Treveri Blanc de Blanc, Brut

Treveri Cellars, Blanc de Blanc, brut from Washington State's Yakima Valley.

Treveri Cellars, Blanc de Blanc, brut from Washington State’s Yakima Valley.

Trevari Cellars Gewürztraminer, demi-sec.

Trevari Cellars Gewürztraminer, demi-sec.

We are deep into holiday seasons when cleaning and decorating, shopping and cooking/baking, wrapping and shipping, to say nothing of gathering and sharing dominate the collective psyche.  Just as there is Christmas music piped into every store, there will be sparkling wine at most, of these large gatherings.  I am a finicky sparkling wine drinker – at least my body rebels when readily available, less expensive sparkling is all that is available.  (I have been known to wet my lips in a toast and pass my glass on to my hubby.)

Priced in the mid- to high teens, Yakima Valley’s Treveri Cellars is a great sparkling-dedicated Washington State winery making wines via the ‘Methode Champenoise’.  We have had their Gewürztraminer demi-sec and their Blanc de Blanc brut during the last two months.  Each was lovely (with no dire side affects for me – a most important aspect).

The Blanc de Blanc, brut began with a yeasty, tart apple nose opening through to a crisp, acidic finish.

The Gewürztraminer, demo-sec also opened yeasty, but more floral on the nose releasing traditional Gewürztraminer aromas and flavors while the sweetness was well balanced by the acids.

They have several more on offer; we hope to make a day trip to the Yakima Valley to visit the winery during the holidays.


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West Coast US Pinot Noir trio trial

Six months ago we took a couple of weeks to visit Oregon with a few days of intense Pinot Noir tasting in the Willamette Valley.  We decided it was time to revisit the grape, but expanding upon what we had experienced by having a Washington, Crayelle 2010 PN from Evergreen Vineyard, and a California, Rodney Strong 2012 Russian River Valley PN to compare with one of our Oregon PN favorites, Ken Wright’s 2011 Freedom Hills Vineyard. Granted, the price point of the Oregon Pinot isn’t in line with the two others, but we were pretty excited to discover this favorite in a wine shop in Kennewick, Washington about a month ago.

L to R: Crayelle 2010 Washington, Ken Wright 2011 Oregon, 2012 Rodney Strong California

L to R: Crayelle 2010 Washington, Ken Wright 2011 Oregon, 2012 Rodney Strong California

L to R: Crayelle 2010 Washington, Ken Wright 2011 Oregon, 2012 Rodney Strong California

L to R: Crayelle 2010 Washington, Ken Wright 2011 Oregon, 2012 Rodney Strong California

As you can see the wines didn’t look different in the glass, they are all classic Pinot Noir color.

We began with the Crayelle 2010 PN (13.5% ABV) from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA within the Columbia Valley AVA.  This is one of the coolest AVA’s on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.  The Columbia River moderates the atmosphere minimally at this site as the basalt cliffs rise rapidly, holding the vineyard well above the river.  We lived in this AVA prior to moving to Walla Walla, we drove passed the vineyard regularly and I am very familiar with the geology of the area so I feel compelled to set this scene since it is probably the least familiar of the three.  Being on the east side of the mountains the rain shadow effect is the opposite of the marine we typically associate with Pinot Noir browning regions. (I am pondering why the Puget Sound hasn’t decided to join the ranks of Pinot Noir growers with no good answer at the moment.)

Ok, the wine: mild, the first descriptor to come to mind.  I had to work to discern an aroma and the palate whispers cherry, minimal complexity and acid structure.  I had to compare it to a box wine, easy drinking and pleasant enough.  Comparable price point to Rodney Strong’s 2012.  We didn’t think this bottle would last through the night to revisit tomorrow, so we finished it.

Going by age, the Ken Wright 2011 Freedom Hill Vineyard PN (13% ABV) was up next.  This is the highest price point of the three by a considerable sum.  Our original notes were ‘spice and fruit leather’ (I wrote about this wine originally here) but this time, with a newly opened bottle, we were impressed by the forest floor and bit of funk on the nose and the old saddle leather with a hint of fruit muddled into the palate with a lovely acidic finish.  We decided this wine would be fine for a little bit, so we will revisit it in a few days.

