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Moab 2015: Castle Creek Winery

Upon leaving Canyonlands, we had a little bit of time before we had to make the long drive back to Salt Lake City. And it just so happens that a little way outside of Moab is one of Utah’s few wineries! I wanted to go!

Castle Creek Winery is located 14 miles up Highway 128, a scenic drive along the Colorado River. It also happened to be the route of most of Jon’s half-marathon the previous day, so I had the opportunity to see what he was up against. There was a long… uphill section that looked really tough! There are lots of campgrounds and trail heads along the highway that look like they would be perfect for exploring – if only we had more time.

The winery is on the grounds of a resort ranch. You can stay there, and it looked like activities included horseback riding, swimming, rafting, hiking, and of course, the winery. There is also a museum on the grounds that we didn’t have time to check out.

The sign seems more weathered than it should, given the age of the winery...  I sense a theme...

The sign seems more weathered than it should, given the age of the winery… I sense a theme…

Our tasting was interesting… A complimentary tasting included 5 samples, which let us taste all but one of the wines. They were decent but not complex, fine for everyday drinking but they wouldn’t hold up to age. None had much in the way of structure or tannins. But that isn’t what made it interesting. Our server did that all on her own. She was nice enough, but was an older lady who was very worn – I didn’t smell smoke but she had the look (and the voice) of a ‘several-pack-a-day-for-several-decades’ smoker.

I asked about the history of the winery, and her response was to urge us to go downstairs and watch the video. When we didn’t appear to be moving quickly enough, she kept prodding until we felt we had no choice but to go. Downstairs was odd. We found ourselves in a random cold, dimly lit hallway with glass windows facing out onto the dark production floor. And, as she promised, there was a 5 minute video explaining in extremely general terms the history of the winery and their production story.

Other than telling me that Castle Creek Winery played an integral part in changing Utah’s laws to allow for wineries, I learned nothing. Well, that’s not quite true… I had learned my lesson, and did not ask further questions upon emerging from the “dungeon.” That made the tasting go really quickly. That said, the wines were fine, and several had beautiful labels, so I bought one bottle to enjoy in our hotel room that evening and we got on our way…

Picturesque truck

Picturesque truck

And because the winery didn’t inspire me to take any photos inside, here’s a photo of what I hope is an authentic historic school outside of Moab.  I say I hope because it shares its parking lot with a gas station.

A historic schoolhouse - I hope...

A historic schoolhouse – I hope…

We made the long drive back to Salt Lake City in order to fly out the next morning. Another great vacation had come to a pre-mature end…

Two Good Cabs

I’m not a huge fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly not Washington made Cab.  I too often find that drinking some of those big, bold Washington Cabs is like chewing on a hunk of wood.  Dry oak.  But I have had a couple recently that have surprised me, in a good way.

2010 La Playa Claret

This is a big wine, and while it isn’t predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, it still has quite a bit of Cab.  The blend is 41% Petit Verdot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Carmenere. It is a big tannic wine, but it isn’t too dry though – it has a nice balance.  On the nose, there is the strong scent of tobacco.  On the palate, it has flavors of stewed plums and leather.  It was harvested by hand and aged for 8 months in French and American oak.

This wine really reminded me that living in Chile was the main reason I started loving wine.  And I do love Chilean wine!  I really should drink a lot more of it.

2011 Revelry Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Jon poured me a glass of this wine when he couldn’t offer me any more La Playa, because…. you guessed it… he drank it all.  Revelry is a Walla Walla winery, sourcing their fruit from several areas in the Columbia Valley.  Although they are a fairly new winery, with their first vintage in 2005, they have managed to secure fruit from several elite vineyards, including Sagemoor Vineyard, and vineyards on Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills.

On the nose, I got lots of blackberry, and on the palate, it had medium tannins and wasn’t super dry.  It was a fruity Cab, almost slightly jammy, but in a wonderful balanced kind of way.  Not a fruit bomb by any means, but certainly more fruit than your typical overly oaked Washington Cab.  I loved it!  The grapes for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon came from various vineyards, including Red Mountain, The Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills, and the Walla Walla Valley.  It spent 12-16 months in the 100% French Oak barrels, with 30% being new French Oak.

