Friday, August 28, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
On Tuesday, Rick took the tasting room staff on a tour of some of Woodward Canyon’s primary vineyards. At 7:00 AM, with coffee in hand, we headed out for the Charbonneau Vineyard, which is located just East of the Snake River and about 12 miles East of Pasco, Washington. Started in 1981, it is roughly 40-acres of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, riesling, chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc. We source cabernet sauvignon and merlot, from blocks that were planted in 1981, that we blend together to make our Charbonneau Red (sorry, currently sold out) during select years.
Next on the tour was the Champoux Vineyard in the Horse Heaven AVA outside of Alderdale, Washington. The original, older blocks of Champoux were planted in 1972, making them some of the older vines in Washington. Rick, a partner in the Champoux Vineyard along with Quilceda Creek, Andrew Will, Badger Mountain/Powers and Vineyard Manager Paul Champoux, started using fruit from the Champoux Vineyard, known then as Mercer Ranch Vineyard, in 1977 for his own personal wine. Today, we pull fruit from Block 1 and 2 and from Circle Block for the “Old Vines” and from Block 3 and Baby ‘Poux for the “Artist Series”. My favorite part of Champoux was the Circle Block, named for the method of irrigation for that one particular block. It is a form of overhead irrigation with a central pivot that rotates over the crop to irrigate.
Leaving Celilo, we then trekked the three hours back to Woodward Canyon. I have a new found respect for Rick and Kevin who take turns making that drive to check on the vineyards numerous times throughout the year. Stopping at all the vineyards made for a long day, and we didn’t even have to do any grape sampling. But it was fun to get out of the tasting room for the day and to actually see the vineyards that we talk about all the time and use in our wines. I now have a much better understanding of where our wines come from before I ever lay eyes on them. And a quick thanks to Bob Pruett, our weekend tasting room associate, for all the great pictures throughout the tour!
I started my journey to Sonoma Thursday evening, by flying out of Walla Walla and through Seattle on my way to San Francisco. It turned into quite the trip when I just about missed my connecting flight in Seattle because the boarding gate had changed from what was printed on my boarding pass in Walla Walla. A quick ride on the airporter and an even quicker run through the airport got us to the gate just in time to board for our final destination. Two hours later, an hour and a half flight and thirty minutes of circling, and we were in one of my favorite cities, San Francisco! Too bad I didn’t have a free day to spending roaming the streets.
It was up early the next morning so that I could catch my shuttle that would take me the two hours to Santa Rosa and the Flamingo, where the conference was being held. Upon checking in, it was time to meet and greet, catch lunch and do some wine tasting. Then, it was time for live wine blogging, which is basically sixty seconds to taste a wine and blog or “tweet” about it to the online masses. Next up was the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards and then dinner with Chris Alden as the keynote speaker. The day ended with the after-hours party hosted by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. The after-hours party was really just Russian River Wineries showing up to pour their wines for us to taste. Every where I looked were pinots. It’s always fun to try something different and that we aren’t producing anymore.
Saturday morning was a fantastic day to be at the WBC. It started off with breakfast and seminars by Barry Schuler of Meteor Vineyards and Jim Gordon of Wines and Vines Magazine at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, or as it was called that morning, the Original CIA. Then it was time to play the lottery and board the shuttle for the days travels through Napa. I really do believe that it was playing the lottery, because each shuttle had a different route for the day. I think I lucked out when I got on to shuttle #2! I really don’t know how anyone’s day could have beat ours!
Lunch, for us, was at Stags' Leap where we had a beautifully catered lunch around their fire safe pond, while listening to Vineyard Manager Kirk Grace speak on “Napa Green.” After a quick walk through the vineyard we hopped back on the shuttle for our next destination, Palmaz Vineyards, where Palmaz, Madonna and Viader hosted us to a nice tasting and covered the topic of family-owned and generations in the wine industry. The facility at Palmaz is pretty spectacular. Carved out of the side of Mount George, the height of the wine cave is equivalent to an 18 storey building. Next stop on our day was at Quintessa for the Napa Grand Tasting, where 40 wineries showed up to pour their Cabernets for us. Thankfully, there were a few whites and bubbles mixed in, that helped me refresh my palate.
Final stop on the tour was dinner at Domaine Chandon, in the Etoile Restaurant, which was hosted by Parry Cellars, Louis M. Martini, O’Brien Estate, Newton and of course Domaine Chandon. We had a wonderful three-course meal paired with eight different wines. The meal was amazing! We were greeted at the door with a sparkling cocktail, made from their dry sparkling wine, ice and a little lime. Our first course was the corn chowder with Dungeness crab and paired with the O’Brien Chardonnay and the Newton Chardonnay. Next we moved onto the roasted beef tenderloin with summer legumes, chanterelle mushrooms and Umbrian black truffle all paired with the Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir, Louis M. Martini Lot No 1 Cabernet, Louis M. Martini Cabernet, O’Brien Merlot and the Parry Cellars Cabernet. We finished off dinner with a Valrhona chocolate pate with summer berries paired with the Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier. I was so full I was afraid that they were going to have to roll me out to the shuttle. After the bumpy and curvy two hour ride back to the Flamingo, I must admit, that I had to skip the after-hours party which was hosted by ViniPortugal and the European WBC.
Sunday, I spent the day traveling back to Walla Walla, which I finally got in at 9:00. It had been a really long day, but well worth the trip! It was great to see the difference between Napa and Walla Walla. As much as I loved being down there though, it was so nice to see home. It made me really appreciate my little comfortable tasting room and lack of traffic on the roads. It was also good that I got to see how the WBC ran and what we were going to have to do to make WBC10 a success in Walla Walla next year. I know that I, for one, can’t wait until we are invaded by bloggers!