Archive | October 2012

2006 Carter Vineyard Hillblock Pinot Noir

So, usually you hear about the winery being the star of the show.  Tonight’s wine turned that all on it’s head.  Tonight I’m drinking the 2006 Carter Vineyard Hillblock Pinot Noir.  Yes, that’s right, this wine is named for its vineyard.  This vineyard was planted in 1983 (long before I ever learned to like wine) and the wine is produced by Ken Wright.  Ken Wright also makes a Carter Vineyard Pinot Noir under the Ken Wright label.

This Pinot has a nose of earth, black cherry, raspberry and smoke, and it has a silky texture and a tart acidity.  It tastes of subtle raspberry, spice and smoke.  The new French oak that this wine was aged in provides a nice balance to the tannins.  2006 was a year for big, bold Pinots and this wine is no exception. I suppose my only critique would be that it is a bit short on the finish.

Jon opened it on a whim and it paired nicely with my frozen pepperoni and veggie pizza (in case you were thinking I was a wine snob, I think I just gave myself away!).  Tomorrow perhaps I’ll have my other glass with something more sophisticated – macaroni and cheese with cut up hotdogs maybe!  Ha!

All kidding aside – excellent vineyard, excellent winemaker, excellent wine.  Really, you can’t go wrong with Ken Wright produced wines, and I believe Carter Vineyard also supplies grapes to Domaine Serene, another standout wine producer.  Makes me wish we had more…

Anne Amie 2008 Pinot Blanc

The other night Jon opened a bottle of the 2008 Anne Amie Pinot Blanc.  We haven’t been to Anne Amie for a couple of  years, and this bottle reminded me that we should go again.

Anne Amie is technically family owned, but…  It is one of the many businesses of the R.B. Pamplin Corporation, a family-owned company with annual sales approaching $700 million.  Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. is the founder of the Portland Tribune newspaper, Columbia Empire Farms, and Your NorthWest retail stores, in addition to Anne Amie Vineyard.  Of course, I can’t be too hard on this large, family business, because Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. is known for his philanthropy and the winery has earned certifications in Low Input Viticulture and Salmon-Safe practices.

When you visit Anne Amie, their tasting room staff are friendly and approachable and happy to share their knowledge of the wines you are tasting.  Their lineup is always excellent, not a bad one in the bunch.  Jon and I once bought a bottle of their Cuvee A Amrita, and watched it disappear in less than 5 minutes when we shared it with Jon’s sisters and cousins at an impromptu hot tub pool party.  Yep, I’d say that was a success!  But I digress.

The 2008 Pinot Blanc has a nose of light butter and crisp citrus, which gives way to a wonderful balanced flavor of butter and pineapple.  The key word here is balance, because the French oak aging is done so expertly that the oak and butter do not overpower the citrus flavors in the wine.  Very well done.

Although I have seen the Anne Amie Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in grocery stores here, I’m not sure I would find the Pinot Blanc.  Another trip to the Willamette Valley is certainly in order…

Chehalem 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir

The other night, my debate wine was the 2007 Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir.  I’ve blogged about Chehalem before because it is absolutely one of my favorite wineries.

This Pinot is ready to drink now.  2007 was a year of softer, more elegant Pinots, and I think this one is a great example of the vintage.  The nose is strawberry and smoke, with a very light mouthfeel. It tastes of strawberry, cherry and the same smoke that is evident on the nose.  At this age, there is very little of the tart acidity that so many younger Pinots possess.

Chehalem 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir

So how to compare it to the debaters?  Well, this wine is refined.  It doesn’t talk over the moderator, doesn’t try to get the last word in, and doesn’t step on anybody else to try to get its point in.  It just stands on its own merits.

2010 Cathedral Ridge Necessity Red

The weather was terrible today.  After weeks of dry weather – 80 some days with no rain! – we finally got some blustery, stormy weather on Friday.  The wind picked up last night and continued through today.  We have a lot of leaves and small branches to clean up once the weather clears!

So to honor the terrible weather – I made some comfort food.  Spaghetti chicken bake, as I like to call it.  Spaghetti with sauce and veggies, cooked in a casserole dish with a couple of chicken breasts and some shredded cheese.  Baked long enough that the cheese forms a delicious crust.  And to go with our meal, Jon opened up the Cathedral Ridge 2010 Necessity Red.  This wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel; it was the perfect red to go with our dinner!  The blend is about 80% Pinot Noir, and it has a tart cherry flavor that is so prevalent in Pinot.  However, it also is just a touch more robust, due to the addition of Zinfandel.

