Tag Archive | 2011 Vacations

Fat Bird, Skinny Turtle, and some wine

On Sunday, Jon and I decided to make our own “Shirk Your Responsibilities” Day. Instead of staying home and getting laundry done and working on things around the house, we decided to go down to Woodinville and do a little wine tasting. When I suggested it to Jon first thing in the morning, I was amazed at how quickly he popped up out of his chair to get ready to go – kind of like a Jack in the Box.  That was my first hint that he was into the idea…  So we got ready, and drove down. On the way, we talked about where we wanted to go.

Jon was interested in heading to Mark Ryan, which was supposed to be in the Hollywood Schoolhouse. The Schoolhouse is an old school that was built in 1912 and is no longer being used as a school. I was under the impression that the school had been converted in space that the wineries were leasing, and each classroom would be a tasting room. Not so much. Apparently The Schoolhouse is a special event space, that is rented out for weddings and other events. It looked beautiful through the locked doors, but there aren’t any wineries there. Alexandria Nicole has a space at one end of the building, with an outside entrance. Mark Ryan, Andrew Ross, J Bookwalter, and PepperBridge are in a building behind the Schoolhouse. It just wasn’t the same.

So after figuring out this Schoolhouse business, we made our way behind the building to where Mark Ryan is. It was a very quiet Sunday, and we were the only ones there. I think it was because Taste Washington, the big wine event in Seattle was that day. At any rate, it was our gain. Mark Ryan has received rave reviews for their wine, and they were delicious. We began our tasting with a Viognier that was very floral. Then we moved into the reds. Mark Ryan has a lineup with pop culture and eclectic names (two of his wines are named after Pearl Jam songs), like The Dissident, The Dead Horse, Wild Eyed Syrah and The Long Haul, and all of his wines, with the exception of the Viognier, are blends. Mark Ryan is into the big, bold Cabernet blends, so Jon was in heaven. The wines for me were all very good, but I found the Cabernet blends all running together. It was hard for me to tell them apart. I liked the Wild Eyed Syrah best.

Mark Ryan’s tasting room follows the pop culture theme as well. They used an antique cabinet as the tasting bar, and had two antique Indian motorcycles. For those of you who don’t know the Indian, it was the motorcycle that BJ Hunnicutt fell in love with in a M*A*S*H episode. It was destroyed in that episode, causing much anguish for BJ. The Indians at Mark Ryan are fully restored (one is a 1928!), and absolutely beautiful. The walls at Mark Ryan are decorated with concert posters, matted and framed in pristine condition. The ambience of the place reminded me of a bachelor’s loft – very hip.

We moved next door to Ross Andrew after that. Ross Andrew started the lineup with a Pinot Gris. I really wanted to love it, because a Pinot Gris is just so rare in Woodinville. It was good, but it wasn’t the crisp fruity Pinot Gris that I really wanted it to be. We also tried the Glaze, which is an affordable Cab blend, which I liked quite a bit. It was smooth and easy to drink, and not overpowered with tannins, like so many Cabs can be. The Glaze is named for the winemaker’s wife’s pottery. The spit bucket in the winery was actually a clay pot that she made, with wine grapes decorating it. It is nice to see a winery that is truly a family affair, down to the Bernese Mountain winery dog Galena (she’s shy though…).

After leaving Ross Andrew, we decided to try to find Chatter Creek Winery. I had purchased a bottle of their Grenache a few months back, not knowing anything about the winery, and it was very good. So, with the help of the GPS and our guidebook that said Chatter Creek is open from 12 – 4 pm on Sundays, we headed over… to find it closed. So much for Chatter Creek, at least for now.

