Tag Archive | Yakima Valley

High School Reunion: To Old Friends, Old Again…

I’m having an early dinner tonight, because in a couple of hours, I’ll be off to that timeless tradition, the high school reunion…  I won’t tell you how many years it has been, except to say that it somewhere between 19 and 21.  And for those of you who have seen photos of me on this blog and are puzzled by the math… I graduated high school when I was 3.  I was a very precocious child.

This week I have been reflecting on the fact that even though I still live in the same town where I grew up and went to high school, I hardly ever run into people that I went to high school with (I used to work with a childhood neighbor, but he has since sought greener pastures and changed jobs).  Even though I work in HR, it had nothing to do with me – I swear!  We live in the kind of small city that is blessed with abundant beauty, tons of recreational opportunities, great restaurants, low crime, and lots of small town charm.  The inevitable tag alongs are screaming high real estate prices, lots of retired Californians, few jobs, and tons of college educated competition for those few jobs.  OK, perhaps the Californians aren’t inevitable, but they are here.

This is the Sunset I am Blessed With, at a Local Park

This is the Sunset I am Blessed With, at a Local Park

I was fortunate to find great jobs and a rare career progression here, when a lot of my peers weren’t so lucky.  Moving away after high school or college to find employment somewhere else is the norm around here.  So this weekend I will be reunited with my childhood peeps and I’m sure we will tell stories of life lived away from here and life lived here, and laugh about the crow’s feet, the gray hairs, the triumphs and the not-so-successful moments.  Except I won’t have any stories about gray hair and crow’s feet, because I’m only 23.

With my early dinner (because I’m certainly on the downhill slide to 5 o’clock dinners followed by BINGO, right?), I decided to do a little pre-celebration with a glass of local wine.  I’m drinking the 2008 Dolcetto by Dakota Creek.

Dakota Creek was founded in 2005 by Ken and Jill Peck, who source most of their grapes from the Yakima Valley – many from the Rattlesnake Hills AVA.  The Dolcetto has light tannins and aromas of ripe blackberries and prunes.  It is smooth and fruit forward, with the same flavors following the nose.  While not a terribly complex wine, it is a light red that won’t overpower anything you decide to pair it with.  The winery is open Thursdays through Saturdays, and it is always a pleasant experience to sit out on their patio and enjoy your tasting while taking in the lush grass fields nearby.  It doesn’t hurt that Ken and Jill are two of the friendliest people you will ever meet, and always the most gracious of hosts.

Here’s to friends, old and older…

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!

2009 Maison Bleue JaJa White

Most wine junkies drinkers have their stories of that little tasting room that they happened upon, or visited on a whim, and were delighted by the result.  Here’s one of mine.

Maison Bleue is a winery that Jon and I happened upon during a trip to the Yakima Valley during Red Wine and Chocolate weekend in 2011.  I blogged about that day here.  We had the opportunity to meet the winemaker, Jon Martinez, and his story is pretty interesting!  You see, he used to be a dentist…  No, seriously!  Jon (the winemaker, not my husband) originally owned a dental practice in Missouri, but decided he wasn’t satisfied with that, so he began helping out a winemaker friend and taking courses in Enology.  He moved out to Washington to start his winery, which focuses on the Rhone varietals (and he throws in some Chardonnay).

When we were tasting the Maison Bleue lineup, we really enjoyed chatting with Jon and hearing his story.  For a man who has found success relatively quickly in the wine industry, he is humble and friendly, and his passion for his product shines through.  I hear that he is opening a new tasting room this spring in Walla Walla, and I hope one day to be able to check that one out too!

Tonight I’m sipping the 2009 JaJa White, a blend of 67% Roussanne, 28% Chardonnay and 5% Marsanne.  The wine is a very pale yellow, and it has a faint floral nose.  It tastes of crisp citrus with pear and floral tastes, with a light minerality.  There is a light oak on the finish, which gives it a wonderful complexity without overdoing the oak.  It is a fantastic wine!

2009 JaJa White, by Maison Bleue Winery

2009 JaJa White, by Maison Bleue Winery

Maison Bleue only produces about 2200 cases overall, but for a small winery, he is increasing his distribution pretty quickly.  I am frequently surprised at how often I see their wines in various wine shops I have visited, and he has distribution in several other states too!  So if you see any of his wines, I hope you will check them out!

Escape from the Yakima Valley

As usual, any good wine tour eventually comes to an end. So, unfortunately, Monday morning, we got up, and got ready to check out from our home away from home. Jon is outstanding in this capacity, because he will pack up the car with all of our wine and assorted junk while I am showering and doing my hair, as long as I am willing to make room in my suitcase for the things he can no longer fit in his. Don’t ask me why Jon who can’t fit his stuff in his suitcase – it would make much more sense if it were me who couldn’t jam everything in for the return trip. But, it is what it is, so I put his jeans, shirt and sweatshirt in mine and called it good.

We headed out once again in the beautiful blue sunshine that is Eastern Washington, got on the road, and said farewell to Yakima. The Precision Fruit and Antique Stand still wasn’t open. However, we lucked out, because the Thorp Fruit and Antique Stand was open! I’ve been driving by this place on my way back and forth to Eastern Washington for years, and have never been there. So, finally, I can say I have! Of course, keep in mind that they didn’t have much in the way of seasonal fruit, given that it is February, but they do have all sorts of neat local jams, marinades, and sauces. And wine. We saw several that were local, including a few that we hadn’t had a chance to get to. They even had the Piety Flats Black Muscat, which was sold out at the winery, and I had read good reviews about (of course I got a bottle). Jon tried out the Hyatt Winery red blend (he opened it when we got home, and declared it one of his favorites from the weekend). The upstairs is really where it’s at though, for me anyway. Two floors of antique mall booths – I was in heaven. Jon was very patient, letting me browse all the way through, and only occasionally coming to ask how far I had gotten. And in the very first booth, just waiting for me, I spotted a trio of Howard Pierce Quail – the mama and two babies.

