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Glacial Lake Missoula: 2011 Gamay Noir

Tonight Jon cracked open the Glacial Lake Missoula 2011 Gamay Noir.  It is the first vintage of this Gamay Noir, which is sourced from Rebecca’s Vineyard in Southern Oregon.

Glacial Lake Missoula is located in Blaine, Washington, near home.  This local winery produces small batch wines, sourcing from some of the best vineyards in Washington and Oregon.  The 2011 Gamay Noir is sourced from Rebecca’s Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley, in southern Oregon.  The higher temperatures make for a more robust wine than the grapes from the Willamette Valley further north.

The wine has a ripe blackberry nose, and is fruit forward with flavors of blackberry and cherry.  It has very low tannins and a mellow acidity.  It was made by bleeding off 25% of the juice, and aging the rest for eight months in new French Oak Hogsheads.

This is a drink now wine, so enjoy!

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Come Put Your Blindfold on For This Wine Tasting!

Over the weekend, Jon and I hosted our first blind wine tasting party.  I blogged about the rules in a previous post, here, if you want to know how I intended it to work.  A few weeks ago I put out the invites and everybody selected a different varietal.  Somewhat oddly, we ended up with a near perfect balance of 6 whites and 7 reds.

My Dad was generous enough to do the honors of keeping things truly blind.  Guests bagged their wines before they came in the door, and then my Dad uncorked the wines, mixed them up and labeled them with letters.  So nobody knew which wine was in which bag.  And even if you thought you knew the shape and color of the bottle you brought, you quickly forgot once the festivities got underway!

While Dad was busy uncorking, I had everybody introduce themselves, and explained the rules, and handed out score sheets and tasting notes.  Yes, that’s right.  I’m a nerd!  I trolled the internet and my wine books for notes describing the characteristics of each varietal.  I tried to make them as helpful as I could.  The rules of the game were simple; each guest had to taste each wine and guess the varietal.  They could get a bonus point for guessing the right region.  There was no penalty for incorrect guessing.  As soon as Dad had the wines were ready to go, the party began!  (And yes, in case you were wondering – I party with my parents.  I’m sure that makes me old.  But hey, they are fun!)

The Hidden Labeled Bottles

Once everybody got down to tasting, it was hysterical!  There were as many different types of tasters as people at the party.  One friend pored analytically over the tasting notes while tasting and tried to find the identifiable scents and tastes.  He was so serious!  But interestingly, he finished before any of the rest of us.  Some tasters wrote down their first guess and did not waver.  Others scratched out their guesses several times.  The ladies were laughing uncontrollably as we tried to figure out the wines.  One of the ladies (I can’t remember who now) was wandering around saying (multiple times), “I’m looking for melting butter.”

We all were confused when we got to Wine “F”, which was a white wine.  It poured red!  My mom dumped it out the first time because she wanted to taste all the whites first.  I kept my mouth shut and pondered to myself, because I thought my Dad had made a mistake and put a red in with the whites – but he is an engineer, and normally so meticulous!  So I tasted it and knew instantly that it was a Muscat – a Black Muscat!

As for me, I did really well on the whites – I guessed all 6 correctly!  The reds were a different story.  They were tough!  I couldn’t even guess the Cabernet Sauvignon correctly – none of the wines seemed very oaky, and they were all smooth and delicious.  The further along we got, the tougher it was – thank goodness we had the region bonus points!

Blind Wine Tasting Score Sheet

When everybody finished up with their tastings – we did the big reveal.  I had everybody guess which varietal they thought it was before I opened the bag.  We almost peed our pants laughing when I asked for a guess on a white wine and one of Jon’s friends called out “Merlot!”  Much hooting and hollering occurred when we got a wine right!  It was like being in South America when the home team scored a soccer goal!  The winner for the most correct guesses received a bottle of wine, and we gave a magazine on wine for the guest who got the least correct.  That was a 3 way tie for the worst score – 1 point (out of 26 possible)!  So I had them duke it out via a rousing game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ for the prize.

All in all, the party was certainly fun, and definitely something that I would host again.  I think everybody had fun – at least I hope everybody did!

