By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Monday, February 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm   |   1 Comment »

Lately I’ve taken to sampling red wines from the Columbia Valley, about which, I confess, I am overly uninformed. I have looked them over on shelves in the big stores — Total Wine, Costco — the upscale stores — Whole Foods and the almost upscale Trader Joe’s — and in neighborhood retail stores. It’s been a good experience, because my lack of information allows me to approach these wines like most consumers — with interest, curiosity, and, yes, caution. I look at reviews in the Big Magazines and in travel guides. But still, until I have done total immersion, including a visit to a region, I am just as insecure in selecting samples within my budget as the average person who never writes about wine.

I have been twice to Walla Walla. Once as a teenager before either I or Western Washington knew of the rich wine potential of the region; and a decade ago on a time-constrained car trip which left only an overnight stop without a winery opportunity. These past few weeks, then, are for me like visiting Paris for the first time, exciting, whimsical, and being sure to touch as many bases as possible.

In the mixed case I brought home last weekend, were six Cabernets, three Merlots, a red blend, and two Rieslings. I wanted to see if a climate I think more suitable for white wines could really produce red wines normally associated with warmer climates. The short answer, of course, is they can and do. The Columbia River, like the Rhine, the Rhone, the Loire, and the Napa, does wonderful things to and for grapes.

I bought one of the Cabernets just because of the label. Yes, I do take labels seriously, but with the traditional grain of salt. Back labels are especially interesting, because, as a writer, I am curious to see how other writers are crafting their words, but I never forget they are writing with a favorable bias to the wonders within the bottle.

The science-lab label got my attention with a catch phrase: “What’s great in theory tastes better in reality.” The wine is Red Theory, a Cabernet from Walla Walla which is home to about 100 wineries. The 2012 Red Theory Cabernet, at about $12.00 convinced me that Cabernets in the Northwest are for real. Cabernet fruit, Napa-like finish, and an altogether pleasant drink. For those just starting to learn Cabernets, it is a perfect beginning. Though the catch phrase may not really make sense, the wine maker does. It’s a very good value wine.

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By Sue Shelden   |   Monday, February 23, 2015 at 12:11 pm   |   1 Comment »

last but one in a series of things; second to the last.
“the penultimate chapter of the book”
synonyms: next-to-last, second-to-last, second-last
Source: Google

Used in a sentence: “This is my penultimate wine blog.”Sue Shelden, Feburary 23, 2015

Yes, this is my 135th wine blog for, with one more to go. When Kathryn Gardiner first asked me if I would consider being a contributor to the wine blog, I was excited at the challenge of learning more about such a complex subject. I have had a blast studying the wide variety of wine related topics.

Some of my favorite areas of discussion? One has to be wine descriptors. From Cat pee to pencil shavings, I couldn’t understand why wine lovers would buy wines with descriptors such as these. However, in spite of the “petrol” descriptor for Riesling, I still find it to be a favorite, except for one Riesling I sampled that tasted like it came straight from the gas pump!

Other favorite blogs have been the wine pairings with topics like Halloween candy and Girl Scout cookies. After the Halloween blog was published, a friend called, barely able to speak from laughing so hard, to tell me how much she loved the blog.

I also enjoyed creating blogs based on current happenings, like the one on what Downton Abby would drink and any of the blogs where I shared recipes and entertaining ideas.

I am leaving the blog to spend more time traveling and less time worrying about schedules. You can be sure I’ll continue to further my wine studies, however! Until number 136–Adieu!

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

At dinner in an upscale Italian restaurant last week, I sampled for the first time to my knowledge a wine made of 100% Trebbiano grapes. This high volume, low alcohol, acidic grape is widely used in blends, even in red wines in Tuscany, such as Chianti. It is even a base wine for many brandies.

When tallied with its French namesake — Ugni Blanc, the grape of fine Cognac, the Trebbiano is believed to be the most widely planted wine grape in the world. In spite of its prolific service, I had never seen a wine labeled simply Trebbiano. The one on this restaurant’s wine list was from the Italian house of Martin Ulisse, which, I learned, is a specialist in this grape. The wine card made clear that this is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, the only area in Italy where the Trebbiano gets respect as a wine on its own.

This one deserves respect. Fresh and crisp, bright and thirst-quenching. I was told that it’s available only to restaurants, something I hope to investigate further.  It made me start remembering my travels in Italy, particularly in my first visits there in the 1950s. Without realizing it then, I drove through the Abruzzo Region, drinking what in those days,we called vin ordinaire. I found those wines uncommonly good. Perhaps, I think more than half a century later, some of those wines could very well have been Trebbianos.

Turns out, as I delve more deeply into Abruzzo, that that region’s Trebbiano may not be a true Trebbiano at all, but rather a variation known as Bombino Bianco. Alas, there is still much to learn; however, if I can run across a pure Trebbiano sometime, I’ll definitely give it another go, especially if it comes from the House of Martin Ulisse.

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