Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau #Winophiles

The beautiful embossed Rasteau AOC Cru bottle Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

Rasteau. Perhaps it’s a name you are not familiar with. This region in the Southern Rhône has long been known for their sweet Vin Doux Naturel wines. It was just recently (2010) awarded Cru status for it’s dry red wines.

This post is a sponsored post. In conjunction with the French #Winophiles I recieved 4 bottles of wine from Rasteau as samples to taste and write about. The opinions provided are my own.

Rasteau

The name itself comes from the French word “râteau” meaning rake. The hills and valleys here look like the tines of a rake.

  • The Fortress in Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
  • Rolling vineyards showing the altitude in Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

The region is east of the famous Chateauneuf-de-Pape. Perspective…it is 21 miles from Avignon, at the very south of the Rhône River and 12.5 miles from Orange. Writing this out made me realize how small this area really is. This is a small medieval village with cobbled streets. Located in the Haut-Vaucluse, this little village faces south and looks to the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range.

Haut-Vaucluse

The name might not be familiar to you, but this is the region that inspired Cézanne and Chagall. Farmlands with orchards, olive groves and lavender fields cover this area of Provençe. Here you find ancient cities, including Rasteau.

Dentelles de Montmirail

This small mountain chain is just south of the village of Vaison-la-Romaine. Dentelles translated to English is “lace” as the mountains have a scalloped lace like feel as you look at them.

Geography, Climate & Soils

The Rasteau AOC Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
The Rasteau AOC Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

As I mentioned the village faces south. The soils differ depending on the altitude. Lower altitudes have pebble rich soils, a little further up you reach sandy marl (between 525 and 951 feet) and the highest vineyards have red and grey marl with galets, those pudding stones that the Rhône is so famous for.

  • Pudding stones in AOC Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
  • Old vines and galets or pudding stones AOC Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

As far south as they are you get loads of sunshine and it’s relatively dry. Plus the Mistral wind keeps the vines healthy. All that air keeps the vines dry and free from mold and disease. But…the vineyards on this south facing slope are arranged in a bowl or amphitheatre shape which keeps them safe from the most brutal of the winds. So they get the good breezes, not the damaging wind.

Red Rhône Blends with some rules

The wines here are made up of red Rhône varieties that you are likely familiar with, but with a couple of rules.

  • The blend must be at least 50% Grenache Noir
  • At least 20% of the wine must be Syrah & Mourvèdre (that’s 20% together)

We recieved 4 samples, each with a slightly different blend. Two of which were 2015 vintage and two that were the 2016 Vintage.

All of the wines were food friendly, made to bring to table, to share and enjoy with food and laughter.

2016 Rasteau wines from Domaine M. Boutin and Domaine La Fond de Notre Dame
2016 Rasteau wines from Domaine M. Boutin and Domaine La Fond de Notre Dame

Domaine La Font de Notre Dame 2016 Rasteau Le Chêne

This is an old family estate renamed by the sons in 2016. The Domaine has vineyards in several regions including Gigondas, Sablet and Lirac in addition to their vineyard in Rasteau.

The vineyard sits on the top of a hill at 350 meters between the Ouvèze and Aygue valleys with soil of brown marl and pebbles.Vines here average 80 years old, so they were the oldest of the samples we recieved.

The wine is Grenache driven at 80% with 10% Mourvèdre and 5% each of Syrah and Cinsault. The Grenache is grown in the gobelet style (bush style, untrellised)

The Domaine La Font de Notre Dame was the lightest bodied of the 4 Rasteau wines we tasted and was also the highest percentage of Grenache. It was bright and elegant.

Domaine M. Boutin 2016 Rasteau

Mikael Boutin, the winemaker is a 5th generation winemaker. Domaine M. Boutin is a small operation. His facility is the size of a two car garage size and he works mostly with concrete tanks. He has almost 5 acres of vines scattered over 8 parcels. The vines average 40 years old and are are varied soils and have different exposures. Regardless of the fact that they are scattered, they are all organically certified.

Mikael hand harvests and does wild yeast ferments in his concrete tanks. The wines are kept on the fine lees for 8 months (still in the concrete tanks). Wines are held in bottle for 12 months before release.

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau
Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

This property had been kept for generations as a traditional farm by the Roux family, who gradually turned the focus to vineyards. In 2007 the Quiot family purchased the property, 12 acres are with in the Rasteau AOC.

This is a 60/40 blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre from vines that average 30 years in age. The grapes are de-stemed and after around 3 weeks of masceration do a 3 week indigenous yeast ferment. They age for a year in foudres and concrete.

Lavau 2015 Rasteau

2015 Lavau Rasteau bottle shot
2015 Lavau Rasteau

This wine comes from east facing stony hillsides. Harvests here are small and late. This blend in 50/50 Grenache and Syrah. Destemmed, 25 day masceration and a year of aging in mostly neutral oak.

A little on the 2015 vintage from Lavau

After a wet winter and spring, followed by a few showers in June, the vines were able to withstand the extreme summer droughts due to the water reserves. Ripening conditions were optimal with sunny days and cool nights, accompanied by a light Mistral wind. The harvested grapes showed exceptional concentration and balance.

Groupe Lavau Maucoil www.lavau.fr

Thanksgiving Pairing with Rasteau

With Thanksgiving right around the corner here in the US, I looked at these wines and determined that the flavor profiles would pair nicely with those fall foods we indulge in at Thanksgiving.

The menu

Thanksgiving flavors to pair with the wines of Rasteau
Thanksgiving flavors to pair with the wines of Rasteau

With just 2 of us, we took a simpler route than roasting an entire turkey. I found 2 turkey breast marinated and applewood smoked to cook like a pork loin, roasting it in the oven. This took my cooking time to a little over an hour, rather than the 3 or so for a full bird.

I looked to flavors that would match the wine. Herb de Provençe was a no brainer for this area of southern France and the berry notes of raspberry, blackberry and cherry noted in the wine…well I figured that adding some cranberry and making a sauce would be pretty perfect.

  • Smoked roasted turkey breast with a berry sauce, roasted mashed sweet potatoes with herbs de provençe and sauteed green beans with fried shallots, almonds & balsamic reduction.
  • Rasteau Rouge with turkey, sweet potatoes and seared brussel sprouts.
  • Thanksgiving and Rasteau

I roasted the sweet potatoes (a regular sweet potato and a purple sweet potato with sweet white flesh) in olive oil, herb de provençe, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg and then mashed them with butter and a dash of stock. The nutmeg brought out that bit of spice in the wines.

For our green vegetables… we did fresh green beans, cooked in butter and a bit of stock, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and sprinkled with sea salt, as well as boiled brussel sprouts, that I then sliced and pan seared to pull out the sweetness. Both of course got a dash of the herbs de Provençe,

Cheese Pairing with the Rasteau Wines
Cheese Pairing with the Rasteau Wines

We did start with a cheese platter, with a decided feminine feel. I picked up “New Woman” cheese which has jerked spices in it, and Two Sisters Gouda. We rounded this out with dried cherries, blackberries, raspberries, apple and almonds.

Honestly, all the foods paired beautifully with all of these wines. Not a bad pairing in the bunch. Tying in the fruit notes as well as the herbs and spices really made these pairings sing.

Verdict

Michael found both of the 2015 wines to be more weighty and substantial. I would agree. There might be several components to this, the age, the vintage, which as we saw above was very warm and the blend. Both of these wines were simply Grenache and one other variety and the Mourvèdre and Syrah that they used can both be weighty. I did really enjoy the Domaine La Font de Notre Dame, for exactly the reason that it was not weighty. Perhaps I was in a very Grenachey mood. I was also really enamoured by the story of MB Boutin and his 2 car garage size set up and his scattered hand picked vineyards. Mikael’s story definitely influenced my tasting and I savored visualizing his harvest while sipping the wine.

All of these wines were delicious, but they are decidedly food wines. On their own, they were fine, but not wines to sit and deeply contemplate with your nose in a glass. They are wines to pop open and enjoy with people and food. They are not showy, they are complimentary, quietly, each in it’s own way, adding to the meal and elevating the food.

These wines are in the perfect price point. Running from $18 to $25 SRP, these are wines that you can easily bring to the table to enjoy without the pressure of needing to stop and take detailed tasting notes.

For more information on these wines on social media, check out

  • Twitter: @RhoneWine
  • Instagram: @rhonevalleyvineyards, @vinsderasteau
  • Facebook: @RhoneValleyVineyards, @aoc.rasteau
  • Or search for the hashtags: #rhone #rasteau #rasteauwine #rhonewine

Or visit Vins-Rhône.com for details on wines and vineyards throughout the Rhône region

The French #Winophiles

We will be gathering on twitter under the hashtage #Winophiles to talk about the wines of Rasteau on Saturday morning November 16th. It’s early at 8 am if you are in the Pacific time zone, a more reasonable 10 am in the midwest and a luxurious 11 am on the east coast. Join us to chat about these wines and the pairings we all found!

Here is a list of the other terrific articles written on the wines of Rasteau by the other #Winophiles!

Shout out to Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog who was terrific in helping secure samples from Rhône Valley Vineyards for some participants (one of which was me!). Thanks Michelle!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference

Live Wine Social Red at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Red Wine Social. It’s organized chaos. Go ahead, look at the video first and see what we are up against! 10 wineries, 5 minutes each. For them: 5 minutes to give us the elevator schpiel on their winery and wine and pour for a table of 5 to 10 people. For us: 5 minutes to get photos, details, hashtags, taste and post on social media! Are you friggin’ kidding me! Watch the vid…

Did you have time to read the descriptions? Nope? Well I barely had time to write them!!!! (Yes, my voice was raised a bit on that last sentence). I did my posting on Instagram under #wmc19 (at least I think I got them all in!)

