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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…

 

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The First Wine from the Mixed Case

Bright cherry red with a hint of carbonation?  That’s usually not the description for a wine…  But it was how I describe the first wine from the mixed case I purchased last weekend.  I let Jon pick the first wine to try, and he chose the 2012 Trentadue Old Patch Red.

The color was more bright cherry red than I was expecting from a wine that is primarily Zinfandel, and it was less opaque than I was expecting too.  On the palate, it has a medium body, but the first taste of this wine was odd.  It made my tongue tingle, almost like the wine was lightly carbonated.  Once the tingle dissipated, I figured it was very strong spice that was causing the sensation.  So weird!  Fortunately the tingling on the tongue went away after the wine sat in the glass for about 10 minutes.

This red blend from the North Coast of California is 85% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, and 4% Syrah.  This wine was meh… Not bad enough to pour down the drain, but… in short, not every wine is a winner.

Have you had the 2012 Trentadue Old Patch Red?  What did you think?

Breaking out of a Wine Rut

I’ve been in a wine rut.  Our travel this year hasn’t been wine focused, so we haven’t sampled very many new wines during tasting room visits.  In looking at the wine we have around the house, most of it is higher end Washington wines and Oregon Pinot Noirs.  While I love Pinots, it isn’t every random Wednesday that I want to open a more expensive bottle.  And trips to the grocery store leave me wandering the wine aisles, not able to get excited about all of the wines I’ve had before, and uncertain about trying something new.

So I had an idea.  I popped down to the local wine shop this afternoon and told the owner that I had a challenge for him, should he choose to accept.  I have been pleased with all the recommendations he has given me before, so why not trust him again?  The challenge?  Put together a mixed case of wines I have never tried.

The parameters:

  • Value wines – nothing over $15.00, closer to $10.00 is better
  • No Pinot Noir (while I love them, we have plenty already)
  • 8 or 9 reds, 3 or 4 whites.

That’s it – no other rules.  If he offered it, and it fit within the parameters, it went into the case.  Of course he accepted, because what wine aficionado wouldn’t?  Here’s what I ended up with.

My Mixed Case of Wine - my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

My Mixed Case of Wine – my descriptions below begin with the wine on the left.

Scaia – 2013.  This wine is a 60% Garganega, 40% Chardonnay blend; an Italian wine from the Veneto region.  Garganega will be a new grape for my Wine Century Club efforts! – $10.99

Atteca – 2012 Old Vines Garnacha.  This Spanish red is 100% Garnacha, and is the one wine I have tried.  They were tasting it this afternoon, and I loved it.  I’ll be curious to see what Jon thinks!  – $14.99

Trentadue – 2012 Old Patch Red.  This red blend from the North Coast of California is 85% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, and 4% Syrah.  – $10.99

Oinos Les Cardères – 2012.  This red blend from the Corbières region of France is 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 25% Carignan. – $11.99

La Playa Block Selection Reserve Red Blend Claret – 2012.  Wow, that’s a mouthful for this red blend from the Colchagua Valley of Chile.  60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. – $11.99

Pelassa Mario’s – 2012.  A red blend of 50% Barbera, 25% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Piedmont region of Italy. – $12.99

H-Henriques – 2011.  This French wine from the Côtes du Roussillon region is 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 15% Syrah. – $7.99

Gerald Talmard Chardonnay – 2013.  French labels are hard…  This wine is from the Mâcon Uchizy region in France.  – $11.99

Torre Gajo Pinot Grigio – 2013.  This wine is from the Delle Venezie region of Italy and comes in a 1000 ML bottle – extra!  – $11.99

Linen Sauvignon Blanc – 2013.  This Columbia Valley wine is produced by Bergevin Lane Vineyards in Walla Walla, WA. – $10.99

Scaia Corvina – 2012.  We are going to try the Scaia white wine, so why not the red?  This one also comes from the Veneto region of Italy and is 100% Corvina. – $10.99

Sagemoor Farms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013.  This wine is produced by The House of Independent Producers (HIP); it is a second label for Hedges Family Estate in Benton City, WA. – $12.49

So there’s the line up.  I can’t wait to start sampling.

