The Valley Grove Vineyard and the future of Armstrong Family Winery

Vines running North to South in the Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA

The Valley Grove Vineyard

It was a lovely afternoon in the Walla Walla Valley and Tim & Jennifer walked us around the property. (You can hear the crunch, crunch of the gravel under our feet in the video). Their Valley Grove Vineyard is located just north of Walla Walla Washington.

From the Blue Mountains to the Ocean

We walked down to where they hope to build their winery. Tim pointed out the tree line, which is the property line. It is also where the creek flows. This creek flows into the Walla Walla River, then into the Snake River and eventually into the Columbia River. Then the Columbia carries this water through Portland Oregon and finally out to the Pacific Ocean. The creek is fed by the Blue Mountains, which we can see in the distance. Over the course of a year the creek rises and falls pretty dramatically. Rain or snow melt will see it rise 5 to 6 feet beyond where we see it now.

The vision for the future

Where the winery will be…

The winery will be built in this area facing the Blue Mountains to the west. They will landscape and add some more vineyard. The idea is to include a porch where people can take in this view. There will be grass. It will be a place where people can wander and take in the splendor. (Oh dear…yes, I have been binging West World)

The park

We walk on to the pond, the area they like to call The Park. It is a man made irrigation pond. Already it is beautiful, with lavender around the edges and some fish. They will landscape here and picture dinners and maybe a band. (They have Wednesday night Jazz at their Walla Walla tasting room, an event we will get to later on this day).

History on display

The bare cliff wall below the Audrey block at Amstrong Family Winery's Valley Grove Vineyard
The bare cliff wall below the Audrey block at Amstrong Family Winery’s Valley Grove Vineyard

We walk on beyond a bridge that straddles the creek and turn to see this amazing exposure of soil, a cliff or ledge of sorts, beneath the Audrey block of Cabernet. Here you can see the layers of wind blown loess that the roots are growing through, and eventually the layers of ancient riverbed.

Nature won't be kept down.  A couple of reborn volunteers in one of the pulled up blocks at Amstrong Family Winery's Valley Grove Vineyard
Nature won’t be kept down. A couple of reborn volunteers in one of the pulled up blocks

We walk to another old vineyard patch. There are a few straggly vines popping up. This used to be a vineyard but with winter damage they determined to pull it up. Still, vines struggles to continue, trying to come back. Eventually they will plant vines here again. They are pondering on Cab Franc, or Riesling or perhaps Gamay. While there is not much of any Gamay planted in Walla Walla, Tim things it might do well. It’s cold hardy and you can harvest it early to make a lighter red or rosé.

The historic barn

  • Armstrong Family Winery Barn at the Valley Grove Vineyard built in 1895 with clouds above
  • Armstrong Family Winery Barn at the Valley Grove Vineyard built in 1895

As we walk to the barn, Tim tells us why he feels the so important.

The thing about it is that it kind of connects this site to the history of this land. This is agriculture and it has been agriculture.  It’s just really neat to have that history here and be able to tell the story about how, it wasn’t grapes, but people have been farming here for a really long time.  We like the historical character that that barn brings to the property and how it ties us to the history.

Tim Armstrong, July 2019

The barn dates to 1895 and they do have it registered with the Heritage Barn Register. Considering the shape it is in, it is probably beyond repair, as far as actually turning it into a usable building from health department standards. Barns were not built for those kind of things. Still the historic character of this building and it’s iconic presence on the property…they will keep it for it’s historic character.

The vines are older than they look

We walk on to the Emily block of Cabernet which you drive past to arrive at the house and cottage. The vines here are almost 20 years old, but by looking at them you would not immediately know this. When they bought the vineyard, there was some extreme winter damage and the vines needed to be retrained. They have spent the last few years doing just that. The vines were cut back to the roots, the new shoots grew to become the trunk and now after 3 years they were going to get their first harvest in 2019. This is different than planting new vines, the grapes have the advantage of a root system that has already had time to dig deep.

When you look closely you can see that the base of the plant is pretty big. Where it enters the ground the base is about 1 foot in diameter. Tim pointed out the suckers at the bottom of the vines.

This is the grapevine basically saying “I’ve got tons of energy in my root system, more energy than the canopy is currently supporting based on the trunk size.”  So it is just pushing up suckers. We’ve been through here to clean this up once this year, an we’ll go through to clean it up again, here in the next couple of weeks.

Tim Armstrong, July 2019

Clones and canopy management

This is all clone 4 cabernet. Clone 4 is the Mendoza clone which was imported from Argentina. This clone is noted for it’s typicality, the herbal character that Cabernet Sauvignon is known for.

Vines running North to South in the Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA
Vines running North to South in the Valley Grove Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA

Vineyards here run north south, so canopy management is pretty straight forward. The morning side of the vines will have the leaves thinned to allow the grapes to soak up the sun. On the afternoon side, where the sun will be much hotter, they allow the vines more sprawl, leaves covering and protecting the bunches of grapes from sunburn.

Other sources

While this year they will make their first estate wine from the Valley Grove vineyard, they have been making wine since 2010. In that time they have connected with several vineyards where they continue to source fruit. They are making wines that are both Walla Walla AVA as well as Columbia Valley AVA.

Tim tells us about Discovery Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.

they have this amazing vineyard site that sits up above the Columbia River, literally on the bluff above the river, looking into Oregon. It’s just this gorgeous site with the wind coming up the river all day long. 

Tim Armstrong on the Discovery Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills, July 2029

In addition, they pull fruit from Walla Walla’s Seven Hills Vineyard. Seven Hills is one of the 1st commercial vineyards in Walla Walla. From the Yakima Valley they source from Dineen, outside of Zillah and Sugarloaf. The Bogie’s blend we tasted with them on the patio is a Syrah/Cab Franc blend that comes from Elephant Mountain. (add the link to elephant Mountain)

Visiting them

While they work toward building their winery on site, they work out of a Walla Walla custom crush facility. But don’t worry, there are lots of ways to experience their wine. They have tasting rooms in both Woodinville (outside Seattle) and in Walla Walla. The Walla Walla tasting room is charming with a great staff and Jazz on Wednesday nights. If you want to see the barn and the beautiful Valley Grove Vineyard, you can book a stay at the Armstrong Vineyard Cottage. This beautiful vacation rental on the property has two bedrooms and a wrap around porch, a full kitchen and a fireplace. You are likely to meet Bogie, their beagle or the resident cats, while you take in the breathtaking views.

