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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We stayed in Newberg in the Willamette Valley on the night of our third day. Sadly while this area is heaven for wine, we did nothing but sleep. But sleeping here got us closer to our morning stop, the Columbia Gorge. It would also put us closer to the goal for the day, Washington Wine.
The hotel was silent as we quietly packed the care and headed out. I wanted to take in at least one waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. It was relatively quiet as we made our way through Portland pre-morning traffic and drove into the Gorge in the early morning hours. After a quick look at the map, I chose Bridal Veil Falls as our morning stop.
Bridal Veil Falls
We arrived at 6:30 am and had the place mostly to ourselves. A quick hike to look out over the gorge rewarded us with vista views as the morning light started to dawn. The moisture in the air with the green trees felt lush and alive. We hiked down to the falls, on the steep switch back trail and spent some time just soaking in the woods, the water and the spectacular falls.
After this bit of peace and tranquility, it was back on the road. Our morning appointment was with James at Syncline, a winery located on the Washington side of the Gorge.
Traffic was a little busier as we crossed the gorge at White Salmon on the Hood River Bridge and got on Route 14. This was a big change from Route 84 on the Oregon side. Route 84 is low in the Gorge, running just above the river, you are blanketed in trees with views upon occasion. You find yourself looking up at the trees and cliffs. Route 14 is higher and the views are expansive.
We were also starting to see the landscape change, from lush evergreen forest to a more arid landscape.
Columbia Gorge AVA
The Columbia Gorge AVA was established in 2004. It sits 60 miles east of Portland and straddles the Columbia River Gorge including both Oregon and Washington. We will be back later to explore Hiyu on the Oregon side, but today we were heading to Syncline on the Washington side.
Syncline – into Washington Wine
At Rowland Lake we turned left to get on Old Hwy 8 and eventually turned onto Balch Road which took us into Syncline.
The front entrance is quiet and unobtrusive, with a simple elegant sign on the fence. The gate was open for us leading up a drive between the trees where you could see vineyard in the distance.
We pulled up and parked near the winery, past the house. The simple entrance felt deceiving now, as we looked at the elegant and beautiful garden with multiple small seating areas for wine tasting. We were to learn later that this garden was designed to be water smart. We found a spot to set up for our interview and were joined shortly by James Mantone, the owner/winemaker. He spoke to us on biodynamics, Shale Rock Vineyard, the climate here in this section of the Gorge and the other vineyards he sources from, before walking us up to take in the vineyard and it’s views. His Syrah has the best view of any of the grapes we have met so far.
We walked back down to the winery. Here we did a tasting through his Bloxom Vineyard Grüner, his Picpoul from Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley, the 2017 Estate Gamay and the 2017 Syrah from Boushey Vineyard. We finished our tasting with a really wonderful treat, a Sparkling Grüner that they made just for their crew. (Thank you so much for sharing this with us James!).
Again it was hard to pull ourselves away, but we headed out, this time driving on to the East end of the Yakima Valley.
The Columbia Gorge to Yakima
Back in the car we headed further east on 14. We stopped to take in the expansive views of the gorge from time to time, watching the the landscape transition from lush and green with steep cliffs to more arid and brown with rolling hills and wind farms.
Horse Heaven Hills AVA
Leaving Syncline, we left the Columbia Gorge AVA and stepped into the Columbia Valley AVA. This AVA covers almost all of the wine growing regions in the state of Washington, with the exception of the Columbia Gorge AVA, Puget Sound AVA and Lewis and Clark AVA. As we drove further along 14 and then turned north on Rt 221, we were driving through the center of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. This AVA sits between the Yakima Valley and the Columbia Gorge. We didn’t stop at a winery here, but we tasted plenty of Horse Heaven Hills wines. The area has almost 30 vineyards, but only 5 tasting rooms. Washington State is the 2nd largest producer of premium wines in the United States and this AVA is home to some of the largest wine producers (think Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle).
Yakima Valley AVA
We ended up on the east end of the Yakima Valley. Trust me, you will be hearing alot more about the Yakima Valley AVA from us. This AVA contains 3 nested AVAs, Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and Red Mountain AVA. Today however, we were headed to just east of the Red Mountain AVA, to visit Kitzke Cellars and speak with Seth Kitzke.
As we pulled up passed the houses to the tasting room (which feels like it’s in a neighborhood), were greeted by Paul Kitzke, the owner and founder of Kitzke Cellars. He’s also Seth’s Dad and since we had just been in touch with Seth…it was news to him when we arrived cameras in hand. Seth was on his way in from another appointment and arrived shortly. In the meantime, we were warmly welcomed and brought in to the tasting room, out of the heat.
We walked the estate vineyard with Seth and talked viticulture, soils and all kinds of geeky wine stuff. I could have spent all day chatting with Seth on all things wine. They are located right next to Candy Mountain, which is just south of Red Mountain. The process for Candy Mountain to become an AVA is almost ready for approval. The Proposed Rule is published and now has a 60 day period for comment.
