Archive | September 2013

Boise Road Trip: Snake River Winery

During our Boise road trip, we had an opportunity to taste at a couple of wineries.  We were already going to be in the downtown area, and since I knew nothing about any of Idaho’s wineries, location seemed as good a criteria as anywhere to select a few to visit (you have to start somewhere right?).  We visited Snake River Winery’s downtown tasting room on a super-hot Saturday in the later afternoon.

Snake River is an estate winery, meaning that they grow all their own grapes in their own vineyards – they have 75 acres planted.  They strive for sustainable and organic winery practices, including making their own compost from pomace (which is the solid remains of the grapes after the juice has been pressed off),  eliminating pesticides and using organic fungicides.  At this point, they don’t have a biodynamic certification, but are working towards it.

When we walked into the downtown tasting room, it surprised me a bit that we were the only ones there.  It was a great little shop with a tasting bar, and lots of cool gift items as well.  Wine glasses and associated wine goodies, Snake River t-shirts, and greeting cards.  Jon appreciated having some gift items to look at, as he always wanders away from the bar during a tasting.

I don’t remember all of the wines we tasted that day, but I was pleased with several.  The 2010 Rosé is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Touriga Nacional.  It had a light sweetness and strawberry flavor, wonderfully refreshing for a hot, summer day.  Snake River Winery also makes a single varietal wine from its Touriga Nacional grapes, a bold red with strong tannins and black fruit.  The grape varietal is originally from Portugal, and not often seen in the United States, at least on the West Coast.  I really enjoyed this wine, and we brought home a bottle.

The wine list at Snake River is extensive, with offerings that include Chardonnay, Riesling, Barbera, Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah, as well as some blends.  And I was surprised to learn that they had another varietal that I had never tasted before, but unfortunately it wasn’t open that day.  Blauer Zweigelt, a varietal developed in 1922 in Austria, is more widely planted in Europe, but is beginning to be planted in British Columbia as well.  I’ll have to wait until another day to taste it!

Perhaps the best thing about Snake River though, is the wine pairing chocolates that they offer with the heavier reds, and sell packages of!  They are made from 85% Cocoa, and have a bitter dark chocolate taste that goes so well with the red wine.  These chocolates, made by a company called Dream Chocolate, are fantastic, and they are even better with wine!  I couldn’t resist bringing home a package of these as well!

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Snake River, and I hope to find their wines closer to home.  If you have a chance, stop in.

Bye Bye Summer! See You Next Year!

The rain and wind have moved in this week, making it abundantly clear that summer is over.  Although it may clear up for a sunny, dry fall, I am reminded about how fleeting summer is and all the things I will miss.  In no particular order:

Being warm.  You know, that warmth that just radiates all the way down into your bones?  I love that feeling.

Fresh berries.  Raspberries are one of our largest agricultural crops here.  There is even a raspberry festival.  I love those freshly picked berries – even better when they are warmed by the sun!

Skirts.  I go several months at work in the summer months without ever wearing pants – I love skirts!

Hiking.  No mud, great blue skies and clear views; there is nothing quite like hiking in the summer.

Jon Heading Up Into the Arboretum

Jon Heading Up Into the Arboretum

Dinner on the deck.  With food grilled on the BBQ.  Perfection.

Waking up when it is light out.  That makes it so much easier!

Summer vacations.  Even if I don’t have a summer vacation, everybody else does!  And that means work is quieter, because people aren’t around.  But for some reason this year the summer was insanely busy.  Maybe next year.

The View Behind our Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon

The View Behind our Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon

Rosé wine.  I do buck the trend and drink Rosé all year long, but is certainly goes better with summer.  And dinner on the deck.

The Crusher - Pinot Noir Rose

The Crusher – Pinot Noir Rose

Lower bills.  I have to admit I do love the lower costs of gas and electric when the heat is off and the lights aren’t needed.  I know this isn’t true for all, but in a region where air conditioning is rare and almost always not needed, that $19 August gas bill is wonderful.

Flowers.  I love walking the neighborhoods and seeing all the beautiful flowers blooming in yard.  Dahlias, hydrangeas, lilies, Black-eyed Susans; there is something about seeing flowers that soothes the soul.

What are you going to miss now that summer is gone?

Kitten in a Dryer!

