Wineries typically shy away from acknowledging any existence of WAwineman’s reviews of their products, and justifiably so, for many reasons. It could be that they have ZERO control over the content. Or, the content is just too “raw” for their fans. Or, well… let’s just call it what it is: they’re simply “pussies.” Some pull a “wine blogger” and tell others not to read it then, later that evening, they go and read it and have a hearty chuckle because they know the printed words speak EXACTLY what they were thinking. And, there are the few that actually find the reviews spot-on and informative. And, let’s not forget my brethren who, after a long day bathing in silicon, just need a humorous monologue to ease the pain.
Let’s face it, this is not for everybody. There are far more eyes that want the fluff and hyperbole with their wines and there is certainly no shortage of that pile out there. Kinda like walking past the cages at the local Humane Society. Of course, there is no proof that such garbage sells wines, lots of wines, so really blogging about wines really caters to those who are bored enough to actively search for it online and nourish their curiosity. Wine blogging boils down to a cheap extension of marketing for a winery and authored by amateur writers. Some do it because wine inspires them, but the overwhelming man-jority do it to propagate themselves as some sort of celebrity. They use wine to make themselves think they are “famous” so when they walk into a tasting room, they expect to get the “star treatment.” We all know where that starvation-for-attention arises from…a neglected childhood and poor parenting.
Just the same, wine blogging isn’t for everybody either. Look at the carnage of the last 4 years, most notably the suspension of activity from Yakyakwine. Count up the Twitter honks that no longer tweet about wines. See the yahoos who proclaim to be wine bloggers but: (1) haven’t blogged about wines since November (see Benny Simons); (2) claim to be wine bloggers but do not blog directly about the wines (see Shona Minne); (3) have no clue how to write a wine review yet still proclaim to be a “wine expert at King 5 Seattle” (Psycho Winegal); or worst of all, (4) calling his wine blog as “an independent blog” when he clearly is on the take from the Washington Wine Commission (see hermaphrodite).
Although there have been changes here at WAwineman world headquarters, this is still the most authentic, unhitched, down-to-earth wine blog about Washington wines. It may lack deep technical hypotheses. It may be deficient in descriptive poetry. It may not always uncover the next “big thing.” But, as a duty to all readers, it is not intimidated by anyone in the industry. Hey, it’s just wine, folks.
To the olive oil…
Here’s a trend that’s emerging in Washington wineries looking to diversify products while keeping the entire portfolio in harmony. When you think of drinking wine in a civilized setting, what foods come to mind? Cheese? Crackers? Bread? And just what do those appetizers need to give it that touch of “old world” elegance? That’s right. Olive oil! Sorry, if you guessed handcuffs and lubricants, then you are at another level from the rest of us. Just sayin’.
I’ve seen a couple wineries sell imported olive oil on their winery website and far more selling the sleek, dark bottles in their tasting rooms, but this offering from Neil “Coop” Cooper and his Cooper Wine Company under his own label is a first. This should not come as a surprise as Coop is one of the more suave, savvy, and progressive thinkers to arrive on the Washington wine scene. Consider him the first to master the integration of wine and social media, as evidenced by his very active winery Facebook site that details his burgeoning wine club (CoopClub), his Twitter accounts with humorous and intelligent tweets, and his winery website and… well, okay!, that could use a little updating, but he’s working on that.
As gifted as Coop looks and thinks, he didn’t acquire over 500 signups in just over two years by snapping his fingers. The man works hard and more importantly, works smart. When his winery was starting up, he hit the road hard, visiting many restaurants, stores, and even reaching out to wine bloggers. As word spread, he reached out even farther, to Oregon, California, and Texas. He understands the business term “diversify” to protect his income stream better than any individual winery owner out there. Perhaps, this was a lesson learned from his earlier business dealings, but you’ll just have to read my groundbreaking post for that topic. Suffice to say that the man has earned everything through effort. And we can all thank his fellow farmers for bringing him along.
