Tag Archive | Malbec

Boise Road Trip: Snake River Winery

During our Boise road trip, we had an opportunity to taste at a couple of wineries.  We were already going to be in the downtown area, and since I knew nothing about any of Idaho’s wineries, location seemed as good a criteria as anywhere to select a few to visit (you have to start somewhere right?).  We visited Snake River Winery’s downtown tasting room on a super-hot Saturday in the later afternoon.

Snake River is an estate winery, meaning that they grow all their own grapes in their own vineyards – they have 75 acres planted.  They strive for sustainable and organic winery practices, including making their own compost from pomace (which is the solid remains of the grapes after the juice has been pressed off),  eliminating pesticides and using organic fungicides.  At this point, they don’t have a biodynamic certification, but are working towards it.

When we walked into the downtown tasting room, it surprised me a bit that we were the only ones there.  It was a great little shop with a tasting bar, and lots of cool gift items as well.  Wine glasses and associated wine goodies, Snake River t-shirts, and greeting cards.  Jon appreciated having some gift items to look at, as he always wanders away from the bar during a tasting.

I don’t remember all of the wines we tasted that day, but I was pleased with several.  The 2010 Rosé is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Touriga Nacional.  It had a light sweetness and strawberry flavor, wonderfully refreshing for a hot, summer day.  Snake River Winery also makes a single varietal wine from its Touriga Nacional grapes, a bold red with strong tannins and black fruit.  The grape varietal is originally from Portugal, and not often seen in the United States, at least on the West Coast.  I really enjoyed this wine, and we brought home a bottle.

The wine list at Snake River is extensive, with offerings that include Chardonnay, Riesling, Barbera, Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah, as well as some blends.  And I was surprised to learn that they had another varietal that I had never tasted before, but unfortunately it wasn’t open that day.  Blauer Zweigelt, a varietal developed in 1922 in Austria, is more widely planted in Europe, but is beginning to be planted in British Columbia as well.  I’ll have to wait until another day to taste it!

Perhaps the best thing about Snake River though, is the wine pairing chocolates that they offer with the heavier reds, and sell packages of!  They are made from 85% Cocoa, and have a bitter dark chocolate taste that goes so well with the red wine.  These chocolates, made by a company called Dream Chocolate, are fantastic, and they are even better with wine!  I couldn’t resist bringing home a package of these as well!

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Snake River, and I hope to find their wines closer to home.  If you have a chance, stop in.

Dinner with Friends. And Wine.

Over the weekend Jon and I had some friends over for dinner.  It was kind of funny actually, because I had gotten an email from my friend Bliss about getting together for dinner, and responded with some dates, and then realized that it was an email from several weeks before.  We had already set up and had that dinner even!  But they were available on one of the dates I had suggested so we got together again.   YAY!

We had turkey tacos, topped with sauteed cabbage and peppers, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and olives.  And Spanish Rice.  Because tacos are always better with Spanish Rice.

When they got here, we uncorked the 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery – a blend of 93% Semillon and 7% Muscadelle.  Bliss hasn’t tried many white wines, and apparently she is anxious about buying whites, because she is worried that she won’t like them.  But she has liked the whites that she has tried at my house, and was excited about trying another.  This one didn’t disappoint!

The Stella Blanca was crisp and citrusy, without being too acidic.  I thought it paired quite nicely with the tacos, with just enough citrus and acidity to cut through the mild spice of the meal.

2010 Arbor Crest Malbec and 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery

2010 Arbor Crest Malbec and 2011 Stella Blanca by Northstar Winery

The second wine that we opened was the Arbor Crest 2010 Malbec.  This was a wine that I picked up on a trip to Spokane Valley, WA for a conference, back in August (I haven’t had a chance to blog about that trip yet – but soon!)  This was actually the first tasting room I have ever visited in a shopping mall!  To tell the truth, I was a bit skeptical about their wines – given that we were tasting them right next door to the food court, but I was quite impressed!

The Malbec was produced from grapes grown in the Wahluke Slope Vineyard.  The Wahluke Slope AVA lies entirely within the Columbia Valley AVA, and has some of the warmest, driest weather in Washington.  It is a bold wine, but nicely balanced, with black cherries, chocolate and lots of spice.  This one was a real crowd pleaser at dinner.  I was the only one who had tasted it before and it was so neat to see a wine I had chosen get such rave reviews!

We finished off our meal with a fantastic apple crumble pie from the Farmer’s Market.  The apples were fresh and delicious and the crumble on top was perfect – sweet and sugary.  Terrible for the waistline, I’m sure, but good for the soul.  A fantastic evening spent with friends.

Our Trip to Tero Estates

While wandering around downtown Walla Walla trying to decide where to visit next, we found Tero Estates on the first floor of the Marcus Whitman hotel.  Tero was one of the recommendations that we received from Va Piano, so we were confident that we would find some good wines there.

Tero Estates’ vineyard is Windrow Vineyard, which is Walla Walla’s oldest commercially planted vineyard; it was planted in 1981.  From 1983 to 2000 Windrow Vineyards grapes were used by Leonetti Cellars.  The vineyards was purchased by the current owners in 2007, and they have been making wine since.  They also sell grapes to Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla Vintners, Waters and Glen Corrie.  In 2010, they hired Ashley Trout as consulting winemaker, who was making Flying Trout wines.  Flying Trout wines is Ashley Trout’s personal venture; she travels half the year to Mendoza, Argentina and makes wine there.  She specializes in Torrontés and Malbec under the Flying Trout label.

We began our tasting with the Flying Trout Torrontés.  I hadn’t heard of Torrontés before, and upon looking it up, discovered that is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouthfeel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose (thanks Wikipedia!).  Sounds fantastic!

The Flying Trout 2011 Torrontés is a crisp white with flavors of honey and pineapple, and a hint of floral on the nose.  I really liked it.  Next we tasted the Windrow Field Blend, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot; instead of being barrel aged, it was cask aged.  I was not a fan of this one though.

We quickly moved on to the Windrow Cabernet Franc, which was smoky and spicy with flavors of stewed plums.  It was a big, bold masculine wine.  The 2010 Flying Trout Malbec was its feminine counterpart – a lovely Malbec made with fruit from the Gamache Vineyard.  We finished off our tasting with the 2009 Tero Estates Petite Verdot, a solid wine with a big balanced flavor.

Our server was friendly and provided a lot of information about the wines – she made the tasting a very pleasurable experience.  And the icing on the cake – was really icing on the cake!  REALLY!  They had chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting!  They had been delivered by a friend of our server and they were delicious.

All in all a fabulous visit!

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!

Mother’s Day Spring Release

Well, it finally came – Mother’s Day weekend. For Jon and me, that means Spring Release. Some of you might imagine that is some sort of break time for the kids, but since Jon and I don’t have any, we think in terms of a break time for the adults. And all that is just a convoluted way of saying that the local wineries released new wines this weekend. Jon’s mom came up to visit on Saturday with Jon’s second cousin Anne, who I have never met and Jon hasn’t seen in about 10 years, and we went on a mini-tasting tour.

We took Linda to Glacial Lake Missoula Winery last spring on Mother’s Day weekend, and she was an immediate convert (it isn’t hard to do). Last fall, we got to taste GLM’s enrobed Marsanne, which is a Marsanne white wine varietal wine with the skins from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape added in to provide a red color and some robustness in flavor. When we barrel tasted, we could already tell that it would be amazing. So, we have been waiting ever since. And we thought the wait was over!

So we started the day at Mt. Baker Vineyard.  Mt. Baker is the oldest winery in the county, and they do a lot of different wines.  They are all decent, but there are a few standouts.  They have a new Riesling out, with is a semi-sweet and very nice. The red that I like the most is the Malbec.  It is quite smooth, with a jammy, berry flavor.

On our way back in from Mt. Baker, we saw the sign for Willow Tree Vineyard, a new winery that opened in April.  Their debut wines are a Chardonnay, a Viognier, a Carmenere and a Syrah.  Their whites are both good and true to how a Chardonnay and a Viognier should taste.  I’m just not the biggest fan of Chardonnay and Viognier.  The Carmenere is very good.  Carmenere is a grape grown widely in Chile, and it is referred to there as the lost grape, because for years they had it planted all over but thought it was Merlot.  Once the Chileans realized that it was a different varietal, they really capitalized on the distinction.  In the US, Carmenere is still mostly a blending grape, but I think it is excellent as a standalone varietal wine, and it is nice to see when it is offered.

The Syrah at Willow Tree is a big heavy, jammy wine, with a strong fruit taste.  Jon really liked it, but I thought it was a bit much for me.  They will be releasing a rose soon called Blue Heaven, which is a semi-sweet Riesling mixed with Blueberry wine, and we got to taste it before its release.  Wow.  I can’t wait until that one comes out!

After Willow Tree we headed up to Glacial Lake.  They have their 2007 Deluge out now, which is a bit different than prior years because Tom added Malbec to this vintage.  It was delicious.  And the Harbor Light is new too, and as always, it is a standout.  But the bad news is that the label for the Marsanne didn’t get approved, so we still can’t get it!  As soon as the label gets its approval, we’ll be able to pick up our bottles.  And meanwhile, we wait, and dream…

Riding in a Bentley

Well, I guess this is my first post.  I will say that I do add my input, however little it may be, to the past posts.  Tonight we opened up a bottle from a recent Woodinville visit.  Cam probably discussed several of these Puget Sound wineries in prior posts.  This particular bottle is from Edmonds Winery.  Going by the name Bentley, this table wine provides more bang for your buck than many red table wines from Washington.  We opened up a bottle of Owen Roe table wine a few months and found it deplorable.  (Disclaimer:  I, unlike Camille and several other people discussing wine , will not hesitate from making my opinion known … even if it may not be shared by others.)  Anyhow, Edmonds was about as intimate as a winery in an industrial area can be.  Bentley, named after owner Doug Peterson’s dog (who is also present in the tasting room) is a rich, heavy, firm Merlot/Malbec blend.  Primarily Merlot (82%), this 2007 vintage has a healthy nose, adequate amount of tannins, and strong fruit base.  Some drawbacks include a limited finish, and rather weak body.  However, for $22, this blend will definitely provide a hearty fill on a lazy night.

Camille here… just wanted to put in a little detail that Jon left out.  Edmonds is family owned and the owner and winemaker, Doug personally served us.  He is great – you can see his passion when he talks about his wines.  Bentley, the winery dog, is superfriendly and about as good a host as anyone could ask for.  And I love the Bentley wine – it is full of structure without being too heavy and bold.

Memorial Weekend Wine Tour – Day 2

On Friday night we spent the night in Woodburn, Oregon, right near the outlet mall.  We started our day out by venturing over to the outlets, where Jon found a pair of nice shoes at Bass and we cleaned up at Columbia.  I got two nice lightweight summer jackets and Jon got a button down shirt.  With the shopping urges quenched, we made our way over to the Newburg/Dundee/Carlton wine country.  We’ve been to several in the area before, so we decided that we would make some stops at places that we had never been to before.

Our first stop was at Carlo and Julian Winery.  It is located in a shop behind the owner’s house, complete with cats and chickens and a little girl running around.  They are very friendly people, but we couldn’t help feeling like we were imposing a bit.  We were the only ones there, but it was still early in the day.  We tasted several of their vintages of Pinot Noir, as well as a Tempranillo and a Malbec.  The Malbec was very good, but is was pricey, and good Malbecs are easy to come by at lower price points.  We ended up buying two bottles of Pinot Noir, 2006 and 2008.  Our opinion was that their Pinots didn’t have a lot of variation in taste between years.  We are curious to see how the 2008 ages.

Next we went into Carlton and wandered randomly down the street.  We stopped at Zenas Wines on the main street in Carlton.  The winemakers are two young brothers who are very interested in the technical aspects of winemaking.  If you are interested, they will go into great detail about the process.  What we found refreshing was coming across a winery that doesn’t focus on Pinot Noir, and makes some really great wines.  We liked them all and had a great time visiting.  We bought three bottles there, their 2007 Meritage, the Cabernet Franc, and their Riesling.  We will really enjoy these when we open them, I’m sure.

Zenas Winery storefront in Carlton, Oregon

A little further down, on the opposite side of the street is Alexana Winery.  They offer a Pinot Gris and two Pinot Noir’s, with grapes from different vineyards.  Their Pinots are excellent, but on the pricey side.  Their tasting includes their high priced Pinot Noir.  We loved it, but at $75, it is out of our price range.

All in all, a great day.  The weather was nice, everyone at all of the wineries was friendly and easy to talk to, and they are very proud of their wines.  Each day in the Willamette Valley is different, because it would take a lifetime to go to all the wineries.  We will certainly try though!