Our blog was created to help make the world of wine and beer easier to understand and fun to navigate. There are a million things to know in this industry, we just want to help you understand the latest news and trends from around the globe. So sit back with your favorite sip and let's go on an adventure.
Jo Landron, Muscadet vigneron and prominent moustache owner
Muscadet might just be the summer wine. Unlike more aromatic varieties, it shows well with a serious chill. It is always refreshing, low in alcohol, and thirst-quenching. It is also (usually) very reasonably priced, so you can afford a couple bottles to get you through a sweaty summer evening.
Where is it from?
Muscadet is in the far western part of the Loire Valley, north of Bordeaux. It abuts the Atlantic Ocean, which contributes greatly to its maritime structure and salty flavor. Nantes, the nearest city, is a bustling, rainy tech hub that has been called France’s Seattle.
What is it made of?
Melon B., formerly Melon de Bourgogne. For a more thorough history of the grape, including its unceremonious banishment from Burgundy, please refer to this earlier Thief blog.
What does Muscadet taste like?
Melon, a neutral grape, often tastes of orchard fruits such as green apples or pears, with a lean structure built around citrusy acidity. Muscadet’s proximity to the sea causes a distinctly saline, minerally finish that makes your mouth water. Some producers age their Muscadets on lees for extended periods, providing extra weight and creamy autolytic flavors like baking bread (similar to Champagne).
What should I pair with it?
The classic Muscadet pairing is fresh oysters with mignonette, though they provide an excellent foil for nearly any seafood (particularly raw or light preparations). They also play really well with green vegetables, which can be a difficult pairing. Well-made examples pick up some golden weight as they age, allowing them to be paired with richer foods like chicken in a cream sauce or leeks au gratin.
When should I drink it?
Fresh Muscadet is delicious, salty, and quaffable, the kind of wine to drink on your porch tonight. Aged Muscadet can hold for 10 years or more, growing weightier and more complex as the years roll by. So, I guess the answer is, you should’ve been drinking Muscadet this whole time!
Ch. Thebaud, Famille Lieubeau
Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet Sevre et Main Sur Lie 2018
Lemon and the lightest texture are lifted by intense acidity and a lively, fresh aftertaste.
Domaine de la Fruitiere Cru Clisson 2014
Sourced from profoundly granitic soils that are some of the oldest in France, these wines have a lash of savory acidity and remarkable longevity.
La Berriere Muscadet Sur Lie 2018
The wine is fresh and has unusual depth and minerality. Thanks to its exceptional terroir, the wine is very floral and will develop fuller flavors with aging.
Joseph Drouhin Rully Blanc 2016
A wine full of charm! The color is a beautiful white gold, with a ravishing purity and brilliance.
St. Cosme Little James Basket Press Pays D'OC Blanc 2018
Chateau de Saint Cosme is the leading estate of Gigondas and produces the appellation’s benchmark wines.
Ingrid Groiss Gemischter Satz Braitenpuechtorff 2018
The oldest wine-growing districtus in Austria, the Weinviertel DAC, is where Ingrid Groiss calls home. Hailing from the town of Breitenwaida, in northeast Austria, near the border with the Czech Republic, Ingrid crafts wines expressive of terroir, keeping with her family’s long tradition of winemaking. She is supremely passionate about her wines, with sustainable practices in the vineyard and minimal interference of modern technologies in the cellar.
Peyrassol La Croix des Templiers Rosé 2019
The name of the estate is the first indication of its long, illustrious past. Located in the heart of Provence, near routes traveled by Crusaders in the early Middle Ages, the Commanderie de Peyrassol was founded by the Knights of Templar who were dedicated to protecting the Crusaders en route to, and in, the Holy Land.
Domaine de la Patience Rosé Nemausa 2018
This family estate located in the Costières de Nîmes takes its name from a wild, aromatic herb “La Patience” that can be found throughout the vineyard.
Figuiere Mediterranee Rosé 2019
Over a period of 25 years, the Combard Family has grown Figuière to its current size of 210 acres. Additionally, Figuière produces an entry-level tier of wines called "Méditerranée" using meticulously selected grapes sourced from négociants. The perfecting touches of maturing and blending are carried out in the domaine’s cellars.
