New Labeling Requirements?

The Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Tax Bureau (TTB) has been mulling over an issue for a few years now that could have significant impact on the wine industry. The proposal is driven by a number of consumer groups and would require nutritional labels on alcohol beverages, including, of course -- wine. This proposal has been in public comment period since spring of 2005 and will more than likely come to resolution soon, and my gut is telling me that the decision will be on the side of nutritional labels.

I don't know about you, but I don't really care how many calories are in a glass / bottle / magnum of wine. It wouldn't bother me if it were on the label either, but a number of smaller wineries have objections to the proposal due to the impact on their business. Not only would it require a redesign of labels, but at a cost of $250 per release for testing, it could be costly for wineries with small production and distribution.

Keep your eye on this one, and if you are a geek like me and want more information on the proposed changes, check out, Docket ID: TTB-2007-0062.

Apex (II) Cellars 2004 Late Harvest Semillon

*Drew made a post about this wine on August 31st that I didn't realize until after I made this post. His thoughts and my thoughts are similar, yet different, check them out.

The Thanksgiving Holiday is behind us here at The Oregon Wine Blog, and as most of us work in Educational settings, the end of the Fall Term is also here. As my institution prepares to head into the home stretch after a short interlude, I decided I needed to open a new bottle of wine to end my 4 day "break." Tonight, I broke open a bottle from one of my shipments from Willamette Valley wine club.

This evening it is an Apex Cellars II 2004 Late Harvest Semillon. Apex Cellars is in the Yakima Valley of South-Central Washington State. It is both a vineyard and type of wine (Semillon) that are foreign to me, so I had to do some research on it. You will notice the "II" after "Apex", and the website reads, "Our goal with Apex II is to offer you an exceptional value—wines that are almost as impressive as Apex, but cost considerably less. Apex II wines are perfect for everyday enjoyment." This statement could lead someone to believe that the glass of wine I am about to enjoy may not be as good as a Late Harvest Semillon from Apex (or any wines from the "II" label for that matter). Let's not kid ourselves - the "Apex II" label is for those grapes not good enough to make the "Apex" label.

The Semillon is a grape that has a golden-skin and is used most frequently in making dry, sweet wines. Worldwide, it has been grown mostly in France, Australia/New Zealand, Chile, and South Africa. The tasting notes for this particular wine are, again as per the website, "Succulently sweet with opulent flavors of honey, apricots, and pears, this charming wine displays an unusually seductive floral scent, especially of honeysuckle. The luscious sweetness is balanced by refreshing acidity."

I have to admit that I was very excited about this wine, initially. It had been literally staring are me for about 10 days on my counter. So this evening I caved and opened the golden-copper seal and it's black plastic cork - I was like a Christmas...ugh (those of you who know me, know what that means). I was delighted by the this wonderful nose - very sweet citrus and a light alcohol combination hit you initially, not in a bad way.

There is a fairly decent coat on the glass when swirled, yet still less than I would have thought for a Late Harvest (with 9.5 % alcohol by volume). Then it came time for the taste...and I have to admit that I was less then impressed. It doesn't have an overly sweet taste that you would expect from a Late Harvest, but there was something about this wine that I didn't find very appealing. For my palate, I can actually taste the alcohol, which I find to be pretty rare. For me, the taste is this combination of lightly citric beverage that has a lingering alcohol "flavor"/aftertaste. I continue sipping and am wondering if I am missing something, but I can honestly say I don't think I am.

This is definitely a drier wine, but there is this odd something that lingers in the mouth that reminds you that you have/are consuming alcohol in a way that I have rarely experienced with other wines. So overall, I would just have to say this wine isn't a good one, but I would be interested in hearing what others' thoughts are.

2006 Sweet Cheeks Esate Pinot Gris

Sometimes decisions made on a whim yield surprising results! In this case, the result was an award-winning Pinot Gris to go along with the previously reviewed Riesling from Sweet Cheeks Winery in Crow, Oregon.

As with many Gris's, citrus notes dominate the nose and palette of this specimen. However, it is the combination of citrus, melon, acidity, and a hint of fig that define this wine from others of the same varietal. The finish is clean and refreshing with a citrus-mineral linger.

My first paring with this lovely wine was a artichoke jalapeno spread served prior to Thanksgiving-a very good combo. This wine was also used to make the sausage dressing for the same occasion, and then paired with a crab salad. Both outstanding.

Overall, this wine is a solid choice at $15. Below I have noted some of the awards earned by this white gem.


