French Wine…where to begin? #Winophiles

Map of French Wine Regions

This month the French Winophiles are diving into a French Wine 101.  It’s timely as we all enter our comments to the government in opposition to proposed 100% European wine tariffs.  (If you have not heard about this, I’ll post some links at the bottom for more information.) We have done a bit of writing on French wines and you will find links to those pieces. Many of these pieces were written in conjunction with the French #Winophiles, which means there is the extra bonus, of each of those pieces having links to other articles written by the rest of the #Winophiles! If you are interested in French wine, you will have plenty of reading available!

French Wine 101

I’m here to rally for French wine.  If you are new to wine, French wine can be a bit overwhelming so let’s start at the beginning.

Old World vs New World

To be sure, when we say “Old World” in reference to wines, we think first of French wines.  But what does “Old World” mean?  From a scholastic point of view: Old world wines are dominated by terroir, they are defined by place.  Typically these wines are more restrained and elegant.  New World wines, on the other hand tend to be reflective of the winemaker’s style and are often more fruit forward and bold.

That is a really broad definition of the differences, and doesn’t always hold true, but when people say “Old World” and “New World” this is what they are thinking.

French wine names

In France, wines are named for the region they come from, not by the variety of grape as we do in the new world.  This takes us back to that idea of “terroir” which is a sense of place, with soil, and climate.  So rather than speaking about Chardonnay in France, you would speak of Chablis or White Burgundy.  Both of those wines are made with Chardonnay, but the wine is named for the region.

When we think of Bordeaux, we think of age worthy reds.  These are typically Cabernet or Merlot based, depending on which bank of the river the region sits.  And you will notice that I said “based”. These wines are blends of the different varieties of grapes that grow best in this region.

There is one exception to this. In Alsace, the white wine region on the German border in the North East of France, wines are often labeled with the variety.  This comes from the German culture and this area throughout the ages, has bounced back and forth between French and German control.

Without going too deep into the wine labels (that’s a rabbit hole best saved for another day), let’s talk about some of the most well known French Wine Regions, and I’ll give you a translation for what varieties you will see from each.

French Wine regions

Map of French Wine Regions
Map of French Wine Regions

I love maps.  It gives you a better sense of the geography and influences on a region.  I could dive into the climates and soils in each of these regions (I do love to get geeky on these things), but this is French Wine 101!  So let’s put together some dots for you, on what varieties you will find in each of these regions and what you might want to eat with each of these wines!

Loire Valley – Val de Loire

Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

This is white wine country!  You will find a bit of red, but the white wines are likely to be the ones you have heard of.

Muscadet

On the West end of the Loire Valley closest to the Atlantic Ocean. Melon de Bourgogne, which you will hear called Muscadet, is most prevalent here. This is a dry white wine that pairs really well with seafood. You will get citrus, and green apple and pear along with a lovely note of salinity. Go for shellfish with this wine

Chenin Blanc

Moving east Chenin Blanc begins to shine. Vouvray and Saviennières are well known Chenin Blancs from the regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur respectively. The two can be very different. Vouvray can be made from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, and you will find you need to do a bit of research to determine which sweetness level you are getting. Saviennières has been called the “most cerebral wine in the world”. These wines have depth of flavor, great acidity and minerality.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, is mainly found in the Upper Loire, the area furthest east and inland. Here you hear of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are crisp and high acid. Pair them with fish or poultry. With cheeses these are wonderful with goat cheese or other creamy cheeses (think brie).

Cabernet Franc

Not to be overlooked is Cabernet Franc which in this region is the primary red wine. Chinon or Bourgueil in the Touraine region produce elegant Cab Francs. These wines can be slightly spicy with raspberry and violet notes and are a favorite at Parisian Bistros.

For more…

Champagne

Popping a champagne cork!

Well you know what Champagne is!  This region and it’s soil and climate produce some of the world’s finest sparkling wines primarily from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

These wines, while often looked at a just for celebrations or just with the hors d’oeuvres at the top of the meal actually are perfect during a meal. The bubbles and acidity clean your palate making every bite taste as amazing as the first.

There are plenty of classic pairings, but try potato chips, buttered popcorn or fried chicken! The bubbles and acid with the fat and salt are heaven.

