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 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!

“Pairing on Main” Raises Money for Cancer Fund

September 21st was a busy day in the Walla Faces Tasting Room. (It was one of those days where your pace has to be consistently stay between a fastwalk and a sprint.) Not only did we have an endless stream of customers during our regular tasting hours, between 1 and 6, at 6pm the entering crowds became a veritable flood. It was time for “Pairing on Main”, a food and wine event organized by Providence Saint Mary Medical Center, a local full-service hospital.

2013 was the 9th annual Providence Saint Mary Gran Fondo. Gran Fondo, which means, “the Great Ride” started out as a bike riding event to help raise money for the Cancer Special Needs fund. This fund is essential for providing support to local cancer patients. Help ranges from medication to wigs and supportive undergarments for breast cancer patients. Since its advent, it has expanded, allowing participants to choose an event, including a walk, a motorcycle ride, a 5k fun run, a horse trail ride, and a cycling event. For the past five years, Providence Saint Mary has also organized a “Pairing On Main”, which couples local wineries and restaurants to create a series of culinary experiences as guests. This is Walla Faces’ second year participating in “Pairing on Main”.

100% of the money that is raised from Gran Fondo goes directly to Walla Walla patients and their care.

I sat down with Mardi Hagerman, the Providence Saint Mary Resource Nurse, who was the brains behind Gran Fondo. “I was the original act in town for it!” she proclaims. “We needed to make some money for the special needs fund… the idea came up in the hallway with a nurse who was a cyclist, working with the Whitman cycling team.” The addition of “Pairing on Main” was the brainchild of Walla Walla Chef and Caterer Ceil Blain. “It just took off!” Mardi notes.

Participants receive a wineglass and a map. They migrate from tasting room to tasting room, each of which provides a sample of wine and a perfectly paired bite-sized hors d’œuvre, catered by one of Walla Walla’s finest restaurants. The first “Pairing on Main” sold 75 tickets. Now, the capacity has been bumped up to 150. “We’re not going to go above that because we are cognizant of the generosity of our vendors on main street, who are donating their food and wine… the restaurants are still serving guests plus doing our event!” Mardi confirms. “Our downtown proprietors are so generous.”

Mardi continues, “[This year] was very successful.” The 2013 Gran Fondo raised a record-breaking $29,000 for the Providence Saint Mary Cancer Fund. “The first year, we made $900,” Mardi notes. “Every year, people are a little more familiar with us and a little more sensitive to our cause. After all, there’s no one that isn’t affected by this diagnosis, whether it is a personal diagnosis or a family diagnosis.”

Our Pairing on Main Volunteer, Mardi Hagerman, and Walla Faces Owner Debbie Johnson Pose for a Photo

Our “Pairing on Main” Volunteer, Mardi Hagerman, and Walla Faces Owner Debbie Johnson Pose for a Photo

Mardi is not only in charge of organizing the event, she is the brawn behind the operation as well! “I’m the waitress,” she says. “I help out where I’m needed. I got my food handler’s permit so that I could do the grunt work.”

This year, Walla Faces was paired with Whitehouse Crawford. We served both our 2008 Syrah, a library wine with a perfect balance of white pepper and blackberry notes, and our 2010 Riesling, an off-dry wine that’s as complex as it is crisp. After tasting our wine, Whitehouse Crawford Head Chef Jamie Guerin prepared a Capocollo, jalapeño, goat cheese, and arugula salad-stuffed gougères. These cheesy French pastries are a wine-pairing classic; in France, they are traditionally consumed in wine cellars as a part of a wine tasting. In addition to donating our wine, 25% of Walla Faces bottle sales during the “Pairing on Main” were donated to the Providence Saint Mary Cancer Fund.

“Every year, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” Mardi says. “I have met so many wonderful people thanks to ‘Pairing on Main’, who have a strong heart for what we do.”

Why Concrete Eggs for Riesling?

The Walla Faces 2010 Riesling is “Concrete Egg Vinted”. The futuristic appearance may be snazzy, but the real benefit is its myriad of effects on the wine.

Like oak, concrete is porous. Thus, the wine is able to breathe, facilitating richness and complexity without leaving an oaky flavor behind. Like barrel aging, the porous nature of the concrete allows the wine to slowly aerate, providing layers and softness. Concrete-fermented wines also typically maintain a lot of fruitiness.