As the youngest of our choices Rodney Strong 2012 Russian River Valley PN (14.5% ABV) rounded out our trio.  I couldn’t locate a specific vineyard, but understand the marine element is strong in the Russian River Valley AVA.  (We actually know about this wine, and have this particular bottle, thanks to my Uncle when we were visiting over Thanksgiving – great taste buds must run in the family, right?)  Immediately I could smell violets, rose petals and a hint of lavender that was followed by a delightfully fruit-filled, primarily cherry, palate with more floral elements and a balance of acid to complement it all.  When people have described Pinot Noir to me this is the classic description – wonderful to be introduced to it!  I am ready to pack my bags and head to California to do some more tasting now.  This bottle too was put aside, but we are excited to see how it does tomorrow night or the next.


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Lost River Winery, north of us in Winthrop

Lost River Winery, in Winthrop, Washington.

Lost River Winery, in Winthrop, Washington.

Traveling for work as he does, my partner in wine has a tendency to bring home wine – tough problem to have, I know.  Last week he had lunch with his daughter at a small Bistro with a wine shop in it (they also have a stellar kitchen store attached)  and came home with a bottle of Lost River Winery’s 2013 Columbia Valley Rain Shadow a blend of 60% Semillon & 40% Sauvignon Blanc at 13.5% ABV.  The description on the back “This dry blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc combines a light hint of oak with bright citrus and tropical fruit flavors… Best served at 58-60 deg. F and in the company of good friends.”

Our reality is that the wine has lovely mild oaky notes in the aromas and is a crisp, pineapple-dominant, very refreshing white blend and it doesn’t come across as too high in alcohol.  Hubby was actually disappointed there wasn’t more oak but I was delighted it was on the acidic side with lots of fruit.

The link to their website says under construction, so not linking them tonight.  They have a presence in the Methow Valley, by the Canadian Border and in Seattle, but that isn’t listed on Facebook, so they must produce a decent amount of wine to distribute.  Let me know if you have seen it by you so I can gauge this one.

We had one other wine from them the summer before last, their Nebbiolo, which was not like any Nebbiolo we had tasted previously.  It was good, but I don’t recall enough about it to expand upon it here.  I am sure we will make a weekend trip up there to check out them and a few of the breweries located nearby after I am finished with school.

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A Weather Roller Coaster

Port Ludlow, November 29, 2014 - we had no power for almost eight hours.

Port Ludlow, November 29, 2014 – we had no power for almost eight hours.

Crush had the most beautiful weather: warm temperatures, minimal precipitation.  We finished harvesting fruit and we had some rain as the temperatures dropped quite a bit, but still fabulous for early November.  This idyllic environment changed drastically during the second week of November when the major storm out of Alaska drove our temperatures well below freezing rapidly and dropped some snow late in the freezing weather.  The vines were still green with any berries remaining totally frozen (a great year for ice wine if you had room to make it), the orchards were still in full leaf, some with fruit still hanging, and there was no blanket of snow to buffer the cold.  We had to thaw the rain barrels to empty them!  The freeze lasted from the 11th to the 20th before climbing to the fifties during the day and the forties at night.  Remember the motorcycle ride the day before Thanksgiving, it was well over sixty that day in Walla Walla County.

Earlier this week we had freezing rain before everything thawed instantly in temperatures in the 60's!

Earlier this week we had freezing rain before everything thawed instantly in temperatures in the 60’s!

The roller coaster dipped again as the weekend following the holiday was again below freezing.  Where we were on the west side of the state snow fell creating a peaceful blanket, cutting power to thousands of people for most of Saturday.  Walla Walla had a bit of snow that weekend too; mostly ice storms followed.  Monday and Tuesday were in the fifties and high sixties, lows of mid-forties at night thanks to the ‘Pineapple Express’ out of the southwest.  (We aren’t the only recipient of crazy weather, that drought in California has become serious flooding.)  This can not be good for the vines!  How much damage are we going to see come Spring ’15?  This is our second winter in Walla Walla and there is no trend to follow.  We are told they are both out-of-the-ordinary weather years – but the last one produced an incredible plethora of grapes, what will this one do?  Surely there are canes that are damaged and primary if not secondary buds dead.

