A Vineyard walk on Candy Ridge with Seth Kitzke

Candy Mountain as seen from Kitzke's Candy Ridge Vineyard

It was July 2019 and we were on summer whirlwind trip called #thescenicroute.  We had come from the beautiful Columbia Gorge region and were meeting Seth Kitzke at Candy Ridge Vineyard at Candy Mountain.

We pulled in and up to the Kitzke Cellars tasting room, on a Monday. Their tasting room is only typically open on the weekends, so we pulled up to a very confused looking gentleman.  This was Paul Kitzke, owner of the estate and winery and Seth’s dad.  Seth had evidently not mentioned us coming and Paul was surprised to see people at the tasting room so early, not to mention with camera and recording gear.  After a quick explanation, he warmed and looked to invite us in just as Seth pulled up. 

Seth’s tasting room for his own brand Upsidedown Wine is in Hood River, where we had just been, but he was coming from a meeting somewhere else this particular morning.  He had managed to squeeze us in to the middle of his day.

So where exactly are we?

Well, we are in the east end of the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. The area is near the Tri-Cities close to the city of Richland. Candy Mountain is just South East of Red Mountain the fairly famous Yakima Valley AVA that is winning high praise for it’s grapes and wine. 

Washington AVA Map Courtesy of Washington State, with Candy Mountain AVA
Washington AVA Map Courtesy of Washington State, with the area of the Proposed Candy Mountain AVA penciled in.

We started in the vineyard with Candy Mountain in the background.  The view is the same as the view on the sketch on their labels. The first thing I wanted to know about was the proposed AVA.

Candy Mountain AVA (Proposed)

You know we get into proposed AVAs, we’ve talked about the proposed AVAs in the Willamette Valley and I was really curious about the proposed Candy Mountain AVA.  When approved, it will be Washington’s smallest AVA at around 820 acres.  Seth told us it’s been submitted and approved on the Washington State side and now they are just waiting on the Federal stuff.  The application was “Accepted as Perfected” on January 24, 2017. As of the date of this piece, the time for public comment had closed and it was just waiting.  Likely it will be waiting a bit longer with everything slowing down right now.  It’s a little confusing.  I went to the TTB page and they are no longer listed on the “Pending approval” page, but they are also not listed on the “Established AVA” page.  So they are sitting in limbo in between.  As Seth put it “It’s sitting on someone’s desk somewhere in a stack waiting to get stamped.”

Details on the proposed AVA

The thing is, that this AVA which would be nested in the Yakima Valley AVA spills a little over the edge and they would need to expand the Yakima Valley AVA by 72 acres to adjust the overlap. 

The AVA is on the the southwestern slopes of Candy Mountain.  Seth mentioned that the slopes here are south facing due to the the way the ridge and Mountain are oriented.  Red Mountain AVA with it’s much larger 4040 acres, wraps around Red Mountain with vineyards Southeast facing, south facing and wrapping around to some that are south west and west facing also. 

“…Candy Mountain doesn’t really have that option. It’s pretty much all directly south.  You might have a tiny bit of southeast and southwest..”

Seth Kitzke, July 2019

 Seth studied sustainability and tourism before getting into wine and like preserving ridge lines and views.  He mentions that a hiking group that used to do “hike, wine & dine” events bought up the land that goes up to the ridge so that the views won’t ever get obstructed with a bunch of houses.

Candy Ridge Vineyard

Kitzke Cellars on Candy Ridge in the Yakima Valley AVA
Kitzke Cellars on Candy Ridge in the Yakima Valley AVA

The Candy Ridge Vineyard is the Estate Vineyard for Kitzke Cellars.  They have another vineyard, the Dead Poplar Vineyard which is in the lower Yakima Valley directly across from (but not in) the Red Mountain AVA.

Here at the Candy Ridge Vineyard they are mostly growing Bordeaux varieties, Cab Franc, Cab Sav, Petit Verdot and then some Syrah in the back and some Sangiovese out front. 

“The sangio is kind of an anomaly here.  It’s all east facing all lyre style trained stuff, like a double cordon that comes up and splits, a lot more shade.”

Seth Kitzke, July 2019

Their neighbor Jim, is kind of the reason Seth’s parents started growing grapes.  He has Merlot that was planted in 1982 as well as some other varieties that they get some of.  Seth says that he is really the pioneer of Candy Mountain.

Cabernet Franc and Caliche soil

We walk into the vineyard and Seth points out Cab Franc that was planted in 2008.  

Cab Franc by the Lawn at Candy Ridge Vineyard
Cab Franc by the Lawn at Candy Ridge Vineyard

“We kinda added as the wines proved themselves. My parents started gobbling up a little more of the square footage of the area, planting more rows…basically the yard was big and they were like “hey let’s plant some more cab franc.””

Seth Kitzke, July 2019

The cons of caliche soil

Previously all the cab franc was east facing out front and the back was just Petit Verdot and Cab Sav.  But just because they had the space didn’t mean it would be easy.  The front is rocky with floating basalt in the loam.  In the back…well

“My dad called me a wuss, because I couldn’t dig the poles when we got up here.  The caliche layer is like calcium carbonate, a really hard layer, like natural cement.  He ended up bringing in our backhoe.  When we had the backhoe in here it broke 2 teeth off the metal bucket on the backhoe.  It shows you how hard this stuff really is.”

Seth Kitzke, July 2019
Caliche comparison at Kitzke Cellars
In the lower hand basalt, in the upper caliche. The caliche, while really hard, is so much lighter.

But there are also pros…

The caliche though, has is pluses.  The berries on the cab franc in the back are tiny little stressed berries, where as the ones in the front get a little more size on them.  Stress berries equal tasty wine typically.  The Cab franc in the back has more shatter and natural stress from the caliche layer.  But caliche is also porous.  They had a foot of snow as late as early March in 2019.  Where as with basalt the moisture would evaporate, the caliche layer locks the moisture in and holds it.  In early July when we were there it was the first time they had turned on the water this season. They were trying to get the canopies to shut down and focus on fruit.  You can see in the video that the canopies were kinda going a little crazy.

Petit Verdot and new training systems

We moved on to the Petit Verdot.  Seth was getting ready to implement a new training system. 

