Winemakers Blog

Riesling for a hot summer

May 30, 2009

sweet_riesling07_props

Summer is definitely here in the great Pacific Northwest and I find myself gravitating towards lighter, fresher and sweeter wines. I like the low alcohol/high acid/carbonation combo on a hot sunny day. My favorite Riesling for this time of the year are the Sweet Riesling (8.5% Alcohol - definitely sweet), the Organic Riesling (10.5% Alcohol - medium sweet) and I must say that I found two great friends in the Sparkling Riesling (10.5% Alcohol - almost dry) and our Single Vineyard Daunhauer (8.5% Alcohol - sweet). That’s four wines for a hot summer and with our great free shipping on 6 bottles it is easy to try them all!

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Riesling Revival by Jim Trezise

May 25, 2009

Jim Trezise is the President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation and when in London last week for the London wine fair, he posted a good little blog about Riesling that I wanted to post here. Jim is also the President of the International Riesling Foundation. We are an active member of the IRF.

Riesling Revival

By Jim Trezise, President, International Riesling Foundation

 

A famous New York comedian named Rodney Dangerfield rose to stardom with one classic line: “I don’t get no respect.”

Riesling is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine.  It is arguably the most noble white wine variety in the world, and yet it remains misunderstood, underappreciated, and under-consumed.

 

Why? Diversity.  This is Riesling’s strength, but also its weakness.  Riesling is one of the few grapes which can produce wines ranging from bone dry to intensely sweet and many taste sensations in between.  That’s a strength. 

The weakness is that consumers often can’t predict what taste sensation is in each bottle—dry, medium dry, sweet—and can be unpleasantly surprised if they guessed wrong and the wine doesn’t fit the meal they planned.

Happily much is changing in the world of Riesling, and the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) is trying to accelerate that change.  First, there is clearly a Riesling revival occurring, at least in the United States where Riesling has become the fastest growing white wine and only a tad behind Pinot Noir among all wines.  This renaissance began a few years ago, and the IRF was formed to catch the wave and turn a serendipitous blip into a long-term trend.

There are many strengths to promote.  Riesling provides a great reflection of “terroir” not only among countries or regions but individual vineyards, guaranteeing infinite variations around a common theme.  Riesling is the most versatile “food wine”, with the different styles acting as complement or counterpoint to an incredible range of cuisines as well as serving as a great, palate-enhancing aperitif.

Then there’s Riesling’s diversity.  We’re seeking to turn that into a consistent strength by letting consumers know what’s in each bottle.  The method: a Riesling Taste Profile developed by the IRF.

One of our first projects involved market research by Wine Opinions on consumer perceptions of Riesling.  Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority think of it only as “a sweet white wine”.  More troubling, those who don’t drink it are not at all interested in trying it.

           

So we developed the Riesling Taste Profile, spearheaded by California wine journalist Dan Berger in conjunction with Riesling wine makers throughout the world.  The concept is to use the interplay of sugar, acid, and pH to predict the taste profile of a particular bottle—Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet, or Sweet.

The IRF Riesling Taste Profile includes technical guidelines for wine makers, including a summary chart, but it is ultimately up to the wine maker where he or she places the arrow along a horizontal continuum.  That graphic, in turn, may be used on back labels, point of sale materials, and in other ways to help consumers.

Everything related to the Riesling Taste Profile is available on the IRF web site (www.drinkriesling.com), including examples of some wineries already using it, downloadable art for those who wish to, and sample “neck hangers” as a point-of-sale options. 

The largest U.S. Riesling producers, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Pacific Rim of Washington State, are both committed to using it, as are many smaller producers in the U.S., New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries. We expect that it will become an industry standard within a few years, helping consumers predict what they’re buying and helping producers sell more Riesling.

The IRF has focused on the U.S. market to date due to its great potential for Riesling growth, but is truly an international organization with a prestigious Board of Directors from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States (California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington).  The Board is listed in the “About Us” section of the web site.

 

Indeed, the web site is our window for consumers to discover the wonderful world of Riesling, with information about the grapes, the wines, the foods, the regions, the Riesling Taste Profile, and much else.  Another key trend in the U.S., and perhaps elsewhere, is the importance of the “millennial” generation (essentially in their 20’s) to the future of the wine market.  They love wine, like to experiment, want to be educated (not “sold”), and provide great opportunity for Riesling.  As a result, we’re now working on several web enhancements that will tie right in to the “social media” explosion.

