Sunday, February 28, 2021

Wine, The Secret Sauce

Many cultures cook with wine. Growing up, my Hakka Chinese grandmother would make delicious drunken chicken, which I used to think meant exactly just that. The Italians have Brasato Al Barolo (Beef Braised in Barolo). The French have Coq Au Vin (Chicken Braised in Wine). One of my all-time favorites is steamed clams in saffron-infused white wine sauce with garlic and shallots sautéed in butter.

Clams steamed in wine sauce with saffron

I cook with wine occasionally, the occasion being that open bottle of wine that is about to "expire." In this month's blog post, let's explore what exactly about wine that elevates an everyday dish to one with complexity and depth of character. 

Delivering Flavors

The alcohol in wine is a remarkable flavor delivery system. When tasting wine, the alcohol delivers the aroma to the nose and taste to the palate. It then sticks around at the back of the mouth, allowing the flavors to linger and create the perception of "a long finish."

In cooking with wine, the alcohol binds with fat and water, dissolving flavors from both. When wine is used in a marinade, the alcohol absorbs fat-soluble flavors in the aromatics (like garlic and rosemary) as well as water-soluble flavors (like in honey and brine). It then deposits these flavors directly into the cells of the meat so that when you finally cook the meat, it is bursting with delectable goodness. 

Juicy steak soaked in red wine reduction

Wine is also excellent for deglazing a pan after searing a nice cut of meat. The alcohol dislodges and dissolves the browned bits, creating a sauce that is concentrated in flavors, unmatched by a similar reduction made with broth or water. 

Enhancing Flavors

Apart from being a flavor delivery system, wine also adds to the taste of a dish by imparting acidity and sweetness. For instance, Sauvignon Blanc adds tartness and a tinge of sweetness in a lemon cream sauce that marries well with the crunchy juicy pan-fried chicken. 

Pan-fried chicken in creamy lemon wine sauce

A well-made wine may also extend its secondary and tertiary flavors to a dish. These notes, layered on by the fermentation and aging processes, include examples such as creaminess from malolactic fermentation and vanilla from oak. Want a cream sauce to coat your linguini? A buttery Chardonnay may be it!

As a rule of thumb, crisp white wine works best for lighter flavored dishes, like chicken and fish, while big bold red wine works best for flavorful meaty dishes. However, one can break the rule and use the flavor profile of the wine to inspire and guide what you cook. Add an earthy Burgundy to that chicken and mushroom stew with onions, garlic, thyme sprigs, and a bay leaf. Make a Syrah reduction sauce for that peppercorn-crusted steak. 

Doesn't that just whet your appetite?

So next time you have that unfinished bottle or are just feeling inspired to make a special meal, try that time-tested recipe like Julia Child's Bœuf Bourguignon. Or let your creative juice flow with the wine and experiment with new recipes. Because you have that secret sauce.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Viva Vino México


The very word conjures images of sun-soaked beaches and bikinis, carnitas and coronas (the good kind), tacos and tequilas, and everything tropical paradise. Wine, however, does not make the list unless it is part of sangria. So when a bottle of 2016 Santos Brujos Tempranillo came in the June allocation from my local wine store, I was intrigued. And it was delicious! 

2016 Santos Brujos Tempranillo

Let's take a virtual trip to explore Mexican wine in this blog post.


I took a Wine History class a few years ago, and it was fascinating to learn how wine and religion were intertwined. Wine was such an important part of the Christian sacrament that back in the 4th Century AD, monks were the primary winemakers in Europe. Everywhere the church went, wine was sure to follow. 

When the Spanish started making conquests in the New World, they brought with them colonialism and religion. According to legends, Spanish Jesuit Missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino planted the first vineyards in Mexico in the 16th Century. In 1597, Casa Madero in Coahuila became the first winery in Americas. Vines established in Coahuila would eventually be exported to Napa Valley and South America, both of which are now world renowned wine destinations. Yet, Mexico somehow fell off the wine map.

First Mexican winery was founded in Coahuila

Since then, Mexican winemaking went through its ebb and flow before re-emerging in the 70s and 80s. Today, modern Mexican winemaking is regaining attention, making its own expressions of wine from the French, Spanish, and Italian grape varieties.

Latitude and Altitude

The common question about winemaking in Mexico is the climate. It is hard to imagine that the hot weather is conducive to growing grapes. After all, the best winemaking regions are located somewhere between the 30th and 50th parallels on either side of the equator. 

