Willamette Valley AVA

It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways).  Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot.  The climate is perfect for it.  Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions.  And what do you know?  They got them.  Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods.  The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.

While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s  when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California.  From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence.  And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:

  • Auxerrois
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cascade
  • Chardonnay
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Malbec
  • Marechal Foch
  • Melon
  • Merlot
  • Muller Thurgau
  • Muscat Canelli
  • Muscat Ottonel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah
  • Tocai Fruiulano
  • Viognier






















Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Eric Asimov




If you are a wine lover, you are definitely familiar with Eric Asimov. We wine bloggers were lucky enough to get a chance to hear him and learned how he began his career.

Sorry that this video bounces around a bit as people kept moving to get closer to him.

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve.com Editor, September 8, 2011

Jancis Robinson on Books

Is the printed word dead? Wow, I hope not.

In a continuation of her keynote address at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference this summer in Charlottesville, Jancis Robinson discusses the past and future of wine books…

Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor September 6, 2011

Jancis Speaks

This year’s Wine Bloggers’Conference showed me how much the consequence of our craft* has risen. The keynote speakers were major wine personalities, Jancis Robinson, OBE, MW, wine writer for the Financial Times and JancisRobinson.com who also advises the QEII on her wine cellar and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.

I am periodically going to publish bits and pieces that I thought were cool from these speeches.

This is Jancis Robinson talking about the evolution of her website and the decision to use a subscription model.  I like it because there is not great master plan involved which makes me feel like even I could manage to accomplish greatness… Although she was already a Master of Wine at the time, so I guess there goes my dream again.




* Please slap me if I use such a phrase again.  I felt like an actor dissecting their oeuvre, which usually makes me want to vomit.


Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor, September 1, 2011

Regional American Wines Celebrated on Today

One of the advantages of “Back to School” time is that, I, your dear editor, regains access to my television (if not my sanity). This means that I get to watch my favorite part of the Today Show, the 4th Hour with Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. One of the reasons that it is my favorite is because there is usually liquor involved and often wine. Yesterday Today had Alpana Singh on to pour Regional American wines. Go Alpena and thanks for your support for local American wines from up and coming areas!

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Congrats to the wineries and wines featured:

Blue Sky Vineyards 2010 Vignoles (we’ve been there!)
Red Newt Cellars 2010 Riesling
Keswick Vineyards 2009 Estate Reserve Viognier (coming soon!)
Saint Croix Vineyards 2009 La Crescent Dessert Wine
Prairie State Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc (we’ve been there but I can’t find my own link!)
Bedell Cellars 2007 Musée (we’ve been there!)
Hinterland Vineyard 2009 Marquette Reserve
Barboursville Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot Reserve (we’ve had their wine!)


Gretchen Neuman, VinoVerve Editor, September 1, 2011

The Sabre

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Arlynn PresserYes, that object from Wednesday was a champagne sabre.  I have seen a bottle opened this way once in the past.  Yet, I felt that I needed to give it a try.  When my friend Arlynn Lieber Presser told me about her blogging project to meet and learn from all her Facebook friends, I knew that this was the time to go ahead.  I purchased the sabre (you can spell it with an -er if you wish.  I am going all Buffalo Sabre-y on you) and waited for it to arrive.

It is magnificent. Has good heft and according to Kevin and the girls, the ability to put someone’s eye out.  Indeed, Champagne Rory indicated a concern that he would be blinded by flying glass.  This was not to be.  Everything went flying along its trajectory at such a rate of speed that I am not sure it is even possible to get glass blowback.  And wine foaming from the bottle removes the possiblity of shards travelling down your throat and lodging in your lung.  I like the looks of this sabre.  Kevin and I bought a Laguiole sabre for a friend a couple of years back and I was disappointed to see that it looked like a machete.  A deadly weapon as well to be sure, but it was missing the elegance of a sabre.

So, I took the sabre to Arlynn’s and I showed her how it worked.  But she was still concerned about trying it herself.  Watch for yourself.  I talked her into it.  You can read her post about our evening here.  I even got my Dad and Sophie to try using the sabre (Though in Sophie’s case, it was more like trying to keep her from it.)

I KNOW that I will never open a bottle of bubbly another way again.  This was way too cool.

