Arbor Brook Vineyards, Newberg, Oregon

Tippy, the 14 year old winery cat is a lover; she kneaded his cowboy boots as I took her picture.

Tippy, the 14-year-old Arbor Brook Winery cat is a lover; she kneaded his cowboy boots as I took her picture.

We were greeted with a wave and a huge smile by the winery owner, Dave, as we entered the Arbor Brook Vineyards property; the renovated barn tasting room is beyond the 1910 farmhouse where he was coming out of the garage.  Boutique, family owned, and fueled with the passion we recognize in ourselves this winery will always hold a special place in our hearts.  Dave Hansen provided most of our tasting room experience, although Elke was tremendously helpful when we first came in.  I have told you about Chuck Reininger at Reininger Winery (here) and how great it is to visit with him when we go to the winery; Dave has become our Willamette Valley equivalent.  To geek out with like-minded people about the details of the soil, microclimate, vineyard management and winemaking strategies while tasting excellent wine pretty much sums up my idea of a great time.  Who knew farming was so interesting? Certainly not me until very recently.

Arbor Brook Vineyards is a dry-farmed vineyard on Dupee sedimentary soils in the Chehalem Mtn AVA.

Arbor Brook Vineyards is a dry-farmed vineyard on Dupee sedimentary soils in the Chehalem Mtn AVA.

As great as the wines are, I will get to them, sharing with you some of the fun details that were new to me and just plain interesting.  The homestead was originally established in 1866 with a filbert orchard, Dave and Mary purchased it in 1999, removed the orchard and began planting their vineyard in 2001.  This isn’t unlike the apple orchards of the southern Walla Walla AVA, look for this to happen in earnest with the new sub-AVA, The Rocks, that has recently been accepted by the TTB.  They opened the tasting room in 2005 with 400 cases of wine and additional plantings of clones Pommard, 667, and 115.  2012 saw three more clones and in the coming years there will be two more acres planted rounding out the Arbor Brook Vineyard property… unless a neighbor decides to provide more acreage?  One can dream, right.

Soil profiles from the Arbor Brook Estate and Tresori Vineyards as source-soils of the Terroir Anthology wines.

Soil profiles from the Arbor Brook Estate and Tresori Vineyards as source-soils of the Terroir Anthology wines.

Dave has been working on an interesting project in recent years, his Terroir Anthology series.  Pairing a Pinot Noir clone from the Arbor Brook Estate with the same clone in the same Chehalem Mtn AVA, of course, during the same vintage, utilizing as close to identical methods of production as possible to ensure both are quality wines, he bottles about 50 cases of each wine.  (Yup, this was right up my alley.)  He recently brought two large glass vases into the tasting room to showcase the soils of his most recent Anthology Series, vintage 2013: the Tresori Vineyard to the west (~330′, planted 1999) clone 777 from the Willakenzie sedimentary soil commonly found in this AVA in one vase while soil from Arbor Brook Estate Vineyard (~400′, planted 2001) same clone is planted in a sub-soil of the Willakenzie sediments called Dupee, essentially a bench of oceanic sediment that was redeposited as river sediment visible in the higher elevations facing into the Willamette Valley.  Fun stuff, right?

Ok, you have been patient, I will get to the wines now.  Dave’s wife and co-owner, Mary Lynn Hansen, likes white wines, Dave not so much.  To balance the wines offered the decision was made to include the Oregon Pinot Gris, as it is a direct relative of the Pinot Noir Dave is most enthused about, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.  Both Pinot Gris are sourced from the Guadalupe Vineyard, 25 yo vines about 3 miles away on the Dundee Hill and Croft Vineyard further south, old vines within the Van Duzer Corridor, in the Willamette Valley AVA.  The Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon grapes are from Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain.  Dave drives his big truck to pick-up the fresh-picked grapes and drives promptly home as speedily as possible to ensure the grapes are in the best possible condition as processing begins.  The Pinot Noir is all Estate and a hand-full of close vineyards for the Terroir Anthology series wines.  As the oldest estate vines are entering their fourteenth leaf and the current youngest, from 2012, are just really getting into their fruiting-groove, there are exciting dynamics at work in the wines.