The reality is about 85-90% of Mexican wine today is produced just north of 30°N latitude in Baja California. The vineyards are located at a high altitude of 1,000 feet above sea level, where the climate is cooler. This plus the breeze from the Pacific Ocean creates an ideal condition for growing grapes. There are a handful of wine sub-regions in Baja California; of which, Valle de Guadalupe is known as the Napa of Mexico.

Vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe

The remaining 10-15% of Mexican wine is produced in Sonora and the La Laguna area. Sonora, another northern state located on the other side of the Gulf of California, produces a very limited amount of wine. The La Laguna area straddles two states, Durango and Coahuila. While the area is the southmost of the three, it makes up for it with a high altitude of 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. Coahuila, in particular, takes the claim for the first known winery in Americas and the prized wine region of Valle de Parras. 

Santos Brujos Tempranillo

Santos Brujos, founded in 2006, is a young boutique winery located in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Its first release was the 2012 vintage. The winery is among a few in the region that is certified organic and biodynamic, practicing native yeast fermentation with no added sulfites. Winemaker Luis Peciña Garcia moved from the Rioja region in Spain to join the winery in 2014. 

Santos Brujos logo

The 2016 vintage is made of 100% estate-grown Tempranillo, aged in 80% French and 20% American oak. The wine is unfiltered although I didn't get a lot of sediments. Overall, it is expressive, pleasing, and fruit-forward with lots of berries and a tinge of spice. For me, it is reminiscent of a Rioja, somewhere between a Crianza and a Reserva, although some would argue that it tastes more like a Ribera del Duero.

My Verdict: With a forgotten legacy as the land of the first vineyards and the first winery in Americas, Mexico's revival in modern winemaking is very exciting. I am blown away by the Santos Brujos Tempranillo. The fact that there are beautiful wine countries to explore in Baja California and Coahuila is all bonus. From a country known for coronas and tequilas, I can now add a libation that has a longer history to the list. 

¡Viva Mexico! 

¡Viva Vino Mexico!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Three Vintages, Four Grapes, Five Wines

As this most unusual year comes to a close, I decided to revisit some of my wines in the spirit of not-so Auld Lang Syne: three vintages, four grapes, five wines. If nothing else, tasting and learning from the past helps prepare you for the next vintage. So here's what I've learned.

Revisiting past vintages

2016 Abscession (Syrah, Chandler Reach Vineyards, Yakima AVA)

This is my first vintage and my last bottle. My winemaking teacher, Steve Foisie, called this the proof-of-concept vintage. He coached us through the chemistry of red wine making; from crushing grapes to alcoholic and malolactic fermentations, and then wrapping it all up with stabilization and bottling. Nothing fancy.

    First Crush

    Technical Specs

    • 100 lbs of Syrah harvested in mid September 2016
    • Upon completing alcoholic and malolactic fermentations, matured in glass carboy with no oak
    • 1.5 cases bottled in mid February 2017
    • Residual sugar: 0.35%, pH = 3.78, TA = 0.73

    Tasting Notes

    • Color: Medium ruby
    • Aroma: Surprisingly fresh with strawberry and cherry
    • Palate: Dry, nice balance of fruit and herb, with a hint of eucalyptus, while retaining good structure
    • Body: Medium plus
    • Acidity: Medium
    • Tannins: Medium plus
    • Finish: Long with a hint of eucalyptus

    My Lesson: Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!

    The first vintage was the most nerve wrecking. My main goal was to prevent the wine from turning into vinegar. This meant rigorous cleaning and decontaminating of everything in close proximity to the wine. Good sanitation practice allows the yeast to properly complete fermentation, and the wine to mature and stabilize. Four years later, I am pleased and somewhat surprised that the Abscession has retained a nice structure despite a higher-than-desired pH and zero oak contact. The wine remains fresh although it has lost some of its fruit forwardness.

    2017 Midnight Crush (Cabernet Sauvignon, Artz Vineyards, Red Mountain AVA)

    This is my second vintage, and my first time using oak. I am not a fan of oaky wine, but I wanted to take the edge off the tannic Cab Sauvignon grapes with micro-oxygenation from the barrel. To limit wood contact and oak flavor extraction, 20 of the 25 gallons of wine were racked in and out of the 8-gallon barrel. I was also excited about the more concentrated flavors as the porous barrel allowed for a mild evaporation.

