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2015 Sleight of Hand The Magician Riesling

Yesterday, a day after getting home from a fabulous spring break road trip down to California on Sunday, I pulled a bottle out of the wine fridge.  It felt like summer in California, even if it doesn’t feel like summer here at home, so I wanted a summer sweet Riesling!

My friends and I visited Sleight of Hand Cellars when we were in Walla Walla last Memorial Day.  It was a great visit, and they had wonderful wines!

The 2015 The Magician Riesling is sourced from Evergreen Vineyard, which located high on the cliffs above the Columbia River in Central Washington. 2015 was a warm year in Washington for wines, but Evergreen Vineyard is a cooler site, which allowed for extra hang time for the grapes.  It has a delicious balanced acidity, with green apple and pear flavors, crisp minerality, and plenty of citrus.

2015 Sleight of Hand Riesling

It is sold out at the winery, but I think it cost about $18.  If you have tried it, let me know what you thought!

 

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Walla Walla 2017: Wine on the Way…

Day 4 – Monday, May 29, 2017

The last day of our trip we headed out of town, stopping at Sleight of Hand Cellars along the way.  I had known about Sleight of Hand, but never been, and Lelani had found them and decided that should be where we went.  Of course, she didn’t have to twist any of our arms…

Sleight of Hand has a Magician theme.  Their wines are delicious and have magician themed names!  The tasting room has is brightly decorated in a modern theme, and they have a ton of music posters (many are autographed) and magician posters on the walls.  They also have records – over 2,000 of them – they always have something playing on the record player!

I brought home their Magician’s Assistant Cabernet Franc Rosé and their Conjurer Red Blend.  That isn’t to say I didn’t love all their other wines, because I did, but they are a bit above my price point, starting at $45 for their varietal reds.  I did get a tank top though – which I love!  Lelani found a Prince Purple Rain themed tank top there too!

Me at Sleight of Hand – I’m not sunburned – it’s just the red umbrella above me

 

Lelani took this photo, not realizing I was photo bombing her!

 

After Sleight of Hand, it was time to get on the road and start working our way home.  We stopped in Yakima for Miner’s Burgers – Home of the Big Miner Burger – these burgers are huge!  Trust me, if you go, split the fries.  One order of fries is probably enough for four people if you plan on having a burger to yourself!  Especially if you have a milkshake, and trust me on this too, you should have a milkshake!  Miner’s has been a Yakima institution since 1948.  We left stuffed, and happy.

Waiting for our burgers!

Our next stops were the Fruit and Antique stand in Selah, just outside of Yakima, and the Thorp Fruit and Antique stand.  I love going there!  We all spend some time poking around and checking out the fruit, gourmet foodie items and antiques.

Brandon, me and Lelani waiting for Joel

Soon enough, it was time to hit the pass and get back over the mountains toward home.  The traffic was just as bad on the way back and this time I was awake for it!  It was, however, the end of a really great friends weekend…

 

Walla Walla 2017: Relaxation

Day 2 – Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday morning Lelani and I were both up early (I mean remember I had basically slept the entire day before!), so we took a walk around the neighborhood and just enjoyed the quiet morning.

Historic Sharpstein Manor, Walla Walla

 

Historic Home, now apartments

We got back, had the hotel breakfast, relaxed some on the hotel patios, and then the whole gang wandered over to Bacon and Eggs for cocktails.  When on vacation you might as well go heavy on the relaxing!  We all enjoyed cocktails – I had a Grapefruit Mimosa – YUM!  Then we did a bit of shopping (Walla Walla has some really cool little shops), and found a shop called Trove that Paula loved, because their logo is a Fleur de Lis.  She loves Fleur de Lis, and Trove had some really cute stuff!  We also went to the farmer’s market, and checked out all the fresh produce and craft items. I got a pair of earrings and a pendant made from recycled glass bottles. They are gorgeous! Sadly, I broke one of the earrings (turns out glass earrings don’t fare too well when dropped on concrete), but I have been using the second earring as another pendant for now. Next time I am there I will be sure to get another pair of earrings – or several!