We began with the 2013 MLH Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc (named for Mary), there is 3% Semillon to smooth out the palate.  Excellent complexity with a well-balanced acidic finish.  The 2013 Guadalupe Vineyard Pinot Gris spends 9 months in oak (1/3 each new, 2nd year and neutral) smells like  a bouquet and ripe Anjou pears, this carries through with an addition of citrus and subtle nuttiness from the oak on the finish.  (There is no 2013 Semillon.)

Dave Hansen, Arbor Brook Vineyards owner & winemaker with his soil profile and related wines.

Dave Hansen, Arbor Brook Vineyards owner & winemaker with his soil profile and related wines.

Beginning the reds we had 2012 Heritage Cuvee’ Estate Pinot Noir consisting of Pommard, 115, and 777 for a light, rose petal and raspberry nose becoming light red fruits and some subtle spice on the palate with a slightly herbal finish.  The 2012 Origin 1866 Estate Pinot Noir, named for the original land grant of the Estate property, is an equal blend of Pommard, 115, 667, and 777.  An award-winning wine opening with cedar, pomegranate and cranberry on the nose with vanilla and spice to warm up the red fruits through the finish.  The 2012 Estate 777 Block Pinot Noir with black cherry, ripe plum and roses following through with leather, fruit preserves and earth; a very nice wine.  The 2012 Vintner’s Select Estate Pinot Noir, five barrels aged 16 months in all new oak with an additional three of the barrels being racked after 11 months into new oak barrels for a “200%” new oak, something I hadn’t encountered before this (knowingly anyway).  Nutty, Cassis, caramel and lavender carry through aroma to palate with a touch of white pepper with the caramel on the finish.  There is most definitely something for everyone here; really glad we had some Pinot Noir tasting under our belt so we could begin to decipher what we were expecting and why.  Tasting of the 2013 Brendan Scott Pommard Clone Pinot Noir (named for son, Brendan) was a second bottling of this wine since the 50 cases of the 2012 sold out right away and the 2013 Coury Clone, pale red, coffee, cocoa and Marion berry were from a 1971 planting outside of McMinnville at higher elevations.  Apparently the 2012 of this wine was more ‘California-Style’ and richer… we will eventually make some journey’s into California wine country.

2012 Sydney Late Harvest Sauternes-style Semillon, with Danish Blue Cheese is a lovely pairing.

2012 Sydney Late Harvest Sauternes-style Semillon, with Danish Blue Cheese is a lovely pairing.

Side by side we tasted the 2013 Estate 777 block Pinot Noir (which was a split harvest due to rain, like we had in Walla Walla) with the 2013 Terroir Anthology from Tresori Vineyards.  The Estate wine was deeper red, more floral on the nose and more tannic than the 2012 wines we had been tasting.  Dave told us that was because the 777 clone is known to be a more tannic Pinot Noir clone – good to know!  Both wines were a mix of fruit,floral and leather with subtle differences in the balance of each.  Unfortunately I wrote in corners and tracing which wine is which has been lost for now.

The final wine of the tasting is the 2012 “Sydney” Semillon, a Sauternes-style late harvest wine named for daughter, Sydney.  Inhale a nose full of pineapples and honey, peaches and the buttery Bosc pear on the palate with a smooth, long, velvety finish hinting of soft caramel candies my grandfather used to sneak us when we were little.  This wine was paired with a Danish blue cheese for a hint of heaven.  My mouth is watering as I write this it was so very good.

Cheers!

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Bergstrom Wines, Newberg, Oregon

Bergstrom Wines, Newberg, OR.

Bergstrom Wines, Newberg, OR.

When we left the hotel in Newberg the fog was fairly dense, but as we climbed a hill toward the Bergstrom Wine facilities we climbed above the worst of it into a crisp mid-winter day in the Willamette Valley.  The fog plays such a big role in the Willamette Valley’s growth of Pinot Noir we couldn’t argue that we didn’t know it could be so foggy.  But having come from Walla Walla’s gloomy fog with the anticipation of 60+ degree days during our visit we were relieved to see blue sky and high fluffy white clouds.  It was a fun tasting, not least of which was because we ended up with a server from Milton Freewater, especially familiar with Walla Walla; I was happy to relay her greetings to common friends.  Nice personal connection right?

Bergstrom Wines, the vineyard around the tasting room in Newberg, OR.

Bergstrom Wines, the vineyard around the tasting room in Newberg, OR.

