All In: 2016 harvest has been good

The last big push of harvest saw us pressing Mission Hills Vineyard Sangiovese, not a small amount of wine, to tanks and bringing in the last of our fruit: Mission Hills Vineyard Barbera and Les Collines Primitivo.  The crushed wines are fermenting in their bins through this week.  We had to hydrate a lot of barrels with as much Sangiovese and Barbera as we have.  It was a pleasure to press Basalt Cellars  (and here) Viognier this week too as a custom crush deal.

Sangiovese and barrels:

Barbera and Primitivo:

Basalt Cellars Viognier:

Foot stomping Viognier grapes for Basalt Cellars.
Sometimes you need to help the press out a bit and foot stomp the grapes:Rick and Susan crushing viognier grapes.

Walla Walla Valley is having some high wind and precipitation over this weekend, Autumn will not be denied her time.  I am glad all of our fruit is in, but I am hoping for some decent weather to press the last of the fruit and clean all of the equipment for storage over the next couple of weeks.  All of the white wines are racked and resting, most of the reds are still going through secondary fermentation with the latest going through primary fermentation.  65 tons of grapes for Locati and Lagana Cellars is less than the last couple of years have been.  With the help of the WWCC EV intern, this has been the easiest Crush I have participated in.  Cheers!

2 of 12 varietals left to harvest

Stained hands from wine making.
Stained hands are a typical hazard of wine making; lovely color though, don’t you think?

really get into what I do, work or play.  When I come home from harvest work I am usually sticky with juice or wine from head to toe.  Observing the subtle and not so subtle changes as grapes turn to wine, how the actions we take determine the outcome and indulging my  curiosities and interests each year continues to intrigue me.  For instance, we choose a strain of yeast to add to a particular grape varietal to get the aromas and flavors we want and to be sure the yeast is hardy enough to ferment the sugars into ethanol once the balance becomes toxic to the yeast.  We feed the yeast well so it is good and strong before pitching it into the juice

It still fascinates me to watch the dry yeast come to life as we rehydrate it in very warm water then add juice to it to adjust the temperature to that of the must it will ferment.  When the temperature is within ten degrees, we pour it into the fermentation bin and hope for the best.  It takes surprisingly little time for the tiny yeast cells to reproduce into a large enough colony to fill the bin.  Watch each of the video clips and you can see this taking place.  Isn’t that amazing?

Sunny and warm until the breeze kicked up as we pressed the Minnick Syrah for Lagana Cellars.
Sunny and warm until the breeze kicked up as we pressed the Minnick Syrah for Lagana Cellars.

Locati Cellars has Mission Hills Vineyard Estate Barbera and Les Collines Vineyard Primitivo scheduled to pick and the Sangiovese we crushed last weekend is being pressed on Sunday.

Lagana Cellars has all fruit in and we are pressing the Patina Syrah, meaning it will all be racked to barrel before next week.

It seems we will be barreled, with secondary fermentations still going, before we have been in harvest two months.  It was a more manageable pace this year, but it is such a small part of the year.  Probably a good thing for my Fibromyalgia, but it is an exciting time.  Cheers!


Our week in pictures and videos

There is a lot of overlap in the cellar during Crush.  Presently we are doing all red grapes. We bring ripe grapes in, crush them and inoculate them for fermentation and press wine from the fermented red grapes in an awkward Cellar dance.   There are bins to monitor and punch downs to do; when they are dry, we inoculate them for secondary fermentation and press them from the skins, seeds and, when we foot stomp them, from the rachises (grape stems) as well.  Our week in pictures and videos…

Minnick Hills Syrah is ripe and ready to be made into wine.
Minnick Hills Syrah is ripe and ready to be made into wine.

We foot stomped two picking bins of Syrah then poured them into deeper fermentation bins (where I finished foot stomping them) in the following two videos.

Punch down demo by a newby: push, pull, repeat…

This video is a bit over 2 minutes of me punching down a bin of Syrah.

Have you ever wondered why we press the wine from the solids? There is a lot of liquid caught up in the skins and such, so we use the press to retrieve most of it.  Different winemakers have preferences for how hard they press.  Check out the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon wine we gained from pressing; this tank was pretty full when we finished all seven of the bins.

Hope you had a terrific week, Cheers!

