Tag Archive | Carlton Oregon

The Post Race Wine Festival!

After I finished the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, it was time for the wine!  Never mind that it was only 10 am.  I had already been up for 5 hours at that point, and that totally counts right?  I had seen the sunrise, and sunrises are almost like sunsets, and a spectacular sunset calls for some wine!  Not to mention that almost 3 of those hours were doing high intensity exercise!  I was more than ready.

But where was my cheering section?  Where were my partners in wine?  Allysa and Bob were going to meet me at the end of the race and watch me cross the finish line, but I didn’t see them, and I couldn’t figure out where they were.  Carlton is not that big, so the possibility that they had lost me in the crowd seemed unlikely.  I texted Allysa that I was done!  I got a message back that the GPS had taken them on the scenic route, and they were almost there.  Oops…

So, while I was waiting, I got prepared.  I wandered around looking for water, and stumbled into a vendor booth where they were giving away cans of an all-natural juice/electrolyte/anti-oxidant/miracle drug concoction.  Score – sounds great!  I chose one in Nectarine and something else (Pomegranate?) and cracked it open.  Despite the fact that I had not yet imbibed anything alcoholic, I cannot for the life of me remember what the juice was, but it was tasty.

Now normally I might not wait for my friends – I would have just dug into the wine, but I had to pick up both my glass and the guest glass together, and my guest had to be present.  So, finally, Allysa showed up, and we were ready to taste!  And then Shelley showed up!  We picked up our souvenir etched Riedel wine glasses and headed over to the tasting area.  If you have ever been to Carlton, the festival was right outside in the parking lot of Ken Wright Cellars and the Carlton Winemakers Studio.  There were 29 wineries (Wow!) represented, most with tasting rooms in the immediate Carlton vicinity.

The Band at the Wine Festival

The Band at the Wine Festival

Here’s the list:

Anne Amie Vineyards

ArborBrook Vineyards

Argyle Winery

Carlton Cellars

Cathedral Ridge Winery

Cottonwood Winery of Oregon

Denison Cellars

Duck Pond Cellars

Elks Cove Vineyards

Ghost Hill Cellars

Ken Wright Cellars

Kramer Vineyards

K&M Winery

Left Coast Cellars

Lemelson Vineyards

Lenne Estate

Luminous Hills Winery

Monks Gate Vineyard Estate

Omero Cellars

ROCO Winery

Scott Paul Wines

Seven of Hearts

Solena Estate

Stag Hollow

Stoller Family Estate

Stone Griffon Vineyard

Torii Mor

Walnut City WineWorks

Wildaire Cellars

Each winery was tasting between 1 and 3 of their wines, with 2 being the norm.  I didn’t write down any of my impressions, and I must admit I found it somewhat difficult to pay particular attention to the wines (call it fatigue or adrenaline or whatever), so I won’t be giving you any tasting notes here.  Post half marathon wine tasting is an interesting experience, as I learned…  I will say that there wasn’t a bad wine in the bunch.  I tried to focus on wineries that I hadn’t visited before, but unfortunately there wasn’t time (or stamina) to try them all.  I did sample Arborbrook, Cottonwood, Duck Pond, Elks Cove, Ken Wright, K&M, Lemelson, Lenne, Luminous Hills, ROCO, Seven of Hearts and Solena.  I feel like I didn’t even scratch the surface!

Allysa, Shelley and I had a great time, and I made sure to have some big glasses of water in between tastes to rehydrate – I just filled my wine glass with water to make sure I would drink the whole thing before I started tasting again!  Ken Wright was one of my favorites, of course, and I loved the Pinot Gris from Solena Estate.  Lenne had two vintages of their Pinot Noir to sample, you could taste the robust, earthy 2010 next to the more fruit forward, elegant 2009.  Seven of Hearts was sampling a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend that offered something different than the Pinot Noir so many Willamette Valley wineries specialize in.  I think the server was a little surprised that I knew the blend in GSM though – I’m sure the half-marathon types aren’t necessarily wine connoisseurs too.

In the grassy patio area of Carlton Cellars, a band played for the crowd, and you could sit and rest your tired feet if you needed to.  We stayed until noon, when the festival was wrapping up, and then we wandered over to a small bakery/sandwich shop on the main street of Carlton to get some much needed food.  I ordered a Reuben sandwich that was delicious!  I had an orange juice too, to get some vitamins and anti-oxidants.  Shelley had a BLT without Dijon mustard, but unfortunately the dry baguette bread didn’t lend itself to a lack of condiments.  Allysa and Bob enjoyed their sandwiches too, but I can’t remember what they ordered.  We sat in the sunshine and soaked up some rays, and then Allysa told me she would do the race next year!  Yay!

Allysa and Shelley - Waiting For Lunch

Allysa and Shelley – Waiting For Lunch

So, hopefully, next year, we will have a big crowd of friends all coming down to test ourselves and then try some wine.  Perhaps this is the beginning of an annual tradition!

Troon Dry Riesling: Some Apple with my Brisket!

Today was a lazy Sunday.  I stayed up late with friends last night, way past my usual bedtime, and for some reason I wasn’t able to sleep past 7:30 this morning.  So I had a relaxing, lazy morning, and cut up some veggies and threw them in the crock-pot with a corned beef brisket.  When Jon left to go workout – I took an awesome nap!  It was heavenly – Martini and I snuggled in, and couldn’t wake up when our alarm went off, so we turned it off and went back to sleep!  It has been awhile since I’ve had a great nap like that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After I got up from my nap, Jon and I went for a long walk and had some tea.  When we got home, we just kicked back and waited for our brisket to finish up.  I opened up a bottle of the 2010 Troon Dry Riesling that we had tasted on our Southern Oregon trip in August 2011.  Troon is one of the older vineyards in Oregon, opening in 1972.  They have their vineyard in the Applegate Valley and another in Carlton, and they mostly make small lots. They use a minimalist style of wine-making, preferring to let the natural flavors in the wine shine through.

This Dry Riesling tastes exactly like a Golden Delicious apple, with just the right touch of sweetness.  It has a nice yellow color and a tartness at first sip which lingers while slowly softening on the palate.  It complemented our brisket nicely, offsetting the salty flavor of the corned beef.  I imagine this wine would also go well with a salty brie or blue cheese, and certainly dark chocolate!

Troon Dry Riesling with slow-cooked Corned Beef Brisket

I will definitely pick this one up again!

Carlton Cellars – Part two

The number three station on the marathon tasting tour was Carlton Cellars again, where we tasted their reds. We started out with the 2008 Seven Devils Pinot Noir, which at $20 is a great value. It was a great wine too, with a balance of cherry and tannin that we both really enjoyed. We tried their reserve Pinots as well, and they were very well done, but I couldn’t taste enough of a difference to warrant the premium price. We ended up with a couple of bottles of the Seven Devil’s Pinot Noir, for an everyday drinking wine.

Ghost Hill Winery was number four. Ghost Hill is relatively new to the scene – they seem to have just set up a tasting room out of their home right down the road from Annie Amie Vineyards. We thought about visiting there, but were detered by the long, pot-holed gravel road, so we were pleased to see that they had a presence at Carlton Cellars. We sampled their Pinot Blanc, a Pinor Noir Blanc, and a Pinot Noir. The wines were good, and I think they have a lot of potential. I didn’t walk away with any distinct memory of the Pinot Noir – in the shuffle of the day, it got lost in the other wines. I did get a couple of bottles of the the Pinot Noir Blanc – it was a well structured wine, and it was very reasonably priced at $20. Not many wineries do a Pinot Noir Blanc, which is made with the Pinot Noir grape with the skins removed at the beginning of the process, to avoid having them color the wine. In fact, the only other winery that I’ve had it at is Anne Amie, so when we saw it at Ghost Hill, I got excited about trying it.

Angel Vine was number five in the marathon tasting session. Angel Vine focuses on Zinfandels, although they do a Pinot Noir and a Petit Sirah as well. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Angel Vine, they were Three Angels Winery, but apparently had to change the name when they got sued by a large corporation over the trademark. I find it sad that the little guy has to cave when the big corporate lawyers come knocking, but we are here about the wine now, aren’t we? At any rate, their Morgster Pinot Noir was good, but nothing special. The Zinfandels though are amazing. We tried the 2008 Columbia Valley Primitivo, which is the Italian clone of the Zinfandel grape and it was very nice, which a strong, bold flavor. The 2008 “The Hellion” and the 2008 Les Collenes Vineyard Zinfandel were also very good. They source their grapes from Washington, in the Yakima and Walla Walla valleys, and it is nice to see a winery that focuses on some of the varietals that aren’t as widely grown in Washington. They have done a great job with all their wines – in fact, it was impossible to choose a clear favorite among these three Zins.

Are you tired yet? We were, so we took this opportunity to take a break and get our BBQ pulled pork sandwich, that was complimentary with our tasting fee. The chef is a Mississippi native, who ended up in Portland. The BBQ sauce was excellent, with the spicy sauce having a great kick, but not an overpowering spice. His coleslaw was delicious too. It gave us a chance to take a break and regroup before continuing our circle around the barrel room. I took a little break out in the sunshine as well, although it was really kind of overcast rather than sunny.

Carlton Cellars – a Multiphase Tour, part 1

Our last stop of the day was also the biggest stop of the day. We went to Carlton Cellars, which is a cooperative where several wineries share harvesting and bottling equipment. Carlton Cellars is the main winery there, and their custom crush wineries include: Youngberg Hill, Ghost Hill Winery, Angel Vine, Barking Frog Winery and J. Albin Winery. With so many wineries under the same roof, there is a lot to taste. You really have to pace yourself!

We started our tasting with the Carlton Cellars white wines, where they had Pinot Gris, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Pinot Noir Rose. The Pinot Gris was good, but almost a little too dry for my taste. I wanted it to be a bit sweeter. The Sauvignon Blanc was excellent – crisp, with a lot of minerality, perfect for a hot summer day. The Pinot Noir Rose was just ok, I thought it lacked structure.

The second stop was Youngberg Hill. Youngberg Hill had four wines to taste – a Pinot Blanc, a Pinot Gris, and two Pinot Noirs. I liked their Pinot Gris quite a bit.  Crisp and sweet – without being overly so.  The two Pinot Noir’s, called Natasha and Jordan were good, with the difference in the taste due to the vineyard where the grapes were grown. The Natasha was grown in marine sedimentary soil, where the Jordan came from a vineyard planted in volcanic soil. You can taste the difference, with the Natasha being much more fruit forward, and the Jordan having a smoky, more earthy flavor. That said, I liked the Jordan Pinot Noir much better, it just had that something – it was richer, more solid.

Tyrus Evan – King of the Claret

Jon and I took a little trip down to the Willamette Valley for Memorial Day weekend. Other than the day I took off to accompany my horse up to the vet clinic to have his tooth yanked earlier this month, I haven’t had a day off since the President’s Day Holiday weekend in February. Jon and I had been looking forward to this for weeks. Especially since the Willamette Valley is one of our favorite places on earth. If I were independently wealthy, I would work part-time in a tasting room in the Willamette Valley. And volunteer at an animal shelter.

So anyway, on Friday evening, I had to stay at until 5 o’clock, to grab job applications out of the application box because everybody that normally does it was out of the office. Then I just about locked myself out of my office, where my purse and car keys were waiting for me (damned security badge keycards!). That really freaked me out! So anyway, I headed home, threw a couple of things I forgot to pack into my suitcase, and then hit the road at about 5:30. Jon is great about getting things together while I finish packing, feeding the cats, putting out extra water, and putting more litter in the litterbox. We have a system.

We got down to Portland about 10, and vegged out the rest of the evening watching TV and playing on the internet, and talking about some of the wineries that we haven’t been to and intended to try. Jon has trouble making up his mind about an itinerary, and I don’t want to pick them all, so sometimes we just head in the general direction and then decide where to go as we drive by. It was that kind of day. We intended to start the day at Anne Amie, and I probably should have remembered this, but Anne Amie has a rather steep tasting fee on Memorial Day weekend. It is a $20 fee, that includes wine flight and food pairing. What we didn’t know is if you could share a flight. So, as much as we love Anne Amie, we decided to come back on a non-holiday weekend.

So, we headed into Carlton. Jon has been talking about visiting Tyrus Evan for awhile, so we took the leap. Tyrus Evan is Ken Wright’s second label, which specializes in the Bordeaux wines. They source a lot of their fruit from Washington and the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, and Jon has been curious about their Cabernets. They are located in downtown Carlton, in the old train station. The building is beautiful, with a lot of historic features. You can look out the window and see the old grain storage silos, which according to the tasting room staff, don’t get much use anymore.

Tyrus Evan started us off with their Viognier, which was good and not too floral. Their Chardonnay, although aged in oak, had a very light oak taste, and was quite nice. Jon particularly enjoyed it. Next we moved to two vintages of their Claret, which are Bordeaux blends, using slightly different blends (a Malbec one year and a Petit Verdot the other).  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are included in both vintages.  Their Clarets were what Jon had heard great things about, and we both agreed that they did a great job with them. They were very well balanced, have some time to age and soften, but could be enjoyed now. Neither were overpowered by the oak or tannins.

They showcased their Syrahs in a similar way, having us taste two vintages of the Syrah, one which had been made using Walla Walla Valley grapes and the other with Rogue River Valley grapes. You could taste the difference, but it was tough to pick a favorite.

We finished with a Port style wine that has been aging in the barrel for several years, because Ken Wright didn’t know what he wanted to do with it. You can’t buy it, but it is waiting for label approval from the ATF and will soon be on the market. It was a deep, syrupy Port, which reminded me a lot of a Marechal Foch Port I sampled at August Cellars last year, although this one was a Bordeaux blend. It was delicious, but it is always difficult to think of an occasion for a Port.

The verdict:  Tyrus Evan is certainly a winner.  Once we left Tyrus Evan, the next stop was the winemaker’s original label, Ken Wright…  Stay tuned!