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Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

Tonight I’m drinking Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône.  Jon picked it up somewhere and brought it home, and I got the last glass to go with my dinner.  It is a French Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre blend made with grapes sourced both from the company’s own vineyards as well as purchased grapes.  Grenache is the primary grape in the blend, making up about 50% of the wine.

Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

Famille Perrin 2011 Réserve Côtes du Rhône

The wine has flavors of tart pie cherry, light tannins and smoke.  It is a fruit-forward, pleasant wine that tastes young, but is a great everyday weeknight wine.  The only thing I didn’t love was a weird flavor of pencil eraser on the finish – it was very brief though!  And no, I can’t explain how I know the taste is pencil eraser…

Overall, this wine is a good wine, and it was well worth the $7.99 price tag.

California Marathon Road Trip: Old Clarksburg Sugar Mill

In my last post, I told you about our visit to Locke, California, on The California Delta.  After our visit, we got back on Highway 160 and were enjoying the scenery when we  saw a huge, old brick building.  We knew it must have been a factory of some sort, but didn’t know what kind.  Then we saw a sign announcing that we were coming up to the town of Clarksburg, and there was wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill!  Well, duh, of course we had to stop – it was wine tasting in a historic sugar mill!

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Old Sugar Mill was a beet sugar mill that was originally owned by the Amalgamated Sugar Company.  This particular mill was built in Logan, Utah in 1897, and closed in 1933, due to blight and drought in Utah.  At that point, the company dismantled the mill and moved it to Clarksburg, where it was reconstructed and opened again in July, 1935.  The mill changed hands a couple of times, but had a long run processing beet sugar from surrounding farms, before finally closing for good in 1993.

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

In 2000, a plan was made to convert the mill into winery crush and retail space, and the first winery opened there in 2004.  The Old Sugar Mill has 10 wineries operating there now, and the mill is huge, with a lot of yet to be converted space.  Since we had never visited before, I did what any self-respecting wino wine connoisseur would do; I found a lady in the restroom who was carrying wine, and I asked her which were her favorites.  She said Todd Taylor and Rendezvous.

Todd Taylor was closer to the restroom, so we headed there, and ran into Todd himself.  He led us through his lineup of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  I liked them all and was pleased by how much I enjoyed his Carneros Pinot Noir.  If you remember my posts on my March trip to the Anderson Valley, you know I wasn’t blown away by the Anderson Valley Pinots we tried.  Todd Taylor’s Pinots were wines I really enjoyed!  And his Zinfandel was excellent as well.

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

We asked Todd for his recommendation on another winery that did Zinfandels, since Jon wanted to make sure we tried some good Zins on this trip.  Todd recommended Three Wine Company, just down the hall, so we headed there next.

Three had a larger lineup, with a complimentary tasting of 5 wines.  It is the latest project of Matt Cline, who worked for many years as the winemaker at Cline Cellars.  The first wine was released in  2008.  For my tasting, I tried their Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Old Vine Zinfandel, their Field Blend, and the Petite Sirah.  My favorites were the Riesling, a nice semi-sweet Riesling, and the Old Vine Zinfandel (actually a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro (also known as Mourvèdre), and Alicante Bouschet).  I wasn’t a fan of the Field Blend, but I liked the Petite Sirah.  It was a big tannic wine, but I think it would soften over time.

Christmas at Three Wine Company

Christmas at Three Wine Company

We wrapped up our purchases at Three and headed out just as the Old Sugar Mill was closing for the day.  We drove back to Roseville to meet up with Jon’s friend Pablo and his girlfriend Jessica for dinner at Sushi Nami.  They were having their “appetite stimulus package” sale, which meant that any of their sushi rolls was on sale for half price.  HALF PRICE!  It was advertised as a limited time only, but Pablo said that this special has been going on for a couple of years now.  I would totally visit all the time if I lived nearby!

We had a good time catching up, but unfortunately Pablo and Jessica couldn’t stay very long, and we were on our own again.  We headed back to the hotel for an early night, as Jon’s race would be here before we knew it!

Harbinger Winery – Home on the Peninsula

After we sat like bumps on a log on Rialto Beach (we were literally sitting on a driftwood log!), we knew we had to begin the long drive back to our hotel in Sequim.

We got back on the road, and drove into the rain that had so kindly not come during our hike in the Hoh Rain Forest and our walk on Rialto Beach.  We were grateful for that, even as we were driving through the rain and approaching darkness.  I was also feeling the effects of our super-early wake up call, so some caffeine was in order – we grabbed a couple of caffeinated drinks at a small country store along the highway.

