Traveling, Wine

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and Cliff House, Spokane, Washington

Arbor Crest Cellars, stone entrance to Cliff House in Spokane, WA.
Arbor Crest Cellars, stone entrance and guest house to Cliff House in Spokane, WA.

We drove slowly up the narrow switch-back drive, me gripping both the door and the center console as if that would help keep me safe, with glimpses of the beautiful Spokane Valley appearing between the trees.  As we reached more level ground at the top and pulled into the parking lot I allowed myself to breath again – no it really isn’t that bad to get to Cliff House, but I can’t reason with my brain and so I struggle through experiences like this.  My super patient partner in wine drives and sometimes teases me but I wish I could get passed it as I am sure there are many places that I would appreciate if I could get there.  Even with wine in the offering I wouldn’t have

Arbor Crest Wine Cellars tasting room, Spokane, WA.
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars tasting room, Spokane, WA.

driven myself up that hill.

Cliff House, national historical landmark, is home to Arbor Crest Cellars.
Cliff House, national historical landmark, is home to Arbor Crest Cellars since 1984.

Arbor Crest Wine Cellar, begun in 1982, calls Cliff House and the remarkable 1924-era estate home.  We had been to the downtown tasting room in the mall several years ago, that space is no longer open but there are plans for another downtown space in the works.  Registered as a national historic landmark in 1979 it is a lovely event location for weddings, family reunions, concerts, etc.  Even in the earliness of Spring there was a quiet loveliness be lying what is likely in full bloom but a few weeks later.

We had a smattering of the wines on offer:

  • Arbor Crest Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc with the Cliff House logo on the label.
    Arbor Crest Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc with the Cliff House logo on the label.

    2012 Columbia Valley Merlot – 13.8% ABV is vanilla chia on the nose with bright red berries accompanying the spice through the finish

  • 2012 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.9% ABV is an easy drinking blend of red and black fruit with a Chinese five-spice finish
  • 2012 Avansino, Grande Reserve – 13.8% ABV is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Sangiovese opening with raspberry jam on the nose, soft, well-integrated tannins and a lingering nut finish
  • 2011 Dionysus Meritage Red Blend – 13.8% ABV, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot, has a sweet pepper nose, smoke and black berry palate with nice, crisp acidity and a white pepper and toasted oak finish
  • Arbor Crest second label van Loben Sels Cellars was originally a California brand. We came home with a 2012 Chardonnay to try.
    Arbor Crest second label van Loben Sels Cellars was originally a California brand. We came home with a 2012 Chardonnay to try.

    2011 Cabernet Franc from the Conner Lee Vineyard – 13.8% ABV, basking spices and floral nose with Cassis and black berry, reminiscent of a berry pie with silky tannins and well-balanced acid finish

  • 2011 Syrah – 13.8% ABV is an easy drinker, blue and black berry cobbler with licorice spice tea, very yummy
  • 2013 Riesling – 12% ABV, 3% RS is apricot and citrus on the nose, white nectarine on the palate with a pineapple finish, excellent balance of sweet and tart.

This is a widely distributed wine with their Cliff House and Arbor Crest labels making their way around the world.

Enjoy the photos, there is a great description of the original owner and the history of the Cliff House on the Arbor Crest Wine Cellars website linked above.

Cheers!

The walkway to the Stone Gazebo spanning a basalt crevasse beside Cliff House at Arbor Crest Cellars.
The walkway to the Stone Gazebo spanning a basalt crevasse beside Cliff House at Arbor Crest Cellars.
Arbor Crest Cellars clock tower overlooking the Spokane Valley.
Arbor Crest Cellars clock tower overlooking the Spokane Valley.
The Stone Gazebo at Cliff House overlooking the Spokane Valley at Arbor Crest Cellars.
The Stone Gazebo at Cliff House overlooking the Spokane Valley at Arbor Crest Cellars.
Life-size chess board shaded by the old trees on the Cliff House Estate at Arbor Crest Cellars, Spokane, WA.
Life-size chess board shaded by the old trees on the Cliff House Estate at Arbor Crest Cellars, Spokane, WA.

 

Traveling, Wine

Marketplace Wine Bar, a tale of two Spokane Wineries

EMVY Cellars wines available in the  Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
EMVY Cellars wines available in the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.