Wind, crazy, blustery winds, have been tearing through Walla Walla for the last two days.  It has moved everything that hasn’t been secured.  Neatly piled leaves, lined up in the street for collection by the city are now all over the community again.  Trash and the cans everything blew out of are strewn across lawns like odd ornaments amongst the holiday decorations.  This evening an entire neighborhood was without power, not sure if there were others, but our electricity had a couple of blips with the morning gusts.  Wind isn’t likely to make or break this years crop, but hey, what gives with this weather?  Anywhere else experiencing off-kilter weather?

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Burwood Brewery, a great addition to Walla Walla’s wine scene

The offerings regularly - always something good to have.

The offerings – always something good to have.

While we were on our vacation last June Burwood Brewery had their Grand Opening in Walla Walla – which, of course, we missed.  Their hours were fairly limited until August, when classes began and we began ramping up for Crush – but in September we finally made it there with some friends and we have returned several times since to partake of the excellent quality beer and fun, friendly atmosphere.  In early October we participated in a Food Truck Night; beer, wine, excellent food and loads of people!  It was a remarkably successful night.

Punchy the Elf, fantastic new release at Burwood Brewery in Walla Walla.

Punchy the Elf, fantastic new release at Burwood Brewery in Walla Walla.

Tuesday evening we had the great fortune to enjoy a holiday party with our Seven Hills Winery family at Burwood.  Over Barrel Tasting Weekend, last weekend, a new beer was released “Punchy the Elf”, 7.2% ABV, 54 IBU in a ‘Winter Warmer’ style.  Lovely rich malts, mild, balanced hops in a thick, dark beer with a dense, creamy head.  I nursed this beer through my dinner knowing it was the only one I was going to have; until the end, when it was warm and the bitterness of the dark roasted malts caught up it was fantastic!  Around me were lagers and ales dark or light, all excellent.  I have had most of them at one time or another.

Aubry Premier Cru Brut, Champagne was our toasting beverage of the evening.

Aubry Premier Cru Brut, Champagne was our toasting beverage of the evening.

I have watched videos of champagne bottles being sabered, but I have not actually seen a live demonstration until this evening.  Our wine maker, Casey McClellan, did the honors and we toasted a successful year, including harvest, for the winery with Aubry Premier Cru Brut, Champagne (lovely).  It happened so fast my video wasn’t even playing and it was over!  I was impressed to say the least; happy to have witnessed this and participated at some level in this tradition.

Chimay Grande Reserve bottled 12/1994 - yes, a 20 year old Belgian beer wrapped up our evening.

Chimay Grande Reserve bottled 12/1994 – yes, a 20-year-old Belgian beer wrapped up our evening.

1994 Chimay Grande Reserve ale - cloudy, smelling of sour apples  (a bit corked), then chocolate covered raisins finishing with pie cherry.

1994 Chimay Grande Reserve ale – cloudy, smelling of sour apples (a bit corked), then chocolate covered raisins finishing with pie cherry.

Dinner was catered and scrumptious – right down to a chocolate cake for dessert.  But once we had supped and toasted our successes, one of our number (our main marketer, Erik) produced a bottle of Chimay Grande Reserve that he had purchased twenty years ago, bottled December of 1994 which he opened and shared with us.  I am very fond of Belgian beers, especially the Chimay Grande Reserves (Blue labels), so this was amazing.  A bottle of beer that was almost as old as my youngest child!  (A bottle of beer from before I began my odyssey into this world of wine and beer.)  It was a cloudy reddish-brown with a sour apple nose when first poured; slightly corked.  That sour apple mostly blew off, revealing a chocolate covered raisin aroma and taste with a pie cherry finish to me.  Not knowing what to expect, it was an intriguing experience.

The holiday season is meant to share, whatever you celebrate!  Most of you won’t make it to Walla Walla to experience this beer or come into the Seven Hills Winery Tasting room, but it seemed appropriate to share with you this microcosm of cheer at a time when cold, gloomy weather and holiday stresses can zap the joy from us.  We aren’t as small a winery as most I work with during Crush, but we aren’t large by the industry standards.  Our owners, Casey & Vicky McClellan are very generous and kind people, besides being fantastic wine makers.  I am thrilled to be a part of this enterprise for the last year.  (If you recall, this was our only wine club membership for many years prior to my working here.)