For more…

Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France
Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

This region sits on the German border and as I mentioned earlier has bounced back and forth between French and German control. The names and architecture here reflect that mixed heritage and the wines do as well.

These bright aromatic white wines are perfect to keep your nose in all day or dab behind your ears. But…if you must move on to drinking them, pair them with fish, aromatic cheeses, schnitzle, salads…there are so many great pairings. These are also wines known for pairing well with spicy foods like Thai! You will find riesling, pinot gris, muscadet and gewurztraminer lead the pack on varieties.

For more…

There are a few other varieties including Pinot Noir, but you are less likely to run into them.

Chablis

Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse

Chardonnay

This is Chardonnay land, but not those big buttery California Chardonnays that your Aunt might drink.  These are sharp and bright with great mineral quality! Pair with fish or chicken, oysters or other shellfish, mushrooms or cheese (think goat cheese or Comté). The sharp acid makes this great with creme sauces.

For more…

Burgundy (Bourgogne)

Vignoble de Bourgogne
Vignoble de Bourgogne

Chablis, above, is in Burgundy sitting 80 miles northwest of the rest of Burgundy.  Burgundy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

The Côte de Nuits is the Northern part of the Côte d’Or and is the region that Pinot Noir calls home. It ventures further afield, but this is it’s homeland and you will find some of the most expensive Pinot Noirs on the planet, hail from here.

Pinot Noir is perfect for red wine with fish. It is the go to wine to pair with salmon. Many Pinot Noirs also have earthy notes and pair beautifully with mushrooms.

Chardonnay

The Côte de Beaune is dominated by Chardonnay. These are likely to be aged in oak. They will be richer and more buttery than those lean Chardonnays from Chablis, but they are still dry. Try this wine with pasta, chicken, risotto, shellfish or salt water fish and with cheeses like gruyere.

There is more to the region, the Côte Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, but we will leave those for another day.

For more…

Beaujolais

Gamay grapes in Beaujolais
Gamay grapes in Beaujolais

Just south of Burgundy you find Beaujolais.  This is a wine you will know better by the region name than by the grape, Gamay, that it is made from.  Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine released each year on the third Thursday in November.  These early release wines are fresh and fruity, but the region does have other Gamay’s that are meant to be deeper and more age worthy.

Beaujolais Nouveau will be fruit forward and downright perky! Sometimes you will hear people say that they smell bubblegum or bananas in addition to raspberries and cranberry.

Aged Beaujolais might have notes of forest floor, mushroom, violet, tart cherry and smoke.

These are lighter wines and can pair across the spectrum from salmon to barbeque. Visit the Beaujolais site for a great graphic to assist with pairings for all the varied wines from this region.

The Rhone Valley

M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl' Hermitage Rhone valley France
M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl’ Hermitage Rhone valley France

I am a lover of Rhônes. Guaranteed…many of mine come from the Rhône Rangers that you find in California, and many of which were brought from Chateauneuf-de-Pape in the Southern Rhône.

The region is broken into the Northern and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is the land of Syrah and Viognier and typically very pure and expensive versions of these.

Syrah

The Côte Rotie is known for some of the most amazing Syrah on the planet. I’ve heard it described as bacon and violets. Which sounds pretty amazing to me.

Viognier

Condrieu is well known for 100% Viognier. This white wine is full bodied and round with notes of apricot, pear and almonds.

There are other appellations like Crozes Hermitage above and Cornas, there is more to explore here, if you have the budget.

The Southern Rhone is warmer as it heads down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and you will find blends of multiple varieties.  The famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape is here with blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more. Wines here lean toward blends.

Red Rhône Blends

These will have berry notes (think raspberry and black berry) baking spice, and maybe some garrigue (think underbrush), lavender, dried herbs. The more Mourvedre, the more likely you will have meaty notes to the wine.

These go well with mediterranean foods, like olives and red peppers, and herbs like rosemary or sage (or herbs de Provençe).

White Rhône Blends

Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier make up the body of most white wines in this area. These blends are medium bodied and have notes of beeswax (I love that), as well as moderate citrus, like a meyer lemon, then stone fruits like peach and apricot.

Pair them with richer dishes with white meat (chicken or fish or even pork) and perhaps with fruits that are stewed or roasted. Dried apricots are a definite must on a cheese plate with these wines.