Have you had any of these wines?  Which one do you think we should open first?

 

SW National Parks Trip: NM Wine and Beer

After our visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, we went back to the hotel to chill out and rest for a little while.  Jon wanted to go find a record store he was interested in – so we got in the car and headed over.  You can tell how much I enjoy record stores when you consider the fact that I had to think just now for several minutes to remember the visit…  But I remembered!  It was a Hastings music store, which I like more than other record stores because they have books!  And this one had chairs!  I spent a while perusing the local New Mexico book selections.  It was an enjoyable way to spend some time, but I resisted the urge to add more books to my collection – that was hard!

After Hastings, we stopped by the grocery store to check out some of the local wine selections.  I knew that there are some New Mexico wineries, but we weren’t really going to have time for visit any on our trip – we were focused on the National Parks!  We did find two wines that we were interested in though; a red and a white, both from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  St. Clair was established in 1984 by two brothers, although the family has had 6 generations involved in wine-making.

The red was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel blend, with 50% of each, with 12% ABV.  It had a garnet red color, not as opaque as your typical Cab or Zin; more like a Pinot Noir.  The mouth feel was very light, and the nose was of strawberry and fruit punch.  And the taste?  Well, it was more like a Concord grape wine, with flavors of strawberry, grape and fruit punch; however, it wasn’t a super-sweet wine.  The second day, after wiggling around in the car for a couple of hours, this wine opened up and lost that Concord grape taste.  I could actually tell that there was Cab and Zin in the wine… and I liked it much better!

The white we chose was a Riesling; it was a nice, semi-sweet wine with flavors of lemon and peach.  I liked it better on the first night than the Cab/Zin blend.  The wines certainly were different than we are used to, and probably won’t win any fancy awards when pitted against the Napa or Washington wines, but they were good everyday drinking wines that would appeal to many.

St. Clair Winery - Riesling

St. Clair Winery – Riesling

After the grocery store, we headed back to the hotel to walk to a Spanish tapas restaurant that I wanted to check out.  It was right in the Santa Fe historic district, only a few blocks from the hotel.  And so we headed over… to find it closed…  A victim again of the “Closed on Mondays” curse in Santa Fe!  DRAT!  So now we didn’t know where we wanted to go, but we didn’t want to drive anywhere, so we wandered around the historic downtown until we stumbled upon the San Francisco Bar and Grill.  The menu looked good, with a mix of dishes.

The San Francisco Street Bar and Grill was a nice place with plenty of seafood options. They also brewed their own beer – a theme on this trip! I had the Mahi Mahi with Spanish rice and seasonal vegetables. I paired my meal with the La Cumbre A Slice of Hefen Hefeweizen. Jon had the Ahi Tuna with tomato jam and risotto. His went with the La Cumbre Elevated IPA. The fish was delicious – we were really enjoying it; when a fight broke out.

Nope, dear readers, it wasn’t Jon and me fighting.  That’s right – up at the bar, two guys, one with a Scottish accent, started yelling at each other.  Loudly…  Several of the waiters had to run over to serve as bouncers and they threw the Scottish guy out. He was yelling and cursing the whole time down the stairs. Jon had a blast watching!

Grilled Mahi Mahi at the San Francisco Grill

Grilled Mahi Mahi at the San Francisco Grill

Fortunately the fight didn’t last long and we were able to finish our meal in relative quiet.  Then it was back to the hotel, El Chimayo, for an early evening and a restful night’s sleep…

California Marathon Road Trip: Gundlach Bundschu

Our second winery stop was at Gundlach Bundschu – good luck trying to pronounce that name!  It is the oldest continuously family-owned winery in California.  It was founded by Jacob Gundlach in 1858 as Rhinefarm, with Charles Bundschu joining the company in 1868 – originally the farm in Sonoma was about 400 acres.  It was renamed Gundlach Bundschu in 1894 and at the turn of the 20th century the company was producing about 250,000 cases of wine each year.

Up until that point the winery facility was located in San Francisco, but the production facilities and about a million gallons of wine were destroyed by the earthquake in 1906.  They moved the production facility to Sonoma after the quake and then Prohibition hit.

