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2015 Couplet, by J. Bookwalter Winery

I picked up this bottle a few weeks ago on a visit with one of one of my oldest, dearest friends in Eastern Washington.  We have been friends since we were 9 years old. I was there on a business trip, but had some time afterwards to socialize.

After my meeting wrapped up for the day, we took a bit of time to visit J. Bookwalter Winery, one of her favorites, and one I have long been curious about but never tried.  Many of their wines have literary names; this one is no exception.  For a book nerd like me, that is a huge draw!

Our tasting consisted of a number of fantastic wines; she was more drawn to the heavy tannic reds, while I enjoyed the whites a bit more.  Our server was friendly and personable, and we ended up having a great conversation on the wines, love and life.

The 2015 Couplet is sourced entirely from Columbia Valley grapes, from the Conner Lee, and the blend is 76% Chardonnay and 24% Viognier.  Both were fermented in stainless steel, rather than oak, giving the wine a crisp flavor.  Flavors of peach and lemon combine with a light minerality for a delicious hot weather patio wine.  (Even though it wasn’t that hot today, and I didn’t sit on the patio while enjoying my glass…) If you are near Prosser, Washington though, J. Bookwalter has an awesome patio, and they are open later than most wineries because they also have a restaurant!

2015 Couplet, by J. Bookwalter

It was certainly a worthwhile visit and a great wine!

 

 

 

Argyle Winery Conducere, 2011

Argyle released one of its vintage sparkling wines, a 100% Chardonnay sparkler with a hint of minerality, and lots of cream on the palate.  Upon popping the cork, this wine has lots of bright bubbles, but they fade quickly to a light effervescence in the glass.

It has flavors of cream, butter, and is a rich sparkling wine with just a hint of stone and minerals. Several of the reviews that I read talked about its minerality, but I didn’t pick up much of that.  One review said it tasted like a Big Hunk candy bar, but I certainly didn’t get any of that.  I’m not even sure that I have had a Big Hunk candy bar…

2011 Argyle Winery Conducere – 100% Chardonnay

To me, it tasted more like what it is; the sparkling version of a Chardonnay.  Granted, Oregon certainly goes more for the unoaked variety of Chardonnay, but this one certainly has that light butter taste.  Flavorful, delicious, and certainly worth picking up a bottle if you can find it around.  It is sold out at the tasting room.

Happy Weekend!

 

Two Wines for Scorching Hot Days

The last several days have been scorching hot.  The lowest highs have been in the low 80s.  The highest have been in the high 80s!  As we generally only get a few days in the 80s all summer, this is very unusual, especially so early in the summer.

To keep cool, we have had our fans going all day long, and are trying to strategically open and close windows and blinds to let in cool air and keep out the heat.  It is only sort of working.  The first floor of our house was 80 degrees when we went to bed last night.  Our bedroom was several degrees hotter.

All that heat means summer whites!  I found a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc It is a pale straw yellow, with crisp acidity, and flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass.  It was so good!  A perfect patio sipper, and a steal at less than $10!

A couple days later, I opened the Evolution White by Sokol Blosser.  A kitchen sink blend, with Pinot Gris, White Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Chardonnay, this wine has nice tropical flavors of peach and citrus.  Though not as crisp as the Monkey Bay, it is a great summer white with its crispness balancing out the sweet, tropical notes.

Now if only I were on vacation!

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…

Bad Luck in Yakima

Jon and I had big plans for some wine tasting in Yakima in January, but they got derailed, as you will soon read…

Owen Roe:

It started out well…

Jon and I have purchased a couple of their everyday wines from Costco and liked them, so it only seemed natural to check out their tasting room. The tasting room is located only a few miles from Yakima, and it is in the middle of their large barrel room, a space delineated with a small tasting bar, a couple of tables, and some portable shelves for wine.

It was a cool atmosphere, being able to look at all those barrels being stored; the only drawback is that we were in a warehouse – in January, so it was pretty chilly. We tasted through their line up and I liked them all, with the exception of the Chardonnay – it just wasn’t really my style.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room - in the barrel room.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room – in the barrel room.

