Thinking over this past year, have your wine buying habits changed at all? If you are like most American wine drinkers, they have. Welcome to the new order of things as the world of wine responds to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Indeed, this is a terrific time to be a buyer and a horrible time to be a supplier in the wine market. Overall restaurant wine sales are depressed as folks eat out less often and buy wine by the glass rather than by the bottle. Due to these falling sales, many wine producers and distributors have slashed prices and have found creative ways to move their inventory through internet liquidation sites. Exports to the U.S. from all European wine growing regions are off by more than a fifth as the dollar weakens against the Euro. Americans are now more inclined to try wines made in the U.S. (Think how remarkable it is that Washington State a generation ago produced only a trickle of wine, but in 2009 produced the #1 wine in the world, according to the Wine Spectator’s recent Top 100 rankings.)
What does this mean for our Wine Club Members? There is a silver lining to the economic doldrums we currently face. As we travel throughout the Northwest to find those special wines, we find that more and more wineries are slashing their prices. We try to find those premium wines, but at a good price….and as always we pass the savings on to you.
This month we are featuring Milbrandt Vineyards. This is a fairly new winery by most standards, but their fruit has been outsourced for years to some very prestigious wineries. We hope you enjoy their estate wines that we have selected for you. We typically do not feature a dessert wine, but this month we just had to share with you their Late Harvest Riesling. After you read about it and taste it, you will know why.
The Featured AVA this month was Wahluke Slope WA:
Wahluke Slopes is the 8th AVA in Washington State, receiving such status in January 2006. This AVA lies entirely within the established Columbia Valley appellation and it is currently home to more than 20 vineyards. It is bounded by the Columbia River, the Saddle Mountains and the Hanford Reach National Monument. The name “Wahluke” is a Native American term meaning “watering place.” There are 81,000 acres of land in this AVA, 5,200 of which bear vines and is responsible for nearly 20% of Washington’s grape production. It has one of the driest, warmest climates in the state, therefore irrigation is a must. The top grape varietals grown are: Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonay and Chenin Blanc.
The Featured Winery for this month was Milbrandt Vineyards:
Milbrandt Vineyards is owned and operated by brothers, Butch and Jerry Milbrandt. They tell everyone, “Farming is in our blood.” For nearly six decades the Milbrandt family have made their living working the land, mostly hay and alfalfa. In 1997 Butch and Jerry wanted to take a new direction with their lives. Realizing that Eastern Washington was producing some wonderful grapes, they decided to plant their own vineyards. This was uncharted territory for them but they were determined to become the best growers in the state. Today they farm 13 distinct estate vineyard sites totaling nearly 1600 acres. In just 10 years, they gained the reputation for growing some of Washington’s finest grapes. Their grapes can be found in most sought-after wines and their name and vineyards are featured on many prestigious labels.
In 2006 they decided to craft their own signature wines using carefully hand selected grapes from their reputable vineyards. With the guidance and direction of veteran winemaker, Gordon Hill, their first wines were released in June 2007 carrying the Milbrandt label. Their first release of 2005 and 2006 vintages received outstanding acclaim and each year the prestigious awards continue to grow.
Veteran winemaker, Gordon Hill is still the winemaker for Milbrandt. Gordon Hill has been a winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle and he was involved in the creation of Northstar, the Bordeaux style Merlot he made in conjunction with renowned Lake County (California) wine-maker Jed Steele.
Milbrant’s 4,000 square foot tasting room located in Prosser, Washington’s Vintner’s Village, opened in May 2008. The tasting room is modern yet with an old world feel. You can easily spot this tasting room from the freeway – just look for the bell tower. Its patio area is spacious and the perfect spot to soak up the warm sun and enjoy a picnic. The tasting room has soaring ceilings, a large tasting bar and a gift shop. They also have a small tasting menu.
Milbrandt Vineyards Estates 2007 Malbec— 89 Points Wine Enthusiast
Dark in color and explosive fruit. The nose is jammy and saturated with cassis, boysenberry, blackberry and blueberry. The palate is rich, silky, velvety and generous. Open and approachable, this is the perfect sidekick for lamb, wild game, steak, ribs, sausage and cheese.
This wine comes from the Northridge Vineyard on Eastern Washington’s Wahluke Slope. Saturated with boysenberry, loganberry, raspberry, orange marmalade and vanilla. The palate is dense, bright, lively and well-supported by oak and tannin.
Milbrandt Vineyards Estates 2007 Late Harvest Riesling—92 Pts Wine Enthusiast
Harvested in mid-December at 15 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure high sugars and the development of botrytis. The nose explodes with ripe apricots, honey, baked apple, orange peel and botrytis. The flavors are intensely concentrated with peaches, honey, licorice and balancing acidity. Long and remarkably rich, this is a testament to the soils and climates of the Wahluke Slope. Awarded Double Gold at the San Francisco 2009 International Wine Competition.
Let’s Pair up Recipes for the Month:
Spicy Sausage and Peppers—Pair with Milbrandt 2007 Malbec
This wine has quite an affinity with sausages and sausage dishes.
- 2 pounds spicy Italian sausage, sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
- 1/4 pound jalapeno peppers, cut into large pieces
- 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
- 1 (12 fluid ounce) can beer
- 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
- Place sausage, red bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, and red onion in a large bowl. Pour in beer. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.
- Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil grate.
- Alternately thread sausage, red pepper, jalapenos, and onion onto skewers. Cook on the prepared grill until sausage is evenly brown and vegetables are tender. Melt provolone cheese over the hot ingredients during the last few minutes of cooking.
Philly Cheese steak with Peppers and Onions—Pair with Milbrandt Petite Sirah
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced·
- 1 large green pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, mince
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 long loaf Italian bread, or 4 small crusty rolls
- 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 pound lean steak, trimmed, grilled and cut into thin slices
Heat the chicken broth in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes or until very soft. Split the Italian loaf or rolls and cut in portion sizes if necessary.
Lay the 4 open sandwiches on a baking sheet or broiler pan, and divide the vegetables among the bottom sections. Top with the steak slices and sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts and steak is warmed through. Top with remaining bread and serve.
Austrian Linzer Cookies—Pair with Milbrandt Late Harvest Riesling
- 1.5 cups sifted flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds (ground)
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
- 1 tsp water
- 1 beaten egg
Sift together dry ingredients, then stir in brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add the slightly beaten egg and ground almonds; mix well with hands. Pat half the mixture into an ungreased 9x9x2 inch pan. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. On a floured surface roll out the remaining dough and cut into 20 strips. Create a lattice top by lining 10 strips across the filling; then arrange the remaining 10 strips of dough diagonally across the top. Combine the last beaten egg with water and brush over lattice. Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool. Cut into bars or squares.
* the apricot jam brings out the beautiful flavors of the apricot in this particular Riesling.