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Wines for July 4th

I hope everyone enjoys a happy and celebratory July 4th. It’s a bit last minute we know.  So here’s 5 picks from our local Safeway (if you live in Southern California, it’s Vons)….sorry no time to find a local Kroger/Ralph’s and Costco before a holiday scares me. I’ve left off most of the usual suspects so to speak.  I think we all know if Mondavi, Gallo, Franzia or Chateau St Michelle works for us, right?

I’ve talked a lot about how pricing of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has gone into the stratosphere.  What seemed to be $45 when we opened Uncorked Ventures, now seems to be sitting around $65.  Sure, the local tech industry has exploded, which helps drives pricing and increases in California wine consumptions among the naveau rich in China helps explain it a bit as well, but Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has gained a foothold as a luxury item to be sure.  That’s why a retail $30 Napa Valley Cabernet, even made in these large quantities is nice to see.  Marked down under $20 for us locally, Napa Cellars offers one of the most affordable looks into the 2013 Napa Valley vintage, called one of the best by winemakers not because it was perfect, but because it was balanced in such a way that winemakers truly could make any decision that they wanted in regard to when to harvest their grapes. For the first time in perhaps two decades, you’re getting exactly what winemakers chose in the 2013 vintage, weather was not at issue, not at all.

 Gnarley Head has definitely begun to show up at every grocery store and drug store in America. To my knowledge, it’s the first wine brand to actually be shipping Old Vine Zinfandel at these prices (about $12 these days, about $8 originally).  Based out of Lodi, it’s a nice opportunity to show what old vine Zin actually looks like-the vines are literally gnarled and grown onto themselves. Aged at 35 years or more, these are vines that I do think deserve to be called old vines, it’s a good wine at a more than fair price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prisioner is a red wine blend from Napa, consistently scored in the low 90 point range-the nice thing about bringing wines for July 4th in my opinion is that it’s fun to bring stuff to start a conversation at times.  The guy in chains on the wine bottle? That’s get a chuckle, or at least a comment from most everyone around. We see this priced at $40 online, but our local Safeway again had it on sale for about half that-an especially good deal at a price point that grocery stores, I don’t believe sell very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insurrection: the first time I’ve seen this bottle-it’s something I would have picked up, based on the label alone. From Australia, which I would have noticed after seeing the Shiraz listed on the front, instead of the French or American Syrah. It’s a Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Prototypically Aussie in flavor profile, bigger is better….hey they fooled someone at my local Safeway….for July 4th-who puts an Aussie wine on an endcap?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t noticed as of yet, I think Zinfandel is probably the best choice for a BBQ-so I had to include what amounts of the classic version from Sonoma.  Seghesio is a multi generational family owned winery (and are really, really nice people when you meet them at trade events, even if you’re someone like me and my wine of the month club that doesn’t fit for what they’re doing, or what we’re doing) and the Zinfandel offers a slighter touch than that of the Gnarley Head, or most others.  There’s a sense of finesse here that isn’t always evident with the varietal. At 92 points from Wine Spectator and $24 retail…..it can easily be the best wine you open with your non wine geeky friends on the 4th of July-and it’ll make everyone happy.

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A Week in Walla Walla

Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time tasting and spending time in Walla Walla.

Washington has what is probably America’s fastest growing wine region and from a quality standpoint, Walla Walla, a town of about 30,000 (the county is about twice as big) is its epicenter.

There’s some household names that call Walla Walla home (more on most of these later); Cayuse, Leonetti, Longshadow, Woodward Canyon, Doubleback and K Vintners and while I visited some of those, I focused on some lesser known names.

Walla Walla is a great visit, it’s been called among America’s 10 best wine travel destinations by Wine Spectator, America’s best 10 small towns by Fodor’s Magazine and as America’s Friendliest Small Town by Rand McNally…..all that praise, even if it isn’t the easiest town in the world to get to.