Anacortes Spring Wine Festival

April 14, 2012 was the 4th Annual Anacortes Spring Wine Festival.  I heard about it for the first time last year and wanted to go, but ended up not being able to.  This year, Jon ended up having to work late, so I was almost thwarted again.  But our friends Kiera and Joe wanted to go!  So I left Jon at home and we embarked on my adventure…

Joe was nice enough to drive us, so we all piled in the car and headed down to the Port of Anacortes.  I had been down to the Port’s offices before, so I knew that the Wine Festival takes place at the Port’s main office, which is an old warehouse right on the dock, with offices around the side of a main, open warehouse.  They had the big bay door rolled up because it was sunny and beautiful, which let a bit more light and fresh air into the warehouse.

They did a very good job at this festival.  The servers were friendly and outgoing, and the winery stations were well equipped with easily accessible dump buckets, and water  pitchers to rinse your glass so you could move easily from reds back to whites.  There was also an ample supply of breadsticks to cleanse your palate between tastes.  After so many wines, these are vital as you get that dry, tart, tannic taste in your mouth, and you wonder if the next wine really tastes exactly like the last wine, or if that is just the residual taste in your mouth.

I do have two suggestions for the festival organizers, if they ever happen upon this blog and want to make it an even better experience than it already was.  1.  Please have some wet wipes (either bleach wipes or baby wipes would do just fine) for those of us who want to wipe off the stem and outside of our wine glass.  The servers try hard, but inevitably when tasting for a long time, you get drips down the side of your glass, and your hands get sticky.  YUCK.  A mid-day wipe for the glass would be awesome – Thanks!  2.  You could make better use of the center space.  Put some of the winery tables back to back there in the middle.  There was way too much underutilized space in the middle and the wineries were all crowded around the edges.  That made it a bit tough to get to them, and you don’t feel like you can spend much time chit-chatting because others are trying to elbow their way in.  That would be great!

The festival also had several restaurants who were serving amazing small bites.  We had the opportunity to sample all sorts of goodies, from meatballs, tarts, salmon wraps and salads.  The food was all excellent – there wasn’t anything I didn’t like.

So, without further ado, I’ll give you the rundown on the wineries that I visited at the festival.  Of course, I didn’t have time for all of them, but I listed all of them in case you want to see who was there.  I’ve indicated where I tasted and where I didn’t.

Bunnell Family Cellars – I had read about them when we were heading to Yakima last year, and was curious about them, but we ran out of time and didn’t make it there.  I was excited that they had a presence at the festival.  Since they were the first winery alphabetically, they had a spot right by the door, so we headed over there right away.  I first sampled their Malbec, which was delicious.  It tasted a bit young, with a tannic tartness that will smooth out over time.  I also tried their Syrah, which was extremely dark and smoky, with heavy oak and tannins.  I could imagine Jon really liking the Syrah, but it wasn’t the wine for me.

Challenger Ridge – Challenger Ridge is located in Concrete, Washington, off the beaten path.  Their location is the reason I haven’t been there, because we just haven’t been all that excited about driving all that way for one winery.  So, I was excited about trying it – I tasted the Kiss Me Kate Rosé, and the Savant, which is a Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tempranillo, Grenache blend.  They explained that the Kiss Me Kate was a Rosé that didn’t have a lot of sweetness, but I actually thought it was one of the sweeter Rosés that I’ve had.  Not that the sweetness was a bad thing, actually it was quite a good semi-sweet summer Rosé.  The Savant was good too, a nice Pinot blend.

Chandler Reach Vineyard – Chandler Reach is a Yakima Valley winery in Benton City, Washington, and they had available for tasting a Viognier, a Sangiovese blend, and a Cab/Merlot blend.  I tried the 2008 Corella, which is 75% Sangiovese, 20% Cab Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot.  It was smooth and delicious and ready to drink now.  Joe sampled the Cab/Merlot blend and thought it was great – and at a $12 price point, it is hard to go wrong with it!

Chateau Faire Le Pont Winery – These wines did not do it for me.  At all.  I tried their Syrah and their Tre Amore and didn’t like either.