Hope your holiday stress is minimal, your joys are many and you have people you enjoy sharing time with when you want to.


Might have to get my partner in wine a beer t-shirt for Christmas - shhh, it will be our surprise.

Might have to get my partner in wine a beer t-shirt for Christmas – shhh, it will be our surprise.

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A Series of Exciting Events


Statistical probability would be low for a bookish, clumsy, extremely shy little girl from Long Island to land in Washington State as it birthed a wine industry.  Still lower probability is that this girl would meet a cowboy from Utah, raised in the Mormon faith, and fall head-over-heals in love with him; yup, I have loads of photos of him on a horse, with the cowboy hat and boots since he was quite young.  Want to guess the potential that this odd couple would discover how much they love wine and decide to pursue making it, understanding it and, of course, drinking it?  We are talking about a series of serendipitous experiences that brought us not just together, but encouraged our shared passion of wine.

During my first round of college I was, of course, quite poor, so I had to really enjoy something to spend my few dollars on it.  Raised with fresh, excellently prepared food, that was most of my meager budget.  Raised with mediocre wine and beer that didn’t do anything for me I was the original ‘designated driver’ during those years – no cash outlay required.  Marriage and motherhood and graduating occurred in the same year, so I the above trend carried on for some time.  During this time Washington’s Wine Industry was in its high school years if you will, feisty and rebellious, planting red grapes where maybe whites would have been advised.  Growing varietals that weren’t expected to grow, never mind produce quality fruit with which to make wine.  The early wines from Washington were remarkably good – award-winning even.  As the Twentieth Century came to a close a grudging maturity developed, the industry really began to blossom and WWCC pioneered a hands-on vocational program in an attempt to educate enough people who wanted into the industry that there were knowledgable people filling the ranks of Washington Wineries.

I was newly single, happily raising my kids and there were far more wines, especially Washington Wines, in my price range.  Wine became a treat I looked forward to and budgeted for.  My interest outpaced most of those around me as I tasted and researched but that didn’t matter, I really enjoyed it.  It occurred to me to go back to school for a Master’s degree, but I couldn’t pin down a program I wanted to complete.  There were too many options and yet, seemingly, not the ‘right’ option.

It took a few years on my own before I met my partner in wine; we actually bonded over motorcycle riding, excellent food and a joy of life.  His choices had brought him beyond the world he was raised in so he introduced me to hard alcohols I hadn’t had (and probably shouldn’t) and I introduced him to wine… eventually beer too.  We married and moved to ‘his’ house as ‘my’ house sold soon after.  He suggested we have lunch in Walla Walla on our way home from our honeymoon and it instantly felt like home to me, so we would be visiting lots in the next few years.  You have read about Brix & Stone and the owners, Linda and Dwight, that befriended me and offered me a place in their wine and beer shop opening up the world of wine and beer in a way I hadn’t previously experienced.  My hubby was ever so supportive and encouraging – but his palate, having been unsullied to this point was coveted as we went to distributor tastings, industry events and during our monthly dinner group gatherings.

Our enthusiasm probably rushed ahead of our knowledge when we decided to start making wine for ourselves, but we were successful!  When I couldn’t fix the problems that did arise I began searching for an answer and then for a hands-on program that wouldn’t require me to focus on research but would give me the ability to make wine and know what I was doing.  What do you know, the only hands-on Enology and Viticulture program was in Walla Walla!  There were a couple of other programs in the state, WSU has a Master’s degree and CWU had a marketing related degree and a couple of other community colleges had on-line programs.

As you must realize, we made the leap and moved to Walla Walla.  We are submersed in wine related events, discussions, and tastings regularly.  At the tasting room I am pouring wines and talking to perfect strangers all the time.  My partner in wine is truly my partner; he is doing his own share of studying, from a Sommelier perspective, but casually.  This approach is working very well for us.