Another promising trend is the increasingly broad coverage of Riesling by wine and food media throughout the world.  Long-time proponents like Stuart Pigott, Jancis Robinson, Howard Goldberg, and Dan Berger are now being joined by many others who in the past paid little heed to the greatness of Riesling.But we still have a long way to go.  At the London International Wine Fair, I asked a top wine shop representative how Riesling sells.  He said better, but it’s still more of a case filler than a first choice.  In other words, when consumers buy 8-10 bottles and have a couple slots left, they often choose a Riesling or two.

 

In other words, Riesling don’t get no respect.  We need to change that.

 

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Trip to the Mosel and the Rheingau

May 22, 2009

I don’t usually like to talk about m private life on a blog, but I am getting really excited about my July trip to Germany. It will be short (I will be on my way to a family event in southern France) and I am lining up two days of Riesling frenzy. Here is a glimpse of my trip so far:mosel

  • Dinner with the Selbach on the 8th;
  • Visit of Selbach Oster, Sankt Urban Hof and Schloss Lieser on the 9th (Mosel)
  • Visit of Schloss Johannisberg, Von Mumm and two other on the 10th (Rheingau) and fly out…

I have my Audi shift stick with GPS unit rented. feeling just like a little boy going to Disneyland…

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Maximizing restaurant profits

May 15, 2009

Yesterday I had a good chat with the sommelier of a local restaurant called bluehour.  We were chatting about making money with by the glass pouring and he had an interesting take on it. First some facts:

1) Usually restaurants get on average 5 pours per 750ml bottles.

2) Restaurants like to mark up wines up to 4 times (especially for by the glass vs by the bottle).

3) Restaurant buy wines wholesale, sometimes with a special “by the glass price”. Let’s assume that wholesale is about 30% less  than retail.

Now here is the math that most restaurant do: Buy a $9.99 retail bottle of wine ($7 wholesale), mark it up at least 4 times ($7 X 4 = $28), pour 5 glasses out of it and sell them at $6 each. Profit would be: (5 X 6) - 7 = $23 per bottle. Not bad….

My Sommelier friend was arguing that it was crazy math because a) you really rip off the customer (the customer could almost buy a whole bottle at that price) and b) you do not maximize the take home per bottle for the restaurant. Here is his math: Buy a $30 retail bottle of wine ($21 wholesale), mark it up gently 2.5 times ($21 X 2.5 = $52.5), pour five glasses out of it and sell them at $11 each. Profit would be (5 X 11) - 21= $34 per bottle. 50% better than the previous calculation. Not only you got more money per bottle but you also offered a great wine to your customers at a more reasonnable cost (you definitely could not buy a bottle retail of that $30 wine at $11).

I think he has a point….

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Riesling acreage and clonal selection

May 11, 2009

Last week I gave a talk to a group of importers that were touring eastern Washington with the Washington Wine Commission. My topic was Riesling acreage and clonal selection in Washington State. I wanted to put some of the interesting facts I found out on this blog for reference.

Riesling acreage is about 145,000 acres worldwide. Most of the acreage is located in the old world (Germany and Alsace). In the new world, Australia has the largest acreage followed by Washington State. To put it in relationship with other regions, Washington has about 4,500 acres of Riesling which is about twice the acreage of California and about half the acreage of Alsace. 

Washington’s Riesling is either quite old (older than 25 years - representing 40% of total acreage) or quite young (less than 7 years - representing 40% of total acreage). This age distribution has probably to do with the early successes of Riesling in Washington followed by a low growth period (for Riesling in general) in the 90s and an accelerated growth since the beginning of the new millenium.

The acreage older than 25 year old is planted a bit everywhere throughout the State with about 25% in the Yakima Valley. Although there are no record of where the clonal material came from, one can guess about two probable sources. The first one is the stock that was brought in by Upland winery (closed in 1972) in the late 30’s on the eve of the repeal of prohibition. This selection was planted in Sunnyside and came from Germany (Upland’s winemaker was German). The second probable source is California. Before the 70’s, only clone 1 seemed to have been available in quantity. Clone 1 is also of German origin and came through Oregon State University. Those two sources are probably the origin of most of Washington’s Riesling.

The younger plantings are less scattered than the earlier ones and concentrated in the Yakima Valley (about 50% of all Riesling is grown in “the valley”) and in the Horse Heaven Hills (25% of all Riesling is grown there). The clonal selection available post 1970 was more varied since the Foundation Plant Service (FPS) in California had introduced several German clones in the 50’s. The probable materials that were brought in for newer planting (the American FPS clone number is the short number, I am including the “translation”  for reference) includes clone 9 and 24 (Geisenheim 110), Clone 12 (Neustadt 90), Clone 17 (Geisenheim 198), Clone 23 (Geisenheim 239). Other clones might have come up to Washington such as the “Martini clone” (FPS 10), the Conegliano 100 (FPS 19), the Clos Pepe clone (FPS 20), the Mendoza clone (FPS 22), ENTAV 49 (FPS 49). Of course, most new plantings might just have been propagated from the wood of older vineyards. No one know for sure, but I would guess that 80% of new plantings still come from the original selections.