We ended our day with an oldie but a goodie – Matthews Estate. We were there before, a year ago during the Party Bus tour. This year when we went, it was really quiet… there was only one other guy there tasting with us. I was excited that they now have a Sauvignon Blanc, and it was wonderful. Crisp apple taste, perfect for a hot summer day with some Teriyaki chicken on the grill. I brought home two bottles. Their Blackboard charity blend this year is a Cab blend, and I have to say, I just didn’t like it at all. It was very oakey, and seemed pretty harsh to me. I liked their Blackboard Syrah a lot better. I know that they likely change the wine each year, depending on what grapes they have leftover, but I hope they will do the Syrah again. They are still doing their single varietal Syrah, and it is one to be experienced.

Jon and I finished up the day with a little shopping at Molbak’s nursery, and Cost Plus World Market. I managed to walk away from all the beautiful and unusual plants that Molbak’s has, which is good since my yard is totally full. But it was tough. I did have to bring home a fat bird and a skinny turtle with absolutely no practical purpose. But they are cute, and that was enough for me.

Escape from the Yakima Valley

As usual, any good wine tour eventually comes to an end. So, unfortunately, Monday morning, we got up, and got ready to check out from our home away from home. Jon is outstanding in this capacity, because he will pack up the car with all of our wine and assorted junk while I am showering and doing my hair, as long as I am willing to make room in my suitcase for the things he can no longer fit in his. Don’t ask me why Jon who can’t fit his stuff in his suitcase – it would make much more sense if it were me who couldn’t jam everything in for the return trip. But, it is what it is, so I put his jeans, shirt and sweatshirt in mine and called it good.

We headed out once again in the beautiful blue sunshine that is Eastern Washington, got on the road, and said farewell to Yakima. The Precision Fruit and Antique Stand still wasn’t open. However, we lucked out, because the Thorp Fruit and Antique Stand was open! I’ve been driving by this place on my way back and forth to Eastern Washington for years, and have never been there. So, finally, I can say I have! Of course, keep in mind that they didn’t have much in the way of seasonal fruit, given that it is February, but they do have all sorts of neat local jams, marinades, and sauces. And wine. We saw several that were local, including a few that we hadn’t had a chance to get to. They even had the Piety Flats Black Muscat, which was sold out at the winery, and I had read good reviews about (of course I got a bottle). Jon tried out the Hyatt Winery red blend (he opened it when we got home, and declared it one of his favorites from the weekend). The upstairs is really where it’s at though, for me anyway. Two floors of antique mall booths – I was in heaven. Jon was very patient, letting me browse all the way through, and only occasionally coming to ask how far I had gotten. And in the very first booth, just waiting for me, I spotted a trio of Howard Pierce Quail – the mama and two babies.

For those of you who have never heard of Howard Pierce, which I’m sure is most of you, he was a potter in California from the 1930s until his death in the early 1990s. He and his wife made all sorts of pottery figurines, mostly animals, but also saints and angels, vases, and some other random items like lapel pins. His style is very distinctive, semi-abstract, and very earthy. They used just one ‘not so large’ kiln, and as a result, Howard Pierce was never mass produced. You don’t see Pierce items all that often, but when you do you will recognize them. This is the little quail family that went home with me, and made the end of my weekend!


 

Aren’t They Cute?

Our drive back across the pass was uneventful, although there were a few snowflakes coming down (they were not sticking, although Jon swears they were). And of course, once we crossed the County line close to home, it started raining, just to welcome us back. Until next time…




Trials and Tribulations in the Yakima Valley

In my last post, I discussed the places that we went during the first day of our Yakima Valley wine tasting weekend.  We did end up heading to a few other places, quickly, near the end of the day, so I’ll do my best to sum them up too.

Maison Bleue: This was the weekend’s other knockout.  It was amazingly quiet, especially considering it was later in the day when we visited, and the drunken keg (or should I say wine barrel) party was in full swing at the surrounding wineries.  They weren’t officially participating in Red Wine and Chocolate weekend, and they charge a $5 tasting fee, refundable upon purchase.  I suppose this turned a lot of non-serious tasters off, but a nominal tasting fee is par for the course for us.  We had a white blend called JaJa White that was excellent, and their La Roque Syrah was amazing (apparently these both sold out this weekend).  We did get to taste a Grenache that has yet to be released, but they only had 20 bottles to sell when they started the weekend, and they were gone by the time we got there.  We will be looking for these wines.