During prohibition the winery closed its doors, and all but 130 acres of the farm were sold – the family managed to make a living selling grapes for juice and raising cattle.  After prohibition, the farm began selling grapes to Inglenook, Almaden and then Louis Martini wineries, but didn’t reopen the winery until the 1970s.

The winery now produces about 25,000 cases total – I believe all their wines are estate grown.  They have a huge tasting room with a gorgeous outdoor patio area; seems that they do a lot of events.  Too bad it was too cold to sit outside and enjoy the view!

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu was a fun winery; our server was Columbian and he was super friendly.  We tried Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We both loved the Zin!  It was fruit forward and balanced, without losing structure.  There was a lot of pepper and spice on the Merlot, and the Chardonnay was a nice acidic wine with a light balanced oak on the back of the palate.  The only wine I didn’t really like was the Gewürztraminer.  I liked it at first taste – it was semi-sweet with citrus, but there was a floral finish on the back of the palate that didn’t appeal to me.

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

While we were there several other groups came in, and you can tell they have a loyal following.  Which isn’t surprising, given the quality of the wine.  What a fantastic visit!

California Marathon Road Trip: Sonoma and Tin Barn Vineyards

The day after Jon’s marathon, Jon and I decided to head to Sonoma for the day to do a bit of wine tasting.  The day was cold and clear, and we got to Sonoma right at lunchtime.  After wandering around the square checking out our lunch options, we decided to try the Plaza Bistro.

The place was pretty empty when we arrived, and the temperature was cold – I wish they would have turned the heat up a bit.  But the service was friendly and fast, and the food was excellent.  Jon had the beet salad, with roasted beets, fresh sliced fennel, Blue Lake beans, Chevre goat cheese, and almonds, all on baby greens topped with a sherry vinaigrette dressing.  Jon was very satisfied with the salad – but he wished it had been larger.

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

Lunch at the Plaza Bistro

I had the salmon sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, arugula, and lemon garlic aioli on a ciabatta roll.  It came with a green salad with vinaigrette.  The sandwich was amazing!  My only gripe was that the salad needed something more; it was just lettuce and dressing.  The sandwich was more than enough for me, and I knew Jon would be hungry again soon if he didn’t eat more, so I was very kind to share a few bites of my sandwich with him.

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

My salmon sandwich at The Plaza Bistro

After our tummies were full, we were ready to start our tour.  We headed first to Tin Barn Vineyards.  We were first introduced to Tin Barn wine when we went to Zuzu restaurant in Napa a few years ago.  Zuzu is a tapas restaurant (fabulous by the way) and we had a bottle of their Zinfandel with our meal that evening.  We were hooked.  It was well balanced, fruit forward, and not overpowered with tannins.  We even tried to visit the tasting room on that trip and struck out, because it was Tuesday and they were closed.

This trip we were lucky enough to be there on a Monday, one of the days that the tasting room was open!  They are located in a row of warehouses, and it looked pretty deserted.  But the sign said they were open, so we went inside.  We looked around the tasting room waiting for somebody to come out, and peeked into the winery area as well.  Eventually, the owner, Michael Lancaster, realized that we were out there and came out to pour – he had been working in the winery and didn’t hear us come in.

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Tin Barn Vineyards Tasting Room

Mike was super friendly and guided us through the Tin Barn line-up, starting with the Sauvignon Blanc, a dry, crisp balanced wine with flavors of lemon-grass.  There were two Pinot Noirs, both from Ricci Vineyard in Sonoma County, the 2010 and 2011 vintages.  They were both excellent; and having two different vintages from the same vineyard meant you could taste the difference that weather imparts on wine.

There were also two Zinfandels on the list – both from 2011.  The first was from Gilsson Vineyard in the Russian River Valley – a nice, fruit-forward Zin.  Gilsson Vineyard has 50 year old vines, which make for a fantastic wine.  The other was more tannic, from Los Chamizal Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, but also delicious.

We finished the tasting with the 2011 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This isn’t a vineyard designate wine, and it also contains Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  It was a great California Cab, with great structure and not over-oaked.

We left with two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of each of the Zinfandels.  Our visit left me wishing we lived closer!

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!