• Transplanted


    verb. moved or transferred (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval.

    [caption id=”attachment_6959″ align=”alignright” width=”300″]Carmenere Grapes at Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley Carmenere Grapes at Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley[/caption]

    One of my favorite grape varietals is Carmenere, the “Lost Bordeaux grape.” Believed to be one of the ancient grapes, Carmenere once thrived in the Bordeaux region of France.  During the 1860s, Carmenere, along with much of France’s vines, were infested by phylloxera, a tiny little aphid that came over from America. Already a difficult grape to grow, the Carmenere vines were pulled up after the phylloxera epidemic and the grape was thought to be lost forever.

    During this same time period, French vine cuttings of what was believed to be Merlot were sent to Chile. The grapes thrived in Chilean soil, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when scientists tested the vines that they discovered it was the long-lost Carmenere grape. Today, Carmenere is primarily produced in Chile. But outside of Chile, Carmenere is found in Italy, California and the Walla Walla Valley.

    The long and storied transplanted history of Carmenere spans three continents and arguably thousands of years. Although my story is not quite so long, it spans three states and ends in the Walla Walla Valley.Read More

  • Our secret ingredient is…


    Raul Morfin, Assistant Winemaker

    It is often said, and it is utterly true, 90% of winemaking is cleaning… tanks, barrels, vats,floors, walls, hoses, valves, pumps, and let us not forget, the lowly barrel bung.

    A ritualistic approach to cleaning is essential for crafting the very best ultra premium REININGER and HELIX Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, Sangiovese and Chardonnay.  Here, Raul Morfin, Assistant Winemaker, cleans fermentation bungs in barrels holding 2014 wines.

    Cheers to the New Year !

  • Harvest 2014 Update


    Crush at Reininger began the second week of September, and as of October 1st, we’re just about half-way done. “Intense” best describes our winery activities during harvest-time, and many liken it to a 60-day sprint from early September to early November. Overall, the fruit has been very high in quality as well as high in Brix.*

    Chuck notes the ripening has been a bit hectic, with Syrah in some vineyards ripening before Merlot. But as we’ve learned over the past 18 years, adjusting quickly to change is the norm. Thus far, we’ve brought in 64.5 tons of fruit including Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Semillon.

    Walla Walla Valley weather has been sunny and dry, with daytime temps in the 70’s, and night time temps dipping into the 50’s and 40’s. All in all, we are very happy with the fruit and the weather!


    Ann & the gang at Reininger/Helix


    *Here’s a brief refresher on Brix:

    Named for A. F. W. Brix, a nineteenth-century German inventor, the Brix scale is a system used in the United States to measure the sugar content of grapes and wine. The Brix (sugar content) is determined by a Hydrometer, which indicates a liquid’s Specific Gravity (the density of a liquid in relation to that of pure water). Each degree Brix is equivalent to 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of grape juice. The grapes for most Table Wines have a Brix reading of between 20¬? to 25¬? at harvest. About 55 to 60 percent of the sugar is converted into Alcohol. The estimated alcohol that a wine will produce (called potential alcohol) is estimated by multiplying the Brix reading by 0.55. Therefore,a 20¬? Brix will make a wine with about 11 percent alcohol.

    Source: The Wine Lover’s Companion, by Ron Herbst & Sharon Tyler Herbst

  • Harvest Countdown


    With the 2014 harvest just around the corner in Walla Walla, here is a recap of our summer weather from winemaker Chuck Reininger:

    2014 so far has been on fire, literally and figuratively, but don’t expect an early harvest. Plants slow down their ripening process at temperatures above c.95 degrees to conserve moisture by shutting down photosynthesis.

    We’ve been hovering around triple digits the entire month of July. Walla Walla to date has accumulated 1917 “degree days,” 310 more than the running average since 2008.

    I anticipate harvest beginning around the same time as last year – September 8 – as a result of this phenomenon. Canopy management to guard against sunburn is very important this year.

    There’s also concern regarding forest fires. Our vineyards did not experience any smoke taint a few years ago, the last time there were significant fires. However, the smoke did block a significant amount of light waves, enough to also slow ripening, according to research by Washington State University.