      Round-robin racking in and out of barrel

      Technical Specs

      • 400 lbs of Cab Sauvignon harvested in mid October 2017
      • 80% in new French oak for two months, 20% unoaked
      • 10.5 cases bottled in early April 2018
      • Residual sugar: 0.34%, pH = 3.62, TA = 0.79
      Tasting Notes

      • Color: Medium ruby
      • Aroma: Cherry Jolly Rancher
      • Palate: Dry, cherry with a bit of tobacco, nice structure
      • Body: Medium plus
      • Acidity: Medium
      • Tannins: Medium plus, smooth
      • Finish: Lingering with cocoa notes

      My Lesson: Respect the oak!

      Oak in wine is like salt in food. If you can taste it, you probably have too much of it. Because I was using a small new French oak barrel, I was careful with wood contact to avoid creating an oak bomb. Once the desired taste profile was achieved, the oaked wine was racked out of the barrel, and a new batch of unoaked wine was racked in. The outcome was a lovely structured wine, balancing fruit with nuanced notes of tobacco and cocoa. The judges at the Washington State Fair agreed and gave it a second place in the Cab Sauvignon category last year!

      2018 Political Series (Merlot, Les Collines Vineyard, Walla Walla AVA, and Cabernet Franc, Chandler Reach Vineyards, Yakima AVA)

      For this third vintage, I attempted two new varieties - Merlot and Cab Franc. As far as winemaking math goes, one plus one equals three. Yes, we ended up with three distinct wines after blending and tasting. I procured another small new French oak barrel for this vintage. Like before, we ran 20 gallons of wine in and out of the 8-gallon barrel in a round robin fashion to manage wood contact.

      Technical Specs
      • 200 lbs Merlot harvested in mid September 2018
      • 100 lbs Cab Franc harvested: Early October 2018
      • Bottled all three wines in early June 2019
      • Overall blend residual sugar: 0.23%, pH = 3.89, TA = 0.62

        Blending and tasting

      Kamala Walla Walla (100% Merlot free run)

      The free run Merlot tasted so good that it was the first to go into the barrel. It was kept there for two months to complete malolactic fermentation and started aging. The wine was then aged and stabilized for another six months in glass carboys. Three cases were produced.
        Tasting Notes
        • Color: Medium ruby
        • Aroma:  Cherry and red fruit
        • Palate: Cherry Jolly Rancher with herbal undertones
        • Body: Medium plus to full body
        • Acidity: Medium plus to high, lively
        • Tannins: Medium plus and smooth
        • Finish: Lingering and rounded

        AOC (60% Cabernet Franc/40% Merlot)

        Next into the barrel was a blend of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot. There might have been a bit of malolactic fermentation left, but it was mostly maturing in oak for two months. The wine was then aged and stabilized for another three months in glass carboys. Three cases were produced.

        Tasting Notes

          • Color: Garnet
          • Aroma: Strawberry and floral-scented
          • Palate: Strawberry, floral with cocoa undertones
          • Body: Medium plus to full
          • Acidity: Medium plus to high
          • Tannins: Medium plus
          • Finish: Long with a cherry finish

          Labeling wine bottles

          RBG (70% Merlot/30% Cabernet Franc)

          Last but not least, a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cab Franc was racked into the barrel for 3 months of aging and stabilization. Two cases were produced.

          Tasting Notes

            • Color: Garnet
            • Aroma: Cherry and floral-scented
            • Palate: Dry, cherry with cocoa undertones
            • Body: Medium plus to full, well rounded
            • Acidity: Medium plus to high
            • Tannins: Medium and smooth
            • Finish: Lingering with a tart finish

            My Lesson: Plan but flex!

            You heard parents say that raising two children is more than twice the work of raising one. The same is true for making two grape varieties. While not the sexiest part of winemaking, planning the logistics around two fermentation timelines is essential. In return, you get so much more as well. I started out thinking I was going to make a Merlot/Cab Franc blend. I ended up with three wines - a single varietal and two blends! So while I had my plan, I learned to keep an open mind and flex where the palate took me. And I was rewarded for that.

            So let not auld acquaintance be forgot. But take a glass of kindness and drink to the next vintage!

            Monday, November 30, 2020


            I love, love, LOVE Champagne! 

