Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Private Tasting at Woodward Canyon!

Now that our Reserve House is up and running, we are happy to offer the opportunity to make an appointment for an intimate, private tasting with a knowledgeable Woodward Canyon staff member. Sit down with your group to both current releases and some limited-reserve wines that aren’t available for tasting through the regular tasting room. Light fare is included with the tasting. We have a couple of options, so for more information please visit the Woodward Canyon website or contact me at reservehouse@woodwardcanyon.com.

Last Friday, we held our first of many private tastings here in our Reserve House. I had the pleasure of hosting a great group of people from Walla Walla, North Carolina and Ohio, who had all gathered here in the valley for a little wine tasting before taking off on a cruise. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of tasters for my first private tasting. They were wonderful! We tasted through three current release wines and three limited wines. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and really enjoy the wines. I can’t wait for the next group now. I just hope it goes as well as the first one did.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know about the great summer special we are running right now on our Non-Vintage Red Wine! Normally $19 a bottle, we are offering it at $15 a bottle up to a case and then anything over a case we’re offering it at $12.50 a bottle. That’s a case of great wine for $150! Visit our online wine shop to order yours now or for more details or email myself at shari@woodwardcanyon.com or Marlene at marlene@woodwardcanyon.com . This is a limited time offer, so get yours now!

I also wanted to let everyone know that I’m getting ready to head down to Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley, California at the end of the week for the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference! I can’t wait. It is going to be a great opportunity to visit California and network with other wine bloggers. And, to tell you the truth, I’m also really excited to visit California! So if you are also planning on being at the conference, please say hi, I would love to meet you.

I'm off now, time to get ready for Orca International, our Japan Distributor to come in for a tour and tasting this evening. Oh how I love the summertime around the winery. There is always something going on!


Shari / Guest Services

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Days in France

Rick and I recently returned from three weeks in the south of France – part just relaxing and part work (I know, tough job….but hey, it has taken us almost 30 years to get to this point).
We first spent a few days in Avignon on our way to the Riviera. While there, we visited Châteauneuf-du-Pape (pictured here on the right). It is quite rural and not as much on the tourist map as some other wine regions. The actual town is small and in contrast to other wine regions in France, it has tasting rooms in the town apart from the wineries, just as we do in Walla Walla. While we enjoyed the reds, we really were excited by the whites – something that you do not necessarily associate with Châteauneuf. We allocated some space in our luggage to bring a few bottles back. By the way, not to add a sales pitch, but those bubble-wrap Wine Skins really do protect the wine and the things in your suitcase, take up very little room, and are inexpensive.

We then spent two weeks in a hilltop village between Nice and Antibes. Our routine most days was to wander down the hill (pictured left) to get a petit café or Orangina and a Financial Times, shop at the fresh market, the boucherie or poissons monger, fromage monger, boulangerie and maybe the fresh pasta shop or patisserie. We also had to stop at the grocery store to get stocked up on vin rosé and the few things you could not find at the fresh market. Then we would lug it back up the hill (if you climb the hill instead of taking the bus – you can eat more) and enjoy the rosé with lunch. We went through a lot of rosé – particularly since it was less than $5.00 a bottle. We also sampled the other wines of the region.

One thing became clear very soon: with that type of eating and drinking, you have a pretty small carbon footprint. We ate melons from Var, Dorade and gambas from the Mediterranean, vegetables, herbs and cheese all locally grown or made, and drank the local wines. They all married beautifully which is why the cafes and restaurants all serve those same seasonal products; just with their own twist.

Many Northwest chefs here in the States have been at the forefront of that kind of dining and while we have always embraced that notion here at Woody, we are taking it even further. For several years we have been organically growing a garden at the base of the vineyard with tomatoes, potatoes, beets, and carrots for our staff. Any excess is sold to local restaurants. Last year we experimented with drying tomatoes and packing them in olive oil so we could avoid the nasty faux tomatoes found in the stores in the winter. Our oil-packed tomatoes on wood-fired pizza or in pasta sustained us through the winter. This year we added Walla Walla Sweets and several varieties of cucumbers to the mix. The cucumbers are ripe and Rick has already been using his Mom's pickle recipe (see finished product above), as well as one for Asian pickles he found online. Later this summer raised beds and berry trellises will go in between our new Reserve House and the parking lot so that next year we can expand our plantings with the idea being that we serve as much of our own produce and that of other local farmers as possible when we do events here at the winery. The idea of being "locavores" resonates with us.

Now back to France. After leaving our village on the Mediterranean, we stopped in Narbonne and Toulouse to meet the family of last year's crush intern and to meet the intern who will be arriving later this month and his family. Their families were gracious and fed us very well! Both interns come from Purpan University in Toulouse.

Then onto Bordeaux where we stayed with another former intern – this one came to us through Experience International 15 years ago! He is now the international managing director of Chateau Haut Brion's "Clarendelle" – their version of Nelms Road. He and his family were wonderful hosts and arranged a tour of Haut Brion for us one morning – lovely wines with great restraint that will age well. A very traditional winery in one sense, but very modern in their use of technology and in their approach to marketing.

While in Bordeaux, we attended VinExpo, a huge wine exposition with wines from China to Israel to California - in fact there were 2,400 exhibitors from 48 countries. In addition to tasting there in general, we participated in a tasting of the 2006 and 2008 Grand Cru Classé St Emilion. It was very interesting to compare the two vintages. One thing that struck me was the tannins – strong, but well balanced with the fruit. At that tasting, we ran into another past intern who was pouring for his family's Chateau Guadet.

Finally it was time to get on the TGV and head for the Paris Airport and home. We had a great time, ate and drank delicious things, saw some old friends and didn't even gain a pound - thanks to that hill!