For more…

Bordeaux

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

If you have heard of any region in France other than Champagne, it will be Bordeaux. This is the region that Napa Valley wants to be. It is the big daddy of French wine with bottles that can be very pricey and many that need considerable aging. When people pull out dusty bottles from their wine cellar, typically they are Bordeaux wines.

Left Bank Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon based)

Red wines here are classified by which bank of the river the vineyards sit on. Left bank wines are west of the river in Médoc and Graves. The reds here are Cabernet Sauvignon based.

Right Bank Reds (Merlot driven)

The Right bank wines are on the other side of the river in the Libournais. These wines are Merlot driven. The Entre-deux-mers, the area in the middle between the two, has much more fertile soil producing less concentrated (but more affordable) wines.

The bold reds of Bordeaux are perfect with rich meaty dishes, like a big steak.

Sweet wines of Sauternes

Down in Graves you find the region of Sauternes. These are my friend Corinne’s favorite wines. These are sweet wines made from grapes with “Noble rot”. The botrytis fungus takes hold of the grape and dries them out considerably. They are pressed into tiny amounts of wine that when fermented becomes sweet and delicious. These are wines to pair with bleu cheese or with desserts.

For more…

Provence

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration rosé from Provençe
Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe

Rosé

This is Rosê country, more than 1/2 the output of wine from this region is rosé. The mistral wind that whips down from the mountains keeping the vines in this Mediterannean region dry and free from disease. The landscape is dotted with lavender fields. It’s pretty dreamy.

In addition to those delicate ballet slipper pink rosés you will find Bandol, which is a rich red wine from Mourvedre.

Pair pink with pink. It’s delicious and pretty. Smoked salmon, ham, prosciutto, crab, lobster….you get the picture.

Yes…these wines are great in the summer. Their high acid and bright flavors are perfect to help you cool down on a hot day. But don’t overlook them at other times.

For more…

Other regions

Is there more to French Wine?  Why yes…so much more, there is the island of Corsica, the black wines of Cahors, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Rousillon…and then there are the wines that I have yet to discover!

Oh and did I mention Crémant? That would be sparkling wine from any region outside of Champagne! You want bubbles and value? It’s your go to!

Dive deep into the links and the links in the links and take a little vacay to France sans airfare!

For more…

More from the Winophiles!

There are so many ways to dive into French Wine, I have only scratched the surface. Why not check out the other #Winophiles and their approaches to the subject! You can join us for the conversation on Twitter on Saturday Morning January 18th (8 am PST, 11 am EST) by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Remember I said I would include more about those potential tariffs.

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?

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

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.

The Multiple Expressions of Vouvray! #Winophiles

Corks from the Styles of Vouvray

Vouvray….it’s a lovely word to say. A french wine, it is named for a region, not a variety. It comes from the Loire Valley. That’s the Val de Loire on the map below.

Map of French Wine Regions

The Loire Valley wine region spans 300 miles along the Loire River from Sancerre to Nantes and is broken into 4 very distinct regions from west to east:

  • The Pays Nantais – closest to the Atlantic that has a maritime influence.
  • Anjou-Saumur – a little further inland
  • Touraine – even further east
  • The Upper Loire – this area furthest east and inland has a more continental climate and follows the Loire River as it begins to curve south.
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

The region historically was known as the Valley of the Kings and the river is dotted with tremendous chateaus that are show stoppers. We will focus on the Touraine region which is sometime called the “Garden of France”.

The Touraine

When we speak about the Touraine, there are two primary grapes that come to mind:

  • Cabernet Franc which you find in Chinon, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil.
  • Chenin Blanc well known in Montlouis-sur-Loire and probably the most well known region in the Touraine, Vouvray.

Vouvray

You have likely seen a Vouvray on a shelf at a wine shop.  It is perhaps the best known of the Touraine appellations.  It sits just north of the Loire River East of the city of Tours. 

Vouvray was one of France’s first Appellations, in 1936.

