Tag Archive | Viognier

A Home Buying Wine Tour

So, it’s one week until closing. We are just waiting, and getting the last bit of our packing finished. Our financing has been finalized for weeks, so other than packing, we really haven’t had a lot to do. Our buyer, however, is still not ready to go with her financing and it is making me nervous. Her mortgage officer is trying to reassure our agent that everything will be ready to go by closing, but I’m still nervous. I can’t understand why it should be taking so long if things are happening as they should. So, in the meantime, I’m trying not to think about it.  Yes, I’ll admit it – I try to be very organized about these things, and it annoys me to no end when other people are not, if it affects my world. And this certainly affects my world.

I have been a bit absorbed with this whole home process lately, and my wine and travel blog has been suffering. We haven’t had time to do much wine tasting! I’m looking forward to turning that around once we move and get some semblance of a normal life back. That said, we did do a local mini-tour last weekend in honor of harvest weekend with Jon’s mom and sister. We went to two local wineries – Willow Tree and Glacial Lake Missoula.

Willow Tree Vineyards is a new winery in the area, having opened their tasting room in April. As you drive in, it certainly doesn’t look like much. There is a ramshackle single-wide trailer on the driveway to the winery, and the winery itself is housed in a non-descript pole building. Which isn’t that uncommon for wineries in this area. Don’t let that deter you. Once you walk inside, the tasting room is tastefully decorated, with a fireplace, comfy seating, and a stand-up tasting bar. They also have had chocolates and cheese and crackers out each time I’ve been there, which is a huge bonus. I’m usually hungry in the afternoon, and the nibbles are great to hold me over until dinner. The co-owner is usually serving, and she is warm and friendly and knowledgeable about their wines. It is a winery where you feel welcome!

Willow Tree has several whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc, two vintages of Chardonnay and Viognier, and a Pinot Gerwurztraminer. My favorite of these is the Sauvignon Blanc, which has a crisp minerality that I enjoy. Jon likes their more heavily oaked Chardonnay. Willow Tree is currently having a labeling issue with the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency) on their “waiting to be released” Blue Heaven, which is a Blueberry Riesling. Yes, Riesling combined with Blueberry juice. We got to barrel taste it, and it was delicious. Which makes the fact that the ATF has now rejected 7 versions of the label especially frustrating for Jon’s mom and me, as we have to continue to wait to buy it! Willow Tree also has several good reds, including a Carmenere, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Unfortunately, all the reds are currently sold out except for the Cab Franc. So, we are eagerly awaiting next year’s releases. What a nice problem for a new winery to have!

After we left Willow Tree, we headed out to Blaine to visit our favorite local winery, Glacial Lake Missoula. Tracey was holding down the fort with a friend, as Tom took a trip down to Oregon to pick up grapes. They are branching out and producing a Chardonnay and a Gamay Noir. I’m very excited about both. The Chardonnay will be another “enrobed” wine, which is Tom’s name for a white wine that is colored (and flavored) with the skins of red grapes. A white wine that looks like a red. And depending on the temperature you serve it at, it can taste completely different. Their current “enrobed” wine is a Marsanne, which is excellent, so I can’t wait to see what they do with the Chardonnay. And Gamay Noir is one of my favorite varietals, so I’m super-excited to try this one. Of course, as they are just crushing now, both wines have awhile until release. It is just so hard to wait!

I’m sensing a theme with this post. Waiting…. One of my least favorite things to do. Hopefully in one more week, the wait for the house will be over. Stay tuned.

P.S.  After posting this, I learned that our buyer’s loan docs are finalized and at the title company!  So everything should be good to go now!

 

Artisanal, Arsenal – However you say it – great wine!

The second day of our tasting tour took us to Newberg, Oregon. We decided that we would focus on just a few places, since we had done so many the day before. I received an email from Artisanal Wine Cellars a few weeks before, announcing that they were opening a new tasting room in Newberg. They also offered half off their tasting fee for their first two weekends in the new location. We had first tried Artisanal when we visited August Cellars last November over Thanksgiving weekend, and we really enjoyed their wines. Ever since then, Jon has been talking about “Arsenal” and wanting to visit again. I don’t think he’ll ever get the name right. The owner/winemaker Tom Feller is a science guy, who likes to explain the effect of the soil, the residual sugar, and the PH levels of the wines he produces. It reminds me a lot of Tom at Glacial Lake Missoula, whose exacting detail and scientific attention result in some fantastic wine.

So armed with our coupon, we ventured on in. The tasting room is in a historic building on the main drag of Newberg, with beautiful wood floors and the original exposed brick wall. It has a great feeling – the kind of building that strikes you with its elegance, but still you feel very comfortable. We were treated to a tasting by the owner/winemaker, and we started with a Viognier/Roussanne blend called Dovetail White. It was a light, fresh table wine – great for summer. The Viognier was very nice, with a nice balance of floral and apricot – it has a lot of flavor without being too heavy, as some Viogniers are. Their third white was a lovely Pinot Blanc, with nice apple flavor, stone fruit and a hint of honey. I enjoyed this wine immensely.

After the whites, we moved into the reds with the Evangeline Gamay Noir Rose. Of all the Roses that we tried over the weekend, this one stood out as the best by far. He explained that he uses a different process to make his Rose, by aging the wine for a few days with the skins to give it a robustness that many of the Roses lack. It is going to be a perfect summer wine!

Next, Tom led us through the Pinot Noirs that Artisanal produces. First we tasted the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which is a blend of the three vineyards that they source they Pinots from. It has a cherry flavor with a light body and a touch of chocolate, and is a great everyday drinking wine, considering its reasonable price. We sampled the Jubilee Pinot Noir, a single vineyard Pinot from their Jubilee Vineyard. The Jubilee is a relatively light Pinot, with the tart cherry flavor shining through. It is excellent, but Jon and I both preferred the smokier, more robust Pinot that comes from the Adams Vineyard. We finished with the Reserve Adams Vineyard Pinot – also an excellent smoky, heavy, with flavors of blackberry and lots of spice on the palate.

We left there with four bottles and wanting more – wishing that the money fairy were coming to make a visit at our house anytime soon.

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…