  • Armstrong Family Winery tasting room in Walla Walla Washington
  • Winery tasting room Located at 14 W. Main Street in Walla Walla
  • Beautiful exposed brick and the backdoor to the Armstrong Family Winery Tasting Room in Walla Walla

Armstrong Family Winery

The Walla Walla Tasting Room is located at

14 W Main St
Walla Walla, WA
509-524-8494

The Woodinville Tasting Room

19151 144th Ave. NE, Ste. I
Woodinville, WA 98072

If you are interested in staying at the guest house check out this link https://www.armstrongwinery.com/visit/guesthouse/

You can see more on the history of Armstrong Family Wines here

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

Amstrong Family Winery – The Journey to Washington

Armstrong Family Estate Vineyard, Walla Walla, Washington

We were driving through rolling hills of fields of wheat for as far as the eye could see. You’ve seen it. It’s popular for car commercials these days, and for good reason. It’s spectacular, and eerie. The vastness makes you feel at once both immense in this wide open vista and extremely small.

So this is wine country? You wouldn’t guess that from the scenery. We were driving North out of the city of Walla Walla Washington, past the penitentiary and into the open fields of wheat. Finally, we turned and came upon a green patch. Turning in, we crossed the creek to a spot of green with trees, vineyard, a house and cottage and a spectacular historic barn.

This is the Armstrong Family Winery’s Valley Grove Vineyard. It is their home and an oasis in the wheat fields. We sat with Tim & Jennifer Armstrong on their back patio overlooking the Audrey block of cabernet sauvignon.

It started in Chicago

Neither of them were really into wine to start with. It wasn’t part of their lives, even as young adults (I can relate to this personally). When they got married, Tim had a little interest in wine. He had been to New York and someone poured him a glass of Opus One (lucky guy). Well, this hooked him on Bordeaux wines and soon enough he was spending a good bit on wine and investing in Bordeaux futures! His pragmatic wife Jenifer asked “Hey, do you know what you are doing?” He found an online class from the UC Davis extension that they both took.

They literally would mail DVD’s

Jennifer Armstrong, July 2019

Yep, they are a little dated by this. They sat in their Chicago bungalow learning about wine and Tim realized that this was his calling. He had grown up in Wisconsin surrounded by farms, and while the family didn’t farm he had a propensity for mechanical things. That and his love for wine…he’d found his bliss. Jen was skeptical, but supportive.

A bottle of Merlot

How did they decide on Washington? Here’s the story. It all kind of started with a bottle of Merlot.

So when we were in Chicago, we were buying mostly Bordeaux, getting progressively geekier about those wines and paying a lot of attention to the wine that we were drinking.  One day Tim came home with a bottle of Walla Walla Merlot.  It was a Walla Walla Vintners bottle.

Jennifer Armstrong, July 2019

They had been thinking about wine making and researched different regions. Virginia & North Carolina, came up since they were near to Jen’s family. They thought about New York with the Finger Lakes region. With Tim in the technology industry, the Bay area was an idea, but that bottle of Walla Walla Merlot….

We tasted it and were kind of blown away.  It tasted like the Bordeaux that we had fallen in love with.

Jennifer Armstrong, July 2019

What blew them away? Tim says this bottle was new world fruit with the structure and earthiness they loved about Bordeaux.

It really was striking this balance between old world wines and the California west coast wines that we had gotten to know.

Tim Armstrong, July 2019

A start in Woodinville

So now Washington was a viable option for them. They spent a couple years doing research and paying attention to the region. When an opportunity to move to Washington for Tim’s job came up, they made the move. This was the opportunity to be a part of a world class wine region. Something you can’t do in Napa or Sonoma without coming in with a large fortune. In Washington it is still possible to own a small vineyard and make wine, without being a millionaire.

Tim flew to Seattle and a friend told him he needed to check out Woodinville. He was blown away. Here people kept their day jobs and moonlighted as winemakers! It occurred to them that they could pursue this and get started right here.

They moved out in 2010 buying grapes even before the furniture was delivered. They met people at a wine shop and then a brewer/winemaking supplies company who referred them to people in the warehouse district where they bought a couple hundred pounds of grapes.

Immersive education and a fast track to winemaking

Tim arrived on Jennifer’s birthday in October around 7:30 am to pick up the grapes. Well, the grapes were not there. While he waited (until 4 pm) for the grapes he had them put him to work. He had his first experience in a commercial winery that day. Waiting for those grapes, he helped out, cleaning things and shoveling grape must.

The next summer he called John Patterson of Patterson Cellars in Woodinville. Tim told John he wanted to make some wine and work with him. John tried to talk him out of it. He was unsuccessful. In 2011 Tim & Jen contracted 6 tons of grape and made their first vintage. So the 2010 home batch they started…by the time it was ready to bottle, they were bottling it in a commercial winery. Fast tracking for sure.

Tim dove into classes with the WSU extension as well as South Seattle Community College. As the business evolved they signed a lease at the end of 2012 and opened their own space in 2013. 2013 they did their own crush, in their own facility in Woodinville. By 2016 they had 52 tons of grapes in that tiny spot. They had upgraded equipment, but it was just Tim, Jennifer and Jennifer’s Dad doing it all. They played the winery tetras game, which was more difficult in this area. The Warehouse district tasting rooms were open all day, so you couldn’t utilize outdoor space in the parking lot until late at night. They pulled 10 all nighters that harvest. They determined it was time to make a change.

The Walla Walla spell

They fell for Walla Walla. It’s easy to do. A drive through town will have you enchanted and you won’t ever want to leave. So they didn’t. They found a small vineyard north of town that was for sale and their fate was sealed. With a vineyard, a house, a historic barn, a creek, a guest cottage…it was perfect.

Not that it was easy. The spot was originally out of their budget. They kept their eye on it and eventually the price came down. Sadly it went under contract just before they got to it. Their disappointment only lasted a day, when a friend in the industry told them the contract fell through. They drove up from Seattle immediately and the rest is history.

The Valley Grove Vineyard is 22 acres with 2 blocks of cabernet sauvignon. They had to do some retraining of the 17 year old vines and pulled their first harvest in 2019. They now have 2 tasting rooms, one in Woodinville and one in Walla Walla, and they have plans for the winery they want to build here on site.

Our conversation didn’t end there. Join us as we talk about the history of the vineyard, and their plans for this beautiful spot just outside of Walla Walla.

For More information

Want more information? You can visit their website or read the other pieces we’ve written about them.

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

Nesting and pairing – polenta with red pepper and eggplant with a Rhône Style blend

Polenta with Roasted vegetables Larner 2017 Elemental and Loki

Many of us, find ourselves staying in more these days. As I write this, Broadway has announced that all theatres over 500 seats will go dark through April. I sit in Vegas, a member of the entertainment industry, waiting to see what will happen here. I have friends in Washington, who are staying at home. It’s an angsty time. We are all a little nervous. Many will be nesting out of necessity, not choice. I feel lucky to know that if I am stuck at home, I have a cellar to allow me to travel. If you find you must stay at home. Take the time for a bit of self care. This recipe and pairing is just an example. I look forward to hearing what amazing creations you pull out of your cupboard.

