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The Applegate Valley Wine

After our visit to Jacksonville, Oregon, we decided to check out a couple of wineries!  The Applegate Valley is one of the most overlooked wine regions in the country, with outstanding wines and a quiet, relaxed atmosphere.  Our first winery stop was Wooldridge Creek Winery. We pulled in to find an amazing covered seating area with cushioned patio furniture, a classy yet inviting tasting room with several books available to read, and another outdoor patio with tables and chairs. Jon’s dad wasn’t interested in wine tasting so he plopped down outside in the shade to read his book.

The winery named after the Wooldridge family who first settled on the property in the 1850s – this isn’t the same family that owns the property and the winery now though.  The first grapevines at Wooldridge Creek were planted in the 1970s; it has now expanded to 56 acres planted in twelve varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.  However, until 2002, the owners sold all their fruit to other wineries; at that point they met and partnered with a wine-making couple to start the winery.

We began our tasting in the tasting room, but soon the draw of the warm sunshine was too much. Our server was very gracious about loading up our tasting on a tray with mini decanters and tasting information for each wine. As I think back on it now (on a gray, rainy day in frigid January), I wish I were back there soaking up the warm rays of the sun!

Wooldridge Creek Winery

Wooldridge Creek Winery

The wine was delicious – I did find that I liked the reds more than the whites though.  The French oak aged Chardonnay was a hit with Jon, but a little too oaked for my taste – good for a taste but too much for a whole glass. There was a Viognier that was quite enjoyable – which was a bit unusual because I don’t typically like many Viogniers. Jon’s mom really enjoyed that one. The reds were wonderful – balanced and approachable while still having lots of structure.  We tasted Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec.

After Wooldridge, we visited Troon Winery. Jon and I had been there before, and Jon had wanted to go back. We wanted to be outside again, so we shuttled back and forth between the tasting room and the seating area outside. That was a little bit awkward, but it was to be expected as the server had her hands full with other customers. She did tell us a bit about each wine when we came in to get our sample, but it seemed a bit more impersonal than our visit in 2011.

Troon Winery from our covered seating

Troon Winery from our covered seating

That said, Troon’s wine is excellent – not a bad one in the bunch. Ironically, when we visited in 2011 the Druid’s Fluid red blend was my least favorite wine, but it is the biggest seller for the winery. This year, they didn’t have Druid’s Fluid on the tasting menu, so I don’t know if I would have liked it more now.  We ended up getting several wines to bring home with us.  For some reason though, I always forget that Troon now has a tasting room in the Willamette Valley, so we will have to stop by there sometime when we are down that way.

After our two tasting room visits, we wrapped up our day and headed back to the rental house to enjoy one last quiet evening on the river before heading home.  We swam in the pool, read books, watched the Canada Geese flying overhead to their night roosts, and heard the hum of the jet boats as they took tourists back home after the dinner tour (I so want to take that jet boat tour one day!).

Canada Geese flying home for the night

Canada Geese flying home for the night

We had to be up before dawn in the morning, because Jon had misunderstood what days he was supposed to get off from work.  I had planned for us to spend a leisurely day Tuesday driving home and then go back to work Wednesday, but Jon thought we were coming home on Monday.  He had scheduled himself to work at 2 pm on Tuesday, expecting that he would have a quiet morning at home to sleep in and get some things done.  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen!  Considering that the drive home (without traffic) is 8 hours, we set the alarm for 3 am to get home in time.

We were on the road at 3:17 am! It’s not often that I watch a summer sunrise from the road, but I caught this one. Our early morning travel all worked out in the end though, as we made it home with enough time to get some lunch and essentials at the grocery store before Jon had to go to work.  And I had the whole afternoon to take a leisurely nap, unpack and relax for going back to work on Wednesday. It was a nice end to a great long weekend…

 

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!

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!

Memorial Weekend Wine Tour -Day 1

On Friday we started our day in Goldendale, WA.  We headed out to the Maryhill Museum, which is a huge mansion built above the Columbia River Gorge by Sam Hill, who brought the railroad through the valley.  He built this mansion intending for it to be his home, but before it was finished donated it to become a museum.  They have a collection of Rodin sculptures, furniture belonging to the Romanian royal family, chess sets and paintings.  It was a nice start to the day, and reasonably priced at $7 for an adult admission.

Next we stopped at Maryhill Winery, one of the biggest producers in WA state.  They have a large selection, something for everyone.  We had a nice Viognier, but we didn’t think there was anything outstanding there.  The view is gorgeous, and it would be fun to take in one of their summer concerts.  But it is quite far out of our way.  Next up was Waving Tree Vineyard.  We stopped here because it was close to Maryhill and close to the replica Stonehenge monument, and we are glad we did.  They have an extensive wine selection, and we found many that we enjoyed.  We ended up buying 5 bottles.  Their Zinfandel was excellent and very reasonably priced.  I’m hoping that his wines make it to distribution closer to home.

We crossed over the Columbia River and make our way towards Portland, Oregon.  We stopped for awhile in Hood River, Oregon and had dinner at the Rogue Brewery there.  I thought my babyback ribs were a bit too spicy, but the beer and cheese soup was out of this world.  And the beer is good too!