Jon and I both loved these two wines, which is unusual because we tend to go for something very different in a big, red wine.  If you have had either one, let me know what you think!

An Impromptu Stop: Foris Vineyards

You want to know one of the best things about Oregon Wine Country?  The signage!  Well, that, and the wineries!  Oregon has some of the easiest wine country to navigate, thanks to hundreds of little blue roadsigns pointing you to the wineries.  Even if you didn’t have a map, or a GPS, or a guidebook, you could find some wine!

On our way back from a satisfying day trip to Oregon Caves National Monument, we saw a few of those winery signs and decided to make an impromptu stop at Foris Vineyards.  Of the four of us, Jon was the only one who had heard of Foris – but his dad doesn’t really pay attention to wineries or wine so really, only three of us count on this score.  But Jon had heard good things, so drove a few miles down the country road, following the signs and ended up at a little tasting room in the front section of a wine production facility.

Foris Vineyards is family owned and operated by the Gerber family, and has been since 1971.  That’s when Ted Gerber and his wife purchased the property; they planted the first vines in 1974.  For awhile they sold their grapes to other wineries, but in 1986 they began using their grapes to make their own wine.  Currently about 80% of the grapes they use are estate grown.

My fabulous mother in law at the Foris Tasting Room

My fabulous mother in law at the Foris Tasting Room

When we went into the tasting room, we were warmly greeted by our server.  When we told her that we had just been to Oregon Caves, she asked which ranger had given our tour.  When we told her, her eyes lit up and she explained that he frequented the tasting room on his days off.  Just another reason why National Park Rangers are so awesome!

We were guided through the lineup, and I found myself really enjoying the reds.  We were able to do a side by side tasting of their two Pinot Noirs; one their flagship Pinot and the other the single vineyard Pinot from the Maple Ranch vineyard.  Both were delicious!  Their Cabernet Sauvigon and Cab Franc were also very good.

My mother in law really enjoyed the Fly Over Red blend and their sweet Moscato.  The Fly Over wines show that this wine-making family has a great sense of humor; these wines are named for the fact that because the Illinois Valley of Oregon is one of the most remote wine growing regions in the nation, many members of the national wine press will never come out to witness these wines being made.  So the folks at Foris simply wave at the planes overhead, because you never know who is “flying over”.

A few of the wine awards Foris has received

A few of the wine awards Foris has received

Jon came in and out of the tasting room to sample my wine at his leisure, and then settled with his father on the Adirondack chairs outside.  Linda and I took our time enjoying the wines and chatting with the server.  Soon enough, we were on our way back to our home away from home by the river, to swim in the pool, eat dinner and wile away a relaxing evening, with a newly opened bottle of wine.

HIP 2013 Sagemoor Farms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Smoky blackberries.  That’s the nose I get from our second mixed case wine. Jon decided to open this wine on a weeknight, and we hoped that it would be better than the first wine from our mixed case of wine.

2013 HIP Sagemoor Farms Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 HIP Sagemoor Farms Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is produced by The House of Independent Producers (HIP); it is a second label for Hedges Family Estate in Benton City, WA.  The marketing materials describe it as, “a lean, angular, racy, penetrating, crystalline structure is excellent for those drinkers looking for a more conservative fruit approach. Too many times this grape is abused with oak perfume and picked late, like an old man, wrinkled, soft, and complacent. Take your Cabernet Sauvignon young, tight, transparent, and leave the Jam bombs for your sugar drinking friends. It’s time to taste the varietal, not the brand.” 

With that description, I was curious to see if I would like the “young” version with the “conservative fruit approach.”  Not to mention, I don’t think I would enjoy drinking a wrinkled, soft, complacent old man!  Yuck!