When we learned there were two wineries open later into the evening on Friday we decided to check them out; with the same address, we figured they were in the same space: the Marketplace Wine Bar is the home of both EMVY Cellars and Bridge Press Cellars.  It wasn’t a busy place, but they had some great live music playing.

In the corner space, the actual address of the Marketplace Wine Bar, we could see tanks and the vestiges of an event but it was the door further in on the block that opened into the actual wine bar. Bare brick walls, original wood floors, high tin ceilings with

Bridge Press Cellars wines available in the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
Bridge Press Cellars wines available in the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.

the plumbing pipes visible and a long, large bar.  The musicians had the front window space beside the door, facing into the bowling alley long room.  We had Paul and Corey pouring behind the bar and another couple enjoying the sounds of Maxie Ray with us.  As it turns out, Corey is originally a Walla Walla native and we met his mother at Spring Valley Vineyard!  Another example of how small the world is.

We tasted through the available wines and chatted about the origins of both and how they partnered up to open the wine bar in 2013.  Dabbling, continuing the challenge each vintage and realizing they are hooked on wine making; having access to the fruit from some of Walla Walla’s oldest vineyards didn’t hurt.  EMVY launched in 2002 while Bridge Press was in 2005.

The wines we tasted:

  • 2012 Bridge Press 600 – 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec in 100% new French oak (named in honor of Bridge Press being Washington State’s 600th winery) 14% ABV is dark fruit, tobacco and spice.
  • EMVY VEBA – non-vintage 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec in 100% new French oak made with consulting wine maker Charlie Hoppes, of Fidelitas is a smooth, easy drinking dry red blend at 14% ABV.
  • 2011 EMVY Shield Syrah – 100% Syrah with rich, dark fruit and smoke
  • 2010 Bridge Press Merlot – 87% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec in 50% new/50% 1-year-old French barrels presents with dark fruit dusted with cocoa powder and sand paper tannins.
  • 2011 EMVY Red Mountain Merlot – from Tapteil Vineyards is ripe blackberry and Cassis with nutmeg on the nose with the fruit filling the palate and a lovely baking spice finish.

In the middle of our tasting Paul took us on a tour of the building.  The Art Deco era building is still mostly original with retrofitted elevator and additional support structures in the cellar among other small changes.  Wine making and hand bottling takes place in the corner space we viewed coming up to the building.  The barrels are stored in the cellar, single stack high.  Weddings, photo shoots and other events take place in the space as well, even with my photography skills you can see there is some fun potential there.

Cheers!

Originally an Art Deco era dance floor and stage (all original), there is a boxing studio on the second floor of the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
Originally an Art Deco era dance floor and stage (all original), there is a boxing studio on the second floor of the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
The Art Deco era bar on the second floor of the Market Place Wine Bar.
The Art Deco era bar on the second floor of the Market Place Wine Bar.
The barrel room in the cellar of the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
The barrel room in the cellar of the Market Place Wine Bar in Spokane, WA.
Traveling, Wine

Latah Creek Wine Cellars, Spokane, WA

Latah Creek Wine Cellar opened in 1982 in Spokane Washington.
Latah Creek Wine Cellar opened in 1982 in Spokane Washington.

We had an interesting visit to Latah Creek Wine Cellars; during our visit their server was hacked, at the time it was supposed by an ISIS jihad group.  Instead of the website they created, Iranian museum photos were coming up, page after page.  What on earth would a group of hackers want with a family owned winery in Spokane?  Shell shocked, the owners, always busy, had to drop everything and focus on the immediacy of the website.

Mike, Natalie and Ellena Conway of Latah Creek.
Mike, Natalie and Ellena Conway of Latah Creek.

Onto the more pleasant aspects of our visit, the people and the wine.  I come from a close-knit family, we do some pretty big projects together over the years, but the Conway family is a model to follow.  Mike and Ellena opened Latah Creek Wine Cellars in 1982, as they welcomed their only child, Natalie.  From vineyard visits to bottling and time in the tasting room, Natalie was immersed in the winery her entire life. She and her father make wine side-by-side with the anticipation that she will take over the winery at a future date.  Her two daughters are following in her stead, this could be a multi-generational winery.  The photo at the right is about five minutes before the website debacle.  Ellena is the business side of the winery including stocking the tasting room gift shop, cooking and hostessing the winery events.  We were able to spend a few minutes with each of them; genuine, lovely and creative people; even in the face of a crisis they could still find something to smile about.