I pulled up a bit from the Kitzke blog about their Candy Ridge Vineyard…
Candy Ridge Vineyard may look like a backyard project on Candy Mountain in Richland Washington but (it’s) what’s right underneath your feet that makes it stand apart. Candy Ridge is built on a very small alluvial fan that was made when the Missoula Floods flowed right between Candy Mountain and Badger Mountain into Richland. Depositing large amounts of gravel, basalt, caliche, and granite in our soils. It is such a small area with expressive unique terroir that showcases depth and subtleties that aren’t overpowered by tannin.
As we walked the vineyard we talked about the caliche in the soil (more fascinating stuff to come).
Seth is also the winemaker for Upsidedown Wine, where he makes wines from all over Washington State striving to create wines with a true sense of place. They also give back with 20% of their net profits going to the charitable organizations they are partnered with.
Now we were off to the other end of the Yakima Valley for an sunset shoot at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.
Red Willow Vineyard
Red Willow Vineyard is on the Western side of the Yakima Valley AVA, outside of Wapato. The address is Wapato, but it’s about 20 minutes due west of the town. These are long straight roads in a region that is all agriculture. We drove looking at Mt. Adams, whose base began to disappear behind the foothills as you get closer.
When we arrived at Red Willow we were warmly greeted by Jonathan Sauer as he waved goodnight to the vineyard crew, who were on their way home. Jonathan had graciously offered to let us shoot sunset on their vineyard near the Chapel Block, where their stone Chapel marks the skyline at the top of the hill.
He put us on the golf cart and we headed out into the vineyards past rows tagged with names familiar in this valley, Owen Roe, Betz, DeLille, Savage Grace… We stopped to look at the soil strata in a cutout section of the vineyard and he pointed out blocks and the notable items in the landscape. At one point we heard an ATV coming and his father Mike Sauer pulled up to join us. After a chat we continued to the top of the hill by the Chapel. We pulled a picnic table into the shade to sit and chat while Michael set up cameras for sunset. (You will get to enjoy our full interview with Mike and Jonathan later).
A little history of Red Willow Vineyard
There is so much history here. One of the oldest vineyards in the state and the furthest west vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA, Mike Sauer started planting the Red Willow Vineyard in 1971. The beginnings of this vineyard were tied to Mike Sauer’s relationship with Dr. Walter Clore, who is known as the “Father of Washington Wine”, as well as with David Lake the head winemaker at Columbia Winery. (that’s alot of Washington wine history in one sentence).
I spent sunset watching the birds swooping down to catch bugs, listening while Mike and Jonathan shared stories of the history of this vineyard. We watched the sun set with this spectacular view from the Chapel over a unique bottle of Blanc de Cab Franc by Savage Grace and a bag of fresh Rainier cherries. I promise, I’ll share these stories with you later.
My heart kinda wanted to burst at such a glorious end to an amazing day. The Sauers are such wonderful generous people, it was a joy and honor to share an evening with them. We rode off into the sunset, in a small cloud of dust down the farm roads, full from a great day and ready for some sleep. It would be an early morning tomorrow, with a sunrise shoot at Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA. Stick with us. We are just getting started!
Day 3 had us up early and traveling back the way we had been the afternoon before. The Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon established in 2000, is actually a sub AVA of the Rogue Valley AVA. From California’s border runs north 50 miles to the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.
We arrived early to Cowhorn to meet Bill Steele. This Southern Oregon vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and is a bucolic setting on Eastside Road that runs along the Applegate River. We did an interview with Bill in the vineyard and walked the property before heading into the beautiful modern tasting room to do a tasting with Bill. The tasting room features a large window that looks out onto the vineyard and the valley, which is reflected in the shiny white glass behind the tasting bar, allowing you the view while facing either direction.
The wines here are Rhône varieties primarily and the finese on the winemaking is pretty spectacular. Everything is done with native yeast. I have to admit the grounds were so beautiful, I really didn’t want to leave. We will dive in deep to our visit in a separate post and tell you about Bill, biodynamics, the patio, gardens and the tasting room. Their tasting room was the first in the US to meet the “Living Building Challenge”.
You can look forward to our in depth interview with Bill coming up soon.
We left unwillingly. We could have stayed all day (or perhaps forever). But we had another appointment and this one was a bit of a drive.
North to the Umpqua Valley
We were headed toward Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley about 2 hours North. The Umpqua Valley AVA is a little older, established in 1984. We jumped back on Route 238 and took the scenic (and shorter) route to Grants Pass where we grabbed a bite and got on the 5. Yes it was freeway, but it’s Southern Oregon, so the views are still pretty spectacular.
We exited onto the 99 around Cow Creek and then took Route 42 out to Ten Mile where Girardet Vineyards is located. Mind you….our GPS had a little trouble out here and we ended up coming into the property the back way. I suggest downloading a map ahead of time and not relying on GPS.
Girardet is one of the older wineries in this area planting the vineyard back in 1971. The Girardets (Philippe and Bonnie) got in their VW bus and drove the country looking for vine starts. They picked up some French varieties from Wente and then planted some of the French hybrids that they picked up in New York; Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga among others. Marc was born in 1975 just after this experiment had begun. He now runs the vineyard and winery and he took some time to speak to us on the beautiful covered patio with a picnic table, next to the tasting room. After our chat he took us through the winery and drove us up into the vineyard to see the views. Vines do love a view.
