Would you drop everything?

Renuka and Bob Dayal
Renuka and Bob Dayal.

When I realized we had two tons of Syrah coming in last week with neither winery wanting to claim it there was a revelation that with some fast planning and good luck in getting supplies locally this could be a fun project.  I decided I was ready to make this happen.  Half of the wine will go to the owners of the vineyard, Bob and Renuka Dayal.  This week I was able to meet them and see their two acres of Syrah for myself.

Originally from Fiji, Bob grew up on a large farm planted with peanuts and sugarcane.  Renuka, his wife of 30 years, was born in Fiji but raised in Oregon and California.  They moved from California to Walla Walla in 2004 with three children and no plans to grow grapes.  A year after arriving, Bob took classes from Stan Clarke at WWCC’s EV program; Stan eventually helped put their vineyard in.  Grapes would be the least water intensive crop over time, same with workload, heavy in the beginning then maintenance, and besides, they love wine.  In 2010 Renuka took a few classes from Jeff Popick and Tim Donahue.

Dayal Estate Vineyard

They have had many wineries make them wine, something they don’t want to do themselves.  I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to play with these grapes this year.  The local supplier had just what I wanted in stock, my family has stepped in to help make this wine (juggling schedules and making sure everything got done), and this coming weekend we will press the wine from the skins with the Dayal’s on-hand.

Making Syrah grapes into wine:

Dayal Syrah, nearly finished fermenting.
Primary fermentation is done, secondary fermentation is underway in the Dayal Syrah.

Yup, I was ready to drop everything to make this wine.  I topped the barrels again this week, which I did when we first began harvest two months ago.  As we began sampling grapes and anticipating their arrival at the cellar I had no idea there would be such a prize at the end of the season.  With a bit more patience we will see how this wine comes together.  Cheers!

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 Allrecipes.com 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!

The pay-off for hard work

Monday morning hubby and I both had to get up and get out of the house.  It was bottling day for Locati Cellars, specifically our 2014 red wines, at Locati Farm.  We had even more help than we did in the Spring when we bottled our white wines; many hands make light work proved itself true that day.  Rather than tell you about it, I have an opportunity to share a 3.5 minute video made by Gina Baltrusch.

It was the smoothest bottling to date in my experience: no broken bottles, minimal loss of wine, no problems with labels or closures, and a great bunch of people to help us through the process.

Hubby had to step through all of his hurdles on his own to update his instructional certifications for planes, instrument use, and gliders.  He has been studying and taking online tests most evenings after work; it has been a long time since he worked as an instructor, so he felt compelled to be sure he knew what had changed (e.g. digital age changes).  After a two hour flight from Walla Walla to Arlington, WA he had a four hour oral exam followed by a two hour practical exam.  The examiner was his instructor and employer many years ago so they knew each other well, W Neal Karman.  Hubby passed, no surprise to me, but a relief to him.  The two hour flight home, getting the plane away and our brief supper was almost too much for his fatigue; it was an early night.  This is another step in the direction we are going with our plane.  It was a pretty exciting day for us, hope you had a great week too!  Cheers!

Rose’, a sweet onion aptly named

I realize I am a bit of a sucker for Walla Walla Sweet Onions, but once you have them you know, without a doubt, they are the sweetest onions grown – anywhere!  This year a small number of Rose’ Walla Walla Sweets has been made available in our local Farmers Market by Locati Farms.  Handy tip: you too can have Walla Walla Sweet Onions, just hop online and order from the Locati Farms link above during the June/July season.  A few weeks ago I wrote to tell you about ‘sweet rose’ onions in the Netherlands; those onions are nothing like this.

Rose' and yellow Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Look, Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onions from Locati Farms!

Hubby and I sliced a yellow and a Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet to compare raw flavor: both wonderfully sweet, as expected.  Most red onions have a fierce bite from the Pyruvic Acid; most make your eyes water from the naturally occurring sulfur as you slice them.  The beauty of our local onions is their lack of both Pyruvic Acid and sulfur.  Of course, this very thing, coupled with the higher water content of the Walla Walla Sweets is what makes them tender and reduce their storage time.  You can dehydrate them to prolong storage like I do.

Locati Cellars at Locati Farms
Preparing to bottle 2014 red wines at Locati Cellars production facility at Locati Farms.