I feel like I am behind on posting – I’ve been working long hours…  This morning I had a meeting at 6:15 am!  So, I’ll keep you entertained with a photo of adorable Coraline!  She’s not so much a kitten anymore – she is just about Oscar’s size now.  But she still acts like a kitten, including climbing into the clothes dryer every chance she gets!

Coraline in the Dryer!

Coraline in the Dryer!

Boise Roadtrip Random Highlights!

During our Boise trip, after we went to the World Center for Birds of Prey, Jon and I spent some time just relaxing without an agenda.  Here are a few of the highlights:

BitterCreek Ale House:  The food was great (we each had a salad) – and they have a lot of local micro-brews to choose from.  For days when it isn’t quite so hot (it was 104 the day we were there), they have outdoor seating available on the sidewalk.

A Beautiful Historic Sign on a Sandstone Building

A Beautiful Historic Sign on a Sandstone Building

Record Exchange:  Jon liked this local downtown music store – he browsed their albums for a long time.  They have an adjacent coffee shop and cafe that is attached to the store, and it also sells kitschy and novelty items, so I had some perusing to keep me occupied.  They have a bunch of funny greeting cards, and cute gift items.  And maybe the best part, the cafe booths offered me an opportunity to sit down while I waited for Jon to finish shopping!

Aspen Leaf:  This is one of those pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt places in downtown Boise, and Jon and I split one topped with raspberries and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Bad for the waistline, but great for the soul – delicious!

Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt - Perfect for a Hot Day!

Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt – Perfect for a Hot Day!

Cycle Pub:  While we were eating our frozen yogurt, we were amazed to watch a man piloting a pedal-powered bar down the street.  He was all alone when he rolled onto the street, but before very long, several people had hopped onto the strange contraption.  Apparently you can book this thing for a rolling pub crawl – with a bit of exercise thrown in!

Cycle Pub - A Pedal Powered Pub Crawl with your Friends!

Cycle Pub – A Pedal Powered Pub Crawl with your Friends!

The Old Assay Office: Now you didn’t think that having no agenda would really mean no historic buildings right?  We visited the historic Old Assay Office, built in 1871 to weigh and value minerals and gold brought in by Idaho’s miners.  Between 1872 and 1933, millions of dollars a year came through this office – some estimates are over $1.5 million each year.  The Office was constructed of sandstone in the Italianate architectural style, and the top floor was occupied by the chief assayer and his family, and the security guards lived in the basement.  The building is now the office for the Idaho State Historic Preservation agency, and the grounds outside are a city park.

The Old Assay Office - Built 1871 - Italianate Architectural Style

The Old Assay Office – Built 1871 – Italianate Architectural Style

Wineries:  Jon and I had time for two tasting rooms while we were in town.  We were already downtown, so we checked out a couple in the downtown core, the Snake River Winery and Mouvance.  I’ll post about them separately, but both were great – for very different reasons.  Snake River is making wines with Snake River Valley fruit, both estate grown and sourced from other vineyards.  Mouvance is bringing in their fruit from their family owned vineyards in the Willamette Valley, specializing in my favorite red, Pinot Noir!

We had a great time in Boise, and will certainly go back!  It was a big city with a small town feel – clean, easy to get around, and (at least for us) no big city traffic congestion!  The downtown core had a nice feel and I loved our drive through the area of historic homes.  Although it was way too hot while we were there to take advantage of the many recreational opportunities (103 to 107 degrees the days that we were there!), we would love to go hiking next time we visit.  Antiques Roadshow introduced us to a whole new, beautiful city!

Dinner with Friends. And Wine.

Over the weekend Jon and I had some friends over for dinner.  It was kind of funny actually, because I had gotten an email from my friend Bliss about getting together for dinner, and responded with some dates, and then realized that it was an email from several weeks before.  We had already set up and had that dinner even!  But they were available on one of the dates I had suggested so we got together again.   YAY!

We had turkey tacos, topped with sauteed cabbage and peppers, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and olives.  And Spanish Rice.  Because tacos are always better with Spanish Rice.

When they got here, we uncorked the 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery – a blend of 93% Semillon and 7% Muscadelle.  Bliss hasn’t tried many white wines, and apparently she is anxious about buying whites, because she is worried that she won’t like them.  But she has liked the whites that she has tried at my house, and was excited about trying another.  This one didn’t disappoint!

The Stella Blanca was crisp and citrusy, without being too acidic.  I thought it paired quite nicely with the tacos, with just enough citrus and acidity to cut through the mild spice of the meal.