The 2011 Old Stones Chardonnay is the lovely white wine from a blend of vineyards from a long, cool growing season.  It is my kind of Chardonnay with acids and minerality, almost salty undertones within citrus and spice on the palate.

We happily discussed the terroir: vineyard locations, soils, micro-climates and reasons for blending or not as Shari poured and we tasted the four different Pinot Noir’s on offer.  From light and fruity to earthy and rich in various combinations we were impressed with each wine.

Bergstrom Wines, Newberg, OR, barrel room.

Bergstrom Wines, Newberg, OR, barrel room.

Afterward I wondered around the barrel room and outside for a few minutes enjoying the sunshine as it gently warmed me and my surroundings, dispelling the last of the morning fog in the valley.

As an aside, there was another of those daphne bushes on the path leading into the front doors of the tasting room, but it wasn’t as fragrant as the one at Dobbes Family Estate.

Cheers!

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La Rambla for our Valentine’s Dinner

Friday night in the Willamette Valley rush-hour traffic on the small roads and pea-soup fog created a challenge getting us to McMinnville in time for our dinner reservations (we drove right in from Walla Walla); parking was the last hurdle before entering the Spanish-influence La Rambla Restaurant & Bar from the back door, passed the kitchen and lovely copper-top bar into the open dining room.  Having looked at their menu on-line I was thrilled to know there were many options on it that I could eat without having to remove several of the ingredients due to allergy or taste.  Ariel, our server, highly suggested their Valentine’s dinner with the wine pairings, but I had my heart set on the braised rabbit that I saw on the main menu.  My hubby decided to take on the five-course dinner with wines and share some of the dishes I could eat with me; excellent choice as it was a lot of food!

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: herb salad paired with Caba De La Rosa +  a touch of Creme de Cassis.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: herb salad paired with Cava De La Rosa + a touch of Creme de Cassis.

The lobster bisque with red pepper and smoked Oregon albacore was very heavy on the red pepper to me, but Hubby said it was delicious.  Paired with local winery, Eyrie, 2013 Pinot Gris.  The wine was citrus and white flowers with the acids in the wine nicely cutting the creamy nature of the soup.  An excellent beginning to the dinner.

We divided the herb salad of apples, berries, figs, warm Valdeon (a blue cheese from Leon, Spain) and Champagne-goji berry vinaigrette paired with Cava De La Rosa with a touch of Creme de Cassis liquor.  The salad was exquisite with mostly bright, tangy flavors and the cava with the Cassis a deeper, warm compliment.

Course number three grilles local oysters with chili garlic butter, Manila clams steamed with sherry & espresso paired with Riscal 2012 Verdejo. Stearing clear of the chiles my hubby shared both oysters and clams with me.  Not overly fond of espresso I was delighted to find this combination of flavors was tasty.  In fact, the aroma reminded me of my earlier college days when we would eat at the Ethiopian restaurant that was then in Seattle’s U-District and everyone (except me) would imbibe in a cup of Ethiopian coffee after our meal… excellent memories on top of it!  This was my favorite white wine of the evening!  This Marques de Riscal 2012 Verdejo is a bold, lovely dry white with floral and tropical fruit aromas, a light palate with a smooth mouth feel and excellent acidic finish – right up my alley!  Looking at my Wine Century Club list, I discovered it was a starred grape from our previous tasting.  Apparently, we like it.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: Lamb Loin Chop paired with Adelsheim 2012 Willamette Valley PN.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: Lamb Loin Chop paired with Adelsheim 2012 Willamette Valley PN.

Hubby chose to have the lamb loin chop as his main entrée with smoke bacon-black truffle pan sauce, roasted butternut squash and oyster mushrooms paired with another local wine from Adelsheim, their 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.  This part of the meal was all for him and he loved it.  But I did taste his wine, cherries, lavender and a bit of forest floor on the nose, good acidity and leather with earth and herbs on the palate.  Apparently I thought the end was ‘woody’, but I stopped writing my notes without further detailing that thought, but it was good.