“So you can see we are leaving some of the suckers low this year.  This stuff is all around 20 years old and you are getting older and older wood on the cordon.  So to preserve the vineyard and make it healthier longer I’m going to slowly start switching to can pruning, lower that way there are less cuts, less possibility for disease, or at least that’s what they say.”

Seth Kitzke, July 2019

This system keeps fresh wood which encourages sap flow.  Vines produce less as they get older. Seth wants to keep these elderly vines as happy as he can.  At 20 years old they only do one color pass at veraison.  The vines tend to regulate themselves keeping to 3 to 3.5 tons per acre.  3 tons is Seth’s sweet spot for quality.

How to manage Syrah planted East/West

We walk back to the Syrah in the back.  This is trained differently.  When his parents first put these vines in they were not really thinking from a wine making standpoint.  This part of the vineyard is all trained east/west.  That sounds crazy to anyone who knows much about planting vineyards.  You typically run north/south to get the best of the sunlight.  Here with the east/west vines, you get sun on one side of the vine all day.  So, what do they do? 

“We’ll hang more fruit on the shady side, less on the sun side.”

Seth Kitzke, July 2019

Seth notes that in hot areas in Washington, syrah can get rich, ripe, jammy and high in alcohol.  He wants to taste the terroir, not just the fruit.  So they pick separately the sunny side and the shady side, with again, more fruit on the shady side.  This allows them to really keep the alcohol down.  We later tried a syrah in the tasting room that Seth said was picked at 23 brix and came out at 13.3% abv.  Still it was phenolically ripe with time to develop without the sugar spiking. Rather than pulling out this vineyard, they found a way to work with it that really works for them.

More to come!

Stick with us.  We spent a ton of time talking with Seth out in the front vineyard and then in the tasting room where we tasted through Kitzke wines and Upsidedown Wines and talked about all sorts of interesting stuff.  One thing we spoke about was the Grenache that Seth was getting from the WeatherEye Vineyard up on Red Mountain.  More on that soon.

In the meantime, some links…

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Mudgee Region with Cara George

Riesling vine at Robert Stein Vineyard Mudgee NSW Australia

While visiting Australia in October of 2019 to attend the Wine Media Conference, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with Cara George the CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism.

We visited Mudgee before the conference and soaked in the feel of this wonderful inland town where they are growing so many different varieties of wine grapes. We tasted Zinfandel with David Lowe of Lowe Wines, Italian varieties sipping Prosecco with Col Millott at First Ridge, did a morning visit to Robert Stein where they make some astoundingly good Riesling and sipped Spanish varieties with Sam at Vinifera. Yes, that’s a wide range of wines! Mudgee has a little something for everyone.

The town itself makes you want to disconnect from everything. It’s a place to stroll, eat great food, find a great shop and of course enjoy some great wines. You will want to keep your phone handy though, for photos. Picturesque spots abound. You’ll be ready to send pictures to everyone you know, but you won’t want to leave.

This is Australia, and this year (2020) they are struggling. Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware of the fires. Well the fires are a result of drought and this has been tough on the vineyards.

The thing is, they are still open for business and you can support them by getting out to visit. What? You are not in Australia you say? Well get yourself to a wine store and buy some Australian wine. Ask for wines from wineries other than Yellow Tail! Increase the demand for these wines. Drink them and talk about them. That’s what we plan to do. Wine is a product that takes months to years to be ready for sale, so you will find these wineries have white wines available that were bottled this spring and reds that may be anywhere from the 2013 to the 2018 harvest, not to mention older bottles of sparkling or sweet wines. There is plenty of wine that they have ready for you to enjoy.

Cara George CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism, told us that they are doing a campaign in February around Valentine’s Day called “Feel the Love in the Mudgee Region”.

#Feelthelove

Visitors are encouraged to live their own love story in Mudgee Region – sharing experiences with their friends and families and on social media using @mudgeeregion #feelthelove

Feel the Love experiences and packages are available from 14 February through to 30 June. To view all the FEEL THE LOVE experiences and packages, and to create your own love story, visit mudgeedeals.com.au
For more information on Mudgee Region visit visitmudgeeregion.com.au

Mudgee Region is loved as a contemporary country destination, infused with art and music, serving quality produce and wine and shaped by a strong sense of community. Visitors are encouraged to connect right across the region, including the townships of Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone, Kandos and beyond, to enjoy a vibrant yet intimate setting. Located less than 270km northwest of Sydney, the fuss-free journey is all part of the experience, and what awaits is a stunning mix of charm and sophistication. It’s just a 3.5- hour drive from Sydney, or 45-minute flight from Sydney airport.

mudgee Region Tourism

Get out and explore Australian wines. There is so much more than Yellow Tail Shiraz my friends!

For more information on Mudgee…

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

Exploring New South Wales – Mudgee #ouraussiewineadventure

Vinifera Vineyard Sunrise Mudgee NSW Australia

During #ouraussiewineadventure in October we traveled to the Mudgee Region of New South Wales to spend a day exploring the town and the wineries that surround it.

Mudgee, through the fires and the drought, is still open for business!

From the beginning, I want to acknowledge that they are having a tough year, as is all of Australian wine country. Mudgee, like most regions has been impacted by the drought and the bush fires. While the fires are not directly in the vineyards, they must deal with the smoke, the increased lack of water, the slowing of tourism during the fires and on a more personal level, many employees and their families may be directly affected by the fires.

The thing is, they are still open for business and you can support them by getting out to visit. What? You are not in Australia you say? Well get yourself to a wine store and buy some Australian wine. Ask for wines from wineries other than Yellow Tail! Increase the demand for these wines. Drink them and talk about them. That’s what we plan to do. Wine is a product that takes months to years to be ready for sale, so you will find these wineries have white wines available that were bottled this spring and reds that may be anywhere from the 2013 to the 2018 harvest, not to mention older bottles of sparkling or sweet wines. There is plenty of wine that they have ready for you to enjoy.

#Feelthelove

Cara George CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism, told us that they are doing a campaign in February around Valentine’s Day called “Feel the Love in the Mudgee Region”.

We are waiting with open arms to welcome visitors. #feelthelove

Cara George, CEO Mudgee Region Tourism, January 29th, 2020

We will use this post to tell you about this region, to fill you in on it’s beauty, it’s people, it’s wines. But you can expect that we will be following up with details on the struggles that they are facing and how they are dealing with it.