Sparkling wine labels can be confusing as heck. Traditional method, Charmat method, brut, extra dry, Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, BLAARGH...I just want bubbles in my glass!!! Here’s a handy guide to help you find the right bottle the next time you’re celebrating a promotion, an anniversary, or even a Tuesday.
Traditional Method - The method used for Champagne, Cremant, and other fine sparkling wines around the world. First, the grapes are picked and pressed, just like regular white wine. The juice is then fermented, usually in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels depending on the winemaker’s preference. The highly acidic still wines that are produced are called the vin clairs. These are blended with reserve wine from previous vintages (unless the producer wants to make a single vintage wine) before being bottled with a small amount of yeast and sugar. As the yeast ferments the sugar, it produces carbon dioxide. This trapped CO2 from the second fermentation stays in the bottles. Blammo, we’ve got bubbles.
As the yeasts die, they drop out of the wine and form sediment in the bottle known as lees. The amount of time a sparkling wine spends on the lees has a huge impact on its aroma and flavor, contributing notes of baking bread or roasted nuts which round out and soften the wine.
After the lees are removed through a process known as disgorgement, the wine is dry and still very tart, so a small amount of sugar is often added to balance the wine. This is the dosage, and it determines the finished sweetness of the wine. Brut is the most common level (~12g sugar), but drier styles have become more popular recently, with some producers choosing to forgo this step in favor of brut nature or zero dosage wines (more on that later).
Cava - Spanish (Catalonian) DO that produces traditional method sparkling wines, often based on Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Often excellent quality vs price.
Prosecco - Italian DOC or DOCG in the Veneto and Friuli (northeastern Italy), often produced from the Glera grape (itself formerly known as Prosecco, recently renamed to avoid confusion). Made in the Charmat method, where a wine is refermented in tank, rather than in each bottle as with the traditional method. The lower production cost allows Prosecco to be sold at very reasonable prices.
Sweetness - The sweetness of a sparkling wine is determined by the residual (unfermented) sugar. In the traditional method, the winemaker will often add a dosage of wine and sugar after disgorgement. In the Charmat or tank method, a dosage is often added after sterile filtration.
Here are the sweetness levels for European sparkling wines:
Brut Nature - 0-3g/l. No added dosage, the driest of the dry.
Extra Brut - 0-6 g/l. Not to be confused with Extra Dry.
Brut - 0-12 g/l. The most common sweetness level. Still drinks fairly dry because of sparkling wine’s high acidity.
Extra Dry - 12-17 g/l
Demi-Sec - 32-50 g/l
Dulce - 50+ g/l
If you’d like a sparkler with more perceptible acidity, a drink to pair with a full meal from salad to main course, head for drier climes. If you prefer a softer, fruitier sparkling wine, or you need something to pair with dessert, aim for the sweeter end of the spectrum. Most importantly, taste a range of styles and learn what you prefer. After all, bubbles are about enjoying yourself!
We love the pyrotechnic wines of Mt. Etna, but it would be a shame to forget about the wines from the rest of Sicily. The shop just received a large shipment from one of our favorite Sicilian producers: COS. This is the hottest week of the summer so far, so it seems appropriate to daydream about olive trees, fried eggplant, and spicy wine.
COS was founded in 1980 when three friends purchased an old estate in Vittoria, in southeastern Sicily. At the time, they were the youngest producers in the region. Sicilian wine was just beginning to wake from its post-phylloxera, post-war slumber, and its wines were often marked by a tarry rusticity that is the hallmark of inelegantly made Nero d’Avola. COS quickly established a new paradigm with fragrant, energetic wines based on two local red varieties: Nero d’Avola and Frappato.
Nero d’Avola is the darker varietal of the two. Giusto Occhipinti (the O in COS, and Arianna Occhipinti’s uncle) likens it to Syrah. It has many of the same structural and aromatic qualities, with dark plummy fruit, black pepper, and violets, as well as the ability to retain acidity in Sicily’s warm Mediterranean climate. Frappato is lighter, with red berries (especially strawberry) and intense florality, reminiscent of Cru Beaujolais.