Washington has approximately 800 licensed wineries, award-winning vineyards and wines, and constant demand for more vineyards as outside entities attempt to source fruit from here.  No where near as mature as most other wine regions, but expanding in all ways.

I am through Fall Quarter of my second (and last) year of the EV program.  Last week I had a few classes to round out this crush season and a take home final; making a red and a white wine from specific vineyards.  We had to explain our reasoning for decisions such as harvesting and yeast vs what type of aging for each wine and cite our research.  The challenge was happily undertaken with successful results.  We seem to have found ourselves in Paradise living out our passions and open to a variety of future choices.


The rules (see original here)

    1. The Challenge is open to anybody and everybody. It helps if you have a blog, but that is certainly not a requirement (contact me if this is the case).
    2. Write a post based on this month’s theme: “Serendipity”: MWWC13
    3. The post should be at least tangentially related to wine (after all, it is the name of the challenge).
    4. The post should be more or less around 1000 words (I routinely violate this rule, so it is just there as a “guide”).
    5. Include the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge badge (above) that was designed by the very first winner, The Armchair Sommelier.
    6. Remember to vote!
    7. I will try and secure another outside judge for this month’s Challenge. If I succeed, the judge will choose the winner from the top three vote-getters. If I fail, the winner will be the top vote receiver.
    8. Once you post on your blog, please do at least two of the following and I will be sure to include a link here as well as on all subsequent posts about this month’s challenge:
      1. Include a link back to this post in your entry.
      2. Use the hashtag #MWWC13 somewhere in your post.
      3. Tweet, using the #MWWC13 hashtag and include a link back to your post.
      4. Send me an email: jeff(at)thedrunkencyclist(dot)com

The all important dates:

Deadline for submission:  Monday, December 8th, 2014

Voting Begins: Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Voting Ends:  Monday, December 13th, 2014

Winner Announced:  Tuesday, December 14th, 2014

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Chief Spring’s Fire & Iron’s Brew Pub, Dayton, Washington

Chief Spring's Fire & Irons Brew Pub in Dayton, Washington, a great stop for lunch and some good beer.

Chief Spring’s Fire & Irons Brew Pub in Dayton, Washington, a great stop for lunch and some good beer.

When the Autumn or Winter temperatures creep back into the sixties and the sun is shining we just have to take a motorcycle ride.  Right before Thanksgiving we headed to Dayton, about half an hour from Walla Walla.  We didn’t have a goal, just the joy of the ride, but both of us were hungry when we came into this little town.  We have passed through here so many times we knew right away we wanted to have lunch at Chief Spring’s Fire and Irons Brew Pub.  They also own a small pizza parlor next door (so pizzas are on the menu).  I had never had a pasty (a meat pie), so each of us got one and we shared a flight of their beers.

Chief Mike Springs has been a fire chief in the area (Milton Freewater, College Place, and in the TriCities) for many years and the pub displays a fair share of the related memorabilia he and his family have collected over those years.  A couple of years ago, after making beer in his garage for a few before this, the pub building went up for sale and the decision was made to go public – which means we have been riding passed it since it was newly opened.

Friendly service and good food (the pasty was simple, but appropriate for the beers).  Over all, the brews are smooth, easy drinkers that went well with food.  Various fire fighting terms or style appropriate monikers add to the fun.  We shared a tasting of the seven beers on tap.  From ‘Pike Pole’ Honey to ‘Ladder Dog’ IPA the beers were mild, sessions style beers, with great flavor and balance.  Although the beers are listed on the website, there is no statistical data available.  Had I realized this I would have asked while we were there, alas, I will know better the next time we stop.

Mild aromas, balanced hop to malt flavors and style appropriateness sum up the experience.  The ‘Bagpiper’ Scottish Ale was probably my favorite, with the ‘Ladder Dog’ IPA in second and the Fireline’ Ale third.  I am not a fan of coffee and the ‘Back Fire’ Stout came across as just that to me both on the nose and palate.  For coffee fans, that should be considered bad, just not my deal.  Over all a great place, we look forward to future stops here.


Left to Right: Pike Pole Honey, Fireline Ale, Back Fire Stout, Bagpiper Scottish Ale, Ladder Dog IPA, Apple Ale, and Wind Farm Wheat are Fire & Irons Brew Pub current offerings.