Coyote Canyon Winery – I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see that they had the Albariño!  Jon and I sampled this wine while it was in barrel during Red Wine and Chocolate weekend in Yakima in February 2011, and I have been hoping since then to get some of this wine!  It is everything I like in the varietal, crisp and citrusy with a light minerality.  Excellent!  I bought two bottles.  Can’t wait to break one of these babies open on a hot summer day!

Dusty Cellars – Dusty Cellars is located in Camano Island and is run by a husband/wife team, Ryan and Dusty Kramer.  The tasting room is only open one weekend a month, and Camano Island isn’t exactly right in the heat of the Seattle scene, so it was nice that they were at the festival.  I tried their Syrah, which was a nice balance of a fruit forward taste with lots of spice.  I also sampled their Queen (yes, that’s actually the name), which is a 90% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot and 5% Syrah.  I enjoyed both of these wines quite a bit.

Gecko Cellars – Gecko is the 2nd label of Michael Florentino, offering wines at more reasonable prices. They had a Malbec that was very good, a nice balance between fruit and tannins.  The Sangiovese was also a solid, but not outstanding wine.

Glacial Lake Missoula Wine Company – I was sad that their Gamay Noir Rosé was not available yet, as Tom thought it would be. However, I am always glad that Tom does not put a wine on the market before it is ready. Can’t wait until it’s here! But in the meanwhile, the Mars (a white Marsanne aged with the skins of Cabernet Sauvignon to impart a blood red color and a robust structure) is always a winner.  If you haven’t tried it, I recommend you do.  Or don’t… and that leaves more for me!

Jacob Williams Winery – These guys were recommended by the owner/winemaker at Waving Tree in Goldendale, WA when we were there in February, and Jacob Williams is right down the road from Waving Tree in the Columbia River Gorge, in Wishram, Washington.  But at the time, well, we just didn’t have time.  But now that I have tasted their wines, I realize that driving by was a mistake!  The Sadie’s Red is a blend of 6 Gorge area varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.  It was a great everyday drinking wine.  The Zinfandel was bold yet smooth, with good spice.  At this point, they don’t have a large distribution outside of the Gorge and Portland, Oregon, but I’ll be watching out for these wines.

Lantz Cellars – At this point, Lantz Cellars is still pretty small, but Kevin Lantz seems destined for great success with his wines.  I tried the Syrah, and it was great – on the fruiter side, which I like!

Michael Florentino Cellars – They had four wines to sample, including one white, a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion blend.  It was very nice, crisp and light with excellent structure.  I also loved their Miscolato, a Grenache blend.

Saint Laurent Estate Winery – Saint Laurent is not a winery I had heard of before the festival, and I found out they are located in the Wenatchee Valley just outside of Chelan.  It is a family owned winery that started out growing cherries, apples and other fruit, and then diversified into wine grapes.  I tried their Chardonnay, which was a lovely, lightly oaked style.

San Juan Vineyards – San Juan Vineyards is in Friday Harbor, Washington, and they grow their own grapes for about 30% of their total production.  Grapes that are estate grown, and grow well in the cool climate of Northwest Washington are Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe.  I tried Madeleine Angevine and was quite pleased with the crisp taste of citrus and stone fruits.  A must have for any hot summer day.

Whidbey Island Winery – We have visited Whidbey Island Winery before while down visiting Jon’s parents, but haven’t been there in a while.  Their Pinot Grigio was a light semi-sweet wine with pineapple and apples and a hint of oak.  Well done.

Willow Tree Vineyard – Willow Tree is brand new in the wine world, opening their tasting room in Everson, Washington only a year ago.  But their new Malbec is very good, with excellent structure and a nice plum flavor.

Live Music and Wine Stations

So, any wine festival is going to have more wines than you can try, and Anacortes was no exception.  Here’s the list of other participating wineries, that we didn’t have a chance to make it to.  This is no way indicates that I didn’t think they were worth trying!  Sometimes, I’ve tried their wines on other tasting tours, sometimes I didn’t know enough to have developed a curiosity, and at some point, you know how it goes – we just got plain, WINED-Out!