Mudgee

Mudgee is a wine region in New South Wales. It sits inland from the Blue Mountains and on the West side of the Great Dividing Range. The city is the 2nd oldest settlement West of the Blue Mountains, established in 1838.

In the 1870’s two gold rushes swelled the areas population. The downtown area is picturesque with plenty of heritage listed buildings. It is a great place to stroll and enjoy the shops and food, but don’t miss getting out of town to the surrounding vineyards.

Wine in Mudgee

The name Mudgee means “nest in the hills” in the aboriginal tongue. The name comes from the perimeter of hills that create a “nest”. Grapevines were first planted here back in 1858 by German settlers. Most vineyards are found on the gentle slopes, where you get beautiful vistas. This nest does have it’s downfalls as it can have frost prone pockets.

We drove through the Great Dividing Range from the Hunter Valley to get here and the climate here is very different. There is no maritime influence and bud burst is later here due to the cold nights.

Rainfall is lower here. If you are aware of the bush fires and the current severe drought being felt across New South Wales, you realize how much of an issue that is. Irrigation is essential here, and with the drought they are running low on water to irrigate with.

Harvest here will run a full month behind harvest in the Hunter Valley to the east. It’s warm in summer and autumn. They are at 32 degrees south here and prime wine growing regions sit between 30 and 50 degrees, so they are the warmer edge. Luckily, they sit at about 1476 feet, which helps moderate the heat.

You will find a little more than 40 cellar doors in the area and a wide range of wines, from rieslings to zinfandel.

Lowe Wines

  • David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia
  • Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained
  • Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia
  • Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia Cellar Door

Our first stop as we drove into Mudgee, was a visit with David Lowe at Lowe Wines. David is growing bio-dynamically and is a proponent of Slow wine. We had a fascinating conversation with him in his beautiful and busy tasting room. After wondering the property with the map they provide in tasting room to see the orchard, the compost, the gardens etc…we left with a bottle of Zin. Yep…he is well known for his Zinfandel. You can see some of our interview with David:

The Parkview Hotel, Mudgee

We headed back into town to check into our lodging. We were guided on our choice by the suggested accommodations for the Post Wine Media Conference Tour that we were unable to join. (3 tours…we couldn’t do them all, so we came early!)

We found the Parkview Hotel, just off of the main area of town overlooking a quiet park. This historic building, originally built in the 1870’s, had recently reopened after extensive renovations. It retains it’s historic charm while adding modern conveniences. They have a cafe, which sadly was not open when we were there mid week. Our suite was easily accessible on the main floor, a boon as we needed to do some repacking! There is a lovely wrap around veranda on the 2nd floor, which they made us aware of upon check in and encouraged us to enjoy. We did. With a bit of time before our sunset meeting, we sat and enjoyed the quiet of the park, with blossoms dropping from the trees and scattering and drifting across the floor of the veranda. It’s was the perfect peaceful break in the afternoon.

First Ridge Wines

  • First Ridge Wines in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The drive to the cellar door at First Ridge Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Sipping First Ridge Prosecco with Col in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The last rays of sunset from First Ridge in Mudgee NSW Australia

Sunset found us at First Ridge, taking in the amazing views over Prosecco with Col Millott. Here they focus on Italian varieties; fiano, vermentino, pinot grigio, sangiovese and barbera. Col, the viticulturist, met us as their cellar door on the vineyard. It was after hours, being at sunset and he kindly drove back to the property and opened up their modern cellar door, that is made from 2 shipping containers.

They are located South East of the city of Mudgee and from their location you can truly see the “nest” that this valley is. Michael set up cameras to catch the views and Col opened up the walls of the cellar door and poured some Prosecco for us to sip while we chatted.

You will have to watch for our interview with Col that will be coming out later.

The sun set, and as the light began to fade, we gathered up the equipment and let Col get home for the day.

Dinner at the Red Heifer

We had planned a spot for dinner, but Col suggested the Red Heifer at the Lawson Park Hotel. It was a beautiful evening and the walk felt good.

The town of Mudgee is really a bit enchanting. By the time you get here, you have driven through quite a bit of bush and for me at least, it was a relief to see civilization. As we pulled into Church Street the town oozed charm. In the mid day sun, the parking spots along the streets were full and the town hummed with people making their way from shop to shop. Now in the evening it was quieter. The streets were mostly empty and the dark sky was pierced by the light of the clock tower. We strolled, taking it all in, until hunger pushed us to move a bit faster.

We arrived at Lawson’s and found the Red Heifer. The bar and restaurant are separate, so we grabbed a glass of local wine from the bar and, too tired to grill our own, (which is what the place is known for) we went simple with some fish and chips. It was seat yourself, casual and comfortable with the wall painted to show you all the best cuts of beef.

Full and happy, we strolled, a little more slowly now, back to the hotel.

Sunrise at Vinifera

  • Sunrise in Mudgee over the vines at Vinifera
  • Sunrise at Vinifera in Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Spring Vines at Vinifera
  • New green on the vines at Vinifera Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The winery at Vinifera Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Vinifera's award winning Cabernet Sauvignon Mudgee NSW Australia
  • The Giant Corkscrew in front of Vinifera that matches their logo Mudgee NSW Australia

Sunrise was out at Vinifera Vineyards, which is near Lowe Wines and across from the airport. We shivered in the cool morning, arriving early as always to catch the first rays over the vineyard. It was cloudy, so we caught bits as it broke through the clouds. Some of the vines were just hitting bud break here. We ventured back later in the day to do a tasting with Sam, daughter of Tony and Debbie McKendry who planted the vineyard in 1994 and still run it today. She has stepped in as the second generation here at the vineyards. But first…there was breakfast to be had.

Alby + Esthers

The Wine Media Conference would return here with a group after the conference. We could not join them, but we did grab their itinerary as a guide. They would be breakfasting at Alby + Esthers so we figured we would give it a try.

The entrance is a brick archway down an alley between shops. You feel like you are sneaking into a spot others might miss. The space opens to a courtyard between the buildings with small seating areas next to an open door into the cafe proper. There are a few seats inside, but why on earth would we not want to enjoy this enchanting garden. Words, don’t do the place justice. You’ll have to settle for some photos.

In addition to being a great spot for breakfast, they are open as a wine bar in the evening. With the lights strung over this cozy courtyard garden, I image that would be pretty amazing.