Personalized wine labels for those memorable occasions, pick your wine, your label and you have a perfect gift.
Personalized wine labels for those memorable occasions, pick your wine, your label and you have a perfect gift.

Vicky poured for us, and of course we chatted.  She and her husband are motorcycle riders too!  As Latah Creek does specialty labels for births, weddings, and other special events, Vicky is their point person for that service.   We told her about the bottle of 1994 Chenin Blanc that was personalized for the birth of my dear Husband’s youngest daughter.  That wine was still in the bottle when I met them in 2007 – no, it had not been stored properly.  When we decided to pull the cork the results were as expected: the cork crumbled, the wine was well passed its peak and the bottle was the most salvageable part.  I made her a nightlight with it, but alas, I can’t find a picture of it to share with you.

Making 13,000-15,000 cases annually, Latah Creek has something for everyone.  Ellena has written and published three cookbooks with wine pairings suggested throughout them, she is also writing a cooking blog linked to their website.

The wines:

  • Latah Creek's Riesling blended with huckleberries for a very popular and award winning wine.
    Latah Creek’s Riesling blended with huckleberries for a very popular and award winning wine.  This is how the original label looked.

    2012 Chardonnay – from the ancient Lakes AVA, Milbrandt’s Familigia Vineyards, this double gold medal winning crisp apple and pear cobbler finishing smooth and spicy.

  • 2013 Pinot Gris – from the Yakima Valley AVA, Sunnyside Vineyards, opens with honey and violets  serenading the tongue with tropical fruits through a pineapple finish, another double gold medal winner.
  • Huckleberry d’ Latah – a non-vintage blend of Riesling and Huckleberry, local huckleberry, is a bright,fruity, sweet and lovely wine.  This is Latah Creek’s signature wine as it has become so popular over the years  including awards of Best in Class and Northwest Favorite.
  • Maywine – another non-vintage blend made in the style of the German Maywine, this is Chenin Blanc blended with woodruff and strawberries. The herbs provide a warmer palate than the huckleberry wine, 10.5% ABV, 5.5% RS.
  • 2012 Muscat Canelli – 10.5% ABV, 4% RS with a lovely astringent finish this is a sweet-tart white to pair with spicy food or sip on its own.
  • 2011 Ellena-Ellena – 100% Cabernet Franc that is a smooth, easy drinker, much lighter than the typical Washington Cabernet Franc, it reminded me of the Loire Valley Cabernet Franc wines I have tried.  It is named for co-owner Ellena, it is her favorite ‘house’ wine.
  • Latah Creek's Monarch Red blend.
    Latah Creek’s Monarch Red blend with the newly released label style.

    Monarch Red no.2 – non-vintage blend of 34% Merlot, 24% Tempranillo, 24% Malbec, & 18% Syrah at 13.5% ABV this is a full-bodied red blend full of Cassis, plum and smoke followed by tobacco and toast and brighter red fruits having a more apparent tannic finish, albeit still smooth.

  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Tempranillo – from the Wahluke Slope AVA, Lee Paloma Vineyard, full of black plum, Cassis, ripe gooseberry and baking spice with a subtle tobacco and vanilla finish – it has been newly released.
  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Primitivo – from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Zephyr Ridge Vineyards, combine rich ripe blackberries and fresh ground pepper with newly cut oak, also a new release.
  • 2012 Reserve Monarch Petite Sirah – also from Zephyr ridge Vineyard, the third new release, is cherry and dark berries with vanilla and a hint of spice.
  • 2010 Natalie’s Nectar – 10.5% ABV, 10% RS is a Syrah-based dessert wine full in body and fruit flavor.

This is well-distributed wine, let me know if you can find it and what you think.

Cheers!

Traveling, Wine

Nodland Cellars, Spokane Valley, WA

We have learned to look for wineries in some less than romantic locations as we have traveled; we discovered Nodland Cellars in an end unit of commercial storage-style buildings.  A couple of years before, on a lovely summer day, we visited Twelve String Brewery in the building facing Nodland Cellars.  Both businesses have accomplished musicians as owners and makers of their respective beverages, so lets say good company and lots of talent.