Soon enough, outside of Port Angeles, I saw a sign announcing a winery (I swear I can spot those suckers from miles away).  We had seen another sign when we were going in the other direction; of course we thought they would be long closed before we headed back that way.  But, as it turns out, it was only 4:30, a bit earlier than we had anticipated.  And Harbinger stays open until 6!

The outside of the winery is a big old warehouse (it used to be a logging truck shop), with these gigantic wooden doors concealing what is going on within.  When you open the doors, you have to turn around and pull them back closed, because this isn’t a door that will swing shut on its own.  Inside, you are greeted with a large tasting room decorated with wine barrels around the edges, a wooden tasting bar with bar stools on the left, and a living room set of a couch and chairs on the right.  In between are several tables and chairs who want a more restaurant feel.

The exterior at Harbinger Winery with those big wooden doors

The exterior at Harbinger Winery with those big wooden doors

The joint was jumping!  There were 4 men dressed in camo and overalls seated at one table, sipping red wine (one guy was having a beer) – they looked like the least likely wine lovers I have ever seen.  The couch and chairs were filled with two couples.  A man at another table was chatting up the server and obviously knew her well.  And another guy was going through their beer lineup at the end of the tasting bar.  While we were there, several people came and went.  Even though this was one of the busier tasting rooms we have visited, the two servers were on top of their game, serving promptly and remembering where each customer was in the lineup.  And they were friendly and chatty, making everybody feel welcome.

The Interior at Harbinger - it had cleared out a bit by this time.

The Interior at Harbinger – it had cleared out a bit by this time.

You could choose to taste through their flight, purchase by the glass or bottle, or have a beer flight of northwest beers.  Even though they didn’t brew the beers themselves, they had a good variety of northwest beers that I hadn’t tried before; if I were local I would certainly do the beer flight sometimes.

The restroom at Harbinger is decorated with all of their labels from years gone by.

The restroom at Harbinger is decorated with all of their labels from years gone by.

We tasted through their flight, starting with the whites – a Viognier and a Rosé of Lemberger – neither wine was really my taste.  To be honest, I was a little worried at that point that I wasn’t going to be a fan of any of their wines.  But then we moved on to the reds, and wow – I was impressed!  Their Barbera was excellent, a great balance of light tannins and acidity.  El Jefe, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre had bold tannins and earthy flavors mixed with bright berries.  The Rapture was a great Cabernet Franc with big tannins and pepper notes.

Our tasting finished off with the Blackberry Bliss, a blackberry wine aged in oak barrels.  I really enjoyed it, but I was really surprised when Jon wanted a bottle as he normally doesn’t like sweeter wines.

Their grapes are sourced from several vineyards near Yakima, including Crawford Vineyard, Sagemoor, Elephant Mountain, Two Coyote and Piper; several are in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA, which consistently receives high reviews.  The blackberries and raspberries for their Bliss line of fruit wines are sourced locally, from Graymarsh Farm in Sequim.

We purchased the Barbera and the Blackberry Bliss – the Barbera is already long gone, but I can’t wait to open the Blackberry Bliss!  Our visit to Harbinger was a lot of fun – they definitely have a fun vibe and friendly staff.  If you have a chance, go pull open those big wooden doors!  Just remember to close them behind you!

The Post Race Wine Festival!

After I finished the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, it was time for the wine!  Never mind that it was only 10 am.  I had already been up for 5 hours at that point, and that totally counts right?  I had seen the sunrise, and sunrises are almost like sunsets, and a spectacular sunset calls for some wine!  Not to mention that almost 3 of those hours were doing high intensity exercise!  I was more than ready.

But where was my cheering section?  Where were my partners in wine?  Allysa and Bob were going to meet me at the end of the race and watch me cross the finish line, but I didn’t see them, and I couldn’t figure out where they were.  Carlton is not that big, so the possibility that they had lost me in the crowd seemed unlikely.  I texted Allysa that I was done!  I got a message back that the GPS had taken them on the scenic route, and they were almost there.  Oops…

So, while I was waiting, I got prepared.  I wandered around looking for water, and stumbled into a vendor booth where they were giving away cans of an all-natural juice/electrolyte/anti-oxidant/miracle drug concoction.  Score – sounds great!  I chose one in Nectarine and something else (Pomegranate?) and cracked it open.  Despite the fact that I had not yet imbibed anything alcoholic, I cannot for the life of me remember what the juice was, but it was tasty.