Additionally, the tank imparts a minerality that lingers on the palate. Because Walla Faces used both concrete and stainless steel for our 2010 Riesling, it took on the characteristics of both stainless steel- and concrete-vinted wines. Like stainless steel-vinted wines, this vintage has a crisp, refreshing effect, without sacrificing its rich complexity.

The Walla Faces Concrete Egg Fermenter, produced by Marc Nomblot.

The Walla Faces Concrete Egg Fermenter, nestled in some barrels!

Concrete has been used in winemaking since the early 19th century, when some wines were fermented in huge, rectangular concrete vats. Although the material is a classic, the egg shape is an innovation! The first concrete egg fermenter was commissioned in 2001 by Maison M. Chapoutier, a winery in the Rhone region of France. French manufacturer Nomblot, who has been producing concrete tanks since they opened in 1922.

Nomblot’s tanks are produced using washed sand from the French river Loire, gravel, non-chlorinated spring water and cement. They are treated with tartaric acid before use. Because the tanks are unlined, they are able to provide an effervescent mineral flavor to the wines they contain.

The egg shape provides in important function: it facilitates circulation. Because there is a one degree temperature difference between the top and the bottom of the egg, the wine slowly circulates through the tank. Since there are no corners, the wine won’t get stuck in every nook and cranny. The result? The wine stays more uniform throughout the fermentation process. As a result, the finished product will be more structured. No one wants a flabby Riesling!

Because the wine is slowly moving through the tank, it also has more contact with the lees, the dead yeast. As the lees break down, they release many compounds such as amino acids, polysaccharides and fatty acids. This so-called “lees aging” helps create additional complexity, as well as an appealing mouthfeel and aroma.

Given the benefits of the concrete egg fermenters, why are they still so rare in the United States? Concrete egg fermenters are a lot of work! For starters, winemakers must take special precautions to prevent the acidic wine from corroding the concrete tank. The length of fermentation is also longer in concrete, as opposed to stainless steel. Finally, with Nomblot as the exclusive maker of concrete egg fermenters, it can be difficult to access them. We had to import the tank from France. As Walla Faces co-owner Debbie put it, “[It] cost a fortune to get it here.”

The concrete egg may add some additional work, but the best things in life are worth working for! The best wines in life? Doubly so.

The Story of the Noble Rot

Pourriture noble (in English: ‘the Noble Rot’) is a parasitic infection of a grey fungus called Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis affects over 80 different types of plants in the Pacific Northwest, including strawberries, tomatoes, and bulb plants. On most plants, botrytis will rot the stems, fruit, and crowns. The plant tissue will begin to collapse in on itself.

Even in wine grapes, botrytis can pose a major hazard. In extremely damp conditions, botrytis will fester, leading to unusable grapes that have been destroyed by ‘the Gray Rot’. Botrytis qualifies as ‘the Noble Rot’ when wet conditions bring botrytis spores, but subsequent dryness leads to a partial raisining process. As the mold enters the skin of the grapes, its spores begin to germinate. The water inside the grape evaporates, leading to a concentrated sugar content.

The Noble Rot is important for several distinctive dessert wines, including ice wine. For the Walla Faces 2008 Riesling Ice Wine, the cultivation of botrytis added to the sweetness of the finished product. The use of botrytis also increased depth and complexity, especially for Riesling varietals. The deep golden color of the Walla Faces Ice Wine epitomizes the complex beauty of a botrytized wine.

Botrytis, the Noble Rot, growing on Riesling grapes.

Botrytis growing on Riesling grapes.

It’s not exactly clear when botrytis was first used in winemaking. Historical documents show that botrytis showed up in Hungarian literature as early as 1576. By 1730, botrytis was so integral to Hungarian winemaking that vineyards were rates based on the proclivities for cultivating the fungus.

The Germans, however, have a special legend about its origin. They say that the Noble Rot was discovered independently in Germany in 1775. According to the myth, the Riesling farmers were required to wait for their estate owner’s go-ahead in order to harvest. When the messenger delivering the order to harvest was robbed en-route, the farmers were forced to watch the grapes slowly begin to rot. Assuming the grapes to be worthless, the vineyard owner, Heinrich von Bibra, gave the grapes to the German peasants, who used it to make the first late-harvest Riesling.