Oktoberfest during Harvest

Last Saturday began the 183rd Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, it will go until the 3rd of October.  Thousands of people converge on the city to imbibe, eat and party together while the rest of the world celebrates where ever they are.  It is funny to me that a royal wedding celebration in 1810 for then Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen sparked such a tremendous festival for the people that has a huge presence today.  Last November we were in Germany for a week of business followed by another of personal touring.  Oktoberfest was a memory by that time, so we didn’t search out the ‘Wiesn (field) but we were only a few blocks away from it.  Disease and war prevented some Oktoberfest celebrations; barring any further catastrophes 17 years from now will be the 200th celebration in which Hubby and I hope to participate first hand.

We flew into Munich from Berlin Sunday morning, where we had wished our fellow business travelers safe flights.  The Friday, November 13 2015 Paris attacks were to leave many of our group stranded in the locked-down security of the Paris Airport for a day or two before they could make their way safely home.

The train ride from the airport to Munich’s Hauptbahnhof and walk of a few blocks to the hotel and we were ready to get out and explore. (I am intrigued by the bicycle culture throughout Germany, please indulge the pictures.)  Had we turned west we would have walked toward the Theresienwiese and the Oktoberfest grounds, but we went east and wandered through Marienplatz, Munich’s main square.  The ancient buildings both spared and restored after the WWII bombings and the modern architecture were decked with holiday splendor.  The Christmas Village was nearly complete and vendors were selling roasted chestnuts (die Marone) and citrus that smelled divine.  We went into St Michael’s, a historic Jesuit church, as there was a service in progress.  It was as breathtaking inside as I expected.  Here is a wikipic to show you the High Alter: here.  We took no photos inside as that would have been highly inappropriate.

Monday we participated in a walking tour of Hitler’s Munich, Third Reich guided by Sabri Ben Ltaief (also a photographer).  It was fascinating to step through time to experience the  streets and buildings that we had walked along the night before as they related to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and their fate during WWII.  Hubby and I chose to take the second part of the tour to discover none of the other eight tour participants did.  Sabri went with us to lunch and we walked with him to his job at the University Library; he pointed out the  landmarks and points of interest that would have comprised the second tour.  What a terrific way to begin our vacation week!

Hofbrauhaus swag in the historical brewery.
Not Oktoberfest in the Hofbrauhaus of Munich, Germany. But you can still purchase beer related swag.

No visit to Munich and Marienplatz is complete without going to the Hofbrauhaus.  (This is the Oktoberfest tent.)  Founded in 1589 by then Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V., to introduce a quality, affordable brown beer for his family’s consumption.  The second brewing was built in 1607 by Wilhelm’s son, Maximillian I, for his burgeoning wheat (whit or white) beer production and the building was thus white.  In 1806, when Bavaria became a Kingdom, the ruling family became royalty, therefore Hofbrauhaus or ‘Royal Brown House’. In 1828, 18 years after his royal wedding, King Ludwig I decreed the royal beer could be consumed by commoners, but it was the transition of the brewing facility to a new location and the Hofbrauhaus restaurant and hall refurbished in 1897 that became the hall we recognize.   Bombing raids in WWII destroyed most of the building 1944-45; it took until 1958 for the Hofbrauhaus renovations to be completed, this is where we sat in 2015.  If you want to know some of the historical highlights of the worlds most famous brewery, here you go.

Sipping beer and  sharing a pretzel, an authentic Bavarian pretzel, soft on the inside with a crunchy crust and just a bit of salt, as we took in the details of the hall and listened to the brass band gave us pause to consider and discuss the significance of our history lesson that day.  No person or point in time is isolated, we all feel the ripples and choke on the waves of bad decisions as much as we float on the good decisions of those that precede and surround us.  The beer was good; the experience was terrific.

Hofbrau Dunkel in a bottle.
Oktoberfest 2016 distributed to a local grocery: Hofbrau Dunkel in a bottle.

This week, having procured a six pack of Hofbrau Dunkel, we are participating in Oktoberfest quietly, at home, after our respective harvest work.  This is the original brown beer, the one that started it all for the ruling family of Bavaria in the late 1500’s.  Yup, Hofbrau beer is now distributed far and wide, for all the common folk.  I thought about attempting to make traditional pretzels, but I will wait for the holidays to do so.  Bottled is not as good as draft, that said, this is it – a smooth, nutty beer with a bit of baking spices to keep it interesting.

