Archive | November 2013

Syncline 2010 Carignan Grenache

After the Thanksgiving gluttony yesterday, Jon and I had a light dinner tonight leftovers, paired with the Syncline 2010 Carignan Grenache blend.  Syncline is a Washington winery, located along the Columbia River Gorge along the border with Oregon.  They are family owned, and they purchase their fruit from some of the best vineyards in Eastern Washington.

This wine is made with fruit sourced from the McKinley Springs Vineyard.  The blend is 64% Carignan, and 36% Grenache, with a clear, dark, garnet color.  On the nose, I picked up quite a bit of blackberry and light tobacco.  However, this wine is light and fruity when you drink it, rather than having big, tannic, tobacco flavors.  There are medium tannins with flavors of blackberry and fresh plums.  It is a nicely balanced wine that everybody can enjoy.

Syncline Carignan Grenache - Same Wine, Different Year

Syncline Carignan Grenache – Same Wine, Different Year

I’m sure this wine is long ago sold out, as there were only 220 cases produced, and the blend varies from year to year, but you can’t go wrong with any of Syncline’s wines.  I wrote about our visit to the winery here, and if you have a chance to visit or try their wines, I would certainly recommend them.

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

After stopping at the main Visitor’s Center at Olympic National Park, Jon and I headed up the mountain for a little hiking at the top of the ridge itself.  The top of Hurricane Ridge is 17 miles south of Port Angeles, but the road has a lot of twists and turns, so it takes about 45 minutes to get from the Visitor’s Center to the top of the ridge.

Hurricane Ridge is named for the strong winds that frequent the area, and snow is common even as late as July.  With the panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, it is a popular hiking spot in the spring, summer and fall, and there are skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing opportunities in the winter.  People frequently see wildlife, including deer, elk, bear and a type of marmot that only exists on the Olympic Peninsula.  We were eager to see what everybody raves about!

As we began our drive the weather was cloudy but dry, and we stopped at a few of the scenic viewpoints along the way.  The view on a clear day is supposed to be spectacular, but with the clouds we couldn’t see out that far.  Then, as we were standing there taking some photos, we felt a couple of drops of rain.  Now, we both grew up in the Northwest, so a little rain won’t deter us.  We got back into the car and continued on our way.

Me on our way up to Hurricane Ridge - that smudge above my right shoulder is a raindrop on the camera lens.

Me on our way up to Hurricane Ridge – that smudge above my right shoulder is a raindrop on the camera lens.

Soon, we were almost at the top of the ridge, and the skies opened up into a huge downpour!  We ran from the car into the Visitor’s Center at the top of the ridge, and in a 20 second run we were soaked!  The pictures don’t do it justice, but believe me it was really wet!

You can't tell in this photo, but it was raining really hard.  So much for the view...

You can’t tell in this photo, but it was raining really hard. So much for the view…

The "View" from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor's Center.  Awesome, right?

The “View” from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center. Awesome, right?

The torrential downpour changed our plan to do some hiking at the top of the ridge, so we had some coffee at the Visitor’s Center, and I got some awesome postcards of the view that I wasn’t going to see for myself…

I love these old style postcards - Hurricane Ridge View of the Mountains

I love these old style postcards – Hurricane Ridge View of the Mountains

There were no eagles flying around in the torrential downpour either!

There were no eagles flying around in the torrential downpour either!

Check out the bears!  We never saw any real ones - they were staying inside!

Check out the bears! We never saw any real ones – they were staying inside!

This is what Hurricane Ridge would look like on a clear day.

This is what Hurricane Ridge would look like on a clear day.

Well, not every day of sightseeing can come off without a hitch…  Sigh… The good news is, we have a reason to come again.  And I spotted a winery on the way out to the park – we stopped by on the way back!