Staying in and traveling through a bottle of wine

Last week, I didn’t want to got to the grocery store. I was willing to cook, just not to drive.

So, what to pair?

What’s in the cupboard?

In the fridge I found a 1/4 of an onion, a red pepper, an eggplant, some olives and capers and a lemon. In the pantry a canned of diced tomatoes, garlic and polenta and in the back yard my rosemary and sage were taking off!

Roasting vegetables

I diced the eggplant, onion and red pepper. Then I tossed in a couple of cloves of garlic, some fresh sage and rosemary. This all was doused with olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper. I lined a baking dish with parchment (for ease of clean up) and tossed the mixture in. The oven went to 450 degrees (on convection roast mode) and in it went for 45 minutes.

Chopped onion, pepper, eggplant and garlic with rosemary and sage
Chopped onion, pepper, eggplant and garlic with rosemary and sage

A couple minutes later it occurred to me that roasted lemon would play nicely in this so I sliced some lemon tossed it in.

Making polenta

While that roasted away, I whipped up the polenta. It takes about 30 minutes by the instructions on the bag of Bob’s Red Mill polenta. I kept long sleeves on and used oven mitts for stirring, cause it will bubble and pop and can really burn you, so stay safe. After 30 minutes I added some butter and then poured it into a pyramid shaped glass bowl that I had to mold it.

The roasted veggies came out of the oven and I added the can of diced tomatoes drained.

Finishing the dish

Polenta with roasted eggplant, garlic, lemon, red pepper with tomatoes, olives & capers
Polenta with roasted vegetables

After 10 minutes, the polenta was set (I threw it in the fridge to set faster). I sliced the polenta, and pan fried it in butter and olive oil to make it a little crispy. I found a pretty plate to put it on, and topped with my roasted vegetables. This was garnished with black olives and capers and some more fresh herbs.

Larner 2017 Elemental

Larner 2017 Elemental
Larner 2017 Elemental

I had pulled out a bottle of Larner Vineyards and winery 2017 Elemental. This wine from Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon AVA is 65% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 16% Mourvèdre. It is aged 22 months in neutral french oak.

This wine had a beautiful acidity that was really wonderful with this dish!

So, take an opportunity to nest. To curl up with a bottle and do some virtual travel. Dig through the cupboard. You might be surprised at the amazing things you can make.

For more information on the Larner Vineyard and Winery

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

Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with JB Neufeld

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

We’d been up early, catching sunrise in Naches Heights, just outside the city of Yakima. After a quick bite to eat we went to meet Justin Neufeld, to talk about his JB Neufeld wines. We met out at Gilbert Cellars where he is the winemaker. Soon we were to find that there was a connection there. He had grown up in this area.

Justin Neufeld’s journey to wine

Justin graduated from High School in Naches Washington, just outside of Yakima in 1998. Unlike many in this region, he did not come from an agriculture family. His father was a carpenter and his mother a nurse. Like many he was ready to get out of the valley. So he went on to U Dub (University of Washington or UW) to get a degree in molecular biology.

During his junior year, he got the wine bug. UW did not have a oenology or viticulture program at that time. So he did a bit of reading and researching on his own. This pull of viticulture was also the pull of home. Seattle is great, but it takes getting away from rural lands to appreciate them. He returned to the Yakima Valley.

Justin is currently the winemaker and manages the vineyards for Gilbert Cellars as his full time gig. Still, he always knew he wanted to have his own winery. He and his wife Brooke (the B in JB Neufeld) created and run JB Neufeld.

JB Neufeld and Cabernet Sauvignon

Justin didn’t start out planning to make Cabs. Early on he had a couple of Bordeaux wines. That gradually led to exploration into those blends and finding that he was intrigued by the Cabernet Sauvignon in them. Of course there are a lot of cabs in Washington, so he started tasting them. The Yakima Valley is diverse with multiple microclimates. Justin began by doing vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignons, working to show the differences in climate and site through the wines. Eventually he found he could craft a better wine by blending these sites. He would use Red Mountain AVA fruit as a base with it’s structure and ripe fruit. Then blend in cab from cooler areas that are softer with almost chalky tannins and more complexity. Then there is Red Willow fruit….

That’s a really unique site.  It doesn’t fit that upper valley, cooler site profile of the chalkier tannin and floral notes.  You know I’ve only worked with fruit now for 2 vintages, but so far it’s really unique, it takes on a more earthy minerality type character on the nose.  There’s still some dark fruit for sure, but almost a similar structure to the Red Mountain.  It’s pretty cool.

Justin Neufeld, July 2019

We second the love of Red Willow Vineyard fruit. It’s an amazing site. You can read more about our visit with Mike and Jon Sauer at their beautiful vineyard here. You can look forward to seeing more on our visit to this stunning vineyard run by some truly wonderful people.

New clones

Washington State started with Clone 8 and it continues to be the most widely grown clone in the state giving consistent fruit and yields. But there are other Cabernet Sauvignon clones making their way into Washington. Justin is pretty excited about some of these.

337 I’ve kinda been geeking out about.  They’re still really young vines, but they have a different profile from clone 8, they are a little more red fruit.  A little bit grittier of a tannin and rather than being vegetal when they are picked green they are more herbaceous.  So I’m really excited.

Justin Neufeld, July 2019

I found an interesting piece by Shannon Dininny on goodfruit.com about Cabernet Sauvignon clones in Washington State. Most of the discussion was regarding yields and reliability, as opposed to flavor. None-the-less it’s an interesting discussion if you want to nerd out about that stuff. https://www.goodfruit.com/wine-grape-growers-weigh-in-on-cabernet-sauvignon-clones/

When it comes to the clone Justin is speaking of, clone 337, it came up from California. It is a clone that can make very extracted wines and lacks the typical herbal character when picked late. In a comparative tasting of clones from Bell Wine Cellars, they noted that 337 had the most lush profile when compared to clones 6,4 & 7. What does all this mean? It’s like Justin said, you can blend Cabernet from different clones and different sites to create a more complex wine.

Cabernet a “stubborn” grape

We spoke a bit about Cabernet and how it expresses terroir. Syrah and Pinot Noir are notably varieties that express location. They are wines that take on notes of their climate, soil and anything the winemaker throws at them. Kind of like a person with a full closet in tons of different styles.

Cabernet is noted for being, as Justin calls it “stubborn”. It does not show site as dramatically as Syrah or Pinot. With Syrah or Pinot Noir, when you pick, at what ripeness level, can also have a dramatic affect on the wine that you bottle. Cabernet on the other hand has a wider picking window that won’t show a great difference. It can also handle oak better without being overly influenced.