Tim Nodland, owner and winemaker, began his wine odyssey as a home winemaker in 1999.  Having access to Bordeaux varietals from the Walla Walla Valley he received the bond to Nodland Cellars, opening this facility in 2005.  With Red Mountain red grapes and Columbia Valley Riesling to accompany the Walla Walla fruit, Nodland Cellars typically offers six wines along with t-shirts and trinkets with Nodland Cellars on them and visual art (paintings, prints, photos, etc.) from different artists each month.

Tim Rogerson's "Piano Jam #2" is the label for Nodland Cellars Reserve wines.
Tim Rogerson’s “Piano Jam #2″ is the label for Nodland Cellars Reserve wines.

Being a Jazz fan I was immediately drawn to the framed painting on the opposite wall from the front door.  As the tasting bar was in front of it, like an altar, it was a simple decision to stay at the bar to taste and look at the painting up close.  Tasting room manager, Diana, was wearing a shirt with another, similar image and the tag line ‘Bad Attitude’.  That image invokes Rock-n-Roll instead of Jazz; similar images of musicians & their instruments, similar red backgrounds but the energy of each image conveys the different styles of music exceptionally well.  These are both paintings of Tim Rogerson, a Disney World artist and accomplished fine arts painter; more exceptional talent.

Tim Rogerson's "Rockin' Red" is Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude red blend from Seven Hills Vineyard.
Tim Rogerson’s “Rockin’ Red” is Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude red blend from Seven Hills Vineyard.

The wines:

  • 2012 Bebop – is an off dry Riesling,12.8% ABV, 1.7% RS, with a floral, marzipan and citrus nose, granny smith and lemon zest finish.
  • 2010 Bad Attitude (to be officially released on May 1st) – from Seven Hills Vineyard is a Merlot based red blend with 14.7% ABV is cherry and blackberry on the nose, chocolate and baking spices on the palate, all the way through the finish; this in Nodland Cellars signature wine.
  • 2011 Avant-garde – is 100% Carmenere’, 15% ABV, white pepper and dark fruit on the nose, black cherry and earthy notes on the palate finish with savory spice and white pepper notes.
  • 2008 Private Blend – 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, small amounts each of Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – is smoky on both the nose and palate with pie cherries and vanilla with 14.5% ABV.
  • 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 50% Seven Hills Vineyard, 50% Pepperbridge Vineyard making it a decidedly 100% Walla Walla AVA, from potentially older vines with tobacco, smoke and Cassis on the nose, plum and blackberry with a hint of pine on the palate with 15% ABV.

As a 400 case winery club members and visitors to their tasting room seem to be snapping up the wines so they aren’t going to be distributed any time soon.  I understand Nodland Cellars is considering a move into the Spokane Downtown.  Maybe he and the Twelve String owner will have a couple of jam sessions before this move happens.

Cheers!

Traveling, Wine

The Cork District of Spokane, Washington

The Cork District, Spokane, WA logo care of their Facebook page.
The Cork District, Spokane, WA logo care of their Facebook page.

My partner in wine and I have spent some fun weekends in Spokane, a three-hour drive from Walla Walla, visiting parks, going to concerts, shopping, and, of course, tasting wine.  Recently I was talking to Mike Allen, a Spokane City Council member, about his brain child, The Cork District: The Down Town, Mt. Spokane and Spokane Valley wineries.

Mike’s background is in marketing, he recognized a gap between the already established music, theatre and restaurant visitors and the wineries.  By focusing attention on the wineries and linking them to the hospitality and entertainment industries he conceived of the idea to “enhance and advance” wine tourism in Spokane; The Cork District is the organization that is pulling together The Spokane Wine Association, Visit Spokane, Alaska Airlines and Spokane International Airport along with the recreational and previously mentioned hospitality and entertainment partners.  If visitors have their Alaska Airlines boarding pass with them during the first 48 hours after landing their tasting fees are waived.

Spokane has a decent sized airport and Alaska Airlines, which offers a ‘wine flies free’ special deal when you fly out of Washington, Oregon and Sonoma wine country, may add Spokane in time..  This is especially nice for those where shipping of wine is limited, but I haven’t heard anyone flying out of Walla Walla complaining about this offer.  Last summer we met a couple from Wisconsin that flew into Spokane, camped and bought wine throughout Washington and Oregon to fill two shipping cases (not regular wine cases) they were then flying out of Portland on Alaska Airlines.  The camping equipment wasn’t going back with them as they didn’t have room to pack it all into their small rental car once they got both boxes packed.  Priorities, we all have to have them.