Getting to Walla Walla gives you two main options, first you can fly directly into Walla Walla on Alaska Airlines via their partner Frontier (don’t ask me to explain how these relationships work, for some reason airlines continue to be among the most complicated business arrangements in the world, but I digress).  Every flight from Walla Walla’s regional airport goes to, or from, Seattle.  It’s about a 45 minute flight.  The airport is named a “regional airport” and handles about 200 passengers per day. The other option, in my opinion, is less appealing, it includes a flight to either Seattle or Portland and then driving about 5 hours to Walla Walla. Before that whole 200 passengers per day thing scares you off, the plane on both of my flights was a good size….you know, 2 seats on both sides of the aisle (evidently, that’s a recent upgrade from the 1 seat and not being able to stand straight up in the aisle type of plane).  Yes, you get to walk on the tarmac to board and deboard of course and there really isn’t anything along the lines of carry on baggage, you stow anything that rolls under the plane once you’re out on the tarmac, where you retrieve it after landing.  For some perhaps more accustomed to flying out of SFO these days, it was kind of fun.  Plus, the trip gives you a great chance to see Mt Rainer out the window.  On the way home, which was a clear day, I was struck by seeing the mountain clearly higher than out plane.  You aren’t especially close since the mountain is about 50 miles south of Seattle, but it truly is a majestic sight.

The better news: the Walla Walla airport is only a few miles from downtown, where you should plan on staying. The drive, reportedly is pretty nice and I spent enough time driving around on highway 12 to say that yes, you’d be able to drive it pretty easy.  It reminds me more of the Thruway in western New York than any California roadway in either Northern or Southern California, two lanes on both sides and courteous drivers.

Walla Walla sits in eastern Washington, about 50 miles from the Idaho border and only a few miles from Oregon.  It’s technically in the Columbia Valley AVA, which is both massive and one of the few AVA’s in America that straddles two states: in this case Oregon and Washington.

Walla Walla reminds me a bit of Paso Robles in that the wine industry has made some significant investments into their facilities and into promotion of their industry and the wider tourism industry has started to benefit from those investments, without having made the same level of investments as of yet.  The local tourism industry in Walla Walla has been growing at close to 10% per year, among the very highest rates in all of Washington (eastern Washington as a whole has grown at about 3% per year) and that’s basically all being driven by the wine industry.

There’s very clear signs of progress as well.  First, downtown storefronts which some locals pegged at 40% vacant 10 years ago are basically all full and downtown is starting to creep out of its normal boundaries, sucking up real estate that’s pretty clearly been underdeveloped for some time.

It’s still the Pacific Northwest though and not California, so wheat is more common than are grapes at this point:

There’s also all the signs of a vibrant local wine scene, walkable tasting rooms, restaurants focused on local ingredients and a combination of local clothing stores and interesting gift shops. According to everyone I talked to, those affiliated with the wine industry and not, those are fairly recent changes and they can almost completely attributed to the wine industry and the foot traffic that wineries have brought to the area.  There’s a good feeling to Walla Walla right now, both from those within the industry and those outside of it.  I had people chat with me about life, business and my trip quite a few places but my favorite conversations happened each morning at the local coffee shop, Coffee Perk Perhaps that’s partially since I’m not a local and Starbucks has a better location only 2 doors down on the corner of Main Street (Starbucks says they want to be on the corner of Main & Main…always are and that’s true here as well)….but local spots are always more fun anyway and there’s Starbucks at the airport.  Coffee Perk was great and deserves the local attention that it receives btw.  I’d certainly go back.

One thing I was immensely interested in talking to people about before arriving was how the locals viewed the wine industry.  In Sonoma and Santa Barbara County (specifically Los Olivos) there’s some significant push back between locals whom are not affiliated with the wine industry and those who own wineries and generally have jobs supported by the visitors that wineries bring.  There’s always debate on how many concerts, private events and how many people should be allowed in and out of winery properties. In Walla Walla, it’s interesting to note that those conversations aren’t happening yet.  Maybe they’re in a bit of honeymoon phase, the locals not affiliated with the industry are enjoying having new restaurants and the new facilities that $120M in tourist revenue brings to Walla Walla. After all, in a town of this size, having a handful of world class restaurants, is a feather in your cap, not something to complain about. Will the vibe change as more hotels open, when people see their neighbor’s renting their homes on AirBnb and as traffic continues to worsen? I hope not and this is one of the few places I’ve been, that seems almost collegiate in their rooting for each other.