We finished this stop with a tasting which included some of the Italian varieties that Marc has added on the newer section of the vineyard where they found ancient marine bed shale. We made some friends in the tasting room before heading back on the road to Newburg, where we would stop for the night. This winery has a great history that we look forward to sharing with you.
Coming up Next…
Next we head North, first to the Columbia Gorge to visit the waterfalls on the Oregon side, then onto the Washington side to visit Syncline winery. From there it is off to the Yakima Valley to visit with Seth Kitzke of Kitzke Cellars and Upsidedown Wine and then enjoy sunset with Jonathan and Mike Sauer at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.
Located in the Chehalem Mountains, Beckham is actually on Parrett Mountain on the south east end of the range. We visited them in July of 2018 to hear their story. It was a beautiful morning and Annedria set us up on the patio next to the tasting room, (which has a beautiful view), for our tasting. Andrew was busy in the studio making amphorae.
We had discussed the creation of the vineyard (you can see that in our post here). Now we move on to Annedria telling us about planting their Riesling, expanding the vineyard, their inspiration from the Jura in France and then how the Amphorae Project began.
When choosing a white grape to plant, they settled on Riesling and planted in 2013, the traditional way on the steepest, rockiest part of their vineyard.
“We had to hand pick with a pick axe every hole for each vine because it was just cobble and it’s taken a little while to come along.”
Annedria Beckham, July 2018
had warm vintages from 2014 to 2017, so the vintage in 2016 was small with an
even smaller vintage in 2017 since it is dry farmed. Annedria was hoping they might have enough
this year to do something. She’s really
looking forward to some Riesling.
the Riesling was planted they had 6 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Riesling
on their 8 and a half acre parcel.
“I was doing my happy dance thinking we were done. Now we were finished. No more breaks spent planting vines, pounding posts, no more catch wire. All of the infrastructure was finally in. We were done.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
But Andrew was contemplating the acreage behind them. He spoke to the owner and made a deal to purchase a bit of the parcel.
The parcel was covered in Douglas Fir. The family who owned it were Oregon homesteaders and had gone through a variety of crops on the land before settling on timber. The owner liked that they were farming and was happy to make a deal for the property. The county, however, couldn’t parcel off the property in smaller blocks, so they ended up with the whole 20 acres.
Soon Andrew was thinking of what else he could plant and the journey of contacting the timber guys, pulling out the Douglas fir and all that follows began again.
They cleared 10 of the 20 acres and prepped it. At this point they had a bit more knowledge on how to lay out a vineyard and had decided to go with higher density, up to 2000 vines per acre from 1200. That makes for just a few vines…2000 vines times 7 acres…that’s a chunk of change. They were also ready to go with North American root stock. The previous vines were own rooted, which was pretty safe up here on Parrett Mountain, as they do not share equipment.
To save a bit, they took cuttings of North American root stock and planted them. They could get the vines going and when they were ready, purchase bud wood to graft in place.
Falling in love with the Jura
this time, they also managed to take their first real vacation in years and and
visited France. They visited Burgundy,
which Annedria said was wonderful, but they had enough Pinot Noir planted. When they visited the Jura, they felt
completely at home. This region is one of the undiscovered areas of France for
“it wasn’t a monoculture there yet. There were still farms, there were still animals, there were still other crops. It wasn’t just row after row of vines and hillside after hillside of vines. And the people…you know, dirt under their fingernails and they were doing it like we were doing it”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
They visited cellars and garages in the Jura and decided that these were the varieties they wanted to plant.
Planting Jura varieties and testing some Italian varieties
were a couple of vineyards that had planted Trousseau Noir, so it wasn’t
completely new, but in around May of 2018 they grafted over 2 acres to 3 or 4
clones of Trousseau Noir, including the Bastardo clone. They also grafted an acre to Sauvignon Blanc
and an acre to Aligote. While they don’t anticipate getting Poulsard, they are
looking to add Savagnin.
also have a test block of a couple of Italian varieties, high alpine Nebbiolo,
Montuni and Albana. These last two from
the Emilia Romagna region. With global
warming they are testing the waters to see what might start to grow well.
the cool climate style of Pinot Noir that they like is becoming more of a
challenge without doing things like making additions, adding water,
reacidulating etc in the winery, with the multiple warm vintages that they have
been experiencing. They’ve been doing
it, but it is tougher.
A vineyard, a winemaker and an artist with clay – The amphorae project
to 2013. They planted the Riesling,
bought the new property, started clearing and one night, Annedria has half a moment to flip thorough a
Wine Spectator and comes across a piece on Elizabetta Foradori.
“I was flipping through waiting for my computer to load and I see this photograph of this stunning Italian woman in her underground cellar and row after row of these beautiful terra cotta vessels. And it was Elizabetta Foradori in her cellar. And I thought about it 3 different times before I decided to show the article to Andrew, because I knew him well enough that I didn’t want him to get this crazy idea that he needed to start making amphorae, because we had enough on our plate. But I showed him the article and said “you know I’ve heard of this winemaker and I’ve heard of her wines, we should see if we can get some in Oregon.” And he flipped through and said “I can make those” I said “ I know you can dear, but that’s not the point. How ‘bout we try the wines first?” And he ordered clay the next day and started working on shape and size.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
This was in his wheelhouse. Andrew’s pottery had always been large scale, now it had a purpose. They tried to keep this quiet. I mean… it was an experiment. But friends found out and soon there was quite a bit of interest. At this point they just had the amphorae, but they did not have any wine made in it.
