July 31, 2007

Winelibrary TV on TV

As you may have noticed, I’m not much for anecdotal blogging. But I noticed over the weekend that Gary Vaynerchuk from Winelibrary TV is going to be on Late Night with Conan O’Brien tomorrow (Wednesday) August 1.

I first became aware of Gary as a young and obviously enthusiastic wine lover from New Jersey on the Mark Squires wine discussion group. Then Gary rose to internet prominence with the creation of Winelibrary TV, supporting his family’s suburban wine emporium.

I’ll admit it. I like Winelibrary TV. Where some people find Gary obnoxious, I think he’s doing great work turning the tables on wine marketing and wine on the internet. He’s funny, he’s irreverant, but he’s also serious about wine and, for a guy hawking the stuff, remarkably candid in his commentary.

Match Gary with Conan, who recently filed hillarious wine-related reports from Napa Valley on the show’s recent trip to San Francisco, and I think you have some good old fashioned TV worth watching. Check it out.

July 29, 2007

Winemaking Update

Last fall I imagined I would be giving frequent updates on my winemaking. For whatever reasons, it hasn’t happened. I suppose over the winter there was little to report. But nearly ten months since harvest, a lot has happened.

Winter indeed is the time wines hibernate. If you’ve innoculated for malolactic fermentation, often your wines are done before Christmas. But if you’ve let malolactic take its natural course, you may start ML before winter sets in before finishing the following spring when cellar temps gradually rise with the seasons.

Or make that summer. I hope. My barrel of 2006 Wahle Vineyard Pinot Noir is still prickling away, more quietly than a month ago but clearly still active well after I’d hoped malolactic would be finished. I haven’t sulfured the wine since the crusher, a long time ago at this point. And despite a modest acid addition to this wine, I can’t wait until ML is done so I can hit it with some SO2 to knock back any bacterial threats to what I expect is a relatively high ph wine.

But ML continues, and I wait patiently.

Happily, the wine smells and tastes great. Great at least in terms of the ripe, overtly fruity and rich pinot noir that is common to the northern Willamette Valley in 2006. I’m not crazy about the style, but I’m thrilled nonetheless at my barrel. I just hope this harvest provides me with more appropriately ripe fruit.

In May, I bottled four gallons of Pinot Noir rosé, from juice I separated from my red wine about 30 hours after crushing. That turned out to be longer than I really wanted, giving me an almost light red wine instead of something more salmon in color. I fermented it like a white wine, did my best to supress ML bacteria, and bottled in time for summer.

Notice, I didn’t filter. So despite a nice SO2 addition before bottling, ML is slowly happening in the bottle. Doesn’t that ruin the wine? Not exactly. It remains as clear as unfiltered rosé can likely be and there’s no affect on the aroma or flavor of the wine, just a light sparkle that’s not unattractive. Would I prefer the wine to be still? Yes. But does the wine taste good? Yes, suprisingly to me to be honest. I keep thinking it’s going to smell like sauerkraut, but it doesn’t. Our neighbor can’t get enough of the stuff. And I’ve learned a lot for next year, so I’m happy.

One of the best developments is that my converted water closet barrel room is perfectly cool even on the hottest days now that I slapped a small air conditioning unit in the room’s one window. That means my garage winery is working out great and should be good for another year or two.

And can you believe it, harvest is almost here again. More on that soon, but the good news is I’m going to work with a terrific newer producer that’s bootstrapping itself into prominence locally and beyond. I’ve mentioned the producer here on a few occasions, and this fall should provide a terrific lesson in how to start up a winery.

Old Rosé

I can’t pass up a deal, even when I should know better. For example, last year sometime I found half bottles of 1992 Clos du Pape Chateauneuf du Pape Blance for $6 each in a local shop that’s quirky but filled with interesting wine.

Just writing this makes me shake my head. Of course the wine was likely dead. Yet, how could I pass up what is essentially a $6 lottery ticket promising a payoff of wine nirvana? So nevermind the long odds, I couldn’t help myself and grabbed a bottle.

Sure enough, the wine was vile. And even six dollars seemed like a high price to learn what a fool should only have to learn at this point. Why can’t I resist such deads?

So last week I found a twice marked down bottle of 2004 Ch. Pradeaux Bandol rosé. Originally $25, now $7.50.

Hmm, it looks coppery colored but this producer is known for light hued, razor sharp rosé. And I recall the 1997 F. Cotat Chavignol rosé for $10 a few years back at another shop that was deliciously round yet taut like a finely aged white wine. I’ve heard of people enjoying old Tempier Bandol rosé. So why not? It’s only $7.50, right?

And wouldn’t you know it, the wine is neither dead nor quite alive like that ‘97 Cotat. Instead, somewhere in between, smelling something like fine Champagne and tasting faintly cidery, starting nicely but tailing off with an old fruit streak that shows the wine is coming apart at the seams.

It wasn’t awful, in fact it was reasonably enjoyable even as an intellectual rather than sensual wine. It was certainly worth its discount price, enough so to make sure that the next time I come across a bargain that’s too good to be true, I’m buying.

July 20, 2007

2004 Tyee Pinot Blanc Willamette Valley

After an extended break from the blog, why not have a surprise return with an equally surprising wine?

Tyee Wine Cellars is the longtime label of Barney Watson. The same Barney Watson who teaches in the Chemeketa Winemaking and Viticulture program. And the same Barney Watson who taught the class I took this spring called Science of Winemaking.

I’ve long known of Tyee but never tried any of their wines. After taking the class, I figured I should try some. This bottling, of the grape sometimes referred to as pinot bland, is a revelation. And not just because I’m drinking my teacher’s wine.

The 2004 Tyee Pinot Blanc has a pale yellow color, but the aroma is where things get interesting. It’s clean and fresh, but the melon and lemon fragrance you expect in a better Pinot Blanc mix with a mineral note and the distinct scent of crushed mint leaves. Not overly so, just enough to give a freshness that beats any mojito in your local trendy bar.

In the mouth, lemon and melon flavors dominate, with terrific length and crisp acidity that leaves your palate ready for another sip. This wine would be perfect with crab, which just happens to be pictured on the label.

All together, this is terrific wine and a nice value. I’ll have to try the Tyee Pinot Noir, which I’ve heard is also a good value if sturdy wine built to age.

Unfortunately Barney Watson mentioned at class that he’s selling or sold his share of the winery, apparently to focus on the many wines in production at the Chemeketa-Eola Northwest Viticulture Center. Perhaps other things too, I imagine. Let’s hope so.