The history of the Walla Walla Sweet is closely entwined with the wine we make at Locati Cellars.  Michael F Locati, winery owner, is a third generation Walla Walla farmer, following his Grandfather, Joe Locati, and father, Ambrose, and uncle, Pete, along with his brother, Ambrose (Bud) Jr.  Wine grapes and onions, as well as asparagus, are what the family focuses on now.  Michael J Locati, nephew to Michael F Locati, has been patiently developing the red sweet onion over the last seven years.  By 2018 production of the reds will begin to reach commercial levels.  That means Northwest area grocery chains like Fred Meyer and neighborhood stores and restaurants along with the Walla Walla Farmers Market will have them.  The link above will eventually allow you to order Locati Farms Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onions.  Just think, you can experience these exquisite onions.  Thank me later as I have a recipe to share with you for these delectable onions.

Midsummer picnics, barbecues, and humble meals at home, whatever your reason, this potato salad combines the Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onion (or use a sweet onion you have access to) and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes (think really good french fries) with the savory notes of dill weed, celery seed and dry ground mustard in a creamy dressing to take this salad to another level!  It is based on my mother’s potato salad recipe but instead of boiling the cubed potatoes, I rub them with olive oil and roast them so they are slightly crisped on the outside and soft on the inside.  I was eating the salad warm  after making it and it was super tasty.

Roasted Potato Salad

8 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, rubbed with olive oil to coat

1 1/2 cups Rose’ Walla Walla Sweet Onion, diced small

6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon dill weed

fresh ground pepper and salt, to taste

2 teaspoons dry ground mustard

3/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream OR 3/4 cup each mayonnaise and Miracle Whip

Paprika, optional

Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto
Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto balanced the herbs and texture of the Roasted potato salad beautifully.

Hard cook your eggs while your cubed potatoes roast in a 350* oven until they begin to turn gold.  Let the potatoes cool a bit, chill to peel the eggs before chopping.  Combine the potatoes, minced onion, chopped eggs, celery seed, dill weed, salt and pepper.  Toss gently to distribute the seasonings.  Mix together your choice of dressing with the dry ground mustard; make sure the mustard gets well blended; add the dressing to the potato mix.  Fold until evenly moistened.  Sprinkle with paprika if desired.

We chose to maintain the Locati theme and pair this salad with Locati Cellars 2014 Dolcetto.  Meaning small sweet grape, this wine is deep purple and full of ripe fruit flavors.  The salad and wine paired beautifully bringing out the herbs and fruit in a nice balance.  Cheers!

Sunset in Walla Walla, no filter is necessary.
Sunset in Walla Walla, no filter is necessary.

Red, Pink and Yellow Onions

It is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Harvest here in our verdant valley.  These delectable, fragile onions are only around for a short time each year and have to be used promptly or preserved as they don’t store like the average yellow, white or red onions we are familiar with in the USA.  I will be getting my 25 pounds to dehydrate this weekend; it is Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival weekend too.

Last November, during our tour through Germany we spent a day in Emmeloord, Netherlands.  (This a ‘polder‘ – land reclaimed from the sea.)  The perfectly flat terrain goes on for miles and miles where sheep graze and food crops grow with agriculture related businesses being the primary form of employment.  It is below sea level and the locals enjoy relating the marvel of their home as much as winery peeps in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon) like to expound upon the Missoula Floods that have  provided us with excellent soil for vinifera grape growing, amongst other crops.  Hey, we are all human, right?

One of the stops of the day was an onion packing plant; it was an excellent experience.  Set up like the one I have been through in Washington State: trucks backed in to unload, storage bins for the onions, long lines of conveyor belts sizing equipment and bagging/boxing.  What made it interesting to me was that my American perspective was large onions that are either in pre-weighed 5 or 10 pound net bags or loose in the grocery store is the norm.  From the Waterman Onion Packing facility yellow, red and pink (yup, just like wine: white, red and pink) onions the size of large shallots are packaged into net bags of about five onions for grocery store purchasers or graded and sized for bulk shipping to Asian and African nations.  Those destined for Africa were to be sold individually (pieced) as money and/or preservation are in short supply in many places.  Our American onions are less expensive too; sadly, we don’t see how well we have it most of the time.

The pink onions were touted as ‘sweet’ and, being from Sweet country, we had to try one.  A pocket knife was procured and layers were peeled for each that wanted a taste.  Although sweeter than the average onion and great tasting, they are not as sweet as our beloved Walla Walla Sweet Onions.