Cathedral Ridge – 2010 Necessity Red

And you have to love the name.  Thomas Jefferson is attributed with saying, “Good wine is a necessity of life.”  Cathedral Ridge named this wine with that quote in mind.

I wish we had some more of this …

Lawton Ridge Winery

The last day of our Michigan vacation Jon and I headed with my cousin Megan to get out of the house while Grandma was napping.  It was the last day of our vacation, and we had a few hours to kill. We considered going to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, but decided instead to go to another winery.  I had googled a couple of options in Kalamazoo, and wrote down an address based purely on the look of their website.  So, we really had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door.

The building is a 1970s style office building that I imagine was converted rather than built for this winery.  When I was young there were several of this style of building at home, but they have mostly been remodeled or replaced.  It is covered in dark cedar shingles and doesn’t really have that winery “look”.  We walked in and the owner and a server were there (the server explained that she was a bit new at this, and that she was filling in for harvest).  Megan and I bellied up to the bar, and Jon decided to sit this tasting out – he fully intended to sample some of mine though!

Lawton Ridge Winery’s grapes come from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.  It is an AVA in the southwest area of Michigan, with warm days and cool nights, but close enough to the breezes coming in from the lake that it doesn’t get quite the same hard freezes as the rest of Michigan.  It is home to many of the states wineries.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to travel this AVA and sample the wines of the region, but I will be getting out there at some point!

The tasting fee at Lawton Ridge is $5 (refundable with purchase) and you can choose six wines from their list to taste.  The tasting list here is still fairly extensive (about 15 wines), but nowhere near as robust as the menu at Sandhill Crane.  Jon asked to sample the Chardonnay – so I chose that one as my first wine.  It was a nice un-oaked Chardonnay with just the tiniest hint of butter – it is aged in stainless steel, so I’m not sure where the butter came from.

Next I tried the Riesling, which I was expecting to be sweet, and it was, but I was just not that impressed with this one.  It was sweet competing with something else (maybe a woody taste?) and it just didn’t do it for me.  Next I moved on to the Traminette, which is a varietal that we don’t have at home, so I was interested in trying it here.  Traminette is a hybrid of Gewürztraminer and Joannes Seyve (I hadn’t heard of this one before) that was created in 1965, and this one did have some Gewürz characteristics (don’t I sound smart, saying Gewürz?).  It had a slight floral note, and a flavor of ripe melon.  All in all a nice wine.

The first red wine that we tried was the Lawton 3, which was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It was very fruit forward with light tannins.  This wine was good, but it did not have a lot of structure.  Jon likes his reds to be more robust than this one, but I liked it.   After that I sampled the AZO Red, a blend that is named after the airport code for the Kalamazoo airport.  An airport that I have done a fair bit of sitting around in actually!  AZO Red is a nice summer red wine, with lots of raspberry flavor and a light mouthfeel.

I followed with their 2010 Rose, which was crisp and sweet with a strawberry flavor.  I am a big fan of a nice Rose, and this one was pleasing.  The Kzoo Daily Red that I tried next wasn’t a big crowd pleaser, it was just a bit too sweet for my taste, and didn’t have a lot of structure.  It is a drink now wine.

I finished off the tasting with their Late Harvest Vignoles, which is a blend of well, duh, Late Harvest Vignoles, and Vidal.  This wine was a best in class winner, according to the tasting sheet, and it had a nice tropical fruit flavor and balanced sweetness.

All in all, Lawton Ridge had some nice wines.  And they were very affordable, with most priced between $9.95 and $12.95.  We certainly don’t find wines at those price points frequently at Washington wineries!  And if you are feeling parched after your tasting, you can enjoy a glass of one of their wines for $3-4.  What a stroke of luck that we stopped in here!

Carmen’s Last Dance

My Aunt and Uncle went to Door County Wisconsin on vacation a few weeks before we visited them in Michigan, and took their bicycles along with them to see the sights.  On one excursion, they went wine tasting to a few different wineries, and the third place they stopped at was Harbor Ridge Winery in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin.