Now it was time to try to fit in another tasting or two, before heading back to the Hunter Valley.

Robert Stein – Riesling

We headed north out of the city to Robert Stein. It was still early and we were likely to be the first people in the tasting room. We pulled up out in front of the rustic looking cellar door, and took in the cloud filled sky, then strolled down to visit the vines.

Robert Stein is known for Riesling. I know, when you think of Australian Riesling, you might think of the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia, but you will find some award winning riesling from this Mudgee winery. The Stein family brought the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling to Australia, that actually survived, back in 1838, planting them south west of Sydney.

In 1976 the Stein family took up wine again, establishing Robert Stein vineyard here in Mudgee. The vineyard grew with the help of their son Andrew and now the 40 year old vines continue to thrive with their grandson Jacob Stein at the helm as chief winemaker.

  • The Robert Stein Cellar Door under a beautiful sky Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Riesling vine at Robert Stein Vineyard Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Stein's Wines cellar door entrance at Robert Stein Mudgee NSW Australia
  • Inside the Cellar door at Robert Stein
  • So many varieties and styles at Robert Stein
  • Robert Stein's award winning dry riesling. Mudgee NSW Australia

Stuart in the tasting room took us through a wide range of their wines, which include styles for every palate in varieties including: cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, chardonnay, semillon, pinot noir, gewurztraminer, riesling, sparkling wines, dessert and fortified wines. Their dry Riesling is the star, with multiple awards and medals.

They also have a motor cycle museum and the Pipeclay Pumphouse Restaurant, which we sadly did not have time to visit. We packed a couple of bottles (sadly the suitcase is only so big), and got ready for another drive.

More information on Mudgee

Our drive then would take us back to the Hunter Valley for the Wine Media Conference, where we had an opportunity to speak with Cara George, the CEO of the Mudgee Region Tourism. We look forward to sharing with you our interview with her, where she gives us an overview of the Mudgee Region. For more information visit:

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!

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

Speed Dating for Wine – the Lighter version – White/Rosé Social

White/Rosé Social at the Wine Media Conference 2019 in Australia's Hunter Valley

At the Wine Media Conference, they have an events called “Wine Socials”. Sounds like something you would expect, right? It’s a wine conference, they will drink wine and be social. But if you caught our Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference piece, you know that it’s a different play on the word “Social”. Well, they do the lighter version also, the White/Rosé Social.

So today we revisit those wineries and winemakers that we had a brief 5 minutes each to speak with, and share with you again, our instagram posts from this tasting. It was 50 minutes, 10 wines, 5 minutes each for them to tell us all they could about their winery and the wine…and for us to post about it on social media. It’s alot to fit into 5 minutes.

I did my posts on InstaGram, so …

Here we go….

Tulloch 2018 Verdelho Hunter Valley

  • Tulloch 2018 Verdelho #wmc19 White/Rosé Wine Social
  • Matt pouring the 2018 Tulloch Verdelho #wmc19 White/Rosé Wine Social

Tulloch 2018 verdelho one of 5 verdelhos (including a fortified) that you can find at their cellar door #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Tulloch Wines poured in the Red wine Social and I told you about them then. Here is the synopsis: early winery – 122 years & 4 generations making wine – vineyard owned by other companies for a bit – 2003 bought back from Rosemount – now again family run.

This wine is part of their Tulloch Range, which sits at a very affordable $16 au per bottle. If you look online, they are now on to their 2019 release. This wine is lush and tropical with a zesty finish.

de iuliis fiano two thousand and nineteen special release

  • 2019 Special Release de Iuliis Fiano #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Mike De Iuliis pouring his Fiano

This fiano was bottled just 10 days ago! From Broke Fordwich…pretty nose! @huntervalley #wmc

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

So as I mentioned before…(he poured at the Red Wine Social too), we got to hang with Mike a bit during the Dinner Excursion. He had our bus off roading in a vineyard on our way to tasting Semillon and oysters. James Halliday (the Australian wine guru) has only the nicest things to say about Mike. He’s making amazing wine and does not take himself too seriously (I never saw him wear anything fancier than a t shirt).

The De Iuliis Fiano he brought us was under their special release label and had just been bottled. This variety from northern Italy does well here in the Hunter Valley. Mike let this sit on it’s lees (the dead yeast) for 6 months before bottling, which gives it a creamy texture, but it still retains great acidity, with white peaches and herbs on the nose. This sits at 12.5 abv and runs $35 au.

Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2019

Tyrrell's 2019 Hunter Valley Semillon
Tyrrell’s 2019 Hunter Valley Semillon

161 year old vineyard. This glorious sem is just $25. #wmc19 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Tyrrell’s has been family owned since 1858. It is the old dog in these woods.

They are well known for their Semillon. This one comes from 4 blocks in the HVD vineyard (planted by the Hunter Valley Distillery back in 1903). They hand pick and sort in the vineyard and press with a small percentage of whole cluster. This sees very little time on lees, to keep it crisp and fresh and there is no oak use. This sits at 10% abv and runs $25 au.

Thomas Braemore Semillion 2018 Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley

  • Thomas 2018 Braemore Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Pouring the Thomas Semillon

this one (oops that should have been “was”) one of my favorite wines from last night. 2019 sem! #wmc18 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…the name on this probably needs a little explanation. The Winery is “Thomas” with wines made by namesake Andrew Thomas. Braemore is the vineyard. Sadly, he was one of the winemakers we were unable to meet. We did indeed taste his Semillon, both this and one that was 10 years older, on our vineyard dinner excursion. With Semillon there is often a note of “lanoline”. On a personal level, I find this slightly offputting. Some people enjoy it, for me…I tolerate it. But these wines did not have that note. I found them crisp and clean and with a vibrancy that I really enjoyed.

As I mentioned the grapes for this wine come from the Braemore Vineyard. Planted in 1969, this vineyard is known to be one of the best sites in the region for Semillon (some say handsdown the best). This wine is bright with lemon & lime zest. I’m not sure of the abv, but I would imagine it to be around 10%. It was brilliant with the oysters. It runs around $31 au.

