Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sagelands: The rest of the story.

I received a nice email from the PR person at Sagelands. (Thank you!) A pipe broke under the floor of the winery, causing extensive damage to the tasting room and offices. Sagelands is alive and well at Canoe Ridge in Walla Walla and throughout the country. Wine club members will receive their wines. My friend Frederique, the winemaker, still has a job. Yeah!

I also checked Wine Yakima Valley's website and it has been updated to show that Sagelands is closed for remodeling.

My cousin Kevin, a general contractor, owns KPC Construction in Naches. I attended his daughter's wedding Friday night at the Yakima Country Club. (Great buffet Greg!) When the talk turned to "How are you keeping busy this winter?" he said he was remodeling Sagelands Winery. The work should be done quickly and professionally.

Small world. End of story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Happening at Sagelands?

So, what's up with Sagelands Winery? The word on the street is that the facility is being closed. The sign on the door says it is closed for remodeling. Maybe Diageo is pulling the plug on the brand or perhaps all production is being moved to Canoe Ridge to consolidate production and reduce costs - important in these days of bargain-priced wines.

At one time, Staton Hills/Sagelands was the most visited tasting room in the state. Situated just outside Yakima, it is close for locals and the first winery on the Yakima Valley wine tour. It is an attractive facility with a nice view of Mt. Adams. Traffic to the tasting room has been dwindling ever since they pulled out of the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, the local organization that promotes visits to the tasting rooms in the Rattlesnake Hills. Sagelands was a founding member of the Wine Trail and was quite active in its formation. Then they hired a new tasting room manager who thought the Wine Trail was hokey or I think she said "unprofessional". (The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail is made up mostly of owners, not corporations, so meetings can be a little raucous. Imagine 15 winemaker/owners in one room trying to agree on one thing.) After they weren't on the map, people going 70 mph on I-82 did not plan to take exit 40, instead waiting for exit 44 for Piety Flats and Masset Wineries. They remained members of Wine Yakima Valley, a Prosser-based organization (40 miles east) that has broader goals and does not focus solely on foot traffic to the tasting rooms. Tasting room traffic at the member wineries of the Wine Trail remains high, despite the economic downturn. After all, it is the closest wine country to Seattle, just 2:15 away via freeway.

The winery was originally called Staton Hills, after the founder Dave Staton. Most of us in the area questioned the name Sagelands when it first came out. I guess some focus groups thought it was a good name, implying the dryer side of the state as opposed to soggy Seattle.

What's happening? I don't know. I will leave the research to the real wine writers who are secretly following this blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rating the Raters, cont.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt) 89/9 I don't know anything about the other raters for the Wine Enthusiast. Paul is our northwest rater, so I have to pick on him.

Paul is first and foremost a rock musician. (Not that this disqualifies him as a wine writer - heck if an actor can be President, anyone can be anything they choose.) When I went to load up his car with wines from the Rattlesnake Hills there was hardly room for it to fit in and among the guitars, amps, and speakers. In addition to rock musician, he is a feature writer and a blogger.

I got to know Paul while doing a guided tour of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. I needed to clarify some of his misconceptions about our AVA, like it gets cooler as you travel west. Nope, the far western point is the warmest in the AVA. It gets cooler from North to South. And the fact that the AVA was an outgrowth of the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail marketing organization. No, the AVA petition came first.

Paul mentions Bonair Winery in his book Washington Wines & Wineries for historical purposes (we are one of the older wineries in the state), but we aren't one of the "leaders" so we didn't get a rating. But after reading the rating for Wineglass Cellars, I thank Paul for not rating us. I'd rather receive kindly mention than a cutting review.

Speaking of reviews, Paul is opinionated and is not afraid to express those opinions in print. Sometimes it hurts, but knowing him, I respect him for that. Other people love him or hate him for that trait.

After spending time with me seeing the Rattlesnake Hills and what is NOT Rattlesnake Hills, he submitted this article about our then new AVA. Some people in the AVA were angered by it, I wasn't. He is telling the truth when he states, ".. the Rattlesnake Hills designation seems to be missing from many of the best wines sourced here." I would like to see that change. Why label a fine Bordeaux-style wine 'Yakima Valley' when the Yakima Valley isn't known for great Bordeaux reds? It is known for cool-climate whites. Things like that make me grumpy.

Paul judges with the labels out. He opens the bottles and starts sampling. He says he leaves them open and revisits them throughout the day because things change. Giving wine this attention is better than the ten-second sniff, swish, spit, score used by the competition.

The Wine Enthusiast uses the 100-point scale, so I have to deduct points for that, but by and large the magazine is very thorough in its coverage of the northwest wine scene, thanks to Paul. Paul has done a lot to promote northwest wines.

I'd like to give the Wine Enthusiast a 90/10, but as Paul says, there is a leap between an 89 and a 90. It isn't a smooth scale. A 90 is significantly better than an 89.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back from Vacation

My apologies for not updating the blog sooner, but I have been in Puerto Vallarta on vacation. I like PV because I am away from wine snobs, wine writers, petty bureaucrats, and the Washington Wine Commission, so I am not grumpy.

I thought I saw Paul Greggut in a bar playing for drinks. Well, he wore sunglasses like Paul, but I couldn't make a positive ID. When he jammed 'La Bamba' with the local street musicians, it brought the house down.

A lot of people don't like PV. What's not to like about PV? The first rule is to learn to totally and I mean totally ignore the vendors. If you get stuck up in the hotel district or worse yet, Nueva Vallarta I understand - you might as well be in Hawaii. You eat the 'comida tipica' in the time-share restaurant or you go out to the Olive Garden, or order in pizza from Pizza Hut. God forbid you went all inclusive. We once attended, just for kicks, a time share presentation at the Westin Vagina. They served us a complimentary breakfast of powdered eggs and mystery meat sausage. Our Mexican hotel had a woman making fresh tortillas right in front of you and the lady that made the eggs - any way you like them - could crack the egg into the pan with one hand. All this while a man played classical music on a grand piano - all outdoors, under the trees next to the Rio Caule.

Those in the know stay south of the Rio Cuale. We stayed in a two-bedroom, two-bath private condo with pool for $800 a week. An entrée costs about $18 at a really good restaurant. A good bottle of Mexican wine costs about $20. I am a believer in drinking locally, so in Washington, I drink Washington wine, when I am in Mexico, I drink Mexican wines from Baja California. When in California I drink Spanish, New Zealand, or Italian wines. (For those of you familiar with the Bonair Winery website, you know that the famous wine regions of California are on the same latitude as Baghdad, Iraq.)

Mexican wine has really improved. The Sauvignon Blancs are great with the local, freshly-caught seafood. My favorite Mexican beer is Bohemia, followed by Negra Modelo. (No microbrews here yet.) I can't drink that Mexican dog piss that everyone thinks is so cool with a lime in it and tastes just like Clydesdale piss from the US.

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Rating the Raters!