Filed under: Helix Wines, Reininger Wines, Uncategorized, Wine Club, Winery
It’s Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend! What is there to say that I haven’t said before about this fantastic event? Now that some of the hype has died down with this weekend (and Walla Walla only has so many hotel rooms and rental properties) it’s a great weekend for locals to come out and taste. Originally a weekend held in gratitude for close winery supporters, HBT has become a pretty big deal but with the other tasting weekends and many wineries opening tasting rooms on the west side of the Cascades, we have noticed a decrease in the amount of visitors and a gradual increase in locals throughout the years. We love our community no matter where they are from, but it is truly great to see locals reclaiming their territory in Walla Walla. As always, we are offering our Wine Club members complimentary tasting, and this weekend we are extending complimentary tastings to anyone from the Walla Walla area. Come join us this weekend for a great lineup of new releases, old favorites, house-made flatbreads, good company, and our open barrel of 2011 Pepperbridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cheers and happy holidays!
Terroir – this sense of somewhereness in wine – is imperative to Reininger’s style of wine making. Chuck’s love affair with geology is one of the reasons he became enthralled with wine making in the Walla Walla Valley and one of the reasons Reininger maintains its truly unique flavor profile. As I discussed in the last post, terroir is a difficult word to really define, but there are pieces that can be described to get a sense for the meaning. Here is a great scientific explanation of how the place affects the grapes which grow in it, from Wine Portfolio:
Some say that they can taste when a wine has a specific mineral in it, due to its high concentration in the soil. Botony, or the scientific study of plants, renders this argument rather moot, as, biologically; this is not how plants interact with their soils. A more progressive view takes the stance that terroir is not due to subsoil structure, but rather to drainage. Plant reproduction is based on the principle that if their environmental conditions are good, the plants will have vegetative growth. If the conditions are bad however, they will reproduce sexually, meaning the production of fruit. While this seems a little counterintuitive, viticulturalists aim to create an environment where they are harsh enough on their vines so that the production of fruit is emphasized, though not too restricting as to cause a mineral deficit, which would sabotage the ripening of the fruit. Restricting their environment causes the roots to grow deeper and more laterally in search of nutrients. The deeper the roots grow, the more constant their environment becomes with a reliable source of mineral and water supply. Having the deepest roots, this explains why old vines produce some of the best wine.
So what does terroir add to wine? Unlike honey, which can be controlled and gathered from bees visiting specific flower fields (lavender, chamomile, wildflower, etc.), wine does not pick up characteristics that directly. Terroir is, rather, the essence of place in any given year. Those fond memories of a warm day in Walla Walla sitting outside on the patio and enjoying the smells of fresh rain right before wheat harvest can be found in the bottle. The terroir can ad anything from minerality to a farmy quality to a subtle soil taste that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s the difference between a good, solid wine and a truly fantastic, very balanced, memorable wine.
Filed under: General, Helix Wines, Reininger Wines, Uncategorized, Wine Club, Winery
I will probably get in trouble for this post. Confidential winery information, Chuck’s secret lair, and even a glimpse of Chuck Reininger you have probably never seen before are all about to be revealed. If this is my last post and I disappear, look in the chicken coop behind the winery for my remains.