2010 Arbor Crest Malbec and 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery

2010 Arbor Crest Malbec and 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery

The second wine that we opened was the Arbor Crest 2010 Malbec.  This was a wine that I picked up on a trip to Spokane Valley, WA for a conference, back in August (I haven’t had a chance to blog about that trip yet – but soon!)  This was actually the first tasting room I have ever visited in a shopping mall!  To tell the truth, I was a bit skeptical about their wines – given that we were tasting them right next door to the food court, but I was quite impressed!

The Malbec was produced from grapes grown in the Wahluke Slope Vineyard.  The Wahluke Slope AVA lies entirely within the Columbia Valley AVA, and has some of the warmest, driest weather in Washington.  It is a bold wine, but nicely balanced, with black cherries, chocolate and lots of spice.  This one was a real crowd pleaser at dinner.  I was the only one who had tasted it before and it was so neat to see a wine I had chosen get such rave reviews!

We finished off our meal with a fantastic apple crumble pie from the Farmer’s Market.  The apples were fresh and delicious and the crumble on top was perfect – sweet and sugary.  Terrible for the waistline, I’m sure, but good for the soul.  A fantastic evening spent with friends.

Why I Walk

I heard a comment the other day from a commenter out in the blogosphere that made me proud.  She said that reading about my latest half marathon had inspired her to sign up for a 5K.  I’m not sure that I have ever inspired somebody’s fitness aspirations before, and it got me thinking about my half marathoning, and why I do it.

Some things about me:

1.  I am not a runner.  I think the furthest distance I have ever run is 2 miles.  And I don’t enjoy it.

2.  I am a severe pronator (that means my feet fall in and flatten my arch when my foot strikes).

3.  Because of my pronating, if I don’t wear the right shoes for me (the Brooks Ariel) and my orthotics, I get shin splints.  Worst.  Pain.  Ever.

4.  I have asthma.

5.  I’m not in incredible shape.  Like most women, I get frustrated that it is so hard to lose 10 pounds or get rid of that belly pooch.  And then my husband goes out for a 15 mile run and makes it seem effortless.  Grrr…

I had never even considered walking a half marathon when my friend Shelley asked if I wanted to sign up for the first one in 2010.  I waffled.  I was non-committal, I certainly wasn’t eager.  But eventually I caved.  I saw that it was important to her.  I figured what would it hurt?  And now I have completed four – all with Shelley.

Me Before My Least Favorite Half Marathon - the Second.  I Call it the Bataan Death March.  It Was Raining.  Hard.  October 2011.

Me Before My Least Favorite Half Marathon – the Second. I Call it the Bataan Death March. It Was Raining. Hard. October 2011.

I walk so I can stay fit and strong.  I walk so I feel good about myself.  I walk so I don’t have to stress about that glass of wine or apple pie.  I walk to melt away the stresses of the day, and make sure I can face the workweek – I know of no better way to deal with stress and frustration.  I walk so I can continue to do all the things I want to do – like walk to the bottom of the Point Reyes Lighthouse, or take that hike through the National Park with Jon.  I walk for me.

For those of you who think that you can’t do something like a half marathon; you can.  You just have to put one foot in front of the other.  So maybe you won’t be fast – who cares?  The only person that you are competing against is yourself.  Not up for a half marathon?  Start with a 5K.  Start with 1 mile.  Start with a walk around the block.

What inspires you?

P.S.  If you are curious about the Bataan Death March Half Marathon, you can read more here

Boise Roadtrip: The World Center for Birds of Prey

After visiting the Old Idaho Penitentiary with me the day before, it was Jon’s turn to choose a touristy activity.  Of course, he hadn’t really done any research ahead of time, so he is lucky that we drove past an informational road sign on our way into Boise, stating that the World Center for Birds of Prey was nearby.  That got him curious enough to look it up online and declare that that’s what he was interested in seeing.

The center is a couple miles outside of town, a pleasant drive through strip malls, urban sprawl, and then agricultural land.  It is located at the top of a hill, and it overlooks the valley below, which is designated as a wildlife preserve.  The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center for… well, duh… birds of prey.  I had heard of the Peregrine Fund before, but had never really thought about what their mission is – I learned that they are actually a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  That’s right – the Peregrine Fund is a sportsman association for hunters who use falcons to kill other birds – including other birds of prey.

At the center, they are pretty candid about this sordid connection and explain that conservation is part of their mission, because they need the prey birds to remain at healthy numbers in order to be able to continue their sport.  That got me thinking – I really don’t agree with the concept of sport hunting (using birds or otherwise) but I suppose they do have a point.

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.

We bought tickets (AAA got us a discount) and listened to a kind, older gentleman give the intro before heading through the double doors back outside into a fenced area.  The man explained that the birds are not able to be released into the wild for various reasons; either they have been injured or because they are too imprinted on humans.  The center doesn’t take in wild birds though; because they are a breeding center for critically endangered birds, they cannot afford to risk diseases getting into the center.

Once we stepped outside, we were in a sunny courtyard with several benches and natural landscaping.  Around the edges of the courtyard, there were several gorgeous birds on perches in enclosures.  The center has two Bateleur Eagles, native to Africa, who were raised from birth by humans and are imprinted.  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968 – making them 45 and 47 years old!

Bateleur Eagle - Native to Africa

Bateleur Eagle – Native to Africa

I had never seen a Bateleur Eagle before (nor had I even heard of them), and I was struck by how beautiful they are.  They are considered medium sized eagles, but they seemed large to me – and they are all black with red orange feet and faces.  Also on display were a Bald Eagle, an Ornate Hawk Eagle (native to South America), and a Peregrine Falcon.

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Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

In another enclosure, the center has three California Condors, two adults and a juvenile.  The story of the California Condor is an interesting one.  Over the last hundred years, the condor population declined significantly due to habitat loss, hunting and lead poisoning because Condors eat the carcasses of animals discarded by hunters.  The shot used to kill other animals often contains lead, and the pellets were ingested by the Condors as they were feeding on the carcass.  Add to that the fact that Condors only raise one chick every other year – although they will hatch a second egg in a year if something happens to the first egg.

As a result, the wild population plummeted to 22 – that’s right – there were only 22 California Condors remaining in the world in 1982.  The drastic decision was made  to capture all of the remaining Condors and begin breeding them in captivity – the capture was completed in 1987.  The World Center for Birds of Prey has 20 breeding pairs of Condors – and they have released several Condors near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  To date this year (as of June when we were there) the center had hatched 14 eggs!

California Condor Adult - Native to California and Arizona

California Condor Adult – Native to California and Arizona

The program is not without some controversy, but there is no way to deny that it has had success.  Currently, there are 226 Condors in the wild and another 179 in captivity.  And they are beautiful to see – these birds have the largest wingspan of any North American bird, about 9.5 feet!  They eat carrion and have the characteristic bald head of a vulture, and always worth mentioning, they poop on their feet to keep cool in the hot desert sun.  How’s that for making good use of your resources?!  In their enclosure, they have enough room to do a bit of flying, although in the wild they will soar at altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, looking for their next meal.  Amazing!

After seeing the birds outside, we went inside, where there is a small museum and some other birds.  The museum contains exhibits on falconry, the captive breeding program and specimens of many bird of prey, ranging from the very small to the very large.  It is disconcerting to see dead animals preserved, but it does allow you to compare the different birds to each other to see differences in size and appearance.

Orange Breasted Falcon - Range from Southern Mexico to Argentina

Orange Breasted Falcon – Range from Southern Mexico to Argentina

Inside, we saw:

  • Gyrfalcons – native to the Arctic and threatened by global warming
  • Eurasian Eagle Owl – the largest of the tufted owls – native to Northern and Southern Europe
  • Turkey Vulture – native to the Americas and the Caribbean
  • Orange Breasted Falcon – native from Southern Mexico to Northern Argentina
  • Aplomado Falcons – Endangered – native from the Southern United States to Southern Mexico
Eurasian Eagle Owl - Native to Northern and Southern Europe

Eurasian Eagle Owl – Native to Northern and Southern Europe

The Center also breeds Aplomado Falcons – in 2012 their 24 breeding pairs hatched 74 chicks!  These falcons are released in Texas and New Mexico to repopulate areas where the birds had not been seen since the 1950s.  During our visit, they had demonstrations of various birds they care for – we watched one with a Western Screech Owl.  That little guy was super cute!  It was an opportunity to see the bird up close and to hear a bit about what they eat and how they live.  I did kind of want to take him home though!

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I really enjoyed our visit and learned a lot – if you are in the area, you should definitely go.  It is well worth the time.