Five Ways to Have a Wine-Infused Thanksgiving

Last year, we wrote about our favorite Thanksgiving day wine pairings. After all, a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner needs a great wine to make it truly ideal. However, there’s another great way to kick up your Thanksgiving meal a notch: infuse your food with its perfect pairing. Here are our favorite ways to incorporate wine into your Thanksgiving Day dinner!

1. Make that turkey meat even more luscious with a bottle of Walla Faces Cabernet. Place the turkey breast-side-up in a shallow roasting pan. Make a hole in the skin at the top of the breast. Fill a turkey baster with half a cup of Cabernet Sauvignon and drench your beautiful bird with wine. After that, cook as you normally would.

A Thanksgiving meal and a bottle of wine

Make a place for Walla Faces wine in your Thanksgiving meal!

2. When making stuffing, substitute a cup of chicken broth for a cup of Walla Faces Fusion Red. The smooth cherry flavors will add a layer of depth and sophistication to your final product.

3. Poached pears are a great way to add a bit of light fruitiness to a heavy Thanksgiving meal. Poach them in a medium sized saucepan filled with a bottle of Walla Faces Riesling, a cup of sugar, and a split vanilla bean for an extra treat.

4. In addition to gravy, whip up a red wine sauce with a bottle of Walla Faces Syrah to serve over your mashed potatoes. We love this one by by FineCooking.com. Even better? The sauce can be made a few days in advance so it won’t take up any extra precious minutes on Thanksgiving Day.

5. The Walla Faces 2008 Riesling Ice Wine is the perfect pairing for pumpkin pie. Help them mesh even better by adding a few tablespoons of ice wine your homemade whipped cream after whipping it up!

Feeling inspired? Head over to our store to grab all the Faces wine you need for a scrumptious meal.

May your Thanksgiving be delicious, merry, and full of wine!

Wine Grapes Vs. Table Grapes: A Comparison

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting our vineyard just before harvest, you might be surprised at the dramatic differences between wine grapes and table grapes (the grapes you might buy in the grocery store)! Although both wine grapes and table grapes are the same genus, Vitis, they have many disparate characteristics.

Wine grapes are always one particular species of grapes: Vitis vinifera. This is a species that is native to the Mediterranean region, ranging from central Europe to northern Iran. Table grapes, on the other hand, vary. Some table grapes, such as Red Globe grapes, are also Vitis vinifera. Others are a cousin of the traditional wine grape. Concord grapes, for example, are Vitis labrusca, a vine that is native to the Eastern United States.

Table grapes and wine grapes have been selectively bred for different qualities, meaning that the grapes are pretty dissimilar! In comparison to table grapes, wine grapes are very, very small, closer to a centimeter in diameter. They have very thick skins, which will ultimately impart a lot of flavor onto the wine. Table grapes tend to have thin skins that are easier to munch on, meaning they’ll pop delightfully in your mouth. Wine grapes also have big seeds, which take up a huge part of the fruit. As a result, when you bite into the thick skin of a wine grape, they’ll sploosh open, leaving you with a big, hard seed.

Table grapes vs. wine grapes Walla Faces

Table grapes vs. wine grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Faces vineyard)

Wine grapes are also much sweeter than table grapes, since that sugar is necessary for fermentation. Wine grapes are harvested when they are around 22-30% sugar. Table grapes might be closer to 10 or 15% sugar.

In addition to the genetic differences between wine grapes and table grapes, the vines are also treated differently. The T-shape of the grapevines maximizes their exposure to the sun. Table grapes use a trellis system in which the grapes hang under the vines. They get less exposure to the sun this way, but they don’t rub against each other. This increases the amount of fruit they can produce, yielding up to thirty pounds of grapes per vine. (For comparison, wine grape vines would be lucky to get to ten pounds!)

Worldwide, there are 75,866 square kilometers dedicated to grapes. A solid 71% of these grapes are used for wine. 27% are consumed fresh fruit and 2% as dried fruit. Thus, it seems that even though wine grapes aren’t as delicious right off the vine, their unique characteristics make them the more popular of the two!

Warm Weather Indicates an Early 2013 Harvest

If there is one word to describe the summer of 2013 in Walla Walla, it is hot. It’s been the second warmest summer on record. The blazingly sunny days have only been outmatched by the incredibly warm nights. As the Washington State University Agricultural Weather Network noted, “Warm, warmest, and warmer is the best way to characterize the 2013 summer season.” This weather pattern suggests that we’re likely to see an early 2013 harvest.

