Showing posts with label merlot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label merlot. Show all posts

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Pete - A Review on the Wine and the Documentary

I did not make Pete, the wine or the politician.

My friend, Shane, was the winemaker of the 80% Les Collines Merlot and 20% Chandler Reach Cab Franc blend. The grapes were sourced from the same lots that were used to make our 2018 vintage political series - Kamala Walla Walla, Notorious RBG, and AOC Columbia Valley. It seems fitting to add Pete to the mix, especially with the hullabaloo around his wine cave fundraising event. (This wine blogger/winemaker has no objection to wine caves and even wrote a blog post about wine caves and politics.)

Shane and I with our 2018 vintage
Now coming back to the wine. At the time of bottling the 2018 vintage, Pete Buttigieg was gearing up his campaign to seek the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 presidential race. He was a fresh face, incredibly bright, and exuded an Obama-esque presence.

Fast forward to 2022, Mayor Pete of Sound Bend, Indiana is now Secretary Pete of Transportation. He ended up fifth in the primary among a myriad of candidates seeking to unseat the incumbent at that time. There is even a documentary, Mayor Pete, that followed him through his campaign trail. 

Pete, the wine, has had three years of age on it at the time of this blog post. It seems like the right time to revisit the wine while watching the documentary. (Credits to Alisa Kessel, Political Science Professor at the University of Puget Sound and once my partner-in-wine, for the suggestion.)

Enjoying Mayor Pete with a glass of Pete
Here is my review:

The Wine

Deep ruby and inky, Pete opened up with a burst of dark fruit aroma of blackberry, plum, and fig. The fruit flavors are concentrated on the palate reminiscent of fig jam and stewed plums with a touch of spice and vegetal notes towards the end. The wine is luscious and full-bodied with soft hairy tannins and puckering acidity. The finish is lingering and balanced. 

Compared to the first time I tasted Pete, the wine has developed beautifully and is exhibiting aging potential. Thankfully I have a few bottles left and look forward to revisiting the wine over time.

2018 Pete
The Documentary

The film started with Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, suggesting a few interview questions that were directed at the young politician’s identity. Buttigieg was after all relatively unknown on the national platform but had enjoyed professional and regional political success while keeping a closeted past. It was not till his early 30’s that Buttigieg came out as a gay person, and that was only seven years ago. The film attempted to unearth who Buttigieg was, not just for the audience but perhaps even for the protagonist himself. As Chasten so eloquently put it, “Don’t bullsh*t us, Peter.”

From the start of the campaign trail to his appointment as Secretary of Transportation, the film chronicled the peaks and valleys of the political journey. Through it, Buttigieg strove to “master the game without it changing (him).” Yet, it is a fine line to not be corrupted by the process but to grow and be better from it. I do see a transformation at the end of the film and would attribute it to the latter.

My Verdict: Pete, the wine, was made with quality ingredients and nurtured in the right conditions. It is developing well and will continue to age beautifully. I certainly have reasons to hope the same for Pete, the politician. Secretary Pete, time is certainly on your side, and many will be keeping their eyes on you. Cheers!

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.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kim Brady of Brady Cellars - From Technology to Oenology

Washington winemakers come in all shapes and sizes! Some come from generations of winemakers like Christophe Baron of Cayuse, some hail from Napa Valley like Todd Alexander of Force Majeuer, and then there are those who have taken a leap of faith from technology to oenology like Microsoft vet Marty Taucher of Avennia. I happen to know a few folks from this last category, and they vary in their levels of success.

The truth is that being a successful winemaker is no small feat. The Washington wine industry is highly competitive and has over 800 wineries. One of my favorite Washington wines comes from technologist-turned-oenologist Kim Brady of Brady Cellars.

Our neighbor invited us to Kim's release party a few years ago. Having tasted novice attempts by other technologist-turned-oenologist friends in the past, I was skeptical. But I was surprised and very much delighted by Kim's first commercial release. His 2010 Cab was delicious during the tasting. Over time, it has aged so nicely that I persuaded him later to sell me one of his remaining six bottles, which I still have in my cellar.

Thankfully, Kim did not turn out to be a one-hit wonder! The vintages that followed the initial commercial release continued to showcase his talents in winemaking. His line-up has expanded to include dry Provence-style Rosés, beautiful Bordeaux blends (called 'Symphony'), amazingly complex Merlot, and my latest favorite, Grenache.

Kim credits his achievements to experienced winemakers (such as Tim and Kelly Hightower of Hightower Cellars and others), who have advised and guided him even before his first commercial release. He even had a chance encounter with Mike Grgich (famed winemaker of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the Paris wine tasting) and ended up helping at the Grgich Wine Estates for a day.

Last weekend was Brady's 2016 Spring Release Party, hosted at the lovely Wingle Residence in West Seattle. (The Wingles are wine club members.) Like prior parties, Tyler Palagi of Radiator Whiskey whipped out all kinds of carnivores' delights, such as charcuterie, brisket with horseradish cream, and pork belly, all of which paired wonderfully with Brady's wines. The line of tasters kept Caroline, the winemaker's wife, busy pouring. Another successful release party indeed!

Left to right: Tyler Palagi, Caroline and Kim Brady
My Verdict: While it is not easy to succeed as a winemaker in this very competitive market, I am certainly glad that this technologist has made the transition to winemaking. I don't say that to just anybody. Here's a nod and a toast, and I look forward to more vintages. Cheers!

Price: $18 (Rosé), $30-40 (Red)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2009 Obelisco Estate Merlot Reserve Estate Grown - A Wonderful Gift!

Have you ever felt intimidated about buying a bottle of wine for someone who "knows" wine?

While I am far from being a wine connoisseur, I have friends who will not buy me wine because I am picky about what I drink. (You know at a certain age, it has to be worth the calories!) I have also received wine as gifts, that proceed to become cooking wine and/or sangria. I may not drink it straight, but I sure hate wasting it.

Then there is my dear sister-in-law, who doesn't drink. She makes every attempt to know my taste and then works with the local wine shop to pick a bottle that I will like. And she has been spot on each time! Have I mentioned she doesn't drink?

On my birthday last year, she got me a bottle of the 2009 Obelisco Estate Merlot Reserve. I was thrilled! Obelisco is an excellent winery! I have tried their Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends at a different tasting and couldn't wait to try the Merlot Reserve. Estate Grown no less.

Day One
The wine has a ruby hue that seems youngish for a 2009 vintage. When first opened, it has a cherry nose with a hint of tar. The body is structured with soft but firm tannins. There is some fruit, but it does not overpower.

Day Three*
The wine is more expressive with more fruit-forwardness. Mouthfeel is also fuller and smooth with nice acidity. Reminds me of my sister-in-law and the qualities for which I strive: a good blend of femininity, character, and strength.

My Verdict: Delicious with food or alone! Advice to those who are uncertain about buying wine for your wino friends: Find out the preferences and don't be shy to ask your local wine shop for advice. It is also OK to not buy wine either. But don't just grab anything from the grocery store.

Price: $0 since it is a gift! Retails at around $60.

* I use the Sharper Image vacuum wine saver to keep the wine fresh after the bottle is opened.