He noted a tendency to pick late to avoid any vegetal notes. Justin feels that causes you to lose complexity in the finished wine. He prefers to pick a little earlier.

I think, personally, my opinion is that a lot of Cabernet Sauvignons are pushed a little too far.  They go to ripe and then a little past because they don’t want any vegetal character.  I’ve found that when you take it to that next level, a lot of that wonderful complexity is sort of gone.  So that’s what I’m trying to shoot for, timing wise, with picking at a point where there might be a little bit of vegetal. I’d rather it be herbaceous.  You just get a lot more complexity in the nose and I think the terroir shines through a little bit more.

Justin Neufeld, July 2019

Soils and microflora

Parts of the Yakima Valley sit in the Missoula Flood Plains. This was the tremendous floods that spanned 2000 years after the last ice age. This flooded the Columbia Valley and down into Oregon. You can read more about these in our post with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate. For more about how it affected the Yakima Valley see our conversation in the vineyard with David O’Reilly with Owen Roe.

The floods deposited soils and the levels in the Yakima Valley get to 1200 to 1300 feet. Above that are older soils. These soils affect the wine, but Justin is digging deeper. He is interest in the microflora. Microflora you hear about these days regarding your gut (kombucha and keeping the micro flora in your gut healthy). But you find them in soils also. Microflora are defined as: bacteria and microscopic algae and fungi, especially those living in a particular site or habitat.

Justin is fascinated by the microflora which has a symbiotic relationship with the plant. These microflora would also be affected of course by the composition of the soil. It’s yet another factor in “terroir” or the sense of place that you find in a wine.

Terroir and all it’s variables

We had discussed the difference in micro climates and soils, and it’s interesting to see all the variables. Red Mountain is hot and early. Bloom can happen here 2 or 3 weeks earlier than the rest of the Yakima Valley. This gives Justin more hang time on that fruit. He spoke with Fred Artz in Red Mountain and discussed the wind they get there. Wind can stress the vine and delay ripening. But if it’s a sustained wind it causes thicker skins, which give you more accumulated tannins. So wind is a significant part of the terroir in Red Mountain.

The full time gig at Gilbert

Being the head winemaker at Gilbert Cellars is Justin’s full time gig. He works with Assistant Winemaker/Oenologist Dusty Jenkins. Other than some extra help at harvest, between the two of them they do most everything regarding wine making.

Gilbert is primarily from estate fruit and they focus on Bordeaux varieties. They do have a wide variety of vineyards from Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Wahluke Slope AVA and the greater Columbia Valley AVA. The River Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills AVA is the one with the new Cabernet Sauvignon clones Justin is really excited about.

In addition to Bordeaux style wines they are doing a Rhône white blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier, called Vin du Vallee. They also do a Rhône red called Allobroges which is a GSM.

Gilbert is a busy spot in the Summer. They do a full concert series on the beautiful grounds that you see behind us in the videos. Music in the Vines celebrates it’s 10th season in 2020.

Getting ahold of some JB Neufeld wine

JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon
JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon

JB Neufeld can be found through a variety of distributors. You can check out their distributor page.

You can also order direct from their site and feel free to contact Brooke for more details!

It’s Taste Washington Wine Month, so we will be featuring some great Washington wineries and vineyards throughout March. So check back as we visit some other regions in the state! Here are a couple of links in case you want to dig a little deeper into Washington wines.

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

A tale of two syrahs

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate and Bonny Doon 2013 Le Pousseur syrah, mostly from Bien Nacido with bbq, peas and roasted herbed potatoes

It’s no secret that I am a syrah lover. I love it’s wild side, it’s unpredictablility. Winemakers find it to be a malleable grape, one that can take off on tangents. Soil, climate and winemaking technique can affect this grape, making syrah from different regions dramatically different in the glass.

I listened to winemakers across the Santa Barbara region talk about their Syrah’s a few years ago. The difference in climate there can be a bit more dramatic than in other regions their size. The temperature increases by a degree each mile inland you go, making syrah grown in the Santa Rita Hills climatically different than that grown in Ballard Canyon or even further into Happy Canyon. We tasted these wines as they spoke with us about them and the differences were interesting to note.

Since then we have traveled further in California falling in love with the Rhônes at Tablas Creek, and discovering one of our favorite Rhône Rangers, Randall Grahm. We ventured further north into Washington and tasted syrah’s from Yakima Valley, including Red Mountain, which, while primarily known for Cabernet Sauvignon is turning out to be an exceptional place to grow syrah.

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate.

On a chili evening a while back, we pulled out a bottle of Syrah . This was the 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate.

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah

We had picked this bottle up when we visited Red Mountain this last year and spoke with Sarah Hedges Goedhart.

I posted about this wine on Instagram that evening…

The geeky bits…

These grapes are from their Les Grosses Vineyard on Red Mountain. Destemmed, partial crush, stainless steel fermenters…pressed to barrel, malo-lactic fermentation, racked off lees. Barrel aged 11 month in 40% new American and French Oak.

14.5% abv $29.00 srp

My notes

It opens with great Syrah funk that I adore! Earth smoke barnyard leather cocoa….my nose was in heaven! The fruit on the palate is blueberries, blackberries and figs, with dark cherries and chocolate and then a bit of lovely baking spice on the end.

Intense without being overpowering, we sipped this for a while (working on videos) before pairing (you’ll have to watch for the pairings)

Crushedgrapechron on Instagram January 15, 2020

At the time I promised to share the pairings. Well, as we started with the pairings, Michael got up, he came back with a bottle of 2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon. There is a little sadness as I write this. I went to the website to check some of the production notes on this wine…they are gone. Bonny Doon, a legendary California winery helmed by Randall Grahm was sold to Lapis Luna Wines on January 1st. Randall will still be involved, but he will be able to spend more time focusing on his Popelouchum project in San Juan Bautista. (You should read about that, because it’s really fascinating)

None the less…on to the wine.

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

Here’s a snipet I found on the web about this wine

If the ’12 Pousseur bore an uncanny resemblance to Crozes Hermitage, our ’13 Syrah definitely shades slightly in the direction of a St. Joseph. With a (gulp) substantial (63%) percentage of Bien Nacido Syrah in the mix, we certainly recognize the contribution of the mostly coolish (global climate change adjusted) Santa Maria climate to the natural acidity and freshness of this wine, as well as to the correctness of varietal expression. Wild plums, blackberries, Griotte cherries and licorice (of course). The tannins are soft and supple, but the wine has so much persistence, there is every indication that it will greatly benefit from cellaring. But for now, the Pousseur will enormously benefit from decantation and the investment in large balloon Burgundy glasses. Excuse me, a lamb chop with a bit of a minty chimichurri is calling my name.

