Tag Archive | Albarino

Abacela 2012 Albariño

Tonight I opened up a bottle of the Abacela 2012 Albariño.  Before I got this bottle, I hadn’t heard of Abacela before, but when I saw that they had an Oregon Albariño, I just had to try it.

I looked up Abacela, and discovered that it was founded by a couple from Florida, who had come to love the Tempranillo grape that made up Rioja and Ribera Del Duero wines in Spain.  They learned that the United States grew very few Tempranillo grapes, and the ones there were typically ended up in cheap, California jug wines.  They set out to find the perfect climate in the U.S. for Tempranillo grapes, and ended up in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon, near Roseville.

Abacela 2012 Albariño

Abacela 2012 Albariño

But back to the Albariño.  While planting their vineyards with Tempranillo, they also set out to find other under-planted grape varietals that would do well in the region.  Albariño was one of those.  They have been making an Albariño since 2001, and the 2012 vintage does not disappoint.  Upon opening, this wine was crisp and citrusy, with flavors of green apple and lemongrass.  After the wine warmed up just a bit, a hint of creamy butter began showing through, softening and enhancing the apple flavors.  At either temperature, the wine has a tart kick at the back of the palate on the finish.

I really enjoyed this wine – it is one that I would certainly seek out again.  And after checking out the list of varietal wines on their webpage, I think we need to add Abacela to the list of wineries we need to visit.  What a pleasant surprise!

And in case you hadn’t already fallen in love, here’s an endearing bit of trivia.  According to the folks at Abacela, the winery is named as a derivation of the nearly obsolete Spanish, Galician and Portuguese verb abacelar, which means “to plant a grapevine.”

Jon Picks a White! Coyote Canyon 2011 Albariño

Jon loves red wine.  In fact, when I first met him, it was nearly impossible to get him to try a white wine.  Over the years, he has widened his horizons, but his preference is still for the reds.  So you might imagine my surprise when the other night he told me he was craving a white wine, and pulled out a bottle of Coyote Canyon 2011 Albariño.

We were first introduced to Coyote Canyon when he went to the Red Wine and Chocolate weekend in the Yakima Valley for a President’s Day long weekend.  I posted about it a few years back.  We stopped in to Coyote Canyon, which is a family owned winery – a labor of love of the Andrews family.  The land has been in the family since 1953, and has gradually shifted from growing wheat and Hereford cattle to grapes.  They now own 1100 acres.  Like many other winemaker’s in Washington, the Andrews began growing grapes for other producers, before starting the winery in 2006.  That weekend in Prosser we got to barrel taste the 2010 vintage of Albariño, and it was awesome!  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get back over there before it sold out…

Coyote Canyon 2011 Albariño

Coyote Canyon 2011 Albariño

Fast forward to the 2012 Anacortes Wine Festival, and Coyote Canyon was serving some of their wines, and I was lucky enough to try their 2011 Albariño.  I purchased two bottles.  Two nights ago we opened the second.  It pairs a crisp acidity with honeydew melon, honey and a light floral finish.  This wine has a thick, creamy mouthfeel – perfect on its own or with a meal.  I thoroughly enjoyed this wine – I just wish we had more!

Southern Oregon GPS madness… but we can always find the wine…

On day two, we decided that we were going to see the Oregon Caves National Monument. We had seen signs for it on the way down, but neither of us had heard of it before. We got on the road with the GPS and headed out. We drove through the lovely Applegate Valley, enjoying the country roads and the scenery. But we didn’t see any signs directing us to the Oregon Caves. When we were led up the Forest Service Road, we knew the GPS had it wrong. If you are ever trying to find Oregon Caves National Monument, don’t trust the GPS!  So, we decided to give up the quest and go wine tasting. We had passed through the lovely historic town of Jacksonville, OR, and decided we would head back there at some point during the day.

So we changed the plan and headed out to Troon Vineyards. Troon is a fairly large winery with some of the oldest plantings in the state, dating back to the 1970s. You drive past vines on the way in the door, and I thought the building looked like some of the places we saw in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. When we got inside we were served by a younger guy named Jimmy – it was quite refreshing in that he actually told us his name and introduced himself with a handshake. He led us through a tasting which included their Dry Riesling and the Druid’s Fluid white, which is a blend of Riesling, Moscato (that gives it more sweetness) and something else that I can’t remember. After sampling the whites, we tried the reds, including their bestseller, the Druid’s Fluid Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Zinfandel. The story behind the Druid’s Fluid red is that it started out as a mistake. After growing and blending the grapes one year, the owner and winemaker Dick Troon, was not happy with the way the wine turned out. He bottled it and gave it away to friends and family, who proceeded to tell him that they enjoyed the wine – it was a bit sweeter than other reds. He took their advice and began to produce this wine on purpose – it is now their top seller. As for Jon and me, we liked it but didn’t love it. Jon really enjoyed their Cabernet and bought a couple of bottles to bring home. We asked Jimmy for his recommendations for wineries in the area and ended up going down the road a little way to Schmidt Family Vineyard.

Schmidt Family Vineyard

Schmidt Family Vineyard

Let me just say that Schmidt Family Vineyards is an amazing setup.  The winery and tasting room is huge, built to look like a Mountain Lodge, with exposed wood beams and a huge wall of glass in the front.  The landscaping is phenomenal, and there is a beautiful stone patio with tables to enjoy wine and appetizers.  Or you can head across the lawn to sit in one of the Adirondack chairs and gaze at the pond, stocked with fish!  I had been excited to go there because I had read in the wine guidebook, that they produce an Albariño, which is a relatively rare wine in these parts.  But unfortunately the wine was so-so, and the Albariño was nowhere to be found.  Our server was efficient and polite, but wasn’t very talkative and didn’t explain the wine at all – it felt rather impersonal.  After our tasting, there was nothing that I was even tempted to buy.  Jon enjoyed the Soulea, which was a fairly syrupy Syrah blend, but at $34 a bottle, it certainly wasn’t worth the price.  After our tasting, we picked the best ones (I went with the Sauvignon Blanc and Jon chose the Soulea) and purchased a glass of each to sit out in the chairs.  It was a great mid-afternoon break on a lovely sunny day with a nice breeze to counter the heat.


Adirondack Chairs at Schmidt Family Vineyard

Adirondack Chairs at Schmidt Family Vineyard

After leaving Schmidt Family Vineyards, we headed back into Jacksonville to hang out. Jacksonville, Oregon is a historical town outside of Medford. Gold was found there in 1851 and 1852, establishing Jacksonville as the principal financial center for Southern Oregon at the time. It was the county seat until 1927. Once the gold dried up, the town did too, and as a result, progress bypassed Jacksonville and a large number of the commercial and residential buildings were left intact. Lucky for us, because the result is a pleasant trip into yesterday, of a nature that is rarely available on the West Coast. We wandered around and did a little shopping – we got some wine from a wine shop who had a large selection of Washington wines, and I got a cute pair of Ocean Jasper earrings! We visited a tasting room that was completely empty – we looked around for an employee and waited for a few minutes, but saw no one. We did try one more time when we came back to the car and she was there the second time. We did a tasting of River’s Edge and Bradley wineries, comparing and contrasting their Pinot Noir from two different vintages. Oddly, we asked for a tasting of the entire lineup, but she skipped two of the three white wines. But perhaps that is a blessing in disguise, as the first white we tried was awful! The Pinots fortunately, were very good, and very reasonably priced. We purchased a bottle of the Bradley 2008 Pinot Noir. Actually, thinking back, I believe that those were the only Pinots that we were served in a tasting room the whole weekend. Our goal of sampling Pinots and comparing the Southern Oregon wines to the Pinots from the Willamette Valley came up short. But Jacksonville over-delivered, with both Jon and I talking about staying for a night or two next time we are in the area.

Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, Oregon

After visiting Jacksonville, we headed back to the hotel, had a nice quiet dinner and had  swim in the pool.  It topped off another fantastic day!

Arizona – Saguaro National Park

The next day we decided to do something a little different and go over to the Desert Museum. The Desert Museum has outdoor exhibits featuring the local flora and fauna of the desert. Once you get inside the museum, you basically walk right back out into the desert. The cacti are labeled, but obviously the king of the desert here is the Saguaro cactus. If you can’t identify a Saguaro without a label, you have got a big problem. Then there are birds and coyotes and javelinas, which are like a desert pig. They have an exhibit area with a family of javelinas, which makes it easy to see them when ordinarily they would be hiding during the day. The coyote was hiding though, so we didn’t get to see him. We didn’t see any rattlesnakes either, but Jon was ok with that. They did have a collection of Zuni fetishes in the museum store that were reasonably priced, and some Indian baskets and ceramics, which were much more expensive.

After we went to the Desert Museum, we decided to go hiking nearby in the Saguaro National Park. For those of you who haven’t been there, Saguaro National Park has two sides, east and west. They are located on either side of Tucson, and have quite different topography. In sum it up succinctly, Saguaro National Park East has more saguaros. We went there first, and visited the visitor’s center to get a map of the area and some of the trails that we should go on. We found some suitable trails and headed out. We had a great time – the trails were relatively easy for us, but they gave some great close-ups of saguaros, and some really nice views as well. Of course, Jon being the klutz that he is, brushed up against a cactus and got a bunch of spines stuck in his leg. He wasn’t hurt, and honestly, I tried not to laugh. We also found a short hike that takes you up to some ancient petroglyphs.  They are difficult to photograph without a serious zoom lens, but really neat to see.  We watched the sunset, and I got some great photos, and we found that it gets quite cold in Arizona in January after the sun goes down. But it sure is pretty.

Desert Sunset

That evening, we were cruising around looking for a decent place to eat, and we passed by a steakhouse and wine bar called the Elle Wine Country Bistro that from the outside looked pretty pricey. And it was. But, you could sit in the bar and order from the bar menu and the prices were actually pretty decent. And there, I discovered Albariño. Albariño is a Spanish varietal that is gradually increasing in popularity here. It is a light white, with a crisp mineral taste. It has a hint of citrus, but is not overly fruity – very refreshing. I ordered that for myself and when Jon tried it, he kept wanting to steal sips for himself. I had a PoBoy sandwich or something along those lines, and it was absolutely delicious – Jon had the pound of steamed mussels, which were also excellent. Next time we are in the area, I’ll certainly head back there.

The next day, we did Saguaro National Park West. This is the side that has fewer Saguaros, and more in the way of scrub brush. It is still beautiful, but different. In this area we went hiking and enjoyed the warmth – it was the first day I could wear shorts and a tank top and still feel warm. An older gentlemen asked us if we would like him to take our photo, and after he took the photo he gave us a pen and told us that Jesus loves us. I’m not sure what happened to that pen!

We did have a good hike though, and after our hike we headed into downtown Tucson to check out the sights there. We parked and found our way to Old Tucson, which is a little tourist area in a complex of 19th century adobe buildings. And in the middle, there is a courtyard where you can sit and have a beer with your lunch. Again, I had the opportunity to be baked in warmth, a phenomena that is sorely lacking during the northwest winters at home. As a matter of fact, right now I’m really missing that.

We poked around the shops, looking at Navajo ceramic pots, Zuni fetishes (theirs were much more expensive than the ones at the museum), paintings and framed photographs, and we decided to buy a little Navajo pot with a turquoise embellishment and burned horse hair decoration. It’s a neat technique really, where you take a piece of horse hair and you burn it against the pot. It leaves a zig-zaggy line across the surface of the pot. That little pot is sitting on our china buffet at home, reminding me of a great trip.

Then we went to the Tucson Art Museum. They had an exhibit on Ansel Adams photographs that I really wanted to see. His photos are really something – the way he captures the light and shows the contrast between light and dark, all with black and white film. He really had a talent, and was adventurous enough to go to the spot where you could get the great photo that others couldn’t get. They also had a neat exhibit on antique furniture, mostly Asian, but European and American as well. I can imagine all the cool furnishings I could decorate my house with, if only I had that kind of cash.

Outdoor Mural at the Tucson Art Museum

That evening, we went to a concert at the Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. Jon found out that The Girls were playing at show with $10 tickets, so he booked them online before we flew out for vacation. The Hotel Congress was once one of the ritzy hotels in Tucson, and it has been restored. It is now a boho place, focusing on the the younger eclectic crowd and booking popular bands. Of course, if you stay there, you might as well go see the band, because you won’t be sleeping upstairs. The show was good, and we enjoyed ourselves. Of course, we were up way past our bedtime, and I was pooped by the time we got home.