Visiting a Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I realize that this is much later in the day than I usually post, but it has been a crazy busy week and I wanted to start this next series. Hard core wine lovers have almost always have gone to visit a winery before. But if you don’t get to travel much and don’t realize that there are wineries in your area you might not be familiar with what it is like. Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin was on my way home from the Wine Bloggers’ Conference and therefore the perfect last stop before I got home later that day. The winery at Wollersheim was established in the 1840s by Agoston Haraszathy, better known to wine lovers as the “Father of California Viticulture” and the founder of Buena Vista Vineyards. Before he made it to Napa, he stopped for several years in Wisconsin, where he established the oldest incorporated village in the state, Prairie du Sac. The winery is still in operation to this day and this is from the tour when I visited at the end of June. Enjoy.

Wollersheim Winery
7876 Wisconsin 188
Prairie du Sac, WI 53578
1-800-VIP-WINE (847-9463)

Luke Donald Wines and Branding Wines with Pro Golfers

By Don Holton
Contributing Writer

Wines produced by pro golfers Ernie Els and Luke Donald were the stars of our recent tasting at Terlato Wine Group’s corporate headquarters in Lake Bluff, the restored Armour mansion built in the 1930s.

Luke Donald - photo courtesy of Don Holton

Luke Donald - photo courtesy of Don Holton

After tasting the Ernie Els wines (see Friday’s post), we moved to another room and the wines of Luke Donald. As a professional athlete, Donald might not be expected to fancy fine wines, but he has a range of talents – as a golfer, winemaker, and artist. He also completed an undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, at a time when many top young golfers skip college and head for the pro tours.

The Luke Donald Chardonnay 2007 consists of 100% Carneros Chardonnay grapes. This is a wonderful wine, exemplary of the movement away from heavy oak, and it succeeds in deftly balancing citrus and a mild oaky sweetness. It retails for about $30.

Luke Donald Chardonnay - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

Luke Donald Chardonnay - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

The Luke Donald Claret 2006 is 100% Napa Valley fruit, from vineyards in Rutherford and Stags Leap, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It is aged in French Oak barrels for 16 months. The taste is full and smooth, with European style tannins and notes of spice – a fine wine whose quality equates well to its $40 retail price. You would serve this with your finest beef tenderloin.

The Luke Donald Collection wines are the result of a friendship with Bill Terlato, President and CEO, who believes the Els and Donald wines carry credibility, not because of their sports fame, but because the golfers play serious roles in the wine making process.

“Our Ernie Els and Luke Donald wines are outside the normal ‘celebrity’ wines,” Terlato says, “in that the athletes don’t lend their names for a fee. Ernie owns the vineyards and several wineries in South Africa, and Luke was involved in each step of producing and blending the wines under his California label.”

Luke Donald Claret - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

Luke Donald Claret - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

Do the golfers’ names command a higher price at retail? No, says Terlato, “Our wines do not carry a celebrity premium. Our goal is to produce an exceptional wine that reflects the professional golfer’s particular taste. These are wines from acclaimed vineyards for serious wine buffs.”

My guess is that the athletes’ names are “market neutral” to sales volume. Notoriety may garner interest among the golf crowd, but yet, be limited by those who don’t recognize an athlete’s name or who think wine couldn’t possibly be good if it comes from a guy who hits a golf ball 300 yards for a living. In the end, as it should be, the wine must deliver to succeed.

Tangley Oak Dining Room - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

Tangley Oak Dining Room - photo courtesy of Terlato Wine Group

Beyond the wines, our tasting at Tangley Oaks was impressive for the things our hosts did not do during two hours of cruising food and wine stations. The Terlato family could have gushed about their big house and their success, but they did not and kept to the subject at hand: experiencing good wine. They could have offered “tours” of the mansion’s 61 rooms (would love to have taken one), but instead confined the event to several first floor rooms. Since acquiring the historic home over ten years ago, they could have junked it up with gaudy reproduction furniture, but have chosen to retain and use many of the original furnishings from the Armour days, thus preserving a long-ago time in North Shore history. The evening was a lesson in reserve and good taste.

To learn more:


By the way, Donald, in town for the BMW championship, finished in 10th place and earned a spot among the final thirty players at the Fed Ex Cup in Atlanta.