Okay…now time to give those wineries and winemakers there due. Here is the breakdown with more details than 5 minutes will allow.

First Creek

First you get the actual post.

“Greg from First Creek wines poured2017 winemakers shiraz! They deal with 300 tons of fruit a year. Of course they do around 300,000 in contracted fruit for others. @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
First Creek Winemaker's Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley Red Wine Social
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley

Ok…let’s break this down. “Greg” is Greg Silkman. He oversees all of First Creek’s business. Greg was honored in 2019 with the Hunter Valley Wine Legend award (you will hear more about the Legends). He and a business partner bought Tambulaine winery back in 1986 and turned the place around. He then established First Creek Wines.

First Creek Wines is family owned and operated (go to the about us page on their site and you will notice many members of the team are Silkmans). They do around 300 tons of fruit each year to make their own wines, like the Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz we were tasting. They are also a custom crush facility First Creek Winemaking Services, and it is there that they handle around 300,000 tons of contracted fruit for other wineries.

First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz Hunter Valley

This wine is aged in French oak for 8-12 months. It sits at 13% abv and has potential to age for 10-15 years. SRP $60 au

de iuliis

I barely got a note out for this wine poured by winemaker Mike De Iuliis from de iuliis wines

“The Touriga adds floral notes “the gewurtraminer of reds” 70 30 blend” @visitnsw @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines Red Wine Social
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines

What?! Okay, here’s the translation of that criptic IG post.

So Mike De Iuliis made this Shiraz and was experimenting to create a bit of elegance. This is 80% Shiraz with 20% Touriga National which adds complexity and lifts the aromas of the wine. He said that aromatically he finds Touriga to be the “gerwurztraminer of reds” (gerwürztraminer is a German white wine well known for it’s aromatics).

We were lucky enough to get to know Mike a little better on the Dinner excursion on Friday night as he took our bus all terraining into a vineyard under threat of rain to meet a bunch of winemakers with their semillons and oysters. You’ll get more on that later.

de iuliis 2018 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga Hunter Valley

de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard Red Wine Social
de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard

LDR? That is the Lovedale Road Vineyard where they have 3.5 acres of Shiraz and 1.5 acres of Touriga National planted. You get cherry, and blackfruit with spice on the nose and plum, blackberry with soft tannins on the palate. This wine drinks well now, and will age for at least another 5 years. The wine sits at 14% abv and SRP is $40 au. (James Halliday gave it 95 pts)

Audrey Wilkinson

My note on this was

“One of the most beautiful views in the country! This shiraz was beautiful! #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Audrey Wilkinson 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Audrey Wilkinson's 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Awards Red Wine Social
  • Giving us the details on "The Lake" from Audrey Wilkinson Red Wine Social

Well I had a chance to chat with Daniel Byrom from Audrey Wilkinson the night before and learn all about their amphitheater shaped vineyard and the varied soils. We also got out to get some sunrise shots. They really are well known for their views. Locals tell us that even if they can’t go for a tasting, they always take friends and visitors for the view.

Audrey Wilkinson The Lake 2017 Shiraz

This wine is an award winner “97 points, again….” says their brochure. This wine takes it’s name for the large spring fed dam on the property. 2017 they recorded the hottest year on record (we’ve talked about climate change right?). In the Hunter Valley this was a great vintage. This wine has a nose with florals (violets?) and fruit with a bit of spice. It sits at 14.9% abv (holy crap!) sees a bit of French oak and will set you back $120 au a bottle. This is a definitely a reserve wine for this winery.

Briar Ridge

“Alex one of the winemakers at Briar Ridge #wmc19 @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10

Oops! Didn’t get much out with that one. But I did get a bottle shot and a photo of Alex.

  • 2018 Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Alex from Briar Ridge Red Wine Social

We did however have a few minutes afterwards to speak with Alex about Briar Ridge. You will have to wait until later for that.

The winery is located in Mount View in the Southern part of the Hunter Valley and they are the largest vineyard holder in this area. Soils here are red limestone. They keep yields low (1 to 2.5 tons per acre).

Dairy Hill Shiraz Hunter Valley 2018

This wine is single vineyard on a SE facing slope with a warm maritime influence. It was 20% whole cluster with the remainder crushed and destemmed. It ages in 500liter large format barrels for 12-14 months with a couple rack and returns. Then they hold it 3 years before release. We were tasting the 2018. If you go to their website, the current release is 2014 (which recieved 96 points from James Halliday).

1813

“Double oaked Shiraz. The governor from @1813huntervalley @visitnsw @huntervalley #wbc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • The Governor Shiraz from 1813 Red Wine Social
  • Pouring and giving us the details on the 1813 "The Governor" Red Wine Social

Okay, I was typing fast, I harkened back to the previous conference name (wine bloggers conference wbc). But let’s get on with the details on this winery. 1813? What does that mean?

1813 was the year the first coin was created in Australia. It was called the “Holey dollar” because it was a Spanish coin with a hole in the center. The owner of the winery has a finance background.

2017 The Governor Hunter Single Vineyard from 1813

This wine is double oaked (French and American). What does that mean? During fermentation it is rolled into oak, then after malolactic fermentation it is rolled into oak again. It is only released in the best years. This is all estate fruit and they only made 1500 bottles (not cases, bottles). This is their flagship reserve. SRP $68.00 au

Wombat Crossing

“This wine won a trophy for the best shiraz in the Hunter Valley. This is a 2009! @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Wombat Crossing 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Ian Owner of Wombat Crossing pouring the 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social

Okay…Wombat Crossing? You know right off that they are an Australian Winery right? Click through to their page…go ahead…now you know that they are also Beatles fans! LOL!

Ian Napier is the vineyard owner. He came from a successful career in Sydney and post career decided to open a winery. Their first vintage was 2005. They are the smallest vineyard and winery in the Hunter Valley and plan to keep it that way.

The winery shows it’s support for the Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue & Hospital. Driving rural inland roads we saw many dead kangaroos and wombats. This rescue helps orphaned joey wombats and gives medical attention to adult wombats who have been injured. The roadsides have signs to call if you hit wildlife. Wombats are declining due to road hazards, loss of habitat and disease. Roz Holme founded the rescue and treats animals that might otherwise have been euthanised.

Wombat Crossing Vineyard Hermit’s Block Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley 2009 Shiraz

Ian brought us a 10 year old Shiraz to taste and see how well the wine ages. The 2009 vintage from Wombat Crossing one the trophy for the best Shiraz in the Hunter Valley. they have just 8 cases left (7 now!) They believe in cellaring and holding back wine. He told us that the current release was their 2014.

Whispering Brook

“A touriga shiraz blend from Whispering Brook. From Susan Frazier @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Okay…this is not the photo that was on IG, but there is a link below so you can see that.

Our video as posted on IG

This is another blend of Touriga and Shiraz (like Mike de Iuliis). Great minds thinking alike. We did have a chance to speak with Susan after the event…again…you get that later!

Whispering Brook is located in Broke on the West side of the Hunter Valley. The property is bordered on one end by the Wollombi Brook and it is from this that the winery takes it’s name. They make Sparkling wines in addition to their Shiraz, Chardonnay and Touriga National as well as olive oil.

2017 Whispering Brook Shiraz

This wine received 97 points from James Halliday. There is a bit of a story to this wine. In 2008 they grafted over 1 block of their Shiraz to Touriga National. In 2017, they had just pressed the Touriga, when the Shiraz came in. The Touriga skins looked great, so they tossed them in with the Shiraz. They did a wild yeast ferment, which is not normal for them (well, she did say that there was probably still cultured yeast on the Touriga Skins). This wine ages in 30% new french oak for 16 months.

Tyrrell’s

“Lovely shiraz from Tyrrell’s #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tyrrell's 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Pouring wine and sharing the story of Tyrrell's vineyard Red Wine Social
  • Red soils from Tyrrell's Vineyard Red Wine Social

Well that didn’t say much! Guess I was getting tired by then. (this was exhausting, trying to do so much so fast!)

Tyrrell’s is a 5th generation winery that can trace it’s roots back to Walter Tyrrell who arrived in England with William the Conqueror! Last year in 2018 they celebrated the 160th Anniversary of the founding of Tyrrell’s Wines!

We had an opportunity to get out to the winery and taste and will share more on that with you later!

Tyrrell’s 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz

2017 was a good year in the Hunter Valley. This wine is in their “Hunter Valley Range” an affordable range at $25 au per bottle. Vines here average at about 50 years old and the wine is aged in large format Foudres (2,700 litre). They did bring a jar of soil so we could see the red soils from the vineyard.

Tulloch

“Matt from Tulloch poured the 2017 Pokolbin dry red shiraz! Only available in the tasting room #wmc19 @visitnsw @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tulloch 2017 Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • The quick version of the Tulloch Wine history Red Wine Social

Tulloch Wines is one of the early wineries with 122 years and 4 generations of winemaking experience. Tulloch went through a bit of time where the vineyard was owned by other companies, and even a short bit (8 years or so) without a member of the family being part of the operation. In 2003 the family bought the brand back from Rosemount and is now again family run.

2017 Polkolbin Dry Red Shiraz

This wine is part of their Heritage Range. It sits at 13.5% abv SRP $30.00 au.

Tintilla Estate

“The 1st vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago! Bob and James Lusby poured it for us! #WMC19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tintilla Estates 2017 Saphira Sangiovese Red Wine Social
  • Bob & James Lusby telling us the story of the Saphira Sangiovese

Tintilla. The name is an Old World term for red wine. Bob Lusby sat down next to me while his son James poured. It was their last table, and our last winemaker. So yes, Tintilla was the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago. They pulled in the Davis clones.