            However, there will be times when one is forced to move to Schitt's Creek, where these prized sparklers can't be found. Or perhaps one's wallet is feeling light this year, but the festivity must go on. Be of good (holiday) cheer, you do not have to resort to Zhampagne. There are yummy sparklers made via méthode champenoise that will not break the bank.

            David Rose getting some Zhampagne

            First, let's delve into this multi-step process to make Champagne. 

            Méthode Champenoise

            Champagnes go through two fermentations. In the first fermentation, the yeast turns natural sugar in the grapes to alcohol, creating the base wine. This is then bottled with some liqueur de tirage, a mixture of wine, sugar, and yeast, which then kickstarts a second fermentation. This time, carbon dioxide, a fermentation bi-product, is trapped in the bottle and will eventually be released in tiny bubbles for the special occasion.

            Bottles in pupitres for riddling
            After the second fermentation, the bottles are then aged with the remaining yeast particles, known as the lees, for at least 15 months. This prolonged contact allows the wine to develop a creamier and fuller texture with a nutty bready aroma.

            When aging is complete, the bottles are held at 35° in special racks called pupitres. Every day or two, the bottles will be lightly shaken, turned, and put back in the rack at a gradually increasing angle. This process is called riddling or remuage

            After a few weeks, the bottles will be virtually held upside down. The lees will settle in the neck of the bottle to be frozen and removed via a process called dégorgement

            Finally, the bottle is topped up with liqueur d'expédition, usually a mixture of base wine, sucrose and sulfur dioxide, to balance and stabilize the wine. A cork is then secured in place with a wire cage. 

            Viola! That concludes the process that is known as méthode champenoise, also known as the traditional method.

            Other than Champagne

            While elaborate, méthode champenoise is well-practiced outside the Champagne region. Even within France, there are sparkling wines that are produced in the traditional method. The famous ones are the eight appellations of Crémant; namely, Alsace, Jura, Bourgogne, Savoie, Die, Limoux, Bordeaux, and Loire. Compared to Champagne, the rules for making Crémant are less stringent, particularly in the length of time spent aging on the lees. What you may lose in flavor profile, you gain in price point.

            Freixenet Headquarter
            The European bubbly that is often lauded as the closest thing to Champagne, however, is the Spanish Cava. And at a fraction of the price! Here's a fun fact, the largest producer of traditional method sparkling wine is Freixenet, headquartered in Saudurni d'Anoia, Spain. Personally, I am partial to Cava as it brings back fond memories of our Christmas vacation in Barcelona several years ago. 

            On the other side of the pond, many Champagne houses have opened their satellite wineries in the likes of Napa, Sonoma, and Willamette, affording us the expertise of the best in French sparkling winemaking. However, not to be overlooked are producers in less known areas like Washington and New Mexico. But before you grab a bottle from the grocery store, make sure that the label indicates that the bubbly is made in the traditional or Champagne method.

            Other than Zhampagne

            Now, if a bottle of Champagne is not within your reach, I have a few recommendations for Champagne-style sparklers this holiday season!

            Flama d'Or Brut

            • Winery: Castell d'Or 
            • Region/Appellation: Cava, Spain
            • Retail Price: $11
            • Minimum Aging: 14 months
            • Winery Notes: Straw-colored yellow with slight golden highlights with a good release of small bubbles forming a rosary and a persistent crown. A fine aroma of aging, followed by floral scents and ripe fruits. In the mouth, it is extremely vivacious, compensated by a pleasant equilibrium and elegance. The aftertaste is fruity, evoking apple, pear and a hint of citrus. Fresh, pleasant, well-balanced and a good, fine structure of the bubble.

            Gruet NV Blanc de Blancs

            • Winery: Gruet Winery
            • Region/Appellation: Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, United States
            • Retail Price: $17
            • Minimum Aging: 3.5 years
            • Winery Notes: Gruet Blanc de Blancs is a Brut styled sparkler, medium lemon in color with a fantastic bead in the glass that remains incredibly lively throughout the palate. Aromas of intense notes of brioche, followed by green apples, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and tropical fruit.

            Treveri Blanc de Blanc

            • Winery: Treveri Cellars 
            • Region/Appellation: Yakima Valley, Washington, United States
            • Retail Price: $15
            • Minimum Aging: 24 months
            • Winery Notes: The most well-known of sparkling wines, Treveri Blanc de Blancs captures hints of green apple and brioche, balanced out by a cool, crisp finish.
            So here you go! No need to resort to Zhampagne. Here's to a sparkly bubbly holiday season. Cheers!