Kestrel Vineyards:  we know other wineries that get their grapes from the Kestrel Vineyards (I don’t know if they buy from this winery or just from the same general area), so we were kind of excited about trying some of their wines.  But, unfortunately this was a disappointment.  They were tasting their low end grocery store wines, and they were really trying to push last year’s vintage out the door.  One of the reasons I go to a winery is to try the wines that I can’t get at home, so this was frustrating.  They did do a tasting of some of their dessert wines and ports, which were nice, but Jon and I don’t typically buy them, since we aren’t big dessert people.  Their low end wines were decent, but let’s just say, if I’m making a special trip to see you, I expect to get something I can’t find at Fred Meyer.

Alexandria Nicole: They were serving two wines, a red and a white, but to be honest, they weren’t very memorable.  Perhaps we will try again sometime when we are in Woodinville.  They did have a good cheese available to taste though, which was a pleasant change from all the chocolate.  It was good to get some protein, rather than just sugar.

Cowan Winery: They had some good wines – the memorable wine here was their Cabernet Franc, which Jon really enjoyed.

When we were done for the day, the sun was getting low in the sky, and we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the road back to Yakima.  At that point we were tired, since we had gotten up so early, so we checked into the Ledgestone Hotel in Yakima, and schlepped our stuff from the car.  When we saw our room, we were quite pleased.

The Ledgestone is targeted toward the extended stay traveler, so they have a suite style room with a bedroom and living room, and a kitchen with fridge, cooktop burners, microwave, sink and dishwasher.  They stock it with a few dishes and utensils so you can make a meal there.  It came in really handy.  Jon and I went over to the Bob’s Burgers and Brew restaurant next door to the hotel for dinner.  Dinner was what you can expect from a Bob’s, the food is consistent but nothing to write home about.  But it was close and has fairly quick service.  Day one ended with some cable tv watching and chatting about the winery highlights.

The next morning we got up and had cereal and milk (we went to the next door Target the night before and got a few staples).  That was a big savings to not have to go out to a restaurant for breakfast.  The second day, we decided to stick a little closer to Yakima, so we started our day wanting to scope out the Precision Fruit and Antique Stand down the road.  Thwarted again… they were closed.  They also had absolutely no signage indicating what times/days or which seasons they are open.  That’s frustrating because the internet or tourist brochures said nothing about the stand only being open seasonally, and it would be easy enough to put a sign on the door, wouldn’t it?

So, we decided to head the other way down the road to Zillah, and visit Claar Cellars.  Claar is right off the freeway, so it was easy to find.  For some reason, their tasting room reminded me of a motel, with the tasting room in the lobby/check in area.  It would be interesting to know if this is true.  There were not any windows on the back of the building, so if it was a motel, they walled in the windows, which would make sense for storing wine in Eastern Washington.  Claar’s wines were decent, but they didn’t have anything amazing – although I did pick up a bottle of their Riesling.  I guess it is telling that I found the history of the building to be more interesting than the wines.  That seemed to be the theme for the weekend.  At the server’s recommendation, we headed next door to the El Porton Mexican restaurant for lunch, and were happy with the lunch there.  Of course, Zillah only seemed to have 3 restaurants, and one was closed, so short of driving back to Yakima, what choice did we have?

Does this look like a motel to you?

Next, we found Portteus Winery, one of Jon’s picks for the weekend.  Portteus has a long list of wines.  It runs the gamut from Chardonnay, red blends, Syrahs, Zinfandels, Merlots and Malbecs.  Again, until we got up to the Reserve wines, the selection was ok, but not amazing.  We both really liked their  Purple Haze blend though.  The winery dog is a big, black furry guy, who is very friendly and likes to roll over for belly rubs.

