Filed under: General, Helix Wines, Reininger Wines, Wine Club
Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Before I head out to enjoy some hotdogs and brews with friends (I could lie and pretend I have something classier planned, but I won’t), I thought I would share a bit about a fantastic and oft-overlooked wine that deserves a bit of attention now that summer has officially begun…the 2009 Helix Rosé! Trust me, if I had a bottle or two available to me today, this is what I would be drinking FOR SURE.
If you like your wines cheap, sweet, and pink, please keep drinking your favorite gallon-jug wine for $7.99. If you like your wines full-bodied, fruity, tart, complex and refreshing (ok, and they are pink, too), then welcome to the 2009 Helix Rosé (and many other Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley small-production Rosés). Rosé, as many of you probably know from a rudimentary study of any romantic language, translates to “pink”. The roots of Rosé can be traced back to ancient Greece, when much of the red wine produced was pale red; wine was not left to macerate for as long as it does today and, thus, never became fully red. Eventually the Romans popularized darker red wines in Europe around the mid 100s B.C., but Rosé remained popular in parts of France — most notably the Provence region — and the surrounding Mediterranean.
By the mid 1970′s, the popularity and demand for white wine in California exceeded the availability of white grapes. California producers, ever pandering to the market, resorted to making white-ish wine from red grapes via the saignee method (the removal of the juice from the must-a.k.a freshly pressed grape juice-to be fermented separately from the remainder of the red wine). The first American Rosés weren’t necessarily sweet, but after the unexpected success of a batch of semi-sweet Rosé released by Sutter Home – the result of over-fermentation – the category of “blush” wines was born. These inexpensive “pink and sweet” wines became incredibly popular, eventually breeding a generation’s worth of negative connotations for Rosé. Today, with much more attune winemakers and educated palates, Walla Walla Valley Rosés are, in my opinion, phenomenal.
Like many wines, Rosé has gone through both wildly popular and tragically unpopular phases throughout its modern history, but is making a strong comeback in Walla Walla wineries as a fantastic late spring and summer, sunshine-filled, porch sittin’, grilled-food eating wine. Our 2009 Helix Rosé is a blend of Sangiovese, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been fermented in stainless steel to let those fruit-forward flavors shine. Our National Sales guy, Justin, says, “this delicious blend showcases aromas of grapefruit, watermelon and red berries. This is a full blown Rosé, with loads of tartness and a big, round mouthfeel. Strawberry and cherry flavors ignite your palate causing sensory overload that will make you want to drink the whole bottle!” I love it because it is a great alternative to white and often showcases more of those amazing strawberry and fresh, fruity flavors than white.
Have a great day, everyone, and enjoy the sunshine!
Filed under: General, Recipe, Reininger Wines, Uncategorized, Wine Club, Winery
Being from Walla Walla, it’s hard to escape what I consider a part of my roots – delicious, homemade Mexican food. The closest “restaurant” to Reininger is a bait and tackle shop called the Worm Ranch which, unlikely as it sounds, also has some of the best hand-made Mexican food in the Walla Walla Valley tucked inside. It’s not uncommon to find us munching on camarones a la diabla, arroz con pollo, or a couple of amazingly fresh and beautiful fish tacos (all with hand-pressed tortillas!) on any given day at work. This is the food that all native Walla Wallans know by heart, whether they were born into it or were lucky enough to be adopted into a friend’s family for dinner every so often. Partly in honor of the release of the 2008 Mr. Owl’s Red, and partly because we have been pretty overwhelmed by chocolate talk recently, I wanted to share this, one of my favorite and signature repertoire recipes, with you.
Adapted, ever so slightly, from Bon Appetit (though it was pretty darn perfect to begin with)
3 tablespoons (or more) peanut oil (preferably unrefined), divided
5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups orange juice
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 large garlic cloves, sliced
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
4 ounces dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
2 tbsp brown sugar
Orange peel from one medium-sized orange
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped (if unavailable, I have used bittersweet chocolate and a tiny pinch of cinnamon in its place to great success)
Chopped fresh cilantro
1 small chunk of cotija cheese, crumbled (for a little salty bite)
Return chicken and any juices to pot. Add broth and orange juice; bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sautéuntil nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and stir until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture (reserve pot). Add raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Return chicken to pan and coat with sauce. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before serving.
While the chicken is simmering in its delicious mole bath, grill corn tortillas with a tiny bit of neutral (peanut, canola, etc.) oil in a nonstick skillet or grill pan, allowing about 20-30 seconds for each side of each tortilla. Keep warm in foil until all tortillas are heated.