    Thank you for your continued support of Reininger and Helix. Stay tuned for more crush updates in the coming weeks!



  • A Fall Dessert to Love: Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake


    Chocloate Pumpkin Cheesecake photoThis past weekend my friend Nan brought a beautiful and delicious cheesecake to a fall gathering of food. Though I’m not going out on a limb to suggest a wine pairing, this is one of those desserts that is visually stunning and worthy of your holiday table!  Kudos to Nan’s teenage daughter, Anna, who created the decorative swirls.  Nan says it’s not difficult to make the cake or the swirls… The directions for creating the swirls are included in the recipe, and there’s additional information on how to make other swirled patterns. Lastly, don’t miss the whipped cream with sour cream and honey.

    The recipe hails from Fine Cooking Magazine, and here’s the link:


    Happy Fall Baking

  • Screen Shot 2013 08 27 At 10.09.28

    Quiz : What’s Your Reininger Wine Preference?


    All of us are beginners at some point. I remember my first sip of the 2003 Reininger Ash Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon as a newby Reininger employee. It was my “aha!” wine moment, but before that I pretty much thought everything tasted either white or red, and I am a native Walla Wallan (the shame!).

    I will let you in on a secret though, something that we use at the winery to help our tasters find what they are looking for: the flavors you enjoy in all foods and drinks can help identify your wine preferences. It’s so simple! Since you’re not in the tasting room with us right now, check out our handy quiz to help you decipher what your wine preferences are in lightening fast time!

    1. Which coffee would you order?

    a. Americano
    b. Latté
    c. Cold-brew with milk

    If you answered:

    a. You like a little get up ‘n go! Try the Reininger Carmenere or the Helix Cabernet Sauvignon, both have plenty of flavor and sparkly acid to excite your palate.
    b. Lush and smooth, you’ll enjoy the Reininger Malbec for it’s unctuous texture and full-bodied fruit.
    c. If you like a little less acid and a creamier mouthfeel, you’ll love the Reininger Merlot and the Helix Pomatia.

    2. What’s your cold craving at 10p?

    a. Chocolate gelato
    b. Lemon sorbet
    c. Vanilla bean ice cream

    If you answered:

    a. You like big, rich, and full of the essential flavor profile. Try the Reininger or Helix Syrah!
    b. Bright and light, you’ll enjoy the Reininger Semillion for it’s succulent tartness or the Helix Rosé for a refreshing sip of summer.
    c. If you love that creamy sweetness, you’ll love the Reininger Late Harvest Viognier or even the Reininger Reserve Chardonnay.

    3. Imagine you have a fresh loaf of french bread, what do you put on it?

    a. Blackberry jam
    b. Olive tapenade
    c. Paté

    If you answered:

    a. Big dark fruits and well-balanced acid are your bag. You can’t go wrong with the Reininger Anomaly or the Reininger Syrah. So. Good.
    b. With a craving for savory earthiness, the Helix SoRho will never do you wrong.
    c. Rich, fatty, and full flavored cravers will love a rich, sculpted wine like the Reininger Desiderata.

  • Three Amigos

    Summer Picks from Helix – The Three Amigos


    Check out these warm-weather wines from Helix, our Columbia Valley wines sourced from top vineyards east of the Cascades.

    • Helix wines = Value, Scores, Food-Friendly, Nice Acidity and a Great Finish.
    • Helix and Reininger are family owned by the Reininger and Tucker families, 5th generation Washington/Oregon wheat farmers.
    • Helix is named for a family-owned wheat farm near the tiny NE Oregon town of Helix, population 185.
    • Chuck Reininger crafts our Helix wines using top-producing Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Vineyards.

