Alder Ridge Vineyard Report

We have had a couple of weeks of great weather here at the vineyard.

Alder Ridge vines working towards veraison

Temperatures have been in the solid mid to high 90’s so I think we have made up a little ground from the cool late spring temps we experienced.  This year for degree days we are at 1467 degree days and last year we were at 1836. As of now we are probably 7 to 10 days behind last year

Impatient for veraison

but the upcoming weather looks to be good so ground should be made up.Overall cluster seem to have a few more berries/cluster than last year.

We anticipate seeing some veraison next week. Crop load counts and weights are still being taken and should be finalized within the next week. Sergio and the crew are finishing up the last of the leaf stripping and the first fruit thinning pass should begin the first week of August. Looking forward to a great harvest and another outstanding vintage!

Alder Ridge Vineyard - Horse Heaven Hills

Brian Weinmann and Luke Ransom

Pictures By: Jesse Heinle

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2010 Vineyard Season Update

This season is shaping up to be a little cool, much like we had in 1999.  To date, the Cumulative Growing Degree Days are remarkably similar to 1999.  We do not think this will be an early harvest.  Hand crews are currently in the process of finishing the removal of laterals from the primary canes and also elimination unwanted “non-count” shoots.  The next pass by the crew will be to color thin at ripening, otherwise known as véraison.  Due to the very long cool season, cane growth is longer than normal and we will be “trimming” the tops of canes about 10-12″ above the top catch wire.  We are also in the process of counting clusters and preparing estimated block yields.  Overall we are pretty happy with what we are seeing and are excited for the next harvest.  Don’t forget, come September you can try fresh wine grapes at the Forgeron Tasting Room in downtown Walla Walla.

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Our Friend – Oak

Among all wineries oak is a key ingredient and every winery has their own idea on how that ingredient is and should be used.  As with many ingredients there are different production methods, uses, types, producers, and of course different grades of quality.  It would take a long time to break down what all these variables are and what they mean to us.  For starters we will look at French barrels vs. American barrels and how they are different.

There are many different sources for the oak used in wine barrels; you can find oak producing forests in France, America, and others not as popular such as Hungary, Spain, and Austria.  In America we get most of our oak from Minnesota.  However, oak producing forests stretch from Pennsylvania in the North East through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and into Arkansas and Mississippi in the south.  There is even an oak forest in Oregon that was used for wine barrels; however, after many trials it became apparent that the extreme hard oak of Oregon would be better suited for furniture and other construction purposes.

The forests in France that are producing oak for barrels have been around since the shipbuilding days of Napoleon.  Five of the primary forests areAllier, Limousin, Nevers, Trancais and Vosges, which are all controlled by the State Government in France.  Aside from the age of the forest and the controlling body, a major difference between American oak is the length of the growing season.  The growing season dictates the grain size of the wood.  The tighter the grain the less oxygen ingress will occur while the wine ages.  A tighter grain not only means a less porous wood, which ensures a watertight barrel, but releases oak flavor to the wine more slowly. The shorter the

Cross section of Oregon White Oak

Cross section showing the wide grain of Oregon White Oak

growing season in America makes for tough, coarse, loosely-grained wood, that imparts strong flavors more aggressively and uptakes oxygen a little quicker.

We also get a variety of flavors from American oak and French oak.  American oak gives off flavors of vanilla, spice, coconut, and even custard.  Some say that American oak can also impart a harsh or raw flavor.  However, American coopers started practicing more French barrel making techniques and the flavors improved.  America is now air drying the oak rather than using a kiln to dry, and have also started to split the oak into staves rather than using a saw.  Splitting helped rupture less xylem cells that contain the flavor compounds for the oak, and lead to a longer more smooth integration of flavor to the wine.

Cross section of French White Oak

Cross section showing the tighter grain of French White Oak

French oak can impart flavors of butterscotch, elegant vanilla, cedar, and caramel.  The French techniques and oak have helped make a more elegant flavored and softer impacting wine barrel.  That is why a majority of winemakers prefer French oak.  With advancements from American coopers, the high price of French oak, more research into other white oak producing forests and additional types of oak additives for wine, other oak products are catching up quickly to the quality the French have had for years.

