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Walla Walla 2017: Wine on the Way…

Day 4 – Monday, May 29, 2017

The last day of our trip we headed out of town, stopping at Sleight of Hand Cellars along the way.  I had known about Sleight of Hand, but never been, and Lelani had found them and decided that should be where we went.  Of course, she didn’t have to twist any of our arms…

Sleight of Hand has a Magician theme.  Their wines are delicious and have magician themed names!  The tasting room has is brightly decorated in a modern theme, and they have a ton of music posters (many are autographed) and magician posters on the walls.  They also have records – over 2,000 of them – they always have something playing on the record player!

I brought home their Magician’s Assistant Cabernet Franc Rosé and their Conjurer Red Blend.  That isn’t to say I didn’t love all their other wines, because I did, but they are a bit above my price point, starting at $45 for their varietal reds.  I did get a tank top though – which I love!  Lelani found a Prince Purple Rain themed tank top there too!

Me at Sleight of Hand – I’m not sunburned – it’s just the red umbrella above me

 

Lelani took this photo, not realizing I was photo bombing her!

 

After Sleight of Hand, it was time to get on the road and start working our way home.  We stopped in Yakima for Miner’s Burgers – Home of the Big Miner Burger – these burgers are huge!  Trust me, if you go, split the fries.  One order of fries is probably enough for four people if you plan on having a burger to yourself!  Especially if you have a milkshake, and trust me on this too, you should have a milkshake!  Miner’s has been a Yakima institution since 1948.  We left stuffed, and happy.

Waiting for our burgers!

Our next stops were the Fruit and Antique stand in Selah, just outside of Yakima, and the Thorp Fruit and Antique stand.  I love going there!  We all spend some time poking around and checking out the fruit, gourmet foodie items and antiques.

Brandon, me and Lelani waiting for Joel

Soon enough, it was time to hit the pass and get back over the mountains toward home.  The traffic was just as bad on the way back and this time I was awake for it!  It was, however, the end of a really great friends weekend…

 

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Art Brut 2011 Blanc de Blancs

As it is just a few days before Christmas, I wanted to treat myself, so I got a lobster tail and cooked it up alongside a medley of baked vegetables.  And what goes better with seafood than sparkling wine!

The ART BRUT 2011 Blanc de Blancs is a sparkling wine made in the methode Champenoise style by winemaker Chris Berg at Roots Wine Company.  It is named after the art genre Art Brut, also known as Outsider Art, Raw Art or Visionary Art.  It is a Blanc de Blancs, made from 100-percent Chardonnay sourced from the Sienna Ridge Estate in Red Hills.

Art Brut 2011 Blanc de Blancs – Roots Wine Company

Upon first opening the wine, there was a heavy taste of yeast and I worried that I had waited too long, but it settled down after about a half hour.  It is delicious – with just a bit of tartness balanced with the creamy Chardonnay light butter flavors.  The bubbles had mellowed after years in the bottle, but it still had enough to give that sparkling wine effervescence.  It paired very well with the lobster too!

I don’t remember the price I paid, but I think this wine was about $30.  I purchased it at the Bubbles Fest sparkling wine festival hosted by Anne Amie Winery in the Willamette Valley a few years back. It’s an awesome wine event, if you have the chance to go!

If you are a fan of charitable giving with your wine drinking, you will be pleased to know that a portion of the profits from all sales of ART BRUT wines were donated to the American Art Therapy Association.  Plus, it has horses on the bottle, and that is always a positive (even if they are heavily stylized)!

This wine is sold out, and I’m not sure that the winery is making sparkling wine anymore; all the sparkling wines on their website are from 2010 and 2011 and seem to be sold out.  Perhaps it is a wine I’ll never have again, and that’s too bad!

Happy Holidays – I hope you are all well…

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…