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WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Holiday Pairings, Red Mountain, Australia Trip

Posted by l.meyer | November 27, 2013

Wine Talk: Holiday Pairings

The holiday season is upon us and that means time for good company and, of course, good food. We asked a few of our viticulture and enology experts from WSU Pullman, Prosser, and Tri-Cities what they’re planning to dish up for the holidays and some of the wines that might go along as a flavorful pairing. Here’s what they said…

Joan Davenport, soil scientist at WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Prosser

davenportThough I am not much of a turkey fan, I will typically roast one for Thanksgiving. I like to make a wild rice, cranberry, and pecan dressing to go with it. I am a big fan of Brussels sprouts plus smashed potatoes. Bottom line, to me the best wine to go with turkey is a sparkling brut rose.

For Christmas, we’re serving prime rib roast. I use a seasoned salt rub (I have a lime-chili salt that I will be using this year!). On the side: lemon roasted baby potatoes and an “Asian slaw” (shredded napa cabbage and sliced Bosc pear in a creamy ginger dressing). With this meal, I like a hardy red. I lean towards Petite Sirah, also known as Durif.


Charles Diako, doctoral student at WSU Pullman

diakoI think a dish distinctly Ghanaian, such as “Banku” (made from fermented maize and cassava doughs — a slurry of the doughs mixed together is cooked into a smooth, consistent paste that can be served with stews, soups or pepper sauce). The choice of meat or fish depends on what is available.

This dish, along with okro (okra) stew, will go well with a medium-tannin, medium- to full-bodied wine with some fruity aromas (particularly berry and plum). A good Washington State merlot will be my personal preference to pair with this dish, to start me counting my blessings this holiday season; and leave the rest to the palate!

Read more about Diako’s wine tasting research involving the new “electronic tongue” here

Thomas Henick-Kling, chair of WSU Viticulture and Enology, WSU Tri- Cities

henickklingI will either have sauerbraten with potato salad (oil, vinegar, beef broth, nutmeg, salt, pepper), egg noodles, and a green salad with some fresh sliced cabbage, or salmon with paprika, cayenne spices with a side of sweet potatoes and peppers.

My preferred wine to pair with the sauerbraten meal is a finely textured Lemberger or Syrah. For the salmon dish, a wine to pair is a grenache.

For more information about wine science at WSU visit

Views and opinions stated here do not reflect endorsement of a particular product by Washington State University.

Science and Sensibility: Part One

Jim Holmes, retired owner of Ciel du Cheval Vineyards, was the first to plant grapes on Red Mountain.1982: In a suburban garage in West Richland, hobby winemakers Jim Holmes and John Williams stand behind folding tables pouring samples of their recent vintages. Despite the exceptional quality of their product, it’s been difficult moving their wine into the regional supply chain, making wine tastings in this no-frills location a common occurrence. This scene provides new perspective on the high-tech garage start-ups of the 80s and 90s, but 30 years later, the outcome of Holmes’ and Williams’ venture is as impressive as Apple’s or Amazon’s.

Holmes entered the wine industry in 1972 in what he describes as a “serendipitous” move. Looking at his success, however, it’s clear that timing, persistence, and learning—both on the job and from others versed in the science of growing grapes—outweighed mere good fortune.Jim Holmes, the retired owner of Ciel du Cheval Vineyards, is a legend in the Washington wine industry, as the first to plant grapes on Red Mountain in the Yakima Valley. Today, the region is covered with vineyards making the most of the high pH soil and low-rainfall climate that stimulate vines into producing highly coveted wine grapes. But in the 1970s nobody, including Holmes, knew that you could have a successful vineyard operation in the region.

“John and I had just made an unsuccessful run at the stock market,” recounts Holmes. “With some money still on hand, my friend and I thought that it would be good to invest in real estate. Richland and Yakima were growing rapidly, and we figured that the land between them would be worth something, so we bought 80 acres from the father of a friend.”

That land was purchased for close to $16,000 in an area that now sells for $40,000 per acre.