We brought in just over 10 tons of fruit this week, Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We also pressed 2 tons of Chardonnay for Basalt Cellars (and here).  We are now half way through 2016 Crush by ton.  Cheers!

Red, White and Smoking

Once the Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes came in (both on the 9th, not staggered like planned) we didn’t harvest anything else this week.  The cooler temperatures over the last couple of weeks slowed ripening enough to make us put off bringing in more grapes.  Between this enforced plodding pace, some might call it a sane pace, and having a WWCC EV intern with us this year there is much less action on the harvest front.  All good, but I am a bit antsy as I look forward to the rapid-fire, hard work of harvest each year and it isn’t happening so far.  Note, I took video of the Pinot Noir crush for you since I wasn’t the one on the ladder.

Foot Stomped Pinot Noir.
1/3 of the Breezy Slope Pinot Noir grapes were foot stomped and fermented with the rachises for Lagana Cellars.

I did work a ‘Cigarbeque’ on Sunday evening selling cigars for Locati Cellars during a delicious barbecue put on by Chef Nathan Carlson (whose day-job, if you will, is at Cameo Heights Mansion outside of Touchet).  The humidor in Locati Cellars is carefully stocked by Nathan.  My previous experiences told me once a cigar was lit, I wanted nothing to do with it.  Jason, owner of Viva Republica, and Ed, rep out of Portland, were on hand to answer questions about their wares, like when and why to choose a cigar.  Then smelling the different smoke as people lit up brought about a whole different understanding for me.  As with wine, tea and food, quality ingredients means quality experience.  I have no intention of taking up smoking cigars (nor do I encourage you to), but at least now I have a bit better idea of what someone who enjoys it is after.  The following day the t-shirt I wore smelled like a good cigar rather than acrid smoke (good = pleasant smelling).


Nathan, remembering my food allergies, left a rack of ribs unglazed for me (thank you Nathan).  It tasted fabulous, super smokey and just right with the cigars actually.  When we were leaving he wrapped the remaining ribs up and sent them home with us.  I picked at it for a couple of days before deciding to chop up the meat (bones in the freezer broth bag) and make my dearest Hubby a pot of chili; there were a few tomatoes that needed to be used too which was ideal for this.

Smoked Chili

  • 2 lb smoked meat (beef, pork, chicken), cubed
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 sweet bell pepper coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons dried red pepper (we grew Anaheims that I dried)
  • 2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh horseradish
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 to 1 cup stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground red pepper, to taste

Chop all of your vegetables and the meat. Open, drain and rinse the two cans of beans. In a dutch oven or stock pot, saute’ the onions to translucent, add the bell pepper until fragrant, and toss in the tomato pieces.  With the heat on medium low, add the meat, beans, seasonings and enough liquid to ensure nothing will stick or to make the chili more soupy as you prefer.  Toss well, heat to low and cover to cook for an hour.  I remove the cover and cook another half hour to reduce the liquid and thicken it.  Then, while it is still warm, I add the horseradish and stir it in to warm and release its bite.

Serve it with corn bread, over burgers, rice or potatoes.  Top it with fresh onion, sour cream and cheese, or what ever you usually do.  Try it with a smokey red wine of your choice.

We have some mid-high eighties temperatures for almost a week; Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon are slated to come in Saturday and Tuesday respectively; about nine tons of fruit for this week between those two grapes.  Actually a good number of bins to do punch downs on, so a definite perk to the current, sane, pace.  Cheers!

What do wine and planes have in common?

Yes, it is Crush 2016, yes, we have had fruit come in, no, it hasn’t been busy like the last few years.  I don’t recall a slower beginning to the prior harvests I have participated in.

Sauvignon Blanc, Sagemoor Vineyard, Pasco, WA:

Arrived/pressed 08/27/16, almost dry (1.5 Brix) 09/07/16, Lagana Cellars Glycol (temperature control) jacketed stainless tanks slow the fermentation down a bit.

Orange Muscat, Lonesome Springs Vineyard, Benton City, WA:

Arrived/pressed 08/29/16 and ever so close to dry for Locati Cellars.

Chardonnay, Cockburn Ranch Vineyard, Milton Freewater, OR:

Arrived/pressed 09/03/16 at Lagana Cellars, also in a glycol jacketed stainless tank, is fermenting gently, lowering the Brix daily.