Taylor’s St. Andrews Riesling Clare Valley 2017

Taylor's 2017 St. Andrews Riesling, Clare Valley #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Taylor’s 2017 St. Andrews Riesling, Clare Valley #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

Stunning Clare Valley Riesling from Taylor’s in the Clare Valley. #wmc

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

So Taylor’s is one of the few wines we tasted from outside the Hunter Valley. I had met Anna from Taylor’s on the Dinner Excursion and we hit it off. This winery is located in South Australia in the Clare Valley, where they have been making wine for three generations. The area is known for it’s riesling.

This wine is in the St. Andrews line, named after the historic property that was established by Scottish immigrants back in 1892. This is their flagship line and it is only released in the best vintages.

This wine was delicious with great acidity and notes of lemon & lime. It runs around $37 au.

Tamburlaine Reserve Semillon 2013 Hunter Valley New South Wales

  • 2013 Reserve Semillon Tamburlaine #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Aaron Mercer Winemaker Tamburlaine

2013 sem from Tamburlaine poured by winemaker Aarom Mercer #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…first off, his name is Aaron Mercer…speed tasting leaves no time for spellcheck. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with him at the Welcome event at Brokenwood. He is charming and passionate about his wines.

Tamburlaine is an organic winery and proudly so with vineyards in the Hunter Valley and in Orange. The winery was founded in 1966, but was purchased in 1985 by a group of friends who turned to contemporary organics.

Aaron poured for us their 2013 Vintage Reserve Semillon. This wine recieve 96 points from James Halliday. The nose has floral notes, green apple and a hint of pinapple. It has good acidity with citrus notes and a little creaminess from resting 4 months on the lees. This one is not currently available from the winery, but you can find the 2018 which will run you $33 au.

Scarborough “The Obsessive” Chardonnay Gillards Rd Vineyard Hunter Valley

  • Scarborough 2017 "The Obsessive" Chardonnay #WMC White/Rosé Social
  • Terra Rossa Soil from Scarborough's Gillard's Road Vineyard

The Obsessive chardonnay with Jerome Scarborough from Scarborough wines. #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

We had the opportunity to do an interview with Jerome Scarborough before the conference and did their Chardonnay tasting at their Gillards Road Vineyard. So this was a revisit for us.

The Obsessive from Scarborough is their cellar door exclusive range that is single vineyard. The fruit for this wine comes exclusively from their Gillards Road Vineyard which holds their tasting room that was previously the family home. The soil here is red/brown terra rossa, and Jerome brought a soil sample for us.

This wine exhibits notes of butter, roasted nuts and spice from the 15 months it spends in new french oak. It’s creamy texture comes from the monthly lees stirring while in that oak. It sits at 12.7% abv and runs $40.00 au.

Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon

Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Peterson House 2007 Sparkling Semillon #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

10 year sparkling Semillon stunner! #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

Okay…I am a sucker for bubbles. These were 12 year old Semillon Bubbles! This Peterson House wine was a Museum Release that they broke out for us. Toasty but fresh, you get all those warm brioche notes and fullness in the mouth and then a clean fresh citrus finish. It is available on their site at $60 au.

Peter Drayton Anomaly Vermentino 2019 Hunter Valley

  • Peter Drayton 2019 Anomaly Vermentino #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
  • Peter Drayton and his daughter Natalie

2019 Vermentino from Peter Drayton they grow 16 different varieties @huntervalley #wmc19

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

The Drayton family goes back 5 generations in the Hunter Valley and Peter owns and runs a construction company in addition to his winery.

Peter Drayton and his daughter poured us this 2019 Anomaly Vermentino. I am a Vermentino lover, so I was happy to have this variety in my glass.

The fruit for this wine comes from the Upper Hunter Valley. Made all in stainless this wine has great minerality with notes of citrus and pear. 13% abv and $30 au.

Oakvale 2018 Rosé Hunter Valley

Oakvale 2018 Rosé of Shiraz #WMC19 White/Rosé Social
Oakvale 2018 Rosé of Shiraz #WMC19 White/Rosé Social

A lovely rosé of Shiraz from Oakvale Wines! Beautiful onion skin color! #wmc19 @huntervalley

crushedgrapechron IG post October 11

At last! A Rosé! Oakvale Wines believes in minimal intervention. They also make vegan friendly wines. This winery was founded in 1893 and was owned for generations by the Elliot family. In 2010 the Becker family purchased the vineyard and eldest son James became the winemaker.

This rosé of shiraz is a pale onion skin color. Notes of strawberry and cranberry and a crisp finish. 11.5% abv $26.00 au.

I will admit…the White/Rose Wine Social is decidedly easier than the red. Lighter wines that don’t blow your palate make life much easier. And…having the practice in from the previous day was helpful.

There was more, oh so much more, at the 2019 Wine Media Conference and you can look forward to hearing more…we can only write so fast!

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

Cabernet Franc Day – Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc

Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley Washington

It’s Cabernet Franc Day! So we are celebrating by pulling a bottle out of the cellar. Our Cabernet Franc today comes from the Yakima Valley in Washington and is made by Owen Roe.

Sunset at Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley
Sunset at Owen Roe Winery in Yakima Valley

Who is Owen Roe? Well….

Owen Roe O’Neill was a seventeenth century Irish Patriot, who dedicated his life to upholding the highest principles of political equality and freedom. His commitment to great things makes him an ideal model for us at Owen Roe, for we share his dedication to principle in our work to produce the wines of Owen Roe.

Owen Roe Winery
  • David O'Reilly co-owner Owen Roe Winery
  • Jackie Evans, Owen Roe Winery, Winemaker
  • Owen Roe Winery, in Yakima Valley Washington
  • Owen Roe Winery, Grapes in Fermentation Bins
  • Owen Roe Winery, in Washington State Union Gap Cabernet Franc
  • Yakima Valley Flavor Camp Wine Dinner
  • Dinner in Yakima Valley at Owen Roe Vineyards

We visited Owen Roe in October of 2018 when we attended the Wine Media Conference in Washington. It was harvest and Wine Yakima Valley had provided a pre-conference tour that included a dinner with a sunset view in front of the Owen Roe winery. Before dinner we had the opportunity to do a vineyard tour with then owner David O’Reilly and I even managed to tour the winery, filled with fermentation bins with David and meet winemaker _____.