About 20 miles from the Idaho state line, about 90 miles from the Canadian border, Spokane is considered the ‘hub of the Inland Northwest’ with over 200,000 residents.  Although they don’t need hotels, the shopping areas, restaurants and wineries have a pool of locals to draw from.  Making sure the community is aware of where and when there are special events is coordinated through The Cork District page on the Visit Spokane webpage.  The map provided on the Cork Districts page has both wineries and wine bars with addresses and telephone numbers in the legend to facilitate finding each place.  The Down Town wineries are mostly within walking distance of each other.  I found that the open hours were usually afternoon, leaving you the morning to visit Manito or Riverfront Park (site of the 1974 World Fair), take in a museum or lounge over a leisurely breakfast since wine tasting is best done on a full stomach.

Washington State Wine is a big deal, everywhere there are wineries there is a need to include it in the community and tourism information.  Spokane is embracing the local wineries and the wine bars where out-of-the-area wineries are grouping together or choosing to have a tasting room making planning to visit much easier.  A few years ago when we went to Spokane to pick up several cases of wine for Brix & Stone Wine Shop we had fewer means of connecting with other wineries during our short stay; now we look forward to making the most of our time when we visit!  In the coming weeks I will introduce you to some of Spokane’s wineries, show you around, tell you about the wine makers and their wines.  Naturally, we didn’t get to them all, but we had a great time everywhere we went.

Cheers!

Wine

One Tree Hard Cider, Spokane, WA

Washington State Fugi apple, crisp, juicy, rich in floral and sweet apple flavors.
Washington State Fuji apple, crisp, juicy, rich in floral and sweet apple flavors.

Have you had your apple for today?  Do you know where your apple came from?  Washington State grows tons of apples annually with a high export ratio.  What makes our vineyards as productive as they are is what makes our orchards so fabulous: fertile soils, loads of sunshine and the ability to apply water as needed in desired quantities with minimal pest pressures due to our dry climate.  What to do with all of those apples?  Besides fresh pack and bottles of juice that you pick up at the grocery store Washington Apples go into many products – but there is a business in Spokane, One Tree Hard Cider, that uses local apples to make hard ciders; a nifty alternative to eating your daily apple?

The five current cider flavors available at One Tree Hard Cider.
The five current cider flavors available in 22 oz. bottles from One Tree Hard Cider.
Grant (left) and Neal, partners in One Tree Hard Cider out of Spokane, WA.
Grant (left) and Neal, partners in One Tree Hard Cider out of Spokane, WA.

Neal and Grant, both in the telecom sales industry, discovered a mutual enjoyment of hard ciders a while back.  They decided to open a small production facility in January 2014 to make their own hard ciders, opening in June of last year with the full support of their families.  They understood sales and marketing so they really pushed their products, landing accounts in restaurants and bars that fit the connoisseur profile they hoped to reach.  Within two months they also landed a contract with a distributor that adjusted their small production vision to a larger volume with greater distribution.  Halting all cider making, shopping for a larger space and investing in bigger equipment they realized they were both over committed.  Once they reopened in August, they resigned from their ‘day’ jobs and focused on broadening their offerings and making enough cider to satisfy their distributor and the local accounts while still having some to taste and sell through their new space.  Six months on and they are both still smiling, still like each other and are committed as ever to making One Tree Hard Cider go.  Fun guys, we spoke more with Neal as he poured their wares for us.

Ginger Cider from One Tree Hard Cider - my favorite.
Ginger Cider from One Tree Hard Cider – my favorite.

The ciders:

  • The test batch, tasted blind, was super cold when we first sipped it: Peach Cider (apple with peach) 6.8% ABV, will be refined and launched the end of June as their summer flavor.
  • Cranberry Cider – tart berry with a nice finish, 6.5% ABV.
  • Crisp Apple – truly crisp apple in a glass, dry and an unknown ABV as it is keg only and I didn’t remember to ask for it.
  • Ginger Cider – an excellent and refreshing beverage; spicy, sweet and crisp with a citrus-acid undertone.  (I am probably quite biased, ginger is one of my favorite spices!)
  • Cinnamon Caramel Cider – is a cinnamon roll in a bottle, brown sugar and cinnamon dominate the cider.
  • Semi-Sweet wasn’t being poured as it is the poorest seller and going away – likely sweeter than the Crisp Apple, but less so than the Ginger and Cinnamon Caramel.