After pouring it into the glass, the color is dark garnet red.  It is quite beautiful actually.  Nothing like a wrinkled old man.  The nose is blackberry and smoke, making me a little bit nervous that it would be a big heavy Cab that I wasn’t going to like.  But the first sip eased my mind, with flavors of black currant and earth.  It has medium tannins, which I liked, because it doesn’t overwhelm.  But it has enough structure that someone looking for a big Cab will still be able to appreciate it.  In my opinion, this is a wine that does it right.  It makes me want to try more from the HIP!

And at $12.49, it is a perfect wine for a week night – you don’t need a special occasion!

Breaking out of a Wine Rut

I’ve been in a wine rut.  Our travel this year hasn’t been wine focused, so we haven’t sampled very many new wines during tasting room visits.  In looking at the wine we have around the house, most of it is higher end Washington wines and Oregon Pinot Noirs.  While I love Pinots, it isn’t every random Wednesday that I want to open a more expensive bottle.  And trips to the grocery store leave me wandering the wine aisles, not able to get excited about all of the wines I’ve had before, and uncertain about trying something new.

So I had an idea.  I popped down to the local wine shop this afternoon and told the owner that I had a challenge for him, should he choose to accept.  I have been pleased with all the recommendations he has given me before, so why not trust him again?  The challenge?  Put together a mixed case of wines I have never tried.

The parameters:

  • Value wines – nothing over $15.00, closer to $10.00 is better
  • No Pinot Noir (while I love them, we have plenty already)
  • 8 or 9 reds, 3 or 4 whites.

That’s it – no other rules.  If he offered it, and it fit within the parameters, it went into the case.  Of course he accepted, because what wine aficionado wouldn’t?  Here’s what I ended up with.

My Mixed Case of Wine - my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

My Mixed Case of Wine – my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

Scaia – 2013.  This wine is a 60% Garganega, 40% Chardonnay blend; an Italian wine from the Veneto region.  Garganega will be a new grape for my Wine Century Club efforts! – $10.99

Atteca – 2012 Old Vines Garnacha.  This Spanish red is 100% Garnacha, and is the one wine I have tried.  They were tasting it this afternoon, and I loved it.  I’ll be curious to see what Jon thinks!  – $14.99

Trentadue – 2012 Old Patch Red.  This red blend from the North Coast of California is 85% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, and 4% Syrah.  – $10.99

Oinos Les Cardères – 2012.  This red blend from the Corbières region of France is 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 25% Carignan. – $11.99

La Playa Block Selection Reserve Red Blend Claret – 2012.  Wow, that’s a mouthful for this red blend from the Colchagua Valley of Chile.  60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. – $11.99

Pelassa Mario’s – 2012.  A red blend of 50% Barbera, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Piedmont region of Italy. – $12.99

H-Henriques – 2011.  This French wine from the Côtes du Roussillon region is 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 15% Syrah. – $7.99

Gerald Talmard Chardonnay – 2013.  French labels are hard…  This wine is from the Mâcon Uchizy region in France.  – $11.99

Torre Gajo Pinot Grigio – 2013.  This wine is from the Delle Venezie region of Italy and comes in a 1000 ML bottle – extra!  – $11.99

Linen Sauvignon Blanc – 2013.  This Columbia Valley wine is produced by Bergevin Lane Vineyards in Walla Walla, WA. – $10.99

Scaia Corvina – 2012.  We are going to try the Scaia white wine, so why not the red?  This one also comes from the Veneto region of Italy and is 100% Corvina. – $10.99

Sagemoor Farms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013.  This wine is produced by The House of Independent Producers (HIP); it is a second label for Hedges Family Estate in Benton City, WA. – $12.49

So there’s the line up.  I can’t wait to start sampling.

Have you had any of these wines?  Which one do you think we should open first?