You can read more about those adventures:

We visited the Yakima Valley again this summer and did a wonderful tasting with Brandon. Owen Roe sources grapes from both Oregon and Washington, so you will find Oregon Pinot, Washington Reds and white wines from Chardonnay to Gewurztraminer to Oregon Pinot Gris.

Wine news (a bit of wine politics)

There is a bit of news since our visit. Vintage Estates of Santa Rosa California, purchased Owen Roe in September 2019. These are the same peeps that purchased Qupé in Santa Barbara a while back. I’m always a bit of a skeptic when a large company purchases a winery and adds them to their “portfolio”. David O’Reilly stays on directing operations at Owen Roe. He also gets a new title as regional winemaking director for Vintage Wine Estate. So….we shall see.

So… on to the wine we are drinking today!

Owen Roe 2017 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc

This Cabernet Franc is from the Yakima Valley and sells at $28. is at 14.1% abv. The fact that it says Yakima Valley and does not have a vineyard designate, tells us that this fruit source from multiple locations in the Yakima Valley, blended together. It aged 16 months in French Oak.

2017 Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc from Owen Roe Winery Yakima Valley

The first thing that catches your eye is the label. This black and white photography by David K. Brunn, is haunting…I guess a little mystical (hence the name). Here’s what the winery has to say about it:

The image on the front label was captured by photographer David K. Brunn. The ancient Drumlane Abbey in County Cavan, Ireland served as a place of refuge for almost one thousand years until it was destroyed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Here the great patriot Owen Roe O’Neill sought solace until he too breathed his last, also at the hands of Cromwell in 1649.

Owen Roe Winery http://www.owenroe.com

This Cabernet Franc – In the Glass

The color of this Cabernet Franc leans toward Ruby. Deep enough in the glass that while I can see light through it, it is not transparent enough to read through. The nose first hits you with cocoa powder. Another breath finds wet tobacco and brambles. Then you find cooked strawberries, stewed on the stove with maybe a bit of herbs. Finally comes the spice, baking spice and a bit of vanilla.

A sip finds the wine dry. While it smelled hot on the nose right after it was opened, indicating high alcohol, on the palate it is smoother, lighter, feeling medium on tannins, alcohol and body. The acid while not high, it high enough to pair beautifully with food. This feels old world, in it’s lightness. While bigger on the nose, than on the palate, I did get more in the way of black fruit on the palate. We paired this with grilled sausage today, which went nicely.

Other Great Cabernet Francs

Cabernet Franc is so underrated! It’s more than just a blending grape..the 3rd in the line of Bordeaux grapes. It is being grown in Virginia, where it is making some luscious juice. We had a terrific one a while ago from Veritas. You find it in California and Oregon (it’s doing great in Southern Oregon…check out the Cab Francs from Leah Jorgensen Cellars, or Quady North. And of course Washington is growing some great Cab Franc in the Yakima Valley! Where ever you find it, it’s worth picking up. I suggest pairing it with a big juicy burger like we did.

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

The Scenic Route Part 7 – Du Brul to Hiyu

Cote Bonneville Dubrul Vineyard

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

Côte Bonneville

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

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

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

DuBrul Vineyard

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

Own rooted vines

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

“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.

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

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

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

Co Dinn Cellars

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

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

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

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

Hiyu Wine Farm

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

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

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

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

Community within the staff

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

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

Gardens

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

Vineyard

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

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

Livestock & Animals

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

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

Mt. Hood

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

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

Stems

Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington

While in the Yakima Valley, we wanted to catch up with Barbara Glover who heads up Wine Yakima Valley.  She had put together an amazing tour for many of us in the Wine Media for the conference held in Walla Walla in Oct 2018.  The tour gave us an in depth look at this region and was the reason we decided we needed to return to learn more.

We had a couple of morning interviews and Barbara was kind enough to squeeze us in last minute.  Now…where to meet?  Barbara made a call and set us up to meet at Stems in Yakima. 

Stems is a wine & gift shop, so we had a backdrop of shelves of bottles of Yakima Valley wines for our interview with Barbara.

Brad who runs this shop was generous in letting us use the space and we had great conversations on the area.  We found a couple of bottles that we were not able to find elsewhere to take along with us.

If you are in Yakima, this is a great place to pick up a bottle and gain some valuable information from Brad on the area!  It’s also a pretty great spot to pick up gifts for fellow wine lovers!

Stems does tastings with Washington wines and beyond so check their facebook page for events!  https://www.facebook.com/stems.yakima

You can find them at 399 E. Yakima Ave, Ste 180, Yakima, Washington (509) 452-8800.

The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 – Part 1 Vegas to Southern Oregon

South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route

We headed out early. Not pre-dawn, but early enough to beat the heat in Death Valley. It was the top of a 12 day road trip that would take us almost 3800 miles, through so much stunning scenery that we almost became numb to the beauty. Almost.

This was the Flash Tour 2019, that we are dubbing “The Scenic Route”. We visited vineyards and winerys and met many really wonderful people. We look forward to telling you each of their stories. But for now, we will tell you ours. This is our adventure. A sometimes over-planned 12 day epic trip that was filled with exceptional places, some of which were far beyond our expectations. A few things were skipped along the way as we prioritized in the moment. So hop on for the adventure!

Day 1

Back to the top of the drive. Day One’s plan, out early to travel North to Lake Tahoe. We could have taken a quicker route, going through some expansive empty desert, but, with all the driving on this trip, we opted to take the scenic route.

Trip Map to Lake Tahoe

We headed North out of Vegas, passing the exit to Mount Charleston, up past Creech Air Force Base, past the High Desert State Prison and on to the Armagosa Valley. The morning light gave us a fresh morning feel, a start to the day and our adventure. My cannister of hot coffee was close by to help me slowly enter the day.

Death Valley

From the Armagosa Valley we took a turn south, as anti-productive as that seems for a trip north. This was onto Route 373 which would take us to Death Valley Junction. There we would pick up Route 190 taking us into California and Death Valley National Park. We soaked in the expansive arid beauty of the area and stopped for a quick break at the Furnace Creek Visitors center.

Furnace Creek is a small oasis of green in the midst of the Valley, with places to stay or camp. We continued North from here passing the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Panamint Spring and then stopped at the Father Crawley Vista Point. It was time to stretch our legs before getting onto Route 136 which took us to US Route 395.