After heading back down Portteus’ long gravel road, we decided to try Piety Flats Winery.  This winery is located in a turn of the century general store, and they have old photographs showing what the store originally looked like.  The couple that owns Piety Flats is very friendly, and we chatted with them for awhile, since we were the only people there.  They have some good wines.  An unoaked Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc (which was good, but I wish it were a bit more crisp) and a Chardonnay Pinot Gris blend.   They had some good reds too, the best for me was a Carmenere which I had to get.  Carmenere is a varietal done mostly in Argentina, and you just don’t find that many of them in the States.

By now we were feeling a bit wined out, so we decided to check out the downtown area.  Sadly, it was a bit depressing.  We were there on a Sunday, and I understand you won’t have the business crowd there on the weekends, but the downtown was mostly dead.  At least half of the storefronts were empty, and the only ones that seemed to have any business were the wine tasting rooms.  We went to find an Antique Mall that was tucked away in an old warehouse building, and we were not sure what we were going to find.  There were no cars in front, and Jon was convinced we weren’t in the right spot.  The restaurant downtown that looked interesting to me online was only open Monday through Thursday.

So, instead of eating out, we went to Safeway and got ingredients to make a really good salad (for Jon) and a really good fruit salad (for me).  Good thing it doesn’t take much to satisfy us.

The Yakima Wine Country is actually in Prosser

So, Jon and I headed over to the Yakima Valley for a little getaway on the long weekend.  I hadn’t been to Yakima since I showed horses there in the 90’s, and even then, my experience was mostly limited to the Fairgrounds, and maybe a random McDonald’s.  So, we got up early (we left the house at 6:30 am!), and headed over to get our “wine-taste” on.

Beautiful Gorge in the Yakima Valley

We had plenty of time, and Jon wanted to start out with McKinley Springs Winery.  McKinley Springs is the furthest one away, so we thought we would start there and then start making out way back to civilization.  The guidebook said that McKinley Springs opened at 10 am.  So, we took a tour…. out to the middle of nowhere – 30 minutes out of our way… on back roads… with nobody else on them… only to get there… and find out that McKinley Springs was not open….  Frustrating!  It looked very nice from the outside, but fat lot of good that did us.  I think it will be a long time before we head back out to McKinley Springs.

So, next up, we had to get back to civilization.  Thank god for GPS.  She always knows the best route.  However, in this case, since we were so far out in the middle of nowhere, the best route included six long miles on a gravel road, over a mountain, with hairpin switchbacks and no lane markings.  I was a bit nervous, let’s just say.  Jon kept telling me to stay in the middle of the road, but when you can’t see if there is another car coming, I was concerned about that.  Of course, we didn’t pass another car the whole time we were on the road.  So, after the GPS got us off the mountain, we made it in one piece to Airfield Estates Winery.

Airfield is in a complex with about 10 other wineries, and this was Red Wine and Chocolate weekend.  It was busy.  Most of the wineries participate in the event, where you buy a passport at the beginning, and you get a free tasting, some do barrel tastings or reserve tastings, and most do a discount on your wine purchase.  As we discovered, there are all types of people.  There are the people who are more serious about tasting, and finding good wines, and then there are apparently a bunch of folks that are trying to get wasted (maybe its a Yakima thing).  This is a “bring your own glass” event, and we saw glasses with logos, and glasses with bras, and several people that had a little holder that hung around their neck and holds the glass – a hands-free glass if you will.  Now if that little hands-free device would just tip it up to their mouth, that would really be awesome!  But I digress.

Since there were so many wineries in a small area, I’ll summarize: the high points, if you will.

Airfield: good, not outstanding.  Their wines were good, but nothing spectacular.  My favorite was their higher end red blend, called The Aviator.  Jon also really liked The Spitfire, which is a Sangiovese blend.  They served a delicious fudge brownie with fudge sauce too.