    2011 Helix Chardonnay, Columbia Valley – 90 Points and Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast Magazine
    “The Helix Chardonnay is a lush offering of pineapple flavor, plus a leesy, mineral-soaked mid-palate that is supremely refreshing. It has terrific acidity and persistence on the palate.”
    – Paul Gregutt, Wine Enthusiast

    New Release! 2009 Helix Pomatia, Columbia Valley – 88 Points and Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast Magazine (July 2013 issue)
    Grab a fork and gorge. Gorge on the huge black raspberry, gorge on the dried black cherries and over-ripe fig. I love the soft and oh so fine tannin structure that refuses to be out muscled by its powerful fruit cousins. Infused and chewy, it’s macerated fruit with vanilla and a whisper of sage. Fire up the Odyssey honey, were heading to the club for some Prime Rib.
    -Chuck Reininger, Winemaker

    Just Released! 2012 Helix Rose, Columbia Valley
    Juicy summer fruit lovers will flip for this one. Take a whiff and smell the aromas of rose blossom and watermelon. Fresh strawberry and watermelon carry over to the palate with a silky round texture. It’s a sexy summer sipper with nice acidity and a long finish. Pair with salmon, steelhead, tuna, halibut, bouillabaisse, and summer salads.
    -Chuck Reininger, Winemaker

  • Wine for Your Wedding

    Wine for Your Wedding? Reininger’s Got the Answers.


    Well here we are, right in the thick of wedding season. May’s unpredictable, bring your umbrella and coat over your sundress weddings are over, and we are scooting right along into the beautiful early summer events. This post is really intended for those who are planning a wedding this summer and need some tips on wine selection for the big day. Obviously it would work well for any summer event as well.

    Many couples are going for a wine and beer reception, skipping the open bar in favor of a less liquor-induced evening, hoping that their guests will have memorable conversations and fun while avoiding the blinding blackouts so easy to obtain with hard alcohol. Whatever the reasoning is, it’s probably a pretty good decision. Having personally been to weddings that were supposed to be wine and beer only, I can say with absolute certainty that nothing positive happens after a hidden tequila bottle makes its way to the dance floor. At my sister’s wedding, for instance, a guest ended up passed out in my parents’ front yard covered in her own vomit and her lady bits on display after a dress malfunction. Bad news. But, I digress.

    Tips and Tricks for Wine at Your Wedding:

    #1 Buy in bulk! Almost every winery will give you a case discount. Maybe if you are really nice and tell them it’s for your wedding, they will give you a little extra off the total purchase. It never hurts to ask. It also never hurts to practice your “nice smile” in the mirror. Check with your venue/caterer first to make sure you can bring outside wine in!

    #2 Although sparkling wine is a wedding fixture, consider also serving one red and one white still wine if the reception includes a meal or hors d’oeuvres. Professional wedding planners advocate serving equal amounts of red and white wine—if only so you don’t disappoint half the crowd. For a Walla Walla crowd, maybe plan on 2/3 red to 1/3 white.

    #3 For those who want to pour just one wine with the meal, there is a happy compromise: dry Rosé, a wine that’s refreshing and also substantial enough to drink with sturdy foods. You know how I feel about a delicious Rosé in the summer…

    #4 Top picks for white wines : Chardonnay, oaked or unoaked is always a crowd pleaser, and Sauvignon Blanc is easy to pair with lighter foods.

    #5 Top picks for red wines : Cabernet Sauvignon is the U.S.’s favorite red varietal, but unless you’re serving up hearty dishes like grilled beef or lamb, it might be easier to go for something a little lighter and versatile. Consider a Sangiovese or Pinot Noir for easier pairing.

    #6 Your sparkler doesn’t have to be pricy! If you are wanting to serve a sparkling wine with cake or during toasts, don’t forget about Prosecco, Cava, Asti, and Sekt. Champagne can be delicious, but you’ll often find a better deal for a better wine if you stick with a lesser-known sparkler.

    #7 Wine with dessert. IF you are serving a specific wine with dessert, make sure it has a little sweetness to it. Too-dry wines can taste metallic and acrid when paired with sweet cakes and frostings.

    #8 It’s always better to have too much. One of my family’s favorite sayings when it comes to food is that “excess is never enough” (are we descended from Marie Antionette?). Nothing is worse than a wedding that runs out of wine. Nothing, that is, aside from a mentally unstable ex-girlfriend showing up.

