Strip mall to Tuscan Villa, Gordon Estate

The four Reserve reds at Gordon Estate.
The four Reserve reds at Gordon Estate – all were lovely.

By now you probably know my hubby works with potato farmers, sometimes multiple generations as he has been in the industry for a while.  Change is perpetual, so when we drove by the back of a small strip mall going through Pasco he pointed out the big sign advertising ‘Gordon Estates Wine Bar‘ he told me he knew the Gordon Brothers because they grow potatoes. I guess they liked the idea of grapes and wine from the early days of Washington’s wine industry as they began planting vinifera grapes in 1980.  There are about 100 acres of red and white grapes in the northern area of Walla Walla County, along the Snake River as it enters the Columbia River.  They are the oldest Estate Winery in Washington State!

It took us a while to make time to stop in to see this tasting room, although conveniently just off of the highway, it isn’t where we exit for anything in general. Purposeful planing brought us there on a relatively quiet weekday. Parking in the lot of the half empty mall we marveled at the lack of businesses there and the sad state of the economy to bring a once thriving commercial block within a booming housing area so far down. Proceeding to the corner of the ‘L’ shaped building we went through the double sets of doors entering a space reminiscent of pictures (someday I will get there in person to validate) I have seen of Tuscan Villas. Charm and quiet affluence to counter balance the reality of the outside world: textured paint on the walls, wrought-iron style wall sconces and candelabra, as well as decorative wrought-iron gates.

All three Chardonnay wines from Gordon Estate: 2014 Kamiak, 2013 Chardonnay and 2013 Chardonnay Reserve.
All three Chardonnay wines from Gordon Estate: 2014 Kamiak, 2013 Chardonnay and 2013 Chardonnay Reserve.

There are a lot of wines on the wine lists, a classic that includes the Kamiak label (from grapes grown in the Palouse Falls area and not necessarily estate fruit) among the Gordon wines and the Reserve list of 2009-2012 reds considered special, and the 2012 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer.  I had the realization that I had worked with one of the wine makers for the Kamiak label when I was with Seven Hills Winery.  It is a very small world!

Some highlights of the wines we enjoyed:

  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay – 13.4% ABV, a Chardonnay my hubby truly enjoyed with its smooth, buttery texture and I loved the juicy lemon finish
  • 2012 Block 3 Merlot – 13.8% ABV, tobacco and red currant nose, raspberry and spice on the palate with smooth tannins and a subtly lingering finish
  • 2012 Tradition – 13.8% ABV 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah, cocoa powder and pie cherries to open both the nose and palate with a brisk tannic finish, probably the most abrasive tannins of them all, but they play well with the flavors
  • 2009 Tempranillo – 13.4% ABV 80% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, is a campfire with hints of pepper on the nose, a bowl of mixed berries and more pepper on the palate and a smoky, dreamy finish… my favorite

It was a great visit, we were glad we made the time; there is another wine bar in Woodinville if that is more convenient to get to.  I believe the Kamiak brand is well-distributed, let me know if you find it locally.  Cheers!


Canoe Ridge Vineyard

Canoe Ridge Vineyard logo on brick wall of the tasting room.
Canoe Ridge Vineyard, on Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River, invokes the Lewis & Clark expedition through the area.

On a basalt ridge looking south over the Columbia River there is a vineyard, originally 44 ares, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 1989 by some names now big in the Walla Walla and Prosser wine scenes.  Lewis and Clark traversed the area, leaving a journal entry remarking that the ridge resembled an overturned canoe, and they should know what a canoe looked like, right?  That vineyard is claimed as ‘estate’ by Canoe Ridge Vineyard.  With wide distribution (15-20 thousand cases) in many regions,they are likely something you can find locally wherever you purchase wine.

The original trolly house:  The Walla Walla Traction Co. on Cherry St. is home to Canoe Ridge Vineyard's tasting room.
The original trolley house:
The Walla Walla Traction Co. on Cherry St. is home to Canoe Ridge Vineyard’s tasting room.

We visited our local tasting room, opened in 1994.  It was too chilly to sit outside the day we visited but they have a charming patio area to relax in with nice trees on the west and south corner to provide a bit of a sun break.