Walla Walla also has a long history of supporting a number of different projects that the town should really be proud of. There’s three post secondary options locally (Walla Walla University, a City College and a private school, Whitman) and the town is very proud to have the longest running Symphony west of the Mississippi River. When people heard I lived in San Francisco, they almost universally mentioned the symphony, I had that happen on at least 5 occasions.  There’s also a baseball team called the Sweets which plays independent Northern League, which I was bummed to find out was out of town during my time in Walla Walla.  Independent league teams aren’t affiliated with an MLB parent, but given how fun and eclectic minor league games have been in the past including both Buffalo at AAA and Lake Elsinore at A ball, I would have loved to see the fun at an independent league game. Those are the spots where plenty of interesting people have built their marketing chops. Plus, I can’t complain about going into a shop on Main Street to buy my son a hat and seeing a sign for “Front Office Staff” down the hall to the left.  Smaller teams make for better access and having the team in town, is a nice entertainment option.

I opted to stay at the Courtyard Marriott, the newest hotel in and around Walla Walla (for comparison, the flight crew evidently stays at the Clarion, which I only know because my shuttle and theirs were the last to arrive) and there’s a few other options in the 2 and 3 star hotel range.  As it currently stands, I’m not aware of a truly high end hotel in Walla Walla. No Four Seasons, no swanky Bed & Breakfast) My Marriott, as you’d expect from the brand, was comfortable, well appointed and offered a full set of amenities….including wine tasting my last night in the lobby. It was also only a block off of Main Street, although it was a couple of blocks down from the main set of restaurants, tasting rooms and the like.  It’s an easy walk, but I’m accustomed to walking, some people I guess, wouldn’t love the idea of walking 6 blocks to dinner, especially given the heat (it was over 100 degrees during my trip). But, this is a walkable choice, especially if you’re driving during the day.

So, my general impressions of Walla Walla: it’s a fun and interesting small town.  I’ll remember that virtually everyone that I met, was incredibly nice.  Like seriously nice. Not fake nice, but generally we want to make sure everyone here has a good trip nice.  Hell, the TSA agent at the airport on my way home, checked in to make sure I had enjoyed my trip and wished me well on my trip home. As an example, at the close of every meeting that I have for Uncorked Ventures, I ask winemakers or whomever I am meeting with, what other local stuff they drink.  Normally, winemakers tell me about their other side projects and about other projects that their former co-workers have going.  That’s really helpful. They also tend to give me a list of places that I should skip, for any variety of reasons.

Legitimately, no one in Walla Walla ever gave me that second list of wineries I should skip.  There also didn’t seem to be a difference between newer winemakers and the original wave of folks.  People referred me to places that I should visit, across all of Walla Walla, often offering to call and see if someone could see me, even if their tasting room was not suppose to be open. There’s a real camaraderie here that’s not entirely apparent in other regions (like I said though, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara continue to be the exception there, instead of the rule).

The wine scene in Walla Walla is often described as existing in four distinct regions.  There’s the west side, which is home to the oldest wineries in Walla Walla. There’s about 30 downtown tasting rooms.  There’s a group of start up wineries around the airport that make up the famed incubator.  Lastly, there’s the east side wineries.

I spent time in all four regions and although the locals seemed to think they were all mutually exclusive, there’s only a few miles (at most) separating one region from another. Given that downtown Napa is 10 miles from Yountville, with much worse traffic, I’d consider these all easily accessible from each other. Considering that most of the local wineries are sourcing grapes (there’s very, very few estate vineyards in the region) location tells you a bit about the winery’s size and history, but little about what’s going to end up in your glass.  That’s certainly a unique feature about Walla Walla, I think it’s at least partially driven by the farming heritage in the region. After all, why spend the money on a vineyard, wait 5 years for the fruit to be usable, another 5 for it to be up to your standards, when you buy it, by the acre tomorrow? The by the acre sale of grapes is another thing that I heard repeatedly from winemakers on my trip.  Yields in Walla Walla Valley are lower than they are in California. That’s partially because it gets pretty damn cold at time, even snowing a couple of times per year.  But, it’s also because it gets so hot during the summer, wine grapes, contrary to what most people believe, don’t grow much when it’s over 90 degrees.  In essence they shut down, unlike say the table grapes that we’re buying locally at a $1 per pound right now. Buying by the acre gives winemakers complete control over how to farm them, what chemicals, if any, they want used and usually how much to water (the grower will of course not let them water so little, as to kill the vines!). In my opinion and experience that’s a better setup for world class wine than buying by the ton.