Owen Roe has a large production – they have a tasting room and production facility in the Willamette Valley too. They are currently in the process of expanding their facility in Yakima, so they won’t have to store barrels in their production facility, and they are building a new event space on the property to host concerts in the summer. Sounds nice!

Our server was very friendly and gave us lots of suggestions on where to go, including other wineries, restaurants and breweries too.  This would certainly be a great place to visit in the summer, when you can sit on the patio or take in one of the concerts they have when they finish their expansion.

Treveri Cellars:

And then it went downhill…

Treveri was next on my list, and the winery I was most excited about visiting because they specialize in sparklers. But when we pulled up – closed! There was no mention of this on their website (I had checked that morning), but apparently (as I found out later from a blog friend), their Facebook page had a post about it. Hmm… not cool.

Treveri being closed began a trend that just continued into the afternoon. Others that were closed included Cultura, Dineen, J. Bell, Knight Hill, Severino, and Two Mountain. Apparently people don’t taste wine in Yakima in January – lesson learned, loud and clear.  I can’t blame them, I guess, but I had never really thought about it.  I hadn’t checked all their websites individually, but the wine magazine I had didn’t mention winter closures – I guess they assume that everybody knows.  We have been there in February and not had this problem, and I don’t really think about January being that different…

Hyatt Vineyards Winery:

Finally we made our way to Hyatt – there was a truck outside and the lights were on and the door was unlocked. I thought our luck was swinging up, but it turns out, it was just going from bad to worse…

As our server set up our tasting I mentioned being a little surprised about all the other wineries that were closed, and she said (snottily) she was closed too. WTF? Umm… then why have the door open? She said since she was working on resetting the décor in the tasting room, she figured she might as well serve if anybody stopped by. Which would have been fine, but sadly, her demeanor was not welcoming.  In fact, it was really off putting.

She sullenly poured the wine, and then stared at us while we sampled. If was REALLY uncomfortable. To the point that we were trying to rush through the tasting to get it over with. UGH! Then another woman came in and we were relieved – perhaps it would break up the tension…

As it turns out the second lady was the tasting room manager and she was quite friendly. We started to talk and the server immediately corrected her attitude. She knew exactly how rude she was being and didn’t want her manager to know! But the lasting impression was already made.

Hyatt Tasting Room - isn't it cute?

Hyatt Tasting Room – isn’t it cute?

The wines at Hyatt were ok – not bad, but nothing spectacular. They are decently priced, most between $10 and $15 per bottle, with a few in the $20 range. Perfectly acceptable for a weeknight wine. But I would only go back if I knew that server was no longer there. It’s too bad, because I have so few unpleasant experiences while wine tasting, but this one will go down in the memory books.

So after Hyatt, we figured there would be no other wineries that were open, and we were burned out by our failed attempts.  So, don’t do what we did – there is no wine in January in Yakima…

MI Road Trip: Douglas Valley Winery

Every vacation begins with a catalyst.  That “thing” that makes you decide that you are going to go there…  It could be a theme park, a museum, a fabulous hike, a concert, a beach – you get the idea.  Or a winery.  Let me explain…  Back in the spring, I won a prize – redeemable in Manistee, Michigan.  The value wasn’t much, but it got me thinking that maybe we could go visit the area.  We were heading out to visit family in Michigan anyway, so a little detour might be perfect!  A road trip was born…

In my last post, we checked out downtown Manistee – after our coffee we headed out to visit Douglas Valley Winery, just outside town. Douglas Valley’s tasting room is located in a historic building – an old bunk house along the railroad line at the turn of the century. The property is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards.

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

A rusty farm wagon at Douglas Valley Winery

UPDATE: My Dad, who grew up on a farm, let me know that the photo above is not a wagon.  Rather, it is a manure spreader…  So don’t go on a hayride in it, mmm-kay?