I now had my own plate of food, although I was doubting the need to have ordered as I was already feeling quite full with my portion of Hubby’s meal.  The braised rabbit was smothered in polenta and sautéed Brussel sprouts with enough béarnaise sauce but not too much.  It was excellent and worth tasting.  Not wishing to pass up an opportunity to have a Spanish tempranillo, I ordered the 2008 Beronia Reserva Tempranillo with my supper.  Vanilla, herbs and raspberries on the nose, cedar and raspberries on the palate; made me a very happy person as it met all of my hopes.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR:Conejo en vino vito with 2008 Beronia Reserva Tempranillo.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: Conejo en vino vito with 2008 Beronia Reserva Tempranillo.

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: Chehalem 2012 INOX Chardonnay, without the Almond Crusted Scallops to pair, but great!

La Rambla in McMinnville, OR: Chehalem 2012 INOX Chardonnay, without the Almond Crusted Scallops to pair, but great!

As we didn’t choose the almond crusted scallop entrée I asked Ariel for a taste of the local Chehalem 2013 Chardonnay.  He brought out the bottle with the taste to discover the wine was actually the Chehalem 2012 INOX Chardonnay.  A stainless steel fermented Chardonnay full of very pleasant citrus and peach.  As this was one of the wineries we hoped to visit during this adventure we were happy to discover a tasty wine. Look for the post of our visit to Chehalem soon.

We were happy for the bit of respite from eating that followed the Chardonnay before the vanilla soda battered bananas with dark chocolate ganache, honey and cherries were brought out with their pairing of Crater Lake Cofia Vodka.  The vodka is from Bend, Oregon with coffee and hazelnuts.  To me it was Kahlua with a kick, but I am no judge of this as I don’t drink coffee or Kahlua.  The dessert was good, but we were so full of food that it was almost too much to eat it.

On our way out the door we noticed La Rambla carries the local Heater Allen Pilsner we enjoyed during our visit last June.  Since their little tasting room closed I am glad to see their beers being poured at local establishments as we know we will be able to find some on future visits.

Hubby and I are very close and know how fortunate we are to be together so we can come across as newlyweds.  Did you go someplace special with someone special on Valentine’s weekend?  Please share!

Cheers!

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A first taste of our second wine

2013 Cockburn Ranch Syrah, affectionately named COSY

2013 Cockburn Ranch Syrah, affectionately named COSY

For no reason except we were together, my partner in wine and I decided to open the bottle of Syrah we made at College Cellars during the 2013 crush; the one we call COSY.  Purple velvet with a nose redolent of the Hungarian oak it was stored in and Chinese-five-spice with a pinch of white pepper, smooth and supple with a delicate flavor of Cassis and the German plum-cake (‘Zwetschgendatschi’) we make each summer.  The finish is reminiscent of cocoa with a note of cinnamon, not too long, but wonderful.  Pretty proud of this baby.

Cheers!

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Dobbes Family Estate & Wines By Joe, Dundee, Oregon

Dobbes Family Estate & Wines by Joe are located in Dundee, Oregon.

Dobbes Family Estate & Wines by Joe are located in Dundee, Oregon.

Several months ago we attended an event where we bid on wine in auction; the cause was good, we knew nothing about the wines.  Two of those bottles were Wine by Joe Pinot Noir and the first one we opened wasn’t good; it had not been stored well and was beyond drinkable but was ok to cook with.  I didn’t look up where they were from as we weren’t impressed enough to seek such information.  Oddly enough, we were in the

A Valentine's rose from Dobbes Family Estate to pair with their wines.

A Valentine’s rose from Dobbes Family Estate to pair with their wines.

Willamette Valley for the long weekend and discovered where this wine came from quite by happy coincidence: Dobbes Family Estate and Wines by Joe are made by the same winemaker for different markets. Joe Dobbes is owner and winemaker here.  Wines by Joe are distributed whereas the Dobbes Family Estate are sold only through the tasting room.  There is yet another label for restaurant distribution, Jovino, that we haven’t tasted.

Dobbes Family Estate had charming statuary and a blooming Daphne plant that smelled heavenly!

Dobbes Family Estate had charming statuary and a blooming Daphne plant that smelled heavenly!

The tasting room is huge, built to appear as an old barn, but beautifully new and modern.  This business was established in 2003, grew rapidly with this facility providing a charming ambiance for customers.  The gardens are coming in nicely, a few new plants were still in their pots, but right outside the open tasting room window was a daphne plant bursting with fragrant blossoms.  That is most likely my favorite ornamental shrub, I might have to see if I can grow one in Walla Walla.  The daffodils were nodding their bright yellow heads in the slight breeze, but all in all Spring was well underway on Valentine’s Day in the Willamette Valley!  Walla Walla has been under a shroud of fog for weeks, so the sun was delightful!