Our First Peek at Olympic National Park

The first day of our Olympic National Park weekend began in Bremerton, Washington, with me wrapping up my conference in the morning.  I came back to the hotel just before noon to finish packing up my things while Jon took a shower after his run.  We checked out and then got on the road, heading north to our home for the next few days, Sequim.  We stopped for a panini, soup and salad lunch at Panera Bread (don’t you just love their food!), and then we were on our way!

I have always thought of the Olympic Peninsula being a good distance away from our home just south of Canada.  To get there from home, we have to drive south, then west, then take a ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend, then drive to whatever our final destination is.  For some reason I just have a mental block about it, even though it really isn’t that far away – so I had never been there, and neither had Jon.  But driving up to Sequim from Bremerton was just over an hour, on mostly country highways with light traffic.  The sun was shining and the workweek was done, so it was really a pleasant excursion.

The View on the Way to Sequim

The View on the Way to Sequim

We got to Sequim and checked into our hotel, changed into hiking clothes, and then headed out to the Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center to try to beat the rain.  We knew the weekend would bring some, but in Washington, even if rain is promised, you never really know if it will start, when it will start, how much you will get, or how long it will last.

Olympic National Park is a huge park, spanning 922,650 acres, with several entrances, and several Visitor’s Centers.  President Theodore Roosevelt designated the area as a National Monument in 1909, and it was changed to National Park status in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The park has four distinct ecosystems: coastal, alpine, temperate rainforest, and drier coniferous forest on the east side of the park.  The park contains 60 miles of coastline on the West Coast of Washington, rainforests that receive over 150 inches of precipitation annually, and a mountain range with a summit of 7,788 feet, Mount Deception, and a glacier of over 5 kilometers.

The main Visitor’s Center at Olympic National Park is just outside of Port Angeles, which is about 15 miles east of where we were staying in Sequim.  The rangers there are very helpful, giving you advice on which trails you might want to hike, or equipping you with a bear box if you are going to be camping in the park.  The Visitor’s Center also contains the Beaumont Cabin, a log cabin built by Elliott Beaumont in 1887, on his 160 acre homestead claim.

The Front of the Beaumont Cabin - What a Tiny House!

The Front of the Beaumont Cabin – What a Tiny House!

Beaumont lived in the cabin with his wife for almost 40 years.  It was donated to the Clallam County Historical Society in the 1960s, and has been restored and furnished with period furnishings.  You can peek in and see the decor, and immediately realize how small a pioneer cabin is.  It is about 10 feet by 10 feet!  You really get a good idea of the phrase cabin fever!

The Side of the Beaumont Cabin

The Side of the Beaumont Cabin

After checking out the cabin, it wasn’t raining, so we were ready to head up to Hurricane Ridge to see some awesome views!

Planning a Visit to Olympic National Park

Back in late September, I was off for a conference in “lovely” Bremerton.  The fall conference that is put on by one of the professional associations I belong to alternates between beautiful Chelan (located on a lake in wine country), and not quite so beautiful Bremerton, home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Bremerton Annex of the Naval Base Kitsap.  In short, it’s a Navy town.  Bremerton is located right on the Puget Sound, which makes for some beautiful views, but it has been largely an industrial center and it has struggled in recent years.

The downtown area right near the Convention Center has gentrified in recent years, but get out of the immediate vicinity (and by immediate, I mean 2 or 3 blocks) you see the evidence of a community that has had its share of difficulty.  There are a ton of empty buildings and ramshackle homes in and right outside of downtown.

I call these the Volcano Fountains because they erupt with water at periodic intervals - they are loud and scare me!  They are right near the ferry dock in downtown Bremerton.

I call these the Volcano Fountains because they erupt with water at periodic intervals – they are loud and always startle me! They are right near the ferry dock in downtown Bremerton – an example of the revitalization in the downtown core.