COS bottles several monovarietal renditions of Nero and Frappato, but the varieties really shine when they’re blended. Sicily’s only DOCG, which COS was instrumental in establishing, is Cerasuolo di Vittoria (“cherries of Vittoria”), which must be a blend of 50-70% Nero d’Avola and 30-50% Frappato. Nero d’Avola provides structure and density while Frappato brings lift and aromatic potency. This inherent balance, especially when combined with limestone soils and COS’s attentive organic viticulture, makes for a sun-kissed, unabashedly Mediterranean wine with surprising vivacity and freshness.
Their pursuit of freshness does not end in the vineyard. COS was one of the first wineries in Italy to revive the ancient practice of fermenting and aging wines in unlined terracotta amphora (that’s big clay pots to you and me). The amphoras are neutral vessels that allow the wine’s fragrance to shine without the obstruction of oak, while their porosity provides small amounts of oxygen (as opposed to an anaerobic stainless steel tank).
The wines of COS are distinctive and iconic (much like their squat, old-timey bottles), and they have helped to revive the winemaking industry in Sicily. Fry up some eggplant, boil some pasta, and enjoy a bottle or two as the summer heat shimmers.
Arianna Occhipinti - the student becomes the master. Arianna formed her domaine at 22, after helping her uncle for several harvests. Her wines share many qualities with COS’s, from organic viticulture to cutting edge winemaking. Her Frappato is frankly Burgundian.
Feudo Montoni - a new addition to the shop. Value priced, well-made wines for a Tuesday pasta.
Il Censo - Another organic producer, inspired by Umbrian legend Paolo Bea. Deep, dark, Syrah-y Nero d’Avola perfect for roasted lamb.
Colosi - a shop favorite, punches well above its price. Screams for anything with grill marks.
Planeta - wonderfully floral Frappato makes a great red wine pairing for lighter fare, including rich seafood.
Tasca d'Almerita - Salty, spicy Grillo from near Marsala. A maritime white for squid, shrimp, or even, gasp, green vegetables.
Vital is a non-profit winery founded by Ashley Trout of Brook & Bull working for better healthcare for vineyard and cellar workers. Many of the materials are donated by Washington state vineyards and wineries.
Time & Direction is a boutique, Rhone focused winery run by one-man-show, ex-sommelier, and former Thief employee Steve Wells. His Syrahs have already received high accolades from several wine publications, and he is just getting started.
Prospice Wines consists of the winemaking duo Jay Krutulis and Matt Reilly. Their first shared project was a WWCC Merlot, and now years later they continue to produce fantastic “f@#$@$% Merlot!” Take that Miles.
itä Wines is a new winery from WWCC Enology program graduate Kelsey Albro Itämeri. She crafts elegant, balanced wines from high elevation vineyards on Walla Walla’s east side.
Rotie’s Sean Boyd has been a driving force in Walla Walla’s Rhone scene for more than a decade, producing wines with power and finesse from some of the region’s finest vineyards.
Kelly and JJ of Aluvé Winery use estate-grown fruit from the vineyard adjacent to their home for this succulent, ripe Chardonnay. After 20+ years in the Air Force, harvest is a breeze.
Jason Fox sources the Pinot Noir for his rosé from Breezy Slope Vineyard, one of the highest elevation vineyards in Walla Walla. The elevation helps this notoriously finicky variety hold its acid, making it perfect for refreshing rosé.
This dry, concrete fermented Grenache rosé from Matt and Kelly Austin is a cheeky nod to the California Blush wines of the past, though it’s done in the light, refreshing house style of this new winery.
A local rosé pack is not complete without one of Fiona Mak’s delicious bottles. Her label is rosé exclusive, with releases reflecting the changing seasons. Rosé all year!
Advanced Sommelier Robert Gomez’s new label, with its striking artwork and thoughtfully crafted wines, has quickly become a shop favorite. He hit it out of the park with this rosé from Blue Mountain Vineyard.
El Corazon is a party, and Spencer Sievers is the MC/DJ/disco ball/Winemaker. This Malbec rosé will cool you down like a lake in July. Rbbbbt.
This blend of Grenache and Syrah from French Creek Vineyard is always one of our favorite rosés, and the new vintage has not disappointed. Consulting winemaker Todd Alexander has produced an aromatic, fresh pink to beat the Walla Walla heat.