At Pacific Rim, we are probably a mini sample of Washington’s Riesling. 30% of our vineyards are indeed older than 25 years. 40% of our Riesling comes from the Horse Heaven Hills (Wallula Vineyard) with the balance coming from the lower Yakima Valley (in a narrow strecth at the highest elevation available between Sunnyside and Prosser). Our newer planting are all clone 110, 239, 198 and 90 from Germany (representing about 65% of all our Riesling), who knows what the older vines are.

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Framboise deposit

April 26, 2009

It is not uncommon for our Framboise to throw a little sediment after bottling. Usually it is a fine red colored dust at the bottom of the bottle. The sediment is totally harmless and does not affect the sensory properties of our Framboise. The deposit is made of ellagitannins (a type of tannins found in many berries including raspberries) that precipitate in the presence of alcohol, not unsimilar to the tannin-anthocyanin deposit found in some red wines. The ellagitannin deposit is actually very rich in antioxidant molecules which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease (so scoop it all up).

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Autumnus white

April 19, 2009

In about one week we will bottle our first Autumnus white (right after the red). The idea of a white blend as always seemed very appealing to me for the same reason than a red blend: harmony. Just like blending voices  in a choir, the combination of different wines produces a blend with high emotional resonance that hits you from multiple places. For the Autumnus White  we have chosen our favorite white varietals namely Gewurztraminer, Chenin and Riesling. The Gewurzt contributes the backbones of the fruity profile while the chenin adds a touch of mintiness. The Riesling is the structuring agent in the blend and brings the body and the acidity. This is a very nice wine with an unusual blend. 1.2% RS but tastes quite dry.

new-picture

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Washington wineries more than 600

April 16, 2009

More than 600 wineries (including Pacific Rim of course) are calling Washington State home. That is more than three times the number of wineries that were in Washington 10 years ago. Of course, many of those wineries are fairly small. Still, this is a testament to the Washington State wine industry’s dynamism. The planted acreage is following up the growth in wineries and has raised to 33,000 acre from 24,000 in 1999 (though the average acreage per winery went from 122 acres/winery in 1999 to 55 acres/winery in 2009). As a comparison, Napa Valley alone has 44,000 acres planted and New Zealand has 70,000 acres planted (that makes Washington looks so small, doesn’t it?). According to the latest Nielsen data, Washington was one of the fastest growing appellation sold in grocery store across the country. I’ll raise a glass of Washington Riesling to that!

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Autumnus red

April 14, 2009

The news is out (see the Wine press Northwest website): Pacific Rim is releasing a red wine. So before the chatter starts let me have a conversation between the “Evil Nicolas” (aka EVN) and the “Good Nicolas” (aka GDN). Hopefully that will set the message right.

EVN: Whao, thought you were just making Riesling? GDN: Do you have a problem with reds?

EVN: No, no, thought you were the Riesling specialist (eheh)! GDN: OK, so we can’t make a red wine?

EVN: Seems a bit off message (eheh). GDN: right… Want to walk home tonight?

EVN: Forget about it, so what is SOOOO special about this red? GDN: Autumnus red is an Italian inspired red. No oak, very food friendly, low alcohol (12.5%). In some fashion, the red mirror of our Rieslings

EVN: No Riesling in it right (eheh)? GVN: No, no Riesling, what kind of question is that (may be that would be fun?)? It is mainly Sangiovese, Barbera, Primitivo with a touch of Pinot Nero. Mostly from the Wahluke slope

EVN: OK, sounds interesting, how would you describe this beverage. The “slope” is pretty hot, big wines usually. GVN: Good color, though not inky, with lavender from the Sangiovese and cherry from the Barbera, It is fairly soft with a great weight. Good acidity so it can go with the food.