“We had no idea what to do with the land, until we came across a report by Doctor Walter Clore from (WSU).” That report made a strong case for the region being ideally suited for growing grapes.

While Holmes had toured Europe and enjoyed many local and foreign wines, he knew nothing about growing wine grapes. Nevertheless, he and his partner decided to make a run at it. Holmes didn’t quit his day job, but he spent nearly all of his spare time tending his vineyard.

“We had to learn about irrigation, pruning, and everything else that it takes to grow grapes,” he said. “We had to dig a well, and we consulted with others on how to plant.” Their first harvest revealed how little they knew.

“Early on, we thought that we could transport our grapes in a pickup and sell them to home winemakers in Seattle. I didn’t realize how much 10 acres of grapes would weigh.” The weight of that harvest, close to 80,000 pounds, forced them to rethink their approach…

Read part two of the Jim Holmes story in the December issue of Voice of the Vine. Catch the print story, along with a series of features on WSU wine science and the Washington wine industry, in the January 2014 ReConnect alumni magazine for the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Subscribe to ReConnect here.

-Josh Paulsen

Harvest in Australia

Fall means harvest time for Washington’s wine grape growers, but it isn’t until April that wine growers in Australia begin to reap the fruits of their labor. That’s why, when Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU viticulture and enology program, and several of Australia’s winemakers were selecting a date for a 2014 wine tour down under, spring in Washington was the opportune season.

stk305273rknTour participants will visit some of the long-standing wineries such as Penfolds, which has been operating since 1844. Another is Yalumba, also one of the oldest wineries in Australia and operated by its sixth generation. A hallmark of Yalumba is their innovation and willingness to try novel approaches to winemaking — they were the first winery to introduce Viognier to Australia.The Australia Winery and Vineyard Tour with WSU will take place April 1 to 15, 2014. Like previous WSU winery tours, the trip will encompass several distinguished wine regions, including Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, and Tasmania. And we will taste a variety of wines from Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (what in the U.S. we call Syrah) to Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines.

Stephen Henschke is a fifth-generation winemaker at Henschke Estate Winery, and his wife Prue is the viticulturist. Together they are producing award winning wines, but keep their devotees fascinated by continuing to surprise with their new styles and techniques.

On a smaller scale, John Duval started his own wine label in 2003 after 29 years as a winemaker with Penfolds. Duval is one of the top Shiraz winemakers in Australia, and, closer to home, he is also one of the winemakers for Long Shadows in Walla Walla, WA.

One of the most exciting parts of the trip for some may be the visit to Tasmania. Not only will we explore the idyllic Wine Glass Bay in Freycinet National Park, but we will taste some of the island’s best sparkling wine. Jansz was Tasmania’s first sparkling wine made in the traditional méthod champenoise and is the only Tasmanian label solely devoted to sparkling wines. They now call their technique Méthode Tasmanoise.

Trip planners are working hard to keep the trip costs reasonable while providing travelers with a memorable and educational journey. This tour is designed for people interested in the science and business of the wine industry, and is not a casual wine-tasting event. Henick-Kling explains, “We seek out wineries with staff who can articulate the specifics of their geographical region and the local winemaking techniques, and aren’t just trying to sell a few bottles in the tasting room. With our research, planning, and long-term relationships, we can provide an experience that would be difficult for an individual to arrange.”

To receive the full itinerary and registration information, please contact Theresa Beaver at

-Theresa Beaver

Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship 2013

Chateau Ste. Michelle is proud to partner with Washington restaurants to support the sixth annual “Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship” program to benefit viticulture and enology programs at Washington State University and other Northwest universities. Nearly 200 restaurants in Washington participate in this annual program, which runs through the end of December 2013. Since the program started in 2008, together we have raised over $250,000 for future wine industry professional scholarships. 

Participating in this cause is simple. Next time your plans call for dining out, we hope you select one of the participating restaurants and Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship.

For a list of participating restaurants visit: