Tag Archive | wine tour

Bad Luck in Yakima

Jon and I had big plans for some wine tasting in Yakima in January, but they got derailed, as you will soon read…

Owen Roe:

It started out well…

Jon and I have purchased a couple of their everyday wines from Costco and liked them, so it only seemed natural to check out their tasting room. The tasting room is located only a few miles from Yakima, and it is in the middle of their large barrel room, a space delineated with a small tasting bar, a couple of tables, and some portable shelves for wine.

It was a cool atmosphere, being able to look at all those barrels being stored; the only drawback is that we were in a warehouse – in January, so it was pretty chilly. We tasted through their line up and I liked them all, with the exception of the Chardonnay – it just wasn’t really my style.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room - in the barrel room.

The Owen Roe Tasting Room – in the barrel room.

Owen Roe has a large production – they have a tasting room and production facility in the Willamette Valley too. They are currently in the process of expanding their facility in Yakima, so they won’t have to store barrels in their production facility, and they are building a new event space on the property to host concerts in the summer. Sounds nice!

Our server was very friendly and gave us lots of suggestions on where to go, including other wineries, restaurants and breweries too.  This would certainly be a great place to visit in the summer, when you can sit on the patio or take in one of the concerts they have when they finish their expansion.

Treveri Cellars:

And then it went downhill…

Treveri was next on my list, and the winery I was most excited about visiting because they specialize in sparklers. But when we pulled up – closed! There was no mention of this on their website (I had checked that morning), but apparently (as I found out later from a blog friend), their Facebook page had a post about it. Hmm… not cool.

Treveri being closed began a trend that just continued into the afternoon. Others that were closed included Cultura, Dineen, J. Bell, Knight Hill, Severino, and Two Mountain. Apparently people don’t taste wine in Yakima in January – lesson learned, loud and clear.  I can’t blame them, I guess, but I had never really thought about it.  I hadn’t checked all their websites individually, but the wine magazine I had didn’t mention winter closures – I guess they assume that everybody knows.  We have been there in February and not had this problem, and I don’t really think about January being that different…

Hyatt Vineyards Winery:

Finally we made our way to Hyatt – there was a truck outside and the lights were on and the door was unlocked. I thought our luck was swinging up, but it turns out, it was just going from bad to worse…

As our server set up our tasting I mentioned being a little surprised about all the other wineries that were closed, and she said (snottily) she was closed too. WTF? Umm… then why have the door open? She said since she was working on resetting the décor in the tasting room, she figured she might as well serve if anybody stopped by. Which would have been fine, but sadly, her demeanor was not welcoming.  In fact, it was really off putting.

She sullenly poured the wine, and then stared at us while we sampled. If was REALLY uncomfortable. To the point that we were trying to rush through the tasting to get it over with. UGH! Then another woman came in and we were relieved – perhaps it would break up the tension…

As it turns out the second lady was the tasting room manager and she was quite friendly. We started to talk and the server immediately corrected her attitude. She knew exactly how rude she was being and didn’t want her manager to know! But the lasting impression was already made.

Hyatt Tasting Room - isn't it cute?

Hyatt Tasting Room – isn’t it cute?

The wines at Hyatt were ok – not bad, but nothing spectacular. They are decently priced, most between $10 and $15 per bottle, with a few in the $20 range. Perfectly acceptable for a weeknight wine. But I would only go back if I knew that server was no longer there. It’s too bad, because I have so few unpleasant experiences while wine tasting, but this one will go down in the memory books.

So after Hyatt, we figured there would be no other wineries that were open, and we were burned out by our failed attempts.  So, don’t do what we did – there is no wine in January in Yakima…

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Long Weekend Kickoff!

Jon and I prefer vacations with variety, and who doesn’t love a little shopping?  I have to admit, I don’t shop for clothes very often, but I was able to start out our August long weekend with a little shopping at Oregon’s Woodburn Premium Outlet Mall.

Jon and I got a jump start on our vacation by driving down to Woodburn after work on Thursday evening.  Our final destination was Grants Pass, Oregon, so driving to Woodburn allowed us to get more than halfway there.  We stayed at the La Quinta nearby, which is frequently our home base when we go wine tasting in the area.  After getting some breakfast with Jon’s parents (they ended up at the La Quinta too!), we made our way to the Outlet Mall.

The Loft was having a clearance sale and I spent awhile there, exploring the clearance rack and trying on several things.  I made out like a bandit, getting two dresses, several pairs of shorts and tops, and two sweaters.  I topped off my shopping with a new pair of Naturalizer wedge sandals with cork soles, and a cozy Columbia fleece.  Jon found a couple of things for himself as well; a jacket, a long sleeved running shirt, and a new watch.

After the outlet mall, we had a quick lunch at Subway, and then continued on towards Grant’s Pass.  We wanted to stop along the way at a few wineries that we had never tried before, ones that were reasonably close to the freeway.  I found one that was right off the freeway in my Oregon winery book, Sienna Ridge Estate.  The Sienna Ridge tasting room is located in a historic home built in 1906.  Sienna Ridge’s vineyards are also unique, as one of the only individual vineyards to be designated as its own AVA, Red Hill Vineyard.  We made the short detour, only to find it… closed for an event.  Foiled!

Sienna Ridge Estate – Closed!

Sienna Ridge Estate – Closed!

We got back on the freeway for a few more exits while I consulted my book again and decided we would try out Palotai Vineyard and Winery.  Neither of us had ever heard of it before, so we weren’t sure what we would find.  The winery is a tiny little place tucked down at the end of a long gravel driveway with four acres of vineyards on either side.  The tasting area is the front of the wine production facility and warehouse, with a small covered area in the front with barrel tables.

Palotai Vineyard and Winery

Palotai Vineyard and Winery

The server ran us through a tasting of four wines.  I didn’t take notes, but they were all good.  The winery was owned by a Hungarian gentleman who had fled Communist Hungary in the 1980s.  He started out training horses in Sacramento, and then eventually began making wine using European methods. He made small batches of wine that are drinkable right after bottling.

I had their white blend, the Bianca, the 2012 Pinot Noir, the 2012 Dolcetto and the Bull’s Blood – named after a traditional Hungarian wine, it is their most popular wine.  Curiously, the Bull’s Blood was my least favorite, but still pretty decent.  In speaking with the server, we learned that the owner of the winery had decided to pursue other goals, and had recently sold the vineyard.  The plan was for the owner to make one more vintage of wine in fall 2014 for the new owner and the new winery name.  We purchased 4 bottles of Palotai wine, knowing there won’t be more…

We stopped for some groceries and then found our rental for the weekend and got settled in.  The house was huge, with a hot tub and a pool.  We enjoyed a steak and salad dinner on the front patio overlooking the river, and watched the Canada geese flying back home from their daily feeding grounds.  And we got to check out the jet boats on the river!  It was a great end to a wonderful first day of vacation!

Canada Geese Hanging Out on the Rogue River

Canada Geese Hanging Out on the Rogue River

 

Winter Day in Woodinville: Dusted Valley

A few weekends ago it was another rainy, windy weekend, so Jon and I decided to spend the day tasting down in Woodinville, WA.  It had been awhile since we were there, and we didn’t have anything else going on, so we piled in the car and hit the road.

Ninety minutes later we had reached our destination, and after a stop at Panera Bread for lunch, we were ready to taste.  We decided to try some wineries that we had never been to before, and we ended up near the historic Schoolhouse building.  On the other side of the roundabout are several tasting rooms in a retail development that has only been there a few years.

We started our day at Dusted Valley.  The Dusted Valley winery facility is located in Walla Walla, but they have a tasting room in Woodinville as well.  We were greeted warmly by the server, and started off on the 2010 Cinsaut.  It is a light blend of 80% Cinsaut and 20% Syrah, from the Stoney Vine Estate in the Walla Walla Valley.  It is a excellent light, acidic wine, perfect for drinking now.

Next we had the 2011 Rachis Syrah, a wine containing 98% Syrah with 2% Petite Sirah blended in.  The grapes are sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard in the Red Heaven area of the Columbia Valley.  After that we tried the 2011 Cabernet Franc – a Columbia Valley wine with 91% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot.  It is a big, smooth red wine.

The 2011 V.R. Special Cabernet Sauvignon was next – it is a 99% Cabernet Sauvignon with just 1% of Petit Verdot blended in.  It is named for the V.R. Special Chocolate Chip Cookie created by the winemaker’s grandfather Vernon Rhodes in the Midwest.  The 2011 Petite Sirah contained 95% Petite Sirah and 5% Syrah.  It is a dark, inky red color with strong balanced tannins.

And we finished off the tasting with the 2009 Late Harvest Syrah.  It is not a fortified wine, but is a heavy, syrupy wine with a strong alcohol content.  Jon really liked this wine.

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

Dusted Valley Tasting Room

All of the wines were excellent – there weren’t any that I didn’t like.  That said, my favorites were the Cinsaut and the Petite Syrah.

Dusted Valley also produces a second, value label – Boomtown.  They don’t taste or sell it at the tasting room, but I purchased a bottle later in the day that I found at Cost Plus World Market – given how much I liked the Dusted Valley wines that we tried, I am looking forward to tasting the Boomtown wine we bought.

Our next stop was Trust Cellars – I’ll blog about that next!

Have you tried Dusted Valley wines?  What did you think?