The west side wineries gave Walla Walla its start.  Unlike in regions like Napa Valley, you can still spend time with the winemakers and vineyard owners who literally brought grapes back to Walla Walla. As an example, Ren

These are most of the household names in the industry these days.  I spent about three hours at Reningher with a variety of folks within the winery.  Name founder and winemaker Chuck Reininger took a tremendous amount of time to chat, about both his wines, as well as the wider Walla Walla Valley as well.  Reneingher is a great example of what’s happening in Walla Walla and I’ll be writing about my visit there in more detail soon, but their Reininger label is exclusively from Walla Walla fruit, while a second label allows them to source from the rest of the Columbia Valley.

At the airport, you have one of the most unique and innovative setups in the wine industry.  A set of old World War II buildings, some in significant states of disrepair (reportedly, the first winery into each of these buildings is footing a $30,000 bill to get the thing turned into a normal wine production space).  The good news is that costs for wineries now are really reasonable and sites offer enough space for production and a small tasting room, all told right under 2,000 square feet.  Many of the wineries in this section share tasting room staff and given the incubator approach that is being taken on by the Port of Walla Walla (the land owner) and the local community college and their 2 year viticulture program, you have a way to start a winery, if you want to. It’s exactly the type of setup that someone would do well to offer in literally every wine region in California and Oregon as well btw.  Specifically Santa Barbara county where land around Buellton is still affordable makes sense. The model would resonate hugely in San Francisco of course…..but land’s likely so expensive as to make the startup costs too high for all but the best funded newly trained winemakers.

On the east side, there’s an unusual combination of older, established names and then some names which are just coming into focus as major brands now.  I had the opportunity to taste through the wines at Sleight of Hand Cellars, a name that came highly recommended across the board and was impressed by much of what I tasted and heard.  It’s not a normal winery tasting room by any stretch of the imagination.  ACDC blaring, playing on a record player, with almost a room full of records, customers feel free to choose their music.  Then there’s this Neil Patrick Harris inspired wine bottle….it’s a winery that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  But, they make serious wine.  Assistant winemaker Keith Johnson led me through much of what they produce, the high end blends consistently score into the mid 90 point range according to critics, like Stephen Tanzer who I guess had been in, earlier in the day. Again, more coming on Sleight of Hand in an upcoming post.

Lastly, downtown probably has the most going on.  One of the things that I found interesting about downtown Walla Walla tasting rooms is that there’s a nice combination of established names and some newer guys, who have recently graduated out of the incubator at the airport. Cayuse is probably the biggest name, they have a storefront right in town, although a sign on the door said the wine was sold out, please try again later….the locals said that they’re not really open any longer, ever.

Kontos is among the first handful of incubator wineries to venture out on their own.  Producing 1400 cases means this is becoming a full time job and winemaker Cameron Kontos clearly knows what he’s doing.  A 6th generation Walla Walla resident and 2nd generation winemaker, these are world class wines.  I happened to simply walk in the front door of Kontos, because the bottle looked interesting.  Plus, it was on the way to the hotel….this is exactly why wineries want walkable downtowns with tasting rooms.  I tend to try and leave some time available in my schedule on these random stops now.  The guys have Kontos have a light hand with Syrah, producing maybe the best acidity in a local version that I found on the trip.  They’re also crazy enough to produce a 100% Malbec and try to sell it.

Walla Walla offers a lot of intrigue if you’re someone who wants to spend a couple of days in small town America.  The wine is probably better than advertised which is saying something because of the hype surrounding Washington right now.  The town’s fun and offers a slightly slower look into winemaking than do some others.  The names are also smaller, which means you’re more likely to have a winemaker wander into the tasting room and pour a little something special.  You’ll hear more about the wines and wineries from my trip in the coming days, wine club members will see quite a few Washington bottles showing up from this trip in the coming months.

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What I’ve Been Reading September 16-22 2015

A few interesting blog posts and other information about wine, from the past week: September 16-22 2015

As you might expect, I end up reading a lot of stuff about wine online during the course of a week.  Instead of filing some of this stuff only for my personal use, I decided to share it in this space beginning this week.  Here’s some of what I’ve enjoyed:

Wine Knitter: Yes, the names signifies exactly what you expect it to.  An enjoyable wine blog to read because of a warm writing style, but also because of Penina’s willingness to post on a daily basis.  That isn’t something you see very often.  Recently, she’s spent some time in Italy & Tasting Sangiovese in Tuscany, sounds like a nice use of an afternoon to me.