2008 & 2010 Symonette Vineyard Pinot Noir to compare vintages in the Eola-Amity AVA.

2008 & 2010 Symonette Vineyard Pinot Noir to compare vintages in the Eola-Amity AVA.

The Dobbes Family Estate fruit is sourced from several vineyards in the Willamette and Rogue AVA’s.  We were treated to a library Viognier, 2009 as the 2013 sold out; it was excellent, still fresh and crisp. The 2012 Chardonnay was only lightly oaked with no malolactic fermentation to moderate the acids in the wine so we both liked it.  We were able to compare the 2008 and 2010 Symonette Vineyard Pinot Noir side-by-side for an interesting vintage comparison.  The 08 was a warmer vintage with more color extraction for a deeper red color, while tasting fantastic.  2010 was a cooler year, not cold though, this is the current release of this wine.

2011 Dobbes Family Estate Grand Assemblage Syrah from the Rogue Valley AVA.

2011 Dobbes Family Estate Grand Assemblage Syrah from the Rogue Valley AVA.

From the Rogue Valley AVA the 2011 Grand Assemblage Syrah was a glass full of fresh purple fruits and tobacco leaves, remarkably well-integrated with a great finish.

2010 Mirror Image Port-style Syrah from Dobbes Family Estate with delicious chocolate...

2010 Mirror Image Port-style Syrah from Dobbes Family Estate with delicious chocolate…

Patrick, pouring our tastes, is in the Chemeketa Community College.  We met another student last June when we visited Stoller Vineyards, Gary.  They know one another, of course, which was a nice coincidence.  I am always intrigued to meet other EV students and get to converse with them.

Our last taste was paired with chocolates, the 2010 Mirror Image Port-Style Syrah with 18.5% ABV.  Nearly 8% residual sugar, bursting with fruit preserves finishing silky smooth after all that time in the barrel.

We still have a bottle of the Wine by Joe Pinot Noir, if it isn’t up to drinking we will see if we can cook with that one too.  But we are more likely to purchase a bottle should we see it for sale somewhere.

Cheers!

They use some fun pour spouts - frogs happen to be a favorite of my partner in wine.

They use some fun pour spouts – frogs happen to be a favorite of my partner in wine.

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Barnard Griffin, Richland Washington

The logo for Barnard Griffin hangs on the tasting room fireplace.

The logo for Barnard Griffin hangs on the tasting room fireplace.

Creativity is in the blood of winery owners Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard; Rob is the winemaker and Deborah is a fused glass artist.  Together they have built the Barnard Griffin winery, with a glass fusing studio attached, since 1985.  To quote their website, “Glass Art meets Art in a Glass”, and a lovely combination it is.  I focused on the wine while we were visiting, but could have spent hours admiring each piece of glass she had for sale in the tasting room.  In fact, I still find myself thinking about a particular piece; if it is still there when I have a chance to go back, I just might have to bring it home.

Barnard Griffin has lots of wine (nineteen open on the bar); all remarkable.  Not all of them are distributed and some are older vintages.  Rob Barnard worked with Hogue and Preston wineries, after graduating from UC Davis, prior to opening his own winery.  He has worked with fruit from all of the top vineyards in the state. Elise, the oldest daughter, is the tasting room manager while Megan, the youngest daughter, has been interning as her father’s assistant, taking on more of the wine making responsibilities each year.  There seems to be longevity in this family owned winery.

Barnard Griffin, a Cellar Rat friendly neighborhood.

Barnard Griffin, a Cellar Rat friendly neighborhood.

Wouldn't you like to come across him unexpectedly?

Wouldn’t you like to come across him unexpectedly?

We met two WSU EV grads working the tasting room, Ryan poured our tastes and Robby guided a quick tour through the tank room.  There was a taste of a Chardonnay in tank as well – so total of twenty tastes!  Good thing we share and do lots of spitting and dumping or I don’t think I could have understood my notes.

As there are so many wines, highlights will have to do.  All of the noble grapes are represented and there are several lesser known varietals as well.  White/red, dry/sweet, oaked or not, there was something good about every wine and nothing wrong with any, so you will certainly find something here to your taste.