Jon and I took a long weekend around my conference last year and spent a few days exploring Chelan, and I asked him if he would like to do the same this year.  I got a firm and resounding “NO!”, until I explained that we didn’t have to STAY in Bremerton…  Then you could see the wheels start to turn in Jon’s brain.  We thought about places on the Olympic Peninsula where we could have a nice weekend, and thought no further than Olympic National Park.  The plan was hatched…

The Plan:

  • Leave Bremerton right after the conference wrapped up at noon on Friday (well, right after getting some lunch…)
  • Head up to the upper end of the Olympic Peninsula, to our lodging in Sequim
  • Tour Olympic National Park – 3 spots in particular: Hurricane Ridge (outside of Port Angeles), the Hoh Rain Forest (30 minutes south of Forks, Washington), and Rialto Beach
  • Other potential itinerary items (depending on time and weather): Dungeness Spit and the New Dungeness Lighthouse, the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, wineries, and some of the waterfalls in Olympic National Park

However, as we got closer to the weekend, the forecast called for rain.  How much would we be able to see and do?  Stay tuned!

Coraline’s Bath Time

Long day, long week.  Today I had an out of town training that meant getting to work at 6 am and home at 6:30 pm.  I haven’t had much time to post, but I thought I would share Coraline’s new happy place.

The bathroom sink.  Apparently she somehow knows it is a good place to give herself a bath.  I wonder what she would think if I turned on the water for her!?

Coraline Giving Herself a Bath

Coraline Giving Herself a Bath

What do you mean you want to brush your teeth?  Can't you see I'm busy!?

What do you mean you want to brush your teeth? Can’t you see I’m busy!?

Happy Wednesday Everybody!  I’m more than halfway done with the week!

12 Years a Slave

Last night, Jon and I went to the movies.  Admittedly, we aren’t big movie goers (who can afford to be!), but we both saw the previews for this film and were instantly hooked.  You have to see it.  I won’t give all the details, but if you are like me and don’t want to know the story before you watch it, then don’t read on…

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story and book written by Solomon Northup in 1853.  Northup was a free black man living in Saratoga Springs, NY, with his wife and three children.  He made a living working various construction jobs, and supplementing his income working as a violinist.  The book details his experience of being lured to Washington, D.C. with the promise of an employment offer, and his subsequent kidnapping and sale into the slave trade.  Northup was taken to Richmond, VA and sold as a slave, where he spent the next 12 years working on several Louisiana plantations.

The film begins with Northup’s life as a free man, and then quickly escalates to his luring and kidnapping.  His free papers are stolen, and he is stripped and dressed in rags, effectively making it impossible for him to convince anybody that he is actually a free man.  He is beaten violently each time he tries to protest and insist on his freedom, and his name is changed to Platt Hamilton to prevent him from being traced.  Eventually he concludes that the best course of action is to keep his cool and stay alive until he can formulate a plan to escape.

Sadly, keeping his cool and staying alive puts him in the same no win situation that most slaves faced.  First he is sold to a reasonably benevolent preacher who owns a plantation, where he is treated fairly well.  That isn’t to say that the preacher doesn’t have his flaws; another kidnapped free woman is sold away from the plantation when she can’t contain her grief over having her children stolen from her.  Soon enough though, the overseer’s contempt for Solomon’s intelligence gets him into trouble – the preacher sells Solomon in order to prevent the conflict from ending in tragedy (in reality, the relationship was more complicated than that; with the overseer owning a significant share of Plat and indebted to the preacher for the remainder).

His next owner is a harsh, religious lunatic.  While spouting Bible verses, Edwin Epps drinks heavily, sexually assaults Patsey, one of his female slaves, and forces the slaves to participate in bizarre middle of the night dances.  He frequently beats and whips his slaves, and his lunatic wife, who can’t contain her jealousy, is an active participant in abusing Patsey.  The brutality in the film is raw and realistic.

Years in, Solomon meets a traveling carpenter from Canada named Bass, who voices his concerns about the institution of slavery.  Solomon decides to take a huge risk and tell Bass his story, and asks him to write a letter to his family and friends back in New York, so they can rescue him.  Bass is aware of the risk to himself and Solomon, but agrees to help.