There are some wines that are meant for contemplation, for decanting and incanting, for polished goblets and crystal flutes, for making new friends and for shaming your enemies - wines that scoff at crudité and salads, that demand steaming hunks of beef like a demi-god demands at a sacrifice.
These, however…these are decidedly not those wines. These are wines for a pool, or a boat, a sprinkler in the backyard, or a sprinkler in a pool on a boat. These are wines for grass and sunshine. These are wines for brunch and prolonged brunching. Brunch isn’t just a meal, it’s your own personal holiday, and you get to pick the date.
These wines are gulpable and unpretentious, the perfect base for a brunch drink, or brunch punch, if you will. Try one of these out the next time you’re tired of mimosas. Heck, try them out when you’re sick of orange juice – we won’t tell.
2 ripe white or yellow peaches
1 bottle Zardetto Private Cuvée Brut
Blanch peaches for 1 minute in boiling water. Remove to ice bath. Peel peaches, then cube, removing pit. Blitz in food processor or blender. In a flute, combine 1 part peach puree with 2 parts Zardetto. Presto!
1 part Cappelletti (can substitute Aperol or Campari)
3 parts Rosé Limé
Serve with a slice of lemon or orange. Put on a caftan and pretend you’re in Miami.
Valpolicella lovers in need of a summer beverage – this one is for you! Add a small scoop of Colville St. Patisserie rhubarb sorbet to a mug of ice-cold Raphael Bartucci Bugey Cerdon. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own watermelon-orange sorbet.
½ ripe watermelon, cubed
Zest from one small orange
Warm water, as needed
Place watermelon cubes on a lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight. Place frozen watermelon chunks and orange zest in a food processor or blender, allowing 5 minutes to begin thawing. Blend until smooth, pressing down with a spatula and adding warm water in small increments to facilitate smoother texture. Santé!
The staff of the Thief likes to eat nearly as much as we like to drink wine. Spicy Spanish red wines are a no-brainer when you’re grilling, but here are a few more ideas to get you through the summer.
(Click name in red to shop)
Emily - Argentine-style steak with chimichurri sauce paired with Laurel Priorat.
Karin - Chipotle marinated flank steak and grilled tomatillo salsa with Lapostolle Carmenere.
Matt (that’s Curly to you) - Peppered ribeye with Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano 2013, or coconut grilled shrimp with Pichot Vouvray.
Devin - Honey-cider vinegar glazed pork chops with Château d’Orschwihr Riesling.
As for me (Allan), I recently wrote about a great experience with slow-grilled pork brisket and lightly chilled Beaujolais-Villages from Foillard, but I also love harissa grilled lamb with Hervé Souhaut Syrah. I’m kind of surprised no one called for steak and Champagne!
The oldest Grenache vines in the world, planted in 1848, McLaren Vale, Australia
Grenache is a warm hug in the sunshine from an old friend. It’s a joyful variety, filled with red fruit and spice draped in a soft, silky texture. Unlike Pinot Noir, another thin-skinned variety, it is precocious and generous, sometimes to a fault. In fact, one of the few criticisms of Grenache is that it often carries too heavy of a crop. Randall Grahm, Grenache innovator and enthusiast, says that it “really walks a fine line between elegance and rusticity.”
As a vine, it thrives in hot, dry, windy locales where less exuberant varieties would struggle. Grenache probably hails from the Spanish region of Aragon (also known as Strider, ranger of the North) between Madrid and Barcelona, though Sardinia also claims it as its own (known regionally as Cannonau). It swiftly spread throughout the world’s Mediterranean climates. In France, its pepper and raspberry intensity became the hallmark of southern Rhône blends like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. Grenache was also used to bolster prestigious wines from regions with more marginal climates: 19th and early 20th century negociants in Burgundy bought large quantities of Gigondas to stiffen and sweeten poor vintages of Pinot Noir (much like the relationship between the Bordelaise and the sturdy Syrahs of Hermitage).