            Saturday, October 31, 2020

            Winemaking, Halloween Edition

            HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

            Truth be told, the whole year feels like a long stretched-out Halloween, with forest fires and pestilence being the marks of the 2020 vintage. Dozens of family-owned Napa wineries, among over a thousand structures in the valley, were decimated by the most recent Glass Fire. While Washington vineyards mostly escaped unscathed from the forest fires, the pandemic continues to loom over the state as hospitals brace for the fall surge of COVID-19.

            It was early March when I placed my grape order. I decided to go with Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Tapteil Vineyard. The vineyard also supplies to Quilceda Creek Vintners, Long Shadows Vintners, and Cadence Winery. It seemed like it would be a slam dunk, and I was going with easy.

            I mostly love Red Mountain Cab for its eagerness to please, both the palate and the wine makers. Also, the AVA is often ahead of the others in terms of Growing Degree Days (GDD), which usually indicates an earlier harvest.

            WSU Growing Degree Day Chart

            Like many things in 2020, nothing went quite as planned.

            By late spring, Eastern Washington, the heart of the best vineyards in the state, became a COVID-19 hotbed, with possibly the highest rate of infection from Washington to California. Cultural and political factors strongly influenced the way the pandemic was managed. All that added to uncertainty in the vineyards and the health of their workers.

            Then came Labor Day, when high winds blew through the State, downed power lines, and sparked 80 fires. Over 300,000 acres were torched. While not quite the catastrophic Glass Fire, the smoke pool in Washington was ubiquitous and air quality so bad that many were driven indoors. If the coronavirus pandemic was not enough concern to one's respiratory health, the smoke would seal the deal. 

            Map of Labor Day fires

            The fires and smoke were thankfully contained when harvest rolled around for the red wine grapes. But the Cab in our allocated lot just refused to ripen! In fact, our grapes appeared to go into reverse aging. Sugar (Brix) was decreasing, and acidity (TA) was rising. After a few false starts, we finally went with a different parcel where the grapes were ready to go. A harvest date was selected. 

            The fall day arrived and did its round of sunshine, rain, and chill. At the crush site, the winemakers were appropriately masked as we weighed and distributed the grapes before running them through the crusher and de-stemmer. It had been a long wait for the grapes, and I was happy to take the must home.

            Pitchforking grapes into totes

            Weighing grapes
            50 lbs of grapes in each tote

            That was ten days ago, and my wine is now in the last stretch of alcoholic fermentation. It may be a time of pestilence, pumpkins, and potions outside, but for me, it is punchdown in my garage cellar.

            Have a great time trick-or-treating with your best Halloween mask on and stay safe!

            Wednesday, September 30, 2020

            A Tribute to the Notorious RBG

            It was a smoke-filled day with forest fires raging wild along the West Coast. I was in back-to-back meetings, dealing with my own "fires" at work. Then I got a Skype message with a crying face emoji, followed by more Skype and text messages.

            "RBG has passed away."

            I was gutted. At that moment, the problem I was dealing with seemed small and distant. 

            2018 Notorious RBG

            You may recall that the Notorious RBG was one of my hobby wine labels. When we decided to go with a political theme for our 2018 vintage, we wanted to honor women who have made a positive difference. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a no-brainer. 

            The nickname, Notorious RBG, was coined by then NYU law student Shana Khniznik, who started a blog in 2013 capturing the justice's dissenting opinions. Justice Ginsberg spent much of her legal career paving the way for women to be on equal footing as men in decision making and compensation. Though we are still a ways from gender equality, many women of power today owe their success to her. I'd like to think myself included.

            RBG's dissenting collar

            In honor of the late Justice Ginsberg, I opened a bottle of the 2018 Notorious RBG. The wine is made with Red Bordeaux Grapes or, more specifically, Right Bank Grapes (both fitting of the acronym): 70% Merlot from Les Collines Vineyard of Walla Walla AVA and 30% Cabernet Franc from Chandler Reach Vineyard of Yakima AVA.