EVN: Vintage? GVN: 2007. We’re home, get out….

untitled

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Integrated Environmental Stewardship

April 10, 2009

For the past year we have been working with our largest growers to come up with an integrated plan that would lift the sustainability footprint of all our vineyards. Together, those growers represent more than 80% of all our vineyards. We have called our team the Integrated Environmental Stewardship or IES for short. This effort is of course on top of our Biodynamic farming at Wallula and our Organic vineyards. The reason we started this group is because we could not find a single certification mechanism that met all our needs or that was economically interesting. After a year of work we have come up with a list of practices that we will monitor. Below is the list in order of importance to us:

Irrigation practices
Fertilizer use
Winery - growercommunication
Herbicide use
Plant material selection
Pruning
Mildew control
Leafhopper - Mealybug, Mites and Cutworm control
Crop load adjustment
Trunk Suckering
Leaf Removal/shading
Education
Safety training
Cover crop
Shoot positionning
Trellis design
Soil preparation
Water quality
Botrytis control
Waste management
Winterization
Dust abatment
Diesel use
Tillage
Nematode Control
Natural Habitat
Soil Compaction
Farmscape
Use of farm animals

That list has criteria (about 120 of them in total) that each farm can or has to follow in order to bge qualified as “sustainable” by our team. We are also in the process of sorting chemicals used for Herbicides, Fungicides, Insecticides and Fertilizer and agreeing of what is authorized and what is not based on several national (Organic) and international (IOBC) guidelines.

Long process, but we believe one of the most thourough out there.

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State of Vitiviniculture World Report

April 8, 2009

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The Organisation Internationale de le Vigne et du Vin (OIV) has just released their report on global production and consumption and since I am sucker for statistics I thought I would share the summary of it all.

Global acreage The EU has lost 82,000 acres in 2008 (vs 2007) mainly from France (half of that number). The world is seeing also a reduction in acreage by about 70,000 acres total. New Zealand and Russia are the “growth poles” in 2008. Global acreage stands at 19.6 million acres

Wine Production: The EU has lost about 2.1 Million Hl in 2008 (vs 2007) but the picture is mixed with France and Spain losing big volume while Romania is gaining. EU production stands at 161 MioHl. In the remaining of the world, the USA lost some volume (-0.7 MioHl) and Australia recovered from a serious crop failure in 2007. The world overall was pretty flat to slightly up (+ 1MioHl) at 269.4 MioHl.

Yield in 2008: Thought it would be fun to divide the estimated global production (269.4 MioHl) by the estimated vine area (7.861 Mioh) and get about 34.2 Hl/ha or 2.15 tons/acre. Pretty low I thought.

Global wine consumption: EU was down again (2.2 MioHl) at 125.8 MioHl. That does not compare well to the 2008 production at 161.6 MioHl - whao 35.8 MioHl surplus in 2008 for Europa…  The reverse is seen in the US with a small domestic production (19.2 MioHL) relative to the now #1 worldwide consumption (27.2 MioHl). Guess why everyone is fighting over the US market… Overall world consumption has been eroding and now stands at about 242.9 MioHl (which is about 27 MioHl surplus worldwide). Most countries see erosion in wine consumption except the Netherlands, Sweden, the USA, Australia and the Czech republic (what is going on in the Czech republic?).

There is a section about global wine export showing EU losing share, South America and Oceania eating their lunch. The last two charts show the average price for red and white in the EU and White is ahead!!! Well deserved…

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Reflections of a wine merchant: Book review

April 7, 2009

41osy4wxcll__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_1I recommend greatly this book from Neal Rosenthal (the New York wine merchant). I have enjoyed the candid and interesting journey of Mr Rosenthal as he starts his thoughtful wine import business. It helped me to realize how close to the wild west was the wine industry in the late 70’s and what great opportunities folks like Neal Rosenthal, Kermitt Lynch and Terry Theise had in their hand. For all this, they were, and are, true wine lovers and really attracted to the sense of place and family that Europe offered in those days.  I wonder what the next generation of wine importer will be like and who will replace those great wine explorers.  I also wonder if Europe is/will be like this anymore. It really made me think about what we do at Pacific Rim and the value of taking the high road not only for yourself but also for the people that drink your wines.

I think one needs to be careful about meeting with Mr Rosenthal considering the amount of drame, dead partners, car accidents, family feud and failure that he encounters during his European endeavors.

In any case a good read for those who like wines and the wine business.

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Pacific Rim Riesling made from organic grapes reviewed and offered at winery exchange

April 6, 2009

Thank you to the folks at Winery Exchange for their great review of our 2008 Riesling made from organic grapes. Below is a full transcript:

“There are so many sub-plots here, starting with the explanation that this isn’t the Pacific Rim with the sushi on the label that no doubt raised an eyebrow or two when it came out a few years back.  There is still some misunderstanding as to the final Bonny Doon story so, as we understand it, here it is.  Ca’del Solo and Big House, the brands, were sold to another entity and Bonny Doon and Pacific Rim remained under Randall Grahm, the creator of all of the labels. Pacific Rim was wholly relocated to Washington and put under the direction of French born winemaker Nicolas Quille with the instruction, “make Riesling.”  The old Bonny Doon standards Vin de Glaciere and Framboise are now under this label, as is a pretty exciting little Chenin Blanc and Gewurzraminer.  Oh yeah, there are still some of the exotic labels, too, with dragons, vegetables, and other themes, on the little wines.  But the star of the show here is the Riesling grape.  There’s a bone dry value Riesling and some interesting single vineyard bottlings.  But the one that hit our sweet spot the most was this organic Riesling, not necessarily because it was organic, but because it was one of the best examples of domestic Riesling we have ever tasted (and that’s from huge fans of German wines).   All done in stainless steel, with a screw cap to preserve freshness, this multi-vineyard blend has a nose of fresh apples, flowers, peach and citrus.  In the mouth, the entry shows a flash of moderate sweetness and plenty of fresh fruit, and then cuts cleanly away to leave a tangy, lingering peach and pear finish.  Refreshing, delicious, you can have great Riesling, buy organic and drink American.  This is a breakthrough program in our minds and the price is right. “
 
They said it better than I could…
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Wine of the Year for Pacific Rim Single Vineyard Rieslings!

April 3, 2009

Linda Murphy has named our series of Single Vineyards as the wine of the year on Wine Review Online (Linda is also the corresponmdant for Jancis Robinson on the West Coast). Thank you so much Linda, a great honor.

Below are Linda’s comments on the wines:

Wines of the Year:  Pacific Rim Single-Vineyard Rieslings 2007 Columbia Valley, Washington

I’m cheating in picking not one but three new, single-vineyard Rieslings from Randall Grahm’s Pacific Rim winery in Washington state’s Columbia Valley, yet they are most impressive as a group, showing Grahm’s commitment (and that of his Pacific Rim general manager/winemaker, Nicolas Quillé), to producing outstanding Riesling in Washington.  Chateau Ste.  Michelle and Long Shadows’ Poet’s Leap wineries have been doing that for some time, though having another player is good for the neighborhood and for consumers. 

Pacific Rim’s ‘regular’ Rieslings come in dry and sweet versions and are fruity, quaffable blends from multiple Columbia Valley vineyards, selling for around $8.  The Solstice Vineyard in Yakima Valley and Wallula Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills sub-appellations are the sources for the new range of Pacific Rim Riesling — one from Solstice and two from Wallula, of which one is made from biodynamically grown grapes.  All are sealed with screw caps.

Pacific Rim, Yakima Valley (Washington) Solstice Vineyard Riesling 2007 ($30): This is the sweetest of the three wines, with 1.14 percent residual sugar, yet it remains dry on the palate.  Stony and nutty on the nose, the wine crackles in the mouth with lime and grapefruit, with some spicy baked apple and richness on the finish.  It’s crisp and refreshing, clocking in at 13.5% alcohol.  89
 
Pacific Rim, Columbia Valley (Washington) Wallula Vineyard Riesling 2007 ($18): This wine tastes bone-dry (the residual sugar percentage is 0.9) and has an inviting honeysuckle aroma with a flash of minerality.  It starts out rather austere, with earthy notes and racy citrus and white peach flavors.  There’s some creaminess and tropical fruit in the mid-palate, and the wine closes with mouthwatering acidity — tart and minerally.  This wine is delicious now, yet two or three more years in bottle should unleash some secondary complexity.  Another plus: it has just 12.3% alcohol by volume.  Note that Wallula Vineyard is in the Horse Heaven Hills American Viticultural Area, although the front label reads ‘Columbia Valley.’  91

Pacific Rim, Columbia Valley (Washington) Wallula Vineyard Biodynamic Riesling 2007 ($30): Produced from a young, 145-acre, certified biodynamic plot at Wallula Vineyard, this floral, flinty Riesling has pure, focused Meyer lemon, citrus pith and white-peach fruit notes.  It’s dry (.76% residual sugar) though slightly plumper than the non-biodynamic wine above, and layers of flavor continue to unfold through a long finish.  A pleasant leesiness adds complexity.  It, too, will benefit from cellaring, for up to five years for those who like more mature Riesling.  13% alcohol.  92

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Spring and Riesling

April 2, 2009

Thanks to Mr Asimov of the New York Times (read the article here) I was reminded how succulent is a fresh Riesling for Spring. Riesling is everything I look for this time of the year, the floral notes, the crisp acid, the sweetness of Spring. My favorites for this time of the year are the lighter sweeter Riesling like our Sweet Riesling or German kabinett. So don’t forget to open several Riesling to celebrate Spring!