Now, the use of botrytis is hardly an accident, with many winemaker intentionally infecting their vineyards in order to achieve the complexity and sweetness that proper use of botrytis ensures. (In the Pacific Northwest, however, botrytis is usually introduced naturally.)

Five Reasons to Celebrate Washington Wine Month

Walla Faces Estate Vineyard

Walla Faces Estate Vineyard

What will you take home?

What will you take home?

March is Washington Wine Month, a month dedicated to the best of this region’s vineyards, wineries and drinks. But why celebrate Washington Wine Month?

1.  Wine is an important part of Washingtonian agriculture

Wine is the fastest growing agricultural sector of the state, with a 400% increase in the past two decades.

The state has 13 federally defined American Viticultural Areas, and 12 of those 13 are in Eastern Washington. 99% of Washington’s wine grapes are grown east of the Cascades. Thus, Eastern Washington is one of the largest producers of wine in the country.

Cumulatively, the state has over 350 wine grape growers. This wine growth adds up to 43,000 acres. As a result, Washington vineyards produce more wine grapes than any other state in the nation save for California.

2.  Wine is important to Washingtonian history

Wine grapes have been growing in Washington State since 1825. From there, they followed the moving settlers. German and Italian immigrants pioneered early winemaking in the 1860s and 1870s. By 1910, wine grapes were common throughout the entire state.

3.  Washington wines are diverse

Washington wines have huge diversity in both varietals and style. Unlike some areas, which may specialize in only a few varietals, our state offers high quality wine of many types. Whether you love Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling or Syrah and Chardonnay, Washington wineries have many amazing choices of your favorites.

Almost equal amounts of space are dedicated to red and white varietals, offering the maximum amount of choice for consumers.

Washington wineries produce virtually every style of wine. Rosés, sparkling wine, fortified wine and ice wines are all produced here. Furthermore, innovative winemakers in Washington state are eager to try out new techniques or re-introduce more classical methods with a modern twist.

Of the 12 million cases of wine that Washington wineries product annually, there is almost certainly something for everyone.

4.  Wine is an essential part of the Washington economy

Washington State has over 750 wineries, a number that has more than doubled since 2005.

The Washington wine industry employs 30,000 full time workers inside the state. Wine supports everyone from farmers to machinery suppliers to laboratories to retailers. It also serves as a catalyst for other forms of commerce, such as tourism. In Walla Walla, our amazing restaurant scene is supported by tourists who visit to find the perfect Cabernet or Syrah.

According to a 2011 report by the Washington State Wine Commission, our state’s wine has a $14.9 billion annual impact on the US economy.

5.  Washington wines are delicious

Anyone who is familiar with Washington wines knows that there are some damn good wines here. Paul Gregutt, wine writer for both the Seattle Times and the Wine Enthusiast, observes that Washington wines are characterized by their purity, their ripe tannins and their bright acidity.

So, will you celebrate Washington Wine Month with us?

As Washington State Wine Commission president Steve Warner points out, “Washington Wine Month is a time to commemorate the hard work of Washington’s more than 750 wineries and 350 wine grape growers”. This month also allows us to honor Washington’s heritage, economy and agricultural industry… and drink some amazing wines to boot!

Walla Faces encourages you to celebrate Washington wine month by visiting Washington state wineries and vineyards. If you make it to Walla Walla, be sure to visit us too!

Holiday Wine Pairings

Holiday Placements

Winter holidays are made better with the perfect bottle of wine! Here are our tips for the perfect Walla Faces wine and food pairings this December. Don’t forget that Walla Faces is offering free shipping on six or more bottles until the end of the year, so it’s the perfect time to take home some holiday wine!

Red Wine

What should I serve with prime rib?
The Walla Faces Syrah has a beautiful white pepper flavor and an earthy boldness that pairs nicely with prime rib. Wine club members should also consider pairing their this luxerixous cut of beef with the Walla Faces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which has just the right balance of the tannins to be elegant without being too mellow.

What should I serve with a roast lamb?
The Walla Faces Fusion Red, a Cabernet-blend, is so smooth it won’t overpower a cut of lamb. The Fusion is also available in the 2006 vintage in a magnum size, which is perfect for holiday parties.

White Wine

What should I serve with ham?
The Walla Faces Riesling has enough fruity notes to truly enhance the flavor of your holiday ham, especially if it is glazed with succulent honey, which plays off the slight sweetness of the wine.