So, in alphabetical order, the other participating wineries are: Carpenter Creek Winery, Chinook Wines, Dubindil Winery, Eaglemount Wine and Cider, Finn River Cidery, Foxy Roxy, Kana, Maryhill Winery, Masquerade Wine Company, Milbrandt, Okanogan Estate and Vineyard, Pasek Cellars, and Vartanyan Estate Winery.

And worthy of special mention:

Lost River Winery – I’m not sure what the deal was here, but there was one lonely bottle chilling at their station and never a server to be seen. I would have tried their wines, if only there had been any.  Perhaps this means they were unprepared for the interest in their wines, and sold their entire stock early on.  I can only speculate.

Terra Blanca Winery – After I came home, Jon asked if I had tried their wines.  I told him that I hadn’t had time.  Then he told me I really should have because he had tried one of their wines before at his uncle’s house and thought it was excellent – thanks babe, you might want to mention that BEFORE I go!

President’s Day Weekend – Part 4 – Wine Burnout and Antiques!

Sunday we started our day at the Lafayette Schoolhouse, which used to be a school, but is now an antique mall.  It was originally built in 1912, so the three story building itself has tons of character.  Jon shopped around inside for a little while, but then went back outside to listen to music in the car.  Which left me to wander around and look at everything, without someone hovering impatiently.  I found a few Howard Pierce figurines, including one little baby quail, that is almost identical to a set of two quail I already have.  Pretty exciting to find a baby that matches and completes the set!  I know my mom was jealous, because every time I tell her that I’m going to the Lafayette Schoolhouse, she tells me how she has never been there.  Someday mom, you’ll just have to come wine tasting with us.  I’ll take you to the schoolhouse!

After I got my antique fix (thanks Jon!), we decided to try out Domaine Drouhin.  We’ve been talking about their wines for ages, and had never been (we tried to go once at Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve – can’t remember which – but they were closed that day).  So it was finally time.  They are located at the top of the hill, with a beautiful view of their vineyards down the hill.  When we arrived, we were immediately wowed by the beautiful architectural details in the tasting room – vaulted ceilings, huge windows looking out on the vineyard, and exposed wood beams.  There were a couple other couples there at that point, and we settled in for our tasting.  They had 3 wines – a Chardonnay and 2 Pinot Noirs.  The Chardonnay was very nice, with a light oak and excellent body.  Their 2009 Pinot seemed very soft to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked it a lot, but it seemed to be a “drink now” wine, rather than one that would last for future drinking.  The 2008 Pinot Noir was more robust and was very enjoyable, but the price was steep at $65.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Now, Domaine Drouhin in France was founded by Joseph Drouhin, and his grandson first visited Oregon in the 1960s during a trip to market the French Drouhin wines.  During this trip, he became convinced that Oregon could grow amazing Pinot Noir.  The winery in Oregon opened in the late 1980s, with Joseph Drouhin’s great-granddaughter as the winemaker.  So it was interesting when our server offered us a taste of the Domaine Drouhin French 2009 Pinot Noir.  And we were sold.  For a reasonable $25 a bottle, this wine is excellent!  By this time, the place was filled to the brim with couples on a limo tour, so we made our purchase and ske-daddled before Jon had a nervous breakdown about the crowd!

The view of the Vineyard from Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Our second stop was Argyle Winery – another winery that we have talked about a lot but never visited.  Argyle specializes in sparkling wines and also does some Pinot Noirs.  When we first got there, the place was pretty quiet, but it quickly filled up.  I decided to do the sparkling wine flight, and Jon went with the standard flight, which gives you a mix of regular and sparkling wines.  The result?  I thought that the sparkling wines were very nice, although I definitely preferred the sparkling wines that used Pinot Noir as the base wine, rather than Chardonnay.  And I thought the $25 bottle – the Argyle Brut – was just as good as their $50 bottles.  To top off my tasting they let me try the Black Brut, a 100% Pinot Noir sparkling wine.  I had received an email about it, and was very excited about trying it.  But to be honest, I really wanted to like it more than I did.  It just lacked something – a sweetness I suppose.  Jon wasn’t blown away by any of his wines either, although we did both like the Minus Five Riesling Dessert wine quite a bit.  They did have a beautiful setting though, in a historic farmhouse with a nicely landscaped garden.