While we were talking Bob mentioned the idea that more phenolics in the grapes keep pests away. I was fascinated by this and he suggested that I read some of the work by Dr. Richard Smart, including his book “Sunlight into Wine – A handbook for winegrape canopy management”. Looks like I have more fascinating geeky wine reading to do!

Tintilla Estate Saphira Sangiovese 2017

The Saphira Sangiovese gives you plums and cherries with a bit of earth. It runs $35.00 au.

Harvested in the early morning, the cool grapes were destemmed and passed through the crusher The resultant must was cold soaked, fermentation followed in open vats, the temperature controlled to about 22 degrees C. Hand plunge of the cap ensured good mixing of the skins with the juice. The wine was aged in 20% new & old 300L French oak barrels for 12 months.

https://www.tintilla.com.au/shop/saphira-sangiovese/

More to come!

Oh yeah. We did a white/rosé tasting like this also. You’ll get that later.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Exploring New South Wales – Shoalhaven Coast & Southern Highlands #ouraussiewineadventure

Cambewarra Mountain lookout

Australia…it’s the other side of the world and a day away. Far from our normal life. A place where they drive on the other side of the road and sit on the other side of the car to drive. Where the signs on the road tell you to watch for kangaroos and wombats. But…the language is the same, well, mostly. The slang can be a bit of a hang up to translate.

In October, we got on a plane for the short (that’s sarcasm) flight to Sydney. Our destination was the Wine Media Conference in the Hunter Valley which is north of Sydney, but we flew in early to visit a bit more. Mind you Australia is a large country, almost as large as the US, so we focused on the region of New South Wales which surrounds Sydney and of course, primarily, we were looking at the wines of this region.

If you’ve followed our trips before, you will know that we are not afraid of a little bit of driving. That held true on this trip, as you can see by the map below. It allowed us to take in quite a bit of New South Wales, but not all of it. This region has quite a bit to explore.

Map of our travels in New South Wales
Our Aussie Wine Adventure

New South Wales

New South Wales is the region surrounding Sydney.  Good ole’ Captain James Cook discovered and named this region.  Okay…we will amend this.  He didn’t “discover” it.  It was there and inhabited by aboriginal peoples.  But none the less, he donned it with the name “New South Wales” and soon the Brits were sending Convict Ships this way. (The American Revolution meant they couldn’t send their convicts there any longer).

The first fleet of six ships included the Scarborough (that name will come up again later).  They landed in what is now Sydney. In this region you find the Gadigal people.  Future settlements moved up and down the coast and inland and provided the infrastructure for much of the region as it is known today.

Map courtesy of Destination NSW and NSW Government New South Wales
Map courtesy of Destination NSW and NSW Government

We visited 5 of the 14 wine regions in New South Wales: Shoalhaven Coast, Southern Highlands, Mudgee, Hunter Valley and Orange. These are the regions closest to Sydney. A little further north on the coast takes you to Hastings River, then even further north and inland you find New England. Inland to the West of Sydney (and mostly to the south) you find the regions of Cowra, Hilltops, Gundagai, Canberra District, Tumbarumba, the tiny Perricoota and the really large Riverina. We would have needed far more than 2 weeks to explore all these regions.

Sydney

(don’t worry we will come back)

Our visit started and ended in Sydney which sits on the coast of New South Wales. It sits only a little closer to the southern border with Victoria, than the Northern border of Queensland along the 2137 miles of coastline.

Royal National Gardens & the Sea Cliff Bridge

The road to Shoalhaven Coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge New South Wales Australia
The road to Shoalhaven Coast and the Sea Cliff Bridge

We drove south from Sydney on what was (unbeknownst to us) a holiday weekend and into the Royal National Gardens. Sadly we had no time to hike and explore (the Figure 8 pools sound amazing, but that was a 2.5-4 hr hike!). Instead we took in the scenery (and met a stick bug, who dropped in our window landing on my shoulder and sadly lumbered away before I could get a photo) as we drove through. The coast is beautiful and we drove across the Sea Cliff Bridge as we made our way south, stopping for lunch and a view in Gerrigong.

Shoalhaven Coast

The Shoalhaven Coast is about 2 hrs south of Sydney. This is a popular weekend getaway for people living in Sydney and the area has embraced tourism. Gerrigong, where we enjoyed lunch was a cute town with small shops and restaurants, the perfect beach town with a view. Our lunch at The Hill, set us up with high expectations for the food we would encounter in New South Wales.

The vineyards here often have a view of the ocean, so the maritime influence is a major factor in the vineyard. The primary concern here is summer rainfall, which can create issues for ripening as well as problems with disease and molds. We also heard that birds can be a huge problem, sneaky birds that get under the netting during harvest and can gobble up and entire crop.

Coolangatta Estate

  • Coolangatta Estate Originally opened in 1822, renovated and reopened in 1972. Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Mt. Coolangatta in the morning mist. New South Wales
  • Lush greenery at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Our suite in the Servant's Quarters at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Coolangatta Historic Homestead Shoalhaven Coast, New South Wales Australia
  • The view to the lower vineyard next to the stable building Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • The old brick main building at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Coolangatta Estate photo 1914 Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

We arrived at Coolangatta Estate to meet with owner/vigneron Greg Bishop. The Estate is a renovated historic convict built estate where we stayed in the servants quarters.

This historic property of a convict built estate, and was the first European settlement on the South Coast.  The name derives from “Collungatta” which was the Aboriginal word for “fine view”  The Estate sits at the foot of Mt. Coolangatta from which this “fine view” can be enjoyed.  The Estate fell into disrepair in the first part of the 1900’s.

In 1947 Colin Bishop acquired land here for farming.  He and his wife (Greg’s parents) then began to restore the property and turn it into a historic resort. 

  • The lower vineyards at Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales AustraliaNSW Australia
  • Spring Vines at Coolangatta Estate in the Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • Rolling vineyard in the shadow of Mt. Coolangatta, Coolangatta Estate Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia
  • White wines at Coolangatta Estate New South Wales Australia
  • The 2018 Winsome Riesling just won the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, Scoring 95 points Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

Greg planted the vineyard here in the 1980’s and they are producing a wide variety of wines including: Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Verdelho, Savagnin, Chambourcin, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and surprisingly a Tannat.

After our conversation with Greg, it was time for a bit of a nap before enjoying dinner at their restaurant Alexander’s paired with Coolangatta wines.

Two Figs

  • Two Figs Winery on the Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales AustraliaNSW Australia
  • View of the Shoalhaven River from Two Figs Winery Shoalhaven Coast New South Wales Australia

We did stop by Two Figs to take in the views, and tried to do a tasting, while we were in the area. But remember I mentioned it was a holiday weekend? Two Figs does tastings by reservation and we had not pre-booked. The place was packed and hoppin’. The views had to suffice.

Southern Highlands

The next morning we awoke early to head inland to Southern Highlands. Our drive took us through Nowra, where we picked up a quick (and delicious) breakfast at a gas station. (Really the food here…it’s like getting every meal from Whole Foods!). We then drove into the mountains in the Budderoo National Park, through Kangaroo Valley, past Fitzroy Falls and finally into Mittagong.

The region, on a plateau, was a place for the colonial squires to escape Sydney’s summer heat (think Hamptons). The villages are picturesque, the streets wide and tree lined and the region sees all four seasons. It was most definitely spring when we arrived with flowers blooming everywhere.

As to growing vines here? It’s altitude and cool climate make it perfect for crafting beautiful white and sparkling wines. You will also find Merlot, Shiraz and some Pinot Noir grown here also. The region has 12 wineries around 6 towns: Berrima, Bowral, Exeter, Mittagong, Moss Vale and Sutton Forest.

Tertini

  • The Tertini entrance sign, unpretentiously nestled in the trees Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The Tertini Cellar Door near Mittagong in Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The elegant Tertini Tasting Room Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • The Patio at Tertini Wines in Australia's Southern Highlands, New South Wales
  • Panorama of the Tertini Winery in Australia's Southern Highlands in New South Wales.

Our destination in Southern Highlands was Tertini Wines near Mittagong, to visit with winemaker Jonathan Holgate. Jonathan spoke with us about the region and his wine making style before taking us out to see the winery and then to visit their Yaraandoo Vineyard. We returned to the cellar door for a tasting, and I look forward to telling you later about his spectacular wines, which include a decidedly unique Arneis.

  • Spring Vines in Tertini's Yaraandoo Vineyard in Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia
  • Tertini's Yaraandoo Vineyard in the Spring  Southern Highlands New South Wales Australia

Jonathan’s Private Cellar Collection Arneis is made from fruit from their Yaraandoo Vineyard which is partially fermented in French Oak. This is unlike any other Arneis you will taste.

We left as the tasting room filled up with booked seated tastings, some of them scheduled specifically with Jonathan.

Artemis

We made one more quick stop for a tasting at Artemis Wines. This winery is set up to host. Views of the vineyard right around the tasting room, with a patio that was set up for wood fired pizza. This is a gathering place, and it was crowded when we arrived. We did a pretty hasty tasting of their wines with a very knowledgeable (and busy) staff member. They also do tastings of ciders and beers.

Camberwarra Mountain Lookout

On the way back to Coolangatta we took in the views from Camberwarra Mountain Lookout. You can see Mt. Coolangatta out toward the coast as well as the Shoalhaven river that runs out to the coast. The lookout has a tea room, so it’s a lovely spot to take in the views and a cup.

Australia Shoalhaven Coast, New South Wales-
Australia Shoalhaven Coast, NSW- The view from Cambewarra

Newcastle

After enjoying another evening soaking up the great atmosphere at Coolangatta Estate, we drove North, swinging wide around Sydney and up the coast to Newcastle.

