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July 2016: Hood River

After our amazing rafting trip, my aunt, uncle, cousin and I camped on a sustainable practices organic farm.  There were chickens, turkeys, horses and pigs.  The farm had views of both Mount Adams and Mount Hood, and other than the sound of the irrigation ditch, it was really quiet out there.

The next morning, we packed up the tent and my aunt and uncle’s trailer and went to Hood River, Oregon to check out the town.  We watched people parasailing on the Columbia River.  We wandered the main streets and checked out the shops.  We went into two wineries too.

 

Paddle Wheel River Boats on the Columbia River

Paddle Wheel River Boats on the Columbia River

 

What's up with the weirdo on the cell phone?

What’s up with the weirdo on the cell phone?

The first was Cascade Cliffs Winery.   Our server was very friendly, and she served us some fantastic wines.  She explained that the logo for the winery is a petroglyph that was discovered on the vineyard property.  I bought the 2014 Dolcetto and the 2015 Symphony white blend there.  I haven’t had them yet, but I might have to open one soon!

After Cascade Cliffs, we headed over to Naked Winery. Naked Winery was a fun and lively place; there was certainly a young hip vibe going on there. The focus seemed less on the quality of the wines and more on the “curb appeal.” The wines all have fun, sexy names, and the logo of the winery is a naked woman. I purchased a great sparkling wine there, and a bottle of their Wanderlust White. It comes in a plastic, lightweight bottle that is perfect for taking on a hiking trip!  I also got a bottle of their Frisky Sparkling Wine, which was pretty good!

The tasting menu at Naked Winery

The tasting menu at Naked Winery

My aunt and I had fun at both wineries, and my uncle was a trooper, even though it isn’t really his thing. After wine tasting, we headed over to the Three River’s Grill. I had the fish tacos, and they were absolutely delicious. The view was amazing too – we got to watch more para-sailors (is this the right word for people who are parasailing?) out on the water from our table on the deck.  I would absolutely love to go back there on another gorgeous summer day and watch the view on the water.  It was really relaxing.

We made one last stop before we got back on the road to head our separate ways. We made a stop at the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery. The Hatchery has some adult White Sturgeon that visitors can see. They are big fish! White Sturgeon can grow to be 20 feet long are the third largest sturgeon species.  Unfortunately, populations of sturgeon on the Columbia River are not abundant, because the dams have inhibited their ability to migrate freely.

I also saw some lamprey, which have sucker mouths to attach to things; they really like to stick on the glass in the underwater viewing area. They were interesting to see, but apparently they are nuisance fish.  And of course, I also saw lots of different kinds of salmon and trout.  They have a pond at the hatchery where you can buy fish food for 50 cents and feed the salmon – they all come up to the surface like they haven’t eaten in days!  Even though you just fed them 10 seconds ago.  But hey, my cats are like that too…

And then, too soon, it was time for my long drive home…

Kramer Vineyard Celebrate – Again!

On Friday night, Twitter told me that it was National Champagne Day.  Which I thought was a bit odd, as I always assumed that December 31 was National Champagne Day, but who am I to argue?  Do we really need an excuse to drink wine?

A friend of mine had come over to meet up for dinner, so I uncorked this lovely bottle of Kramer Vineyards Celebrate!  I have blogged about it before, and it was equally good this time around.  It is dry with light berry flavors, made from Pinot Noir grapes.  I first tried it at the Bubbles Fest Oregon Sparkling Wine Festival, and continue to enjoy it today.

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

If you have a chance, make sure you get some of this wine!  I hope you all enjoyed the weekend.

 

2010 Airlie Winery Joie de Vie

I got this wine at last year’s Willamette Valley Bubbles Fest.  A 2010 vintage that had been hiding in the wine fridge, due to its crown cap (I kept thinking it was a cider!), I opened it last night, and was very pleased.

Creamy with a lot of yeast on the palate, it has flavors of ripe apple.  It has tiny bubbles that quickly dissipate, releasing a bright acidity.  I think I opened it at just the right time!

It was produced in the Méthode Champenoise, disgorged in house, and resealed with the crown cap.  In searching Airlie’s website, it seems that this is the only vintage of a sparkling wine they have produced – what a shame!

2010 Airlie Winery Joie De Vie

2010 Airlie Winery Joie De Vie

Sadly, this was my only bottle…  But I loved every sip.

Graham Beck NV Brut Rosé

Jon and I opened a South African wine tonight.  I got it at the local wine shop in anticipation of the Christmas festivities with my family, but what with the flu that was being passed around from my parents to Jon and then me, there hasn’t been much wine drinking going on…

The Graham Beck NV Brut Rosé did not disappoint.  It is a blend of 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Chardonnay, with each grape aged separately.  It is a pale salmon color with tiny bubbles.  The bubbles on this wine give it a rich, thick mouthfeel, and the yeast that predominates in the front of the mouth gives way to tart cherries on the back of the palate.  The owner of the wine shop compared this to a true French Champagne at a fraction of the price, and I can see why.

Graham-Beck-roseNV

 

At $12.99, you can’t go wrong with this one, and there’s no excuse to not break it out – even if the occasion is only as special as the fact that you don’t feel queasy anymore.   Happy Belated New Year everyone!

 

Good Friends and Wine

Over the weekend, we had a couple over for dinner that we hadn’t seen in far too long. That’s one of the tough things about Jon’s crazy schedule.  It is hard enough for us to find time together, and even harder to coordinate our schedules with our friends!