Charming, warm, and Lita, the tasting room manager, with her Italian Greyhound, Dolly, were ever so welcoming.


  • 2014 Cinsault Rose’ – 14.2% ABV is a summer fruit salad with a drizzle of honey and grapefruit
  • 2014 Sauvignon Blanc – 13.2% ABV is lemon grass and just ripe gooseberries at the front of the palate, a distinct minerality in the middle and lovely, smooth pineapple finish
  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay – 14.1% ABV 9 months on new American oak with a honeysuckle nose, ginger spiced pear and buttered toast finishing with a light marshmallow
  • 2012 Reserve Cherry Street Red Blend – 60% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 10% Malbec with ~33% new French oak, 14.2% ABV is cedar and pomegranate with darker berries and fresh sawn wood to finish

The best part is they have a growler system for us locals, called the Villager with rotating wines!  Currently the Waistburg Cellars “Three” white blend and the Waterbrook Viognier are available.  Precept, the parent company of all of these wines, is still privately owned; Waterbrook Winery is where we came across the wine growlers a couple of years ago (also a Precept brand), so this isn’t a surprise.

I would like to know if you have tried Canoe Ridge wines.  How did you like them?  Do you seek them out?  Are they competitively priced?  We brought home wine, it is of a price point that makes it a nice daily drinker.


Traveling, Wine

Everything but…

Knowing we were going through Roslyn, WA last week, I got in touch with a writing friend to see if she would be at her shop when we came through. Happily, she was indeed at Kitchen Sink (aka 21st Century Scullery Maid)! Located across from the Brick Tavern, in the Heritage Registered NWI building. She reopened her kitchen shop in November of last year with specialty cooking and food items; from 2005-09 Kitchen Sink was located across the street in a bright red shed-sized building. This go-round she added wines, primarily NW wines unique to the area, to her inventory. Tastings of featured wines are available each weekend, Friday through Sunday. There are some imported wines to fill style gaps or because she thought they were great tasting wines. If you travel I-90, consider a break in Roslyn as your pit-stop. You can grab a bottle of wine to have when you arrive at your destination or take a gift for that special person. Besides, it is a historical town worthy of your attention.


Not sure where Roslyn, WA is? Were you a fan of the TV show Northern Exposure? Roslyn is the real-life site of that show. Each summer there is a Moose Fest; this weekend is the 25th Anniversary of the show.  Check out to learn more about this festival.

Coal and lumber were the original industry leaders in Roslyn, now outdoor pursuits and tourism based upon the town’s historic roots keep it alive and well. Swiftwater Cellars is also located in the Suncadia Resort, although we ran out of time to stop there this trip, it is still a priority winery to check out.

Still plenty of summer for a quick Northwest vacation, or maybe a future road trip. Cheers!

Traveling, Wine

A fantastic pairing: wine & music

For a few years, when we lived in the small town of Ephrata, Washington, I helped put on a free music festival called Basin Summer Sounds.  My first year, 2010, our Friday night bands included Carbon Leaf from Richland, Virginia.  Listening to them, from a place I couldn’t watch them, I really enjoyed their music – so did my hubby!  We down loaded some music on iTunes, bought a CD, and talked about going to see them in concert; front of house, type see them.  Last October we went to Spokane in the middle of October to do just that, despite it being the middle of Crush.  This weekend we took another opportunity to see them at a private concert at Kerloo Cellars in Seattle’s SODO district.  Excellent wine, fun food from MAXImus miniMUS food truck, and the terrific sounds of Carbon Leaf with new people to get to know.  Of course, once we were all the way on the other side of Washington State, we took the opportunity to visit family and close friends making it a great long weekend.

This September, again during Crush, Carbon Leaf will be in Walla Walla, at Main Street Studios.  We already have our VIP tickets for that show!  If you are local, get your tickets before they are gone; it will be a terrific show.  Naturally, there will be fantastic Walla Walla wine at this event as well.



New: Lagana Cellars tasting room is (finally) open!


Lagana Cellars window logo and hours of the tasting room.
Lagana Cellars tasting room is open in Walla Walla!

