Thursday, June 24, 2010

Follow Me To Walla Walla - Wine Bloggers Conference 2010

Join me this weekend as I, along with hundreds of other bloggers, writers, publicists and industry reps, convene in Walla Walla, Washington for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference.  This event will be three packed days of educational seminars, keynote speeches, winery and vineyard excursions, wine tasting galore and great food!

You can follow me all weekend on Twitter at @MettD and follow all of the action by following the conference hash tag, #WBC10.

New blog posts will arise when possible!  Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival Tasting Music Series at Waters Winerhy

This past Thursday Waters Winery played host to the final Tasting Music event of the 2010 Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival.  The festival just finished up it's third year of bringing some of the nations top classical music performers together for two weeks for nearly 30 performances throughout the valley.

Waters has played host to the Tasting Music series each year and is a brilliant setting for the event.  The winery is situated on the south end of town just north of the Oregon border.  Surrounded by rolling hills of wheat, apples, and grapes the views to the Blue Mountains to the east and south are unmatched.
The players were performing a beautiful piece that evening, Beethoven: Septet in E Flat, Op. 20.  It featured a brilliant violinist, a violist, a cellist, a bassist, a horn player, a bassoonist and a clarinetist weaving together a stunning work.  The Tasting Music series is always fun in that the performance is both educational (featuring frequent breaks in the music to fill the listeners in on the details of the piece as it progresses) and enjoyable (culminating with a performance of the work in whole).  Plus, you get to drink wine!  What is there not to like?

Waters was pouring a few wines that evening.  They had the 2009 Substance Reisling, C.V. (this is their second label, but equally as tasty), the 2009  Waters Rose, WWV, the 2008 Waters Interlude, C.V. and the 2007 Waters Columbia Valley Syrah.  My personal favorites of this bunch were the Interlude and the Rose.

The Interlude is a delicious Bordeaux blend featuring Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with just a hint of Petit Verdot featuring grapes from vineyards throughout Washington State.  The nose is ripe with dark berries and fresh earth and the palette imbued with bright berries, subtle spice and a luscious mouth feel.  It is always one of my favorites from Waters year-in and year-out.  You should probably get to know it!

This year's Rose I personally find to be quite perfect.  I love a good dry Rose for summer and this one certainly fits the bill.  With zero percent residual sugar, this Rose is a blend of roughly 70% Syrah and 30% Viognier and is sourced from some of my favorite vineyards, Loess and Forgotten Hills.  The nose is filled with strawberry and magnolia, with a mouth of bright strawberry and rhubarb.  The finish is both bone dry and fresh featuring a nice acid profile.  This will certainly prove to be one of my go-to summer wines.

Doubleback Release Party

A couple of weekends ago my friend Christa and I attended the first release party for Doubleback, the new winery by Drew Bledsoe, former All-Star NFL quarterback for teams such as the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys.

Anyway, Drew is a hometown boy who has returned to Walla Walla to launch a winery.  He has invested wisely, securing vineyards in the exclusive Seven Hills region (at SeVein, their new project) and partnering up with winemaker Chris Figgins of the legendary Leonetti Cellar.  Currently they are producing their wines at Artifex, which is a new custom crush and production facility for about a dozen wineries run by Norm McKibben and Jean-Francoise Pellet of Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars.

The other weekend they had their first release at the facility where they unveiled their 2007 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine was pretty spectacular, not going to lie.  It was a textbook Cabernet with an amazing deep ruby color.  The nose was rich with black cherry, cinnamon and a touch of licorice.  The palette was a beautifully smooth and quite elegant with a flavor profile reminiscent of cherry, blackberries, lilac, a hint of earth and some subtle oak.  The finish of this wine was long lasting and enjoyable.

The wine that afternoon was perfectly paired with sliders featuring beef from Chris' new ranch, Lostine Cattle Company, topped with goat cheese from the Monteillet Fromagerie and caramelized Walla Walla Sweet Onions.  While the wine will likely be hard to find as it is already sold out, you should do your best to secure a bottle if you happen to run across it!

Salad Lyonnaise

This morning the New York Times had a wonderful article on Salad Lyonnaise that I was compelled to share.