Cheers!

Wine

Owen Roe, Yakima, WA

There is a big red metal barn off of a nicely paved driveway between orchards and vineyards at the end of a gravel cul-de-sac south of Union Gap; this is where Owen Roe Winery is.  With the giant doors pushed back and the sun streaming in the cactus planted in the barrels look like they are reaching toward the light they greet you as you enter the darker cavern that doubles as both the tasting room and barrel storage.  It was a busy evening about an hour before closing when we arrived.  This is a winery with several labels, Owen Roe, O’Reilly’s, Sinister Hand, Sharecropper, and Corvidae; the last three are fairly well-distributed labels and might be available near you or you can try to purchase wine from their website (shipping being the possible hiccup).

The entrance to the big red barn that is Owen Roe's tasting room and production facility outside of Yakima, WA.
The entrance to the big red barn that is Owen Roe’s tasting room and production facility outside of Yakima, WA.
Tasting room and barrel room share quarters inside the big red barn of Owen Roe Winery.
Tasting room and barrel room share quarters inside the big red barn of Owen Roe Winery.

 

 

The wines:

  • 2012 DuBrul Vineyard Riesling – dry, apple nose, honey crisp apple with a citrus finish.
  • 2013 DuBrul Vineyard Chardonnay –
    Corvidae, a second, well distributed value label of Owen Roe Winery.
    Corvidae, a second, well-distributed value label of Owen Roe Winery.

    aromas of toast with vanilla and nutmeg flavors and a smooth finish.

  • 2014 Crawford Beck Vineyard Pinot Gris from the Eola-Amity AVA – melon, peach and white flowers with 13% ABV this was recently released.
  • 2013 Corvidae Sauvignon Blanc – all stainless steel fermented a great, easy drinking Sauv Blanc
  • 2012 Anna’s Vineyard, Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir – earth and mushrooms fill the glass followed by lavender flowers, cherry and plum with easy acids and tannins on the finish.
  • 2012 Yakima Valley Syrah, “Lady Rosa” – mild floral and dark cherry aromas and oak notes of vanilla, coconut and Chinese Five Spice dominate the palate finishing silky smooth.
  • 2013 Union Gap Vineyard Malbec – vanilla, black berry, Cassis and subtle spices meld in a lovely way in this wine.
  • 2011 Yakima Valley Red blend – 55% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec – vanilla and blackberries with a green grass and sweet pepper finish.
  • 2012 Anna's Vineyard, Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir. All, but the O'Reilly's Pinot Noir labels have archways or arched windows.
    2012 Anna’s Vineyard, Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir. All, but the O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir labels have archways or arched windows.

    2011 Union Gap Vineyard Red blend – 38% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec – warm, cedar and spice/

  • 2012 Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry pie aromas give way to cedar, spice and Marion berry jam
  • 2013 The Parting Glass, Gewürztraminer Ice Wine from Yakima Valley – wildflower honey, white peach and a hint of flowers rise from the glass, fig and apricot play on the tongue for a sweet tart taste that ends in a bright, delightful acidity.

We weren’t the last visitors to arrive, so there were still people tasting when we left.

Cheers!

2011 Yakima Valley Red Wine: 55% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec.
2011 Yakima Valley Red Wine: 55% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec.
Wine

Ellensburg Canyon Winery, Ellensburg, WA

Ellensburg Canyon Winery communication system.
Ellensburg Canyon Winery communication system.
A wood rendition of the Yakima River Valley, one of the label designs for Ellensburg Canyon Winery.
A wood rendition of the Yakima River Valley, one of the label designs for Ellensburg Canyon Winery.

The Yakima River Canyon between Ellensburg and Yakima is a beautiful drive.  Basalt cliffs, shrub steppe plateaus and the river as it meanders and rushes at various turns; a fisherman’s paradise.  Just outside of Ellensburg, at the northern edge of the canyon we found Gary Cox and Cox Canyon Vineyard where he makes his wine under the label of Ellensburg Canyon Winery.  We must have ridden by his place a dozen times or more in the last couple of years we lived in Ellensburg, but we didn’t see his then nine-year-old 17 acre vineyard.  Now that the vineyard is in its fifteenth leaf we discovered it.