 I’ve told you about Lagana Cellars before (here and here, among others). Working harvest with Jason for the last two years I know how hard he works to make Lagana Cellars a viable boutique winery here in Walla Walla. In Locati Cellars tasting room we have been pouring the 2013 Riesling (Alsation style) and 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Kiwi style) to excellent reviews. They are distributed in the Boise and Portland areas with further distribution being sought in the Puget Sound region.

Jason Fox with Lagana Cellars Wine
Jason Fox, owner and winemaker for Lagana Cellars in his new digs.

In early June he announced a contract with a downtown building owner to rent a tasting space for Lagana Cellars. There are layers of paperwork and hoops to jump through for the TTB (federal), LCB (state) and local governing bodies. Being an established winery, this process could have been quick and painless, but alas, that was not the case. Weeks of waiting between communications and misplaced emails with necessary documents gummed up the opening plans; six weeks after signing the contract to open permission was granted! Phew, only two months of paying rent for a place he couldn’t occupy while sitting on wine he really wanted to sell.

There are five wines, three whites and two reds, available. Check out his website, order wine, join the wine club (one of three tiers) and taste quality grapes from the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla AVA’s:

  • Lagana Cellars 2013 and 2014  wines.
    Lagana Cellars 2013 and 2014 releases available in the tasting room and online.

    2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Riesling

  • 2013 Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2014 Sagemoor Vineyards Rousanne
  • 2013 Breezy Slope Pinot Noir (yup, really from Walla Walla AVA)
  • 2013 Minnick Hills Vineyard Syrah

Award winning wines from a young, start-up winery in Walla Walla.  Cheers!

Memories, Wine

How to beat the summer heat

For the last two weeks or more we have been experiencing triple digit temperatures, not unheard of, but record-setting this early in the summer, and for a longer duration than welcome.  What is one to do to beat this heat?

Several years ago, about fifteen actually, I learned to make wine spritzers with some friends from Romania.  Having not had alcohol for many years prior (while married to an alcoholic that was drinking during that time) I hadn’t seen anything like it.  They were drinking all kinds of American wine and beer to experience it, so I was too; therapeutic in many ways those friends and that time.

Strawberry wine and glass of spritzer
Strawberry wine spritzer to relieve the 100+ heat!

During the hottest part of the Western Washington summer we would purchase tonic water and a sweeter wine, white or red, and mix the two with some ice cubes: viola, a refreshing spritzer to take the edge off of the heat, which was not nearly as hot as it has been here.

Two years ago we made strawberry wine from the local Klicker Strawberries.  It has matured into a lovely (sweeter than anticipated) with a pretty good kick beverage.  Tonight, at 102 F in Walla Walla, a salad for dinner and a strawberry spritzer hit the spot!

How are you staying cool?  Cheers!


Honeywood Winery Gooseberry Wine

Gooseberry wine and fresh, ripe gooseberries
Honeywood Winery’s Gooseberry wine with some fresh, ripe gooseberries from my garden.

On a whim we went through the wine section of a Fred Meyer about an hour away from home (closest to our house).  They have quite a selection of Washington wine on the shelves with a nice balance of wine from everywhere else.  We always look for fruit wines to compare to what we have made and we hit the jackpot here!  Honeywood Winery in Salem, Oregon had several wines represented.  It wasn’t surprising the wine is from Oregon as we encountered an open mindset that wine can be made from fruit other than vinifera grapes while we were visiting the last two times.  When time allows another Willamette Valley visit, I hope to go through Salem to check out their wares at the source.

Ripe gooseberries ready for picking and love-in-a-mist.
Ripe gooseberries ready for picking and love-in-a-mist.

We grow gooseberries and pick them when they are red and ripe and sweet.  I am thinking the gooseberries in the bottle are picked before they are ripe and that was a good thing!  Our currant wine has gooseberries in it as they are from the same genus (Ribes).  So we were anxious to see how this wine compared.

Gooseberry Wine from Honeywood Winery has a starfruit and honeysuckle nose but is all gooseberry (fruit, not sweet) on the palate with the perfectly balanced acid finish for a quenchable, 11% ABV wine.  Would you be open-minded about trying gooseberry wine?