Left to Right: Pike Pole Honey, Fireline Ale, Back Fire Stout, Bagpiper Scottish Ale, Ladder Dog IPA, Apple Ale, and Wind Farm Wheat are Fire & Irons Brew Pub current offerings.

Posted in Beer, Traveling | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Bunnell Family Cellar’s Prosser restaurant ‘Wine O’Clock’

The three white's in our flight: WOC=Wine O'Clock, BFC=Bunnell Family Cellar

The three white’s in our flight: WOC=Wine O’Clock, BFC=Bunnell Family Cellar

Rounding out our Prosser tasting we made reservations at Wine O’Clock, the Bunnell Family Cellar Prosser Bar and Bistro.

To begin with we had the treat of a couple of reds, single varietal, Sangiovese and Primitivo as our server was intrigued by my crush experiences this year.  They were lovely!

Our appetizer plate at Wine O'Clock in Prosser, paired with the white flight.

Our appetizer plate at Wine O’Clock in Prosser, paired with the white flight.

The flight of whites came with our cream spread and fruit plate.  The food was delicious – well thought out and executed, but they would have been better paired with red wines rather than the suggested whites.

The pizza with our flight of three reds, all blend under the Bunnell Family Cellar label.

The pizza with our flight of three reds, all blend under the Bunnell Family Cellar label.

Trying to keep things simple we ordered a pizza to share with the red wines – lo and behold the ‘spicy’ sauce was seriously spicy!  Alas, I couldn’t eat it, so I had to order something else and amend it to be sure it was going to be ok for me.  Expedited, I was eating again in short order and this burger was wonderful!

For the sake of recognizing labels, I toured the small shop at the front of the restaurant and photographed some of the bottles on display.

Wine O'Clock label 2011 dry Gewürztraminer from the white flight.

Wine O’Clock label 2011 dry Gewürztraminer from the white flight.

Bunnell Family Cellar 'vif', a 2008 red blend composed of 60% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Petite Sirah.

Bunnell Family Cellar ‘vif’, a 2008 red blend composed of 60% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Petite Sirah.

River Aerie, the bottle I found in the shop was the Merlot, but the2008  Primitivo we had was this label.

River Aerie, the bottle I found in the shop was the Merlot, but the 2008 Primitivo we had was this label.

The wines were good, the food was great and we met a couple from Utah that we ended up chatting with for an hour or so after finishing our meal.  Wine has a way of opening conversations and this was an idyllic experience.  My partner in wine had another opportunity to talk airplanes as this guy was a retired pilot, commercial.  His wife and I discussed so many subjects, laughing and comparing notes that we would’ve been mistaken for old friends after the first few minutes.  They expressed an interest in coming to Walla Walla on a future wine tasting trip, so we made sure they knew how to reach us before parting.


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Airfield Estates Wines and a fun visit with the winemaker, Marcus Miller

Airfield Estates tasting room as seen from the west with the moon rising.

Airfield Estates tasting room as seen from the west with the moon rising.

By now you know I am in the WWCC Enology & Viticulture program here in Walla Walla – this is a widely acclaimed program available through the community college since 2001.  It has to happen that outside of Walla Walla I would run into graduates of the program and this was a delightful surprise when we visited Airfield Estates tasting room in Prosser, Washington.

As my partner in wine has been a pilot for many years this winery had to be visited, just so he could explore and know why the link to flying.  We were getting the general spiel from our server and observing all of the large format images framed around the large tasting room dating back to early & mid-1900’s on when I mentioned my course of study to her.  Marcus, owner and winemaker, was just wrapping up for the day so we had a fantastic visit with him.  This is a family that began their journey to growing grapes and making wine a very long time ago.

Don Miller, 1937 Roza Canal tunnel he lobbied for.

Don Miller, 1937 Roza Canal tunnel he lobbied for.

