Willow Crest Winery 2008 Estate Grown cabernet franc

It’s been awhile since I have reported on a bonafide Darwin Award candidate, but the drought is over. A 53 year-old Florida man died late Thursday after snorting what he thought was cocaine. He and his brother were out in the Florida Keys fishing when they picked up a package floating by their boat. They thought the mysterious package contained a kilo of cocaine so he started snorting it. About two hours later, the man threw overboard all their communications devices and damaged the engine before his brother waved a passing boat for help. I’ll stick to ‘runner’s high’ over ‘fisherman’s high’ for now. Was it the weather or are peeps in the southern states simply bedwetting buttstains (and, therefore, future wine bloggers)? A Greene County, Missouri couple wetted their whistles for at least two hours at a local bar to escape the 100-degree heat. Not a problem, you say? Well, they left ten kids, ages infant to 11, IN the car outside. Even more facepalming (and sadder, too) is the death of a 10 year-old Arizona girl after her four older relatives locked her in a storage container as punishment for taking, of all things, a Popsicle without permission. Is the offer still on the table to sell Arizona to the Mexican drug lords for $3 trillion and free nachos for a year? Apparently some Mexican soldiers thought so but they entered the wrong state as more than two dozen of them in Humvees crossed into Texas after chasing a Texas resident that crossed into Mexico. So, just like our wines, count these as more reasons to be thankful we live in Washington and everyone else does not. Cheers to that! Hmm, good idea. Think I’ll sit right down and write a letter to the Prez.

While watching yet another clown show that’s called a Mariners baseball game, I decided to research one of the ‘trivia quiz’ answers. The question was about which players are still benefiting the Mariners from the 1989 trade of Mark Langston for the Montreal Expos’ Randy Johnson. It’s actually one of the more enduring legacies that the Mariners have given to baseball and if there’s ever a “hall of fame” for player trades, this one would be a ‘first ballot’ winner. Answer at the end of this post.

Hey, so I forgot to mention one dish from my latest grillmaster session. It’s easy, like all my recipes. Call it Walla WalLA grilled onions. Take a fat Walla Walla sweet onion ($1/lb at the market), cut the tips and pull the fibrous skin layers off, then cut latitudinally into four tree rings. Use that basting sauce in my previous post to prevent the onions from sticking to the grill (and to add some flavor). After a few minutes, when the skins appear more lucid, flip ‘em over for a few more minutes then remove. Wait, not done yet. While still warm, make a foil pan with enough room to place all rounds flat on the foil. Top the onions with olive oil and a really decent steak sauce like Cornet Bay Louisiana Steak Sauce or something that has peppers, vinegar, salt, fruit concentrates and garlic. Yes, I am all about ‘local’—the maker is located in Gig Harbor. Throw it back on the grill and let it all fuse. The longer it stays on the grill, the thicker the sauce gets but don’t let it get too carmelized. A great accompaniment to grilled steak and wine. I thought about using the wine instead of steak sauce but (1) it’s too thin and (2) I prefer a wider spectrum of flavors at the dinner table. Easy, weezy.

Willow Crest Winery is the 16 year-old love child of Dave Minick and his obsession with wine grapes. Dave started his wine odyssey in 1982, first planting wine grapes at his now sprawling 185 acre vineyard at elevation 1300 feet six miles north of Prosser. The first vines were riesling, gewürztraminer, and chardonnay. He added cabernet franc in 1996. His current portfolio also includes: two clones of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, pinot gris, mourvedre, viognier and grenache. Average yields are 3 tons for reds and 4-6 tons for whites.

Farmers come in two flavors—those who are pure, “I don’t care what you do with the grapes, I just grow them,” and those who ask “So, how do you make wine out of these things?” Dave kinda fell into the latter category after interacting with all the winemakers who purchased his fruit. I suspect early on, he dealt with a lot of Chateau Ste. Michelle bad boys in Mike Januik, Bob Betz, and Charlie Hoppes, maybe even Columbia Winery’s David Lake passed through, so it makes perfect sense that, hell, if you want free advice on how to make wines and you’ve got Washington’s best coming to your door, why wouldn’t Mr. Minick be curious?