My Grapefruit Mimosa at Bacon and Eggs

We also went to the Museum of Unnatural History. It is a tiny little place, created and run by a guy named Gerry Matthews with a very strange and creative imagination. He spent his career working in the film and commercial industry.  Most notably, he was the voice of Sugar Bear, the mascot for Sugar Crisp cereal – now known as Golden Crisp.  I am sure everybody my age remembers the voice!  He then retired to Walla Walla and created this museum, a play on the many Museums of Natural History… Let me just say, Wow. There was just so much bizarre going on in such a small space…  The exhibits are – well, there are just no words.  He was there when we visited and he was happy to answer questions or dialogue about his creations…  Lelani and Joel LOVED it! Paula HATED it! Brandon and I were fairly neutral. Let’s just say I won’t be decorating my home in any of his motifs.  It just goes to show that we all have different tastes, and different creative minds.  If you want to visit, it is free (he accepts donations), worth a visit, and clearly a labor of love, but it is only open Saturdays from 10-2 or by appointment.  If you do go, I guarantee you won’t leave without an opinion! Keep in mind, I limited my photos here to the PG-13 stuff, but there is A LOT more to see.

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Saturday afternoon we went to the Morrison Lane tasting room. Morrison Lane is a family run winery, owned and operated by my friend Shawn and his family.  Shawn has been the winemaker for several years now, and the wines are delicious; I especially enjoyed the Rosé, the Syrah, and the Carmenere.  The bottles have artwork depicting the Lewis Chessmen, a group of 12th century chess pieces that were discovered at the Lewis Bay in Scotland in 1831. I love the tie in to history with the labels! Both Shawn and his parents are kind and personable, and love speaking with guests about their wine; we sat around for a while chatting and revisiting some of the wines.

Saturday evening we went over to Shawn’s house for his 50th birthday.  A backyard BBQ with amazing food; chicken skewers with peanut sauce, Thai noodle salad, pasta salad and lots of local beer and wine. We sat around talking and enjoying the hot Eastern Washington evening.  There was laughter – a lot of laughter – of the “what happens in Walla Walla stays in Walla Walla” variety!

 

Walla Walla 2017: An Inpromptu Pub Crawl

Day 1 – Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day weekend 2017 was a blast! My friend Brandon asked a bunch of us if we wanted to head over to Walla Walla for a long weekend getaway, and who am I to say no to a trip to wine country!  We were planning to relax, hit some wineries and breweries, and go to our friend Shawn’s 50th birthday party!

There was just that little bit of a planning hurdle… An issue, because I couldn’t drive that Friday. You see, I had a colonoscopy first thing that morning. Yep, that’s right. Even though I am only in my early forties, my family history has cursed me – my mom and great grand-father both had colon cancer at age 50; my GGF died at age 50 too from his cancer. So I get to enjoy this joyful rite of passage every 5 years! More often if I have polyps! So much YAY! Sorry if this is so TMI…  Seriously though, get those colonoscopies – they suck, but it is better than dying an early, painful death.  Ok, that’s it for the public service announcements.  On to some troublemaking…

Luckily, my friend Lelani was game for a wine weekend too and we met up after I had finished my procedure, eaten some breakfast and taken a shower. She generously chauffeured my heavily drugged up butt (no pun intended) down to the rendezvous point with Brandon and Joel, where we piled into the back seat of Brandon’s SUV. I brought along my favorite pillow and snoozed most of the way over, including sleeping through the giant Memorial Day weekend traffic jam on the mountain pass! Drugged travel may just be my new favorite thing – I slept through almost all of it!

Stopping for gas – I look so conscious!

We stopped in Ellensburg and went to the Iron Horse Brewery for lunch, although I have no real recollection of my lunch or beer there. Blame that whole drugged up thing. And yes, the doctor told me no alcohol, so don’t tell him or my mom I cheated…  I do remember the food and the beer were delicious.  I remember we sat at a table by the window, so that’s something right?  We piled back in the car, and we set off driving the rest of the way to Walla Walla. By we, I mean Brandon was driving.  And I went back to sleep for a longer nap!

Our other friend Paula met us there and our party was almost complete! We met at the Burwood Brewing Company, a brewery that is in a collection of buildings right next door to the Walla Walla airport.  It is a very cute setup; the other buildings have wineries and breweries, so it is a perfect area to spend some time.  (Note: while writing this post, I looked up Burwood and it seems they moved locations.) We had a beer at Burwood (the first one had long since worn off and I was awake now!) and sat out in the sunshine soaking up the warmth. I’m sure my friends had to tell me things that they had already discussed on the drive over, that I had slept through. Oh well!

The Walla Walla Airport Winery/Brewery complex

 

The gang at Burwood – sun!

We were by now getting hungry, so we made our way over to the hotel and got checked in and refreshed. We stayed right downtown at the Red Lion, so it was off on foot to find some grub! We wandered a little bit around downtown and settled on the Mill Creek Brewpub. The food was ok, but it didn’t knock it out of the park for me. I had a sandwich of some sort and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  Clearly that whole day is a bit fuzzy…  The conversation was good though, and it was great to catch up with my friends!