If you know anything about the Northwest or history, you should know that there are a couple of very large rivers that have been dammed to create hydropower.  This also provided irrigation water under the umbrella of the federal Water Reclamation District for the Columbia Plateau farmers.  Nature provides very little rain in this high-dessert region but the soils are rich and deep, excellent for so many crops.  In the 1930’s Don Miller, Marcus’s grandfather, was actively involved in the establishment of the Roza irrigation project, thus bringing water to Grandview/Sunnyside area.  He then proceeded to plant about 20 acres in the mid 60’s, five acres each of four vinifera varietals obtained from cuttings from the Freemark Abby in Nappa Valley, with the guidance of Walter Clore, best recognized as the father of Washington’s Wine industry.  These grapes were sold to home wine makers.

Marcus Miller, Airfield Estates wine maker,  with the photo of the WWII hangers still on his family's farm.

Marcus Miller, Airfield Estates wine maker, with the photo of the WWII hangers still on his family’s farm.

But what about the airfield reference?  Well, that is what the family farm became during World War II – an airfield for the Airforce.  In fact, the current offices out at the farm are in one of the old buildings left from that era.  Mike Miller, Marc’s father, grew the original 20 acres of vinifera grapes to 750 acres in the 1990’s, selling most of the grapes to St. Michelle.  That size vineyard in the 1990’s was larger than the town of Walla Walla!

As with most farm families: son left the farm, went to college and was not interested in returning despite lots of coaxing from his father.  Marcus did return to the farm but hated the work directly related to farming.  It wasn’t until he was exposed to the wine making side of the grapes that he found an interest, early in the new millennium as the WWCC EV program was just getting started.  Marc had the pleasure of working with Stan Clarke, another major force in the early Washington Wine industry, as he taught viticulture for the program.  The college vineyard is named for this man; you have heard me mention Stan Clarke Vineyards over the last couple of years many times.

Marc pulling a sample of his 2014 unoaked Chardonnay for us to sample.

Marc pulling a sample of his 2014 unoaked Chardonnay for us to sample.

Marcus graduated and worked for various wineries in Washington and New Zealand before returning to the family business again as wine maker in 2005.  Airfield Estates released their first vintage in April of 2007.  From 14,000 cases to 45,000 cases this has been a rapidly grown winery with several lines (Airfield, Airfield Runway, Flygirl, and Lone Birch) using primarily estate fruit.

Yes, we spent quite a bit of time visiting with Marc and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to see the successes of a graduate of my program.  We wish him and his family well as they continue to help develop Washington’s Wine industry and Airfield Estates.

The wines are distributed quite widely, you may have already seen them in a store/shop near you.  In the tasting room there were eight wines in the flight, three whites, a rose’ and four reds of which two were red blends.  They are all very approachable wines, well-balanced, flavorful and true to the varietals with excellent price points (whites primarily in the $15-$25 range and reds $18-%30 range at the tasting room).  Our choice to bring home was the 2012 Airfield Grenache.  A medium-bodied, fruit forward wine bound by approachable tannins and acids with a great melange of flavors in the slightly extended finish.


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Gamache Vintners, an early Washington State vineyard

We squeezed in a trip to Prosser not long ago for an afternoon of wine tasting.  This small town has numerous wineries (we have only begun to explore them) of which we chose three for this trip.

To begin with: Gamache Vintners, co-owner Bob Gamache was serving as he manages the winery side of the business since its opening in 2005.  Brother Roger oversees the vineyard management of their 185 acre farm since 1982; an early vineyard here in Washington State.  Charlie Hoppe has been their wine maker since 2005.  He has a long history with many of Washington’s wineries as wine maker or consultant, especially in the Red Mountain area.  The Gamache Vineyards are east of Red Mountain, north of Pasco (TriCities) in the Columbia Valley AVA.

The choice to make wine with their own grapes, about 8% of the grapes grown, came from the desire to show the quality of their fruit – vineyard specific, varietal specific, minimally intervened wines.  They do use some grapes from Champoux and Ciel du Cheval vineyards as well in their Heritage wines.  Various northwest, LA and Finger Lakes awards indicate the success of this decision over the years.

We were treated to their flight of open wines: Riesling, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc while chatting about farming, motorcycles, and wine.  We came away with two Malbecs to share with friends during this holiday season.  Their wines are available on-line and have a limited distribution.  The tasting room is lovely, but I was remiss in taking photos during our visit.


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