Winemaker notes from (from Randall Grahm) Wine.com

Let it be known that I am indeed a sucker for Bien Nacido. I have waxed poetic before about wines from this vineyard. Recently, I listened to a wonderful interview (from a while back) with Bob Lindquist about the planting of Syrah in this vineyard. (I highly recommend diving into the “I’ll drink to that” podcasts with Levi Dalton). The Bien Nacido Vineyard imparts something to a wine, the nose…I can put my nose in a glass and if it is from Bien Nacido I can tell. So..to begin I knew I was in love with this wine.

Pairings

  • 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate with gouda, bleu cheese, prosciutto and seaweed snacks
  • 2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah from Hedges Family Estate and Bonny Doon 2013 Le Pousseur syrah, mostly from Bien Nacido with bbq, peas and roasted herbed potatoes

We paired these wines with bleu cheese, gouda, proscuitto and some dried seaweed snacks. Then we did a simple dinner of peas, potatoes in herbs de provençe and bbq beef. Why peas and seaweed? The umami in these pulls up the umami in the wine.

Comparing the two…

So the Le Pousseur gave me barn, wet hay, leather and smoke on the nose, followed by Eucalyptus and mint. Red and black fruits and barbeque spices. This wine as compared to the Red Mountain was more red fruit, less smoky. It was brighter and a little less brooding.

Both wines were delicious, but the differences were noticeable. While the both had barnyard, earth, smoke and leather, there were nuances between the two even in those notes. The Hedges gave me darker fruit; blackberries, blueberries, dried fig, dark cherries while the Bonny Doon was red and black currents, brighter fruit. The Hedges finished with notes of chocolate and baking spice, while the Bonny Doon pulled in notes of eucalyptus and mint and finished with bbq spices.

It’s something I love about syrah, the nuances. These were great wines that both checked in at under $30 a bottle. The Bonny Doon runs between $20 and $27, depending on where you pick it up. I recommend getting your hands on both of these bottles if you can. Try a side by side, like we did and share with us your thoughts!

Want more on Syrah?

Well we can help you out with that. Here are just a few of the other pieces we have done on this grape!

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

Sarah Hedges Goedhart on her journey to winemaking and biodynamics

When we planned our trip to Washington, I was specifically looking for biodynamic vineyards. Biodynamics in wine is a subject I find fascinating and quite honestly, I find I really like speaking to the people who are into this practice. They feel like my kind of people. These people are passionate, care deeply about the planet, they are detail people who are not looking to cut corners just to make a profit. They believe strongly in doing things the right way.

Choosing Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain

As I looked at the Red Mountain AVA, I searched for a vineyard that was using biodynamic practices. Hedges Family Estate was the only one that came up, so they were kind of a shoo-in. I continued to look into the property (and it’s stunning) and came across a video on their site, that was warm and a bit enchanting. Then I read a bit about Sarah Hedges Goedhart and her approach…and well that pushed it over the edge, I knew I wanted to speak with her.

Sarah’s journey to winemaking

We spoke with Sarah about the history of the winery. It’s come along way from the days when her father started buying and selling bulk juice. Back then, her 12 year old self had no interest in the business and no desire to live in eastern Washington. They came every summer from Seattle, where they lived and as she got older, she got into wine. But her true passion was to be a veterinarian. Her father insisted that she get a business degree. She got that degree in San Diego and then went to Santa Barbara to get the pre-reqs for vet school. It was there that she met her husband. Okay…actually they met in high school, but they reconnected in Santa Barbara.

Getting hooked on wine in Santa Barbara

While going to school she got a job as a tasting room manager at the Santa Barbara Winery. Her future husband was working there in production. It was there that she got hooked. They would pick 2nd harvest grapes and make bathtub wine. They had the bug, and were on the journey to start their own winery.

On to Preston in Healdsburg

They ended up in Healdsburg working at Preston, where she learned biodynamics, organics, in addition to breadbaking and olive production. This was about the entire culture of working with the land.

Preston is a kind of magical place. We visited in 2011, I remember feeling like I’d taken a step back in time. This is simple beautiful Americana with home baked breads and olives in the tasting room. This is a farm and an enchanting one at that.

Returning to the Tri-Cities

California is an expensive place to live for two people just starting out and her brother suggested they come work at the family winery. Sarah started out working on the garden and hosting people and a year later became the assistant winemaker to her uncle, when the position opened up.

When she started as assistant winemaker, Hedges was making about 100,000 cases a year. That’s quite a jump from the 8,000 cases she assisted with at Preston.

Biodynamics at Hedges

In 2007 they started the biodynamic conversion. At this point 3 of their vineyards are biodynamic and 2 are organic. Bit by bit they add livestock. Right now they have chickens and a turkey and they want to add sheep. It’s a gradual process and she wants to be sure that they understand and adapt to each part before moving on.

Native ferments

The first wine they tried to make biodynamically was in 2011, with a native ferment. Native ferments can seem simple, just leave the tank alone right? Nope. Since then they have been using the pied du cuvee method. You get a bucket of grapes and get your fermentation started there.

Soothing tunes for the wines

She has also incorporated music in the cellar. She had a white wine that was a little reductive. It seemed to her that the wine was stressed and struggling, so she asked the cellar crew to play mellow spa music. Of course they thought she was a little crazy, but tasting the before and the after…they became believers.

The Goedhart label

The label had been their dream when they lived in California, but with California costs, it was just not possible. In 2005 they moved to the Tri-Cities and started their label with a winery in the basement of the ranch house they were living in. They both had full time winery jobs and would do this in all their free time as a labor of love. Their focus was Syrah. Not a fruit bomb, but not an old world overly lean wine either. This wine was to be elegant with a bit of restraint. They ran the label for 6 years. On weekends they would be open for tastings and she would make wood fired breads and panini’s.

Kids, a full time job and running their own winery became too much, so Hedges took over the label. Once the kids are raised, perhaps they will try this again. In the meantime, she can continue to make their Syrah in the style they like here.

Sarah on Syrah

Sarah and I spoke about the Syrah they are growing here. They have the Joseph Phelps clone, which was the first clone available in Washington. This clone tends to be lean with herbal characteristics. Then they have the Tablas clone. This is the clone that Tablas Creek brought over from Chateauneuf-de-Pape. She describes this clone as “Wild, savage, and fruity”. They do multiple picks over a few weeks, keeping clones and picks separate and then she can blend these to create that elegant style of Syrah that they enjoy best.

We have recently opened up two different Syrah’s from Hedges and both were pretty exceptional. My palate obviously is in line with the style of Syrah that they are making.