            Here's my tasting notes:

            When first opened, the wine had a lively bouquet of cherries and strawberries. The fruity notes extended to the palate, albeit subtly and with high acidity. It is like taking the tiniest bite of a ripe Bing cherry. The young wine was bone dry and needed to breathe. Decanted over time, the acidity and tannins mellowed out and gave it a fuller, rounder mouthfeel, with more plum notes. It was then more approachable and delicious, with a long-lasting finish. The wine could age at least another 3 to 4 years.

            Remembering RBG

            In a way, the 2018 Notorious RBG seems to reflect the essence of Justice Ginsberg in a bottle. While known to be incredibly shy, her passion for law and justice was lively and a force of nature. In her old age, she became increasingly comfortable with being loved and embraced by the public. Her death was a great loss to many.

            Rest in peace, Notorious RBG! May your legacy live on in our wine and in our hearts!

            Monday, August 31, 2020

            Not Just Any Wine Labels

            One of the funnest parts in hobby winemaking is designing wine labels. I am not creative by myself, but as a group, we usually come up with pretty good ideas. Because our wine is not for sale, we have complete freedom in how we label and commemorate each vintage. I want to share some of our creations here.

            Our first vintage was the 2016 Yakima Valley Syrah. We had completed winemaking theory and were excited to get our hands on the grapes. It was a simple wine made in a carboy to demonstrate the primary and secondary fermentation process. As harvest rolled around, my husband got pretty ill with a bad abscess in his throat and was unable to make the crush. Hence, we named the wine Abscession, a play on Calvin Klein's famous fragrance label. 

            2016 Abscession Syrah by Alisa Kessel

            The next year, we got our hands on some Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the famous Red Mountain AVA. A shortage of vineyard workers, a late-day harvest, and an untimely power outage culminated to us crushing 4,000 lbs of grapes late at night. There is nothing like fumbling in darkness with sticky grape juice all over you. That night, Midnight Crush was conceived. The werewolf seemed a natural fit.

            2017 Midnight Crush by Olivia Lee

            In 2018, we decided to up our game and make a blend; Walla Walla Merlot and Yakima Cabernet Franc. Then things got more complicated when one of our hobby winemakers relocated for a new job. Besides managing the fermentation timeline with two varieties harvested three weeks apart, we had to coordinate the use of equipment in two locations. 

            This is the vintage where I wore my project manager hat frequently, and good project management did pay off. By the time we were ready to bottle, we were convinced that we had made four different wines. That meant four labels. We decided to have fun with a political theme.

            We were so delighted with our free-run Merlot that year that we decided to have a single varietal bottling. The Merlot was aromatic with cherry and cocoa, elegant yet powerful. We named it Kamala Walla Walla after Senator Kamala Harris. Senator Harris caught our attention during the first Democratic presidential debate. We were thrilled when she was announced the Democratic vice presidential nominee the very same day the label went into press.
            2018 Kamala Walla Walla by Reuben Lee

            We then separated out a 70% Merlot and 30% Cab Franc blend. On the nose and palate, we got cherry and strawberry. But the blend carried a higher level of tannins and acidity as well as a very long finish. We decided to name it Notorious RBG after every feminist's favorite Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG also stands for Red Bordeaux Grapes and specifically Right Bank Grapes; of which, Merlot and Cab Franc are dominant. 
            2018 Notorious RBG by Reuben Lee

            The second blend consisted of 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot. It was fruit-forward and herbaceous, with a lot of tannins, having spent the longest time in oak. We named it AOC Columbia Valley, after Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Despite her youth, AOC is laser focused on her progressive platform, calling out the rich and fighting for the poor. AOC is also a play on the French wine classification, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée.

            2018 AOC Columbia Valley by Reuben Lee

            Our final blend was 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc, made in our second location. I personally have not tasted this blend and have no tasting notes to share. Following a string of strong well-spoken female public figures, it seems fitting to add a male politician. 

            We named this wine Pete after former South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg. Pete's impressive resume includes a Harvard degree, a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, a high-end management consulting gig, and a military career. For better or for worse, no one else made the news for being in a wine cave!
            2018 Pete by Reuben Lee

            While the labels for each vintage are varied in themes and designs, the ability to have fun and to commemorate each year of winemaking unifies them all. We are after all not trying to create a brand. Yet in so doing, we are able to express what our wines mean to us. 

            For our 2019 vintage, we stepped back to a single variety, Walla Walla Syrah. As we bottled the rest of the wine yesterday, it is time again to start thinking about labels. So do stay tuned because ours are not just any wine labels.