Grenache was planted around the same time in Australia, especially in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, for fortified wine production. While the Australian government has occasionally subsidized vine-pulling, many old vineyards still endure, including the oldest commercial Grenache vineyard in the world. Taras Ochota, owner and winemaker of Ochota Barrels, started his company with a 70-year old Grenache vineyard he named Fugazi (after an 80s rock band formed by Ian MacKaye, a famous teetotaler). He discovered the vineyard during a heat spike. Younger surrounding vineyards were struggling with the heat, but the deep-rooted old vines were verdant and healthy, with small clusters of intensely flavored fruit.
Age seems to tame some of Grenache’s difficult tendencies throughout the world. Patrick Comiskey described early efforts in California as ”a large-pawed puppy that refused to settle down. While you might appreciate the exuberance, you may long for a little gravitas.” Age brings yields down, trading exuberance for efficiency (like it often does in us as well).
Grenache is one of the few varieties that everyone in the shop seems to love. As a thin skinned, low acid variety, the wines are unique in that much of their structure comes from their ripeness and alcohol. Some producers, especially old-school producers in the Rhône and the new kids on the block in Australia, use whole cluster fermentation to fortify the tannins of Grenache. Earlier picked examples often smell like fresh strawberries and white pepper, while riper examples can lean towards black cherry or currant with accents of licorice root. Regardless of the country of origin, ripeness, or vinification, a glass of Grenache should always be fun.
Sierra de Gredos, Spain
Chuy Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Chardonnay
Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Chardonnay
Both of the above vineyards are planted to Chardonnay, though that is where their similarities end. Chuy Vineyard (RIP) was planted at very low density in a warm, Mediterranean climate with vigorous soils. The Puligny-Montrachet climat is planted at a very high density on meager limestone and clay soils in a cool, wet, continental climate. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir call Burgundy home, but they are perfectly happy in California, Oregon, or Patagonia. Grapes generally travel well (looking at you, Nebbiolo), and lucky for us they like to talk about where they are from. A tropical, full-bodied, lush Chardonnay probably comes from a warm climate, whereas a steely, lemony version most likely hails from a more marginal region.
Most winemakers will tell you that fine wines are made in the vineyard. They’ll also tell you, “If you want to make Chablis, you should probably move to Chablis.” Regional identity is not just about weather, soil, and aspect (what I think of as the where of a vineyard). Farming techniques, the how, can also have a huge impact on the finished wine. Just like the Cru system rigidly defines the geographical boundaries of individual Burgundian vineyards, the appellation system also sets limits on yields, styles of pruning, vineyard density, and other viticultural practices. The set-up and farming of a vineyard is the integration of people with a place. You have to answer both of the questions: the how as well as the where.
These Assyrtiko basket vines in Santorini are shaped by the black volcanic soils, the whipping winds, and the beating sun of the island. They are also literally shaped by human hands to compensate for these environmental pressures. The basket pruning protects the clusters from the wind, and the sparse planting density allows the vines to survive with very little rain. Let’s explore some of the regional farming choices that create the wines we love.
Bethel Heights Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir
Romanee Conti, Cote de Nuits, Pinot Noir
Density is the number of vines in a given area, usually calculated by acre or hectare. The Pinot Noir vineyards above show two different regional approaches. Bethel Heights, one of the oldest vineyards in the Willamette Valley, was planted at fairly low density, with wide vineyard rows and lots of space between the vines. Romanee Conti, like most of the vineyards in Burgundy or Bordeaux, is planted much more densely, with 4,000 vines per acre. This becomes consequential when we look at yield on a per plant basis. In order to produce 2 tons/acre (which is close to the maximum allowed yield for Grand Cru vineyards), each of the Burgundian vines will only have to produce 1 pound of Pinot noir grapes, whereas the vines in Oregon need to crank out 5 times as much fruit per vine!
Gobelet-trained vine in Châteauneuf du Pape
Vines come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny single-guyot vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux to hulking head-trained, spur pruned vines in Lodi or Mendocino, some of which have to be picked using a ladder. Each vine is touched every dormant season, usually by human hands, blending, sculpting, and farming. Oftentimes a region will have its own signature style, as in Châteauneuf du Pape’s gobelet vines (Syrah is the only variety that is allowed to be trellised there, as its sprawling growth makes it difficult to head train).