This port city north of Sydney is Australia’s second-oldest city and 7th largest.  It is known for shipping coal.  Mind you the Aussie’s are environmentally minded and don’t use much coal.  They do however mine it and ship it out for other countries to use. 

As an important side note here, every vineyard owner and winemaker I spoke with in Australia acknowledged the affects that climate change was directly having on their vineyards.  In addition (or as a result), the bush fires have increased in the northern part of New South Wales and in Queensland.  They are in a drought, the second in a dozen years.  The sad cycle of lack of water due to climate change, causes agricultural businesses to struggle, and I can’t help but feel that this leads back to exporting coal to support the economy, that same coal that leads to further pollution and climate change.

This city is on the coast of the Hunter region.  We soaked in a bit of beach, had dinner wharf and enjoyed an artsy stroll through the downtown district back to our hotel.  The arts college is here and walls are covered in murals, music on this October long weekend (a holiday weekend that we didn’t realize we were in the midst of) poured out of doorways with pubs and cocktail bars.  The town was busy and full of people enjoying the holiday weekend.

Places to stay…

Here I will do a shout out to our hotel.  In the states, most Holiday Inn Expresses are mid to low range hotels.  We find them in the smaller sections of wine country and they are always reliable.  Here we were staying in the Holiday Inn Express in Newcastle, a relatively new hotel.  It was pretty spectacular, much more like the Hotel Indigo’s at home, but larger.  The design was beautiful, the staff friendly and helpful and the included breakfast…?  I’m ruined for breakfast ever again.  It was fresh and beautifully laid out.  I felt so elegant eating so healthy.  It was the perfect meal to send us off for our drive into Mudgee, where we will continue Our Aussie Wine Adventure.

For more information on these regions:

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Digging into Biodynamics and a tasting

Lavender at Cowhorn supporting pollinators and biodyversity

More often than not, when we travel to wine country we find ourselves drawn to biodynamic vineyards. So it should be no surprise that when Michael and I went through the cellar to choose a couple of bottles to celebrate our Anniversary, we each chose a bottle and then realized that both were biodynamic.   So what is it that pulls us this direction?

I have heard at least one winemaker speak about “finding his people”, when he discovered biodynamics, and when we meet these people, we usually feel the same. What draws these people to this method?  I’ve read articles and spoken with people in vineyards and in wineries and I’m digging deeper on my understanding of “biodynamics”. There is alot here to unpack. Today, we will start with some of the basics.

Biodynamic
Digging into Biodynamics

Biodynamics – as per Merriam Webster

: of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic

Rudolf Steiner

Biodynamics as we speak of it today, came from a series of lectures given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1924. He was a philosopher and scientist, which really gives you insights into where his studies were going. Influenced by Goethe and he was the founder of “anthroposophy” which was a spiritual movement. He believed in the link between science and spiritualism.

There is a rabbit hole here.  I could (and I expect I will) do quite a bit more digging on Mr. Steiner and not all of it will make me happy.  But, his work in agriculture looked at the farm as one unit and looked at a farm’s health in this way, much like holistic/homeopathic medicine, where you look at the whole patient and not just one symptom. That I can wrap my head around.

The Farmers Almanac & The Gardeners Labyrinth

I was feeling a little concerned about my research, when I came across hawkwakawaka and her brilliant sketches. (WakawakaWineReviews.com) This filled in some gaps for me, and I highly recommend taking a look at her breakdown of biodynamics. It is easy to understand and her sketches make it quite entertaining.

I grew up planting the garden depending on the cycles of the moon as listed in the farmer almanac, as did many of the people my family knew.  I took it as traditional farming, but it’s influence, as I learned from Elaine’s sketches, comes from Thomas Hill’s “The Gardeners Labyrinth”(I’ve included a link to a beautiful photo of a page on archive.com). The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792 and is still published annually today. It gives annual schedules for planting according to the lunar cycles.

Stick with me here…this just makes sense. Calendars are a man made created thing. For early farmers the calendar was the seasons and the cycles of the moon.

Biodiversity and the Demeter Association

The Demeter Association, that certifies biodynamic farms, set a farm standard, that requires biodiversity. This to me is simple sustainable farming. Biodiversity as opposed to monoculture is just common sense. Any ecosystem is affected when you remove an element, the wolves at Yosemite for instance.

In addition there are requirements for soil managment, animal welfare, as well as the use of preparations (yes, this is where the cowhorns and cow poop come in), and the calendar with fruit, flower, leaf & root days which indicates when certain tasks should be done. We won’t dive that deep today, but we will later. These are things I find interesting and fascinating and I want to know more about them.

Biodynamic wines and the people behind them

My first exposure to biodynamics came through Tablas Creek in Paso Robles. I had an opportunity to speak with Jason Haas about the practice as they used it there. Their influence, of course, came from the Perrins at Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhône where they have been using this practice for a while. Jill Barth just did a fantastic interview with Marc Perrin about this on Forbes. But surprisingly, the wines we chose today, were not Tablas…(I keep track of the vintage calendar closely, and many of the bottles in our cellar are still resting and aging).

Oregon and biodynamics

On our last couple of trips to Oregon, we spoke with many winemakers who are farming biodynamically. This was where the two bottles that Michael and I chose hailed from.

Johan Vineyard and Winery

Johan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley's Van Duzer Corridor
Johan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley’s Van Duzer Corridor

I first discovered Johan when I came across an online seminar on Oregon wines. The experts on the panel spoke on wineries to watch in Oregon and the woman who mentioned Johan, was emphatic that they were doing some amazing things and were to be watched. We determined that we would stop in on our next visit to the area.

  • Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon's Willamette Valley

We dropped into the tasting room and were lucky enough to meet Jack, who walked us through the wines and so much more. On our last visit we set up an early morning visit to talk with Jack and walk the property in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA. The vineyard and the winery are certified biodynamic here. Their Pét Nat is a favorite of mine.

Johan 2018 Pétillant Naturel Melon

Johan Vineyards 2018 Melon Pét Nat from Oregon's Van Duzer Corridor
Johan Vineyards 2018 Melon Pét Nat from Oregon’s Van Duzer Corridor

Pét Nat or Pétillant Naturel, is a sparkling wine made in the “method anscestral”. In this method, the wine is bottled before the first fermentation is complete so the carbon dioxide from the end of the fermentation is trapped in the bottle. This makes the wine light and fizzy and the alcohol is relatively low. Unfined and unfiltered, you get a little bit of funk here that rounds the wine and makes it warm and comfy. Often people say that Pét Nats are like cider and this one does have that style of aromas and mouthfeel.

Cowhorn

Cowhorn Tasting Room View
Cowhorn Tasting Room View

Well, the name of this winery is definitely a giveaway as to it’s thoughts on biodynamics. Cowhorn is in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley. Bill & Barbara Steele founded the vineyard in 2002. As they researched growing techniques they met some biodynamic growers and found a group of people they could get on board with.

Bill Steele of Cowhorn
Bill Steele of Cowhorn

Bill spent a morning with us this past summer, showing us around the beautiful property, talking about their biodiversity and the biodynamic techniques they use. (Our background photo for this post is the lavender garden on their vineyard.) The vineyard sits at about 1,550 feet in soils best suited to Rhône varieties, so that is what you will find planted here. The soils are alluvial, from when the Applegate river came through the entire area. He also walked us through their wines in their beautiful Living Building certified tasting room.

Cowhorn 2015 Sentience

Cowhorn 2015 Sentience

The Sentience is a Syrah. For this vintage the Sentience came from 10 tons of Syrah harvested on September 29th and 30th (2015). This wine sits at 13.7% abv and is a deep purple that smells of black fruits, herbs and eucalyptus.

Today’s conclusion

So, Michael and I lean toward biodynamic wines. Why is that?

Back to Nature

Perhaps it is the idea of a more natural way of growing, getting back to the earth. Across the board the winemakers and growers we have spoken with say that the most important thing about biodynamics to them is the fact that the vineyards are safe. The animals, children and people who come to the property or live there, can safely wander through the vines without concern for dangerous chemicals.

Like minded people

Perhaps it is the people…I have yet to meet a biodynamic winemaker or grower that I didn’t like. These are practical people who have a reverence for the earth and a passion for keeping it safe while growing something amazing.

Lively wines

Maybe it’s the wine? I have heard it said that biodynamic wines feel more lively in your mouth and for my personal experience I find that to be true. There is something energetic in the way the wine feels in your mouth. I don’t have science to back that, yet.

There is so much more to explore. We will get into the history, as well as the preparations and the science behind them. There are so many great people to speak with and we look forward to sharing our conversations as we continue to explore biodynamics in wine.

You can look forward to a deeper into our conversations with Jack at Johan and Bill at Cowhorn, as well as other winemakers we spoke with like Sarah Hedges at Hedges Family Wine on Red Mountain in Washington’s Yakima Valley or Rod Windrim at Krinklewood Vineyard around the globe in Australia’s Hunter Valley of New South Wales. We find more and more vineyards either growing biodynamically or leaning that way and we will continue to bring you interviews and insights from these individuals.

If you have found biodynamic wineries that you love please share them with us in the comments!

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Cans and kegs – packaging sustainability with Quady North

Picnic with Quady North Rose in a Can

Sustainability. We are all talking about it, but it’s often a struggle with our need for convenience. We spoke with Herb Quady of Quady North in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley about this very topic earlier this year.

Bag in Box & Kegs

Herb has restaurants locally that are carrying bags & kegs of his Quady North wine which is great for sustainability in by the glass programs. The “bag in box” he says is a local phenomenon, which works great for restaurants. They can get a 3 liter bag, which equals 4 bottles of wine for a by the glass program. The cost is less for packaging and there is less waste. (BTW, you can get these too, they are available on his website). Kegs work for restaurants, or stores that have growler programs. Good stainless steel kegs are reusable and save a ton of glass.