Barnard Griffin, Cotes du Rob, a Washington State blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah Durif and Mourvedre

Barnard Griffin, Cotes du Rob, a Washington State blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah Durif and Mourvedre

2010 Cotes du Rob (69.8% Grenache, 16.77% Cinsault, 8.93% Syrah, 2.66% Durif (Petite Sirah) and 1.84% Mourvedre) is a cuvee blend with bright, red fruits and spice with a deep, rich finish.

2005 Vintage Red (56.4% Merlot, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7.1% Syrah) is has similarities to the previous wine with more earth and flint; a ten-year old wine drinking like it is a much newer vintage.

2008 Sagemoor Partners (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25.6% Merlot, 13.7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot) is a single vineyard, winemaker choice of blocks each year as a celebration of the 35 years of partnering to make fabulously grown grapes into spectacular wine – and that it is.

Cheers!

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Market Vineyards, Richland Washington

Market Vineyards in Richland Washington

Market Vineyards in Richland Washington

What happens when you get a group of businessmen together over good wine?  In this case they open a winery: Market Vineyards, in West Richland and asked Charlie Hoppes (Fidelitas Winery) to make their wine.  Ian, their weekend wine guy is a student at WSU’s enology and viticulture program with an emphasis on vineyard management.  He was pouring for us as we discussed vineyard management, vines and varietals.

Their white, 2013 ‘Liquidity’, is a Viognier/Rousanne blend – if you are only going to do one, do it well.  The reds are older than most we have been tasting on Red Mountain: 2009 ‘Basis Points’ Royal Slope blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, 2010 ‘Dividend’ a Northern Rhone style 100% Syrah from Gamache Vineyard (Gamache Winery were my focus here) with a smokey vanilla nose, onion and garlic on the palate and a pleasant herbal finish; super delicious, followed by a 2012 ‘Arbitrage’ 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that although very nice was hot to me (14.8% ABV) so my partner in wine enjoyed that taste on his own.

The 2013 Market Vineyard wines from the staff meeting we tried; labels were away from us.

The 2013 Market Vineyard wines from the staff meeting we tried; labels were away from us.

Ian brought out three barrel pulled wines from the staff meeting they had earlier in the week, unlabeled single varietals from 2013 they are planning to bottle for release later this year.  This was fun, smelling and tasting with guesses, but tougher than you might think as some markers overlap others and our Northwest vineyards and wineries choose clones based upon what they want in a wine rather than to be precisely described in classic descriptions of that varietal.

The first wine we tried was deeply colored, had an earthy nose, undertones of fruit and herb finished with caramelized onions and bon-fire smoke.  Yes, the oak is still fully forward in the wine, but working with the previous varietals on offer I guessed Syrah – it is a Merlot from the Scootany Flats Vineyard.  The second wine had lovely fruit esters but they were so covered with the ethanol to me that it was not something I wanted to taste – I don’t recall what my hubby guessed it to be, but it is their Malbec and he loved it.  I will look to see how much alcohol that wine carries once it is bottled and labeled.  Since 2013 was a hot year it wasn’t surprising it was that hot, but I truly am a lightweight and don’t find that appealing.  The third and final bottle was green peppers and tannins to me, no doubt about it, a Cabernet Sauvignon – and this from Kiona Vineyards right next-door on Red Mountain.

This tasting room is in a charming strip mall with the businesses in attached cottages looking more like a small village than a modern strip mall.  We enjoyed their wines and will be back to pick up some of that 2013 Merlot when it is released.

Cheers!

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Tucannon Cellars, Red Mountain AVA

Tucannon's Estate Vineyards were largely neglected; the majority of the vines had to be dug out - they will be replaced.

Tucannon’s Estate Vineyards were largely neglected; the majority of the vines had to be dug out – they will be replaced.

Oakwood Cellars was a small Red Mountain winery for 29 years; they still have a web presence despite being closed for the last year.  In their place is a new winery, Tucannon Cellars; the dream lives on!  We had the pleasure of discovering Tucannon Cellars on our last visit to Red Mountain.

Tucannon Cellars, one year old winery on Red Mountain - little winery with big dreams.