Harbor Ridge Winery is Door County’s newest winery, but they apparently share a winemaker with Door County’s oldest winery, von Stiehl.  They have over 25 varietals, both fruit and grape wine, and they claim to have something for every palate.  My Aunt and Uncle liked several of their wines, so that is probably true.

My Aunt told me that they only selected the award winning wines to taste, and that this wine was the last on the list.  They were kind enough to bring home a bottle to share with us, and we opened it up for dinner with the family.   It is fermented from Concord grapes, which most of you will recognize most often from grape juice.  Well, this wine tastes like grape juice – sweet like grape juice but with an alcoholic kick!  This was an easy drinking wine, with very low tannin.  It is a drink now wine that doesn’t have a lot of structure, but drinks well for summer!

Carmen’s Last Dance Label

We did a completely unsophisticated food pairing with crabcakes, corn on the cob, Spanish rice, and salad, and everybody enjoyed it.  Maybe one of our future trips will be to Door County, Wisconsin!

Wedding Mania!

After not being to many weddings in a while, I have now been to two in two months’ time!  One in Washington and one in Michigan!

So, remember the purpose of our trip to Michigan was two fold.  My cousin’s wedding – and visiting my Grandma.  Saturday, September 8th was the wedding portion of the trip. The wedding was two parts – the church wedding was at 2 pm, and the reception was at 5 pm.  We had a relaxing morning on Saturday reading, surfing the net and working out in the workout room in the hotel (hello treadmill!).  Then we got ready to go and heading out to the church – St. John the Evangelist at Michigan State University.  The service was beautiful, and the church was more progressive than other Catholic churches I’ve been to (bongo drums!).  The choir was fantastic – and they really had fun with the hymns.   It is in this same choir where my cousin met his lovely fiancee (now wife).

After the wedding, there were a couple of hours before the reception.  Jon and I went and got some coffee and perused a used bookstore that had all sorts of fabulous Civil War books!  If I lived there, I would probably visit it regularly.  But I behaved myself, and left without buying anything.  I already have a tall stack of “books to read.”  Several stacks, if you must know…  I blame the fact that I have to have a full time job.  If I had that anonymous benefactor, I wouldn’t have to work and would have way more time to stay up on my reading.  And these blog posts would probably be a lot more timely too…  Just sayin’.  Click here to donate to my PayPal account (just kidding!).

So, after killing a bit of time at the bookstore and the coffee shop, we headed over to the reception, which was about 15 minutes away in the next town over – Grand Ledge.  It was at the historic Grand Ledge Opera House.  The building was built in 1884 as a roller skating rink – I didn’t even know they had roller skating back then! – and then was converted to an Opera House around the turn of the century, to be used as a theatre for vaudeville acts and local entertainment.  The Opera House has been converted to a modern facility, but does maintain some of its original charm.

The Grand Ledge Opera House – Promotional Photos –

The reception began out back on the lower Terrace level, where there was a cocktail hour and some light Hors d’oeuvres, and lots of extended family pictures (what can I say – I have a big family!).  We set our wine glasses and purses and cameras down and smiled and posed and laughed and hopefully they turn our marvelously.  I wore my 3 inch heels, so maybe I have a chance at not being completely dwarfed by my much taller cousins.  My cousin’s daughter, who is 12, is already 5’6″ to my 5’3″.  I think my shortest cousin on that side of the family is 5’8″.  Clearly, my mom’s side had the dominant height gene (or should I say short gene)…

Then we headed upstairs for our sitdown dinner.  Toasts were made, jokes were cracked, my cousin’s obsessive love of Star Trek was mocked (numerous times), and our meal was blessed.  And it was delicious.  Dinner included your choice (or all 3 if you wanted!) of potato salad, spinach salad with berries and cheese crumbles and an Asian style salad with sesame seeds, shredded carrots and artichoke hearts.  I didn’t have the potato salad, but the other two were amazing!

Then on to the main courses.  You could have four types of kebabs: vegetarian, chicken, beef or shrimp.  They were all lined with tomato, yellow squash (or zucchini to my mom), and onion, plus the meat selection you chose.  The next table contained a do it yourself mac and cheese served fancy style in martini glasses, with your choice of white cheddar or regular cheddar, and with optional toppings of bacon bits, tomatoes, shredded cheese and something else I can’t remember (maybe green onions?).  After that, you could select your choice of four types of potatoes in ramekins: garlic mashed, mashed sweet potatoes (topped with nuts!), and two other types – sorry my memory is failing me!  Then, if you weren’t already stuffed, you could have baked apples (YUM!) and a pulled pork sandwich.