Among his buyers today are Dr. Busacca of Alma Terra Wines, the Naravanes of Rasa Vineyards, Brian Countryman of Celaeno Winery, Anna Schafer of àMaurice Cellars, Jamie Brown of Waters Winery, and Justin Wylie of Va Piano Vineyards to name a few. To no one’s surprise, syrah appears to be the jewel from Minick Vineyard.

Think about this, it’s 75 degrees and sunny. Not hot enough for a rosé and not cool enough for a white. Look for a wine that’s not too decadent but not too wine-bloggerish (flabby, artificial, cheap) either. I’m looking for a wine with just enough grip and complexity to prime my palate for what I’m grilling without being too over-the-top that I lose focus on cooking. Price-wise, a player in the $10-15 category. Guess I am describing what this wine delivers.

This was my prelude wine to Gramercy Cellars’ tempranillo. Food pairing was Marcona almonds, parmesan cheese, and Beechers Smoked Flagship cheese. Weather pairing was even better. I finished up the glass with the first cuts of my grilled ribeye and, while a good pairing there, the tempranillo, believe it or not, had more heft and complexity to stand up to one of my better slabs of steak.

These types of discoveries can only be found by taking the time to put the wine in play. No
quick swigs at some Rambo-type tasting event or room will EVER divulge a wine’s true strengths at the table so do NOT EVER trust what you read from other wine bloggers who judge wines like they’re passing a water table at a marathon. Same goes for those stupid wine awards.

Tasted at 59-67 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: clear, black cherry. Nose: blackberry, black pepper. Mouthfeel: medium-bodied with a dark-spice tang. Tail trail: 7 seconds. Flavors: black fruits, black pepper, spent tobacco.

Alcohol: 13.9%. Looks like the winery website hasn’t been updated for a couple years (grade: D-). Minick Vineyard (estate). Yakima Valley AVA. Rated: 88 Value: $12. Paid: $12. Music pairing: “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter” by Billy Williams. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

Background: On Monday at 3:30pm, August 5, 1957, the first national broadcasting of ‘American Bandstand’ was aired on ABC with Dick Clark hosting from The City of Brotherly Love. His first musical guest was Billy Williams. I betcha 9 out of 10 winemakers here have seen at least one show when it was aired live.

Trivia answer:

(May 25, 1989) M’s trade ace Mark Langston for Randy Johnson (and others).

(July 31, 1998) Johnson is traded to Houston Astros for Freddy Garcia (and others).

(June 27, 2004) Freddy Garcia is traded to Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Michael Morse and Jeremy Reed.

(July 31, 2005) Miguel Olivo traded to San Diego, but later returns to the Mariners in 2011 as a free agent.

(June 28, 2009) Michael Morse traded to Washington Nationals for Ryan Langerhans.

(July 29, 2011) Ryan Langerhans traded to Arizona Diamondbacks for cash.

(December 10, 2008) Jeremy Reed (and others) traded to New York Mets (and Cleveland Indians) for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez (and others).

As for the “others” who are still playing in the majors, they are: Ronny Cedeno (Pittsburgh), Endy Chavez (Texas), Freddy Garcia (Yankees), Carlos Guillen (Detroit), Aaron Heilman (Arizona), Garrett Olson (Pittsburgh), Ramon Santiago (Detroit). Jeremy Reed is in AAA with the Minnesota Twins.

…no more trivia for awhile. You guys are killing me!

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2 Responses to Willow Crest Winery 2008 Estate Grown cabernet franc

  1. You remember the triple trade for Von hayes in ’84? Phillies traded a little known Ryne Sandberg for 2 prospects, Keith Jones and Greg Gross and a player from Detroit, VON “FUCKING” HAYES. What a waste.

    The Captain

  2. wawineman says:

    Huh? I think I missed something there.
    I thought Ivan DeJesus came from the Cubs for Bowa and Sandberg; and Von Hayes came from the Indians for Julio Franco and 4 others. All in 1982.
    Think positive: 1980, 2008.
    Now you can smile again.

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