Reflections on a Year of Wine

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As eager as I am to start writing about 2016, I feel compelled to reflect on my 2015 wine experiences and writing efforts. Last year was full of wonderful conversations and many bottles of wine. It was also a year of change. My sincerest thanks to everyone I interacted with and for the discussions revolving around wine. I look forward to an exciting and tasty 2016. - William


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photo1. January
This month featured my most personal post of 2015.



A Resolution For Greek Wine, A Recipe For Avgolemeno #WinePW8 @DOMAINESKOURAS
In January, I wrote about Emmanuel Brokos. He was from the island of Crete and my step-grandfather. There were several reasons why I wrote about him. For one, it was for the 8th Wine Pairing Weekend twitter session #WinePW. We were tasked to write about a wine region we wanted to explore along with a related recipe and wine. The Greek wine I chose was very good. The Avgolemeno chicken soup was wonderful and the recipe was fun to follow. The story about my step-grandfather became quite personal. It was the least I could do for him and helped me understand him a little better.

“I never learned Greek, though I heard it spoken occasionally over many years. I was never close to my grandmothers second husband, Mr. Emmanuel Brokos. He was and remains an enigma. I am saddened that I was not there for his funeral. It would have been the least I could do for him, to say a few kind words.”



photo2. February
This month included a trip to Seattle and a visit with my partner in New Zealand wine, Juli Crompe. Also featured one of my favorite #WineMuse podcast shows. 



2015 Washington State Wine Awards Winners
This event is a wine industry oriented event. The people who attend are from wineries, restaurants, grocery stores, wine shops, distributors, importers, media and marketing. An interesting mix of professions and personalities I don't always mingle with. And I was eager to meet and mix. Also, I was looking forward to re-connecting with my fellow New Zealand wine blogger Juli of our wine blog, Kiwi Daydreaming. We started our New Zealand wine blog in 2012 because we are both huge fans of New Zealand wine.

* This event was canceled for 2016 as the organization is in the process of re-organizing.

Conversations with Friends, "My Favorite Wine" on the Wine Muse Podcast #winemuse plus a review of a'Maurice Cellars Syrah/Grenache
One of my favorite podcasts last year was the February show. Linda and I interviewed four of my wine friends, Tina Morey of Protocol Wine Studio, James Melendez of James the Wine Guy, Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Avril Yap-Hennig of Sacred Drop. As James and I summed up, “Peace through wine.”

February was a busy month with 12 posts and included a wonderful sensory class at Fidelitas winery.

Sensory Training with Enologist Hillary Sjolund @sonoriswines
This was a fun and instructive session. Hillary made the wine samples in the morning with little jars filled with inexpensive, low alcohol wine and ingredients purchased at the grocery store. An affordable way to make your own sensory kit at home. Helped to re-align my nose. We drank wonderful Fidelitas wines after too.

And I participated in another Wine Pairing Weekend for Valentines Day.

Recipe for Refueling Romance, Salmon Frittata and Michelle SparklingBrut Rose' #WinePW 9
A delicious post emphasizing how well the Michelle sparkling rose' works for brunch. Or any occasion mind you. A good post to read if you are looking to impress your loved one this Valentines Day. Recipe for the Frittata was easy to follow and included. Plus, there are two poems by Pablo Neruda.

     “I want
    To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
    ― Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair


photo3. March
I indulged in another Wine Pairing Weekend. This time I focused on ribs! I also wrote about my amazing, eye opening visit to Prosser Wine Country.



A Special Oregon Pinot Noir with Eastern North Carolina Inspired Ribs #OTBN #winePW 10
In honor of Open the Bottle Night #OTBN, I paired a special blend of Oregon Pinot Noir with Pork Loin Back Ribs with Eastern North Carolina Slaw. Phenomenal pairing. Recipe and photos included.

*Do not read if you are hungry.

An extra special post, the wine was courtesy of R.Stuart & Co. of McMinville, Oregon. After the 2012 Wine Blogger Conference in Oregon, along with several wine bloggers, I was invited to visit R. Stuart Co. at their McMinville winery. The group I was in created a custom Pinot Noir blend using R.Stuart Co. wine. It was delicious. The recipe I used for the ribs came from a book I was gifted after touring the Nomacorc facility in 2013. A comprehensive post encompassing multiple occasions and friends. It all came together.