The Wedding Dinner – Great Food and Lots of It!

Following dinner, there were more cocktails – still your choice of red (Good Harbor – Harbor Red) or white wine (Uncle John’s Apple Honey), beer (Budweiser), or you could have an Appletini! The Appletinis were garnished with a couple of slices of Granny Smith apple.  The Appletinis were delicious – fun and refreshing – and they coordinated with the wedding colors!

So for the rest of the evening, we laughed and chatted and caught up on lives… and I even danced a little.  Hanging out with the family was great – I enjoyed seeing a great couple start their married lives together, and I got to spend time with my family.  What a fantastic day!

Apple Pucker!

Time for the next installment of our September Michigan trip!

We arrived at my grandma’s house on Sunday after the wedding for a visit with the other side of the family.  My mom’s side is MUCH smaller than my dad’s side (there are 15 cousins – not counting their kids – on my dad’s side, and only 4 on my mom’s), so I get more of an opportunity to visit with my family at grandma’s.

My aunt was kind enough to give Jon and I a gift of a Michigan white wine when we arrived, the Gill’s Pier Whitewater Leelanau Peninsula White Table Wine (no vintage).  Grandma owns no wine glasses, so this review comes after drinking the wine from a melamine juice glass – still one step up form the throw-away plastic water glasses in the hotel!  It was hard to get a nose – I blame the melamine, but there is a faint aroma of green apples and pears.

The Gill’s Pier Whitewater Leelanau Peninsula White Table Wine that we had is the bottle on the right

The taste is unmistakable – Granny Smith apples!  The sweetness and tartness intermingled on my tongue and I really enjoyed the sour apple flavor.  Much like a green apple Jolly Rancher, you can’t help but pucker your mouth when you try this wine!  Now, those of you who aren’t a fan of sour apple aren’t going to like this wine, but wow, what a treat!  Don’t tell Grandma – I went back for a second glass!

And the Little Nubs Carried Me Home!

Today I had a quiet day nursing my sore back.  Yesterday I completed my third half marathon (a big accomplishment!) in three hours and thirteen minutes!  That’s a pace of 14 minutes and 44 seconds per mile.  Since I mostly walk my half marathons rather than run them – that’s a very good pace for me!

The day started off with my fellow gluttons for punishment half marathoners and I on Team $1 Sushi (more on the team name in a minute) queuing up before the race.  Katie, Shelley and I were in it for the entire 13.1 mile distance.  Bliss and JoAnne were planning a less insane more manageable goal of half of a half (6.55 miles).  The weather was cold, but the day had dawned bright and sunny and would be warming up quickly, so I didn’t want to overdress and overheat later in the race.  I opted for shorts and my long sleeve race shirt (a moisture wicking high performance shirt by Brooks).  I started out with another long sleeve cotton shirt over that.

Shelley, Me, Bliss, JoAnne and Katie, before the race!

So Team $1 Sushi, you ask?  Well, there’s a story behind that.  Shelley had emailed me about signing up for the Run Like a Girl Half Marathon a few days before Katie, Bliss, JoAnne and I (and a few other fabulous women who opted not to do the race) were to meet up for a Sushi Happy Hour that features $1 per piece sushi.  I pitched the idea to them – because they are all trying hard like me to stay fit.  They loved the idea (at least back then they did) and Team $1 Sushi was born.

So, back to race day.  The race kicked off with a serenade by the Firefighters Pipes and Drums band.  If we weren’t already awake from the cold air, we were now!  They play well, but let’s admit it, bagpipes and snare drums are loud!  And not really very soothing.  Then we all posed for a group picture (ladies are much more into group pics – this would be tougher in a co-ed race).  And then we lined up to begin the torture session race.

Firefighter Pipes and Drums Band

We set out at 9:10 am.  Bliss and JoAnne wanted to do a bit slower pace, so Katie and Shelley and I set out a bit ahead of them.  We chitter chattered, and soon ‘the rules’ were formed.  We would push ourselves to jog as much as we felt we could – anybody could call for a tiny little jog, and anyone could call for the end of it.  So the jogging stints became known as “Tinies.”  “Tiny On,” was the call to begin jogging, and “Tiny Off” was the call to stop. And we continued that tradition for the rest of the race.