Now normally I might not wait for my friends – I would have just dug into the wine, but I had to pick up both my glass and the guest glass together, and my guest had to be present.  So, finally, Allysa showed up, and we were ready to taste!  And then Shelley showed up!  We picked up our souvenir etched Riedel wine glasses and headed over to the tasting area.  If you have ever been to Carlton, the festival was right outside in the parking lot of Ken Wright Cellars and the Carlton Winemakers Studio.  There were 29 wineries (Wow!) represented, most with tasting rooms in the immediate Carlton vicinity.

The Band at the Wine Festival

The Band at the Wine Festival

Here’s the list:

Anne Amie Vineyards

ArborBrook Vineyards

Argyle Winery

Carlton Cellars

Cathedral Ridge Winery

Cottonwood Winery of Oregon

Denison Cellars

Duck Pond Cellars

Elks Cove Vineyards

Ghost Hill Cellars

Ken Wright Cellars

Kramer Vineyards

K&M Winery

Left Coast Cellars

Lemelson Vineyards

Lenne Estate

Luminous Hills Winery

Monks Gate Vineyard Estate

Omero Cellars

ROCO Winery

Scott Paul Wines

Seven of Hearts

Solena Estate

Stag Hollow

Stoller Family Estate

Stone Griffon Vineyard

Torii Mor

Walnut City WineWorks

Wildaire Cellars

Each winery was tasting between 1 and 3 of their wines, with 2 being the norm.  I didn’t write down any of my impressions, and I must admit I found it somewhat difficult to pay particular attention to the wines (call it fatigue or adrenaline or whatever), so I won’t be giving you any tasting notes here.  Post half marathon wine tasting is an interesting experience, as I learned…  I will say that there wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch.  I tried to focus on wineries that I hadn’t visited before, but unfortunately there wasn’t time (or stamina) to try them all.  I did sample Arborbrook, Cottonwood, Duck Pond, Elks Cove, Ken Wright, K&M, Lemelson, Lenne, Luminous Hills, ROCO, Seven of Hearts and Solena.  I feel like I didn’t even scratch the surface!

Allysa, Shelley and I had a great time, and I made sure to have some big glasses of water in between tastes to rehydrate – I just filled my wine glass with water to make sure I would drink the whole thing before I started tasting again!  Ken Wright was one of my favorites, of course, and I loved the Pinot Gris from Solena Estate.  Lenne had two vintages of their Pinot Noir to sample, you could taste the robust, earthy 2010 next to the more fruit forward, elegant 2009.  Seven of Hearts was sampling a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend that offered something different than the Pinot Noir so many Willamette Valley wineries specialize in.  I think the server was a little surprised that I knew the blend in GSM though – I’m sure the half-marathon types aren’t necessarily wine connoisseurs too.

In the grassy patio area of Carlton Cellars, a band played for the crowd, and you could sit and rest your tired feet if you needed to.  We stayed until noon, when the festival was wrapping up, and then we wandered over to a small bakery/sandwich shop on the main street of Carlton to get some much needed food.  I ordered a Reuben sandwich that was delicious!  I had an orange juice too, to get some vitamins and anti-oxidants.  Shelley had a BLT without Dijon mustard, but unfortunately the dry baguette bread didn’t lend itself to a lack of condiments.  Allysa and Bob enjoyed their sandwiches too, but I can’t remember what they ordered.  We sat in the sunshine and soaked up some rays, and then Allysa told me she would do the race next year!  Yay!

Allysa and Shelley - Waiting For Lunch

Allysa and Shelley – Waiting For Lunch

So, hopefully, next year, we will have a big crowd of friends all coming down to test ourselves and then try some wine.  Perhaps this is the beginning of an annual tradition!

2010 Jean-Marie Arnoux Vacqueyras

Jon’s latest goal is to try more French wines.  I have to admit, we are both a bit intimidated by French wines, because we don’t know all that much about them.  The labels are confusing, and I just wish there were a quick cheat sheet to have in my purse for when I’m at the wine shop!  Now, Spanish wines I can decipher better, thanks to all those years of high school and college Spanish, but in French, all I can say is “I am pretty”, “I am single”, and “I would like a Coca-Cola, por favor.”  And I’m not even single anymore.  And yes, my brain inserts the por favor, instead of the French equivalent.  What can I say, there were a lot of years of Spanish in there, and a study abroad in Chile!