Sarah on the reason for biodynamics

I asked Sarah what was most important to her in biodynamics…

Preserving land for the future, for kids, for everybody.  I think that’s the one thing on this planet that we’re screwing up and we really need to turn it around.  What do we call ourselves?  Stewards of the land it’s our responsibility to keep it around. 

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, July 2019

The property is beautiful. That is reason enough to come. In addition the wines we tasted here were delicious and their was quite a portfolio of wines to taste. Sarah even brought in a couple of barrel samples for us to taste. The topper here is the people. Sarah was a joy to speak with, her father Tom said a hello as he came through the tasting room. They had just finished a morning meeting before Sarah came to speak with us. The volume here is high. They do make quite a bit of Columbia Valley wine in addition to the Estate wines that Sarah focuses on, but it’s still a family business. It has that blend of Washington practicality with the elegance of a French Château, blended with the relaxed biodynamic style that Sarah brings.

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Hedges Family Estate – Red Mountain Washington – the history

Hedges Family Estate the garden with the fountain Red Mountain Yakima Valley Washington

I had heard of Red Mountain. It is on the East end of the Yakima Valley AVA in Washington and was all the buzz. I had even heard it called “Washington’s Napa”. I was skeptical, not of the wines, but of the buzz. So on our first trip to Washington for a wine conference in Walla Walla, we focused our extra time elsewhere.

Returning a little less than a year later, we had a little more time to spend and time to research. As we have been focusing on biodynamic vineyards, we looked for one in the Red Mountain AVA, and came across the Hedges Family Estate.

The history, the beginnings

As I started exploring their site and learning about the Estate and the family I was anxious to see the property and speak with Sarah Hedges Goedhart, the daughter of the owners and their winemaker.

The property is beautiful. Upon arriving you feel as if you have been swept away to a French Château. This is no accident. Sarah’s mother Anne-Marie, is originally from Champagne….but wait….let me tell this story in order.

Tom Hedges & Anne-Marie Liégeois

Sarah’s farther Tom is from the Tri-Cities area. His family arrived in Washington back in 1888, settling first in the Waterville area and farming wheat, then moving to Wenatchee to grow apples. Her grandfather got a job in Hanford, so the family moved to this area.

Sarah’s mother, as I said before is from Champagne. It was at a party in Mexico, that her parent’s met. Her mother, there studying language, her father, studying tequila production, while getting his masters in International Business. 3 months after the party they were engaged, a year later married. It’s a romance that is coming up on 45 years.

The beginnings of the Hedges Brand

They traveled the world with her father, Tom, working in International Produce sales, spending time in South America, North East Canada and finally ending up in Seattle, with Tom looking for a new direction. West Coast wines were becoming a thing, so they started brokering wines, starting with bulk wines internationally, then getting more specific when they started getting requests for Washington wines. The first Hedges wine was sold to the government of Sweden. 5000 cases blended from the bulk wine they sourced from Washington. It was popular and inexpensive compared to European wines. The 2nd year they doubled their volume and decided to try selling this wine in the states. This is when the Hedges Brand was born. They moved from buying bulk wine to buying grapes.

The decision to build on Red Mountain

Then came a trip to Vin Expo in Bordeaux where they were continually asked where their vineyard was. Her father was confused, but her mother explained. In France you are nothing without land. So then the decision to be made was, build a winery or buy land? Her father went to a High School reunion in 1989 and heard that Red Mountain was going to be big, with the best fruit in the state. So decision made, they bought 40 acres at somewhere around $1,200 an acre, and they got the last private water rights ever granted in the area.

The Château

In 1995 they broke ground on the Château. This is a place that with it’s attention to detail, transports you to France. Vines line the circular driveway leading up to the Château. You enter through the cobbled walkway shaded by Umbrella Calabra trees, with stone benches and lanterns that you can invision lit at evening. When you reach the entrance you arrive in a courtyard with seating under the trees and a large fountain. The large winery doors beckon, but so does the view of Red Mountain the other direction.

We will continue with our interview with Sarah, discussing the biodynamic practices they have chosen to employ on the estate.

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

How to measure a year – 2019, specifically..

Calendar

Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.

I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.

Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!

The Quiet Time

My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.

Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.

The Scenic Route

We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.

Studying

Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…

#OurAussieWineAdventure

Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.

So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.

12 Days of Wine

Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.

Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.

Want more details on some of these great spots?

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12 Days of Wine Day 12 – Syncline

Syncline

Let’s start with the name. Syncline…where does that come from? It was a new word to me. This winery & vineyard in located in the Columbia Gorge AVA. Vineyards are typically in scenic areas. Grapes like a view. But the Columbia Gorge? Come on…this is a pretty stellar backdrop.

View of Mt. Hood from Syncline Steep Ranch Vineyard

So…back to the meaning of the word Syncline, from their website

syn-cline (‘sin-klin)
a trough of stratified rock in which
the beds dip toward each other from either side

http://synclinewine.com/our-history/

The Syncline winery is located on the Washington side of the Gorge on their Steep Ranch Vineyard. West of the property 300-foot cliffs rise up from the Columbia River…this is the Syncline, locally called the Coyote Wall Syncline.

The Columbia Gorge AVA

Views of the Gorge make this Washington Wine delicious
View of the Columbia River and the Gorge from Syncline’s Vineyard

The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004 and is overwhelmingly known for white wines. This is the sweet spot where the rainy western part of the Gorge and the more arid Eastern Gorge meet. Syncline is on the South Eastern edge of the AVA.

Myself & James Mantone walking the rows at Syncline
James Mantone leading me through the Steep Ranch Vineyard

We spent a wonderful morning, talking with Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and Co-Founder of Syncline, James Mantone. Sitting in their beautiful gardens, we spoke about biodynamics which they are putting into practice here on this vineyard as well among other things before we walked the vineyard to take in the spectacular views at the top of the Syrah block.

But alas…in addition to the wines he makes from grapes grown on the estate vineyard, he also sources some fine grapes from elsewhere to make some beautiful wines. Such is the case with this Picpoul.

Picpoul

Picpoul is a favorite of mine. I have enjoyed Picpoul de Pinet which comes from the South of France right on the Mediterranean coast, as well as some lovely California Picpouls. You can read about those in Picpoul from Pinet and California and a seaside pairing. The name “Picpoul” means lip stinger in French. It is a zippy high acid wine.

Syncline 2018 Picpoul Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley

Syncline Picpoul boushey Vineyard

We tasted this wine in the tasting room with James when we visited. Since I tend to think of Picpoul and ocean, this was intriguing to me. The grapes for this wine are sourced from Boushey Vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Boushey Vineyard sits at a high elevation (700-1200 feet) on southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Mountains. Dick Boushey is considered one of Washington States top wine grape growers.