 

SW National Parks Trip: NM Wine and Beer

After our visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, we went back to the hotel to chill out and rest for a little while.  Jon wanted to go find a record store he was interested in – so we got in the car and headed over.  You can tell how much I enjoy record stores when you consider the fact that I had to think just now for several minutes to remember the visit…  But I remembered!  It was a Hastings music store, which I like more than other record stores because they have books!  And this one had chairs!  I spent a while perusing the local New Mexico book selections.  It was an enjoyable way to spend some time, but I resisted the urge to add more books to my collection – that was hard!

After Hastings, we stopped by the grocery store to check out some of the local wine selections.  I knew that there are some New Mexico wineries, but we weren’t really going to have time for visit any on our trip – we were focused on the National Parks!  We did find two wines that we were interested in though; a red and a white, both from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  St. Clair was established in 1984 by two brothers, although the family has had 6 generations involved in wine-making.

The red was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel blend, with 50% of each, with 12% ABV.  It had a garnet red color, not as opaque as your typical Cab or Zin; more like a Pinot Noir.  The mouth feel was very light, and the nose was of strawberry and fruit punch.  And the taste?  Well, it was more like a Concord grape wine, with flavors of strawberry, grape and fruit punch; however, it wasn’t a super-sweet wine.  The second day, after wiggling around in the car for a couple of hours, this wine opened up and lost that Concord grape taste.  I could actually tell that there was Cab and Zin in the wine… and I liked it much better!

The white we chose was a Riesling; it was a nice, semi-sweet wine with flavors of lemon and peach.  I liked it better on the first night than the Cab/Zin blend.  The wines certainly were different than we are used to, and probably won’t win any fancy awards when pitted against the Napa or Washington wines, but they were good everyday drinking wines that would appeal to many.

St. Clair Winery - Riesling

St. Clair Winery – Riesling

After the grocery store, we headed back to the hotel to walk to a Spanish tapas restaurant that I wanted to check out.  It was right in the Santa Fe historic district, only a few blocks from the hotel.  And so we headed over… to find it closed…  A victim again of the “Closed on Mondays” curse in Santa Fe!  DRAT!  So now we didn’t know where we wanted to go, but we didn’t want to drive anywhere, so we wandered around the historic downtown until we stumbled upon the San Francisco Bar and Grill.  The menu looked good, with a mix of dishes.

The San Francisco Street Bar and Grill was a nice place with plenty of seafood options. They also brewed their own beer – a theme on this trip! I had the Mahi Mahi with Spanish rice and seasonal vegetables. I paired my meal with the La Cumbre A Slice of Hefen Hefeweizen. Jon had the Ahi Tuna with tomato jam and risotto. His went with the La Cumbre Elevated IPA. The fish was delicious – we were really enjoying it; when a fight broke out.

Nope, dear readers, it wasn’t Jon and me fighting.  That’s right – up at the bar, two guys, one with a Scottish accent, started yelling at each other.  Loudly…  Several of the waiters had to run over to serve as bouncers and they threw the Scottish guy out. He was yelling and cursing the whole time down the stairs. Jon had a blast watching!

Grilled Mahi Mahi at the San Francisco Grill

Grilled Mahi Mahi at the San Francisco Grill

Fortunately the fight didn’t last long and we were able to finish our meal in relative quiet.  Then it was back to the hotel, El Chimayo, for an early evening and a restful night’s sleep…

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

This weekend, some of my coworkers and I had a Girls’ Weekend in Chelan, a lakefront resort community.  We were a few hours away at a conference for a good part of the week, so we had decided to spend a bit more time in the sunshine of Eastern Washington before coming home.  On Saturday, we went wine tasting and ended up at Lake Chelan Winery.

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight Jon and I are enjoying the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon that I purchased that day.  On the nose, this wine has robust aromas of stewed plums, tobacco and cloves.  You know that it will be a big wine.  On the palate, there is more of a ripe blackberry flavor with the tastes of tobacco and cloves.  The wine is big, but it has nicely balanced tannins to make it an approachable wine.

Jon was as impressed as I was when he tried it, and was happy with my purchase.

Have you tried any of Lake Chelan Winery’s wines?  What did you think of them?