Pinot Grigio, Reed Vineyard, Pasco, WA:

Arrived (finally)/pressed 09/06/16 at Locati Farm for Locati Cellars is in a chilled tank just getting the fermentation going.  Note the difference in the harvest bin photo as this is machine harvested fruit rather than the hand-picked we typically get.  Lots of free run juice in this batch.

Pinot Noir, Breezy Slope Vineyard, Milton Freewater, OR:

Arrived/crushed 09/09/16 for Lagana Cellars, about 1/3 of the fruit has been foot stomped on the stems, inoculation 09/10/16 – first red grapes are in the house!  This means punch downs three times a day begin now.

Riesling, Dionysus Vineyard, Pasco, WA:

Anticipated 09/10/16 for Lagana Cellars

We bottled reds for a few wineries where Lagana Cellars has the stainless steel tanks: Adamant Cellars, Enchanted Cellars, and G. Cuneo Cellars.  With the Riesling on its way in it will be nice to have more room in the cellar.  We are out in the vineyards sampling again to determine what will come in next week.  I think we are finally working Crush!

Meanwhile, having most of the Labor Day Weekend off was a treat we took full advantage of.  For the week I have had a flight lesson every few days.  Naturally, since I am focused and learning, I am not taking pictures.

First taste of flying a small plane
October 2015 we rented a plane for a family visit; returning I held the yoke while Hubby referenced a radio channel.

Last year, when we rented a plane to visit my family, Hubby was looking up a radio signal we needed and I held the yoke.  My daughter took a picture of this moment (actually several I discovered when I asked her for ‘the’ photo) and posted it to Facebook.  It took on a life of its own about me flying the plane.  I was only attempting to keep the plane from tilting as the map was large and pressure on the pilot’s yoke tipped the wings or dove the nose a bit making me edgy; I didn’t have my feet on the rudder pedals, Hubby did.  But the concept stuck and really learning to fly has been so very exciting.

Sunday we flew to Hood River, Oregon’s airport to have Hubby fly a sailplane and discuss a possible ship that was mentioned for sale there.  Once we were off the ground I took the controls for my third lesson, climbing to altitude, leveling, and flying (straight and level) to the ridge just before Hood River where Hubby landed us at the airport.  Alas, the wind was gusting to about 32 miles an hour and he chose not to ride.  But we did manage to have a conversation and learn what direction to take to determine if this was a good lead.  With any luck we will procure a glider, from somewhere, within the next few months.  Soaring in the Walla Walla Valley is our goal; one we hope to share with visitors and anyone interested in learning to fly a sailplane.  Watch for it!  Hubby flew us home as the winds picked up and carried us all the way to Walla Walla with a few bumps to keep things interesting.

Lewiston, ID motorcycle ride
Our ride to Lewiston, ID over Labor Day weekend was my first motorcycle ride this summer.

We have had the plane two months now and I haven’t been on the motorcycle all summer.  Monday we rode to Lewiston, Idaho and had lunch before returning home; it was excellent riding temperature.  Hoping it won’t be as long before the next opportunity to ride comes up.

The cooler weather we have experienced during Crush this year makes learning to fly wonderful.  Every chance we get my CFI Hubby and I squeeze in a flight with me in the left seat.  By day, he sells potato farming equipment and I make and sell wine.  And we call the friendly and beautiful Walla Walla Valley home; life truly is wonderful.

I have to ask, are there any pilots or flight students with any advise to offer as I learn to fly in our Cessna 182A? Not the best trainer, but what we have.  Any soaring folks?


Carlos' experimental light sport at Martin Field.
An experimental plane: this means not everything about it is approved by the FAA. You meet the neatest people at the airport…

Work with what you’ve got…

This week didn’t happen as planned, not unheard of during crush, but way off of everyone’s expectations.  We did get Sauvignon Blanc for Lagana Cellars and Orange Muscat for Locati Cellars, but the Pinot Grigio we anticipated didn’t get harvested by the vineyard as expected.  Everyday those grapes hang they are more ripe than we want them to be; a full week will pass from the day we planned to press them before they are harvested.  We will make it all good, but I think this is the longest delay we have ever had waiting for grapes.  Previous record is a day after schedule, just for reference.