Reininger’s tasting notes garner a lot of attention by tasters, wine club members, and anyone who stumbles upon our website. As many of you may know, Chuck has a pretty dry sense of humor, so when he started writing them in 1997, he set the bar pretty high to find new and ever-more fantastical ways to describe our wines. For example:
“Deep Purple meets Victoria Beckham —smoke and spice. Smo-oak on the wi-ine… Draped in thin leather haute couture and perfumed with peppercorn and dried herb, this girl is smooth – yet rocks! Big fruit — fig, black raspberry, dark cherry. Big spice that, when opened awhile, evolves toward eucalyptus with micro-mint…” (2005 Reininger Carmenere)
Or, how about:
“Scruffy, bearded 007 in a tux; refined yet rustic. Appropriate for the most elegant cuisine (or it’s the tantalizing bad boy at a rowdy, spicy barbeque!) A stunningly bright, dark purple hue pronounces the vibrant beauty of its character. Well developed fruit that flexes blackberry and plum while rolling in the dirt with coffee and vanilla laced with just a hint of anise and white pepper. This gaucho has the palate weight and the firm, tight tannins to back it up.” (2006 Reininger Malbec)
Seriously. How do these come about? It may be unconventional, but I’ll take you through the process, at least as I have seen it happen.*
When we are about to release a new wine, Chuck takes a bottle and a glass back into his office and shuts the door. Pouring a small glass for himself, he lets the wine breathe for a few minutes while he responds to emails and, I suspect, reads US weekly online (how else would he know Victoria Beckham is wearing leather dresses all the time?). He picks up the glass and swirls the wine, looking for the legginess and color before tilting the glass to his face to take his first whiff. With a furrowed brow, he detects the unique aromas of the wine (is that leather? Smoke? A subtle hint of lavender?) and sniffs again. Chuck writes these down and pauses for a minute, recalling a moment in his life where these scents have been before. Perhaps it’s the beach, or a rainy day, or a memory of zipping between wheat fields on his bike, headed home to a Sunday night supper.
He lifts the glass again, this time to taste. Aerating the wine as it hits his palate, Chuck makes a slurping sound not unlike the sucker machine at the dentist. He smiles. The wine has grown up and now those delicious flavors are shining (red raspberries, summer strawberries, currant) and he swallows, allowing the taste of the wine to linger on his tongue and savoring those flavors on the finish (eucalyptus, coconut, vanilla, the ever-famous pencil lead and “farm”). As the taste dissipates, he evaluates the texture (silky smooth, tannic, soft). He writes again and chuckles slyly as the words “manly” and “gaucho” come to mind. “Oh yeah,” he thinks, “this is a wine that Daniel Craig/Pancho Villa/Gerry Lopez would love drink after assasinating/buying shoes/doing yoga in the mountains/a chateau/a helicopter!” The office gals receive these notes and shake our heads and smile as Chuck has done it again.
The tasting note is born.
*I cannot attest to how much of this information is true or fabrication of my creative mind.
Welcome to our first conversation with Chuck! As many of you know, Chuck Reininger is Reininger Winery’s Winemaker. He’s not easy to coax in front of the camera, but once you get him rolling, he’s full of fun information. In this video, Chuck answers the question many people discovering Reininger Winery ask. What is Reininger Winery best known for? Watch the video to find out.
If you have a question you would like Chuck to answer, leave us a comment below.
Washington is a Place for Wine
A month ago I met a wine blogger from California who said something like, “I’ve tasted Washington wines but never really understood them. I think it was because I was always tasting in the context of California, comparing and contrasting with California wine. But, here in Washington wine country, tasting Washington wines back to back in the context of Washington as a place….now I get it! Washington wineries make great and interesting wines that have a style and sense of place all their own.”
Walla Walla’s Identiy Crisis
Our winemaker, Chuck Reininger, participated in a panel discussion for the bloggers in town during the annual wine blogger’s conference. He related to the audience the following observation. Walla Walla has an identity crisis. He went on to explain that we grow and produce wines from grapes made famous in other places around the world. We produce wine from Bordeaux varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Malbec; Rhone varieties like Syrah, Cinsault, Movedre and Grenache; Italian varieties like Sangiovese, Nebiolo and Barbara. Walla Walla really does not have a signature variety that stands out as quintessentially Walla Walla. We are blessed that all these varieties grown in the Walla Walla Valley have qualities and characteristics consistent with world class wines. So, what is Walla Walla about?
The Walla Walla Valley is nestled against the Blue Mountains where rainfall soil profiles and macro climates vary substantially as one moves west away from the mountains. This variety in condition adds to our regions ability to grow numerous varieties. Given that we do so well with so many varienties, one may wonder, “What is it that makes Walla Walla a singular, world class place? Pondering the question, I asked Chuck, “What is it, that ties the valley’s vineyards and grapes together?” His answer, “Elegance. Wines made exclusively from Walla Walla grapes exhibit an old world character of minerality and earthiness when made with patience and traditional winemaking methods. Also, Merlot in our wonderful valley exhibits a streak of chocolate across all the Walla Walla vineyards. “ Chocolate is good.