We decided on appetizer dinner; does anyone besides me and my friends like to do this?  Basically, you combine a whole bunch of appetizer foods into a meal – who cares if they are the same style – they are all delicious!  We had proscuitto, olives, hummus, tapenade, naan bread, pita chips, blue corn tortilla chips, spring rolls, Pad Thai, grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts, garlic marinated mushrooms, chevre, and brie.  It was all so good!

With so many different foods, we need a wine that pairs easily.  I chose a Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir, with a rosy pink color, and aromas of strawberries and rose hips. On the palate, it is super dry, with a crisp berry flavor.  I loved it!  Kramer is an Willamette Valley Oregon producer, known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and several sparkling wines.  I first tried Kramer during the Bubbles Fest Oregon Sparkling Wine Festival last Valentine’s Day, and was hooked!  But I haven’t had a chance to get more!

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

As we filled up on appetizers and wine, we talked and laughed and debated.  There was a lot of laughter and catching up on life, and pets and travel.  It was fabulous; exactly what I needed.

Here’s to appetizer dinner, good wine, and great friends.

Girls’ Weekend 2015: The road to Chelan

What better way is there to spend a weekend than with girlfriends!? One weekend in May, I got an opportunity to do just that. The week before was spent in Yakima, WA at a work meeting, then a conference. Several of my former coworkers were also at the conference, so we made plans to head to Chelan, WA for the weekend. We carpooled up from Yakima, making several stops along the way.

Lunch – The Sub Shop

Unfortunately for all of us, our last conference sessions were terrible. We were all in the throes of boredom, so we did what any reasonable person would do – we texted back and forth about where to get lunch and checked out online menus. I wasn’t sold on getting a smart phone but I find it comes in super handy! Sadly, my boring session went overtime!

We were so hungry that we resorted to eating stale mints I found at the bottom of my purse – and we were so bored we played Hangman. After we were finally free, we high-tailed it to the The Sub Shop – delicious, simple food that arrived quickly and quenched our starvation. And we arrived moments before the insane lunch rush.

Wine Tasting – Treveri Cellars

I blogged about my failed attempt to visit Treveri Cellars over the winter, and I was anxious to actually get there. When I suggested a stop along the way, of course my friends said yes! The four of us visited and did their sparkling wine tasting. The wines are wonderful! There was something for everyone, although I did discover that my taste is for a drier sparkling wine than my friends, who like the sweet Demi-Secs.

Our sparkling wine cocktails at Treveri

Our sparkling wine cocktails at Treveri – L: Sorbet Glace, R: Sugar Plum Fairy

After our tasting, we ordered two sparkling wine cocktails to share. We had the Sorbet Glace – with Treveri Gewürztraminer and a choice of sorbet flavors.  We also tried the Sugar Plum Fairy – Treveri Riesling, Amaretto flavor, and a dash of bitters; completed with a sugared rim.  Both were good, but the Sugar Plum Fairy was hands down my favorite. The table was split on the preference, with some of my friends preferring the Sorbet Glace, which was sweeter.

Check out these awesome bottles!

Check out these awesome bottles!

We strongly considered taking our cocktails out onto the patio to sit in the sunshine, but were glad we didn’t when the lawnmower roared by, kicking up a ton of dust onto the patio seating. Note to wineries – please mow the lawn before you open for the day!

Shopping – The Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall

No visit to Yakima is complete without a stop at this gem – I love this place! Three floors of shopping – the first floor dedicated to wine, fruit and other food items, and the second two floors packed with antiques. I always enjoy a stop there, and I can even get Jon to go without putting up a fuss! I didn’t find anything that spoke to me this time, but not for lack of trying.

Sightseeing – Ohme Gardens

Ohme Gardens was another place that I suggested we stop at. Jon and I visited Ohme Gardens last September when we were in Wenatchee, and it was stunning. I wanted to come back and see the spring flowers. We got there about an hour before closing, so while we couldn’t dawdle, we felt like we were able to see what we wanted to see. The flowers were stunning, and it was wonderful to enjoy this treasure with friends, exploring all the nooks and crannies that were so lovingly created by the Ohme family. Not to mention it was great to stretch our legs hiking up and down the hills and stepping stones. Ohme Gardens is definitely an attraction not to be missed in Wenatchee.

After visiting Ohme Gardens, we saw a Groundhog on the way out of the park, chilling by the side of the road after emerging from a culvert. We stopped and backed the car up so we could get a better view, and this little guy just posed for picture after picture, with no fear of us at all! I wonder if he was waiting for us to feed him. We didn’t though, and after my camera battery died we got on our way to Chelan.

Groundhog!

Groundhog!

And with that, we had arrived – we stayed in the same room suite again that we had the year before – a two bedroom with a kitchen right on the lake. We checked in and had just a moment to set down our things and have a quick glass of wine when we were greeted by our first visitor – our former coworker who we were meeting for dinner.

We went to Andante, a well-known Italian restaurant in Chelan. Surprisingly, it was very quiet; even though the sushi restaurant we tried to go to first was absolutely packed! The food was delicious, and the company was divine. We split the Antipasto plate, a bottle of Italian red wine, a Sangiovese, if I remember correctly.

My Tuscan Seafood Stew at Andante in Chelan

My Tuscan Seafood Stew at Andante in Chelan

I had the Tuscan Seafood Stew for my entrée, with prawns, scallops, cod, clams and mussels in a base of fresh garlic, celery, parsley, onion, and tomatoes with white wine and stock. It was served with a grilled baguette. It wasn’t heavy, and really hit the spot. Dessert was a rich, chocolate cake.  Wow. And the five of us laughed and caught up – it was a fabulous evening, and a great end to a wonderful day.

Our decadent chocolate cake at Andante

Our decadent chocolate cake at Andante

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…