Thanks to a couple of blogs I read, I’m learning more all the time, and Jon and I have decided that we just need to take the plunge and start trying French wines.  So, at Costco last time, Jon picked out a Vacqueyras, from Jean-Marie Arnoux, or Arnoux & Fils, depending on where on the bottle you look.  Unlike the United States, French wine is named for the region where it is produced, and each region typically only produces one type of wine.  Additionally, there is a whole hierarchy of quality that I don’t pretend to know anything about, so I’ll save that post for when I’m not so miserably uninformed.

Here’s what I do know.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre.  It has a nose of tobacco, earth and raspberry, and an opaque garnet color.  At first taste, you pick up berry and cedar with moderate tannins and a hint of smoke.  There is just a hint of acidity, which was a little surprising for me since Grenaches tend to be more acidic.  Overall, it was a very nice wine, and with Costco’s great $13.99 price tag, this will certainly be one that we buy again.

2010 Jean-Marie Arnoux Vacqueyras

2010 Jean-Marie Arnoux Vacqueyras

Sorry about the picture quality – those darn white labels!  I’ve got to run, so I can get working on my French wine cheat sheet!

Who Knew Jon Would Be Craving a Rosé…

The recent days of sunny weather put Jon in the mood for more Rosé, so we opened up a bottle of Syncline Wine Cellars 2010 Rosé.  Syncline is a small family owned winery in Lyle, Washington, on the Washington side of the Columbia River, right along the border with Oregon.  We had stopped there for a visit on our 2012 President’s Day Weekend Wine Tour.  For more information on that visit…

The Syncline Wine Cellars owner and winemaker tends toward the science of winemaking, and it is apparent when you read the tasting notes on their website.  It is made in the Saignée style, where the skins remain on the grape for a short period of time to impart some color, but the juice (the must) is drained off before it darkens to the color of a red wine.  Syncline uses a different blend for their Rosé each year, sampling some of the best grapes of the year from around the region.  This year they sourced their fruit from the Columbia River Gorge (Pinot), Horse Heaven Hills (Grenache and Mourvedre), and McKinley Springs (Grenache, Cinsault, Couniose and Carignan).  And throw in a bit of Red Mountain for good measure.

Syncline 2011 Rosé Label - a Different Blend than the 2010

The 2010 Syncline Rosé is a blend of 33% Pinot Nor, 17% Grenache, 17% Cinsault, 15% Carignan, 9% Mourvedre, and 9% Counoise.  Other than the Pinot Noir, these are all relatively rare grape varieties, and all ones that I have really enjoyed in other wines.  This blend  has a melon nose, with bit of grapefruit.  It is a dry wine which has a brief taste of strawberry, but a lingering taste of honeydew and grapefruit.  It has a very dry finish. Jon announced that it is one of the more complex Rosés he has tried.  On a hot day, this wine will really hit the spot.  I recommend it for when you are in the mood for a dry Rosé.

The Recommendation….

Yesterday we went to a new grocery store in town for the first time. It has touted itself as having an extensive selection of high quality wine, so I wanted to see if they had the goods. Whenever I check out a wine store, I always want to know if it has wines that I can’t find other places. Wines I haven’t already seen in every other shop in town.

The layout is a little unusual – when you go into the wine section, there is a small walled off entrance with one way in and out. Good thing I’m not severely claustrophobic, because that might pose a problem. After he helped another customer, Mark the Wine Steward came over to Jon and I to see if we needed any help. So, I decided to try him out. I asked if he had any single varietal Chenin Blanc. He pointed to an empty spot on the shelf and explained that the previous customers had just purchased the last bottle. He told me that it is a French Vouvray, and told me that Vouvray is the French name for Chenin Blanc. Off to a pretty good start, but when I looked it up online I learned that Vouvray is actually the region in France – but it is planted almost exclusively with Chenin Blanc.  So… he was close enough. Mark also showed me a couple of run of the mill Chenin Blancs from Sutter Home and Hogue, but told me that they were known for being sweeter wines. He didn’t say it out loud, but you could tell he wasn’t a fan – and neither are we.

Jon and I usually know what we are looking for, but we know far more about domestic wines than European ones. Mark mentioned that he lived in France for a year, so I asked him to recommend a nice dry Rose. He showed me three French Roses with price points of $10, $11 and $20. I picked the $11 wine, the 2010 Recolte Rose by Domaine Sainte-Eugenie, because it is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvedre. When we tried it last night, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little light, but the perfect end for a very hot day.   For $11, I will certainly take Mark’s recommendation again.