You know you have found it when you can see the sign: Cox Canyon Vineyard.
You know you have arrived when you can see the sign: Cox Canyon Vineyard.
Can you see the Cougar looking to the right, Gary Cox is a WSU Alum; a life-long Cougar.  This is his guardian.
Can you see the Cougar looking to the right, Gary Cox is a WSU Alum; a life-long Cougar. This is his guardian.

The current President of the Vineyards & Wineries of Kittitas Valley (started by Troy of Thrall & Dodge Winery), Gary taught Ag for the Yakima Valley Community College EV program for seven years before retiring.  He is a staunch advocate of ‘Terroir’ and the singularity of place, vintage and process that manifests itself in the wine that comes from a generations old vineyard or from the north end of the Yakima River Canyon.  We discussed the fact that Washington State has been phylloxera-free due to the soils and climate making the own-rooted vines more like the old French/European wines before the need to graft phylloxera-resistant rootstock.  It is his belief that the soils his vines are planted on, with the multiple layers of ash from the Cascade volcanic eruptions (about 16% of the soils according to Gary) and the micro nutrients they provide are distinct.  He grows Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc at Cox Canyon Vineyards.  I came away with a reading list that will have to wait until I graduate so I can do justice to the information they contain.

Ellensburg Canyon Winery, Ellensburg, WA is Gary Cox's pride and joy; his retirement.
Ellensburg Canyon Winery, Ellensburg, WA is Gary Cox’s pride and joy; his retirement.

The Wines:

  • 2013 Chardonnay, ‘The Climax’ – a stainless steel Chard at 12.4% ABV that reminded me of pineapples on both the nose and palate!
  • 2013 Ralf Rae Rose’, ‘Alpen Glow’ – 14.2% ABV, is 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Viognier is red berries on the nose and palate (Ralf Rae is the vineyard dog, a German Spitz Mittel rescue)
  • 2008 Ralf Rae Red is  Cabernet Franc aged in 1/2 French and 1/2 Hungarian oak for 12 months
  • 2012 ‘Canyon Orange’ – a 100% Cabernet Franc done in a white style with minimal skins and no oak at 14.3% ABV it is lychee and citrus aromas and tastes of raspberries with a great, long acidic finish.
  • 2012 Late Harvest Riesling – 12..9% ABV, 9.8% RS the honey and light floral aromas don’t prepare you for the apple tart palate that lingers nicely
  • 2007 Cabernet Franc Port Style dessert wine – smelling of tobacco and prunes, tasting of black cherries.  Gary suggests pairing this with a fine cigar; as long as all I do is smell said cigar, I could probably do so.

Pack a picnic lunch and head on up to taste his wines, it is a lovely location.

Cheers!

Wine bottle handles on the 'shed' doors hide the earth covered container that is locked case goods for Ellensburg Canyon Winery.
Wine bottle handles on the ‘shed’ doors hide the earth covered container that is locked case goods for Ellensburg Canyon Winery.
Wine

Thrall & Dodge Winery, Ellensburg, WA

At 998 square feet Thrall & Dodge Winery are in the running for smallest wine tasting facility.
At 98 square feet Thrall & Dodge Winery are in the running for smallest wine tasting facility.

Kittitas Valley is in the middle of Washington State, Badger Pocket is in the middle of Kittitas Valley, along the north side of Manastash Ridge, south edge of the valley.  Just off to the east of I-82 is the first winery in the valley, charming Thrall & Dodge Winery; it used to be a horse ranch at the junction of Thrall & Dodge Roads.  For years horses were pastured in what is now the vineyard.  The old log house and garage that was built by the family over the course of a few years is now the barrel room and production facilities, as well as their house.  Making 250-300 cases a year, most of the wine is sold out of their stand-alone miniature tasting room on weekends between mid-March and mid-November.

Thrall & Dodge Winery original label 2005-2009.
Thrall & Dodge Winery original label 2005-2009.
Thrall & Dodge's current label, Rusty Horseshoe, an ode to the volume of horseshoes pulled out of the vineyard that was horse pasture.
Thrall & Dodge’s current label, Rusty Horseshoe, an ode to the volume of horseshoes pulled out of the vineyard that was horse pasture.