Celebrations, Wine

Working through the weekend

Crush knows no holiday, but working in the tasting room takes advantage of holidays.  Thus, I spent Thursday through Saturday in the Locati Cellars tasting room with some very fun people from Ireland, Canada, Arizona, Idaho and lots of folks from the westside of both Washington and Oregon (west of the Cascade Mountain Range).  It was a blast, no down time with lots of wine lovers.

Borleske Stadium, Walla Walla Sweets home game, July 2015.
Great way to spend a Summer’s Eve; Walla Walla Sweet’s home game.
Walla Walla night sky July 2015
Venus and Jupiter in the night sky (taken with an iPhone).

My hubby and I have had to adjust our routines to accommodate my new schedule, which is naturally opposite his.  One evening we went to the Walla Walla Sweets baseball games.  They are a collegiate team playing in the West Coast League; we are going to go to more of those!  A little sky watching on the way home to see the ‘twin stars’ of Venus and Jupiter.  We also attended an industry party and danced until the coach turned back into a pumpkin and the horses back to mice; alas, this will remain an occasional activity despite the fun.

Sunset over the vines, July 4th 2015 Sweetempranillo
Sunset over the vines, July 4th. Stan Clarke Vineyard, Walla Walla

Fourth of July I came home to a lovely supper from the grill with a beer before meeting friends to watch the town’s official fireworks across town.  Revelry Riesling hit the spot in the still, hot night air.

Truthfully, we could be occupied every night of the week, but we have to find some balance.  This coming week we plan to do ‘Food Truck Night’ at the Incubators on Monday and catch some music at another winery on Saturday.  We will broaden our local experiences with music and theatre offered locally until we can make time for a road trip!  Hopefully everyone had a safe and fun long weekend!  Anything special?



5 wines of El Corazon Winery of Walla Walla

From the El Corazon Winery website, part of the downtown tasting room.
From the El Corazon Winery website, part of the downtown tasting room.

Walking passed the garage door and the store front that is El Corazon Winery I could fancy myself back in Todos Santos, Baja on vacation.  The winery name painted on the roll-up door and the sugar skulls and artwork in the shop windows with the white walls inside and out remind me of shops off of the Plaza there and in La Paz many years ago.  ‘The Heart’, which is the English translation of ‘El Corazon’, focuses primarily on single-vineyard, single-varietal, fruit driven wines that exemplify terroir, especially Walla Walla AVA terroir.  Having spent time with Spencer Sievers, co-owner and co-winemaker, socially, and enjoyed El Corazon wines at various events, I wanted to get into the winery for a visit and that came to pass this Spring. (Alas, Spencer was out-of-town.)  Irreverence with a touch of dry, dark wit might seem a bit off of the typical Walla Walla winery but the El Corazon wines are truly worthy.

The wines:

  • 2012 Super Nova – 100% Malbec from the Horse Heaven Hills Vineyard in the AVA of the same name at 14.3% ABV, is a rich, Cassis and blue berry fruit filled wine with a lingering, tannic finish
  • 2013 Swordfight – 50% Syrah, 50% Mourvedre’ at 14.1% ABV is a collaboration with another local winery, Rotie Cellars.  Each winery makes 2 barrels of a single varietal (El Corazon did the Syrah for this blend) and then both bottle and label the blend of their allotted two barrels.  A friendly competition; ‘swordfight’ was more appropriate a name than ‘fencing’ for El Corazon. Dark and brooding it is excellent!
  • Bottle of El Corazon Wine and a glass with red wine.
    2012 El Corazon’s Walla Walla Valley Carmenere, more commonly known as Tigers Blood.

    2012 Run with the Hunted – 50% Syrah, 38% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Franc is black cherries, bright raspberries and spice with a lively complex finish

  • 2012 Pistolero – 28% Malbec, 28% Cabernet Franc, 18% Carmenere, 14% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot from the Walla Walla Valley is a melange of fruit with lot sod spice and vanilla on both the nose and palate.
  • 2012 Tigers Blood – 100% Carmenere, 13.9% ABV, is jalapeno peppers on the nose and palate, my partner in wine had to finish this one for me.


Walla Walla's Mill Creek with ducks.
Mill Creek being fed by the rainstorm runoff with some local ducks relaxing in the chilly water half a block from El Corazon.