Okay, back to the olive oil… Hang in there.
What Coop is really known for, what makes his clock tick, is his connections. This inaugural 2011 vintage extra-virgin olive oil hails from The Flynn Family Farm that is home to Pacific Farms & Orchards and the Pacific Sun Olive Oil line. The connection there is that Brendon Flynn was Coop’s roommate and waterski teammate back in college at Cal Poly-Surf, Laugh, & Org…(edited for content). You can read the Flynn bio on their website but one can just imagine, well hope, that Brendon was the yang to Coop’s yin (for you Buddhist geeks). Reserved. Placid. Deliberate. Tee-totaler. Um, nah, I don’t think so, either.
What is oddly fascinating is that there are actual olive oil tasting competitions similar to those that infect the wine industry. Whoda thunk it? How does one grade olive oil??? Apparently, there are graded categories of: (1) fruitiness, (2) bitterness, and (3) complexity, in addition to overall experience. But, first of all, who the heck horks olive oil, much less, from a cup?
So here’s a primer from WAwineman’s in-depth investigation.
Olive oil truths: (1) made from unripe olives—ripe olives contain more moisture to dilute the flavors and oxidize faster, making it too acidic; (2) like wine, olives are best when hand-picked to minimize bruising; (3) olive oils tend to be blends of at least two varietals; (4) olives are generally harvested around October and bottled oil goes to market by March; (5) unlike wine, olive oil does not age well (filtered can last up to 18 months, unfiltered goes only 90 days); (6) there are several grades of olive oil, of which I will state only E.V.O.O. is defined (by the USDA) as “excellent flavor and odor and free fatty acid content of 0.8 g per 100 g.” The Spanish equivalent goes further in its definition as the oil was extracted by physical methods and contains no more than 0.8% acidity.
Olive oil bottles should be dark colored to preserve the integrity of the oil. Apparently, light speeds the degradation of the finer characteristics of the oil. A tasting is called a degustation to discern its organoleptic quality. Palate cleansers that are acceptable are white bread and apples, with the apples being slightly acidic as the key. While there are actual crystal glasses to sip olive oil from, I have found those simple Pyrex mini-mixing bowls to do the job and be easy to clean. Not that you should go out and duplicate my results. I don’t plan on doing this again anytime real soon. Pour about a half-ounce to an ounce and let sit for a minute. Take a whiff of the aromas in the bowl then let the oil coat your upper lip before sipping. Gently push the oil around in the mouth. Get as much surface area contact as possible. I know, it’s just oil and we have no “oil” taste-buds to gauge with, but it’s the compounds contained within. Besides, the first sense to be activated is in the nose by polyphenols. In the mouth, it’s all about texture and the presence of acids. Finally, inhale through the mouth, then swallow and exhale slowly through the nose (just like wine). What do you sense?
I compared Coop’s olive oil with an Agriturismo version from Tarquinia, Italy (note to foodies: suck it!) and the ubiquitous Kirkland Signature E.V.O.O.
Cooper: robust aromas of freshly-mowed grass, green leaves and freshly Xeroxed copy paper. Lemony color. Reminds me of June (the month, not my ex-). Medium fruit. Mild bitterness. Slight peppery finish.
Poggio Nebbia: medium aromas of soft-mowed grass. Strong tinge of green color. Soft fruit. Very mild with a complex finish.
Kirkland Signature: not very aromatic other than perhaps, young grass. Nutty presence. Light tinge of green. Moderate fruit and bitterness. Not complex. Peppery finish.
Cooper’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a three varietal blend from trees in the Tehama County of northern California. Used as a finishing oil for a modified Scarpetta linguine recipe (chef: Scott Conant) but also perfectly fine with bread and a malbec.
Music pairing: “White Knuckles” by Ok Go. This is WAwineman…fell off the beaten path for this one. Thanks, Coop!