Salad Lyonnaise is one of my favorite Spring salads and deserves some serious consideration for and brunch or lunch parties in your future.  The bitter greens, salty bacon and barely poached egg are delish!

Check out the full article here to learn the tricks of a truly great Lyonnaise.  Enjoy!

Making Your Own Pickles

I think everyone loves a good pickle (well maybe not those wretched Bread and Butter pickles, but a tasty dill is always a crowd-pleaser). Whenever I order a sandwich and see a delicious crunchy pickle on the side, I have to think….which do I eat first the sandwich or the pickle?  Well, needless to say the pickle usually wins. I more-often-than-not end up with a plethora of cucumbers from the garden and try to make a ton of fresh pickles.  Fresh pickles are brilliant - tangy, salty, and crunchy, how could they possibly get any better?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Fresh Dill
Jalapeno Peppers
Sweet Onions
Black Mustard Seed
Whole Pepper Corns
Whole Allspice
Bay Leaves
Apple Cider Vinegar
Kosher Salt

Sanitize the containers you are going to use in the dishwasher, or in the sink with hot water and bleach. Cut the cucumbers into spears. Next, add a handful of dill, sliced jalapeno pepper, sliced onions and garlic, a tablespoon of mustard seed, a liberal dash of pepper, an allspice or two, a few bay leaves, and enough cucumbers to fill the jar. To make the brine bring to boil one part vinegar, one part water and ¼ cup salt per 2 quarts of liquid and boil for 2 minutes. Pour hot brine over cucumbers to cover and place lid on container. Let sit on counter for 2 days, then store in refrigerator for several months. Pickles are best if left for a few days before serving. You can also pickle any other vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, carrots, or celery the same way.

Drying Tomatoes to Enjoy Year Round

Last summer I ended up with literally hundreds of pounds of tomatoes.  It was awesome!  I learned all sorts of new ways to preserve them for use year-round, but one of my favorites is the oven roast them and preserve in olive oil. I use these tomatoes in pasta, on pizza, or to make a delish sundried tomato pesto. If you have seen the price of good pre-packaged sundried tomatoes, you will quickly realize that its much about the same price as making your own, but these are much better. Also, make sure to use the oil in addition to the tomatoes, it will have a delicious herby/tomato flavor after a few days, and make a really delicious bread dip.

Olive Oil & Herb Tomatoes

Tomatoes (tend to use smaller-medium size tomatoes such as Romas, Plums, Zebras, etc.)
Fresh Oregano
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme

Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes into ¼ inch-thick slices and lay in a single layer on cookie sheet. Next sprinkle tomatoes with the oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic and salt & pepper, don’t be shy with the herbs! 

Bake until tomatoes are dried through, and almost crisp on the edge, about 3-4 hours. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Next layer tomatoes into a clean container and then pour enough olive oil to just cover top layer of tomatoes, seal tightly and store in refrigerator for up to one month.

You can also can them by putting them in your pressure cooker to make a solid seal on the jar and be able to use year round, or freeze them in smaller freezer bags.

Spicy Asparagus and Beef Stir Fry

Lately I have been really into stir fry.  It is so easy to make and super tasty!   This particular recipe is pretty bomb.  The sauce has the perfect balance of flavor - sweet, tangy and spicy. The beef and the asparagus together is pure heaven! I will be putting this recipe in my permanent favorites collection.

Thai Beef & Asparagus Stir Fry

1 Pound Beef Chuck Steak, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon Dry Sherry
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
3 Cloves Garlic, roughly minced
1 Bunch Asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons Naam Pridk Phao (chili sauce)
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce

In a small bowl, combine the beef, cornstarch and sherry. Combine well and set aside.  In another small bowl, make the sauce by combining the naam prik pao, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Mix well to combine ingredients, set aside until needed.

Make sure you have all your ingredients very close because the stir fry goes very quickly. Also, have a small dish of water available as well just in case you need to thin the sauce a bit.

Heat your wok over high heat until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable or grape seed oil, then the beef followed by the garlic. If your wok is hot enough, your beef will cook very quickly. When the beef is seared, but not cooked through, about 30 seconds or so add the asparagus. Cook for another minute. Add the sauce. It should caramelize very quickly because of the high sugar content. If it gets too thick add a little water. Serve with brown rice.

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