At home we have some harvesting of our own to contend with.  My herb gardens are prolific as usual, so I have been cutting and drying for tea and seasoning.  This week Hubby picked five pounds of tomatoes from the three plants he has on the patio.  Considering he already eats lots of tomatoes daily he knew he needed to do something with the volume so he wouldn’t lose it.  I suggested I cut some of the basil and make him pasta sauce; he accepted.  Although I can’t eat it, making it is a pleasure.  He gave it a thumbs up and has added it to pasta and cabbage rolls already this week from the bowl I left in the fridge.  About three quarts of pasta sauce went into the freezer for him to use through the winter.  So, if you have lots of tomatoes and need to do something with your bounty, consider this a quick recipe that lends itself to lots of applications.

Quick Pasta Sauce

  • 5 pound fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow, orange or red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (Walla Walla Sweet Onion went into ours)
  • 1 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dry fennel fronds
  • 2 teaspoons dry oregano crumbled
  • 1 large bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup red wine, (Locati Cellars Sangiovese went in ours)
  • 2 small cans tomato paste

Chopping your vegetables is the most work for this sauce.  In a large, thick bottomed pot, saute’ in olive oil the onions until translucent then add the garlic and pepper until fragrant.  Put all of the tomatoes into the pot and cover, lower the heat to medium.  When they are soft and the skins leave the flesh use an immersion blender to puree everything.  (Note: using a blender is great, just do small amounts at a time and return all to the pot for seasoning.)  Add all herbs and the red wine at this point and heat to a simmer; try to avoid boiling as the herb flavors will be better retained without the high heat.  Once the sauce is hot through open both cans of tomato paste and add promptly, stirring everything together. (Note: opening both ends of the can, or puncturing the bottom of the can and blowing the paste out, is a quick way to empty the cans.)  I removed the sauce from the heat and let it sit for several hours covered before removing the bay leaves.  Putting it into containers and then into the refrigerator overnight before they went into the freezer.

Despite not eating nightshade fruits like tomatoes and peppers, I do cook with them for those I love.  There is a lot of hand washing and I am careful not to rub or scratch my skin until I have washed with soap, but the smiles and exclamations of goodness are worth the effort.  (For chiles I wear gloves as they don’t wash off well enough.)  We have learned to work with my allergies and sensitivities without having to make either of us do totally without something we love.  The basil I grow makes pesto that I will put on my pasta and pizzas in place of pasta sauce and I love the flexibility I have to add lots of garlic to it – something I really enjoy.  Let me know if you have a pasta sauce you love to make that has different ingredients. Cheers!

Where did the summer go?

The sun is setting earlier these days, making our evening walks and bike rides a tighter squeeze before dark. This week the school bus started making its morning and afternoon rounds again too. Grape samples say we are ready for Crush 2016; both Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars are scheduled for picking; by my next post we will have at least half of our white grapes pressed (three varietals).  Autumn Equinox is just weeks away and I feel like summer is just getting started.

This last week I prepared a few meals for the freezer to accommodate the Hubby’s potato harvest and my grape harvest schedules.  There are some quick-to-fix items in the cupboard as backup too.  While visiting with my parents for their anniversary last weekend my mother provided me with four beautiful zucchini from their garden and encouraged me to look up the Curried Zucchini Soup recipe from Allrecipes.  She tells me she changed it up a bit with more seasoning than called for and sweet potato; that even my father (doesn’t like zucchini) loved the soup.  (We are curried soup fans, recall this post?)  So, with four fresh zucchini available, a Locati Sweet Onion, locally grown garlic from the Farmers Market, and two cups of my own amazing turkey broth made from a whole turkey we roasted that I simmered with trimmings from all of the vegetables we cook with.  As I don’t do nightshade fruits, I make my own curry mix (recipe below).

My changes to the soup summed up:

  • added two large cloves of garlic and sautéed with the Walla Walla Sweet Onion
  • grated the zucchini rather than chopping it
  • added one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger as I added the zucchini
  • tossed the zucchini until it wilted before adding the curry powder and stock
  • used three tablespoons of curry powder
  • home-made soup broth, turkey based
  • no blender use after the soup cooked, personal preference

I would like to put diced potatoes and chopped water chestnuts in next time, maybe some turkey pieces too as Hubby likes to have his meat.  Preparation and cooking were speedy; might even make it again before the fresh local zucchini are gone… if time allows.