Washington state as a whole averaged more than two degrees above standard weather. The heat also started early this year. In Walla Walla, we were hitting high temperatures by the beginning of July. August was equally hot; it was the warmest that it has been since 1991. During this time, Walla Walla stayed characteristically dry, with only 0.15 inches of rainfall in August. This dry weather is ideal for wine growing, since it allows winemakers to completely control the amount of water that grapes are exposed to.

What does the summer heat mean for the Walla Faces 2013 Harvest?

Rows of Cabernet Sauvignon. Taken at the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard on September 9, 2013.

This heat decreases the amount of time that it takes for grapes to ripen. After veraison, the grapes throughout the Walla Walla Valley began to ripen quickly. This quick ripening process means that the berries are smaller than usual, making their flavor more concentrated. This will create an intense, flavorful wine.

The Walla Faces Estate Vineyard is at a higher elevation than the rest of the valley. As a result, we have a more temperate climate. Consequentially, veraison and harvest are usually a little later for us than they are for the rest of the valley. However, the warm weather is definitely bumping up the date of the 2013 harvest.

A few storms and some anticipated cooler temperatures will probably slow down the ripening process in the next few weeks. Still, we expect an early harvest date and some bold, fruit-forward 2013 vintages thanks to the weather!

Flowering grape vines at the Walla Faces vineyard

Every year, grape vines go through an annual growth cycle that ultimately produces the ripe, juicy grapes needed for winemaking. June is a particularly exciting time at the vineyard because many of these steps occur in quick succession. We started June with some gorgeous budding grapes.

Budding grapes at the Walla Faces Vineyard.

Budding grapes at the Walla Faces Vineyard, taken May 30, 2013.

Wine grapes have high seasonal nutritional needs. As a result, when the buds first appear, we spray the grapes in the Walla Faces vineyard with a micromineral composition that helps them grow to their fullest potential. For example, spraying the buds with boron can help improve bud growth.

After the budding stage, the grapes will begin to flower. This is a a very-weather dependent step. During warm years, the grapes will flower early, whereas at cooler temperatures this step will be delayed. At our vineyard, we typically see flowering starting somewhere between the first and last weeks of June, depending on the weather. This year was pretty typical; flowering started a couple of weeks into the month.

Flowering grapes at the Walla Faces Vineyard.

Flowering grapes at the Walla Faces Vineyard, taken June 16, 2013.

Cabernet and Syrah grapes (as well as most Vitis vinifera grapes, the species used for winemaking) are self-pollinating. Sometimes wind and insects will help the process, but in general pollination is contained within the grape vine. Once the ovary is fertilized, the flower will begin to turn into a grape berry, surrounding a large seed.

Fruit Set at the Walla Faces Vineyard

Fruit Set at the Walla Faces Vineyard, taken June 30, 2013.

Both the Syrah and the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have stopped flowering now. They have entered the fruit set stage. These baby grapes will be the basis of the 2013 vintage.

Celebrate Walla Walla

The first Celebrate Walla Walla took place this past weekend. The 70 participating wineries came together to concretely demonstrate how special the Walla Walla Valley wine region is. On Saturday, Walla Faces hosted a winemaker dinner at our estate vineyard. The dinner featured the wines of four boutique wineries: CAVU Cellars, Corvus Cellars, Kontos Cellars, and, of course, Walla Faces! Each of these small wineries makes their wine at the Incubators at the airport. Our side-by-side wineries produce some of the most exclusive, innovative wines in Walla Walla.

The 77-degree Saturday was the perfect weather for sitting by the pool, admiring the flourishing Cabernet grapes, sipping wines, and dodging Angel, the winery dog, as she tried to acquire some snacks for herself.

The evening commenced with appetizers, including Copper River salmon flatbreads, topped with Dijon and local Monteillet fresh chevre. We also featured roasted red potatoes, which had been dug up that very morning from Chef Greg Schnorr‘s garden, and were complemented by a Parmesan souffle.  Mini BLTs made from jowl bacon also featured Chef Greg’s home-grown ingredients; Greg is known throughout Walla Walla for his hand-raised pork. Each of the four participating wineries cracked open a few crisp, chilled bottles to kick off the celebration! CAVU’s Barbera Rosé, Corvus’ Viognier, Kontos’ Gossamer White and Walla Faces’ Riesling all helped provide the ideal complement to the light appetizers and warm June day.