Trials for amphorae – the experimentation
Andrew worked with a chemist trialing clay. They searched for an Oregon clay, but the closest they could find was from Sacramento in the delta. Most terracotta is used for pots for plants, so there are things like barium and color stabilizers in it that would not work for making wine. The clay body has changed over the years as he trialed the wines. As the potter and the winemaker he can look at a vintage and see where he might like to tweek the vessel or adjust firing temperatures. It’s all a big experiment, which, like anything with wine, takes time.
scientific in his testing. The first
year they used their estate pinot noir and just did primary fermentation in the
amphorae, then pressed and aged in neutral oak.
There were just 24 cases of this wine.
They did not additions other than a touch of sulfur before bottling to
keep the variables down as they tested.
ferment was complete, he had this empty amphorae just crying to be used, so
they picked up some Pinot Gris that another winemaker had and did a little skin
contact Pinot Gris. This first year was
2 weeks skin contact, the next 30 days, the next year 40 days and now he does
A summer spent creating amphorae
2014, happy with the initial test, he spent his entire summer break making
around 30 amphorae. The clay body was
slightly different this time. They took
a little more of their Estate Pinot Noir fermented it in the amphorae, pressed
and then separated half to amphorae and half to neutral oak for aging. These were later bottled separately as Creta
for clay and Ligna for wood.
“ It was really fun to pour those wines side by side because it was split 50 50 down the middle between what people liked. Because the ligna wasn’t too far off the beaten path. You could tell there was a difference. There was this textural component, this purity but it wasn’t so different to be too far out there. Where as the Creta in 2014 was very different, was very iron driven, there was a I don’t want to say a “blood character” . There was a very clay textural component.”
Annedria Beckham July 2018
the point wasn’t to taste the clay, the point was to get a purity of
place. So he tweeked the clay body again
and settled on one in 2015 that he has moved forward with. He know feels that you get that textural
component, but it’s not so overt that the clay is what stands out.
On to the Winery and fields of amphorae
At this point Annedria pours us a little of their Syrah/Viognier and we head up to the winery and studio. The Winery is modest, with the views they have the majority of tastings are done in the tasting room or on the patio, but they can do tastings in the winery. The building was filled with barrels and amphorae in multiple shapes.
Annedria spoke to us about the amphorae, the progression and the process, going through Andrew’s experiments with firing temperatures and how they change the oxygen exposure and can even impart reductive qualities to the wine if fired very hot.
She also mentioned some other vintners who were using Andrew’s amphorae. We had seen a couple of these amphorae when we visited Montinore and spoke with Rudy Marchesi. I also remember seeing later that Ross & Bee of Maloof wines had picked up an amphorae, and I look forward to tasting the wine they make in this.
We continued on and met Andrew in the studio where he was in the process of making another amphorae. I think that you can look forward to tasting many wines aged in his amphorae in the future, from winemakers around the region and beyond.
Even if you are not an expert on French Wine, you are sure to have heard of Gérard Bertrand. He produces that stunning bottle of rosé Côte des Roses. You know, the bottle with the rose embossed on the bottom. It’s hard to miss! And…it’s a lovely wine, that actually comes from the Côte des Roses, an area near Gruissan in Languedoc in the South of France. But Gérard Bertrand is much more than simply rosé….
Gérard Bertrand – the man
Gérard’s family had an estate vineyard. He learned alongside his father. Of course he went off on his own and found a passion for Rugby, which he played professionally for many years. But he always had a passion for wine. When his father passed in 1987 he returned to take over the family’s Villemajou Estate and later created the Gérard Bertrand wine company.
Even if you enjoy French wines, Languedoc is rarely one of the first regions you will encounter. This region is in the south of France to the West of the famous Provence. It is the region that wraps around the mediterranean sea from Nîmes to the border with Spain.
The red grape varieties here include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, all of which can be beautifully blended. We will explore two of these blends below, as well as dipping our toes into a bit of Crémant from Limoux.
Gérard Bertrand – Expressing the Terroir
At Gérard Bertrand they are dedicated to biodiversity and to the area of Languedoc-Roussillon. They expanded from the original Villemajou vineyard to purchase Cigalus Estate, Château Laville Bertrou and the Aigle Estate. Beyond that they now include Château la Sauvageonne, Château la Soujeole, Clos d’Ora, Clos du Temple, Château les Karantes, Château Aigues-Vives, Cap Insula winery, Château des Deux Rocs, Château de Tarailhan and the Estagnère Estate, in their portfolio.
After becoming interested in homeopathic medicine in the early 2000’s, Gérard became interested in Biodynamics and in 2002 started farming the Cigalus Estate biodynamically. They have since converted all their estates to biodynamic practices.
Many of the pieces you will see below will focus on the Biodynamic Cigalus Blanc, the wine that Gérard Bertrand provided as samples to many of the French #Winophiles. With many people interested the list had to be limited. Late to the party we did not receive the samples, but we were able to find several other bottles of Gérard Bertrand wines that peaked our interest!