Academic Wino: Becca Yeamans-Irwin, writes one of the more interesting wine blogs online, she’s already won the Best Wine Blog of 2015…so positive press isn’t exactly new in coming.  Last week she posted about a Device to Age Wine More Quickly, something we could all use at different points. It’s been said that 98% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase.  Winemakers, cringe at the thought generally. Oh and she’s the only wine writer I know of, who would mention wanting to see the peer review data of the device….everyone else would simply ask for a trial.

Wine Stalker: Joey’s a Cape Cod resident & runs a retail shop: so he’s simply more knowledgeable than most.  He’s written a couple of posts about Prosecco the last couple of days. 1 & 2. While it still feels strange to hear that Prosecco is the highest selling sparkling wine in the world, it’s interesting to see them covered in better depth here than is often done elsewhere.

Fermented Fruit: Ryan’s from Maryland and has some of the best guide’s you’ll see to both wine at Costco and Wines Till Sold Out, anywhere on the web. He recently tasted through a range of cheap Moscato’s.  In the wine blogging world, Moscato, IMO, doesn’t get a fair shake.  So many people that take wine all too seriously, are happy to discount the wine out of hand, simply because it’s sweet (or often is, at least).  Much like Riesling though, there’s a wider range than many people admit.  On Fermented Fruit, Ryan does a great job at breaking down some of the easy one’s to find and what you should expect.

Wine on Six: Perhaps the best group of writers online, Wine on Six focuses on the writing from a group of people whom take consumers on wine related tours. Their Grenache Day writeup and attempt to shut up those who only want to talk about Pinot Noir, is well worth a read.

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Wines of the Pacific Northwest-Washington

Wines of the Pacific Northwest—Washington

America is the proud nation of some of the best wines that can part clouds and let the light bulb go on no matter what you’re having. While Washington State’s wine production might be dwarfed when compared to others like that of California, it is still able to make a substantial offering on a yearly basis, which also happens to be growing by around 5000 acres of vineyard per year. Here we will talk about some of the famous wines of Washington.

The Washington State can be roughly divided straight down the middle, with the Cascade mountains, which is the western part and nearest to the coast. This is the area where most of the population lives and its climate can be defined as foggy and damp. On the other side, we have the eastern part, which is on the other side of the mountain range. This area is mostly barren and dry, and its only through irrigation that growing wine grapes is possible at all. One of the best wine clubs in America, could explain that Washington’s climate isn’t the same as Seattle!

The two parts that the Washington State offer a variety of grapes due to the diversity in climate and temperature. Light wines can only be successful in good vintages, thus the damp and cool western part of Washington serves its purpose well. The eastern part of the Washington State is where most of the vineyards can be found even though the continental climate and somewhat harsh winter is cold enough to kill the vines one year in five. Some the largest AVAs of this State are the Yakima, Walla Walla valleys and Columbia, with the latter being the largest of the AVAs.

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Who Produces the Best Wines, Oregon or Washington?

The two states of Washington and Oregon have always boasted some of the best vintages in the country, with the exception of California. But when it comes down to the best wines, which of the two is better and growing the right grapes, with the right techniques. The following lines are going to be about the virtues of various wines from both of these well-known wine producing states.

Putting the 400 strong wineries in the Oregon State up against Washington which has over 750 wineries doesn’t seem fair but surprisingly, when it comes to the best wine producers of the two, local allegiance and animosity is as evident as the State’s borders that divide them. Of course, they two share an AVA (the Columbia Gorge) and at least one of the best wine clubs around, doesn’t discriminate between the two.

In the Washington State, wineries such as those in Woodinville do not have the proper climate to ripen grapes such as the vinifera properly. That being said, where Woodinville lacks in conditions its makes up for in precise winemaking innovations, which means that it’s safe to say that some of Washington State’s wineries, and particularly Woodinville can easily competes with some of the best wine regions in the world.

Oregon has made a name for itself with its Pinot Noir, which is unmatched when compared to that of Washington. This fact alone has given Oregon the reputation of producing better wines than the Washington State. And that’s not all, Oregon is also known for its whites such as the Pinot Gris and the Chardonnay, both of which have made some serious strides during the past few decades. Some of the famous wineries in Oregon are Brandborg, Cowhorn and Del Rio vineyards that are all known for producing outstanding wines.

Pretty much like the Civil War, it’s hard to tell who is actually the best with the clear division on both sides, and in some cases, even within the States themselves. In the end, I think it’s safe to say that both states offer something unique to the wine market, mostly because of their climate throughout the year and the growing conditions.