This drive took us through the quaint towns of Lone Pine & Independence. Roads here were lined with banners and bunting for the previous day’s Fourth of July Celebrations. By this time our tummies were grumbling and we headed toward a rest area Michael discovered on a previous trip.

Division Creek Rest Area

Division Creek Rest Area sits on Division Creek and has views of Mt. Whitney, Black Mountain and Mt. Pinchot in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. We pulled out the cooler to a picnic table and fended off the birds while enjoying the sounds of the creek and the view of the snow capped peaks.

In this beautiful setting there is a darker side. The rest area tells the story of this plentiful valley and the Piute Indians who lived here, who were bit by bit driven out as settlers took the area. You can explore the details of the story here.

Back on the road we drove north through Big Pine and into the Inyo National Forest. We passed Mono Lake and the back entrance to Yosemite and drove through the Stanislaus National Forest.

At last we turned on the tiny Route 756 to head to Lake Tahoe. The drive up the mountain to get to the Lake which sits at 6,237 feet above sea level reminded me of how far we had come. Earlier in Death Valley, the elevation was 286 feet BELOW sea level.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route

As we arrived on the Lake in South Lake Tahoe, it dawned on me that the day before was the 4th of July and while the Independence Day fireworks were done, the lake was still teaming with visitors for the holiday weekend. We headed to Zephyr Cove to set up to catch sunset views to find it packed. So we traveled further North and found a place to park at Logan Shoals Vista Point. After a bit of exploring, and a bit of getting lost and climbing, we settled on a spot just above the lake where we could camp out and watch sunset.

By the time the sun had set we were hungry! We headed back to our hotel for the night in Minden and then headed late night to the Carson Valley Inn & Casino, to Katie’s Country Kitchen for a good ole stick to your ribs dinner (or breakfast…I had the breakfast burrito). While waiting for our food, we checked our social media. We found another earthquake had shaken Las Vegas and LA just a few hours earlier. The shallow quake had friends from both cities reporting waves in their pools. We checked with the neighbors to be sure the house looked okay and the cat sitter to check in on Loki. We then finished our dinners and headed back to catch a bit of sleep.

  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route
  • South Lake Tahoe The Scenic Route

Day 2

Lassen Volcano The Scenic Route
Lassen Volcano

Day Two had us up early and traveling North around Reno. We took Route 44 to the Lassen Volcanic National Forest, stopping to enjoy views of Lassen Peak, then traveling North on Route 89 to take in some spectacular views of Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta The Scenic Route
Mt Shasta.

On to Oregon

We continued up through Ashland and Medford on Interstate 5. We veered off on Route 238 to Jacksonville, driving through the super quaint town as it teamed with visitors. Then it was out into the country, venturing into Southern Oregon Wine Country in the Rogue and Applegate Valleys. Our first stop would be at Wooldridge Creek Winery and Creamery.

Wooldridge Creek

I had spoken with Monica at Wooldridge Creek via email a bit before our trip. Sadly for us, a staff member was getting married this day, so most of the staff would be away. While there would be no one to give us a full tour of the property, they gave us permission to photo to our hearts content.

The property houses goats, chickens and a garden on top of the vineyard. This is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Just bring a cooler, because you will want to leave with some of their specialty products. They set us up with a tasting out on the crush pad with a cheese and charcuterie platter. Everything on the platter was made on site, most of it grown here also. It was a delightful sensory experience enjoying wines from the site with mustards, cheeses and pickles from the site. (You will need to watch for our future post for all the details).

After a visit to the barrel room and a bit of time in the vines, we picked up a few bottles of wine to take with us and headed on to our next stop.

Red Lily

Our stop at Red Lily was simply to taste. No one knew we were coming. We didn’t know how much time we might have left after our first stop and didn’t want to have to rush. We arrived at Red Lily, just before their last pours of the day. This winery focuses on Italian varieties. Our tasting was served in test tubes in a test tube rack that we could take with us to the patio.

After our tasting we strolled to the river or creek that runs along the property. Red adirondack chairs dot the shore, many right in the water with people cooling their feet with a glass of wine in hand. There was a bar with bottles and glasses, picnic tables, live music and a food truck up the hill by the winery. It was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. One tree was roped off as there was an otter nest that they did not want disturbed.

We soaked up a bit of ambience and headed back to Medford to our hotel for the evening.

Next up we visit Cowhorn Vineyard a biodynamic vineyard in the Applegate Valley. We then travel north to the Umpqua Valley and Girardet, where they planted French and French American hybrids in the early 70’s!

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Beckham Estate Vineyard – The story

It was early morning of our last day in the Willamette Valley and we drove North from (where we were staying) heading toward the Chehalem Mountains. The road into Portland was moving fast and we came up a hill, with the side of the roads deeply forested. There was our turn. We had to make it fast. And suddenly, from the whirl of fast trucks, we turned and turned again into the quiet of the forests on Chehalem mountain. This is timber country. Deep forests with early morning mist. It was a magical escape from the fast morning pace on the road behind us.

We were running early (it’s in our nature), so we had time to drive and explore the mountain. When you reach the top, you find clearings, fields with houses or sometimes, giant pink painted adirondack chairs, between bunches of Douglas fir. We followed the google maps and ended up on a gravel road at one point, but found our way back around to Beckham which actually sits on Parrett Mountain on the South west end of Chahalem Mountain. We knew we were in the right place before we could read the sign, because of the clay amphorae at the gate.

Discovering Beckham

I came upon Beckham in the usual way, at least for me. When researching where to go in a region, I head to the regions site, in this case the Willamette Valley Wine and one by one, I click through the links and check out the sites for each winery. The Beckham site stopped me as I saw their Amphorae Project video. I read on, and knew that these were people I wanted to meet.

We arrived and met Annedria Beckham who walked us to their tasting room, that sits just down from their home, next to the garden. We met Ruby Tuesday, their dog and Annedria set us up at the picnic table on the patio for a tasting.

She and Andrew bought this property in 2004 to build an art studio. Andrew is a high school art teacher and a ceramics artist. He teaches in Beaverton at the High School. They bought this little house in the woods to grow a garden and raise a family.

Directly across the street there was a little 2.5 acre vineyard. The owners were in their late 70’s early 80’s and had 20 year old pinot noir and chardonnay vines back in 2004. They farmed the fruit and had someone else make the wine for them and then on Saturdays they would sell their $11 pinot noir out of their garage.