The Grand Terroir range of wines they produce allow you discover each unique region. In addition they produce a Crémant de Limoux, claimed to be the region where sparkling wine originated. I mean how could we pass that up?!
So we have all probably heard the story of the famous monk Benedictine Dom Pérignon who lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France, discovering bubbles and tasting the stars! Dom has, in legend, often been credited with inventing Champagne. He lived from 1638 to 1715. Well… in Limoux they say that in 1531, the monks of Saint Hilaire were the first to discover the bubbles and begin using the “traditional methode” to produce sparkling wines. I’ll let them duke it out, you can pour me a glass of either and I will be happy to watch them debate while I simply enjoy the delicious wine.
Limoux sits in the cool foothills of the Pyranees, an area perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. For more on this area, I highly recommend visiting the Limoux AOC page on Languedoc Wine site!
Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016
Crémant de Limoux is said to be the only sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson kept in his cellar. I like to picture him receiving the sparkling bottles from the chilly basement through his wine elevator…leave it to Thom to invent this stuff. (We visited Monticello a few years ago, hence the photos).
This particular wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin, and 15% Pinot Noir.
The Grapes are harvested when their acid-sugar balance reach their best. The fruit is transferred to the winery and immediately pressed in a pneumatic pressing machine. In addition to reinforce the perception of freshness and balance, the dosage is very precise. The Pinot Noir grapes are not macerated, in order to preserve their colour. The must is transferred to the vats for alcoholic fermentation using the same process used for still wine. After malolactic fermentation in the vats, the wine is blended together and then transferred to the barrels to mature for 8 months.
During the Roman era, this area was actually an island. No longer an island, La Clape is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The soils here are loose limestone.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015
The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre. It sits at 13.5% abv
A slow ripening process and a late harvest (end of September to mid-October) are the key ingredients for producing grapes that are ripe, healthy and concentrated and also aids the extraction of colour and aromas during fermentation and maceration. The grapes are harvested by hand when they have reached peak ripeness and transported to the winery in special bins. They are then de-stemmed before being transferred to the stainless steel vats for maceration, lasting 20 to 25 days. The wine is then decanted into barrels for 8 months of ageing.
Tautavel is a village in the Roussillon region, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. This region lays claim to some of the oldest hominid remains in Europe. In 1971, the remains of Tautavel Man were discovered. These remains date to 450,000 years ago, and the area is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan and sits a 15% abv
Work in the vineyard starts by selecting the most suitable plots of land for each variety. The grapes are harvested once they have reached peak maturity, determined by regular tasting, and are sorted twice: once in the vineyard and again in the winery. The fruit is vinified in the traditional manner, the grapes are de-stemmed and then undergo maceration for 3 to 4 weeks. The must is then pressed before malolactic fermentation begins. 33% of the wine is transferred to barrels and matured for 9 months, while the rest matures in the vats.
I sat with the tech sheets for each of these wines and prepared a menu, which began and ended with the Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose.
The salmon crostini was simple, just crostini, (sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and baked 8-10 minutes) topped with smoked salmon, a dot of creme fraiche and then either a dab of raspberry jam or a dab of caviar.
The Crémant was beautiful in the glass, clear with fine bubbles and a light salmon color, that looked gorgeous next to our salmon crostini. The nose hit you first with tart fruit followed by whiffs of toast.
This was beautiful with the salmon, the acid and bubbles cutting through the fat. The creme fraiche mirrored the tartness in the wine and the crostini brought in those toasty elements. It was interesting to see how the difference of salt or sweet on the top affected the experience. I enjoyed the jam matching the fruit in the wine and balancing it with that hint of sweetness, but the crostini with the caviar was my favorite. The caviar contrasted beautifully, pulling forward the fruit notes in the wine. This was a delicious bite and pairing.
Cheese & charcuterie
We opened the two red wines and put together a cheese & charcuterie platter, which included gouda, manchego and a St. Angel triple creme cheese. I added some sopresso, honey & walnuts, as well as an assortment of berries; strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
I found that the triple creme cheese went beautifully with both wines, with the wine pulling forth some beautiful floral notes in the cheese. The Tautavel was surprisingly nice with the salmon crostini with caviar, brightening and highlighting the food.
As expected the sopresso was wonderful with the La Clape with the mouvedre in the blend. The La Clape was also very nice with the crostini with the jam. Together both the jam and the wine felt brighter in my mouth.
Sous vide pork in caramel sauce & Roasted fennel & Peppers
Gérard Bertrand’s suggested pairings for the Tautavel included “grilled peppers, pork in caramel sauce and rabbit with prunes and fine cheeses”. The tasting notes also listed red fruit and raspberry aromas underpinned by spicy notes…delicate notes of scrubland and spices on the palate”. In addition they noted “Ripe black fruits, chocolate, licorice and smoked herbs…”
Intrigued by the pork in caramel sauce, I found a recipe for sous vide pork to riff on. The pork went into the sous vide with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika (for those subtle spices on the palate) and rosemary (for the scrubland herb notes). 2 hours later, we seared the chops and drizzled with a caramel sauce with salt pepper and rosemary. This plated with roasted fennel (pulling forward those licorice notes) and peppers with a bit of rubbed sage (more scrubland). We garnished with fresh fennel and sage leaves and blackberries to tie in the “ripe black fruit”.