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Walla Walla’s very own Strip

We have seen the downtown area of Walla Walla get brighter every year, and to my delight the mall has become a little less bright as time goes by.  I don’t

The Main drag through Walla Walla

The Main drag through Walla Walla

mean to say that I am glad that businesses are not doing well.  However, any mall to me is just a sick tribute to the mass marketing, commercialism, and material obsession of America, rather than a place where shops are localized for a person’s convenience.  That is what Main streets and Downtowns are for, an area to localize shops.  Walla Walla has done a fantastic job with drawing businesses, national attention, and people to the Main Street.  There are stores for everyone, whether they be a local resident just shopping or visitor looking seriously for some fun.  The wide array of stores covers clothing (both recreational and fashionable), books, gifts, toys, hobbies, food, art, wine, candy, kitchen supplies, and more.  Really, it has everything a mall has and much more if you count the beautiful Main Street, historic buildings, friendly people, and fantastic food (versus something fried and sitting under a warming lamp).

Some of the attractions on Main Street include Inland Octopus Toy Store (trust me; there is a toy in there for everyone no matter how old or young).  The gift shop Romanza has plenty of knick-knacks and some really funny cards.  There are numerous wineries, places to eat, and a few delis.  The Book and Game Company has a great selection of books and also carries many board games, role playing games, or card games.  Even if you need a place to sit and relax there is the seating area at Main and 1st that often has music or other events.  Or just a few blocks East on Main, there is an ideal picnic spot at Heritage Square Park.

One of the many pieces of art along the Main Street.

One of the many pieces of art along the Main Street.

Which leads to another thing Walla Walla is doing very well; more development of parks, walkways, and bike lanes.  For a town just over 30,000 people we have 18 parks and over 600 acres of recreation area.  The city has done well trying to grow itself before growing any of the industries that already thrive here.  The few buildings downtown that needed some tender love and care have been getting it.  With the local businesses’ and communities’ help there is no reason Walla Walla can’t grow while still keeping the small town charm.  We are a small town much like St. Helena near Napa used to be.  However, we are not doomed to the posh designer clothing stores and $35+ a plate restaurants.  Many of the higher end businesses in St. Helena could not last in Walla Walla; as we don’t have the population base necessary to keep those businesses open.  In smaller out-of-the-way cities, many of those big ideas are not feasible unless there is a bottomless budget to either import or export said product and to reach outside customers.  I for one would like to see more businesses that rely on and cater to the local community.  And in this current economy does it not seem like the best action anyway?  There’s not going to be any big plan or major renovation that is going to fix anything fast.  So why not start local and do something that benefits you and your neighbor – instead of trying to benefit yourself so much that your neighbor gets hung out to dry.

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Crush, Crushing, Crushed

The 2009 Harvest year is well underway and many wineries are over 50% done with the harvest.  Out here at Forgeron we hare just starting to harvest some of the later ripening varieties, we just pulled in our first Cabernet Sauvignon yesterday.  And hope to pull in a bit more Syrah within the next few days.  We have already seen some of our Malbec, Zinfandel, and Syrah from one of our warmer sites out at Stone Tree Vineyard in Yakima.

Crush has not occupied us completely though, there are still plenty of events, tastings, and winemaker dinners to find us at.  The Lamb Jam in Seattle is coming up October 25th.  Another winemaker dinner with Marie at Russell’s in Bothell.  Then in November to keep you occupied there is the North West Food and Wine Festival in Portland on the 14th.  There is also a fairly new tasting event called 20 Something that is directed towards the new younger wine drinking crowd.  That event is held in Seattle on November 21st.  Don’t forget about the Barrel Tasting weekend December 5th in Walla Walla.  Out at Forgeron we are gearing up for our annual Anvil Club Party that will be on the December 4th, at the start of the weekend (more details coming soon).  We hope that all is well and to see you soon.

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Acadia Bistro Winemaker Dinner

Recently Marie-Eve got back from the Acadia Bistro in Portland for a Forgeron Cellars Winemaker Dinner.  Since most of us did not have a chance to try the outstanding food and wine pairings we brought the menu to you.