Before the advent of certified clones, vines were propagated more like loaned books. Exceptional vines would be replicated, traded, and passed around. Many vignerons still refuse to plant certified clones, preferring to propagate massale selections from distinctive vines within their own vineyards. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both known for their diverse selections. There are hundreds of clones of each, some sanctioned, some illicit (suitcase clones). Oregon’s early wine industry was built on the backs of just two Pinot selections: Pommard and Wadenswil. California has many heritage selections, often named after famous vineyards and winemakers (Swan, Calera, Mt. Eden, etc).
For whites, it’s hard to imagine what the California Chardonnay landscape would look like without Wente clone, often called shot Wente because of its propensity for “shot” berries (millerandage). This old selection has become highly sought after because of its distinctive aromas and ability to retain acidity in California’s sun.
There are many, many other cultural and regional vineyard choices that impact the way the vines grow and how a finished wine tastes, such as vineyard floor management, canopy management, or irrigation. The next time you’re drinking a bottle of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, whether it be from Burgundy, Oregon, or California, remember that you’re not just tasting the grape, you’re not just tasting the dirt – you are tasting the choices made at every step by the people involved.
There will come a point this summer when someone you care about will offer you a garbage bag full of ripe tomatoes. You will take the bag, thank them, and promptly make yourself a BLT, or an A(vocado)LT if you don’t eat meat, or a T(urkey)BLAT if you like attempting to eat sandwiches that are too tall to eat. In the following days, maybe you’ll enjoy your tomatoes plain, just sliced with a little olive oil, flaky salt, and black pepper. Perhaps there is a Caprese salad or two in your future. Somehow, you’ll whittle your way through the giant pile of lovingly-grown tomatoes, thanking your friend with every ruby slurp. How did you make it through the previous 3 seasons without a real, ripe tomato?
There will also come a point this summer when that same loved one will show up on your doorstep with an even larger “put the money in the bag” bank robbery-style duffel filled to the brim with tomatoes that are approximately 27-minutes from overripe. There will probably be a cloud of fruit flies, and your friend will have a wild, desperate look in their eyes. Today is the day - you’ll think - break out the confetti. We have reached Peak Tomato.
It happens every year. Driven mad by 6+ consecutive months without a decent tomato, amateur gardeners throughout town will plant an array of heirloom varieties, filling their yards/garden boxes/highway medians to the brim. “Look how tiny those seeds/starts are,” they’ll think, forgetting the tomato leaf jungles of the previous summer, “I should put in a few more.” The tomatoes will grow tall and heavy in the Walla Walla sun, propped and cradled by cages like deliciously swaying suspension bridges.
This year’s quarantining has led to an explosion of gardening. Everyone has been trapped at home with images of empty supermarket shelves. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but I’m predicting a Peak Tomato season the likes of which this county has not seen in decades. Luckily, many folks have also been experimenting with bread baking. Tomatoes + Homemade Bread + a few odds and ends = Panzanella! Panzanella is a Tuscan bread and tomato salad that is delicious, easy to make, and infinitely customizable. Toss in some cheese, omit the olives, trade the basil for some other leafy herb, add some arugula, etc. As long as you’ve got tomatoes, a country loaf, and good olive oil, you’re set. It’s never too early to prepare for Peak Tomato!
Pair your Panzanella with a medium-bodied, Sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany, like the ones found in our Italian six-pack. Sangiovese’s combination of red fruit flavors (especially cherry), fresh acidity, and savory balance of leather, clove, and yes, even tomato leaf, make it a fantastic pairing with homegrown tomatoes. As always, the original rule of wine pairing applies - drink what they drink in the region that the food is from.
1 loaf of homemade bread, regardless of how successful, cut into 1” cubes
15-20 basil leaves, torn or chiffonaded
Some amount of homegrown tomatoes, up to and including 1 metric garbage bag full. (or, ya know, 2 of them), cut into bite sized chunks
½ red onion or 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
½ cup olives, halved and pitted (squish them with the back of your knife or a plate)
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
At least 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-2 cloves garlic, grated or otherwise smooshed
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Place your chunked tomatoes into a colander in the sink. Season with 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, tossing to coat. Drain for at least 30 minutes. I found this technique on Serious Eats, and it really makes the difference between a crunchy Panzanella and a squishy one.