What should I serve with turkey or goose?
The Walla Faces Riesling is the perfect off-dry, allowing it to complement both white and dark meat, enhancing the complexity of your favorite holiday poultry.

What should I serve with latkes?
The Walla Faces Riesling has stone fruit flavors and a crisp minerality that cuts the grease of a fried latke.

What should I serve with dessert?
The Walla Faces Ice Wine brings a beautiful richness that pairs nicely with not-too-sweet desserts such as pumpkin pie, fruitcake or cheeses. And, of course, ice wine is the perfect dessert all on its own!

Walla Faces at 20Something: The New Vintage

On Saturday, November 17th, Walla Faces had the privilege of pouring for a great crowd at 20something: the New Vintage. This walk-and-pour event at Fremont Studios in Seattle allowed us the opportunity to mingle with younger Washington wine lovers as they checked out new wineries, munched on amazing culinary treats, and sipped some fabulous vino!

Will and I are Tasting Room Attendants at the Walla Faces Tasting Room on 216 East Main Street in Walla Walla. We drove all the way up from Walla Walla to Seattle for this event! Armed with our color-coded winery representative passes, we arrived early to set up and chill our Riesling.

Both the Riesling and the Fusion were standouts for the evening! Many people remarked that we were their favorite winery in attendance. I even got the opportunity to meet the head of the Washington Wine Commission! He told me that he loves the 2008 Fusion and enjoys staying the Walla Faces Inns when he is in Walla Walla. That is high praise!

Thanks to everyone who came to this fun evening and supported us! We hope to see your faces at our next pouring event.

Happy Thanksgiving!

At Walla Faces, we love pairing wine with food. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to find that pairings that let both the food and wine truly shine. Here is a glimpse at my Thanksgiving table and the way that I used Walla Faces wine!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope that you did as well. May all your holidays have wonderful food, good company, and excellent wine.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Walla Faces.

How to Chill a Riesling

Walla Faces RieslingWe have previously talked about the importance of temperature for serving red wine. It is important for serving white wine as well.

The Walla Faces Riesling, of course, should be served chilled. At cooler temperatures, the acidity of the wine is emphasized, making the taste more pleasant and refreshing. In addition, for a sweet grape like a Riesling, warmer temperatures will cause the wine to taste cloyingly sweet.

The easiest way to chill our Riesling is simply to keep a bottle or two in the refrigerator. Then, it will be ready to go at a momentís notice.

But what should you do if your forgot to pre-chill your Riesling?

Here are some tips for getting your wine to the perfect temperature:

The ideal method: Fill a bucket up with ice and sprinkle generously with salt, which will lower the freezing temperature. Place the bottle of Riesling in the ice. After six minutes, your bottle should be perfectly chilled.

Alternative method: Wrap a wet towel around your wine bottle and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Be sure you donít forget about it, or your wine will be ruined! I recommend setting a timer.

How to Use Walla Faces Wines at Thanksgiving

Many of our customers are already starting to think about bringing Walla Faces wine to their Thanksgiving tables. Here are some tips and tricks for pairing our wine with your favorite dishes:

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing

Wine and Turkey

What are you eating? Turkey, of course!
What should you pair with it? Walla Faces 2010 Riesling
Our Riesling is light, with a beautiful balance of sweetness and dryness to pair perfectly with both white and dark meat. The apricot and honey essence of the wine brings out your favorite autumn-inspired flavors and adds a layer of complexity to a perfectly cooked slice of turkey. (It also goes great with sweet potatoes!)

What are you eating? Herb-infused stuffing
What should you pair with it? Walla Faces 2008 Syrah
Our Syrah is rich and hearty, with a touch of white pepper. Its complexity makes it versatile enough to pair with your family’s favorite stuffing recipe, bringing out the juicy, meaty flavors.

What are you eating? Mashed potatoes and gravy
What should you pair with it? Walla Faces 2008 Fusion
The Cabernet in our smooth, delicious blend complements your savory, homemade gravy without overwhelming the creamy potatoes. Red wine-exclusive drinkers will also love the Fusion paired with turkey.

What are you eating? Pumpkin pie
What should you pair with it? Walla Faces 2008 Ice Wine
Because the Walla Faces Ice Wine manages to stay light, rather than getting too syrupy, it lifts the denseness of the pumpkin pie and highlights the spices. The sweetness parallels the flavors in your pumpkin pie fabulously.