Soil and the long ripening time at this vineyard allow for lots of complex flavors to develop.

The fruit was hand harvested and transported to the winery on October 2nd. It was whole cluster pressed and settled overnight. The juice was then racked to one of our stainless steel tanks. Fermentation completed with no malolactic fermentation. It was aged in stainless steel and bottledin March 2019. 300 cases produced • 12.4% Alc. By Vol.

http://synclinewine.com

The Tasting

Syncline 2018 Picpoul flavor profile
Syncline 2018 Picpoul flavor profile

James tasting notes mention “Bright lemon verbena and key lime blossom” as well as “citrus zest and wet stones”. When we opened this wine, the first thing I smelled was chalk and dust followed my notes of tart citrus fruit. It opened further with some floral notes and then lemon zest and yes wet stones. This wine was completely enjoyable on it’s own.

The Pairings

Herbed goat cheese with the Syncline 2018 Picpoul from Boushey Vineyard
Herbed goat cheese with the Syncline 2018 Picpoul from Boushey Vineyard

We paired this wine with herbed goat cheese and olive oil on bread to start. The pairing sweetened the cheese and brightened the wine and was kind of magical.

Mussels with lemon zest
Mussels with lemon zest

Then we went to a classic Picpoul pairing of shellfish. We had mussels in garlic and butter dusted with lemon zest. Which is indeed a perfect pairing with this wine. Often you think of oysters with Picpoul and somehow those didn’t hit me as the right pairing. Perhaps it was me thinking of the photos I had recently seen of the hoarfrost on the vines in the Yakima Valley. None-the-less this wine wanted a warmer version of shellfish and these mussels did the trick, warm with savory flavors and a bit of brightness, they snuggled with the wine and brightened a chilly evening.

Visit them….

I totally told you all about the vineyard at Syncline, but I skipped right over the stunning gardens and grounds at their winery and tasting room. Here…take a look.

  • Entrance to Syncline Winery in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Syncline Winery in Washington Win in the Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Syncline Winery
  • The outdoor tasting bar at the Syncline Winery
  • Beautiful Foudre that was being refinished for wine at Syncline
  • The garden at the Syncline tasting room in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Perfect spot for a summer tasting Syncline
  • Syncline Wine's tasting garden in the Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Syncline Wine's tasting garden in the Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Syncline Wine's tasting garden in the Columbia Gorge AVA
  • Syncline Wine's tasting garden in the Columbia Gorge AVA

Head up there in the summer, on a weekend. Drive the Gorgeous Gorge and then stop for a tasting and to enjoy the garden.

That’s a wrap!

All the unwrapping is complete on our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Hopefully you enjoyed the journey and perhaps have a few wines to search for, or a vacation to plan to take in some of these places.

We wish you all a very happy holiday and a wonderful New Year. Here’s to a spectacular 2020!

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12 Days of Wine Day 11 – Johan

Johan Grüner Veltliner 12 Days of Wine Reveal

What wine list of ours would be complete without a bottle from Johan.

The Van Duzer Corridor

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

The Van Duzer Corridor is one of the newer AVA’s in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The TTB approval of the AVA happened in December of 2018 (7 years after they started the process). So what is this corridor and where is it?

The Van Duzer Corridor AVA map courtesy the Oregon Wine Resource Studio
The Van Duzer Corridor AVA map courtesy the Oregon Wine Resource Studio

1st, this is a nested AVA lying within the larger Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. It is in the southern part of the AVA, north of Salem. Encompassing 59,850 acres, there are but 1,000 acres planted to vines. The soil here is marine sediment. It is named for the area 10 miles to it’s west, the actual Van Duzer Corridor, where there is a drop in the coastal range that funnels cold air into the interior. This happens daily at around 2 pm. The breeze, or should I say wind (it often gets up to 8 mph) does a couple of things. It cools things down and it dries out the berries, keeping them free from mold and fungus (think the Mistral in Provence). It also forces the berries to protect themselves. To do this they thicken their skins and tend to grow smaller and fewer. This gives you more tannins and anthocyanins (which give you color). Lower yields, smaller berries, thicker skin…this all means more flavor.

Johan Vineyard

I have a great love for the wines of Johan. If you know me, you are probably surprised that this was not a Pet Nat! (I do love their Pet Nats). But today we dive into their Estate Grüner Veltliner. But before we get into that…a little on the vineyard.

  • The vineyard road at Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley's Van Duzer Corridor AVA
  • Vines at Johan Vineyard
  • Vineyard View at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack and the compost at Johan in the Van Duzer Corridor
  • Jack pointing out the mushroom innoculation on this stump at Johan
  • A cowhorn at the biodynamic Johan Vineyard
  • Views from the tasting room at Johan

Johan Vineyard is 85 acres certified biodynamic. More than that, the winery is certified biodynamic. A holistic approach is important to them here. We walked the vineyard with Jack when we visited and saw the compost heap, and the oak stump innoculated for mushrooms. They have a garden and their wines…most lean toward that “natural wine” style, with many deliciously unfiltered.

For more on Johan you can catch a couple of our previous pieces

Now onto the wine

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner can be an underappreciated variety. Hailing from Austria, this grape can often trick people in tastings. That is until they get to the finish where white pepper is the give away. These wines can be citrus, or herbal, lean or full. Flavors as well as textures can vary dependent on climate and style.

In Austria white wines dominate, much of that due to the climate and Grüner is the definite leader covering about a third of the vineyard acreage.

2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

The grapes are crushed and destemmed, then barrel fermented through primary and malolactic fermentation in puncheons and aged 10 months sur lie (that’s on the dead yeast cells that fall to the bottom). They do not stir the lees. It sits at 13.6% abv and runs $34.99.

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner
2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

They look to make this wine rich and exotic, choosing to pick appropriately and going through malolactic and sur lie aging to increase the texture.

It should be noted that white wines from the Van Duzer Corridor have a few things in common. They tend to have bright fruit and acid that is compimented by weight and texture. The Oregon Wine Board also notes that you will often find Iodine and Nori characteristics in these wines.

The Tasting

Exotic and rich…lime, lemon, herbs, white pepper, poprocks, nectarine, ginger, honey are all typical aromas and flavors for Gruner.

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents
Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents

This wine was a deep golden color in the glass. The first thing on the nose was bruised apple, then white flower and nectarine. It exploded out of the glass and bottle when it was first opened. It perfumed the air for a several foot radius around the bottle and glass. Then it quickly became shy, making me search for aromas. The acids were firm and the wine had a depth of texture.