Argyle Winery’s Side Entrance and Garden

By this time we were starving for some lunch, so we went across the road to the Red Hills Market.  It is deli style, with tables to eat in and kind of a general store atmosphere where you can buy deli goods and gift items.  Even real Vermont maple syrup!  I had the American coppa pizza, which was only $12 and was big enough to share, and Jon had a mushroom fennel soup.  This. food. is. amazing!  I would be such a market junkie if I lived there!  But we had to get back on the road to continue our tasting tour.

The out-of-this-world Pizza at the Red Hills Market!

Wall-O-Gifts at the Red Hills Market

The next stop was Chehalem.  Always a home run.  Chehalem does all their wines well, and it is always such a treat to visit. I have given the longer review in other posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but one interesting development is that Harry, the winemaker, decided to restyle the Cerise, which has been a blend of 80% Gamay Noir and 20% Pinot Noir.  For the 2010 year forward, it will be a single varietal Gamay Noir.  The new vintage is delicious, but unfortunately, since it uses more Gamay, which they don’t have that much of to begin with, there will be fewer cases available for those cult followers like me.  I’ll have to make sure I stock up….

Then we headed up the hill to August Cellars – a co-op style winery that shares winery space and equipment with other small wineries.  They were tasting their own wines the day we visited, and we were impressed with the lineup.  I liked the Baco Noir, which is a hybrid grape that is planted in small quantities in southern Oregon.  Sadly, the winemaker explained that he doesn’t think he’ll be getting Baco grapes again, so the bottle we bought might be the only one I get.  Oh well, that’s always the challenge, to find the next great wine!

August Cellars

Artisanal Wine Cellars was the last stop on our mega-tour.  We discovered Artisanal Wine Cellars when we visited August Cellars on a previous trip, because Artisanal is one of the wineries in the co-op.  Last year, Artisanal opened their own tasting room in downtown Newberg, and it is open until 7 pm!  As I have written before on this blog, the owner and winemaker is a science guy, and it shows through in his wines.  New wines included a Pinot Blanc (very tasty), and a Tempranillo that Jon really enjoyed.  I love their Gamay Noir Rose, called Evangeline, named for the owner’s daughter, whose middle name is Evangeline.  Artisanal’s first crush was in 2005, so they are a fairly new winery on the scene.  This is a winery that we will continue to visit for a long time to come!  The tasting room is located in a historic building in downtown Newberg, and the staff are friendly and chatty.  I also spent a bit of time talking to another customer who has visited the Okanogan Valley in BC, so he gave us some recommendations on wineries to visit up in that neck of the woods.  Too many trips, too little time!

At this point, we had reached major wine burnout, so we had dinner and went back to our room to enjoy some quiet time.  Jon fell asleep early again, and I stayed up watching TV.  Unfortunately, there was a trucker catching some ZZZs at the hotel, and his refrigerator semi was outside my window.  Those suckers are loud!  When he finally left sometime about 3 am, I was finally able to get some rest.

The last day of our trip we got up and moving slowly, sleeping in until almost 9.  It was nice.  We stopped in briefly at the Factory Outlet Mall, and did a little shopping before we had to head on our way.

A stop to visit Jon’s friend from high school took us to the Hedge House, a restaurant owned by the Lompoc Brewing Company.  It’s in an old house that has been converted to a restaurant, and they really want to make it a gathering spot for the locals – they have open mic poetry and other special events in the evenings.  It seems like a neat place to have in your neighborhood.  I hadn’t heard of Lompoc beer, but I was pleased with the Condor Ale that I had.  And their PABST sandwich really hit the spot.  And no, that’s not a beer sandwich – PABST stands for Provolone, Avocado, Bacon, Salad Greens and Tomato.  YUM – a million times better than Pabst beer!

Hedge House Restaurant in Portland

After a too short visit, it was time to get on the road, and brave the traffic towards home.  Can’t wait until next time!