Thursday, September 29, 2011

Washington Wine Industry Loses a Pioneer

 You won’t read about M. Taylor Moore (aka Mike Moore) in any of those slick rags about the Washington wine scene. (Well, you might now as a footnote -an obituary.) In fact, his winery is not even listed on the Washington Wine Commission official web site. Mike died September 27, 2011 at age 55. Mike will be missed.

I could tell you lots of stories about Mike, having known him since the inception of Bonair Winery in 1985. But now is not the time to share those stories. These are the stories that make Washington wine interesting, unlike stories about the latest rock star who appears in every glossy publication with the same boring story about handcrafting ultra premium parkerized wine (and who often goes quietly out of business a few years later.)

I got to know Mike because in the old days, everyone (like the owners and winemakers) participated in every event and we being Bonair were always between Blackwood Canyon and Bookwalter in alphabetical order.

I also got to know his wife and father-in-law. His father-in-law was a set painter for the MacGyver TV series which was filmed in British Columbia. They were regulars at Bonair on their way to Blackwood Canyon.

Mike’s 1986 Pinnacle was his first claim to fame. Later, his chardonnay was declared best in the state by none other than Robert Parker. Mike told me he sold out the day of the announcement.

Mike strived to make wines in the old-world style. I find them reminiscent of the wines of Jura; perhaps a style he admired.

People would ask me if they should visit Blackwood Canyon. I always said definitely yes, but be prepared to stay a minimum of three hours. I  thought their visit would be much more memorable than a visit to a corporate-owned tasting room with polite women who announce, “This is a nice white wine.”

So, I propose a toast to M. Taylor Moore – and to all the forgotten pioneers of the Washington wine industry. May they live forever in our hearts and minds!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yelp Twerps

 Picky picky is about all I can say about people who post on They are some of the most inane people in the world. Here are some examples from our Yelp comments:
I would have loved to tried (sic) this winery, but their no dog policy caused us to move on to the next winery” That’s funny. Bung, the Wonder Dog, roams the premises all day. We have a dog park where no leash is required. Oh, you wanted to bring your mutt into the tasting room? All wineries have at least a level III restaurant license. Because we serve food, we have a level II license. Sorry, in the state of Washington, only service animals are allowed in restaurants. Learn the law, dude, and while you are at it get a class in writing.

“I tasted the Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bung Dog Red and none of them did anything for me, they weren't awful or anything like that I just didn't care for them.  They didn't taste big and bold and fresh I'm not really sure what they tasted like but it didn't do it for me.” This is definitely someone to listen to. “I'm not really sure what they tasted like Maybe they tasted like wine; then maybe not? Maybe you expected Peppermint Schnapps? Please don’t write about things you don’t know about. Sorry, I forgot. This is Yelp and every dumba$$ is an expert.

  the prosciutto wrapped shrimp being bad, I like fresh things” Humm. We call fresh prosciutto raw pork. Is that what you expected – fresh-cut raw pork? We are sorry to have disappointed you, but most people like their prosciutto cured (processed) and aged. (The next day she went to I-Hop, which she loved, and couldn’t decide between the Fresh Belgian Waffle and the Fresh large stack of pancakes.) She says she won’t come back. I hope she can keep a promise.

“The group of us were really bothered by how the older man was really condescending to the woman helping us, as he continued to interrupt her” Okay, it was Michelle’s first day and she needed a lot of information. I apologized to her; after all, she is my daughter-in-law and I love her dearly. Yes, the older man was the Grumpy Winemaker, himself!

  you step into the tasting room and things start to go south. It has a kitschy old world decor that feels very dated and forced, and you're not quite sure if the space is there to support retail merchandise sales or sampling wine.” Okay, you don’t like the tapestries. They are actually there for a reason. With tile floors and hard walls, the room acoustics are awful, so the kitschy old world décor is at least functional. Lighten up for chrisake. Most people head to the gifts first and wine tasting second. (Read on, you are the alcoholic.)

“It wasn't that busy when we arrived, but the hostess immediately assigned everyone to designated locations at the counter, apparently to make things easier for her than optimize the visitor experience.” Duh, our tasting bar is 50 feet long. So you wanted to be at the far end by yourself for a private tasting. By the time you got served, our hostess would have had to walk 6 X 50 or 300 feet, (100 yards, or the length of a football field to serve you.) Our bar is set up for four hosts behind the counter. When we only have one server, use the section that is open a$$hole.

  there really wasn't anything that spoke to me. I did buy a bottle of their Cab Franc for us to share on the patio just so I could honor my commitment to buy one bottle at every winery we visited, but I wouldn't have otherwise.” I read your whole thread. You tried unlimited wines at a neighboring winery, commented about the generous pours, and came here and drank a bottle of Cabernet Franc. You need alcohol treatment. Same guy, “You're allowed just four meager complimentary tastes from their short list of standard wine selections.” State law limits us to four ounces per customer. We take over-serving seriously. Probably our hostess limited your portions because you already appeared intoxicated and we should not have served you at all.

It is interesting to switch from a business’ post to the poster’s posts. It reveals a lot about the poster – mainly how stupid and opinionated they are.

Basically, Yelp sucks. The people who post are neither helpful nor intelligent. I would suggest using for recommendations. The people who comment there appear much more intelligent and informative.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are we there yet, Daddy?

There is growing concern over this year’s grape harvest and desired ripeness. Here is the Grumpy Winemaker’s best guess.

As of August 31, 2011 we have accumulated 1882 growing degree days (GDD) in the Rattlesnake Hills. Véraison seems to be in full gear finally and we are getting some sugar. In fact, my Black Manukas are California ripe. (California ripe is defined by the stuff you buy in the grocery store and is never really very sweet because it was picked early for shipping.) In a week they should be edible.

Since the failure of Global Warming, which is now climate change, here is my prediction: In the past five years between September 1 and October 15, we have averaged 465 GDD. The least was in 2007 with 417 GDD and the most was 2010 with 498. Taking the average and adding it to the current GDD I get 2347 GDD for 2011. That is my prediction for the Rattlesnake Hills and I am sticking to it.

2300 GDD is the minimum in my experience for ripening Bordeaux varieties beyond vegetative flavors. In other words, we will squeak by and harvest everything by November 1.

I did not have time to do the calculations for other areas. Red Mountain, Wahluke, and Horse Heaven should be fine. Prosser Flats, on the other hand might be a bit short.