Canned Wine

Then there are cans. You may have been skeptical of canned wine, and quite honestly, rightly so. The trend started with lots of bulk wine being pushed into cans for convenience. The taste of the wine wasn’t the can’s fault, it was just bad wine.

These days more and more wineries are getting good juice into a can.

It’s the democratization of wine.

Herb Quady, Quady North Wines

Herb puts his GSM Rosé into can. He tells us one of his best clients is a drive-thru Mexican fusion restaurant. You can get beer by the bottle or his rose in a can to go with your order. There is also a high end restaurant in Seattle that has added a weekly laid back patio party and serves hard seltzers, sangria and the Quady canned rosé.

People that were going to drink something else, now have wine as an option. It’s an opportunity for the industry.

Quady North Rose  blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is bright and fresh.
Quady North Rose

On a Economic level…

There are canning trucks, just like the bottling trucks that many wineries employ. On the subject of cost… Herb says, that they have accepted the fact that they will not live an extravagant lifestyle and focus more on wine and cheese, than trappings and cars. In their mind…

We can offer good wine in a can at an affordable price. We are just doing a service for the people.

Herb Quady, Quady North

Got to love that.

Taste testing, in case you need that

We picked up a 3 pack of the canned GSM Rosé at the tasting room. It got up to 85 degrees today in Vegas (I know…fall in Vegas right?). So we popped a can in the backyard in the sun, and downed it with some lo mein and thai style lemongrass chicken rolls. The wine has great acid to pair with the fat and flavors of the food, and the color is a beautiful light ballet slipper peach/pink . On the nose I got tart strawberry, peach and wet stones. In my mouth it is dry and tart with citrus, zest (Herb mentions that picking the grenache early gives it the citrus skin notes), mineral and stone fruit flavors and it has a surprisingly long finish.

The blend is led by Grenache, followed by a big dollop of Syrah and finished off with a bit of Mourvèdre and a pinch of Cournoise. The exact percentages vary by year, with some years a splash of Vermentino tossed in.

The grapes for this rosé were “specifically planted and grown for Rosé”. They wanted to make a Southern French Style Rosé and found sites to grow the different varieties to have higher acidity.

So…can you get this?

Quady North Rose  blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is bright and fresh.

You can pick up a 3 pack of his canned Rosé at the tasting room or on the website for $16. (that’s 3 – 250 mL cans, which would be equal to a bottle of wine). Abv sits at 12.4% . Wine Enthusiast & Vinous gave it 90 points, and Wine Spectator gave it 89, so, if you are into that kinda thing….

Back to sustainability

All in all, I highly recommend looking out for the planet with these new sustainable ways of enjoying wine. It is good for the planet. We vote often with our wallet.

Look for cans for convenience and environmental sustainability, aluminum is much easier and cheaper to recycle than glass. I’ll leave you a link to a VinePair article on the subject by Nick Hines… Cans or Bottles: What’s Worse for the Environment?

I also hope we can all encourage local restaurants to look into keg wine! It’s so much more affordable for the winery (and as such for the restaurant and us) and this packaging is reusable! This kind of sustainability is good for everyone.

Keep the sustainability conversation going!

Share with us your experiences with other sustainable wine packaging and the changes you are seeing. Do you have a winery or bar locally that does growlers. What about wineries, switching to different glass to leave less of a carbon footprint, or changing from using capsules on the top of bottles. Have you had wine from a keg? Have you seen bag-in-box programs with higher quality wines (not just grocery store)? Let us know in the comments or visit us on social media. Let’s keep this conversation going!

Visiting Quady North

If you are in Southern Oregon, stop by and visit the Quady North Tasting Room at 255 E California St. Jacksonville OR. They are open Wednesday -Sunday 11-6 and Monday’s from Noon to 5.

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Wine Yakima Valley

Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley

We were lucky enough to enjoy a bit of the summer in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley took time out of her day to meet us to talk about the Valley. While we were there she also filled us in on their upcoming event Catch the Crush happening October 12-13th 2019.

We met Barbara initially when we visited the Yakima Valley while attending the Wine Media Conference held here in October of 2018. She had planned a spectacular pre-conference tour highlighting the wine, cider and beers of the area. When we wanted to return to the Valley to visit and speak with winemakers she was a great resource. She graciously assisted us with finding the perfect spots for sunrise and sunset as well as suggesting winemakers to speak with.

We met Barbara at Stems Wine shop in downtown Yakima. Stems is a GREAT place to find wines from all over the region!

Catch the Crush

Catch the Crush is an annual event in the Yakima Valley. Barbara took a bit of time to fill us in on the details. Each of the wineries has their own style of event that you can enjoy with a Premier Pass. And the Premier pass will only set you back $35. If you are able to get to the area and take part, this promises to be a fantastic event!

More on the Yakima Valley Wine Region

I mentioned we spent a bit of time in the Valley…. here are some links to some of the great places we visited.

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The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North

View of the Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor of Oregon's Willamette Valley

The Van Duzer Corridor… it’s the newest AVA in the Willamette Valley and it is also home to one of our favorite wineries Johan. We stopped last year and spent an hour or so with Jack Tregenza in the tasting room and were looking forward to getting back for a more in depth conversation.

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

There is a drop in the Coastal Range of Mountains, creating a Corridor where the cool air from the ocean can come inland. That is the Van Duzer Corridor. Highway 22 takes you out through this river valley all the way to Lincoln City at the ocean ( a drive we would take later that day).

The warm air in the valley pulls in the cooling breezes at night. That diurnal shift (warm days, cool nights) especially as the vineyards close in on harvest, help keep some acid in the wines as they ripen.

Johan

Dag Johan Sundby is from Norway. He came to the Willamette valley with his family to establish this winery and vineyard in Rickreall Oregon. The winemaker here is Dan Rinke. Jack…well Jack is indeed a Jack of all trades, assisting in the vineyard, the winery and managing the tasting room, at least, lucky for us on the day we stopped by. He is a wealth of information and is passionate about this place.

The valley is beautiful and we were out bright and early to meet with Jack. You drive into the property through the trees and come around to the winery and tasting room to overlook the vines.

We set up on the patio to talk with Jack. We covered quite a bit, including why the vineyard was biodynamic and the different certification processes.

Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor

A walk of the vineyard

After our interview we walked the vineyard and Jack showed us some of the newly grafted vines. We took in the views, talked about the blocks and the compost pile (I know, crazy that I get excited over a compost pile).

  • Recently grafted vines at Johan Vineyard in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor

He also showed us a tree stump that they had inoculated for mushrooms.

Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan
Tree stump inoculated for mushrooms at Johan

Back to the tasting room

We returned to the tasting room for a tasting and talked about…so much!

The wines here lean toward Natural. I know that is not an official term. Let’s say many are unfined and unfiltered with minimal intervention. They have some really wonderful sparkling wines a pet nat of Melon that I am enamoured with. It is barrel fermented and hand disgorged and there are only 80 cases made.

  • Pet Nat of Melon de Bourgogne from Johan Vineyards
  • Zero / Zero Pinot Noir from Johan Vineyards
  • Notice the Demeter logo? They are Biodynamic certified here for both the vineyard and winery

We tasted though some beautiful Pinots, talked about bottle closures, wine pod cast, the use of argon…and so much more. Really I could have spent all day talking with Jack, but…he had other things to do and we were off to drive through that Van Duzer Corridor for a little Ocean therapy.

Applegate Valley AVA

The next day saw us up really early to make the drive south back to the Applegate Valley to visit with Herb Quady of Quady North.

Quady North

I first heard Herb Quady’s name when I was talking with Leah Jorgensen about her Blanc de Cab Franc. She sources her Cab Franc from Herb and spoke really highly of him. As we were going to be in the area, I knew I wanted to speak with him. He was kind enough to meet us out at the vineyard.

Panorama of the view from Mae's Vineyard
Panorama of the view from Mae’s Vineyard

We sat on the patio, by the house, the dog curled up under our feet at the table and talked about the vineyard and the varieties he is growing in Mae’s (the first vineyard) and Evie’s the newer vineyard. Both vineyards are named after his daughters.

Happy vines at Quady North's Mae's Vineyard
Happy vines at Quady North’s Mae’s Vineyard

We finished with a vineyard walk. Again, vines with views. The dogs ran around us chasing rabbits and we got in some good cardio (Herb’s a fast walker). Herb headed off to his day and we headed to Jacksonville to visit the tasting room.

The Quady North Tasting room in Jacksonville

Sarah met us in the tasting room and took us through an incredible line up of wines. Some are block specific, like the Ox Block Viognier, which we had just walked earlier that morning. Others like the Pistoleta are blends. The Pistoleta is a Rhône white blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne & Grenach Blanc.

They also do some canned wines! Their Rose comes in a 3 pack. A Southern Rhône style blend, it’s led by Grenache at 55%, then 39% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 2% Vermentino and a splash 1% Counoise. Canned wine is accessible and rosé is the kind of wine you want accessible in the summer. They have a canning truck that comes by (just like a bottling truck) to package this.

There’s lots more to tell, but you will get the full scoop later. This was the last of our wine stops. From here, we headed south to Yosemite for a little nature meditation before returning to the desert.

Watch for future posts with our in depth interviews with both Jack and Herb!

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The Scenic Route Part 7 – Du Brul to Hiyu

Cote Bonneville Dubrul Vineyard

Our time in Washington was nearing it’s end. Morning had us traveling from Walla Walla west to the Yakima Valley once again to visit with Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville. We met her for an interview at their tasting room in Sunnyside.

Côte Bonneville

Driving through the small town of Sunnyside you come upon a quaint restored building that was previously a train station. When Hugh and Kathy Shiels moved to the area, Hugh set up practice as an orthopedic surgeon. The renovated Train Station was his office for many years. It has now become their beautiful tasting room.

Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington
Cote Bonneville, Tasting Room Sunnyside Washington

Kerry is a wealth of information on the area and the science behind the vineyard and wine making. Kerry has an engineering degree, which she put to use with Fiat in Italy, before returning to get a degree in Viticulture and Enology and then taking over as winemaker. She is smart and intense, a woman who made her way in the male dominated engineering field.

DuBrul Vineyard

We headed to their DuBrul vineyard before things warmed up too much. The drive up to the top was a little sketchy for our Kia hybrid, but we made it. The mountains were both out (Mt Adams and Mt. Ranier) as we reached the top of the vineyard to walk through the vines.

Own rooted vines

We talked about the aspect of this vineyard, which allows them to grow so many varieties well and discussed the difference with own rooted vines.

“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.

Kerry Shiels of Côte Bonneville and DuBrul Vineyard
Dubrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels
DuBrul Vineyard with Kerry Shiels

This is certain to be a topic we hear more about and lamented over as phyloxera has been found in Washington and precautions will need to be taken. I will tell you that I find the difference in the character of the wines from own rooted stock undeniable and wonderful.

You can look forward to hearing much of our conversation in future posts. It was really a fascinating morning.

Co Dinn Cellars

We made a stop to visit Co at his tasting room at Co Dinn Cellars. Co also has a renovated historic building in Sunnyside. His winery and tasting room are in the old Water Works. It’s a gorgeous space.

  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room
  • Co dinn Cellars Tasting Room

He showed us around and took us through a tasting. We also had an amazing conversation on closures…more on that later.

We headed back to the Gorge and through Hood River then off to Hiyu on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge AVA.

Hiyu Wine Farm

Go to the website…the water colors will enchant you. I was sucked in immediately and knew that I needed to visit this place.

Hiyu is 30 acres of wine farm. There is a sense of wildness here. Nate Ready, a Master Sommelier and China Tresemer fell in love with the beauty of this region. This place is undeniably stunning, with it’s glorious views of Mt. Hood.

The idea didn’t begin with wine. They really wanted to cultivate a lifestyle. From 7 acres in 2010 it expanded to take in another 20 acres in 2015.

We arrived a bit early, and walked in to see if it was okay if we explored the property. There was a bit of chaos happening, the goats had just escaped and there was some scurrying to round them up.

Community within the staff

The farm has a staff that includes a handful of interns. Duties rotate weekly, so everyone gets to do each of the jobs. This insures that no one takes for granted the job someone else is doing. It has a little 60’s 70’s nostalgia feel to me. A little feel of a hippy commune, and I’m down for that.

  • Hiyu Beet Pairing
  • Hiyu Smockshop Band
  • Hiyu Smockshop Band
  • Hiyu Wines
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Goats
  • Hiyu Ducks
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Farm
  • Hiyu Vineyard

Gardens

The garden in front of the tasting room is an edible food forest. You will find Goji berries and rock herbs here seasonally. We headed up the hill to the garden. Wild and overgrown, the things that were complete for the season were taking their natural course, going to seed to prepare for the next season. There are flowers and herbs, annuals and perennials, artichokes, favas and cardoons.

Vineyard

From here we walked the vineyard and then up to the hill where the view of Mt. Hood is simply breath taking. Winter to spring the cows, pigs and chickens wander through the vines, grazing and fertilizing. There is an acre of pear trees left. They have a green house and make compost on site.

Falcon boxes protect the vineyard. And they have grafted field blends. They don’t hedge the vines here, allowing them to be a little more wild, and do just 1 pass with a scythe. Cinnamon is used to prevent powdery mildew.

Livestock & Animals

There are cows and guinea fowl. A 100 year old irrigation ditch feeds the pasture and gardens. We wound down by the pond and visited with the ducks and came around to the goats. Phoebe the matriarch stood on the fender of the horse trailer. They were fiesty, but contained once more.

There are hawthorn trees and over by the house there are currants. I was reminded of days as a child on mountain farms in West Virginia. Life is allowed to thrive and be wild and perhaps a bit messy.

Mt. Hood

The day ended with spectacular views of Mt. Hood. We leave you hear with a bit of spectacular nature.

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Corsica – An Island and it’s wines #Winophiles

Famous pine tree on Palombaggia beach with azure clear water and sandy beach on the south part of Corsica, France

Close your eyes. When I say Corsica, what comes to mind.  Cliff side villages, overlooking the bluest of waters, sea breezes, perhaps a crisp white wine to take the edge off the heat?

Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side
Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side

This island sits closer to Italy than France, but…it is French, although the people consider themselves decidedly Corsican.  The culture blends Italian and French foods and language.

Map of Corsica
Map of Corsica

Red from the Mountains, White from the Sea – Wines of Corsica

Vermentino, the leading white grape of the island, may be called Rolle as it is in France or Vermentinu as it was on the bottle I picked up. Sangiovese is the prominent red, known here as Niellucciu.

Corsican wines are not so easy to come by, but can be really affordable when you find them.  We searched around town, to no avail with our local wine shops and ended up picking these up at Total Wine, who had a selection from 3 producers.

Alba di Diana Corse

Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica
Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica

This wine from Domaine de Terra Vecchia is 100% Vermentinu (or Vermentino). $14.99 srp

The Estate is on the East Coast of Corsica facing the Tyrrhenian Sea that sits between Corsica and Italy. On the map above you can see the city of Aleria where you will find Domaine de Terra Vecchia. Vineyards here are between the mountains and the Etang de Diana, a lagoon where they harvest mussels and oysters.

Vines were planted here in the 19th century on a little property on the edge of the Etang de Diana. Jean-François Renucci acquired the Domaine, replanted with Corsican grape varieties and converted the vineyard to organic farming.

Clos Sulana

Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016
Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016

The other wine we found is from Clos Sulana in the Centru di Corsica. Clos Sulana is located in the mountains around the village of Morosaglia in the Central part of Corsica. Vineyards here enjoy high altitudes at the foot of a chain of mountains with wide temperature variations.

Clos Sulana is produced by Domaine Vico. Their vineyards were originally planted in 1901 by Jean Vico. The family now has 49 hectares with soils of schist, basalt, granite and pebbles that sit between 850 and almost 1200 feet at the foot of the mountains.

The Clos Sulana Rouge is a Red wine made of 40% Niellucciu (the Corsican name for Sangiovese), 40% Sciaccarellu and 20% Syrah.  Okay…”Sciaccarellu”, you ask? Well, it is a dark skinned grape grown primarily in Corsica, although you will find it in Tuscany where it is known as Mammolo. This grape has soft tannins, red fruit and a peppery note. The wine sits at 13.5 abv. $11.99 srp

Foods of Corsica

Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,
Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,

Meats & Cheeses

Corsica is well known for its sheep and goat milk cheeses and cured meats. The cured meats here are made from the meat of free range pigs who live the life feeding on chestnuts (another important product of the island) and acorns.

Fish & Seafood

The east coast of the island, as I mentioned, has oyster farms. Other fish you find locally include anchovies & sardines, red mullet and langoustine. The island does have fresh water fish in it’s rivers so trout and eel can be found.

Stews & Pastas – Herbs, fruits and veggies

Soups and stews are popular with wild boar, chesnuts and fennel or veal, olives, tomatoes and herbs, always with a splash of wine in the pot.

Pastas are also popular (I mean…this is a stones throw from Italy). When it comes to vegetables, think mediterranean with tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. You can readily find fruits like peaches, clementines and figs. Olives and olive oil of course are staples. They have a group of herbs called “maquis”. This blend is of thyme, juiper, myrtle, oregano, basil and different types of mint. This is the scent of the island. They also have an AOC for honey, which carries the notes of the “maquis”.

Food Pairings

I searched locally for Brocciu, a non-lactose cheese that is a common ingredient in recipes. No luck. This is a fresh cheese and is similar to ricotta, so I used that instead. You will also find Tommette de Chèvre (a strong goat milk cheese), Corsu Vecchiu 9a semi-hard sheep milk cheese, Niulincu (a tangy cheese from the middle of the island) and ….Casgiu merzu (stand back, this is like Sardinia “rotting cheese” and comes complete with insect larvae).

Oysters

In my research on the Etang de Diana found that both oysters and mussels were farmed here. So it seemed a no-brainer to pick up 1/2 dozen oysters on the half shell to pair with a wine from a vineyard with a view of the Etang.

Oysters on the half shell
Oysters on the half shell

Sturzapreti

I found a delicious sounding recipe for Sturzapreti, a gnocchi like dumpling, with chard and brocciu cheese. The dumplings called for chard, brocciu cheese (for which I subbed ricotta), a potato, an egg, fresh mint and parsley. These ingredients get mixed up and then par boiled. I’ll admit, my first batch made soup! It all disintegrated in the water. I was more careful with the rest. They then went into an oven dish, and I used beef stock to half cover them and topped them with emmental cheese. This baked until brown. The mint and cheese really was lovely and went well with the Vermentino.

  • Ingredients for Sturzapreti
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings

Gnocchi with roasted zucchini, eggplant and sausage

We mixed the pasta and stew idea and did gnocchi with roasted zucchini and eggplant, tomatoe, thyme & sausage.

Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zuchinni and sausage
Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zucchini and sausage

Our charcuterie platter

We tied in the olives, wild boar sausage and peaches and added a bit to round out the platter with other things in the fridge and cupboard.

