Four wineries, four different experiences

With our niece from San Diego in town for Christmas it only made sense to hit a couple wineries in Woodenville last Friday. A great time, along with varied experiences.

the-library-woodinvilleFirst stop, Long Shadows, our daughter is a club member, and I think this was her first membership. Their concept is a bit different. They are a winery with a number of different wine makers. The founder, Allan Shoup, an icon in Washington wine and former CEO of the Chateau St. Michelle conglomerate, invited seven winemakers from around the world to contribute one label of wine using grapes from Washington. The results are wonderful, and tasting them is a showcase in winemaking.

But this article is about the wine room experience, and Jordan made it relaxing and personal. Alexis called in advance, as is common courtesy when you have a larger group tasting, we had six. When we arrived she started to introduce herself to Jordan, as soon as she told him that she worked at Torii Mor Winery, he immediately called her by name, turned and greeted all of us. Then he directed us to an area of overstuffed chairs and a couch. He knew we were coming from the voice mail Alexis had left and made us feel welcome. We sipped and chatted, and bought a few bottles.

Next stop, Goose Ridge, and though I have written here that Torii Mor was our first club, I now think it was Good Ridge. We ended the membership a few years ago because they did not have any club options with whites included, and they make some great whites. They too were warned in advance that our group was coming, yet what a difference. There was little or no greeting, they seemed surprised to see us. We found a place to sit, then waited. After some time one of us went to the counter and asked what we needed to do. The response was a confused, “We didn’t know what you wanted.” It really seemed like we were a bother. We did get one glass, but with little or no explanation of what we were drinking, and none of the enthusiasm for the wine that Jordan had shown. We did not complete the tasting, I offered to pay for them all, no complaining, just that it wasn’t working. Thankfully they did not charge anything, and we left; no inquiry as to why, no apology etc. I am disappointed that what was a positive memory from the past was tarnished; I trust it is not the norm and optimistically hope the next visit will be improved.

Airfield is next to Goose Ridge and always a fun place to visit. We had not planned on stopping there so they had no advance notice that we were coming. We went in and as usual it was a more lively atmosphere, a trademark of Airfield. Jim and Jim manage the room, they have for years, I asked them if we were okay coming with six, as I expected it was not a problem. We met Dave, not sure how long he has worked there, but new to us, he showed us a great time. We all bought wine and ended the tasting day on a high note.

The fourth tasting was on Sunday the 28th in Oregon. Tricia and I were there to visit some family missed at Christmas. We stopped at Ponzi, a long time favorite of ours, we sat in their beautiful tasting room, sipped Chardonnay with a plate of cheese and olives, watched people and savored the view. It was nice to wind-down after the hectic holidays, Katie was a pleasant server, the sun was out; this is what wine is all about.

Wine is more than a beverage, definitely not for getting high, it is an experience of the senses, and people. The tasting room experience is so important, thus I blog more on the whole event than just the liquid in the glass.

January is a slow time in the wine world, many tasting rooms limit hours. But this means less crowds, more personal attention for those who do venture out. So theWinesketcher’s advice is venture out in January, you will find it pushes the gloom of winter away, and the wineries will appreciate your visit and business.

Wine cellars for the rest of us

For centuries, wine cellars have been dark, windowless spaces with bottles stuffed into cubbies, more function than form. But that doesn’t suit a new generation, for whom wine collecting is as much a social hobby as an investment strategy.

For these collectors, the cellar needs to be a showpiece, maybe with single-paned glass, LED lights and clear sleeves that put labels on display. And befitting their elevated status, sometimes these spaces aren’t in the basement at all. “They’re not wine cellars anymore,” said Robert Bass, president of Greenville, S.C.-based Kessick Wine Cellars. “They’re wine rooms.”

So wrote Lisa Selin Davis in an article for The Wall Street Journal on October 16, 2014.

This is one of the cellars featured in her article, yet this is not what theWinesketcer’s cellar looks like. E2217045-1A9B-4B9F-BBD0-A54DCCD0F7DFOne contractor, quoted in the article, said his custom cellars start at $10,000; some were well into 6 figures, a bit beyond my budget, even if I did have a house with the square footage for such a wine cellar. OK, I will admit a bit of envy, they are beautiful. Thankfully you do not have to have an air-conditioned, custom designed wine museum to enjoy your wine to the fullest.

So what about the rest of us? There are many varietals of wine drinkers. Most wine is drank within a day or two of being purchased; no real need to think about how to store needed. Then there are those who like to accumulate wine. It could be a few bottles of a favorite label picked up on a visit to a winery, shipments from a wine club, or just the convenience of having wine on hand to pick from. Once the wine bug bites you will find that you buy an occasional bottle that deserves to be aged or at least saved for a special occasion.

Those who invest the big bucks to create these wonderful cellars have taken wine to a different level; wine becomes a collector’s item or an investment. They spend far more for bottles of wine than the other 80-90% of wine drinkers, and it justifies having a cellar that matches that investment. It is easy to see the attraction, but most of us can enjoy the pleasure of wine without the intensity. We may be “new generation” yet “function and form” may be just fine.

When you have more than a bottle or two to keep, a few simple concepts will serve your wine well. First, if you are going to drink it in the next 3 or 4 days you don’t have to be overly concerned, just away from heat and you will most likely be fine.

Secondly, know that most decorative wine racks are not great places to store wine for more than a day or two. The tops of refrigerators are frequently adorned with some wood or wrought-iron wine rack holding a half a dozen bottles. This is about as bad as it gets. It is too hot, probably too much light, and then there is the vibration of the refrigerator, which just irritates the wine, and it rebels by breaking down into an inferior beverage.

Furniture and kitchen designers make some beautiful wine cabinets and racks, the problem is, you will want to keep them on display, they are furniture. That means they will most likely be located in a part of the house that is too warm for wine to thrive.

Wherever your wine ends up being stored the important considerations:

  • Wine likes to be cool, not cold, but cool – so under 65F for most, and in the 50F’s for optimal. (Some argue 53-55F is the absolute best.)
  • Wine likes the dark – light and especially direct sunshine will ruin a bottle in a short time
  • Wine likes to sleep – so vibrations and frequent movement disturb the rest.
  • Wine hates dry corks – so except for screw tops, which are no sign of inferior wine, it should lay on its side, all the better for sleeping. Sparkling wines can be stored upright because the pressure keeps the humidity in the bottle high enough to keep the cork damp.

Basements, or closets in a spare room (that is not always heated) work great.

IMG_1144Here is a portion of my cellar; it is in a basement room, actually the whole double closet. The wooden racks, work well and are affordable, the wrought-iron rack is for bottles that are bigger in diameter. (There is also an experimental rose fermenting there from some grapes in our garden.)

Do you need a wine refrigerator? Maybe. My daughter lived in an apartment with no air-conditioning, it was hot in the summer, no place cool enough for happy wine. So she needed a small wine refrigerator. If you start to explore some higher end wines that you plan to keep longer, or are just worth extra protection, then a wine refrigerator for those makes good sense.

Wine responds to just a bit of care by giving us great enjoyment. Set up your own cellar, whether 10 bottles or a 100, then when the urge for a bit of cheese and a glass of wine hits, you are ready.