Best Pick Riesling for Oregon Wine Press
Winner 2007 Oyster Wine Competition
Gold Medal Winner West Coast Wine competition
Gold Medal Winner Northwest Wine Summit
Gold Medal Winner Astoria Wine competition
Oregon Press Pinot Gris Best Pick

Wawawai Canyon Winery

A couple of weeks ago, on a trip to Eastern Washington, I stopped by the tasting room for a new winery near Pullman. While the tasting room is located only a mile to the west of the Idaho border, they have an estate vineyard in the Wawawai Canyon and source the rest of their grapes from the Wahluke slopes. With a current production of 400 - 600 cases, they are small--too small to distribute. The majority of sales are through the tasting room, although you can get a few of their wines in smaller local restaurants.

After tasting a few whites, my friend Rick (of the Beer Blog fame) and I moved on to a Pinot Noir. I was quite skeptical about a Washington Pinot, especially from the high-heat Wahluke slopes. I was right--it was different from any Pinot I have ever had, and I must say that I'm not a fan. Now, once we moved on to the Cab and Syrah, those were a different story. Exhibiting the traditional characteristics that the Columbia Valley is known for, I walked away with a bottle of Syrah that I'm looking forward to cracking open.

Next time you are in the Palouse, stop by Wawawai Canyon on the Moscow-Pullman Highway. You'll find the staff friendly, the tasting room pleasant, and the bigger reds delicious.

2006 Sokol Blosser Muller Thurgau Estate Cuvee

Considering the recent weather here in the great Northwest, gray and chilly, I needed a reminder of sunny skies and warm weather. What better than a opening a bottle of white obtained from the Dundee Hills during Memorial Day Weekend?

The bottle in question was Muller Thurgau Estate Cuvee from Sokol Blosser. This wine has a beautiful straw color and coats the glass wonderfully. After a thorough chilling, the nose on this bottle was not, at first, noteworthy... As the solution warmed, apple, pear, and mineral notes intensified greatly! After thirty minutes in the glass, just a hint of caramel and vanilla tingle the palette. Note to self, slightly chill this Muller, then turn it loose to breathe!

Like many Rieslings, this varietal has a fruity flavor up front, but finishes clean, smooth, and with a slight mineral linger. Yep, I remember that cool spring day at Sokol Blosser.

This wine was paired with a Gruyere cheese fondue and sun-dried tomato chicken sausage. Fabulous. Definately something that I will pick up again on my next diversion North. Oops, too late, this vintage is already sold out!

Bottoms Up!

Block 15

Tonight the staff of The Oregon Wine Blog got a hard-hat tour of Block 15 -- a new brewpub that will be opening here in Corvallis, OR. Block 15 is located at Third and Jefferson, the location of the original "block 15" of Marysville, before Corvallis was Corvallis. That site was former home to Endzone, Headliners, the Gazette-Times, and the fire department.

We're excited about the opening in January or February. Not only will Block 15 have a wide selection of their own beer and a great, local food menu--but also a nice Oregon/Washington wine list. In fact, Drew and I are working on their wine you know it will have a few gems in it. Most importantly, Block 15 espouses the values that we believe in here. Unique, local product...sustainability...a nice atmosphere...and culinary delights. What more can you ask for?

Stay tuned at The Oregon Wine Blog for details on the grand opening celebration!

11/19/07 UPDATE:

Yesterday I had the pleasure of tasting some menu items the chef was testing for Block 15. Of note was the QUITE delicious Southwest Salad. I recommend highly when they open:

Southwest Salad

Romaine tossed in a spicy tomato ranch and topped with grilled Chicken, black beans, roasted sweet corn, jack cheese, red onion. Garnished with blue corn chips and cilantro.

Sweet Cheeks 2006 Estate Riesling

Sweet Cheeks Winery is located in Crow, Oregon, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley and is about 10 miles away from our new home in Veneta. Although Steve and I haven't been out to the winery yet (too much painting and garage door installing to do!), I've been eyeing the Sweet Cheeks wines at the local Bi-Mart. The labels intrigued me - the focal point of the label is a black crow, whose eyes were metallic and seemed to follow me as I walked by. It struck me as strangely dark, a little sinister, and made me intensly curious what sort of wine I would find inside.

We brought home today a bottle of the Sweet Cheeks 2006 Estate Riesling. It's outstanding. Just outstanding. It's the perfect Riesling, sweet melon and citrus fruit all the way through, no minerally bite at the finish, and leaning just toward dry. It's sweet but not overly so, it's crisp but not bitey. It reminds me of summer as the chilly fog surrounds the house. I have not been so impressed with a Riesling since I first tasted the Willamette Valley Vinyards version.

Drinking the 2006 Estate Riesling tonight has me greatly anticipating visiting Sweet Cheeks Winery and tasting what else they have to offer. If it's anything like this wine, it's sure to be a treat. I'm also looking foward to seeing what inspired the naming of the winery - the two rolling hills that come together to form distinctive "cheeks." A winery that creates such a wonderful wine and has fun while doing it? It's got my vote.