Early on, Katie found her inspiration in the ‘Cool Pants Lady.’  It started out as doing a “Tiny On”, just until we caught up with Cool Pants Lady.  Cool Pants Lady was about 60 – so this seemed like a reasonable goal.  And we did catch up – but little did we know that Cool Pants Lady was just in her warm up phase – pretty soon she pulled away again and smoked us!  After we got smoked by Cool Pants Lady, we caught up to a girl I went to high school with named Renee and her friend – we were pretty neck and neck for awhile, but then we started pulling away!  We were their inspiration and setting the pace, and it was hysterical when Katie stopped to tie her shoe and Renee’s friend cried out, “One of them is down – one down!”  But nope, Katie was back up and doing a “Tiny” to catch up!

This half marathon was a blast, all the aid stations had fun themes – we got lei’d at mile 2, at mile four we got chocolate and a raffle ticket for a “Margarita” prize, the turnaround at mile 6.55 had a photo op with one of the boot camp trainers in town – and he was dressed in drag!  Mile 8 had more chocolate and another raffle ticket for a pedicure prize, and mile 11 had a tiara!  We were cheered on with cowbells, and the support of all the ladies we passed and were passed by.  And last by not least, the peek-a-boo views of the bay and the islands were fantastic!  Nothing like a view to take your mind off the misery.

I wanted to do my best to push as hard as I could for time, so towards the end I did some very long “Tinies.”  Katie started making whiny gutteral sounds during Mile 11, as her motivation was flagging – I was sure for a short period of time that I would die!  I’m not sure where I found the strength, but I ended up jogging most of mile twelve!  Not fast, but faster than a walk!   I am very proud of myself – and am excited about my 3 hour, 13 minute finish!

After the Finish – Shelley, Katie and Me! (And Katie’s Foot!)

At the finish line, we got a daisy necklace as a finisher medal, put on by a firefighter.  And we all finished – the sweetest success for Team $1 Sushi!

P.S. Some of you may be wondering about the title…  It is no secret that I’m short, and Jon calls my short arms and short legs ‘the nubs.’  So somehow it just seemed fitting…


In twelve hours I will be completing the first bit of a half marathon; a fundraiser that benefits Girls on the Run.  I signed up with four of my dearest friends, and then tonight at the pre-race dinner I learned that two ladies that I used to work with (two of the most fun, kind and supportive coworkers you could ask for ) are also doing the race.

I have all the usual problems…  Work is too stressful and I have way too much to do.  There’s never enough cash in the bank account to do everything I would like.  Jon and I argue and both get frustrated that the other is so damn stubborn.  All my animals are getting old and the vet bills are getting bigger (see above reference to the bank account!).  I would love to lose 10 pounds.  Those walls won’t paint themselves.  And wow, is it ever annoying when the smoke detector in the laundry room starts chirping every 5 seconds because the battery is dying – at 1:15 in the morning!  I didn’t even know that there was a smoke detector in the laundry room until last night, but that’s a topic for another post.

Tonight, at the fundraiser dinner, there were little paper circles at each place setting with responses from participants in the Girls on the Run program.  Girls that come from all races, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses.  Girls who are in the program to have an experience that encourages them to value themselves.  Their bodies, their minds, and their hearts.  Whatever their fitness level, to learn that they can achieve.  The question posed on the card was, “What Inspires You?”  The response written on the card in front of me was,  “Merissa.”  (Merissa is her Girls on the Run coach.)  And then below, “To Not Be Like Erin (my mother).  I am ashamed of her.”

It brought tears to my eyes.  Because whatever trials I have, whatever frustrations, whatever makes me mad during the workday or at home, I am truly blessed.  I have parents who love me unconditionally and set a great example, who believe I can be whatever I want to be.  I have a husband who loves me, and is smart and funny and would do anything for the people he loves.  I have friends who take time out of their busy days to listen and support me, and laugh with me.  And push me to do my third half marathon!  I have extended family who love each other immensely.  I have pets who love me so much that they sit on my arms while I try to type this blog post (currently Martini)!  Whatever trials I have, they cannot compare to what that little girl must go through.

So, tomorrow… whoever that little girl is… tomorrow I run for her.