Tucannon Cellars, one year old winery on Red Mountain – little winery with big dreams.

From vines that were overgrown to a deck that needed reinforcement and a brick pizza oven the new owners have made steady progress outside since they closed on the property February 14, 2014; they remodeled inside the tasting room and opened the 15th of July.  Wanting to salvage the vines for 2014 harvest was a priority; sadly, many of them were just too neglected to save and these will have to be replaced.  On a chilly, wet winter day owner and wine maker Phil

Even Tyson, Ethan's dog, has a part interacting with guests to the winery.

Even Tyson, Ethan’s dog, has a part interacting with guests to the winery.

Warren was outback burning vegetation and dragging ancient appliances up to his truck for eventual removal.  His wife was experimenting with a chocolate pizza in the pizza oven for this coming weekend’s Valentines Day wine and chocolate pairing event.  Ethan, one of his sons, was behind the bar pouring for us.  We gathered that Kyle, the other son, and their Aunt were the creative drive behind the label art and the logo.  This is a family winery; everyone helps make wine, everyone helps sell wine.  As with Oakwood, hand crafted is the wine making method.  Although, there are photos of Eppie, Oakwood’s winemaker, using the crusher-destemmer that Ethan showed us on the crush pad on her old website.

We tasted through several of their wines, two of the three whites offered and four of the seven reds.  The 2011 Chardonnay, stainless steel fermented, is melon and citrus with a nice acidic finish.  The 2012 Viognier is light stone fruit with a varietally silkier mouthfeel.  The two red blends, both from 2011 fruit in neutral oak.  The Red Fusion was an interesting combination of 50% Merlot, 25% Mourvedre, 20% Lemberger (estate fruit from Oakwood Cellars) and 5% Petit Verdot imparting warm, dark fruit and baking spices.

We had the pleasure of a quick tour with Ethan, the cellar (the old garage) contains tanks as well as barrels, the crush pad with Oakwood’s old equipment, and the deck and new pizza oven.  Friendly folks, exciting changes coming together and lots of potential here at Tucannon Cellars.  They are a small facility, 1200 cases, so not likely to be well-distributed any time soon.

Cheers!

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Monte Scarlatto, Red Mountain AVA

Joel Mackey's dream, Monte Scarlatto Red Mountain wines.

Joel Mackey’s dream, Monte Scarlatto Red Mountain wines.

Twenty years ago (about 1997) Joel Mackey bought ten acres of Red Mountain with the intent of growing cherry trees, but he had no water rights so the land stayed sagebrush for a few more years.  It occurs to me his farming roots from Eltopia would have made him check out this detail prior to purchasing the land, but hey, we all have dreams and his vineyard is nicely established, so shifting gears mustn’t have been too hard.  This bit of ground has been christened ‘Monte Scarlatto‘, Red Mountain in Italian in honor of his mother’s heritage.  It is nice to see what he has done with the place and what he still has planned for it.  The tasting room used to be the garage of the house above. Its bathroom is roughed in and functional but the walls are heavy clear painters-plastic, kind of an odd juxtaposition with the lovely light fixtures already hanging in the room – but with my construction background, I get it and it will be lovely.  The patio off the east side is well protected from the dry winds through

Monte Scarlatto's tasting room is the bottom left, I am standing on the golf course - what would you imagine carving this stump into?

Monte Scarlatto’s tasting room is the bottom left, I am standing on the golf course – what would you imagine carving this stump into?

with a brand new fountain on one corner.  To the south side of that is a part of the nine-hole golf course (with the tasting room called the 10th hole).

All of the grapes are estate grapes: Barbera, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more Barbera; lots of Barbera, but that is the Italian grape.

We began our tasting with the 2013 Barbera Blush, a sweet fruit Rose’ of Barbera.  This was followed by the 2011 Merlot, a fruit-forward, easy drinking wine not as big as most Walla Walla Merlots we are used to.  The 2012 10th Hole is an acidic Bordeaux blend with minimal tannins and lots of red fruits.  Then the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; all bright red fruits filling your mouth.

Everyone else in the tasting room left before we had our last tasting of the ‘Dawn’s Bikini Barbera’, a tribute to Joel’s fiancé Dawn as she

Dawn, inspiration for the Barbera wines, including the Rose', celebrates her love of the vineyard and her dedication to fitness using the dance pole.

