Filed under: General, Helix Wines, Reininger Wines, Uncategorized, Wine Club
One trend worth following is the single origin chocolate bar. As with wine, a single origin chocolate comes from a single place, and in some cases, a single estate. Also like wine, it is a fantastic way to showcase the terroir of the region and how it affects the flavor. We have done single vineyard wines many times at Reininger; the Reininger Walla Walla Valley Ash Hollow Syrah, the Helix Columbia Valley Stillwater Creek Merlot, and the blend, Helix Columbia Valley Stone Tree SoRho. The flavor profile of chocolate will vary tremendously depending on where the cacao, or chocolate bean, is grown. Terroir refers to the characteristics of the region in which something is grown. The Walla Walla Valley AVA has a distinct terroir from the greater Columbia Valley AVA, though soil is only one factor (albeit a major one). Terroir also includes the air, minerals, humidity, sun, fog, flowers, plants, and animals. Each of these elements affects the taste of the fruit, whether it is the cacao bean or Walla Walla wine grapes. Fruit which is subjected to consistently high temperatures and low rainfall will have a very different character than those grown in a cooler climates where fog keeps the fruit from ripening too quickly. There are even microclimates within the terroir, meaning that winemakers and chocolatiers may treat each sub-plot or vineyard differently due to the traits it highlights.
To be clear, we are discussing pure cacao here…not the type of chocolate you might find in, say, a Reese’s. Trust me, I love a good PB cup every so often, but it’s completely different than the kind of chocolate you will find in a bar of Theo, Dagoba, etc. A bag of wine slung over your shoulder probably goes really well with a frozen pizza, but you probably don’t expect it to have many of the same complexities as a finely crafted Walla Walla Valley Malbec or go as well with that steak with chimichurri sauce that you spent two days creating. When tasting a great chocolate, treat it like tasting great wine. Take note of the texture; is it silky smooth? What does the grain feel like? Allow a small chunk to melt on your tongue and move it around your mouth to hit every taste bud then exhale through your nose to experience the aroma. Is it fruity or earthy? Is it flowery? Wait for the finish and pick out the nuanced flavors that you can only taste after swallowing.
This sounds pretty familiar, right? These steps are the same for tasting great wine or, really, anything worth truly savoring. There are great aroma wheels for both chocolate and wine available online. Here are two good ones, just in case you decide to get really into this or even host a party. There may be no going back after you take the time to taste the chocolate!
Wine Aroma Wheel (if you recently upgraded your wine club, you already have one of these on hand):
Next time on the Reininger Winery Blog : a fantastic recipe to feature both wine AND chocolate, perfect for a decadent evening with friends or a week’s worth of amazing lunches at your desk!
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.
These days, it’s hard to find any product that doesn’t claim to somehow benefit the environment. “Greenwashing” has become such an abundant marketing and PR move which fortunately hasn’t (yet) hit the wine industry in quite the profuse way as other products, but has nonetheless affected our business. We, along with select other Walla Walla Valley wineries, have always maintained a high level of social and environmental responsibility. At Reininger, we have believe that to create the best possible wine we must use the highest quality fruit and treat it with the most respect to ensure that no part of the fruit is unnecessarily wasted. We strive to create the best wines possible using the best Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley fruit while utilizing modified traditional practices that impact the environment in the least possible way. Though there are many squabbles in the office about the thermostat setting in the winter, which has led to a vast wardrobe of sweaters and coats, here are a few more significant ways Reininger Winery practices what we preach:
- Exclusively use recycled glass bottles for both the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley varietals, manufactured by an environmentally responsible company, which we highly recommend (http://www.saint-gobain-northamerica.com/about/Sustainability.asp)
- Reduce the need for mechanical cooling by using specially sized and spaced fermentation bins that allow the natural heat from the fermentation process to dissipate without additional refrigeration
- Source fruit from sustainable and Certified Salmon Safe vineyards where possible (fruit from Pepper Bridge Vineyard, Seven Hills Vineyard, and Stillwater Creek Vineyard go into our Walla Walla and Columbia Valley Syrah, Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot varietals)
- Use harvest waste – pomace (the skins and seeds from those beautiful little grapes) – as compost and mulch in our winery landscaping and gardens. The added bonus is seeing slightly intoxicated deer wandering around the fields during the month following harvest.
- Let the abundant and beautiful natural Walla Walla sunshine in to light the winery via skylights and double paned windows so Chuck, Raul, and Felix can work and get some of those feel-good rays during the work day.