Milbrandt: they had some good whites, a Riesling that was semi-sweet, and a Chardonnay that Jon liked.  We picked up a bottle of their Pinot Gris that our server recommended, so I hope that it is good.  Jon really liked their Estate Syrah too.

Gamache:  what to say about Gamache.  Their regular line of wines wasn’t that great, but the reserves were pretty good.  The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent, and the Reserve Malbec was very good too.  And the teeny, tiny winery dog, a Yorkshire Terrier was friendly and adorable.

Apex Cellars:  Apex’s grocery store line is Washington Hills, and it is mediocre.  But we did their reserve wines, called the Apex Ascent and they were where it’s at.  Jon and I both enjoyed them a lot.

Martinez and Martinez:  The hidden gem of the day.  We hadn’t heard of this winery, but enjoyed their wines a lot.  Their Cesar red blend is excellent, and they also have a very good Rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon.  We will be looking for their wines at home.

Coyote Canyon:  I liked their white blend, and they do an Albarino (which is a Spanish varietal, and rare in the states).  Unfortunately, it was sold out – but we got to barrel taste the next vintage.  I hope to be able to buy the Albarino when it gets released again.

We went to a lot of places, tried many wines, dumped many, enjoyed watching the Red Wine and Chocolate meat market before our eyes, and never even had to get back in the car!  The strip mall approach has its advantages, but unfortunately, you do end up missing out on the ambiance.  Jon and I enjoy having a picnic outside at a winery when the weather is nice, or sitting outside on the patio.  I guess in February when it is cold out, it isn’t as big of an issue.

Well, enough for now, I’ll continue my thoughts on Prosser in my next post.

Yakima is just so close!

So, at this point we are pondering which wineries will be on the list to visit during our upcoming Yakima Valley wine tour. Actually, many of the wineries that we are interested in are in Prosser, but Prosser apparently has very little in the way of accommodations. So, Yakima will be the jumping off point. From the wine books I have read, that seems to be what most people do.

We don’t have a lot of good whites at home right now. It seems like lately it has tougher to find a truly spectacular white wine. I’m not sure if my tastes are changing and I’m becoming more selective, or the great whites are fewer and further between. So, at any rate, that will be my focus for the weekend. I’ve got some books from the library to take a look through, and I’ll see if I can come up with some good ideas from them (I get this obsessive trip planning gene from my mother). She is great to travel with, because she will scope out all the possible touristy things to do, and I do the driving. It works great – I just have to tell her what I’m interested in for the day… museum, shopping, pub food, and she sets up the itinerary. But I digress, because I’m not taking this trip with mom. And with Jon, I have to do my own research. Hopefully the library books will have the scoop on the good wineries. At this point, here is what we are leaning towards:

First up, Airfield Estates Winery. I received a bottle of their red blend as a birthday gift last fall from Jon’s Aunt and Uncle. I was quite impressed with this wine, especially given that it was their everyday wine – and it wasn’t a single varietal, not single vineyard, not estate grown, nor any of the other indicators that the winery believes that this wine is one of their standouts. I am curious to try more of their offerings, because if their everyday table wine is this good, imagine what they can really do!

McKinley Springs – this one is a little further past Prosser I guess. We had a bottle of their Viognier last spring, and it was outstanding. Their Syrah was very impressive as well. If the drive isn’t too far, we will visit them and see what the rest of their wines are like.

Kestrel Vineyards. We don’t really know much about this winery, but it was recommended at one point by someone. Of course, we can’t quite remember who – but I believe it was Tom and Tracey of Glacial Lake Missoula, who source their grapes from this area. They seem to focus on the reds though, which gets us away from the weekends purpose of restocking on the whites.

Milbrandt Vineyards. This is a winery that Jon is interested in. They seem to do a little of everything, which can either be good, or not so good – we have had it both ways. We’ll have to try them out and see.

Piety Flats Winery – this is Camille’s pick so far. They seem to have a good selection of different wines, including several whites and a Chenin Blanc, which is a white that we don’t see very often. Chenin Blanc at its best is a very light, crisp wine, so I can’t wait to see what they have got!

We also want to head to the town of Toppenish to see their painted murals. The town has come together and painted more than 70 murals on downtown buildings, depicting scenes of everyday people living their lives, past and present. It looks like Yakima has a pretty neat historic area, with shops and antique stores. Plus, there is always the Antique/Wine/Fruit Stand outside of Yakima. We saw that on a trip we took last Memorial Day weekend, and we were intrigued, but when we were there it was evening, and they were closed. I firmly believe that everyone should take the opportunity to see these kitschy touristy locales when they get the chance. If for no other reason than to be able to say, “Hey, you know that Antique/Wine/Fruit Stand off of I-82?” “Yes, why as a matter of fact, I’ve been there!” And so we’ll go!

And I’ll consult my books for additional options… homework again…


Looking to Yakima to restore my sanity

So, I’ve been a little bit scarce lately because I started a new job a few weeks ago.  I am enjoying it a lot more than my previous job, and have more responsibility and authority and not to be minimized  – fun.  But that means that I haven’t had much time to write and unfortunately, it also means that I don’t have any time off accrued here.  Now that is a bummer, and hard to stomach.  One of the nice things about the old job was my large PTO bank.  And since I rarely get sick, I was able to use it all for vacations.  I got used to being able to be away when I wanted to be away, within the confines of my payroll schedule.

Now, eventually I’ll have a lot more flexibility to be away because I no longer have to run the payroll on a schedule, but for now I have no time built up.  I know that there are lots of people out there who neither have the time off nor the money to take a vacation and you may be reading this and seething about my expectation for lots of time off, but I went and got my Master’s degree to afford myself a bit of luxury.  To put it succinctly, this is trying my sanity.  My last official vacation (not counting some weekend trips to see family), was in August 2010.  That is almost 6 months!  Add that to the fact that it is dark, cold and rainy here at home, and I am in need of some serious therapy.

Jon and I decided that since we cannot yet remedy the vacation situation, we would take a long weekend to the Yakima Valley.  We are going to splurge on a nicer hotel than we usually get, which I am looking forward to.  Neither of us has been to the Yakima area for wine tasting, but we have tried several of the wines that are produced there and have been quite pleased with what we have had.  We are currently in the process of deciding what will be on our list of places to visit, since we know we won’t have time to go everyplace we want to.

Some of the items on our list of requirements are: wineries that have a mix of whites and reds, affordability, and wines that are not easily obtained at home.  The general rule is that if I can buy a lot of your wines in the grocery store at home, then I’m not very interested in making a special trip out to see you.  Others may disagree, arguing that a winery may have premium wines that aren’t available anywhere but the winery.  That is a valid point, but with hundreds of Washington wineries on the list, we have to have some criteria to narrow it down.  Perhaps when we have a lot more wineries under our belt, we will relax on that particular rule.  Of course, by then, there will be hundreds of new wineries to visit.

And on a different wine topic, last night Jon and I cracked open a bottle of a local red wine called Harbor Light.  It is produced by a winery in Blaine, Washington called Glacial Lake Missoula.  GLM is extremely small production, and they pretty much only sell from the winery, but don’t let that fool you.  The wines are amazing.  I have said before that I tend to steer clear of Cabernets because so many of them are very oakey and overpowering.  GLM’s wines are all Cabernet Sauvignon based (that will be changing in 2011 with the release of a Marsanne with a twist – they are adding the leftover red skins to make a red wine with a white varietal), but they have a talent in making the wines appeal to all.  The Deluge, which is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc, is dry and delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to a steak or pasta with red sauce.  Perhaps we will have to head up there this weekend for the mini-est of getaways.

Sokolicious

On New Year’s weekend, Jon and I were heading down to Portland to visit family, so we took a day to ourselves and headed over to one of our favorite wine regions… the Willamette Valley.  We have vowed to go to at least one winery on each visit that we haven’t been to before.  It was New Year’s Eve, which I thought would be very busy, but surprisingly, there weren’t many people out and about.

Our first stop was to Torii Mor winery.  Jon has had their flagship Pinot Noir, the one you can get at the grocery store, but I have never tried their wines.  We sampled their Cote D’Mor Viognier, the Reserve Pinot Gris, the 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the 2008 Deux Verres Pinot Noir and we finished off with their 2006 Syrah Port wine.  I enjoyed their Viognier, but found the Pinot Gris to be not fruity or crisp enough for my taste.  Jon and I both thought the Willamette Valley Pinot was a light and easy everyday drinking wine, but it lacked much pizazz.  The Deux Verres Pinot Noir was very nice, as it has a more robust flavor.  The Port wine was excellent, with a strong flavor that would be great poured over cheesecake or ice cream.  The server was friendly and talkative, and the atmosphere was nice.  We were alone the whole time we were there, so having a personable server really made a difference.

After leaving Torii Mor, we decided to turn right and go up the hill instead of heading back down to Highway 99.  We passed a couple of wineries that looked interesting, but were closed for the New Year’s holiday, so those will be ones we want to visit in the future.  We stopped next at Maresh Red Barn Winery, which for us was a complete unknown.  They have been in business since 1970, but apparently just sell from the winery.  They are located in a 100 year old barn, which had antique glass windows and an amazing view.  This would be a great place to visit in the summer too.  Here we had five wines, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and three Pinot Noirs.  The Pinot Gris was the standout here.  It has clean and crisp, with green apple flavors.  The Chardonnay was very good too, but unlike a traditional Chardonnay – this one was completely unoaked.  Their three Pinot Noirs were light and fruity and were all very soft.  I would have preferred a bit more from the Pinot.  We purchased the Pinot Gris, and after leaving, I think we should have purchased two.

Next up we headed to Sokol Blosser, which we have been thinking about visiting for a while.  The atmosphere here is more contemporary, with a a younger vibe.  They have a huge floor to ceiling window in the tasting room that looks out on Mount Hood, which was clearly visible on the day of our visit.  The view was spectacular.  Our servers were both young and hip, but knew about their wines.

Sokol Blosser is a certified organic winery and practices sustainable farming techniques.  We tried their Pinot Gris, which was very well done.  It was another crisp, clean fruity Pinot Gris, that will be perfect when the temperatures warm back up.  We sampled three vintages of their Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, which is a blend of all their blocks of Pinot Noir grapes.  We started with the 2008, and finished with the 2006.  It was interesting to see how the 3 vintages were so different, with the ’08 being a great balanced Pinot, the ’07 being very soft and light, and the ’06 being a robust strong Pinot.  Jon and I both liked the 2008 best.  Jon really liked their 2007 Goosepen Pinot Noir, which is a single vineyard wine, but I thought it wasn’t different enough from the ’07 Dundee Hills to justify the difference in price.  We finished our tasting with the White Riesling Dessert Wine, which was a lovely sweet dessert wine.  Sokol Blosser was our untried winery star for the day – we both really enjoyed all of their wines.

We ended our day at Chehalem, one of our old standbys, which is always excellent.  We tried their Pinot Blanc, which was very good.  There aren’t many Pinot Blanc varietal wines out there, so I’m always looking for good ones.  Jon and  I also both love their Cerise, which is a wine that is Gamay Noir blended with Pinot Noir.  Gamay Noir is a grape similar to Pinot Noir, but it has a strong delicious cherry taste.  Chehalem always does a great job with their Pinots and this year’s are no different.  Everything they have is delicious – you can’t go wrong whatever you buy.

It was certainly another day well-spent in the valley.  Can’t wait to be back again.  I don’t have my camera cord here, so I’ll post pictures soon.