought I'd be adventurous. I ordered Di Stefano 2007 Semillon with dinner. The wine had a big floral characteristic on the nose with an almost buttery texture. It's actually a blend with more than 80% Semillon and the rest Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauv Blanc gives the wine some acidity on the finish.

I liked the wine alone but it was not a good pairing with the chicken. It comes from the Columbia Valley in Washington and would be a great summer wine and definitely something new for most to try.

Before going to dinner I stopped by a small deli to pick up a couple of things and grabbed an $11.95 bottle of Columbia Winery's Syrah. What caught my eye was the shelf note that Washington's first Syrah was made by this winery.

The wine has a nice dark berry tastes and smooth through mid palate. I thought there was some vanilla to the taste. It has pretty strong tannins for an inexpensive wine.

I would recommend trying Columbia Winery Syrah. This was a better value in my book than the white. This was well structured and a pretty good representation of what Syrah should taste like for the price.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Visit to the Hoosier Wine Cellar

There are more wine blogs in the blogosphere than you shake a decanter at. Ok, not a great line but it's early morning!

Yesterday I spent a delightful hour or so with Allen Olson, one of the real deans of Indiana wine writing and a wealth of wine knowledge. Olson writes and manages

The wine blog, and videos, serve a handful of south central Indiana newspaper readers and an entire wine community. He also does video updates that are informative and fun.

By now you've guessed that I was a guest for a taping Friday. We did two segments. In the first segment Olson asked me about my wine interests, writing and such. The second segment was a lot of fun with a wine buyer and winery owner.

We had Craig Baker from a new winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, in the studio. Baker and his brother have started a brand new winery - Ancient Cellars - in Dundee, Oregon. We sampled the Pinot Gris (Gilt) and a Pinot Noir (One Toe Duck). The Gris is on sale in Indiana and even offered at St. Elmo's Steak House in Indy. It was a really nice, and smooth Gris that didn't have the minerality or acidity of most.

The oak fermentation gives the wine a nose not too different than a Chardonnay.

The Pinot had a nice structure but had only been in the bottle for a couple of weeks. It had the type structure that just might be a fine wine with a little more aging.

It's also exciting to know that the brothers are donating a small portion of the profits to two charit. Gris sales will benefit White River environmental concerns. The brothers hope that the Pinot Noir sales will help to start a wildlife rescue fund.

One other bright note is the Gris sells for just under $20. The Pinot Noir, which is not yet available but soon will be, sells for just under $30. The Pinot price point is a great value for Oregon wine.

Also at the table with us was Brad Wallace, fine wine specialist for Sahara Mart in Bloomington. Wallace is a wine sales veteran at a young age. I dropped by the Sahara Mart at 2nd and Walnut in downtown Bloomington and was really impressed by the wine selection and even more impressed by some of their prices!

I may try to see Craig's brother at the winery Wednesday or Thursday of this next week when I'm out there visiting. For those who follow the blog, I'm headed to Portland and Seattle Sunday on business but plan two days in the Valley. I'll be blogging.

I'm real excited to have an appointment Thursday morning with Jesse Lange of Lange Winery. I also will be visiting with the great folks at one of the newer wineries Winderlea about their 2007 wines.

I'll be sure to post when the videos go up.

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