 Nightshade-free curry powder (sorry, been using it so long the sources have disappeared):

  • 4.5 teaspoons Turmeric
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons coriander
  • 2.5 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Fenugreek
  • *when I cook I ad 1/4 cup fresh parsley to the pot as well since I typically have this available rather than putting dried in the blend

Sift it all together, put it in a jar and close the lid tightly.  This is a fairly mild curry, as you can imagine, so we like more than most recipes call for.  It takes a few minutes to measure and mix, but well worth it.

I wanted to pair an off-dry Riesling with dinner, but couldn’t find one in our wine cooler.  Instead I chose a L’Ecole Chenin Blanc (dry) in hopes the fruit would pair well with the spicy curry.  Alas, not the best together.  Had I looked at my previous post I might have grabbed the Arbor Cellars Marsanne/Picpoul blend that I passed over this evening.  But, we have fresh watermelon and that was a delight with the wine as dessert!

It took a while to fly out of Harvey Field in Snohomish on Sunday due to the cloud cover.  Once we took off and managed to find a hole to climb through we were greeted by sunny blue skies and the majestic Mount Rainier. Cheers!

Stuffed grape leaves for dinner

Every time I go through the vineyards I think about picking some of the leaves the next Spring from the ends of the rows where they are typically more abundant than the grapes that will hang in that area; I have yet to make time during the Spring to do so.  Having Greek and Lebanese friends (but not grape vines) most of the other places I lived there seemed to be an endless supply of these heavenly little delicacies and I decided I wanted some.  I purchased a jar of preserved grape leaves (originating in California but packaged in Vietnam – go figure) last month to make dolmas (stuffed grape leaves).  It is about time I learned to make these for myself since they aren’t much different from making the cabbage rolls I make all the time.

Under a small stream of water from the kitchen tap I carefully unrolled and teased apart the individual grape leaves, rinsing the brine from the leaves and straightening them out with the help of the water.  Laying them vein side up along the counter with the stems facing me I removed the small stem from each leaf with a pair of scissors; pinching between my finger nails worked for the largest leaves, but not for the smaller, more fragile ones.  Some of the leaves were torn, so I left them aside.

My filling was a mixture of ground lamb, uncooked white rice, and seasonings; the recipe is below.  More moist than the filling for my cabbage rolls and needing so much less per leaf; I used a spoon to place some at the base of the grape leaf, where I clipped the stem.  I provided you with a handy-dandy picture showing you how to roll the leaves for best results.  Not too tight as the rice has to have a bit of room to expand inside the wrapping.

I oiled the bottom of my wide, shallow, heavy saucepan and placed the wrapped dolmas in two flat layers.  Lemon juice from one lemon, another tablespoon of olive oil and broth to cover the layers in the pot finished the preparations.  Once the broth is beginning to simmer, lower the heat to keep them from jostling each other and opening.  Maintain the simmer for about an hour, being sure to cook the meat and rice all the way through.  If you see there isn’t enough liquid to cover the grape leaves, add enough to just cover and finish cooking.

Tzatziki made with my sheep-milk yogurt, grated cucumber and the juice of half a lemon will accompany these delightful dolma and falafel for supper.  There were enough cherry tomatoes and fresh basil to make Hubby a Caprese salad as well.


1 8 oz jar of preserved grape leaves, drained, rinsed, stem removed, vein-side up

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped

1 tablespoon pinenuts

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dry oregano

1 egg

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups broth or water

Prepare the grape leaves first, spread them along the counter with the vein-side (back) of the leaves up; clip off the stem.

Mix together the lamb, rice, olive oil, pine nuts, seasonings and egg.  Drop by tablespoon full onto the base of each leaf.  (Note: larger leaves can handle a bit more filling while smaller leaves need less.)  Using the photo to guide you if you haven’t rolled grape leaves before: 1) start with the basal sections and fold them up over the filling, 2) bring the side sections toward each other over the filling, attempt to fold the top leaf section to fit the size of the packet if necessary, 3)roll the covered filling toward the tip of the leaf.

Lay the filled grape leaves seam-side down in an oiled heavy pot, if there are torn leaves, you can lay them on the oil before neatly placing the rolled packets on top.  Add a second layer if there are too many to fit in one layer in the pot.  Pour the lemon juice over the layers, pour the broth in and add water to cover if necessary.  Watch the pot to be sure the broth simmers but doesn’t boil, dislodging the rolls.  Reduce the heat and maintain a simmer for about an hour to fully cook the lamb and rice.  If the liquid disappears below the top layer add water to ensure the rice has enough moisture to continue to cook.