Roasted Chicken on a bed of cous cous with arugula and cranberries
The La Clape suggestions included roasted poulty and creamy cheeses. We had already enjoyed this with the triple creme, so now it was onto tasting it with the roast chicken. I served this on a bed of cous cous with cranberries to pull those fruit notes and arugula to pull some of the peppery notes, as well as add a bit of green.
Both of the wines paired well with the food. These wines are lovely on the nose, but feel lighter on the palate, so that they were beautiful to pair with these lighter meats without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.
Dessert – Deconstructed Berry tart
With a Brut Rosé you can rarely go wrong with a red fruit desert, and this was no exception. I created a simple deconstructed berry tart, with crumbled shortbread, raspberry jam, a puree of raspberries an strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mint and a raspberry sorbet.
We poured another glass of the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 (which we had stoppered, pressurized returned to the fridge to preserve the bubbles while we enjoyed the rest of the meal). This pairing did not disappoint and was the perfect end to an evening of delicious wines.
This was a beautiful exploration into this region and this winery for me. I encourage you to search for Gérard Bertrand wines, beyond that beautiful rosé and taste a bit of Languedoc.
The French #Winophiles
Read on for more great pieces on the wines of Gérard Bertrand. As I mentioned before, many of these will focus on the wonderful 2018 Cigalus Blanc, an exceptional white blend that I look forward to tasting in the future.
And join us on Saturday May 18th at 11 am EST on twitter to discuss these wines! Just follow #Winophiles to find us!
were clinking, wines were being poured, great conversations were happening, the
weather was perfect and Flavor Camp was about to begin.
Wine Yakima Valley treated those of us who attended the WBC Pre Conference tour to 2 incredible days exploring the Yakima Valley. (You can catch our overview here). This first evening was spent at Owen Roe Winery. We managed an impromptu winery tour with Co-Owner David O’Reilly and now we were on to Flavor Camp.
Yakima Valley is an agricultural region and in addition to grapes for wine,
they also produce apples for cider and hops for beer. We were treated to an in-depth look at these
with Flavor Camp.
will get to hear about the Cider and Hops also, but we are about wine here,
Tour with David O’Reilly
We are at the Owen Roe Union Gap Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. As we climb into the back of the all-terrain vehicle with about a dozen wine writers, David explained that we are about as far West in the Yakima Valley as you can go.
“From east to west there is not a big temperature difference.” David tells us, but Walla Walla, where we would be going the following day, was at 30 degrees the night before, where as Yakima was at 40. The cold air rushes down the valley.
For a bit of perspective, take a look at this Wine map of Washington State, Courtesy of Washingtonwine.org you can see Yakima about at center east/west in the state, with the cascades to the west, compared to Walla Walla to the east.
Here on this map of the Yakima Valley courtesy of WineYakimaValley.org you can see the Union Gap Vineyard all the way west.
This tour would take us through 3 of the distinct soil types on the vineyard and we would taste the flavor profile from each.
Missoula Flood Loess and Bordeaux varieties
We drove up the hill and stepped out at the top, into soft loose dusty soil that immediately covered my shoes. As people walked, little puffs of dust erupted in their footsteps. “Loose soil” is your clue here. This is loess.
David pulls out his altimeter app to check the altitude (we all scrambled to find this app). We were standing at 1199 feet.
Remember those Missoula Floods?
Now it’s time to talk a little soil history. If you read our piece on Montinore, you may have some of this history! If not, you can find it here, where Rudy Marchesi explains the Missoula Floods.
This property sits at the convergence of Glacial Lake Missoula. We would pass the Wallula Gap tomorrow as we headed to Walla Walla. This is where the Ice dam backed up the water, eventually lifting and flooding the valley, creating the Columbia River Gorge and impacting the land and soil all the way into Oregon.
The water here in Yakima came up to about 1150 feet, so the soil we were standing on was above the glacial flood. The soil here are silts (really fine). David pointed out the hillside where you could see the sub soils of basalt and ancient rock that are about 22 million years old.
Soils here on top are shallow making it good for Bordeaux varieties. At the top of the hill where we are standing, they grow their Cabernet Sauvignon. This is clone 47, David tells us, a clone with small berries, this wine retains it’s fruit and has beautiful acid. We are tasting the 2014 bordeaux Blend with is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Malbec blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard block.
In the summers, up here, the sun is up at 6 am and the soils tend to stay warm overnight. They have less of a diurnal (day to night temperature) shift then Red Mountain. Photosynthesis is maximized when the soil is warm so the grapes here ripen earlier and the wine is less tannic and more textural.
We strolled down the hill, creating little dust storms and ending at the block of Cabernet Franc.
Elevation, terroir and matching varieties
David explained the planting method. The soils that are most shallow are planted to the latest ripening grape varieties (cabernet sauvignon), the deeper soils toward the bottom of the hill are planted to merlot, which has big clusters that ripen early. Here in the middle is where the cab franc grows, ripening later than merlot and before the cabernet sauvignon.