Troy Goodreau and his wife, Kim, are the two full-time staff of the estate vineyard and winery with vineyard and crush help on an as-needed basis from the Central Washington University’s Wine Program and a few friends.  The vineyards were planted in 2005 but are still slim trunks and cordons as they can be badly damaged if it gets a bit too cold for the Riesling and Malbec clones.  Originally labeling the wines with the Thrall & Dodge name, between 2005 & 2009, they rebranded to Rusty Horseshoe.  This is quite fitting as Ellensburg is home to the PRCA Ellensburg Rodeo each Labor Day weekend; a place quite proud of its Wild West heritage.

Troy and Kim Goodreau, owners of Thrall & Dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.
Troy and Kim Goodreau, owners of Thrall & Dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.

Originator of the Vineyards and Wineries of Kittitas Valley in 2006, Troy envisioned a small but vibrant wine industry in the valley as he began tilling and planting his vineyard.  Sans high-tech equipment, the vineyard posts and vines were all planted by hand.  The tasting room was built by hand, and the garage of the log house was converted, by hand, to accommodate the temperature requirements of the fermentation and storage needs of his budding winery.  Maintaining small crops for optimal ripening and use of a basket press provide the basis of the Thrall & Dodge wine style.  Purchasing fruit from other vineyards they expand their offerings to four or five each year.  Cold stabilizing and hand bottling stored wines as they are deemed ready.  Unfined, there is sometimes a bit of sediment in the bottle.

Troy Goodreau on the crush pad of Thrall & dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.
Troy Goodreau on the crush pad of Thrall & dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.

The wines:

  • 2010 Chardonnay from Canyon Mist Vineyards & Cox Canyon Vineyards, both in the Yakima River Canyon about two miles west of Thrall & Dodge.  This neutral oak barrel fermented white is medium bodied, herbal and grass with asian pear and a hint of vanilla on the nose and baked apple and vanilla with a buttery mouthfeel on the palate, 13.8% ABV.
  • 2010 Syrah from Burgess Vineyard north of Pasco, is dark cherry, wet earth and a subtle white pepper on the nose, pie cherries and cedar, this is a smooth, easy Syrah with 14.3% ABV.
  • Bocce ball anyone?  Although I think horse shoes should be the game of choice at the Thrall & Dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.
    Bocce ball anyone? Although I think horse shoes should be the game of choice at the Thrall & Dodge Winery in Ellensburg, WA.

    2010 Merlot from Burgess Vineyard, presents as mushroom and earth with pomegranate on the nose and tongue with a warm, spicy finish at 13.9% ABV.

  • 2009 Red Blend, co-fermented ~60% Cabernet Franc (Cox Canyon Vineyard) and ~40% Estate Malbec make up this easy drinking blend.  Considering the Bordeaux varietals, their growth in the Kittitas Valley and the light pressing they receive produce a European-style medium-light bodied wine full of raspberries  and licorice on both the nose and palate with 13.6% ABV.
Barn Quilters of Kittitas Valley, part of the state wide organization, made the quilt on the tasting room as part of the Barn Quilt Trail in the Valley.
Barn Quilters of Kittitas Valley, part of the state-wide organization, made the quilt on the tasting room as part of the Barn Quilt Trail in the Valley.

Ellensburg has a very active Chamber of Commerce and is partnering with the Valley vineyards and wineries, along with the local chapter of the Barn Quilters.  Thrall & Dodge Winery is included in the Kittitas Valley Barn Quilts Trail.  We might have to meander through the Kittitas Valley on the motorcycle this summer to follow the trail of quilt squares.  Kim has been actively writing for tourism grants to expand the Vineyard and Wineries brochure and support for the still small industry within the local economy.  Next time I will tell you more about Cox Canyon Vineyards.

Cheers!

Awards, Viticulture and Enology, Wine making

Fantastic news: 2013 COSY struck gold

A few weeks ago I told you about the 2013 Cockburn Ranch Syrah a few of us made at College Cellars 2013 (here).  This very wine was awarded Gold at the Great Northwest Wine Competition taking place in Hood River, Oregon from Tuesday through Thursday of this week.  Naturally, we are in great company with many of the wines I have written about also entered and winning awards.  Had to share such fabulous news, apparently we weren’t the only ones to really like the wine.  But that means we will have to share.  It will be released early next month and can be ordered from College Cellars webpage if you are interested in trying it.

Cheers!

2013 Cockburn Ranch Syrah from College Cellars of Walla Walla - Gold Medal winner!
2013 Cockburn Ranch Syrah from College Cellars of Walla Walla – Gold Medal winner!