2007 Roussanne – Tabasco pickled Shrimp; avocado-cucumber puree, mango relish and popcorn.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon – Bacon wrapped Catfish; green heirloom tomatoe coulis, fried black eyed peas.

2004 Klipsun Vineyard Merlot – Elk tartar tartine; Fried parmesan butter, pickled shallot.

2005 Syrah – Lamb Sausage; Bacon onions, fig mustard, fingerling chips.

Acadia's purple ceiling and mustard colored walls matchs the odd decor and creates a plesent relaxing mood.

Acadia's purple ceiling and mustard colored walls matches the odd decor and creates a pleasant relaxing mood.

2005 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer – Cowgirl creamery Mt. Tam triple cream, Johnny cakes, honey gastrique and carmalized pineapple.

The Chef was Adam Higgs with Matthew Stauss as Sous Chef.

That certainly looks like a fabulous dinner and wine pairing.  Although at a $100 a plate I might be tempted to stay within my own kitchen.  If you are looking for your own menu ideas we have plenty.  Recently at a party with some friends we had some wonderful bacon wrapped scallops that were to die for with our 2008 Roussanne.  Also on the table that night was Bruschetta with Goat Cheesse, Tomatoes and Basil.  With a main course of Shrimp and Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce.  lastly and never least in my book; dessert was an exceptional seasonal fruit pie.  If you would like full recipes please click on over to our recipe section.

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Taste Till Your Tongue’s Content!!

Wine tasting can be much like a class (a seated, seminar-like event), or less formal with tasters just milling and mingling about with winery tasting room attendants pouring samples, or one that is just a gathering of friends.  At many tastings there is usually a group or panel of judges.  In some competitions the judges may not be allowed to talk about the wine in question.  Some believe secluding the judges is a disadvantage to the tasting as one judge may learn from another at a tasting just as any person would learn from the more experienced.  Tastings groups, events, and parties are very important for the wine industry; not only because of wine purchased, but in palate education.  As a single person it is not cost efficient or even possible to taste the amount of wines you could at a group tasting.  Even if cost is not a factor; ask yourself how much wine would I want to open and drink alone, while maintaining an ability to taste accurately, or how much can I learn tasting wine alone?

When you are in a group you have a chance to discover other people who share the same likes and dislikes for wine.  Hearing opinions from people that you personally know and respect (either themselves or just their palate) will help develop your palate education.

Any room or open area (even outside) can be used as a venue for a tasting, as long as you follow a few basic guidelines.

  1. The area should be well lighted, free of smells; be it from wood, flowers, perfume, or even many foods.

    Wine Tasters await the next pour at a Forgeron tasting event

    Wine Tasters await the next pour at a Forgeron tasting event

  2. Many serious tasters also prefer a quiet room – indeed, talking about the wine before all people have had a chance to taste it is considered a faux pas.  The power of suggestion can take hold in any taster’s mind, and you should formulate your own opinion at first.
  3. Places to sit and desks to write are a good idea if you want people to be taking notes or scoring wines.
  4. Also, with numerous wines open, a few buckets or extra cups for spitting are always a good idea.

Spitting is not at all looked down upon and is actually a necessity for serious wine tasters.  If you are drinking all of your samples, eventually the alcohol will confuse your palate.  You don’t have to swallow wine to fully taste it either.  Many people swish the wine around their mouth for 7 to 10 seconds for a full taste.  Some sip air through their lips and the wine sample; to fully experience the wine.  Not to mention what drinking your samples after a night of tasting will do to your ability to drive.   If you have a horrible aversion to spitting, try to eat a meal before hand, your body absorbs less alcohol on a full stomach.  Or if you are out for a good time be sure to organize a car pool or take a taxi.

We hope this gets you started tasting on a regular basis or at least eases some of the uppity or constricted views on wine tasting.  Tastings are really something that everyone should be doing.  If you don’t like wine, you might find a few exceptions, or you may learn why you don’t like certain wines.  Tasting is all about learning your own preferences, it just takes practice.  However, if you are looking for more tasting tips, please check back in a few weeks.  We will be discussing more fully the types of wine tastings, how to taste wine, etiquette, even wine clubs and many other tasting facets.  If you have any questions or topics please let us know.

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