Cheese & Charcuterie platter with olives, peaches, blackberries, strawberries, emmental, wild boar sausage & almonds.
Cheese & Charcuterie platter

All in all this was a pretty nice tasting! The wines we picked up were Vin Corse. These were the most widely distributed of the wines from these producers and I would love to dig deeper into the higher quality wines from the island. The Vermentino was good with the food, but uninspiring on it’s own (I must admit to being very spoiled with good Vermentino). The Red wine, again was good, for opening a bottle and having some food, but I am sure that this producer has some wonderful wines that have more depth and detail and I look forward to exploring those in the future.

The French #Winophiles!

This is just the tip of the island! The French #Winophiles have gathered to talk about the wines of Corsica this month. Head to twitter and follow #Winophiles to join the conversation! We will be live on Saturday September 21st at 11 am EST!

You can also dive into the pieces below for lots more on Corsican wines!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Friday Night Pizzas + Domaine Poli Niellucciu Rosé 2018”
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares “Wines from Corsica? Of “Corse”  (#winophiles)”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Mixiote de Pescado Paired with Domaine Petroni Corse Rosé”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Spaghetti and meatballs for a Corsican wine (#Winophiles)”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Corsica Rose with Salmon Crespelle and Currant Clafoutis #Winophiles
Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Corsica: The Maquis, The Mountains, The Sea (#winophiles)”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Corsica; French with a lot of Italian Influence”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Drench Yourself in the Sunshine of Corsica with Domaine Petroni Rosé Corse 2018 and Provençal Vegetable Gratin”
Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Corsican Happiness: Domaine Giacometti Sempre Cuntentu Sciaccarellu with a Flavorful Seafood Stew”

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

The Scenic Route Part 6 – Visiting Rioja in Washington and dinner at a gas station in Walla Walla

Valdemar Estates in Washington's Walla Walla AVA

It was a quiet morning as we drove south of Walla Walla toward the Oregon border. Pulling off Peppers Bridge Road into an area with several large wineries, we headed to the one that stood out architecturally. This was Valdemar. Bodgas Valdemar is known in the Rioja region of Spain, and has ventured to Washington to explore making wines of place here.

Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla

  • Valdemar Estates Winery and Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington
  • Entrance to Valdemar Estates Winery and Tasting Room

Modern with clean lines the building evokes the feel of the modern architecture seen in Spain. There were few cars here at this point and we headed to what we thought was the front entrance, an immense door that stood a full story tall. Natasha let us in and we met Kaleigh Vrapi, the Valdemar Estates Hospitality Director. We were led upstairs around the stunning space as things started to open up for the day. After a stop in the tasting room, we headed out to the patio next to the fountain with a beautiful view of the Blue Mountains for our interview with Kaleigh.

  • Basket Press at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla Washington
  • The Barrel Room at Valdemar in Walla Walla Washington

The sparkling winery

After our interview, which we will share with you later, Kaleigh led us through the rest of the space in this beautiful facility. Down the open stairway that spans the full height of the space, past the antique basket press, into the barrel rooms and finally into the winery, to meet Assistant Winemaker Devyani Gupta. Devyani was awaiting the crane to install new fermentation tanks that morning. As the truck had not yet arrived, she took a few moments to show us around the sparkling facility.

The Working Winery at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla Washington
The Working Winery at Valdemar Estates

Flights of Rioja & Washington

Kaleigh then led us back up to the tasting room and took us through a tasting. Tastings here are done as flights and we began with a couple of flights from Bodegas Valdemar beginning with their rosé of Garnacha & Viura, followed by their barrel fermented Viura and then into the reds, which as you would expect…are Tempranillo based.

Now it was time to move on to the Vlademar Estate Wines, which are labeled as “Component Trial” . This exploration into the wines of this region features labels are perfect for the geeky wine nerd, listing vineyards by percentage, as well as the harvest notes etc.

Valdemar Estates Component Trial 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Valdemar Estates Component Trial 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley

All of their Washington wines are Syrah. The first of these is their Blue Mountain Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley, then they have 2 from Red Mountain. The Red Mountain Syrah is a blend of syrah from Kipsun and La Coye vineyards and then they have a vineyard specific Klipsun Syrah.

This is the perfect place to come and explore wine and food pairings. Find a comfortable spot with a view, chose a flight or two, then ask your server for suggested pairings from their Tapas and Pinchos menu. They are all about hospitality here.

A stroll in Walla Walla

We headed back to Walla Walla and after a stroll, stopped in to the Cadaretta tasting room. In October with WBC18 we had been treated to an extraordinary dinner at Cadaretta’s glass house. We needed to get back and explore some more of their wines.

Cadaretta Tasting Room

Cadaretta Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington
Cadaretta Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington

In the tasting room, Greta was a friendly face! We had met her at the Glass House. She took us through a tasting and we left happily with a bottle or two.

My Dinner at Andrae’s

(Can anyone give me a shout out for that movie reference?)

Now we were ready for dinner and dinner had a plan! At our dinner at Doubleback back in October, Chef Andrae of Andrae’s Kitchen had put together a spectacular meal. Thaddeus Bugs of the Minority Wine Report had gushed about his food when we arrived and asked if we had been to the gas station? What? Well, now were were back to do just that.

Andrae's Kitchen at the Cenex gas station on Rose Street in  Walla Walla Washington
Andrae’s Kitchen at the Cenex gas station on Rose Street in Walla Walla Washington

Chef Andrae Bopp has a resume filled with work in restaurants like Balthazar and Le Bernardin. His current restaurant and catering business run out of the Cenex Gas Station on Rose Street in Walla Walla. His food is impeccable, but he keeps it real. Unsure of what to expect, we pulled into the Cenex, but the sign over the door let us know we were in the right place.

I stood back to peruse the chalkboard menu for a bit. It was a tough decision, but we settled on AK’s Corn Salad, Poutine and a combo of tacos. The kitchen runs like a well oiled machine. The staff are polite, attentive and obviously in love with the food they are making. We kicked back at table up front to wait while they did their magic. Chef Andrae came in while we were there to check in. We grabbed our to go order and headed back to the hotel to indulge in some deliciousness to end our day and our stay in Walla Walla.

Rest for another day…

Tomorrow we would spend a good deal of the day driving. First it would be back to Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley to meet Kerry Shiels and visit her Du Brul vineyard and a stop to see Co Dinn at his Sunnyside tasting room. Then we would drive back to the gorge through Hood River and up to Hiyu with their stunning view of Mt. Hood. We would finish our day with views of Mt. Hood as we headed back to Salem Oregon for the night. Join us for more!

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The Scenic Route Flash Tour 2019 Part 5 – One day 3 Washington AVAs

Grapes at Hedges Family Estate in Washington's Red Mountain AVA

Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA

Vines on the top of Snipes Mountain at Roskamp Vineyard in Washington's Yakima Valley
Vines on the top of Snipes Mountain at Roskamp Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley

After a good nights sleep, we were up early, but not too early, (not pre-dawn like the day before!) to meet Co Dinn up at Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org
Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

As you are driving through the Yakima Valley, Snipes Mountain is hard to miss. It bubbles up in the middle of the Valley on the south side of the highway. Snipes Mountain, named for Ben Snipes who had a cattle ranch here in the 1850’s, is it’s own AVA.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

Meeting Co Dinn on Snipes Mountain

The View from Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain Yakima Valley Washington
Roskamp Vineyard View on Snipes Mountain Yakima Valley Washington

We were scheduled to meet Co Dinn of Co Dinn Cellars here early in the day. There was plenty of time, as we headed out early and followed the GPS. But the %/&*#$* &% GPS led us astray, trying to take us in the back way, where there are locked gates and dirt roads. We called Co and got back on track and eventually met him off the mountain, which gave him an opportunity to stop and show us some of the soil strata on our way up.

Syrah with a view.  Co Dinn's block at Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain in Washington's Yakima Valley
Syrah with a view!

At the top of the mountain we visited a beautiful block of Co’s Syrah, while he filled us in on the soil and we took in the expansive views. He got pretty detailed on the soils and geology, so we will save that for our in depth interview with him later.

Chardonnay vines on Roskamp vineyard Snipes Mountain AVA Yakima Valley Washington
Chardonnay vines on Roskamp vineyard

We also visited his Chardonnay block that looks north toward Sunnyside and across to DuBrul Vineyard. We look forward to doing a comparitive tasting of these two Chardonnays later this year.

After a great morning we looked at the clock and realized it was time to get moving. Luckily would be back this way so we scheduled to join him at his tasting room in a couple days. Now it was back on the road, we had to continue our journey east to Red Mountain.

Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA

Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley's Red Mountain AVA
Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley’s Red Mountain AVA

We drove east and passed Red Mountain to the North of the highway. The entrance to the area is on the east side of the mountain. As we were running just a bit early, we headed toward Richland to find some coffee. We found a great quaint coffee shop, with a friendly staff, good coffee and bags of cherries for sale on the counter. After a cup of joe we were back on the road to Red Mountain and to Hedges Family Estate.

Map Yakima Valley 2019 courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org

The Red Mountain AVA has been getting quite a bit of press lately. The AVA is not actually the whole mountain, but the South facing slope. This is (currently) the smallest AVA in the state at 4040 acres. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah here are bold and powerful and are thought to be some of the finest examples of these varieties in the state.

Sarah Hedges Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate Winemaker

When we were deciding on a winery to visit in this region, we were drawn to the fact that Hedges Family Estate is biodynamic on their vineyard. (You know biodynamics is my jam!). We reached out and Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the winemaker for Hedges Family Estate was able to meet with us.

Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington's Yakima Valley
Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington’s Yakima Valley

The property is stunning. You drive up the the beautifully landscaped French Chateau and enter another world. Sarah’s mother is French and had a great influence on the design. I could have happily spent the day reclining in the garden.