After dinner, we did a bit more wandering around town, although to be honest, downtown Walla doesn’t really have much of a night life, which surprised me.  It is a college town after all, with a huge wine-making and and craft beer industry.  We stopped for a drink at Whitehouse Crawford, a restaurant which is located in an old factory building – the architecture was amazing.  I just had water there, so I can’t tell you how good the cocktails are, but they looked good!  Our friend Shawn met us there, and we spent some time catching up chatting.  It was great, since it has been years since I saw him!  When we headed back to our rooms for the night, I crashed and slept deeply!

The gang at Whitehouse Crawford

 

2014 Elizabeth Chambers Pinot Gris

I visited Elizabeth Chambers Cellar by accident a couple of years ago. I was looking for a different winery, which used to occupy the historic power plant building in McMinnville, Oregon.  Well, the other winery wasn’t there, and this one was, so I stopped in for a taste… And brought home a couple of bottles.

So the Pinot Gris… Amazing!  This wine is less sweet than the typical Oregon Pinot Gris; Elizabeth Chambers keeps the residual sugar levels to less than one tenth of 1% in their Pinot Gris, resulting in a bone-dry wine.

The wine has flavors of lemon and pineapple, with bright acidity and minerality. The Winemaker’s Notes say: Aromas of orange peel and passion fruit lead into zesty flavors of lemon peel and grapefruit, showcasing bright acidity and an engaging citrus and tropical fruit character.  The wine’s elegant finish reveals hints of pear and Crenshaw melon.

The finish lingers on the tongue. It is excellent.  Sadly the 2014 is sold out, but the 2015 and 2016 are still available!

If you have a chance to visit their tasting room, do!  The atmosphere is lively and fun, and the historic building has so much character!

2015 Couplet, by J. Bookwalter Winery

I picked up this bottle a few weeks ago on a visit with one of one of my oldest, dearest friends in Eastern Washington.  We have been friends since we were 9 years old. I was there on a business trip, but had some time afterwards to socialize.

After my meeting wrapped up for the day, we took a bit of time to visit J. Bookwalter Winery, one of her favorites, and one I have long been curious about but never tried.  Many of their wines have literary names; this one is no exception.  For a book nerd like me, that is a huge draw!

Our tasting consisted of a number of fantastic wines; she was more drawn to the heavy tannic reds, while I enjoyed the whites a bit more.  Our server was friendly and personable, and we ended up having a great conversation on the wines, love and life.

The 2015 Couplet is sourced entirely from Columbia Valley grapes, from the Conner Lee, and the blend is 76% Chardonnay and 24% Viognier.  Both were fermented in stainless steel, rather than oak, giving the wine a crisp flavor.  Flavors of peach and lemon combine with a light minerality for a delicious hot weather patio wine.  (Even though it wasn’t that hot today, and I didn’t sit on the patio while enjoying my glass…) If you are near Prosser, Washington though, J. Bookwalter has an awesome patio, and they are open later than most wineries because they also have a restaurant!

2015 Couplet, by J. Bookwalter

It was certainly a worthwhile visit and a great wine!

 

 

 

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir

I don’t typically pick a wine by the label, but sometimes I pick one by the screw cap!  I was traveling, and needed a bottle that could be opened without a corkscrew, because I didn’t happen to have one in my suitcase, and who wants to buy another cheap corkscrew to add to the collection at home?

So, anywhoo, the 2013 Liberated Pinot Noir from Monterey, California comes with three different choices of cool labels.  The store I purchased it at had two of the options, but I liked the Urban Dweller girl label better.  It’s so cool!

The wine itself is decent, with a medium body and flavors of ripe cherry, blackberry and a hint of tobacco.  The Liberated Wine Company clearly puts more stock in the curb appeal of the bottle, rather than the wine itself though, as their website merely has a whimsical description rather than information about the wine.

URBAN DWELLER – I’ve rarely met the company of a nook whose cranny wasn’t just as welcome! It’s the beauty of being a tourist in your own town, where there are hundreds of sights you’ve crossed a thousand times, and yet somehow, never seen before. Take nothing away from travel, but no one needs to leave the city limits to broaden their horizons. All it takes is a curious mind and a set of eyes—so open yours to the wonders of everyday life. Isn’t it about time we liberated our idea of what “local” means?”

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir - Monterey, CA

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir – Monterey, CA

At $13.50 for the bottle, when Pinot can often be much more expensive, it is certainly a bottle worth trying out!