… we were there quite often, fell in love with the idea of growing something on our property.  Andrew went and helped Fred prune the vineyard that first year, came back with a truck load of Pinot Noir cuttings and said “Hey hun, how ‘bout we plant a couple rows right over here for fun.”  I humored him thinking he will get over this crazy notion, we didn’t know anything about growing grapes.  Next thing I know we are propagating vines on the coffee table in the living room.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

As the tale goes, the vines then went to heat mats in the garage and then a timber company was called to see what the 60 year old Douglas Fir on the property was worth. They negotiated and had the company come and cut the timber, but they were left with the stumps, limbs and the mess. They cleaned that up themselves with a rented track hoe and a cat. There were some pretty big bonfires and they have been using the limbs for firewood ever since. Finally, after some grading, the first block was ready to be planted in May of 2005.

Beckham Estate Vineyard Panorama

They began with own rooted, dry farmed Pommard and Wadenswil. They added on and planted about 2.5 acres the first year and another 1.5 the next. This was a gradual slow process, bit by bit as their budget and time could allow. This is a labor of love, that grew out of a passion. They dove in headfirst into farming.

So once we put our little baby sticks in the ground we had to keep them alive.  So when I mentioned dry farming, we hand water about 15 lengths of hose and a few beers and me after work every day,  watering just to keep them alive that first year, and then after that they were on their own. Just a little in 2005 and spot watered some stressed areas in 2006 but since then they haven’t seen a hose.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

At this point they were focused on the farming, so they sold their first tiny batch of fruit to a winery in Dundee in 2007.

But we had those first few babies, we were really excited for and at that point you’ve hand rooted every vine, pounded every post, run every wire, hand hung every cluster and then at that point to give them away to someone else was nearly heartbreaking.  But Andrew got to stay and help with crush deliver the fruit and help with processing and then went back every couple of days. He came home and said “I don’t know that I can continue to farm with this much energy and effort and then just hand it off to someone else.  I think we should make wine.”

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

They did spend another year selling off fruit, while Andrew apprenticed for a few years with different wineries. In 2009 they kept the fruit to make their own wine. The first year it was 250 cases of one wine. In 2011 they opened the tasting room. At the time it had a roof, but no sides, only one light and no running water.

.. but people came and they got to taste one wine about 5 different times, because that was all I had.  And they came back and they bought and they came back and they brought their friends.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

All this time Andrew was still teaching as well as working for a couple of different winemakers and they now had 3 children. Annedria began working for the Chehalem Mountain Wine Growers Association in 2008. Their executive director went on maternity leave and Annedria was asked to fill in, and the previous director never returned. She found this to be a wonderful way to immerse themselves in the community.

When we speak about Oregon wine country, you always find people speaking about the generosity of the community, with people happy to share their time, resources and knowledge.

To have David Adelsheim on speed dial?  How lucky was I to be in that position.  It was a wonderful way to learn how winemaking works and making business decisions….hey this first restaurant wants to have our wine, how do I price it?  I have no idea?  So asking those important questions and having the right people to be able to talk to while Andrew was working in the vineyard and the winery.

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018

At this point we tasted the first of the wines. It was the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, which is a composite wine from the entire site. They make about 300 cases of this. It’s 30% whole cluster with native yeast fermentation.

Growing Organically

They farm organically here and have been farming organically since 2013. They are not certified. It’s expensive and time consuming to become certified, and they are looking into that now. They would need to hire someone just to deal with all the paperwork for this and they are a small operation.

Chickens in the vineyard at Beckham

A lot of folks are like “how do we know that you are doing everything organically unless you are certified?” I’m not doing something for someone else, we are small enough that I’m not putting it on my label, we still sell the majority of our wine direct to consumer.  You can walk around and see that we farm things organically.  I grow for my family.  My kids are running around these vines, our chickens are running around these vines.  That we are eating the eggs from,  we have sheep around the vineyard the majority of the year.  We do it for us. 

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard July 2018
The sheep at Beckham Estate Vineyards

They’ve started some biodynamic practices, burying their first 500 cow horns in 2017 with their first sprayings of the solution in 2018.

Annedria poured us the Dow’s 2015 Pinot Noir, which is from Andrew’s favorite couple of barrels from each vintage.

Their first vintage was in 2009 and all they had was the Estate bottling. Of course it’s tough to do a tasting with just one wine, so she asked Andrew how they might make a second wine, and that is how the Dow’s came about.

2015 Dow’s Pinot Noir Beckham Estate Vineyards

Dow is a family middle name in the Beckham family with over 20 Beckham sons carrying the name. In 2011 they added their wine club and Annedria asked how they might get a 3rd release. They only had Pinot Noir, and rosés were just becoming popular again so Andrew made her the Olivia’s Rosé and Sophia’s Pinot Noir. Sophia’s is the first release, elegant and delicate, the Estate follows with more complexity and then the Dow with a little new oak and a darker fruit profile.

This was all of their estate wine until 2013 when they started the Amphorae Project.

We will continue our visit with Annedria and Andrew Beckham with a pod cast speaking with her about the addition of their riesling, their inspiration in the Jura and the Amphorae Project

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Tasting blind – globetrotting at home

Table set for a blind tasting

We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.

The White Wines

When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.

White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc bottle shot with apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon
Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc

This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.

This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.

About Carhartt

And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.

Carhartt Hand Made Films Presents: Carhartt Vineyard

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.

2939 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Ph #: 805.693.5100
Open daily 11am-6pm
No reservations. First-come, first-serve.
Closed only on Christmas Day

White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.

Spier Wine Farm

This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…

A visit to Spier Wine Farm and Hotel

More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)

You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.

Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/

White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño

Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain with pear and green apple
Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain

We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.

Rias Baixas

The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.

Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.

http://www.martincodax.com/en/

The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.

Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.

The Red Wines

When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.

Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese with wet stones, strawberries, black tea, clove, and cedar plank
Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.

Sangiovese? Think Chianti

This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?

The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.

Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam
Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam appetizer

They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.

Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015

Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina with blackberries, plum and spice
Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina

This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!

Don Miguel Gascón Wines

This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.

The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.

http://www.gasconwine.com

You should really visit the Gascon site for great information on this winery that dates back to 1884.

This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.

Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon