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Oz Winery: Emerald City Lights White Wine Blend

Whelp… Less than two months in and the job is officially super-busy.  Never a dull moment!

Meanwhile, I opened this wine the other night; I picked it up on my visit to Oz Winery in Wamego, KS.  Yes, that’s the Wizard of Oz, in case you were wondering.  The winery gives all their wines Wizard of Oz names, and carries all sorts of Oz and wine memorabilia in the tasting room.  You can sample two wines for free and this was one of the wines I chose to try.

The Emerald City Lights is a “proprietary” white blend, which is fancy speak for “they don’t want to tell you what the blend is.”  I disagree with this philosophy, since wines are so different naturally that there isn’t really a need to protect the specific grapes used.  But anywhoo…

This wine is very light, with only the palest yellow color, and tart flavors of lemongrass beneath a floral nose.  It is delicious, and much more than I was expecting from a Kansas wine.

Unfortunately, since I had limited storage space in my car on my trip, I only bought one bottle of this wine.  I wish I had more…

 

 

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2013 Genoa Cellars Flying Colors Red Blend

I got this wine a few years ago when my girlfriends and I went to the Whidbey Island Half Marathon.  We did a wine tasting in a little wine shop in Coupeville, WA, and I fell in love with this wine.  I finally opened it, and it did not disappoint.  It is a red blend, with bold flavors of blackberry and hints of tobacco and cocoa, with medium tannins.

Genoa Cellars is located in Woodinville, Washington, and they focus on Super-Tuscan-style wines made from Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot.  They source their grapes from vineyards in the Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain regions in Eastern Washington.

I couldn’t find any information online for the 2013 vintage, but the Genoa Cellars 2015 Flying Colors Tuscan-style Red Blend won Double Gold in the Cascadia International Wine Competition. The blend for the 2013 vintage is 53% Sangiovese, 32% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot.

At $29, it is a bit of a splurge, but if I don’t treat myself who will? Happy Monday!

Lyrarakis 2015 Assyrtiko

I have had this wine for a while; it was one that I bought in 2016 after a tasting of Greek wines at our awesome local wine shop.

For those of you who don’t know Greek grape varietals, like I didn’t, Lyrarakis is the winery, Assyrtiko is the grape.  The grapes were grown in Crete, and harvested in 2015.  I was excited to try it, since I had never tried the Assyrtiko grape.

Lyrarakis 2015 Assyrtico

I couldn’t find much online about this wine; it seems that the winery started making the wine under a different label after 2015. I have no idea if they are using the same vineyards either.  Than means you get my impressions exclusively.  Aren’t you lucky!

The wine is a very golden amber color, more golden than a lot of the white wines I drink.  On the nose, it smelled very floral, so much so that I wondered if I would like it, although clearly I had enjoyed it enough at the tasting to buy it.  It has been a couple of years though and wines change over time!

On the palate, it has a very syrupy mouthfeel, a much heavier white than I am used to.  It has a sweet flavor of lychee and passion fruit.  So delicious!

I would pair it with something a little spicy, like Thai food.  You’ll notice that I did pair it with my Spam Museum stemless wine glass, that I picked up on my road trip!

This was a very nice wine.  I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was about $20.  I would certainly buy it again!

 

 

12 Corners Aromella

When I was in Michigan visiting my family, my cousin and I took a day to head over to Lake Michigan.  We had lunch at a brewery, did a little bit of shopping, went to a couple of the wineries in downtown South Haven, and checked out the lighthouse too.

We stopped at 12 Corners Winery tasting room in downtown South Haven, named for the Twelve Corners neighborhood where the vineyard makes its home, and did a wine tasting.

The Aromella intrigued me.  It is a hybrid grape; a cross between Traminette and Ravat 34, developed at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY in 1976.  It was renamed Aromella in 2013 (that took a while!).  I have had Traminette, and like it, but I have never had, or even heard of Ravat 34.

The result is a sweet (but not overly so) white wine that tastes similar to Moscato, but with more floral flavors.  The 12 Corners Aromella is estate grown, the residual sugar on this wine is 5.5 percent and the alcohol content is 11.8 percent.  It was delicious and a great opportunity to taste a new-to-me grape!  It is also reasonably priced at $14.99 a bottle.

If you have tried it, let me know what you think!

 

 

Wildside Winery Chambourcin

It’s been a while since I’ve had down time.  Between driving, sightseeing, searching for a place to stay for the night, and trying to keep up on posting photos on Instagram and Facebook, my wine blogging has been neglected…  I have visited some wineries on the trip, and collected some bottles that have been tucked in underneath my car bed for many thousands of miles across the U.S.

I visited Wildside Winery in Kentucky about midway through the trip, on August 15, 2018.  I was on my way into Lexington, and saw the sign on the side of the highway – sometimes you just have to make an impromptu stop.

While I was there, I bought a bottle of the Chambourcin, a grape we don’t see in the Pacific Northwest.  I pulled it out to drink, and was impressed with how well it held up to rattling around in my car for the last month and a half.  Yea, yea, all you purists out there who store all your wine in perfect temperature conditions and without shaking them up as they roll along thousands of miles of bumpy roads are probably cringing as you read this…

It’s a medium bodied red with notes of cherry and a bit of earth, slightly bolder than the Oregon Pinot Noirs I enjoy so much.  Unlike many mid-western wines, this one is bone-dry with almost no residual sugar.  Certainly a great purchase for $15!

 

2018 Whidbey Island Weekend

March of this year was really busy!  I had my 15K the first weekend, a weekend trip to Whidbey Island with friends, and then at the end of the month a girl’s road trip coming up!  I had to turn down a girl’s trip to Boise since I had so much going on!

My friend Brandon was having a birthday, so we decided to celebrate by renting out another friend’s AirBnB house at the south end of Whidbey Island, in the town of Clinton.

We headed down Friday after work, and since March is still winter, it was long dark by the time we got to the house.  We chose bedrooms, and lit up the gas fireplace on the deck for some chat and relaxation.  I had a glass of wine and just chilled.  It was such a nice evening!

The next day, we were up for some exploration, so decided to choose a winery to try.  The first place we had planned to check out wasn’t open yet for the day, so we stumbled upon Comforts of Whidbey winery a little way down the road in Langley, WA.  What a gem of a place!

Brandon and I did a tasting (Brandon was a sport, even though he isn’t much into wine) and I was very pleased with the wines I tried.  They had some amazing sparkling wines!  I also loved their Madeline Angevine, Siegerrebe, and Syrah wines – delicious!

After Comforts of Whidbey, we went over to the Whidbey Island Distillery.  They gave us a little tour of the distillery – it is a very small batch operation, basically all being operated out of one small room, but the owner really gets into the science of distillation and created a complex, amazing still! I won’t even try to explain it, since I wouldn’t get it right; just suffice it to say that he has made some technological advances in the distillation process.

The distillery is best known for its Rye Whiskey, which contains 51% Rye and 49% Barley.  I am not a Whiskey drinker (I have tried and just continue to fail to like it), so I had a little sample and declared it, “not my thing.”  However, they also make liqueurs…  Blackberry, raspberry, loganberry and boysenberry.  These were absolutely my thing! They also had little recipe cards to make cocktails with their liqueurs – I got the raspberry to bring home.

Liqueurs at Whidbey Distillery

Along the way, a few other friends met us, so our little party was growing!  We headed into Langley and got lunch at SpyHop, a brewery just a few blocks of the main drag.  It was outside of normal lunch hours, so it was really quiet and the food was fantastic!  I had fish and chips – yummy!

Fish and Chips with Iced Tea – Spyhop

We poked around the shops for a bit, splitting off from others as we saw something we wanted to check out.  There was ice cream had by a few, and beer by a few.

The Olympic Mountains through the telescope

As the town was winding down after 5, we headed back to the house to relax and talk and enjoy some beverages.  We walked down to the beach to watch the sunset.  It was a nice day!

Sunday morning I made breakfast for the gang – eggs and bacon, and sliced avocado.  So yummy!  Then I headed down to the beach to wander – I found a huge, intact oyster shell and it posed for some photos for me.  I took it home with me to decorate the garden, but sadly, the racoons at my house found it as intriguing as I did and absconded with it a day or two later!

Before we headed home the next day we headed to Greenbank Farm for a late lunch and pie!  If you have a chance to have the pie at Greenbank Farm, do.  You won’t be disappointed!  We also poked around in the various artisan shops for a bit before saying our goodbyes and heading home.  It was a nice, relaxing weekend spent with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta 2018: Georgia Aquarium

Day 2, Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday afternoon I went to the Georgia Aquarium, where I was going to swim with Whale Sharks!  To say I was excited was an understatement!  I have wanted to do this for several years, and I decided this would be my Christmas gift to myself.  The Georgia Aquarium has the largest aquarium tank in the world, and is home to four whale sharks and four manta rays.  They purchased their whale sharks from the Taiwanese fishing trade, where they would have ended up in the fish market – Taiwan at the time had quotas on whale shark fishing, so they wouldn’t have been able to just catch more after selling their sharks to the aquarium.  But I digress.

