Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Walla Walla Weekend

August 9, 2009

I had some work to do in Walla Walla last weekend and Carl decided there was no better way to beat the Seattle heatwave than to escape to the even-hotter east side of the Cascades, so off we went over the Pass.

Our first stop: Red Mountain and Col Solare, where the estate vineyard is looking great and winemaker Marcus Notaro is looking at an early September start to harvest.

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Col Solare vineyard and Horse Heaven Hills in the background.

After the winery we headed to scenic Pasco, WA for some minor league baseball fun at Gesa Stadium between the Tri-Cities Dust Devils and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Single A teams for the Rockies and Giants, respectively. We had a thoroughly good time as the temperature dipped to 96 and the Mariners Moose entertained the crowd of kids.

The next morning, well rested after a night in luxurious AC, we set off for Walla Walla. I rarely get a chance to play tourist out that way so we did it up, stopping at pretty much every historical marker on the way to the Whitman Mission outside of town, site of Marcus Whitman’s extremely ill-fated missionary camp. As the mercury climbed past 100, we figured it was a great time for a hike and hoofed it up the hill to the Whitman Shaft, which contrary to its name is not a mining tunnel but an obelisk on top of the hill commemorating the unfortunate Whitman massacre. Hot and sweaty but well worth it for the views:

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View of the Whitman Mission

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Carl exploring his roots.

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Near the end of the Oregon Trail.

The rest of the weekend was filled with winery visits – to L’Ecole No. 41 , the new, impressive  Waterbrook winery, Blue Mountain Cider Company over the border in Milton-Freewater, OR, where we were impressed with the array of hard apple and fruit ciders produced, then back to Walla Walla to Beresan, Trust, Chateau Rollat, and of course Northstar. Highlights included the Cab rose from Trust, Rollat’s Cab Sauvs, and Northstar’s Merlots and Petit Verdot.

We also had a fantastic time at the Spring Valley Vineyard wheat harvest party, despite the 106 degree heat that evening it was beautiful out, the wines were delicious, the company fun. The ranch at Spring Valley is one of my favorite places and it was great to share it with Carl, meet new friends and catch up with old, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the wheat fields.

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View of the vineyard from the garden at Spring Valley.

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Sunset over Spring Valley – this photo doesn’t capture the half of it!

On Sunday, the car stuffed with wine, cider, onions and melons from the Walla Walla farmer’s market, and a crate of peaches from a stand outside of Yakima, we headed home, just in time for the temperature to dip back into the 80s, reminding us that there is nothing better than a Northwest summer.

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Argentine lunch on the lawn

May 20, 2009

Occasionally I get the chance to enjoy a meal prepared by Janet Hedstrom and her team at the winery. Janet is an amazingly inventive chef, who always seems to know the perfect foods to pair with whatever wines or special occasions are being showcased. Yesterday’s lunch on the lawn was a perfect example. 

Knowing that our guest is fond of South American cuisine, and faced with a wide variety of wines to be poured, from a kabinet-style Riesling to a big, bold Cabernet Franc, Janet came up with an Argentine-inspired feast that blended Latin flavors with Northwestern seasonal ingredients like asparagus, Yukon Gold potatoes, and some of the first Copper River salmon of the season.

I wasn’t able to take photos, sadly, but the menu included grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, yerba mate-marinated salmon with spring onions and roasted peppers, meat and veggie empanadas, grilled asparagus, grilled pineapple on puff pastry, alfajores, and a massive cheese plate featuring, if I’m not mistaken, some Purple Haze chevre from Cyprus Grove and possibly Mt. Tam from the Cowgirl Creamery.

The alfajores, which are apparently an Argentine specialty and are like caramel cookie sandwiches, were particularly sweet and delicate, and a great way to end the meal. If only lunch on the lawn, in the sun, with food like this was an everyday occurrence!

Whooping it up in Wine Country

December 4, 2008

I almost entitled this post “Drinking: A Love Story,” but Caroline Knapp beat me to it. Oh well. Life’s been rather topsy turvy lately and it was great to have Armida (the Diva), Sean, and Kerry around in California to cheer me up and, of course, to help me drown my sorrows on a day trip to Napa and Sonoma.