Visit Prosser, Washington, Where The Story of Washington Wine Began @prosserwine
Discover the birthplace of Washington wine. With 35 wineries plus one distillery, Prosser is surrounded by vineyards, apple and cherry orchards, hops, mint and row crops. Prosser is within the Yakima Valley AVA, the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington State. It is also bordered by the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. You will discover Prosser wineries with vineyards in both Viticultural Areas. "Prosser is the living story of Washington wine." If you are planning on a visit to Washington wine country, then this is a must read.


photo4. April
I had lunch in Seattle with Arnaud Saget and featured a wine aerator product review.



Lunch with Arnaud Saget and the Wines of Saget La Perriere, Loire Valley, France
I relish writing about wine, especially when it allows me to meet the people who are behind the bottles of wine on store shelves. A bottle of wine means more to me after I know the history of the people making the wine. Matching a face to the label helps too. I had the opportunity to learn more about Saget La Perriere and their Loire Valley wines at a luncheon with Arnaud Saget. It was a true treat. I've reviewed many bottles of Saget La Perriere over the years and enjoyed Arnaud's company.

Product Review, VinoMax Triple Aeration Handheld Aerator and Pourer Aerator @VinomaxAerator
In April I reviewed two wine Aerators made by VinoMax. When I can't decant, I aerate. The VinoMax have become my favorite way to aerate wine and I use them when needed. Recommended.


5. May 
photoI became a fan of Turkish wine and visited Seattle for Taste Washington.


Wine of the Week an Engaging Red from Turkey - the Diren 2012 Öküzgözü @dimesbahcesi @VinoRaiWines
I'd like to thank Protocol Wine Studio for hosting the May 2015 #WineStudio session on Turkish wines. Protocol Wine Studio is all about wine education, thus a better understanding of our world via wine and our part in that world. Bravo. I'd also like to thank VinoRai Wines, Seattle, Washington, importer, for providing the sample Diren 2012 Öküzgözü wine.
At $15 this is a wine to find and share with friends.
Recommended/Strongly Recommended + Great Value + Wine of the Week.

Columbia Gorge AVA Diverse and Unique by Definition @gorgewine
During the weekend of Taste Washington I attended a seminar featuring wines made from grapes grown in the Columbia Gorge. While I was familiar with some of the wines and wineries in this AVA, at this seminar I was introduced to new to me winemakers, wineries and vineyards. The focus was on wine made from higher elevation vineyard sources in the Columbia Gorge AVA. Think sub-alpine and think gorgeous white wine varieties. The information I gleaned from this seminar was value-added and has been useful this year.

How do you Describe Washington Wine? Reflections on TasteWashington @TasteWashington
"There's a lot of Washington wine waiting to be experienced!...Prepare to be dazzled."
How do you describe Washington wine? How do you learn about Washington's wineries, winemakers and 13 AVA's? How do you do it all in four days? Taste Washington (Taste)! Appropriately, the tag-line for Taste Washington is “Drink – Eat – Learn.”

Visit Seattle did a wonderful job with Taste Washington. I was impressed. Attendance was strong at the Grand Tasting both days. Even though Taste Washington is the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event, flow to and from winery and restaurant booths was smooth and I never felt crowded or uncomfortable. Wineries pouring had only positive comments about the event. Bravo!

Taste Washington is about the wine. With 230 featured wineries and more than 800 different wines poured last year, Taste provided a unique opportunity to explore and discover Washington wine. I did not count all the wines I tasted, or how many I drank, but I re-counted my most memorable wine experiences. The greatest challenge to Taste is deciding which wineries and which wines to taste. Daunting if you go without a plan. Read and create your own plan.


photo6. The month of June 
Wrote about two Virginia Wineries, Trump and Early Mountain. Enjoyed tasting through Spanish wines plus a fun conversation with Beautiful Booze on the podcast. 


Tasting the Best of Virginia, Early Mountain Vineyards via #VAWinechat @earlymountain
Frank Morgan hosted the wine tasting with Early Mountain Vineyards' new Winemaker Ben Jordan and exiting Vineyard Manager and Winemaker Jonathan Hollerith. Ben Jordan is from Virginia and officially becomes the new winemaker this week. Jonathan Hollerith, who grew up in Virginia and the Virginia wine industry, is from a winemaking family. Virginia wine country should be on every wine enthusiast must visit list. It goes without saying that when you see a Virginia wine, you should buy it. These wines would be wonderful wines to show off and enjoy at your home.

An Introduction to Trump Winery and Wines - Monticello, Virginia @trumpwinery
For this tasting of featured Trump Wines from Monticello, Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler was our guide and Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like hosted the tasting. We did not discuss politics on this post, only wine. I was impressed by the four wines tasted and recommend them. I love a wine tasting that begins with sparkling wine.

In June I also wrote about Wines of Spain –

Focus on D.O. Cariñena – The Wines of Stone @VinosCarinena
My regular readers know how fond I am of Spanish wines and the reasons for my Spanish wine fixation. I'm happy to share with you a recent wine tasting experience exploring the growing region of D.O. Cariñena in Aragon, Spain. Protocol Wine Studio hosted this special tasting of six wonderful Spanish wines.

Cariñena is not as well known a growing region as regions to the north like Ribera del Duero and Rioja, nor is it as popular as Priorat and Toro. Which means you can find some wonderful value in Cariñena wines. If you enjoy food worthy red wine and rose' I recommend you seek out these wines.

Podcast - Wedding Wine and Cocktail Ideas with Special Guest Beautiful Booze
We welcomed Natalie Miglianni from Beautiful Booze to share her creative suggestions for serving wine and wine cocktails at weddings that will make your guests feel special.  They're easy, inexpensive, and you can make them ahead, but they still have the WOW factor.


photo7. The month of July 
My writing began slowing down for summer, but I still managed to review some New Zealand wines.


3 Fantastic Kim Crawford Wines Ameliorate Summer Heat, New Zealand @kimcrawfordwine
Kim Crawford Pinot Gris, Unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. In my part of the world Kim Crawford has become synonymous with quality New Zealand wine. After enjoying these three wines I can confirm it is a well deserved reputation.

Inspired by New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with Nobilo Wines
My New Zealand blogging partner, Juli Crompe of Kiwi Daydreaming, is a fan of Nobilo Wines Sauvignon Blanc. You will always see a case of Nobilo wines in her home. Juli shared about the Nobilo Regional collection, "...my wine of choice for any season, any day of the week."


photo8. August
My most passionate wine post of 2015 was in August.


Taste the Romance of Red Mountain at Hedges Family Estate @hedgeswine
In August, I enjoyed a wonderful three hour lunch at Hedges Family Estate Winery on Red Mountain with Christophe Hedges and Boo Walker. As we ate and savored the juice of Red Mountain, we discussed terroir, winemaking, wine culture and the art of wine.

"We agreed at almost the same moment that we are romantics. Each of us fixated, fascinated and seduced by wine. Romantics in love with the concept of and culture of wine country life. Hedges makes and sells wine while deriving pleasure from sharing the beauty of the terroir. The pleasant afternoon breeze, redolent of ripening fruit from the estate vineyard, calmed the spirit and encouraged gustatory enjoyment, from the bowl of vegetable bean soup, to the plated steak salad, the plum torte and the savory cheese plate, this was truly a wonderful and stimulating repast."


photo9. September 
This month brought change.


A Season of Change - September Update
My two year #WineMuse podcast relationship with Linda Rez of Minstrel and Muse/Blogtalk Radio came to end. Linda decided to go to Graduate school and had to stop the podcast. It was truly fun while it lasted. We interviewed many Washington winemakers and several winemakers around the world. Yes, I'd love to start up another wine podcast. Interested?

Also In September, I started pouring at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Washington. The Walter Clore Center is the culmination of a ten year effort to build a facility for telling the stories of Washington wine. This is a place where you are invited to experience a diversity of Washington wine and food products. A dynamic environment with an ever changing wine list.