When we arrived, there was one couple wrapping up a tasting, and then we were all alone with our server. Tastings are normally $5 per person for 7 tastes (including a souvenir glass), but we had a certificate for a free tasting thanks to a prize from the Michigan by the Bottle blog. You can also opt for 2 complementary tastes, but $5 is very reasonable.

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

The Douglas Valley Winery Tasting Room – inside a historic bunk house

We picked out what we wanted. Here’s what I sampled (Jon and I tried to pick different wines and then shared, so there are more than 7):

  • Bunk House White – A semi-sweet blend of un-oaked Chardonnay, Vignole, Riesling and Pinot Gris, with flavors of apricot and peach.
  • 2013 Lakeview White – A semi sweet blend of Chardonnay and Riesling.
  • Bunk House Blue – A tart blueberry wine with spice on the back of the palate.  One of my favorites.
  • Bunk House Cherry – A sweet blend of tart and sweet cherries.  Also very good.
  • Northeastern Sweet Red – A light, semi-sweet red wine; a blend of Foch and Chambourcin grapes. It had some Pinot Noir characteristics.
  • Bunk House Red – A blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Merlot with flavors of raspberry and blackberry.
  • Stone House Sparkling Cider – A low alcohol (7%) sparkling cider made with several apple varieties from the Douglas Valley orchards.  Excellent.
  • Stone House Semi Sweet Cider – A blend of Jonathan, Macintosh, and Northern Spy apples. Fruity with flavors of apple (duh…) and honey.
  • Caramel Apple Cider – One of two specialty ciders that they had on tap and available for sale in growlers, this had a nose of heavy caramel, but the caramel flavor was very light on the palate, with pleasant, light bubbles.

Our server was very friendly and offered information about the wine, and the history of the property.  Currently Douglas Valley grows the fruit and grapes, and the winemaker from another Michigan winery, Black Star Farms, makes the wine.  I think there is a plan to begin making their own wine at some point in the future, but this method seems to work well, as there were several good wines.

I purchased my favorites… The Northeastern Sweet Red, the Sparkling Apple Cider, the Bunk House Blueberry and the Bunk House Cherry. Thinking back, I should go find one of these bottles to open tonight…

Douglas Valley also had a large selection of local food products, and since it was close to lunchtime, we decided to get a picnic lunch to go. We picked out some Great Lakes tortilla chips, beef jerky, cajun beef jerky, Michigan made jalapeno pickled asparagus, asparagus salsa, and a big bag of fresh Winesap apples.

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

Apples at Douglas Valley – Waiting to be Picked

We said our goodbyes and headed out on our way to our next destination – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  En route, we found a roadside viewpoint with a picnic table and enjoyed our picnic lunch.  The weather was still cold, but had warmed up enough to allow us to sit outside for 20 minutes and enjoy our chips and salsa, beef jerky and asparagus.  What a great lunch!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

A few of our Michigan Picnic Lunch items – YUM!

But we couldn’t linger too long, because I couldn’t wait to see Sleeping Bear Dunes!

 

Fish, Wine and Several Freight Trains

I arrived home today after a two day work meeting, complete with a hotel stay near the tracks with multiple middle-of-the-night trains and little sleep.  While the overnight part of the trip was less than stellar, I had a fabulous dinner at a seafood restaurant with a reasonably priced, good Chardonnay.

I had the Blackened Red Snapper with a pico de gallo salsa topping, served with creamy fettucine.  But instead of white sauce, it was made with a creamy red sauce with just a bit of spice.  It was so yummy.

I ordered my wine before I decided what I wanted for dinner, so I paid no attention to pairing, but I ended up with a Sycamore Lane Chardonnay.  I couldn’t find much online about this wine, but it hails from the Napa region of California, and is either unoaked or aged in neutral oak.  It has a light crisp taste with tropical and citrus flavors.  It cut through the mild spice of my red snapper dish nicely.

If only my night of sleep had been as good as my meal… But yay for the weekend!