The Pairing

We paired this with camembert cheese and found that it brought forth the floral notes. It was lovely with our asparagus risotto. This is one of those rare wines that can pair with asparagus! We also tested it with a split pea soup and found it was less exciting. Perhaps a lighter style of Grüner would have worked with this. I did struggle to find that signature Grüner white pepper on this wine. On a second pour tropical notes came forward and it opened again in the glass with rich warm baked apples.

Other pairing suggestions

Grüner can pair beautifully with Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets quickly fried). It also pairs well with fried chicken. In addition it is one of those rare wines that will pair with artichokes! Try it with cauliflower, trout or gnocchi!

Noooooo….Only 1 day left!

Thank goodness there is Christmas to cheer us after tomorrow! Otherwise what would we do? The sadness as the 12 days comes to an end would be unbearable! Come back tomorrow!

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12 Days of Wine Day 10 – Girardet

If you have tried today’s variety I want to hear about it! This is Baco Noir, a French American hybrid created by Francois Baco from folle blanche (which is a wine grape from France) and a red grape of the vitis riparia species (comes from America, but the exact grape is unknown). This variety is often found on the east coast and chilly North American regions like Ontario and New York.

Baco Noir at Girardet

The vines for this wine came from New York. In the late 60’s Philippe Girardet was bored of rocket science so he and his wife Bonnie headed north in their VW bus. They settled in the Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon bought some land, built a cabin and decided to plant a vineyard.

Well to plant a vineyard, you need vines. So they headed cross country in the VW bus and picked up vines in New York, among them Baco Noir.

It was 1990 before Girardet did a single varietal bottling of Baco Noir, the first time this had been done. In 2009 it was Matt Kramer hailed as one of Oregon’s best reds in the Oregonian.

We are here to make discoveries, not to follow the beaten path.

Philippe Girardet, Co-Founder Girardet Vineyards and Winery
Girardet Tasting Room in Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon

Marc Girardet

Marc Girardet was born in 1975, so the vineyard had just recently been planted. He grew up on the vineyard and then in the winery as that was built. He was away for a bit in the Air Force, but the vines called him home. In 1999 he took over the winemaking from his father. It was time for dad to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Philippe and Marc Girardet
Philippe & Marc Girardet

The vineyard

We spent an afternoon with Marc, talking on the patio, driving through the vineyard and tasting wine. Marc has planted the back vineyard(Shale Rock Summit) to Italian varieties now including Sangiovese, Barbera and Teroldego. We watched the jackrabbits, talked about the vines, the bush training he was doing and took in the view.

  • Jack rabbits at the Girardet Vineyard
  • Marc & I by the Sangiovese on the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard at Girardet
  • Ancient Marine Shale at the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard at Girardet in Southern Oregon
  • Grapes at Girardet
  • View from Girardet and the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard in Southern Oregon

We did a short version of our visit that you can read about here The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 2 – Southern Oregon Applegate and Umpqua Valleys and you can be sure that we will be following up with more in depth information on our visit.

2016 Girardet Baco Noir

The grapes were hand harvested and hand-punched twice a day during fermentation and the resulting wine was aged in small French barrels for 15 months before bottling.  490 cases.  Vegan Friendly!

http://girardetwine.orderport.net/product-details/0009/2016-Baco-Noir

This wine sits at 13.4% abv and they note plum, blueberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice in the tasting notes. It ran $34.00. Yep, sorry, this vintage is sold out, but never fear the 2017 has been released and sounds even more delicious with additional notes of clove, tobacco, cedar, vanilla and caramel. It also runs $34.00

The Tasting

Girardet Baco Noir with aroma inspirations
Girardet Baco Noir with aroma inspirations

This wine came with the promise of notes of plum, blueberry, black cherries, dark chocolate and cinnamon spice.

The first thing I got on the nose was brambles and dried herbs, with a backing of that black cherry and then blackberry with spices in the background. It had great acidity (think sour cherry) and lots of red and black fruit on the palate.

The Pairing

Girardet Baco Noir Pairing
Girardet Baco Noir Pairing

Okay…this was a late night tasting. I was soooo hungry at work, and I was craving pasta. I mentioned this to Carlo (a handsome Italian I work with, who is a great cook). He rattled off sauces…bolognese, puttanesca. Both sounded delicious, but I didn’t have the time to make those this evening. Then he said a word I had not heard…amatriciana. What is that? “You chop up bacon and sauté it, but don’t let it get crispy…” (Then he left to do a cue and I was waiting breathlessly for the rest of the recipe!). He returned to tell me to add peeled tomatoes, salt and pepper, maybe a little basil if you have it. So…a late night grocery run on the way home for these simple ingredients and voila!

We also paired with Gouda, bleu cheese and blackberries and a little dessert pairing with brownies. All good choices.

Only 2 more days! Noooo!

Yep…there are just 2 days left in our 12 Days of Wine Celebration. Come back tomorrow…

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12 Days of Wine Day 9 – Wooldridge Creek

We are sticking to Southern Oregon today, but…we are into a white wine. Viognier is a white Rhône variety that has found a home in the new world. It is thought to be the leading white variety in Virginia, where it does very well. You will find it in California where it can vary in style from a more full bodied style in warm climates to a more elegant style in cool climates.

Last year we did a Viognier from Maryhill Winery near the Columbia Gorge in Washington. This year, we bring you a Viognier from a bit further south in Oregon.

Wooldridge Creek

Wooldridge Creek The Scenic Route

We visited Wooldridge Creek this past summer and did a tasting and pairing. The property is a beautiful farm with goats and a garden in addition to the vineyard. They make cheese here on site also, as well as other delicious things from the garden.

Our tasting at the time took us through the gammit of their wines, as well as a tasting array of cheeses, charcuterie, mustard and chutneys, all produced on site. It was a treat for the senses as we sat on the crush pad with a view of the vineyards and gardens and enjoyed this feast.

Wooldridge Creek The Scenic Route

Wooldridge Creek 2018 Viognier

This wine is fermented and matured in stainless steel. They noted flavors of peaches, creme, candied orange zest and vanilla. It sits at 13.5% abv and runs $25.00.

The Tasting

The nose on this gave me wet stone, white peach, mineral and citrus zest. On the palate it had great acidity and I got tart white peach that was still a little crisp. The body is medium and the alcohol heats your mouth and makes your gums tingle.

The Pairing

Wooldridge Creek Cheese Pairing
Wooldridge Creek Cheese Pairing

We paired this with roast chicken, butternut squash and mac & cheese. The acid allowed it to cut through the fat in the chicken as well as the mac & cheese to pair well. I found that it also paired nicely with the bleu cheese we had.

More on Wooldridge Creek

We included Wooldridge Creek in a piece we did earlier this year The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 – Part 1 Vegas to Southern Oregon

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