10. October
My most detailed winery visit of the year. Wine 101 section added to the blog. 



A Visit with Dunham Cellars on the Eve of their 20th Anniversary, Walla Walla, Washington
There are good reasons to avoid tasting wine before beginning the interview. Namely emotions and objectivity. In this instance, wine would have clouded my ability to listen and ask the proper questions. As it was, it was a roller coaster of feelings, details and then delicious wines...after the winery tour.
"...it is easy to see what is close and accessible, as in the obvious wine in bottle and glass, for they are of unmistakable quality at Dunham Cellars, what is not always apparent are the people who took the risk to found the winery, those who are present, those who are missed, those who now labor in the vineyards and tonight in the cellar. All of these people are part of the details and perspective essential to the creation of truly wonderful wines. And Dunham Cellars wines are truly wonderful. I have learned that much and more."

Wine 101
In October, I was inspired by new customer interactions at the Clore Center. I decided to group my ongoing discussions about wine and my adventures in wine country into a section appropriately named “Wine 101”. This section is suitable for those beginning to explore wine and those who want to enhance their understanding of Washington state wine. Many of the links are to posts generated by wine customer interactions. Content to the section of Wine 101 will continue to evolve. Check back for my newest posts.


photo11. The month of November
8 posts and I became a fan of Sicilian wine. I also admitted to my autumn fixation with Chardonnay. Added another Wine 101 post “Instructions Not Included.”


Focus on Nero D' Avola the Grape of Sicilia and Two Sicilian Red Wines
Nero D’Avola is the signature wine of Sicily and it pairs well with local Sicilian cuisine. As I discovered at home, it also pairs well with a variety of American foods. Both of the Sicilian wines I reviewed were delicious on their own and with food. It was a pleasure to learn more about the wines of DOC Sicilia. Always fun to try wines different from the wines I frequently drink. I also want to visit Sicily.

6 Wines to Help you Fall for Washington Chardonnay
Displays of gold, orange and red leaves in the vineyards foretell cooler weather. Blankets of clouds, emergent, protectively hug the Horse Heaven Hills. As the progressively shorter days and longer nights nestle into fall, I crave Chardonnay. For me, Chardonnay is the wine of choice for this season.

Wine 101 - Instructions Not Included
Shared my thoughts about a conversations I had with a visitor to the Clore Center. When I pour wine for visitors, I will mention if I feel a wine is ready to drink now (Drink Me), should taste better if decanted or would benefit from more time in the bottle (Hold Me). Of course, last week one of my customers asked, "How do you know? There are no instructions included."



photo12. December
I wrapped up 2015 with reviews of several sparkling wines for the holidays as well as an end of year review of the 2014 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Schott Zwiesel Sauvignon Blanc wine glasses. 


3 Italian Sparklers - Valdo Prosecco Intimately Enjoyable
I have become a big fan of Prosecco. Especially Prosecco made by Valdo Spumanti in Italy. When you pop open a bottle of bubbles, life is good. As I've learned, good bubbles do not have to be expensive. Valdo Prosecco offers one of the best values in sparkling wine and they are widely available. Below I list three sparklers from Valdo Spumanti Srl. I have listed then in order of my preference. These wines are outstanding values, typically priced around $15 retail.

2 Sparklers from Crémant d'Alsace AOC à votre santé!
As promised, I have more wines to recommend for your seasonal celebratory gatherings. Today I am recommending two sparkling wines from France. They are not Champagne. They are Crémant d'Alsace made by the Albrecht family in Northeastern France.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Wine Gems by Anna New York by RabLabs
To my pleasure, I recently received a gift box with a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, two Schott Zwiesel Sauvignon Blanc wine glasses and six Wine Gems by RabLabs. I've included my tasting notes on the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and my thoughts on the wine glasses and Wine Gems. I always appreciate the gift of wine.

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You can keep tabs on my current wine reviews and experiences by following me on twitter and by visiting my facebook page. Comments are welcome. You are invited to visit Washington wine country.

Cheers!

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