Transfer chicken mole to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro and cotija and serve with warm tortillas.
Filed under: Events, General, Helix Wines, Reininger Wines, Wine Club, Winery
LOVE wine? Check. Love chocolate? Double check. Love wine and chocolate together? Well that’s a whole new sticky (but decadent) subject to talk about. Pairing a Walla Walla Valley or Columbia Valley wine to a high quality chocolate can be a little tricky as both are intense, complex, and rich.
Reininger hosted our very first Red Wine Club Seattle pickup party at Theo Chocolates in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle in April, which was such a success that we had to host another one in May to accommodate our Seattle members. While it was a blast to see everyone and introduce some new wines to our club members, of course stuffing our faces with Theo’s amazing chocolates was really the highlight of the night. Through our tour with Molly, a seasoned veteran when it comes to eating chocolate and official tour guide for Theo, we learned what to look for in a chocolate to pair well with a Columbia or Walla Walla Valley wine of Reininger’s strong character.
Chocolate, like a great Washington red wine, has very intense flavors. It is, of course, chocolatey, but it’s also features characteristics that are similar to how we look at wine. Just like when taste our wines at Reininger to determine when they are ready to be released, chocolate has elements of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, and fruitiness. These distinctive qualities mean that you need to have a wine (especially if it is a dry red wine as opposed to a sweet dessert wine) that shows the same level of intensity in order to pair well. Look to your favorite fruity and bold wines, like the Reininger Merlot and Helix Syrah, to match a fantastic bar of 70% and above dark chocolate. The cocoa butter is able to mellow out some of the tannins and acidity from a big wine, while the cocoa solids linger on your tongue and blend with the lush fruit notes to create a magic taste explosion. We particularly like the Theo single origin 91% Costa Rica bar, the Theo 70% dark bar, and the Theo Cherry and Almond bar with 70% dark chocolate when paired with our features of the night, the 2004 Reininger Columbia Valley Anomaly and 2007 Reininger Walla Walla Valley Carmenere.
Up next, we delve a bit deeper into one of Chuck’s favorite topics, terroir, with wine and chocolate!
Washington State, particularly in the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley, puts out some of the best red blends on the market. There’s no doubt that a great red blend goes down easily and combines well with foods. The idea is that the best aspects of each fruit are brought forward, playing together harmoniously and pulled together by the appropriate amount of oak and bottle aging. Winemaking as a true art form reaches its potential when the skilled and free hand of the winemaker is allowed to blend multiple varietals each vintage, whether that is to round out a varietal wine or to create a more encompassing blend. Vintages vary widely from year to year in Washington, and blending allows the winemaker to coax the best qualities from each harvest by varying the combination and amount of each varietal to balance the flavors, structure, and acid in each wine.
Washington State wineries, including Walla Walla Valley’s own Reininger, got their start emphasizing single varietal wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carmenere, etc. Over the past several years, however, you might have noticed that many Walla Walla and Columbia Valley wine growers and producers are putting out an increased variety of blended, high-end, older vintage wines that are anything but the mutt mix that so many red table wines of the past used to be. Reininger Winery in itself has introduced several high-end blends to our lineup since 1999, including the Super Tuscan-style (and ever popular) Cima, the Bordeaux power houses 2004 Anomaly and 2003 Desiderata, and the Southern Rhone-style Helix SoRho. These blends have allowed Chuck to balance the structure, flavors, and acidity of the fruit that grows best in our region, combining together for overall complex and interesting wines.
One of our favorite blends that we produce at Reininger is the Mr. Owl’s Red. Started in 2002, the Reininger Mr. Owl’s Red blend was named in honor of our Cellar Master, Raul, after Chuck’s young children had trouble pronouncing his name. Thus, Mr. Owl was born and the blend that followed is always lighthearted in spirit, but seriously manly (just like Raul). A blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Sangiovese, the 2008 cannot be defined for its region of origin. This year for our release of the 2008 Reininger Mr. Owl’s Red, the Reininger and Tucker families have decided to donate $5 of every $30 bottle of Mr. Owl’s Red to the Yakima Farm Worker’s Clinic, to help families travel together to reach specialized medical care in Spokane and Seattle. Since its release on May 5, we-and everyone who has bought a bottle-have raised more than $600 for donation! This promotion only lasts until the end of June, so if Mr. Owl’s Red blend is something that intrigues you, please buy a bottle or two to help a family in need. If you only try one blend, make it the Mr. Owl’s Red not only because it is totally delicious, but at it’s affordable price point and charitable heart, it’s one feel-good wine.
Taste! It’s no surprise that most folks in the wine industry are a little unnaturally obsessed with food and we at Reininger Winery are absolutely not an exception. We get excited about it all, from party planning for our wine club to having after work bbq’s on the crush pad or just looking forward to leftovers eaten at our desks in the office. This enthusiasm has led to many, many hours spent looking for recipes for various wine pairings. Since we are focusing a bit on Walla Walla Valley Merlot and all of its deliciousness, I’ll share a few of our tips for pairing this rich and velvety varietal with some great foods.
- Walla Walla Valley Merlots – especially Reininger – trend towards soft, lush, and smooth with juicy red fruits (think raspberry and currant) and earth, making them perfect for a meal that is too delicate for bigger reds such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Consider the intensity of the Merlot you’re planning to drink and match your meal to that. Merlot definitely has a range depending on the winemaker and style, so one could be fantastic with grilled ribeye but overpower spring lamb chops.
- Pork, salmon, bacon, mushrooms, grilled veggies, savory greens like swiss chard, and bitter foods such as radicchio and olives pair beautifully with a Merlot from a Walla Walla Valley winery.
- When looking for recipes, consider going to the roots. Merlot is a Bordeaux grape, so natural pairings will come from that region (Perigord truffles and duck, anyone?)…et voilá!
- Don’t forget that there are fantastic non-meat foods to pair with Merlot. Mushrooms and blue cheese are two excellent and super flavorful matches for Walla Walla Merlot (and would make an excellent tart when paired together).
- Complicated doesn’t always equal awesome. Keep it simple to let the ingredients speak.
- Don’t get too wrapped up in it. It’s hard to go wrong when you buy good ingredients and prepare them lovingly, then serve them with a fantastic wine.
Next post: a perfect recipe to pair with a fantastic classic Walla Walla Valley Merlot!
After reading our 2007 Reininger Malbec tasting note and our general Malbec flavor profile, you know that this varietal is deep and dark in all the right ways. Malbec is often referred to as inky, purple and brooding- but have you ever heard of it described as “black wine?” If you haven’t heard of black wine, that’s probably because “Côt Noir” is hardly ever found here in the United States. Feel free to pause, pour yourself a glass of Malbec (in the name of research, of course) and enjoy this mini wine history lesson.
The Origins of Black Wine
Wine has been produced in the Cahors region since the Ancient Roman times, at least as far back as 50 bc, and has gone down in the history books as the wine of choice for many of greatest rulers. Côt Noir, or “the black wine of Lot” (Lot is the Continue reading “Cahors Broodingly Black Wine and the 2007 Reininger Malbec” »
Given the response we got on our post about how the movie Sideways was wrong about Merlot, we’d have to say you all agree. Merlot fans are coming back out of the woodwork and letting their Merlot flag fly! Merlot has always been a special variety for wine lovers. Historically, it has been one of the great prides of Bordeaux. The easy drinkability of Merlot made it a natural choice for viewers of the 60 Minutes French Paradox report looking to add more red wine into their lives. Merlot fell from favor about 5 years ago and this decline is due to what has been deemed “the Sideways Effect” as well as the saturation of mediocre Merlots in the market. Today, wines such as the 2007 Reininger Merlot are restoring the reputation of this varietal as a sophisticated and delicious wine. But please, don’t take our word for how fantastic Reininger Merlots are, our customer reviews are the true mark of our success! We love nothing more than to demonstrate to sworn Merlot haters how fantastic Merlots should be.
Customer Reviews of Reininger Merlots
“The Reason I joined your wine club was that I actually loved your Merlot. And I detest Merlot.” Nickie Alexander
Merlot was the red wine darling of America for a number of years. Remember how we talked about the Merlot boom after the French Paradox was explained on 60 minutes? People started drinking more red wine after they learned certain properties were good for their heart. Many people reached for Merlot due to it’s smooth drinkability. After reading the 2007 Reininger Merlot tasting note, it’s easy to see why a large variety of people would be attracted to the varietal. Then the pendulum of Merlot popularity started to swing back down. Merlot started to fall out of favor as the “it” wine and was eclipsed by Pinot Noir. Though the decrease was certainly due to a convergence of factors (including the over saturation of mediocre California Merlots), many people attribute it to the movie Sideways.
The Sideways Effect
The movie Sideways came out in 2004 and quickly gained critical acclaim. To give you a brief refresher, the movie is about two guys going on a tour of Continue reading “2007 Reininger Merlot Puts a New Slant on Sideways” »
It is definitively Fall today in the Walla Walla Valley. The geese have flown south, the school busses have reappeared, the weather has turned and Summer has ended. Our heart goes out to all you grill lovers. We want to soften the blow for you by sharing a fantastic lamb chop recipe that you can cook indoors. However, if you are one of the brave, the few, die-hard all-season grillers, you absolutely can toss this on the bbq if you feel the urge to bust out the rain-gear.
2007 Reininger Merlot Recipe Pairing
This recipe is absolute perfection when paired with the 2007 Reininger Merlot (link to flavor note). While white wines like the 2010 Helix Chardonnay are too tropical to stand up to the hearty flavors of lamb, Merlot is a fantastic pairing. The the earthiness of the meat is best with a wine which also has a subtle leafy-earthiness, like the Merlot. Furthermore, the tannins in the Merlot cut through the richness/fat of the lamb. Order a bottle of 2007 Reininger Merlot and try out this winning recipe soon. (While you have the bottle of 2007 Reininger Merlot open, don’t forget to whip up a batch of the Chocolate Dream Cookies that highlight the cocoa flavors in our Merlot.)
Rosemary Garlic Lamb chop Recipe
Adapted from Paula Deen’s show
Pair with Reininger 2007 Merlot
2 lb. lamb rib chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tsp. freshly chopped garlic
Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. In a large bowl stir together the oil, rosemary, and garlic. Add lamb chops, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours to let flavors marinate.
Prepare grill to medium heat or oven to broil.
Broil or grill chops to desired doneness. About 6 min for rare, 7 min for medium-rare. Turn chops so they brown well on both sides.
Part of the reason we at Reininger love Merlot, is that we are in the perfect place to grow it. The Walla Walla Valley is an amazing location for growing Merlot grapes, and we’ll tell you why. As a disclaimer, we are obviously biased, but we don’t like to spend a lot of time bashing California wine. It’s not our style, and they make some amazing wines down there. That being said, California’s climate is just not ideal for growing Merlot, and we’ll explain that to you to in as neutral a voice as we can manage. This lesson on the 2007 Reininger Merlot is all about location.
The plump, lush fruitiness of Merlot helps explain its popularity and subsequent frequent planting. Although Merlot is one of the most planted red varietals in the world, we maintain that all terroirs are not created equal. The terroir of the Walla Walla valley is wonderfully suited to creating lush, deep Merlots. As of 2007, Merlot was the second most planted grape in the Walla Walla AVA (What’s an AVA? Catch up here), making up 26% of all grapes planted. Merlot showed an affinity for the Walla Walla Valley growing conditions early on, attracting critical acclaim and notice. Wine writer Leslie Sbrocco proclaims the union of Merlot and Washington State to be “a marriage made in heaven”. The long sunny days and cool nights lend Washington Merlot grapes the necessary time to gradually develop complexity and ripeness without sacrificing acidity. The sunny basin of the Columbia Valley created well-structured, ripe flavored, fruity Merlots.
The Walla Walla Valley in particular is a prime spot within the Columbia Valley. Sbrocco praises Walla Walla Merlot’s as being “intense, voluptuous and velvety… as Pomerol-like as you can get outside France”. Washington Merlots tend to differ from California Merlots based upon bright fruit flavors and relatively crisp acidity.
California does produce some good Merlots, but their growing climates are just not as well suited and therefore do not have the same potential as Walla Walla or Bordeaux. California’s Merlot plantings were largely a result of the frenetic trendiness of Merlot in the 1990′s, which we talked about here, rather than a well inclined terroir. Many wine scholars question the suitability of Merlot to California, especially due to the warmth of the soil, citing numerous examples of bland wines that damage the varietal’s reputation in general. The quality of California Merlot’s suffered greatly in the late 1990′s when demand for the varietal radically outstripped the supply, tempting many growers to use wine making techniques to stretch their yields in less than optimal ways. To be fair, some very skilled growers are coaxing out fantastic California Merlots, namely from Napa’s Stags Leap District, the Russian River Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley. These good quality California Merlot’s are typically blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon in order to soften the tannins.
The 2007 Reininger Merlot is a shining example of the best Walla Walla has to offer. Order some here today to see what the buzz is all about!