The second course included a Walla Walla Sweet Onion soup, with juicy braised oxtail at the bottom of the bowl. A toasted baguette covered in Gruyere was lovingly placed on top of each portion. This soup was paired with the Kontos Cellars 2009 Alatus Blend, a classic-tasting blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc that perfectly complemented the rich earthiness of the soup.

The third course was a duck confit ravioli, nested in an bolognese filled with more duck confit. A carrot and celery topping adorned the hand-made raviolis, which were created using duck eggs for the dough. Paired with the CAVU 2010 Barbera, a bold and spicy varietal that is an uncommon find in the Walla Walla Valley, the fatty duck flavors melted perfectly in my mouth.

The fourth course was a cherry stuffed pork chop straight from Chef Greg’s farm. “I named them after monsters this year,” Chef Greg quipped. “I believe that today we are eating ‘Kim Lard-Ashian’.” The bitter fresh arugula balanced the sweet, sage-stuffed cherries. The 2008 Walla Faces Fusion Red was the perfect pairing. This egg-white fined blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Syrah has dark cherry flavors that perfectly complemented the cherries in this dish.

The fifth course was lamb with a wild mushroom demi glace over a spoonful of whipped potatoes, which was paired with a 2009 Corvus Syrah/Petite Sirah blend. The allspice, plum and pepper flavors make this earthy, full-bodied wine great for lamb dishes.

Desserts included dark chocolate truffles, fresh Klicker strawberries over Hungarian shortbread, candied walnuts and a myriad of cheeses, served with the Walla Faces Ice Wine.

The dinner was an incredible success, with the beauty of the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard, the mouth-watering flavor of the food, and the locally-made perfection of the wines melding together to showcase the best of what Walla Walla has to offer. We were happy to celebrate this region with both Walla Faces regular customers and brand new faces. Thank you to everyone who helped this event happen or who attended. For those of you who we didn’t see, please feel free to come visit all four wineries out in the “winery district” at the Incubators by the Walla Walla airport.

A Natural History of Cabernet Sauvignon

We’re right in the thick of Celebrate Walla Walla, a weekend event dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the world’s most recognized varietals. Tomorrow, Walla Faces is hosting a wine-pairing dinner at our vineyard, overlooking acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that are just beginning to flower. With all the focus on this beloved grape, we decided to take a look at the fascinating history of the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal.

Cab Sauv

How did this grape variety come to be?

All wine grapes are Vitis vinifera, a species of grape that has been harvested since the Neolithic period between 10,000 and 4,500 BC. The exact origin of Cabernet Sauvignon, however, has been the subject of many wine-related rumors. “Sauvignon”, people speculated, sounds remarkably similar to the French word ‘sauvage’, meaning “wild”. This led some people to hypothesize that Cab Sauv may be derived from the wild Vitis vinifera vines that used to grow throughout France. Others hypothesized that the grape was a subset of the ancient Biturica grape, a grape variety that was cultivated in France by the Romans in the first century AD. Cabernet Sauvignon’s name in the 18th century, Petit Bidure, was used to support this claim.

The mystery was finally solved in 1996, when a geneticist from UC Davis named Dr. Carole Meredith provided micro-satellite DNA data determining Cabernet Sauvignon’s true origins: Cabernet Sauvignon was a cross between two other well-known grape varieties: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc! Her research demonstrated that the crossing likely occurred in the 17th century by mere chance; two adjacent vineyards containing the two parent varieties led to an accidental cross-contamination… creating one of the most popular red wine grapes ever.

From its birthplace in the Bordeaux wine region, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World due to both its hardy nature, with thick skins that can easily withstand mold or frost, and its rich, full-bodied taste.

Currently, Cabernet Sauvignon is cultivated on 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres) every single year. You can find it growing in almost every wine-producing region of the world. Cab Sauv came to Walla Walla in the early 1970s. It now takes up 41% of the planted area.

What’s In A Color?

When doing a wine tasting, the first characteristic that we examine is the color of the wine. Although mere appearances can only tell you so much about a wine’s flavor, these visual cues can hold important and interesting information.