Blossom

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Why do I like Riesling

March 26, 2009

Yesterday I read this story on the Decanter web site:

“Red wine increases the female sex drive

Red wine increases the female libido, research has found.
According to a study carried out by the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence, drinking one to two glasses of red wine a day increases female sexual desire. The study investigated 789 Italian women aged between 18 and 50.
Drinking red wine not only helps to release inhibitions, but also has a direct effect on sexual activity. Women who drink one to two glasses of wine a day were found to be more sexually active than those who abstain. Dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants, has a similarly positive effect on the female libido. ”

In one way I find the article funny but in another so tacky. The fact that the study was done in Italy adds to both of those feeling. May be this is why I like Riesling so much those days, it is quiet, delicate, complex and refined.

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Low alcohol wines

March 3, 2009

A couple nights ago we opened a delicious Woodward canyon Cabernet 1996 and the alcohol was 12.9% on the label. The wine was still young and just fine.  In many ways it was more balanced that most Cabernet you would find today. I don’t know about everybody but I am really tired of over extracted, over alcoholic wines, may be I am just getting old. It seems that dry wines around 12.5% ethanol and sweet wines below 11% are most attractive and I would think they should be attractive to many food and wine lovers. As we tend to go for fresher, less fatty meals, we need to make wines that match those modern food. This is definitely a theme that runs through all our wines and our winemaking. Nothing is more refreshing than a Sweet Riesling at 8.5% Ethanol with some spring rolls…

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Biodynamic winemaking at Pacific Rim

February 19, 2009

30% of our grapes are grown biodynamically and to my knowledge we have the only certified biodynamic vineyard in Washington State. We also are the only certified biodynamic producer in the State. We are not fanatical about biodynamie but it has taught us many things and has connected us better to our terroir.

Our understanding of Biodynamic agriculture

What we have learned from Rudolph Steiner’s biodynamic agriculture principles is that our goal should be to set the farm as a self contained entity focused on exporting goods without importing any from the outside world. The farm is in some way limited, just like our planet, and it has to become its own ecosystem to become a sustainable and perennial entity. Of course this preclude the use of any chemical at the farm unless they can be produced at the farm. For these reasons we use only natural products that could be produced at the farm that we call preparations (we actually do not make our own at this point but would like to). The preparations are numbered from 500 to 508:

Preparations

Ingredient

Role

500

Cow manure

Root growth and humus formation

501

Powdered Quartz

Stimulate and regulate foliar growth

502

Yarrow blossoms

For compost preparation

503

Chamomile blossoms

For compost preparation

504

Stinging nettle

For compost preparation

505

Oak bark

For compost preparation

506

Dandelion flower

For compost preparation

507

Valerian flower

For compost preparation

508

Horsetail

To fight foliar fungal disease

This is all we use in the vineyard - no other chemical organic nor synthetic. The compost making is very important as it is the key to a healthy soil and in return to a healthy vine. Also we do use the moon cycles to do most operations in the vineyard.

Our understanding of Biodynamic winemaking

At the winery we do not correct any grape deficiencies (no acid, no sugar, no water). We do not use commercial yeasts, only the yeasts that came with the grapes. The only chemicals we use are bentonite (for protein stability, it is remove and does not stay in the wine) and we add sulfites below 100ppm.

Lesson learned

In the vineyard we understand that we do not need heavy chemicals to grow our grapes. Yes, it is more work but there are alternative ways to grow grapes in an economical way. It makes sense and it does not make us a bunch of hippies. Consequently we have pooled our growers together to find alternative ways to grow grapes in a more sustainable way and we are creating an Integrated Environmental Stewardship Charter to move our sustainability agenda forward.

At the winery we know understand that we do not need commercial yeasts and that we can also make wine with fewer chemicals. Yes, the wines might not always be “technologically” correct but we hope they taste better and are healthier for you, just like an organically grown fruit.

We hope that you care as much as we do.

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February Post bottling tasting at Pacific Rim

February 17, 2009

Twice a year I sit down with the our winemaking dream team and we go through the latest bottling to see how our bottled wines are holding. We also remember how we made them all. It is some sort of a 360 evaluation six month to a year after bottling to gauge our performance. Below is a list of the wine we’ve tasted and our winemaking comments:

Wallula Riesling Biodynamic 2007: Great wine, aromatic and mineral, nice acidity. Would not change a thing.
Wallula Riesling 2007: Tighter than the Biodynamic version, sharp, some lime, bit austere right now but armed to age well. May be a little austere?
Solstice Riesling 2007: Very clean, intense, shows some sign of petrol, very nice right now. Recommend drinking now.
Chenin Blanc 2007: We actually did a vertical of the 06-07 and 08 vintage. Those wines really evolve nicely overtime from tight/lime to opulent/Sauvignon blanc like. The 07 is still in its lime/clean phase but is starting to show some hay from the bottle age.
Gewurztraminer 2007: Nice wine, a bit tight, we can improve on this one though this is a nice effort (FYI, the 2008 is very good).
Dauenhauer Riesling 2007: Sl mushroom/botrytis, balanced, very nice. This is one of those wines that we might never be able to do again. What a great bottle.
Sweet Riesling 2007: This is sold out (we are selling the 2008) but for those of us that are keeping the wine in the cellar it will be rewarding. the wine is totally fresh and alive.
Selenium Riesling Vin De Glaciere 2007: Clean, great dessert wine. This is built to age nicely.

If you do taste those wines and have some comments, please leave a post!

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Harvey Steiman from Wine Spectator blogs about Washington Riesling

February 13, 2009

Reproduced from the Wine Spectator Website

Thank you Mr Steiman for endorsing our great Riesling region!

Riesling and Washington

Posted: 01:20 PM ET, February 10, 2009

If anyone doubts the current Riesling renaissance, just look at the latest grape production report from Washington. For the first time, the state crushed more Riesling than any other grape variety—28,500 tons, to be exact, or about 38 percent of all the state’s white wine in 2008.

That’s more Riesling than Chardonnay, more than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, the leading varieties on the red wine side.

This has been building for several years. While Chardonnay has been holding steady, Riesling has been coming on strong. From 16,500 tons in 2004 the numbers climbed to 18,800 in 2005 and to 23,800 in 2006 and 26,000 in 2007.

Why is this happening? Because Riesling has found a cadre of consumers who like it. Finally. Many of us who love the grape have wondered when it would happen. Right now, Rieslings are among the darlings of hip sommeliers, partly because they deliver plenty of class and charm at attractive prices, and these days who can resist that? I’ve always said, hand a glass of Riesling to anyone, say nothing about what it is, and you will get a smile of approval. People like the fruit flavors and the dance the wine does on their taste buds.

It just took a while to overcome that sweet-is-bad myth. Not all Rieslings are sweet, for one thing, and even the sweet ones often have class and charm.

Washington has done well with Riesling throughout its modern wine history. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates claims to produce more of it than any wine company in the U.S., distributed among its various labels. They include Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Snoqualmie and the most high profile of them all, the joint venture with Dr. Loosen of Germany that makes Eroica.

Hogue has been successful at hitting fine value marks with Riesling for years, especially with its Genesis bottlings. Kiona has consistently scored well with its moderately priced late harvest Rieslings. Riesling was the first wine from Mercer, the new project from some of the same folks who gave us Hogue, and it’s a good one.

Pacific Rim, the label started by Bonny Doon of California, moved its operations to Washington and now makes a range of Rieslings from inexpensive everyday dry and off-dry bottlings to single-vineyard charmers.

Poet’s Leap, the joint venture between German vintner Armin Diehl and Long Shadows, has toned down its originally sweet profile and is now making beautifully balanced wines in a soft spätlese style.

Charles Smith, who started K Vintners (for big-time Syrah) and the Magnificent Wine Co. (a value range), bottles Kung Fu Girl, a lovely dry-style Riesling for $12 a bottle.

A sweet Riesling got my highest rating from Washington in the past 12 months: Chateau Ste. Michelle White Riesling Columbia Valley Late Harvest Ethos 2006 (97, $40). These unctuous dessert wines can be stunning.

In its moderately cool climate, Washington does well with Chardonnay, too, but the Rieslings seem to represent better value. And I have a theory why: Many of Washington’s vineyards are on flat ground or gently rolling countryside in the dry climate of Columbia Valley. They need irrigation to keep vines alive; the vines grow pretty big and yields tend to be high. Few vineyards are close-spaced on challenging soils that naturally keep yields low. These make the best Chardonnays around the world, and in Washington those kinds of vineyards are more likely to grow Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah, which get higher prices to justify the extra work. Riesling gets higher yields than Chardonnay while still delivering good flavor and balance.

In that light, maybe the most intriguing new area for Riesling might be Lake Chelan, a chilly region on the eastern slope of the Cascades. The vineyards are young there, but already I’ve been impressed with Tsillan’s Riesling, which has a more Germanic range of vivid flavors and lively balance.

Riesling’s success will, I hope, boost Syrah. It is clearly Washington’s red-wine calling card, making some of the most distinctive and food-friendly reds I taste. It’s been holding steady at 15 percent of red wine production while Cabernet and Merlot both exceed 35 percent.