I had a blast going through the packaging plant while it was shut down for lunch. My white jacket was filthy in short order (I should not be trusted with white clothing) but none of the guys got dusty red jackets of out it…hmmmm.  Since we have been traveling through Washington during potato planting I recognized the huge bulk sacs for shipping at two places where I hadn’t  see them before.  The gypsy in me took advantage of some traveling opportunities while the geeky side is content with the new info.

By the way, feel free to mix and match your yellow/red/pink onions with your wines. Cheers!

May-be busy

Farmers Market season opened on Saturday morning with a ribbon cutting.  We were part of the anticipation and had a bag full of fresh Locati produce, goat milk yogurt and a Mother’s Day gift in short order.  On Saturdays I am not working we will make our way to the market throughout the season.

By Monday Walla Walla was in a rush, Food Truck Night and Kontos Cellars Industry Night were scheduled at the same time, on the same night.  It was Monday, we were relaxed from a relatively sedate weekend, so we decided we could attend both events.  In this town it is possible to have this conflict much of the year.

We enjoyed quesadillas from the Taco La Monarca truck with Sangrias from Walla Faces at the Incubators.  Certainly enough food and the Sangrias went beautifully.  Where the first event last month was very cold, this was perfect with warm temps and no wind.  Outside on the patio we visited with friends while we ate.

And to the Industry Night festivities at Kontos Cellars downtown.  From the warm welcome to the outstanding wines, excellent live music (Kyle Sauve, solo musician from Spokane), and exquisite fare by Chef Nate (Locati Cellars cigar guy and Cameo Heights Chef).  We had enough food before arriving, but the smell was so enticing we had a bit there too.  My energy began to lag as the sun set so we made the rounds to say thanks and good night before heading home.

Locati produce, Locati wine, soon to be soup.
Inspiration for Asparagus Mushroom Soup, compliments of Locati Cellars.

Thinking about the early sweet onions and asparagus from the Farmer’s Market I was determined to use them to best advantage.  I wanted to make a light, warm-weather soup (memories of cream of asparagus soup spurred me on) to counter balance the heavy food from Monday night.  Below is the recipe for my soup; it was excellent warm that night on the patio, but it was terrific cold for lunch the next day too.

Asparagus Mushroom Soup

1 1/2 lb. fresh asparagus

2 spring onions, Walla Walla Sweets if possible

2 cloves garlic

4 oz chanterelle or oyster mushrooms (I get mine dehydrated so I can keep them on hand)

1/2 cup dry white wine (Locati Pinot Grigio was my choice)

1/2 lemon juiced

6 egg yolks

dill and parsley, salt and pepper to taste

Snap the lower ends of the asparagus off, peel the onions and clip the green tips of ragged bits, peel the garlic cloves; place all of this in a large pot with 4-6 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a hard simmer and cook for an hour.  I soaked my dehydrated mushrooms in the 1/2 cup of Locati Cellars Pinot Grigio for half of an hour while I chopped the asparagus spears into one-inch pieces, sliced the whites of the spring onions and chopped the garlic.  Whisk the egg yolks in the lemon juice until mostly smooth, set aside.

Locati: Asparagus and mushroom soup and Pinot Grigio wine.
Locati Cellars 2014 Pinot Grigio and Locati Farms asparagus and spring onions make for a lovely warm-weather soup.

Saute the onions, garlic and asparagus in a small amount of olive oil until just soft. Add the wine and mushrooms cooking to warm the mushrooms. Strain the hot broth, add about 1/2 cup to the egg yolk/lemon mixture, stirring constantly.  When cool, add a larger amount of broth and continue to stir.  Pour the clear broth back into the pot (no vegetable matter should be left in it), stir the egg yolk/lemon mixture into it, stirring well.  Add the hot vegetables.  Serve, adding dill and parsley to the bowls.  We each added our own salt and pepper to taste.


With a glass of the Pinot Grigio that was used to make the soup, we enjoyed our supper in the mid-80* heat.  The dill in the warm soup was very aromatic, less so the next day cold but still good.  Have you got a recipe for asparagus or spring onions that you really love?

Now it is time to prepare for Spring Release Weekend!  It will be a hopping week.  I hope you have a great one. Cheers!