Dawn, inspiration for the Barbera wines, including the Rose’, celebrates her love of the vineyard and her dedication to fitness using the dance pole.

lost her fight with cancer several years ago.  Joel provided the background about how Dawn would work in the fields, planting the vines in her bikini and short shorts, how she was a fitness buff and worked out on the dance pole that is now at the corner of the bar.  Each June there is a ‘Dawn’s Bikini Bash’ with live music and catered food (last year was Creole) and proceeds going to the TriCities Cancer Center.

2011 was the first vintage Monte Scarlatto Vineyard produced grapes.  Joel told us about having no equipment of his own and using the Airfield Estates press between 7 and 9 AM after being up until 2 AM siphoning the wine off of the fruit as he had no pump, so he could bring just the fruit with him and just the pressed wine back home.  Crush was a literal term at this point as much as a season.  But Joel is still here, with 2014 under his belt and 2015 a dream yet to come.

Meanwhile, Joel’s son is at WSU in the Enology program with a year and a half to go before he graduates and some beer brewing background under his belt.  But Dad insists he will work elsewhere before working for him, which is probably a good thing for both father and son.

I tried to take Zin's photo but she kept coming too close to me, so I had to enlist help; he kept her attention for me.

I tried to take Zin’s photo but she kept coming too close to me, so I had to enlist help; he kept her attention for me.

As we were leaving Zinfandel, the winery dog, was happy to have some attention.  I pet her and attempted to take a picture of her in her cute poses, but before I could she would be right against my leg wanting more affection.  Finally, inspired, I asked my partner in wine to get her attention so I could catch at least a photo, even if it was just an ordinary photo.  Zin, as her tag refers to her, wanted more petting and love, but she got conversation.  Oh well, I am sure the guys working in the vineyard and the winery ensure she is well-loved.

Cheers!

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Fidelitas Wines, Red Mountain AVA

A couple of years ago, in the TriCities Airport, a friend and I discovered Fidelitas Wines, specifically the M100 red blend.  Before her flight departed we visited over a glass of wine, when she returned, we stopped into the restaurant in the airport to have another glass of that wine we liked so much since we hadn’t seen it anywhere else. You can read about this wine from my post here.

We attempted to taste wines at the Red Mountain tasting room this last September, but the place was too full of people to get close enough to get a glass to taste with, never mind wine.  For our sanity, we opted to leave and return during a quieter time; like winter when we are all in a slower mode.  We were the only visitors Saturday morning, it was cold, wet and gray outside but it was cheerful and warm inside the tasting room.  Chelsea, the tasting room manager, poured for us.

Fidelitas Wines, one white blend and four reds, one a blend, of Red Mountain grapes.

Fidelitas Wines, one white blend and four reds, one a blend, of Red Mountain grapes.

We shared a tasting, as usual, beginning with a 2013 Klipsun Vineyard Optu white wine blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc 40% Semillon.  Clean, crisp fruit on the nose and palate with 14% ABV!  (The 2013 & 2014 vintages were so hot ripening fruit was not difficult, so high alcohols can result.)  2012 Northridge Malbec, released the previous weekend, was fruity and spicy – absolutely lovely.  The 2011 Bouchay Vineyard Red Wine is fruit from a Yakima Valley vineyard planted in 1980, early in the Washington Wine Industry’s history: 48% Cab Sauv, 43% Merlot and 9% Cab Franc for a multilayered, rich feeling and tasting wine.  Back on Red Mountain for the last two red wines, a 2011 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain

Art in the Fidelitas' tasting room is the wine itself, stunning, no?

Art in the Fidelitas’ tasting room is the wine itself, stunning, no?

Vineyard and Hightower Vineyard (we visited Hightower Cellars in my last blog) and a 2010 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Petit Verdot.  Considering the cooler temperatures during these vintages I am usually not very excited about Cab Sauv based wines due to the less ripe ‘green pepper’ flavor that dominates them, but that wasn’t the case with these which was great.  Our last pour was a 2013 Late Harvest Klipsun Vineyard 100% Semillon, Fidelitas’s first foray into the dessert category.  Released last summer, the 100 cases will not last long and there was no 2014 to replace it.

We were very glad we returned to Fidelitas, it was great to discuss the wines as we tasted them.

Cheers!

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