Solomon is rescued, but the reality is that very few free blacks and mulattoes who were kidnapped and sold into slavery ever regained their freedom.  We’ll never really know, but by some estimates thousands of free blacks were kidnapped and sold each year. When you understand that a slave sold for prices of $400 on up, which was more than a many people earned in a year at the time, it seems less surprising.  Not less revolting though…

The movie is very well done – but it is not for the faint of heart.  The portrayal is honest and violent, and leaves little to the imagination.  You can feel the pain and desperation.  Do see it and bring the tissues.

Leavenworth: Antiques and a Dip

The second day of our weekend in Leavenworth in July, Jon and I got up and got moving so we could make the most of our day.  Last fall, when Jon drove over to meet me in Chelan, he had seen an antique store that had interested him.  He mentioned it to me and asked if I wanted to check it out.  Well, DUH, that’s a silly question!

Our first stop was at the Antique Mall at Cashmere (kind of a non-descript name if you ask me), one of the large antique malls in Cashmere, just off the highway.  The outside of the store had a lot of architectural salvage that was cool; old window frames, old doors, various garden implements and signs, and we stopped to rummage through that stuff for a few minutes before going inside.

Inside the store was a lot of the usual antique store stuff – lots of glass, lots of vintage collectibles, lots of little children figurines, and some really neat stuff too.  And then I saw it… The score of the trip…  A very large (14″ diameter) glass fishing float.  I have admired them for years, but I have never purchased one because they are so expensive, and I have never found one on a beach.  But this one was reasonably priced, so I jumped at the chance!  It even has some netting on it.  I know nothing about it though, so I will have to do some research at some point…  In the meantime though, I just like seeing it perched in on the living room floor.

My Fishing Float Decor

My Fishing Float Decor

Jon found a vintage record cabinet that he loved, and it was also priced to sell.  It was small enough to fit in our Honda CRV with all of our other trip gear, so it went home with us too.

After the Antique Mall at Cashmere, we stopped by the other antique mall – Apple Annie’s.  This place is gigantic, with over 70,000 square feet and a restaurant in the building.  The building is new, so it has a different feel than many antique malls that are in old buildings with uneven, creaky floors and poor lighting.  Jon saw a 1950’s style coffee table that he liked, but there was nothing there that we had to have.  We cruised through the last several aisles quickly because we were getting hungry, and we were going to meet the family for lunch in downtown Leavenworth.

Leavenworth was a zoo that day.  There were so many people everywhere!  Jon got pretty frustrated with the crowds…  Plus it was really hot!  For lunch we had brats, pretzels and water at the Leavenworth Sausage Garten.  I had a regular Bratwurst and Jon had a Veggie Brat – they were both delicious.  We split one of their pretzels, which was awesome!  The seating is outdoors, with umbrellas over the tables to provide some shade in the summer, and outdoor propane standup heaters to give some warmth in the winter.  The day we were there, the misters were spraying a light mist of water on us, keeping us a little cooler.

The Main Drag in Leavenworth

The Main Drag in Leavenworth

After our brats, we checked out the shops in downtown Leavenworth, and thought about a visit to the Nutcracker Museum.  Those of you who read this blog know that I am a sucker for a museum, and I have heard that the Nutcracker Museum is good – I just wasn’t in the mood for a museum after poking around in antique stores for hours.  I’ll be back at some point though.  We did make a visit to the Icicle Ridge Winery tasting room, located in the basement suite of one of the main street buildings.  Surprisingly, there was no one else there when we went to do our tasting.  I’ll talk about Icicle Ridge in another post!

After a bit more wandering around, we decided it was time to head back to the cabin to beat the heat in the river.  100 degrees was too hot for any of us to handle!  We got our swimsuits on and jumped into the ice cold Wenatchee River.  Our cabin was just below a section of rapids that made an interesting “bathtub drain” effect in the water.