It was a typically glorious late fall Sunday in Northern California and we started the day off right, with a breakfast picnic at the Oakville Grocery, overlooking the vineyards of Opus One and feasting on cheese, bread, oat scones, and panini.

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After finishing breakfast we moseyed on over to Opus One so Armida could pick up a few bottles of Overture for her hubby Matthew, then headed over the Rutherford Cross Road to hit up Rutherford Ranch (nice Muscat) and Conn Creek, where we enjoyed an awesome tasting with Amy and emerged loaded down with bottles of the winery’s single AVA Cab Sauvs, the Anthology red blend, and Sauvignon Blanc.

After that it was nearly time for lunch (tough day, I know), so we zipped back over to Sonoma to meet Darcy at the El Dorado Kitchen right on the square in downtown. We lounged around on the back patio overlooking the pool, slurping mussels and truffle fries. Then time for a quick stop at the Cheese Factory before heading back out on the road for more vino.

After a quick stop at Angelo’s for an emergency beef jerky fix, we visited Gloria Ferrer for some sparkling wine for the Diva. GF is a great place to visit and enjoy, with a large outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards that feels right out of Tuscany.

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After our bubbly we moseyed next door to Cline, one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma and one whose club it seems my entire CA circle of family and friends belongs to. Cline specializes in Zinfandel but they also make many other tasty varietals, including a Mourvedre Rose that is perfect for Thanksgiving and was on sale for a mere $4 a bottle. Needless to say, we scooped up several bottles.

From there it was on to our final stop before heading back to Napa for a delicious dinner at Darcy and Jake’s: Domaine Carneros. Yes, more bubbly! I’d actually never been to this winery before and was duly impressed by the French Chateau atmosphere, grand, Versailles-like tasting salon, and the cheese-and-sparkling wine pairing selections. It was a great way to end a great day with great friends.

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Blogs, Bubbly, and Biodynamics in Sonoma County

November 2, 2008

I headed down to Sonoma recently to attend the first annual Wine Bloggers Conference at the fabulous Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa. The blogging sessions were informative and fun, but the highlight for me was an excursion to Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, a small estate winery producing all of its wines biodynamically, which means that in addition to composting, water management, and solar power, winemaker Steven Canter enacts a number of processes of a more spiritual nature, designed to ensure harmony with the earth’s rhythms and lead to, hopefully, higher quality wine.

This includes burying ram’s horns filled with green manure from a lactating cow in a mound in the garden, unearthing them on the equinox, and adding to the compost pile to ensure the viability of compost from the estate.  Kind of wild, but listening to Steven talk, it was easier to understand the point of view of trying to sustain the unique qualities of the very specific vineyard space in perpetuity.

We enjoyed a great talk and tour of the vineyards, gardens, and winery with Steven, including a stroll through the herb garden of over 100 raised beds; visiting with the chickens, goats, and Ruby the wild boar; a snack of ripe figs that we pulled straight from a century-old tree; and a stroll up the hill for a panoramic view of the valley. 

After the tour we had a delicious lunch and wine tasting on the patio at Quivira, including house-cured salamis and home grown olives paired with a Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Rose and a delicious venison chili paired with a trio of newly released Zinfandels. The wines were complex and generous, with a great balance of fruit and tannins, but it’s hard to tell if the biodynamics add anything to the quality or if Steven is just a good winemaker with great vineyards to source from.

It was a great morning among the vines. Quivira also has one of the most impressive solar arrays I’ve seen, generating 100% of the winery’s power. I look forward to a return visit!

In addition to the conference and vineyard trip, I went to dinner with Stephanie at Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, where we enjoyed Sonoma County bubbly (Schramsberg Brut Rose for me, Roederer Estate L’Ermitage for Steph) and a variety of small plates including pork belly-stuffed pot stickers, heirloom tomato salad, flatbread with roasted figs, prosciutto, fontina and truffle honey, seared scallops, filet minon sliders, and strawberry crepes. Everything was beautifully prepared and tasted amazing, and the atmosphere in the old house was hopping! It was a great capper to a great weekend.