 

California Marathon Road Trip: Petroni Vineyards

Our last stop on our Sonoma wine tasting tour was Petroni Vineyards  It is just off the main square on Broadway, the main street leading into Sonoma.  They share the space with the Wine Hardware store, which carries all sorts of wine racks, wine fridges, decanters and wine accessories.

Petroni is an Italian style winery; they produce 8,000 cases annually.  They have a limited distribution – the owner owns the North Beach Restaurant, an Italian restaurant in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.  They sell their wine there, and they sell by the glass at a few places in Sonoma, but otherwise, they just sell from the tasting room.

Inside the shop is a tasting bar with a flat screen TV mounted above the bar; they use it to show their customers a video about the winery and the vineyards.  Our server mentioned that it was a really slow day – we were their second customers that Monday.   I need to get that gig! Only a couple sets of customers in a day!  I could totally get caught up on all the reading I am always wanting to do!  Of course, not so great when you are trying to operate a business.

She took us through their line-up beginning with the 2011 Chardonnay, which was good, but I don’t remember anything more.  Then we moved to the 2012 Rosato di Sonoma – it is a Rosé blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah – it was very good when we tasted it day, with flavors of strawberry and watermelon and a light floral taste.  Sadly, when we had it again a month later at home – the floral taste overpowered the fruit flavors and it wasn’t as good.

Next we tried the 2011 Pinot Noir – it is an earthy, cherry flavored wine with lots of spice.  It was excellent.  The 2008 Rosso di Sonoma blend is a heavy and tannic blend of 75% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was my least favorite of the tasting, but certainly not a bad wine.  The 2008 Syrah was up next – this wine was very good, with nicely balanced tannins and flavors of blackberry and spice.

The 2007 Brunello di Sonoma was an amazing wine – Wow!  It was fermented on the skins for up to 40 days, and then aged in 20% new French oak and 80% used French oak barriques (a standard 59 gallon oak barrel) and puncheons (an 80 gallon cask) for 18 months.  This wine is pricey though, at $60 a bottle, so a taste of it will have to be enough for us.

The last wine that we tried was their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine was an excellent example of what a cab should be; not heavily oaked.  Our server told us that the winemaker believes in using some neutral French oak, to avoid covering up the characteristics of the wine; it is aged for 18 months in 50% new and 50% used French oak.  I loved the fruit forward balanced nature of this wine, but couldn’t buy it at its $70 price tag.

Petroni makes their own olive oil too; during our tasting we also got to sample their olive oil with crispy bread sticks.  The salt of the bread sticks and the oil were fantastic – it was a great accompaniment to the wine.  We really enjoyed our visit.

California Marathon Road Trip: Schug Winery

After our trip to Gundlach Bundschu, we visited Schug Winery.  Schug was founded by Walter Schug and his wife Gertrud in the 1970s.  Both of them grew up in Germany with fathers who managed wine estates, and Walter learned the trade at several wineries in Germany, England and California.  Once they moved to the United States, Walter worked at the winemaker for Joseph Phelps Vineyards in the 1970s before starting his own winery.

Schug is located just outside of the town of Sonoma.  They produce about 40,000 cases annually but you wouldn’t know it from their tasting room –  it is tiny little space!  I was a bit surprised by that, but we were greeted warmly by the server there and guided through the line-up.

Schug Winery – the tasting room is just the dark pink section in the middle. Cozy!

Schug Winery – the tasting room is just the dark pink section in the middle. Cozy!

Their Rouge de Noirs sparkling wine is where it is at.  It is a great sparkler with light bubbles, and a fruity, effervescence.  It is made from 100% Ricci Vineyard Pinot Noir, fermented with the skins for 3 days and then a bleeding off of the juice with no pressing.

The Carneros Pinot Noir was very good too – it is their flagship wine with more than 5,000 cases produced.  To be honest, I did like the Estate Pinot better, but not enough to justify the  extra $12 in price.  Their Sauvignon Blanc was not on the tasting menu, but our server let  me have a taste and it was a delicious acidic Sauvignon Blanc with flavors of grapefruit and honey.

We went home with the Sauvignon Blanc, the Carneros Pinot Noir and the Rouge de Noirs – but I would be happy drinking anything that we tried that day!

California Marathon Road Trip: Gundlach Bundschu

Our second winery stop was at Gundlach Bundschu – good luck trying to pronounce that name!  It is the oldest continuously family-owned winery in California.  It was founded by Jacob Gundlach in 1858 as Rhinefarm, with Charles Bundschu joining the company in 1868 – originally the farm in Sonoma was about 400 acres.  It was renamed Gundlach Bundschu in 1894 and at the turn of the 20th century the company was producing about 250,000 cases of wine each year.

Up until that point the winery facility was located in San Francisco, but the production facilities and about a million gallons of wine were destroyed by the earthquake in 1906.  They moved the production facility to Sonoma after the quake and then Prohibition hit.

During prohibition the winery closed its doors, and all but 130 acres of the farm were sold – the family managed to make a living selling grapes for juice and raising cattle.  After prohibition, the farm began selling grapes to Inglenook, Almaden and then Louis Martini wineries, but didn’t reopen the winery until the 1970s.

The winery now produces about 25,000 cases total – I believe all their wines are estate grown.  They have a huge tasting room with a gorgeous outdoor patio area; seems that they do a lot of events.  Too bad it was too cold to sit outside and enjoy the view!

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu Patio

Gundlach Bundschu was a fun winery; our server was Columbian and he was super friendly.  We tried Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We both loved the Zin!  It was fruit forward and balanced, without losing structure.  There was a lot of pepper and spice on the Merlot, and the Chardonnay was a nice acidic wine with a light balanced oak on the back of the palate.  The only wine I didn’t really like was the Gewürztraminer.  I liked it at first taste – it was semi-sweet with citrus, but there was a floral finish on the back of the palate that didn’t appeal to me.

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

Gundlach Bundschu Tasting Room

While we were there several other groups came in, and you can tell they have a loyal following.  Which isn’t surprising, given the quality of the wine.  What a fantastic visit!

California Marathon Road Trip: Old Clarksburg Sugar Mill

In my last post, I told you about our visit to Locke, California, on The California Delta.  After our visit, we got back on Highway 160 and were enjoying the scenery when we  saw a huge, old brick building.  We knew it must have been a factory of some sort, but didn’t know what kind.  Then we saw a sign announcing that we were coming up to the town of Clarksburg, and there was wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill!  Well, duh, of course we had to stop – it was wine tasting in a historic sugar mill!

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Front Entrance of the Old Sugar Mill

The Old Sugar Mill was a beet sugar mill that was originally owned by the Amalgamated Sugar Company.  This particular mill was built in Logan, Utah in 1897, and closed in 1933, due to blight and drought in Utah.  At that point, the company dismantled the mill and moved it to Clarksburg, where it was reconstructed and opened again in July, 1935.  The mill changed hands a couple of times, but had a long run processing beet sugar from surrounding farms, before finally closing for good in 1993.

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

The unrestored section of the Old Sugar Mill

In 2000, a plan was made to convert the mill into winery crush and retail space, and the first winery opened there in 2004.  The Old Sugar Mill has 10 wineries operating there now, and the mill is huge, with a lot of yet to be converted space.  Since we had never visited before, I did what any self-respecting wino wine connoisseur would do; I found a lady in the restroom who was carrying wine, and I asked her which were her favorites.  She said Todd Taylor and Rendezvous.

Todd Taylor was closer to the restroom, so we headed there, and ran into Todd himself.  He led us through his lineup of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  I liked them all and was pleased by how much I enjoyed his Carneros Pinot Noir.  If you remember my posts on my March trip to the Anderson Valley, you know I wasn’t blown away by the Anderson Valley Pinots we tried.  Todd Taylor’s Pinots were wines I really enjoyed!  And his Zinfandel was excellent as well.

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

The Interior of the Old Sugar Mill – I love those Brick Walls!

We asked Todd for his recommendation on another winery that did Zinfandels, since Jon wanted to make sure we tried some good Zins on this trip.  Todd recommended Three Wine Company, just down the hall, so we headed there next.

Three had a larger lineup, with a complimentary tasting of 5 wines.  It is the latest project of Matt Cline, who worked for many years as the winemaker at Cline Cellars.  The first wine was released in  2008.  For my tasting, I tried their Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Old Vine Zinfandel, their Field Blend, and the Petite Sirah.  My favorites were the Riesling, a nice semi-sweet Riesling, and the Old Vine Zinfandel (actually a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro (also known as Mourvèdre), and Alicante Bouschet).  I wasn’t a fan of the Field Blend, but I liked the Petite Sirah.  It was a big tannic wine, but I think it would soften over time.

Christmas at Three Wine Company

Christmas at Three Wine Company

We wrapped up our purchases at Three and headed out just as the Old Sugar Mill was closing for the day.  We drove back to Roseville to meet up with Jon’s friend Pablo and his girlfriend Jessica for dinner at Sushi Nami.  They were having their “appetite stimulus package” sale, which meant that any of their sushi rolls was on sale for half price.  HALF PRICE!  It was advertised as a limited time only, but Pablo said that this special has been going on for a couple of years now.  I would totally visit all the time if I lived nearby!

We had a good time catching up, but unfortunately Pablo and Jessica couldn’t stay very long, and we were on our own again.  We headed back to the hotel for an early night, as Jon’s race would be here before we knew it!