The Wenatchee River, Looking North Towards the Rapids

The Wenatchee River, Looking North Towards the Rapids

When you first jumped in, you would be pulled towards the rapids to the north (the rapids were uphill though, so you didn’t go tumbling over any falls or anything).  Then you would swim further out into the river, to be caught up in the rush of water that would quickly carry you south past the cabin.  Once the speed of the water slowed down, you could swim closer to the riverbank again where the river would carry you back to the north once again where you could get back out of the current near the cabin.  It took some strong swimming, but it was pretty fun going through the cycle!

We all enjoyed a dinner of BBQ’d steak and chicken, with salad, green beans and other sides, and chatted the evening away around the table.  The highlight of the evening though was seeing a black bear come down to the water on the opposite riverbank!  He wasn’t fully grown, but old enough to have been weaned from mom.  What a treat to see him!  He was far enough away to not make you nervous (on the other side of the river was good for me), so unfortunately with the low light it was hard to get great photos of him.  I will remember the experience though!

We Saw a Black Bear!

We Saw a Black Bear!

A fantastic day in Leavenworth ended with a dip in the hot tub (the temps drop fast when the sun sets) and a puzzle spread out on the coffee table in the cabin.  Can’t wait to visit again!

Our Evening Puzzle Project - Of Course it has a History Theme!

Our Evening Puzzle Project – Of Course it has a History Theme!

Wine Century Party – 15 Down the Hatch!

Saturday evening Jon and I hosted our first Wine Century Club party.  I got the idea after deciding that I wanted to become a Wine Century Club member, and a party seemed like a good way to try some grapes I hadn’t tried before.  If you are not familiar with the Wine Century Club, it is an online “club,” open to those who have tried wines with at least 100 of the grapes used in wine-making.  You can read more about it here.

After a preliminary tally – I had 59 grapes on my list of bragging rights.  After doing a bit of digging though I added another three that I had tried without knowing it; Xarel-Lo, Macabeo, and Parellada, which are the grape components of the Spanish sparkling wine, Cava.  That meant that going into the party, I was at 62 grapes.

I made up a list of all the wines that I hadn’t tried before, and made visits to several local wine shops and wrote down every wine I could find that contained one of these grapes.  Each couple was to bring one wine that contained one of these unusual grapes (although some of my lovely guests really got into it and brought one bottle per person!).  That made for quite the assortment of wines.

The wines that arrived (in no particular order), with the grape name in bold and italics:

  • Aglianico di Vulture 2010, Terra di Vulcano (Italy)
  • Herdade do Mouchao 2009, Dom Rafael (Portugal) – Alicante Bouchet and Tinta Amerela
  • Damilano, Arneis 2012, (Italy)
  • Ironstone, Obsession Symphony 2012 (California) – a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris
  • Durigutti, Bonarda 2010, (Argentina)
  • Allegrini 2009, Palazzo della Torre (Italy) – Rondinella and Corvina
  • Crianza 2009, Marques de Caceres (Spain) – Graciano
  • Tinta 2009, Quito do Carqueijal (Portugal) – Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca
  • Giogantinu, Vermentino, (Italy)
  • Young Vines, Xinomavro 2010 (Greece)
  • Berger, Zweigelt 2011 (Austria)
  • Tikves, Vranec, (Macedonia)

That’s 15 grapes that I hadn’t tried!  We had a great time tasting through the lineup.  Since almost nobody had tried any of these wines before (I think one person had tried one of the wines), we just set them out, whites first then reds.  We really had no idea how they should be ordered.  For just purchasing blindly, I was pretty impressed with all of the wines; there weren’t any that were bad, but as with any wine tasting there were some that I liked more than others.

My favorites of the evening were the Young Vines Xinomavro, the Tikves Vranec, and the Damilano Arneis.  The Xinomavro and the Vranec were both nice, fruit forward reds with light tannins.  The Arneis was a dry white with a light hint of butter and a floral finish.