- Toss your bread chunks with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then toast for 10 minutes on a baking sheet, or until crunchy and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Cut your cucumber in half. Scoop out the seeds, then chop into bite sized chunks.
- In a bowl, whisk together your garlic, shallot, and wine vinegar. Drizzle in your remaining olive oil, whisking constantly, to form a dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss together your dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, basil, and bread. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Open your bottle of Sangiovese. You should know what to do next.
Our local wineries have lost out on more than two months of prime tourism due to COVID-19. Tasting rooms that often serve as a winery’s first introduction to new customers have been shuttered, and the restaurants that normally fly through local wines by the glass or bottle have been limited to takeout service. Luckily, working in the wine industry has always demanded creative solutions to unforeseen problems. “How am I going to fit five tons of fruit into that 3-ton press?” “What do I do with this Zinfandel rosé from a stuck fermentation?” “How do I make this steel container smaller?” (the answer to the last one was a big hammer). Most importantly, “How do I get my wine to consumers safely and efficiently in a time of social distancing?” Here are some inventive solutions from the wineries featured in our rosé six-packs. Please support our local wine community. These are all local business owners, but they’re also our neighbors and our friends.
The Walls is offering personal private tastings from home featuring 3-4 bottle flights (at a substantial discount), tasting notes, and a virtually led tasting. They are also offering $10 flat rate shipping on 6 bottle purchases.
El Corazon’s tasting room will be open beginning June 5th. They have offered free shipping on 3+ bottle shipments to the Pacific Northwest, as well as curbside pickup and local delivery.
Aluvé is offering tastings at the winery with a scheduled appointment. They are adhering to the guidelines of Phase 2 with indoor or outdoor seating (weather permitting) for up to 4 groups of up to 5 guests. Appointments include a 45-minute tasting and zero contact checkout, with a 15-minute buffer for sanitizing before the next reservation.
Gramercy has posted a Cayuse Weekend live tasting YouTube video to their website featuring co-winemakers Greg Harrington MS and Brandon Moss. Their tasting room will reopen for tastings June 5th with appointment, and there will be slots available Tuesday-Saturday.
College Cellars is offering a 20% case discount, as well at $10 flat rate shipping on packages of 6 bottles or more. They have not reopened their tasting room yet, but they are offering delivery to the Walla Walla area. Also, Sabrina Lueck has been posting some fantastically informative wine videos to her YouTube channel, and there is also a video of her sabering the sparkling Grenache using a roofing hammer floating around the interwebs.
Robert Gomez, winemaker for Hoquetus, has hosted several blind tastings on Instagram, including head to head battles with Time & Direction winemaker Steve Wells. Hoquetus is offering $20 flat rate shipping on 6+ bottle orders.
SMAK is offering free local delivery in Walla Walla, Dayton, Waitsburg, and Milton-Freewater, as well as curbside pickup. Their tasting room will reopen on June 5th under the guidelines of Phase 2.
Itä’s new tasting room at the airport is now open to the public on Thursday-Sunday. Reservations are encouraged, but walk-ins will be accepted on a first-come basis. Folks can reserve a tasting on the website or by phone. They are offering $15 flat rate shipping on 6+ bottle purchases and free local delivery.
Prospice is rolling out two different options for scheduled tasting appointments. They will offer a 45-minute seated tasting for groups up to 5, or a 75-minute cellar tasting hosted by one of the winemakers. They are also offering curbside pickup or Walla Walla area delivery for folks who would like to purchase without a tasting. They are waiving shipping on orders of more than $400.
Grosgrain has gotten the message out with its first live-streamed interview and an assortment of options for consumers including curbside pickup, free local delivery, and $10 flat rate shipping. They are now open for scheduled appointments in their tasting room.
Lagana is offering $10 shipping on 3 bottle purchases and free shipping on 6+ bottle orders. They are giving back to the community with a 5% donation to the BMAC food bank on all 6+ bottle purchases. Their tasting room is now open for walk-ins or scheduled appointments, and they will continue to offer curbside pickups and local delivery.
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