Remove from the pan to a serving plate with a pair of tongs.  Be gentle as the leaves are fairly fragile.  Serve with tzatziki.


1 cup prepared falafel mix (chickpea flour and seasoning based)

1/2 cup hot liquid (water or broth)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Lightly stir the juice and liquid into the dry mix with a fork. Let it rest a couple of minutes while your frying pan heats with olive oil.  Drop the falafel as small balls or patties onto the hot frying pan and flip as soon as cooked on the bottom side.  This is a very quick process.  If you like, you can finely chop onion and garlic, toss into the dry mix and then add the hot liquid and lemon juice.  Serve with tzatziki.

Alice May Brock‘s famous quote has been one of my favorites for years due to the credit she gives garlic – I feel the same way. Have you noticed how much garlic goes into everything I make?  In case you aren’t familiar with it:

‘Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; Wine and tarragon make it French.                           Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek.                                         Soy sauce makes it Chinese; Garlic makes it good.’

And what wine to pair with such a delightful, Mediterranean meal? I would choose a Zinfandel or Primitivo for the lamb and seasonings, but we were headed to the airport for a night flight right after supper; eight-hour minimum wait after consuming alcohol before piloting a plane, so no wine with this dinner.  Cheers!

11 Vineyard Visits

Monday dawned gray and wet over our house, yet the weather forecast was for mid-80’s and sun.  Optimistic, I pulled on my shorts, put sunscreen on, grabbed my sunglasses and pulled on my sweatshirt to begin the tour of eleven vineyards from which we source all of the grapes for Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars, 12 varietals in all.  We were dry but Walla Walla got hail and rain for a short while, we watched it move East over the town (our rain gauge said we received 0.5″ that day).

Our sampling was relegated to tasting; presently most of them taste like the very best of their table grape counterparts, which means they aren’t ripe.  The Sagemoor Sauv Blanc is the closest, already super delicious!

Breezy Slope Vineyard: Pinot Noir: Lagana Cellars

Les Collines Vineyard: Primitivo: Locati Cellars

Patina Vineyard: Syrah: Lagana Cellars

Patina Vineyard Syrah for Lagana Cellars.
Patina Vineyard Syrah for Lagana Cellars.

Jon Cockburn Ranch Vineyard: Dolcetto: Locati Cellars

Jon Cockburn Ranch Vineyard: Chardonnay: Lagana Cellars

J&S Vineyard: Cabernet Sauvignon: Locati & Lagana Cellars

J & S Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for both Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars.
J & S Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for both Locati Cellars and Lagana Cellars.

Mission Hills Estate Vineyard: Sangiovese & Barbera: Locati Cellars

Minnick Hills Vineyard: Syrah: Lagana Cellars

Minnick Hills Vineyard, just northwest of the Walla Walla Airport, Syrah for Lagana Cellars.
Minnick Hills Vineyard, just northwest of the Walla Walla Airport, Syrah for Lagana Cellars.

Reed Vineyard: Pinot Grigio: Locati Cellars

Reed Vineyard Pinot Gris for Locati Cellars.
Reed Vineyard Pinot Gris for Locati Cellars.

Bacchus Vineyard: Riesling: Lagana Cellars

Bacchus Vineyard Riesling for Lagana Cellars.
Bacchus Vineyard Riesling for Lagana Cellars.

Sagemoor Vineyard: Sauvignon Blanc: Lagana Cellars

Sagemoor Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc for Lagana Cellars.
Sagemoor Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc for Lagana Cellars.

Lonesome Springs Vineyard: Orange Muscat: Locati Cellars

Lonesome Springs Vineyard Orange Muscat for Locati Cellar's dry white table wine.
Lonesome Springs Vineyard Orange Muscat for Locati Cellar’s dry white table wine.

You have read about netting the vines to keep the birds out of the grapes, but I don’t think I have ever shown you ‘netting’ as in the process:

This was a fabulous way to do a Monday, especially since it really was a nice, mid-80’s day.  I hope you are looking forward to 2016 Crush as much as I am. Cheers!

View of Bacchus Vineyard, the Columbia River and Red Mountain AVA in the distant left.
View of Bacchus Vineyard, the Columbia River and Red Mountain AVA in the distant left.
Note: Some of the websites wouldn’t cooperate for linking and the Evervine site out of California provided errors, so if they are up and running later in the day, I will try again to link them for your convenience.