Cabernet Franc at Owen Roe
Franc is a favorite of mine and of David’s it seemed. He spoke of this ancient grape, father to
cabernet sauvignon and how it likes cooler temperatures. In hotter years it gets finicky. This end of the Yakima Valley is about 4
degrees cooler than other sites in the valley during the day, but it stays
warmer at night. This gives the cabernet
franc “gorgeous texture and keeps that perfume in the grape”.
taste the 2015 Cabernet Franc. This year
was warmer and the cabernet franc was finicky.
They had to pluck out the green berries by hand from the bunches. The first major heat will shut photosynthesis
down. The 2014 by comparison was very
Bordeaux in style and was chunky and tannic.
Irrigation in the Yakima Valley
We noticed the irrigation drip. Washington is extremely dry and they must irrigate here to keep the vineyard growing. The water here comes from wells from the Ellensberg Formation Aquifer. Due to the soil type, it tends to be slightly acidic. The soils are basic and low in nitrogen so this is one of the nutrients they will add in the winery. (We talk about that in our winery tour)
In so many wine regions we are trained to think of irrigation as bad and dry farming is good. That would be to stress the vines and keep those roots digging deep. Here, with the lack of rain fall, it is necessary.
The region gets only 7 to 8 inches of precipitation each year, and the definition of a true desert is anything less than 10.
The cherries in the valley, David tells us, use 10 times the amount of water as the vines here.
Into the glacial soils & Rhône varieties
Further down the hill we get into the glacial soils where you find calcium carbonate, the white substance we had seen above. These glacial silts have a little deeper soil and give you rock and minerality, the wines are finer than if they were grown in loess & deeper soils, that present as more aromatic and textural.The Oldest soil type here is the Ellensburg Formation, which is old Columbia Riverbed. This predates the Yakima River & the basalt activity. These are actually “anti-clines” that formed through earth movement. The upthrust that we were standing on at this point was at almost 1200 feet. This is not glacial. Anything lower than this was not upthrust, it was just washed away.
is found in high elevations. In Walla
Walla the famous Rocks AVA is all on riverbeds at the Valley Floor.
makes this great for Grenache is that Grenache is cold sensitive, so you want
it high in the vineyard so the cold air rushes down. Sounds counter intuitive, it’s at one of the
highest elevations & yet it ripens early.
Okay…all this talk about soils and wine, are you thirsty now? Search out a bottle of Washington wine, Owen Roe if you can find it, and enjoy our video tour with David O’Reilly.
Washington Tasting room
Open Daily from 11-4 in the Yakima Valley, they do require reservations for more than 8 guests.
They also offer Barrel Room Tastings on the weekends started each day at noon. You can reserve this for a fee on their reservation page. It includes a tour, private tasting, an expanded flight and a cheese and charcuterie platter.
The Union Gap Vineyard and tasting room can be found at 309 Gangl Rd in Wapato WA 98951. 509-877-0454
Oregon Tasting Room
Again open daily from 11-4 their tasting room off Hwy 219 outside of Newberg requires reservations for more than 6 guests. You can bring snacks, or contact them ahead of time and they can have a snack plate ready.
Here they have a Cellar Table Experience that you can reserve to do a more private tasting geared toward your palate. Contact them ahead of time to set this up.
The Willamette Valley tasting room is located at 2761 E 9th St. Newberg OR 97132. 503-538-7778
More to come!
Watch for more on Yakima Valley Wine, coming out soon!
Vista Hills was the setting for the “Uncommon Wine Festival” that we’ve been talking about so much. This years was the 9th annual and before heading down there we had a chance to speak with Dave Petterson, Vista Hills Winemaker about the festival and how it got started.
The Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard – The Mega Mix
The day itself was spectacular, not too hot, not too cold. The vineyards were beautiful, the wines were flowing, there was even a group on horseback that stopped by the festival, before continuing their ride through the vineyards. And of course there were makers of “uncommon” wine there to talk and taste with. Enjoy our Mega Mix of the day!
While we couldn’t catch Dave during the festival, we did have a chance to taste a few of his “Uncommon Wines”
2017 Fool’s Gold Blanc de Noir
100% Pinot Noir, this blanc de Noir gets pressed and gets no time on the skin, which allows for this lovely light coppery color. They fement it with a champagne yeast. They only made 121 cases of this wine.
The grapes come from their newest vineyard block that was planted just 10 years ago in 2008. Block L sits are around 720 feet. This is all Dijon clone 115.
2016 Rumble Seat Pinot Gris Rose
Rumble Seat 2016 Pinot Gris Rosé from Vista Hills
They call it a Pinot Gris Rosé, but it is really made in the style of an Orange Wine. You can’t find this on their site anymore. It is incredibly popular with their wine club and disappears quickly. Luckily, we snagged a bottle at the festival. As with all their bottles, it comes with a story.
Rumble Seat 2016 Pinot Gris Rosé from Vista Hills label detail and story
2017 Duchess Pinot Noir Rose
Duchess 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé from Vista Hills
This wine is truly “Uncommon” the nose is cotton candy. Not what I normally look for in a wine, but…it was weird and fascinating. So, yeah, we left with a bottle of that too. Here’s it’s story.