Sarah was in a meeting when we arrived, but soon joined us on the patio under the trees, next to the fountain, overlooking the vineyard. It was a pretty enchanting spot. She shared with us her story and her family’s. We dove into their going biodynamic, moving to native ferment, the old world philosophies in the vineyard and winery as well as about slowing down. Sarah has been known to play meditation and yoga music in the winery to assist fermentation. The staff looked at her skeptically at first, but they couldn’t deny the results.

Into the Tasting Room

After our interview we moved into the tasting room for a tasting with Sophia. This winery has multiple labels and the selection we tasted through was vast and included some barrel samples that Sarah brought in for us. We look forward to sharing all those details with you later.

We headed out to grab some vineyard shots and then jumped back in the car to make our way east to Walla Walla.

Walla Walla “The city so nice they named it twice”

We spent time in Walla Walla last year for WBC18, so we knew a little of the lay of the land coming in. We stopped for a really delicious lunch at the Walla Walla Bread Company. I will throw out a high recommendation here, for if you ever find yourself in this town.

Walla Walla AVA

Walla Walla AVA
Walla Walla AVA courtesy of WashingtonWine.org

While we spent time in Walla Walla on our last trip, we really have yet to “dig into” this AVA. The area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state. Rainfall in the valley varies, but some vineyards on the east side have the ability to dry farm, which is rare in Washington. The eastern side also gets into the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains.

The region is known for reds with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon dominating the plantings.

Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA

We had time to check into the hotel, before heading north of the city to visit Tim & Jennifer Armstrong of Armstrong Family Winery at their Valley Grove Vineyard. The drive took us through vast wheat fields, rolling as far as the eye could see. The hills rolled and sometimes you were engulfed in nothing but wheat. Eventually we came to a green patch near a creek and turned into the vineyard. The old red barn is an iconic landmark.

View from the patio at Armstrong

Tim and Jennifer met with us at a picnic table on the back patio overlooking the vineyard. We talked about their journey into wine, their Seattle winery and then walked the vineyards talking about their plans for this place.

Off to the Walla Walla Tasting Room

All too soon it was time for us to leave. They were packing up to fly out on a well needed vacation to the East Coast in the morning. We determined we had not had enough and headed downtown to their tasting room. It was jazz night, so they were open late with live music. Carl runs the tasting room and it also happened to be his birthday. We arrived early and grabbed a table in the back and watched as every table filled up. Carl did an amazing job of keeping up with the busy room.

Time to rest for the next great day

We were a little tired, so we looked for a pizza spot nearby and grabbed a pizza to go. I’ll send a shout out to Sweet Basil Pizzaria for great service and a great pie!

Off to bed to rest up. Our morning stop would be the beautiful Valdemar, followed by some time in Walla Walla and dinner at the Gas station.

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The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 4 – Naches Heights and Yakima Valley

Wilridge Sunrise Washington Naches Heights AVA

Day 5

What were we thinking!? A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot in Washington! Days here are longer. In July they are about 15 hrs. Sunset was 8:57 pm and sunrise is about 5:15 am. At least today we did not have a ton of driving to do.

Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise
Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise

We were up really early to get out to Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA before the sun. Paul Beverage, the owner, couldn’t join us that early, but was happy to give us permission to shoot on this beautiful property. We quietly pulled in. They allow camping on the property and there was an RV out front with people tucked away sleeping, as we were arriving before sunrise to set up.

Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA was approved in 2012 and was the first Washington AVA to be completely sustainable. All 7 initial vineyards were biodynamic or LIVE certified. This AVA is in Yakima County, but sits outside (north and west) of the Yakima Valley AVA.

We’ve talked about the Missoula Floods that washed through this area. I remember speaking with David O’Reilly of Owen Roe at their Union Gap Vineyard. We stood toward the top of his vineyard at 1,200 feet and were at the top of the Missoula Flood level. Naches Heights sits between 1,200 and 2,100 feet, so the entire plateau is above the Missoula Floods.

The plateau was formed as a lava flow from the Cascades cooled. The soil here is known as Tieton Loam Loess. The high elevation means less chance of winter damage in the vineyard.

Wilridge Vineyard

Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington

Paul Beverage started his winery in Seattle back in 1988. In 2007 he planted Wilridge Vineyard near Yakima. The vineyard was planted to be Certified Organic and Biodynamic.

They consider themselves a “Recreational Vineyard”. There are bike trails and hikes, and they have a map to guide you around the vineyard and to the cliff trail hikes in Cowiche Canyon. You can even rock climb on the Andesite rock cliffs where the vineyard has bolted anchors.

Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room at Wilridge Vineyard
Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room

You can also just kick back on the porch of the 100 year old farmhouse that is their tasting room and enjoy the views and the wild (or not so wild) life. The cats are friendly. Rachel, a young black cat, came running up to me meowing and spent part of the morning purring and curling up in my lap!

Rachel, the vineyard cat. She ran up to me from across the porch meowing and demanded to sit in my lap and be petted! How could I not ablige.

  • Sunrise with vines a Wilridge Vineyard in Washington's Naches Heights AVA
  • Wilridge Sunrise & lavender Washington Naches Heights AVA
  • The Wilridge logo painted on the door at the farmhouse
  • Tree swing and tables for enjoying a glass or a bottle at Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington
  • Flowers and farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard, Naches Heights AVA
  • Grapes in the morning sun at Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA of Washington State
  • The 100 year old Farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard

The farmhouse has 3 AirBnb rooms, they take reservations for RV parking and you can camp in the vineyard! Staying here, gives you the luxury of waking up and taking in the gorgeous sunrise in your PJ’s with a cup of Joe in hand.

Back to the Yamika Valley AVA

JB Neufeld

Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars in Washington's Yakima Valley AVA
Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars

Justin of JB Neufeld made some time in his morning to talk with us about his Cabernets. In addition to his own label, he is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars and we met him on their beautiful property on Hackett Ranch.

The bees buzzed happily in the lavender behind us as we chatted with a view of the beautiful gardens and amphitheatre here on the property.

Justin is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. He looks to how this grape expresses itself in different soils and climates within Washington. We had a fascinating discussion with him on how he pulls the best out of each of his vineyard designates from Red Mountain to Red Willow, across the entire Yakima Valley, to create a beautiful complex blend of Cabernet. We also talked about microflora in the soil and about the wines he makes with Gilbert. You can expect us to share more of this interview later!

Wine Yakima Valley

When we visited Washington before for #WBC18, we met Barbara Glover who had put together the pre-conference tour for Wine Yakima Valley. Barbara was instrumental in helping us connect with vineyard owners and winemakers for this trip to the Yakima Valley. We were excited to meet with her and talk about all the exciting developments in the Yakima Valley Wine Region.

She arranged for us to meet her at Stems, a wine shop in downtown Yakima. We met Brad the owner and were able to talk Yakima Wine. In addition to the great interview with Barbara, it was fun to just chat with them about the region, it’s people and culture.

Stems Yakima

Brad mentioned that when he opened Stems, he planned to be just focus on Washington Wines. Local demand to learn more about other regions has him holding events including wines from outside the region. The thirst for knowledge (and wine) is alive and well in Yakima! This is a great place to pick up a bottle or twelve of wine and anything wine related that you can imagine.

Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington
Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington with Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley.

Los Hernandez

Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington
Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington

When we asked where to grab lunch, everyone said the same thing…Los Hernandez. We did a piece on our delicious lunch here.

Treveri

The lawn at Trevari
The lawn at Treveri

We were running early for our tasting at Owen Roe, so we thought we would stop by Treveri. I mean who can pass up bubbles after filling up on tamales!

As we were filled with tamales, we passed on the cheese and charcuteries offerings, but…if you are in the area, this is a great stop for bubbles and a snack. Tastings are seated and are free. We found a spot outside. The clouds had rolled in and it actually got a little humid (which is not typical for this area!). It was just mere moments before an attentive host came to talk us through the menu. It felt a bit luxurious to sit and enjoy the view and have someone continually bring you new bubbles to try.

These are good affordable bubbles. Your tasting will take you through bubbles that go from Brut Zero to Demi Sec with their sweetness levels and in addition to the traditional Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay, they have a rosé of Syrah and Chardonnay and the Demi-Sec sparkler we tasted was of Gewurztraminer.

Owen Roe

When we were here last October we attended a dinner at Owen Roe’s Union Gap vineyard. I had an opportunity to walk the winery with owner David O’Reilly as well as do a vineyard tour with him. As we walked the vineyard we tasted the Owen Roe wines on, in the blocks the grapes were harvested from.

But Owen Roe has many more wines than just the Union Gap vineyard designates. They pull from Red Willow for their Chapel Series, as well as from DuBrul, Olsen, Outlook and Elerding here in the Yakima Valley for many of their other wines (and they do have a really wide selection of wines!) They also source from the Willamette Valley from vineyards across 4 different AVAs. When we knew we were going to be back in the area, we knew that we wanted to sit down and taste through their wines.

Barrels, Owen Roe, Yakima Valley, Tasting Room, Barrel Room, Union Gap
Owen Roe’s Union Gap Tasting room is in the winery. Now filled with barrels some of which make for private tasting areas.

Tasting with Brandon at Owen Roe

The space looked so much different than our last visit! Our October visit was during harvest and the winery was filled with fermentation bins! Now there were stacks of barrels, some of which created a private tasting area and this was where Brandon set us up for our tasting.

Brandon set us up with a wide and large tasting through many of their wines and we promise we will walk you through that tasting in the not so distant future.

It was still early when we finished at Owen Roe, but we were bushed! We picked up some dinner and crashed early. The next day would be early again. Co Dinn was meeting us at Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipe Mountain AVA, early in the day. Next we would drive on to Red Mountain to visit with Sarah Goedhart at Hedges Family Estate. Then we would be making the drive to Walla Walla to meet Tim & Jennifer Amstrong at their vineyard. So stay tuned!

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