    #9 Each bottle has 5 servings in it. Count it. 5. You cannot get 8 glasses of wine from a bottle unless you are serving communion. Most caterers estimate that each guest will drink (on average) half a bottle of wine over two hours. If your reception goes for about 4 hours, count on a full bottle for each guest.

    #10 Consider the season. While tons of weddings happen between May and September, remember that you need something more refreshing for warmer months and fuller-bodied for colder months.

    #11 Skip the personalised bottle. If you’re serving good wine, don’t cover it up with your names, for goodness’ sake. Also, if you have ever tried to remove labels from a bottle and place new ones on so that they are straight, you will quickly realise that what you thought was a two hour project is actually going to take you closer to two full days…and that’s if you have a label machine. Trust me on this; it’s not worth your time.


    JUST IN CASE you are supposed to give a speech at someone’s wedding this summer, here is a great NY Times article with a few tips and tricks for a memorable monologue…in the good way.

    Best of luck in love and life!

  • vintage peanut butter

    A Veritable Vintage Variation Quandry (or) Why Does Vintage Matter?


    Imagine you were strolling along through your local grocery store looking for some peanut butter for your favorite peanut butter toast when – my goodness! – you are assaulted with an aisle positively FILLED TO THE BRIM with different peanut butter options from different regions, organic, non-organic, and, worst of all, with a vintage on them. Ok, so some of these options really do exist for even something as basic as peanut butter (I can’t believe I just called one of my very favorite foods “basic”, but let’s be realistic) but never, like wine, the vintage. Why the heck does wine vintage matter so much, anyway?

    This is called vintage variation and it affects certain wines and growing regions more than others. Cooler climates and regions with higher variable weather (eh hem…Washington) tend to have greater variation between vintages. No other fine food seems to be as helpless to inclement weather than the wine industry. Like any other agricultural product, the potential of a wine hinges on the growing conditions for that year.

    Vintage variation is simply the difference in how a wine tastes from year to year based on the weather’s influence on the grapes during a growing season. Wine regions throughout the world with higher variable climates tend to have more extreme vintage variation. Poorly timed bad weather can have a devastating effect on the wine for that year. Vintage ratings can only ever be a guide: in good years more producers will tend to come up with the goods, but if a winemaker is worth their flatbread (haha), they’ll make a decent wine every year. But no matter how skilled a winemaker is at masking the differences, no two vintages of the same wine will ever be exactly alike. With most products, that would be a flaw. With wine, it’s part of its magic.

    Climate Indicators of a Not-So-Awesome Vintage
    • Rain at the end of a growing season can lead to watery grapes with less flavor.
    • Frost at the beginning of the season can kill the precious flowering buds that grow into grapes (flashback to Walla Walla 2004!).
    • A damp early season affects young vines that don’t photosynthesize properly and can cause Coulore which reduces the grape crop.

    These are the climates with the highest vintage variation:

    • Northern Italy
    • France
    • New Zealand
    • Chile
    • Oregon & Washington State

    Yes, you may have noted that both Washington and Oregon states are on the list.

    Here are a few tips to help you out on your next wine-buying adventure:

    • Since the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere are 6 months apart, it is not uncommon to see a bad vintage in France and a great vintage in Australia.
    • A bad vintage for red wines can mean a good vintage for white wines. A cooler vintage develops white wines with crisp acidity.
    • Sometimes it takes a vintage a lot longer to come around. If you’re sitting on a good wine from a less-than-stellar vintage, try waiting. Sometimes a good ol’ rest in the cellar is all a wine needs to develop those characteristics of a better year.
  • pork sliders and wine

    Memorial Day deliciousness! Memorial Day deliciousness! Malbec, Rosé, slow-roasted pig…oh my!