Sooner or later, the quality of the wines will win over American red wine drinkers, just as Riesling did on the white wine side. But that’s a story for another day. Let’s just pause to applaud the success of Riesling. At last.

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Riesling made from Organic grapes is out

February 11, 2009

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We have bottled last month our first Riesling “made from organic”. We have been playing with Biodynamic grapes and winemaking over the past few years and we thought it was time to play with organic. We did have organic grapes but never made them into a commercial organic wine. We have certified the winery last summer, so we are now the only Washington Winery with an Organic Producer and a Biodynamic Producer certification. The organic winemaking is pretty simple and was really straightforward for us because we don’t really use many additives. We use only native yeasts (no commercial stuff), organic nutrients, no acidification nor sugar added and we do not use any heavy filtration material (just membrane filtration).  I could not go the whole way and not add any non organic sulfites but we have stayed well below the 100ppm requirement for total sulfites (closer to 80ppm total in fact) so the wine is 99.84% Organic. Because we use non organic sulfites (note that yeasts produce organic sulfites naturally) we  qualify for “made from organic grapes” and not for “Organic”. Interestingly this wine would qualify as “Organic”‘ if produced in Canada and many other country that have a waiver on non-organic sulfites (at least to a certain level).

The wine is made in an off dry style somewhere between our Dry and our Sweet Riesling. With 11% alcohol it is very refreshing and quite frankly as pure as it gets. Pick a bottle and comment back on what you think about the wine.

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Bucket of Clams recipe

February 9, 2009

Here is a good recipe for our Dry Riesling tried last week. Half of the wine is for the dish and half for your soul.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb clams
  • 1/2 bottle of Sweet Riesling
  • Parsley - 1/4 cup chopped
  • one large shallot
  • 1 stick of butter

Rinse the clams. Chop finely the shallot and in a large pot saute the shallot with 1/4 stick of butter. When shallots are soft add 1/2 bottle of the dry Riesling. Pour yourself a glass to enjoy. Heat up the sauce and when boiling add the clams. cover the pot for 5 minutes then remove the clams into a bowl. Reduce the sauce to about 3 cups. Add the remaining butter and melt it in. Add the parsley and pour the sauce over the clams in the bowl. By now you should be out of Dry Riesling. Open another bottle and enjoy it with your bucket of clams!

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From Thailand with love

February 3, 2009

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Today I saw our first order ever from Thailand for the American Embassy. They took a bit of Chenin, Gewurztraminer, Dry and Sweet Riesling. That made me wonder if there is a food and wine pairing event at the embassy in Bangkok. If anyone at the embassy reads this blog, could you please report?

I would bet that our Sweet Riesling will be a winner with spicy hot thai food, though Gewurz with a curry could be a very good combo as well.

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Wine Judging/Scoring - Can you trust them?

February 2, 2009

A great study was released last week by the American Association of Wine Economist about the validity of wine competitions. Great reading and very interesting to find that competitions are very unreliable according to their study. Steve Heimoff has written a great “summary” on the topic on his blog that is a must read for those of you that are interested. If you don’t have time to read it all, let me bullet point the main bits:

  • Wine competitions are found to be unreliable  by the AAWE - not news to me, sometimes you get a gold, sometimes you get nothing…
  • Wine competitions are unreliable because humans are unreliable - I knew that as well, my taste changes everyday and sometimes several times a day.
  • This raises the question of wine reviewers in general though what can you do about it?
  • This raises the question about the use of wine scores and accolades by the wine trade and the consumer - I won’t venture there because I get upset too fast on this.

Fun topic, isn’t it?

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Riesling is #1

January 26, 2009

It’s official, Riesling has now overcome Chardonnay as the number one varietal in Washington State. USDA reported that in 2008, 28,500 tons of Riesling were harvested in the Washington. This anchors Washington as the proeminent Riesling producer in the United States well ahead of California. This tonnage is enough to make about 1.8 million cases of Riesling. Thinking about who is making all that Riesling, I took my calculator and came up with 1.56 million cases:

  • St Michelle wine group (St Michelle, Snoqualmie, Eroica, Columbia Crest): About 1 million cases
  • Hogue Cellars (Constellation Wine group): About 160,000 cases
  • Ascentia Wine Group (Columbia winery and Covey Run): About 140,000 cases
  • Pacific Rim: 120,000 cases
  • Precept Brands (Mainly with Washington Hills brand): 60,000 cases?
  • Washington Wine Group (Silverlake): May be 40,000 cases?
  • Badger Mountain Winery: May be 10,000 cases?
  • Diageo Northwest (Sagelands and Canoe Ridge): About 25,000 cases

If you have any insight on the right number, please write a post!

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