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Washington Wines-A Grape for Every Palate

Washington State is the proud producer of a full range of different wine styles. From the solid commercial wines to the mass produced commodity wines and the super premium produced wines, the Washington State has a grape for every pallet.

By far, Washington State’s most planted grape has got to be the Merlot, which does very well due to the climate. Other wine types also include the Cabernet Sauvignon, which also does quite well. When it comes to the whites, wines such as Semillon have proven to be very successful, and are far from the hard candy kind of taste which is prevalent with most whites in other states.

Whether it’s the grapes themselves or the technique, the whites in Washington State certainly have it going on. That being said, these aren’t the types of wines that are cheap. Even when comparing them to some of the European brands, white wines from the Washington State are considered to be more expensive while being similar in quality to the European brands. Although, Washington whites aren’t as ridiculously expensive as those from other states such as California for example. Any of the best wine clubs around, could tell you, there’s no reason that Washington wines should not be included…there’s a great price to value ratio in play here.

Be that as it may, the wines that come out of the three main AVAs of the Washington State, which are Columbia, Walla Walla valleys and Yakima will always find a market when it comes to premium wines. Both in the US and in European countries. Some of the big vintners of the Washington State are L’Ecole No 41, Andrew Will and Firesteed Cellars to name a few.

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The Value of Wine-What’s in a Bottle?

Trying to discover the value of wine these days is really interesting. Especially because of the many varieties that are being produced by the three major wine states of Washington, Portland and Oregon. So, what goes into making the wine that lives on your neighborhood supermarket shelf? Most of us don’t realize the fact that there are many wines whose whole existence relies on the use of insecticides, fertilizers and pesticides. Not to mention the amount of manipulations and additives that are used during the fermentation process. So, how does one define which wine is natural wine really? Whether you buy a wine brand from Washington, Portland or Oregon, here are a few questions you should answer before picking one from the shelf. In other words, if you aren’t a member of one of the best wine clubs in America…how do you know exactly what you should be paying?

Factors which influence Wine Quality;

Cost of small hand-crafted wines.

Natural winemaking requires consistent monitoring by skillful people.

The incorporation of animals to the farm, which will also involve, taking care of them.

The cost that goes into getting stainless steel tanks for fermentation, which are usually high quality and are utilized only for a month per year.

The proper health benefits for the workers in the winery.

Biodynamic wine certifications.

The use of regenerative and biodiversity techniques in farming, which also includes having to cultivate insectaries and cover crops, along with composting.

Lastly, the 60-gallon French oak barrels which cost over a thousand dollars a pop.

All of the points mentioned above make a big difference to the numbers on the price tag of a bottle of wine. When it comes to price, anything around $15 all the way up to $30 is a good deal, with some exceptions of course. These wines start to unfold after a few days after being opened, and can grow in texture and taste as they air.

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Oregon Wine History

Unlike the States of California and neighboring Washington, the State of Oregon isn’t a very big player in producing wine. After all, the state has only devoted some 9000 acres to vineyards. That being said, Oregon still boasts of more than 120 wineries which produce some of the best vintages in the Pacific Northwest.

This is quite an achievement for a state which only began growing grapes during the 1960’s. This also happens to be one of the most exciting features of Oregon. The fact that the state has come such as long way in such a short time means that its able to develop further with the help of its older quality minded vintners along with well funded newcomers.

According to the stats, it is clear that the Oregon State is dominated by many small but premium quality wine producers, who seem to prefer growing light red varieties of wine, which is no surprise due to the cool and rainy climate which encourages elegant instead of powerful wines. In fact, Oregon is famous for its Pinot Noir (especially that from Domaine Drouhin) which has brought the State international recognition. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine we’re among the world’s best wine clubs simply because we do such a good job at bringing in Oregon’s wines to California and beyond.

The vast majority of wineries in the state of Oregon are situated in the Willamette Valley, which runs north to south, from Portland to Eugene, which is only a few miles from the coast. Apart from the well documented Pinot Noir of Oregon, other vintages such as the Pinot Blanc and the Chardonnay have also managed to make a place for themselves, while the Pinot Gris reigns supreme when it comes to the whites.