Before my swim in the late afternoon, I had a chance to see all of the exhibits.  They had a really cool tropical reef exhibit, complete with wave action. I enjoyed watching that one for awhile.  They also have a bunch of penguins and puffins, doing penguin and puffin stuff, seahorses, sea dragons, and otters.  The otters moved constantly, so it was impossible to get a non-blurry photo of them.  The dolphin exhibit was closed when I was there, but I wasn’t too disappointed since I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in Hawaii last year!  As a complete aside, did you know there is a Chocolate Chip Sea Star!??

The aquarium has a couple beluga whales, and two albino alligators!  Pirahnas, longcomb sawfish, Black Reeftip sharks, sea turtles, green sea turtles, cownose rays, and all sorts of other fish. The Ocean Voyager exhibit alone has an astonishing number of fish; the tank contains 6 million gallons of seawater!  You can see all the different animals in the Ocean Voyager tank.   It is a nice aquarium.

I checked in for my swim at about 4 pm; we were going behind the scenes at 4:30.  I was so excited!  There were 8 of us total, and we were paired up into buddy pairs.  We were led back into the back area to check out the tank – it was interesting to see the tank from above!  Did you know they have machines that agitate the water and spotlights at the surface so you can’t see what’s going on up there when you are looking at the fish from below?

We were fitted with our wet suits, gloves, booties and snorkels, and then headed into the dressing room to get changed.  Those suckers are really hard to wiggle into, just so you know.  Once we were dressed, we went back out to the surface of the tank, and they explained all the details.  We were to swim very slowly, mostly just occasionally paddling with our hands, to move in a lazy figure 8 around the tank.  The whale sharks stay near the surface, and they tend to swim close to the walls of the tank, so that’s where we would be.  We were told that we shouldn’t touch them, but we didn’t have to move away if they brushed up against us!

We got into the water and headed out, being wrangled by a lead diver and another bringing up the rear, in case we went astray.  A third diver was in the water getting video of the fish, and all of us.  The water is 76 degrees, which gets cold after a bit!

This was an amazing experience.  The whale sharks are so big and so gentle!  Being in the water with them was like one big, long WOW!  I literally said “WOW!” over and over again through my mouthpiece.  The manta rays move more quickly and come right up underneath you!  During the swim, one whale shark swam right underneath me and brushed my abdomen with her back and dorsal fin (I think they are all females).  None of the manta rays touched me, but they did brush against a few of the others in the group.

 

The water is really clear, so you can see all the way to the bottom, and can see the other fish swimming.  The Cow Nose rays, the Longcomb Sawfish, the Blacktip Reef Sharks, and countless other types of sharks and fish were all just moving below you constantly.  It was so cool to see from this vantage point!  The aquarium has a tunnel through the tank where the other swimmers’ family and friends could watch – it was interesting to see them standing down there under the water!

It is absolutely one of my favorite experiences so far in my life – I had so much fun doing this!

An added bonus was the fact that my swim coincided with an evening where they were switching over the computer software for the cash registers.  Since the registers were shut down for this, they gave each of us a video of our swim for free!  Normally you have to pay – it was an unexpected treat!

 

After the swim, I walked back to the hotel (in the only pouring rain of the trip), and brushed out my wet hair.  I was hungry, so I headed right back down the block to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Ted’s is a chain, founded by Ted Turner (of CNN fame) and specializes in bison with a Western Saloon theme.  I had a delicious mushroom Swiss bison burger, with pickled cucumbers, and tomatoes drizzled with bleu cheese and balsamic.  It was sooooo gooooood…  I also had some Bison Ridge Merlot wine, which I believe is another Turner project – it was a great wine!  The meal wrapped up a fantastic day!

Cost: $45.95 for general admission during peak hours (there are significant discounts for online pre-purchase, early or late arrival, groups, etc, and it is included on the CityPass).  Swimming with the Whale Sharks (called the Journey with Gentle Giants) was $233.95 and included aquarium admission, the swim, a t-shirt, and a sticker.  There is also a dive option for certified SCUBA divers.