    Memorial Day…the time to pull out the barbeque, bocce ball set, and set up camp in the backyard with your friends. That is, of course, if you aren’t at Sasquatch, backpacking, or taking the long weekend to hit up a Club Med. Nothing goes better with hanging out with friends than massive amounts of pig, a few soft buns, and scrummy wine. What’s more American than a ton of meat? Nothing, I tell you. If you haven’t ever attempted homemade pulled pork, it’s actually really simple and yields delicious results. I highly recommend this recipe from the Barbecue Bible, Steven Raichlan’s ode to all things barbecued, meaty, and delicious. My family loves North Carolina style pulled pork because that’s what my dad grew up with in Kentucky. Its vinegar-based sauce brings out the natural sweetness of the pork instead of covering it with a cloyingly sugary syrup mess. Just start this sucker the night before you’re party and you’ll have succulent, homemade pulled pork to impress all of your friends with. THIS is finger-lickin’ good.

    Some people think it’s probably hard to pair wine with pulled pork. It’s not. Here are my suggestions, but you’ll just have to try a few bottles to see which pairing you like best. For those who love the boldness of barbeque, the Reininger Malbec is fantastic. This wine is bold and deeply fruity, without the “hot” acidity of other varietals. If you are in the mood for something lighter and fresher, the Helix Rosé is a fantastic, if not more refreshing choice. Again, it will compliment the natural piggy sweetness instead of adding to the vinegary acidity of the sauce. Make sure to keep some beer around as well…this is Memorial Day weekend, after all.

    North Caroline Pulled Pork

    From the Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlan

    Advance preparation

    • 3 to 8 hours for marinating the meat (optional); also, allow yourself 4 to 6 hours cooking time

    Special equipment

    • 6 cups hickory chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained

    For the rub (optional)

    • 1 tablespoon mild paprika
    • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    For the barbecue

    • 1 Boston butt (bone-in pork shoulder roast; 5 to 6 pounds), covered with a thick (1/2 inch) layer of fat
    • 8 Brioche buns (or hamburger buns)
    • Coleslaw (store-bought or homemade)
    For the sauce

    • 2 cups cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
    • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, or more to taste
    • 5 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
    • 4 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

    Combine the vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and white pepper with 1 1/3 cups of water in a nonreactive medium-size bowl and whisk until the sugar and salt dissolve. Taste for seasoning, adding more brown sugar and/or salt as necessary; the sauce should be piquant but not quite sour.

    BBQ Prep

    1. If using the rub, combine the mild paprika, brown sugar, hot paprika, celery salt, garlic salt, dry mustard, pepper, onion powder, and salt in a bowl and toss with your fingers to mix. Wearing rubber or plastic gloves if desired, rub the spice mixture onto the pork shoulder on all sides, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, preferably 8.

    If not using the rub, generously season the pork all over with coarse (kosher or sea) salt and freshly ground black pepper; you can start cooking immediately.

    2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a drip pan in the center.

    If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.

    If using a charcoal grill, preheat the grill to medium-low and adjust the vents to obtain a temperature of 300°F.

    3. When ready to cook, if using charcoal, toss 1 cup of the wood chips on the coals. Place the pork shoulder, fat side up, on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the pork shoulder until fall-off-the-bone tender and the internal temperature on an instant-read meat thermometer reaches 195°F, 4 to 6 hours (the cooking time will depend on the size of the pork roast and the heat of the grill). If using charcoal, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour and toss more wood chips on the fresh coals; add about 1/2 cup per side every time you replenish the coals. With gas, all you need to do is be sure that you start with a full tank of gas. If the pork begins to brown too much, drape a piece of aluminum foil loosely over it or lower the heat.

    4. Transfer the pork roast to a cutting board, loosely tent it with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.

    5. Wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves if desired, pull off and discard any skin from the meat, then pull the pork into pieces, discarding any bones or fat. Using your fingertips or a fork, pull each piece of pork into shreds 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. This requires time and patience, but a human touch is needed to achieve the perfect texture. If patience isn’t one of your virtues, you can finely chop the pork with a cleaver (many respected North Carolina barbecue joints serve chopped ‘cue). Transfer the shredded pork to a nonreactive roasting pan. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the vinegar sauce, enough to keep the pork moist, then cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on the grill for up to 30 minutes to keep warm.

    6. To serve, mound the pulled pork on the hamburger buns and top with coleslaw. Let each person add more vinegar sauce to taste.

Page 1 of 1712345»10...Last »