We had a great time describing the Zweigelt as a “quickie,” because you got a brief burst of flavor on the palate before it quickly dissipated, leaving almost no finish.  That said, the Zweigelt was my friend Allysa’s favorite wine of the evening, because it didn’t have the heavy tannins that so many of the reds had.  It was a nice easy drinking wine.  We were teasing her about her tasting notes reading, “dry, very dry, too dry, dry…” but hey, she knows what she likes and it isn’t a dry red!

I wasn’t a big fan of the Terra di Vulcano and the Palazzo della Torre – they were both big, heavy tannic reds (of the “dry, very dry” variety).  Coincidentally, they were both Italian reds; I have tried several other Italian red varietals and haven’t found them to be so tannic (Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo being a few).  I found that very interesting. I guess there really is something for everyone there!

We didn’t even try to do a food theme to go with all these wines, so we just had an eclectic buffet of cheeses, crackers, salami and prosciutto, Spanish and Greek olives, cowboy caviar, stuffed crust pizza, carrot sticks, chocolate, and apple pie.

As with any good party evening, I completely forgot to take any photos – but I did take a photo of the wines that were still here after everybody went home (I was a bit more successful in getting people to take wine with them this time!).  And now I am at 77 grapes – 23 to go!

Left to Right: Young Vines Xinomavro, Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, Tikves Vranec, Durigutti Bonarda, Dom Rafael Mouchao, and Ironstone Obsession Symphony

Left to Right: Young Vines Xinomavro, Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, Tikves Vranec, Durigutti Bonarda, Dom Rafael Mouchao, and Ironstone Obsession Symphony

I think a good time was had by all.  If you host your own Wine Century Party, be sure to let me know how it goes!  Happy Sunday Everybody!

Doolittle’s Goblets

My fellow blogger, The Armchair Sommelier, did an excellent post on The Doolittle Raiders. Tomorrow night, three of the four remaining Raiders will open the bottle of Cognac and toast the final toast. I saw the goblets in 2008 when I visited Dayton and was moved to tears. A must see – I will be watching the live stream tomorrow!

The Armchair Sommelier

I’m a sucker for a war story.  And if it’s a World War II war story . . . pass the tissues.
The Greatest Generation sits on a pedestal in my book.

Last week, I had the opportunity to walk through the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  I love history, but aviation history . . . meh.  But my son was all fired up about the World War II exhibit.  The things we do for our children.  So I started walking . . .

Old plane.  Old plane.  Big plane.  Little plane.  Plane with dots.  Plane with spots.  Bunch of silver wine goblets.

Wait.  What?  Wine goblets!?  This just got interesting.


I realize they look like handbells from a church choir in this photo.  Stay with me . . .

After trying to coax a decent picture out of my iPhone camera, I spent the…

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Today was one of those days…  I woke up tired.  Which isn’t that unusual lately, because work has been crushingly busy, but today was I experienced that kind of mind numbing exhaustion that is hard to shake.

It took more effort than usual to get up and going.  Once I did, things were looking up.  Or so I thought…  I went to the restroom at work and realized I had completely forgotten to put on makeup.  Now, I don’t wear much makeup, so maybe it wasn’t that noticeable to everybody else, but I noticed.  I guess the bright side is that I didn’t put makeup on only one eye…

All morning, my brain was in a fog.  I sent emails without the attachments.  I called someone and then forgot why I was calling.  I got halfway to the printer and had forgotten why I had gotten up.  At one point, one of my employees came in and starting asking a question, then stopped when she realized I was just staring blankly at her.  I was so engrossed in whatever I was pondering that it was hard to switch gears (usually I’m pretty good at that).

I printed out a list I needed for an errand I had to run at lunch – then headed out and walked 6 blocks to the store and realized I had forgotten the list.  I had to walk all the way back to get it!  At least I doubled my lunchtime exercise!

The afternoon was much better – my brain started firing on all cylinders and I got some productive work done!

Have you had a day like this?  I’m heading to bed so tomorrow will be better!