Here are some things to look for on three of our favorite reds: the 2008 Fusion, the 2008 Syrah, and the 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Can you spot the differences between these three gorgeous wines?

Taking Home the Gold!

The Dallas Wine Competition is a celebrated annual event that honors the best wines available, including entries from both the United States and worldwide. With judges that included wine writers, wine instructors, winemakers, master sommeliers and more, this prestigious group of wine experts were able to pick out the true gems of the worldwide wine industry.

Walla Faces is proud to announce that, out of 2,704 entries representing 25 states and sixteen countries, the Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the select few wines to win a gold medal, the highest honor.

2008 Matthew

2008 Matthew

The Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Matthew, is a free run wine with grapes exclusively from the Walla Faces Estate Vineyard. Free run wines are wines made from both the natural breakdown of the grapes during primary fermentation and from the pressure of the grapes pressing down on each other. This allows the wine to generate a greater sophistication, a more elegant mouthfeel, and a smoother flavor. In addition, a free run wine will have more aging potential than a pressed wine.

The Walla Faces Reserve Cab is a fruit-forward wine with a lustrous blackberry bouquet. Its polished midpalate unfolds on the tongue exquisitely, with a fully body and perfect balance. The grapes from this wine are local, growing on the rich volcanic ash that makes the Walla Walla Valley the ideal place for growing Cabernet grapes.

This Matthew is the most exclusive wine offered by Walla Faces. We only made 176 cases. Because it is so special, it is usually only available to Walla Faces wine club members. However, in celebration of our spring release this year, it will be available to everyone for a limited time in May!

What is Barrel Tasting Weekend?

One of our most beloved holiday traditions has just arrived: Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend! This festive event offers an exclusive opportunity to taste future vintages before they make their way into the bottle. We have carefully selected a few of our favorite barrels to help provide a unique and exciting sample of Walla Faces wines. This is the perfect opportunity for those of you who can’t wait for this wine to make it into the barrel!

This is also your first chance to check out our new winery at the airport. This tiny location forms the backbone of Walla Faces’ wine production operation. We are actively working on new projects right now. Drop by, get a sample, and meet our assistant winemaker, Victor De La Luz, who is bustling about the winery, hard at work.

Downtown, at the Tasting Room, we have opened up a bottle of our Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the Matthew. It is named for our head winemaker, Matt Loso. This fruit-forward Cab was made from the free run of 100% Walla Faces Estate Cabernet grapes and is normally not available to the general public.

We hope to see you this holiday weekend! Cheers!

The Walla Faces Tasting Room at 216 East Main St. is open 1-6pm.
The Walla Faces Winery at 598 Piper Ave. is open 11-5pm.

A look at the Walla Faces 2012 harvest!

 

The decision about when to harvest is one of the most critical steps in the wine-making process. If you harvest too early, the undeveloped tannins will lead to a grassy flavor and a bitter wine. If you harvest too late, winter weather conditions may destroy the entire crop.

Walla Faces harvests our grapes later in the year than most other wineries, a luxury afforded to small vineyards, to ensure that the grapes have had sufficient time to mature. Our pesticide- and herbicide-free vineyard is 10 acres of juicy Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, two varietals that take longer to reach the ideal sugar and acid level. For 2012, Walla Faces is also producing a Tempranillo and a Merlot blend that use grapes from other vineyards. Tempranillo, whose name comes for the Spanish word for “early”, matures quickly. Consequentially, our 2012 Tempranillo was well into its time in the barrel by the time we harvested our Cab and Syrah.

This year, we harvested on October 31st and November 1st. In the days preceding harvest, we kept a very close eye on both the ripeness of the grapes, testing them for sugars and acids to ensure a perfect product, and on the weather, waiting for clear skies. On Halloween, we had a perfect storm of beautifully ripened grapes and crisp, dry conditions.

Every year, we assemble a crew that handpicks our grapes off the vines. They move quickly, allowing us to completely harvest our grapes in a mere two days.

When harvest is over, the grapes are immediately taken to be crushed at a crush pad. Unlike table grapes, wine grapes do not last once they have been picked, so they need to be crushed immediately.

If you have a patient palette, be sure to keep an eye out for the 2012 vintages from Walla Faces. It was a perfect harvest, so our wines are sure to be wonderful as well. In the meantime, drop by the Walla Faces Tasting Room at 216 East Main St. and pick up a bottle of the 2008 vintages.