For those of you who have never heard of Howard Pierce, which I’m sure is most of you, he was a potter in California from the 1930s until his death in the early 1990s. He and his wife made all sorts of pottery figurines, mostly animals, but also saints and angels, vases, and some other random items like lapel pins. His style is very distinctive, semi-abstract, and very earthy. They used just one ‘not so large’ kiln, and as a result, Howard Pierce was never mass produced. You don’t see Pierce items all that often, but when you do you will recognize them. This is the little quail family that went home with me, and made the end of my weekend!


 

Aren’t They Cute?

Our drive back across the pass was uneventful, although there were a few snowflakes coming down (they were not sticking, although Jon swears they were). And of course, once we crossed the County line close to home, it started raining, just to welcome us back. Until next time…




The Yakima Wine Country is actually in Prosser

So, Jon and I headed over to the Yakima Valley for a little getaway on the long weekend.  I hadn’t been to Yakima since I showed horses there in the 90’s, and even then, my experience was mostly limited to the Fairgrounds, and maybe a random McDonald’s.  So, we got up early (we left the house at 6:30 am!), and headed over to get our “wine-taste” on.

Beautiful Gorge in the Yakima Valley

We had plenty of time, and Jon wanted to start out with McKinley Springs Winery.  McKinley Springs is the furthest one away, so we thought we would start there and then start making out way back to civilization.  The guidebook said that McKinley Springs opened at 10 am.  So, we took a tour…. out to the middle of nowhere – 30 minutes out of our way… on back roads… with nobody else on them… only to get there… and find out that McKinley Springs was not open….  Frustrating!  It looked very nice from the outside, but fat lot of good that did us.  I think it will be a long time before we head back out to McKinley Springs.

So, next up, we had to get back to civilization.  Thank god for GPS.  She always knows the best route.  However, in this case, since we were so far out in the middle of nowhere, the best route included six long miles on a gravel road, over a mountain, with hairpin switchbacks and no lane markings.  I was a bit nervous, let’s just say.  Jon kept telling me to stay in the middle of the road, but when you can’t see if there is another car coming, I was concerned about that.  Of course, we didn’t pass another car the whole time we were on the road.  So, after the GPS got us off the mountain, we made it in one piece to Airfield Estates Winery.

Airfield is in a complex with about 10 other wineries, and this was Red Wine and Chocolate weekend.  It was busy.  Most of the wineries participate in the event, where you buy a passport at the beginning, and you get a free tasting, some do barrel tastings or reserve tastings, and most do a discount on your wine purchase.  As we discovered, there are all types of people.  There are the people who are more serious about tasting, and finding good wines, and then there are apparently a bunch of folks that are trying to get wasted (maybe its a Yakima thing).  This is a “bring your own glass” event, and we saw glasses with logos, and glasses with bras, and several people that had a little holder that hung around their neck and holds the glass – a hands-free glass if you will.  Now if that little hands-free device would just tip it up to their mouth, that would really be awesome!  But I digress.

Since there were so many wineries in a small area, I’ll summarize: the high points, if you will.

Airfield: good, not outstanding.  Their wines were good, but nothing spectacular.  My favorite was their higher end red blend, called The Aviator.  Jon also really liked The Spitfire, which is a Sangiovese blend.  They served a delicious fudge brownie with fudge sauce too.

Milbrandt: they had some good whites, a Riesling that was semi-sweet, and a Chardonnay that Jon liked.  We picked up a bottle of their Pinot Gris that our server recommended, so I hope that it is good.  Jon really liked their Estate Syrah too.

Gamache:  what to say about Gamache.  Their regular line of wines wasn’t that great, but the reserves were pretty good.  The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent, and the Reserve Malbec was very good too.  And the teeny, tiny winery dog, a Yorkshire Terrier was friendly and adorable.

Apex Cellars:  Apex’s grocery store line is Washington Hills, and it is mediocre.  But we did their reserve wines, called the Apex Ascent and they were where it’s at.  Jon and I both enjoyed them a lot.

Martinez and Martinez:  The hidden gem of the day.  We hadn’t heard of this winery, but enjoyed their wines a lot.  Their Cesar red blend is excellent, and they also have a very good Rose made from Cabernet Sauvignon.  We will be looking for their wines at home.

Coyote Canyon:  I liked their white blend, and they do an Albarino (which is a Spanish varietal, and rare in the states).  Unfortunately, it was sold out – but we got to barrel taste the next vintage.  I hope to be able to buy the Albarino when it gets released again.

We went to a lot of places, tried many wines, dumped many, enjoyed watching the Red Wine and Chocolate meat market before our eyes, and never even had to get back in the car!  The strip mall approach has its advantages, but unfortunately, you do end up missing out on the ambiance.  Jon and I enjoy having a picnic outside at a winery when the weather is nice, or sitting outside on the patio.  I guess in February when it is cold out, it isn’t as big of an issue.

Well, enough for now, I’ll continue my thoughts on Prosser in my next post.