In storage and the tasting room:
- Selectively use nighttime cooling fans to capture our arid climate’s chilly night air instead of running them all day
- Those beautiful wide-plank wood floors? Yup…those were the the siding of the original buildings. Our amazing tasting room and production areas were actually two reclaimed potato storage sheds, of which we reused every possible material within the re-design of the space.
- Not only do we save corks for our tasters’ and Wine Club members’ crafty ideas, but we also recycle used corks via the ReCORK Program (http://recork.org/)
- Recycle all capsules as tin
For me, it has taken many years of travel and living in super population dense cities to fully understand just how wasteful we really are. One of the reasons the Walla Walla Valley and Pacific Northwest are so prized is for their natural beauty and ecologically diverse landscapes (if you haven’t lived in smog, please trust me that the air is way better here, too). It affords us to be able to produce some of the most complex, rich, interesting wines available in the world, not to mention the ability to take off from the winery for a long weekend filled with climbing, skiing, boarding, kayaking, hiking, etc.! It has never been a marketing ploy for us at Reininger Winery, and we certainly do not claim to be perfect in our efforts, though we try. While we want to make an impact with our delicious wines, we hope to leave the smallest impact possible on our planet.
“We do it the right way because it’s the right thing to do.”
Please visit Vinea, the Winegrower’s Sustainable Trust, to see more of the ideals that we support in our wine making practice at http://www.vineatrust.com/.
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!
Walla Walla Red Wine in the Bahamas
While our fantastic graphic designer (aka chief mischief maker), Courtney, was in the Bahamas, she met up with some friends. Long story short, her friends are from Walla Walla and four months into an awesome sailing adventure. They are planning to circumnavigate the world over the next few years by sailboat.
Although experienced sailors will tell you how surprisingly much you can fit onto a well packed sailboat, if you’re packing for a two year plus trip, you need to be very strategic. So what do you think these wonderful people decided they couldn’t live without on their epic sojourn? Some 1997 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon, of course! Our Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon’s just get better with age, we wish we were there to share a wonderfully aged wine with a beautiful view!
Where Have You Taken Reininger?
Cheers to and safe travels to our die-hard “Reiningang”! Where have you taken a bottle of Reininger? Send us a picture and we’ll feature you on our blog.
Reininger Red Wine Club
We’re guessing since these Walla Wallans couldn’t live without their Reininger wine during their travels, they are most likely members of our fantastic Reininger Red Wine Club. Sign up for the waiting list, and soon soon enough you’ll have access to members only specials, news, recipes, and library and limited release wines.
Monday we gave you the full tasting note for the 2007 Reininger Syrah. While the 2007 Reininger Syrah adds an exotic touch to a refined meal, the 2007 Reininger Malbec is a deep, rustic red better paired with a low key rustic meal. For example, snag the Syrah for your fancy Christmas meal, and save the Malbec for your cozy fireside dinner with a few friends.
The 2007 Reininger Malbec is made of 100% Malbec grapes sourced from Walla Walla’s Pepper Bridge Vineyard. It was coopered in new French oak barrels. With that bit of information, we’re sure you’re dying to know what you can expect from this amazing wine. So enough chit chat, here’s the tasting note for Walla Walla’s best Malbec:
2007 Reininger Malbec Tasting Note
Anything But Chardonnay Movement: Helix Wines
Dear ABC’s, please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. What do we mean by ABC’s? We’re talking about all you “Anything but Chardonnay” folks. There’s a solid group of wine drinkers today who are instantly dismissive of Chardonnay and think it is trite and overdone. You couldn’t catch them dead drinking anything as passé as Chardonnay. To all of those ABC’s, we say you’re seriously missing out!
Why is Chardonnay so Popular?
The reason Chardonnay became so popular in the first place was because it was so consistently delicious and easy to drink. It is a highly versatile
wine due to its mild mannered fruitiness. The wide range of styles leave room for many different wine drinkers to find their preferred flavors. Because it is such a widely grown and produced varietal, while there are some mediocre Chardonnays, e
ven more are delicious and complex.
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
After reading the dramatic history of Carmenere, you know how scarce Carmenere is today. You might be wondering then, just how rare is Carmenere? Well, you’re in luck, we’re going to tell you!
Carmenere Leaves Chile
As you hopefully remember, Carmenere was rediscovered in Chile in the 1980′s, and confirmed as Carmenere in the 1990′s. Aside from the original crop in Chile, today Carmenere is found in France, Italy, Washington’s Walla Walla Valley, California, Australia and New Zealand. The amounts found in France, Italy, New Zealand and Australia are fairly nominal and experimental. Carmenere first arrived in the United States shortly after it was discovered in Chile. The proprietor of California’s Guenoc and Langtry Continue reading “2007 Reininger Carmenere, a Rare and Scarce Wine” »