Duchess 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé from Vista Hills label and story
The day was truly spectacular and the opportunity to meet and speak with all of these winemakers was once in a lifetime, well, until next year and the 10th annual “Uncommon Wine Festival”.
Take a visit to our page filled with all the fabulous winemakers that we met at the Uncommon Wine Festival filled with photos and interviews.
Vista Hills Sign
A group on horseback stopping through at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills
The “Treehouse” at Vista Hills
Winemakers setting up for the Uncommon wine Festival at Vista Hills
Looking up at the “Treehouse” at Vista Hills
Made to order fusion food truck
A spectacular selection for lunch from the Fusion Food Truck
Tasty bites to pair with the wines at the Uncommon Wine Festival
We wish everyone at Vista Hills all the best and thank them for creating an Amazing Event with the Uncommon Wine Festival, as well as for creating beautiful wines and a magical place in the “Treehouse” to taste them.
We’ve been talking about the wines we tasted with Leah Jørgensen at the Uncommon Wine Festival back in July at Vista Hills Vineyard. And we have come to the end of our tasting. The 2015 Malbec is deep and rich and Leah tells us it smells like blueberry pie when it ferments. Mmmmm….now I’m hungry.
Leah sources most of her grapes from Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Applegate Valleys, but she makes her wines at Raptor Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains. She is a brilliant ambassador of Cabernet Franc, and while this Malbec may not be her signature grape, it really is delicious wine.
As this was the last wine we would taste with her, I wanted to savor it. She poured, and while I stuck my nose into the glass, she told me about the wine and how we had come full circle.
2015 Malbec from Leah Jørgensen Cellars
I have one more wine and it is a book end. The Sav Blanc that we started with and this wine are from the same vineyard. The Crater View Vineyard with all that Ancient marine material I was telling you about. So this is not like an Argentina Malbec, it’s got incredible acidity, it’s actually got one of the lowest pH’s of all the red that I bring in. So you get incredible acidity from this and it’s all bright brambly fruit. It doesn’t go as leathery, it does get plummy, but it just a very pleasant drinking Malbec.
It has a lot of structure and a lot of tannins and it’s really bright now, I wonder if you will get more of that leather and bottom that’s going to come out of it as it ages?
Well because there is so much acidity in this, I think it’s going to stay in a nice balance and I think that’s what makes the difference. So a lot of reds that we think are ageable reds, like cab savs from California, they don’t have the same acid profile, unless they add it. But it doesn’t naturally have the same acid, so they are going to have all that tannin structure and not as much acid, it’s gonna go in a certain direction. But when you already have berry fruit flavors on the palate and you have acid that’s already there it’s kinda like cab franc, it’s going to carry that wine.
Tell me how you make this then.
We pick it, it’s one of the last things that come through the door. The berries are big, they look like blueberries and when people come down in the cellar, they are like, “what is that smell?”. It is the most fragrant, aromatic, beautiful ferment in all of the cellar. It’s like blueberry pie, because you know that fermented yeasty and then the blueberry..it smells like blueberry pie, it’s delightful. It’s my favorite smelling ferment.
When we finish fermentation, we press it and we go straight to neutral barrel, so again, I used mostly neutral barrels. 8 months in oak just like the others, but we reserve in the bottle, I bottle age this a little longer. Just because I think it benefits from a little more time. We don’t make much of it, it’s not a flagship wine like the cab francs that we like to quickly release, cause we like to stay in business. But I can reserve this one a little bit. It’s not a one off but it’s something that we do that’s an extra. It happens to be my dad’s favorite. My dad love’s grilling and he does amazing dry rubs. He will do like a marionberry barbeque sauce with it, and it’s pretty good.
Marionberries…they are a Northwest thing and they are actually a variation on a blackberry. I had a slice of Marionberry pie the other night that was delightful and would have really been great with this wine and the thought of a marionberry barbeque sauce had my mouth-watering.
On other things
In between all of our discussions that you see on the video we also spoke about her 2016 Cab Franc, about Virginia, where she grew up and the amazing Cab Francs coming out of that region these days. She told me about working at Chrysalis Vineyard in Middleburg, the home of Norton. She and Asa got married in Middleburg and had their rehearsal dinner at Chrysalis. (Michael and I visited the area last year). We talked about their “Côte Clos Rogue Valley”, their homage to Clos Roche Blanche and their Grande Reserve which gets a little extra time in the barrel. We talked about neutral oak. Any new oak she gets is puncheons to allow for less surface area and she only uses those for the reserves.
Aging Cabernet Franc
We also discussed Cab Franc and it’s ageability.
When you compare it with other grapes it’s one of the few that have both (intense acid & tannins) and so that’s what makes a grape super ageable, it’s structure building, it adds structure and ageability to those blends. So Cab Francs on their own will age forever. You can put these down and they get more and more interesting over time. So even just seeing more time in the barrel then we hold the wines we reserve them for 9 months before we release them. So all that little extra time, you have to be patient, it’s hard to be patient when you are a new business, but it does make a difference in the quality of these cab francs.
Equestrian Wine Tours Oregon
At one point we got all distracted as a group of people on horseback arrived to the tasting. It was enchanting. And that was our conversation with Leah, just enchanting. Almost as enchanting as the thought of a fermentation room filled with the aroma of blueberry pie.