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3 Wine Regions to Visit on a Vacation

For a short period, vacations allow you to be lazy for once and relax. If you enjoy a good glass of wine you can plan a vacation to one of the top regions on the planet for world class vineyards. It does not matter whether you can tell the difference between a good chardonnay or cabernet sauvingnon, simply enjoying the taste of wine is all you need have an amazing trip. (Editor’s Note, as much as your friendly wine of the month club here at Uncorked Ventures likes to send you to multiple bottles and take you on a trip to wine country, nothing is quite the same as taking an actual trip to wine country itself)

The vineyards we have chosen are both scenic and have a good array of distinct grapes and vintages to sample. There are many great wines to taste and enjoy, you just have to know where to look.

La Rioja, Spain

The La Rioja region exports wines to 100 different countries. There are many different types of wines including red, rose, and whites. It is more fun to sample all of them than just stick to one (in my opinion, that is). We recommend that you visit the local wineries and sample the traditional offerings of the region to appreciate the taste. If you want to see more of the region but stay near La Rioja you can go to the city of Bibao or nearby San Sebastian, which are both welcoming to tourists and have a lot to see and do.

Alsace, France

Many people forget the wine due to the rolling hills and the lush green meadows in this region of France. The native people that live here are very friendly to tourists. Many say the best features of the town are that it is a tiny village with a “big” town feel. The winieries in this region are unlike anything else. They are known for their outstanding Pinot Blanc, Tokay Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Muscat d’Alsace. The local wineries are very open to tasting and tours which allows you to get a feel for the local people and add some culture to your trip.

Veneto, Italy

While Tuscany is known as the most prominent Itialian wine region, Veneto has some great offerings. This is where much of the commercial wine from Italy is produced. The wines here are typically dry and fruity. The wines from this region that are a must try include Soave, Recioto, and Valpolicella. Venice is also a short distance away from this region, this makes it an easy stop on any Italy tour itinerary. The most common wines you will see are heavy merlots and cabernets due to the grapes most commonly found in the area. Chardonnay is also extremely popular and fairly priced.

Wine is consumed all over the world and new wine producers are popping up constantly, adding great wines to the list that we hope will continue to grow. No two wines (or wineries!) are the same and this trips to the home regions like these will allow you to experience the tastes and culture first hand. You never know what you will find and enjoy.

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What is Cabernet Sauvignon

Being hundreds of years old, Cabernet Sauvignon is a very popular wine that originated in the Bordeaux, France, in the 17th century. It is now found in nearly all major wine countries in the world. You have probably even drank it at some point in your life. It has been grown in a variety of climates, favorably hot, being that it is internationally recognized through its prominence in being a premier Bordeaux wine.

Being hundreds of years old, the grape is of relatively new variety. It is a full-bodied wine with high tannins and high acidity, but because of its amazing ageing ability, it gets better as time goes on. Starting as a French wine, it spread across Europe and eventually to the new world. Many attributes have allowed for this wine to gain significant popularity. First and foremost for its ease of cultivation, having thick skin and being naturally very low yielding, all have allowed this wine to be mass produced. Usually mixed with Merlot and Cabernet Franc to allow for richer flavor.

A wine that is able to age has the ability to get richer in taste as time goes on. Well, this wine has been known for its outstanding ability to age, giving it a powerful reputation in France as a premier wine. As it ages, there can be many new flavors and aromas that emerge. Ageing that can continue for several decades long is what makes a wine like this special and unique. California’s Napa Valley is a place that has built its reputation on this wine. Producing it with higher alcohol levels and ageing it remarkably well.

If you go to Italy though, than you will usually find this wine in something called the “Super Tuscan”, a famous blend that is found in the Italian district. Having a variety of food pairings, because of its amazing ageing ability. Cabernet Sauvignon has shown to have the best pairing with not-so-light dishes. Probably caused by its high tannin content, it has the ability to overwhelm light and delicate dishes. Red meat is usually the number 1 on the list of food pairings with the wine, with it being so famous for its ability to bring out the fruity flavor of the wine. In the end, this wine has been extremely popular for its effect on many wine makers. Many producers have become famous, because of their use of the wine. Noticeably the Bulgarian wine industry, which introduced this wine to the international wine market. Making not only Cabernet Sauvignon famous, but driving its own industry to success. Since then, it has made its way over too countless countries around the world, been changed and adjusted in different ways, and is probably the most prominent wine in the 20th century. Even though it was overtaken by merlot, in the late 20th century, it still is one of the world most prominent wines. I would still consider this wine as being one of the top 5 wines out there in the world today.