The area in the “Garden of France” has many Chateaus and gardens. Here is a quick visual trip…

  • Vines and church at Vouvray France - August 2016 - The bell tower of the church of Notre Dame et Saint Jean Baptist surrounded by vines above Vouvray  in the Indre et Loire region of France
  • Chateau Valmer in Vouvray France
  • Les jardins du château Valmer. (The Gardens at Château Valmer) in Vouvray
  • Vines and grapes at Vouvray France - August 2016 -  Vines and bunches of white grapes above Vouvray  in the Indre et Loire region of France

Chateau Valmer (pictured above) does make a Vouvray, but sadly, I was not able to find a bottle. Perhaps a trip to the beautiful Château, built at the beginning of the 16th century is in order.

Styles of Vouvray

Vouvray is a wine of many variations.  It is made of Chenin Blanc, which sometimes in the region is call Pineau de la Loire.  You will find it both Sparkling and Still.

Sparkling Vouvray

Sparkling wines, known here as “fines bulles”, may be made in the Methode Traditionelle – which is the method used in Champagne.   You might find these called Cremant de Loire.  It can also be made Pétillant (Pét Nat), just slightly bubbly in the Method Ancestral. 

In style it can be Brut or dry, or Demi-Sec, which is sweet.

They like their fines bulles here, with sparkling being 60% of the production.  And, they like to keep it here, only 1 in every 20 bottles of Loire Bubbles make it out of the country, as opposed to the still wines, where 1 of every 3 is sold out of France. 

Still Vouvray

In the still wines you have a variety of sweetness levels from Dry, called Sec through Tendre or Sec-Tendre (off dry) to Demi-Sec which is definitely sweet to Moelleux which is a sweet dessert wine.

It can be difficult to tell which sweetness level you are getting. The residual sugar level is not written on the bottle. Sometimes, a wine will specify sec or demi-sec, but it’s easy to be fooled, as I was.

Choosing a variety of Vouvrays

I went shopping for Vouvrays. The sparkling was simple…it was the only one available. Then for the stills I wanted a Sec and a Demi-Sec. I found a house that had both. But I wanted to expand and choose more than one house, so I chose another that I believed was Sec, but was not labeled. I ended up with a wine that was actually sweeter than the Demi-Sec I chose! Lesson learned, and now I share that lesson with you! On to the Wines

Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Sparkling Vouvray

Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Brut from Vouvray
Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Brut from Vouvray

This wine is made in the Methode Traditionelle. They age on the yeast for 24 months. I noted that they age “sur lattes” which means stacked on their sides. The wine is 12.5% abv and it runs a reasonable $19.99 SRP.

Famille Bougrier “V” Vouvray Grande Réserve 2018

Famille Bougrier 2018 "V" Vouvray Grande Réserve
Famille Bougrier 2018 “V” Vouvray Grande Réserve

This wine, the Grande Réserve “V” Vouvray from Famille Bougrier, is aged for several months in wood. This makes the wine fuller and richer than the regular Bougrier “V” which is made in stainless steel. This wine is 11% abv and I picked it up for $14.99.

Clos Chapon Vourvray Demi-Sec

Clos Chapon 2017 Vouvray Demi-Sec
Clos Chapon 2017 Vouvray Demi-Sec

This Demi-Sec wine does have thermometer graphic on the back of the bottle to indicate the sweetness level. Of course I knew I was getting a sweeter wine as it listed Demi-Sec on the label. The Clos Chapon Vouvray is 13% abv and runs $14.99.

How sweet is this Vouvray?

Tasting and Pairing

Vouvray tasting profile collage
Vouvray tasting profile

I shopped in the afternoon, looking to find things to pair with all the styles. Across the board, I knew the basic flavor profiles would include: lemon, apricot, pear, apple, honey and camomile.

I settled on a cheese plate to cover all the styles with fontina, camembert, goat cheese, dried apricots, honey, apple, pear, prosciutto, and salami.

Cheese and charcuterie to pair with Vouvrays

I made a crab salad to pair with the dry wine, which turned out to be the sparkling. We tested some Thai green curry and Indian Palak Paneer with Rajmah Dal as well as pork chops with apples.

  • Crab salad and pork chops with apples
  • Thai Green Curry
  • Palak Paneer & Rajmah Dal

All of the food paired beautifully. Michael was very happy. He tends to avoid sparkling wines, as he doesn’t find them very flavorful. All of these wines were great for his palate. All of these wines are extremely sipable on their own in addition to being great with the food.

A couple of standouts. The crab salad (which was just olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper), went best with the sparkling. You want to go dry with this pairing. The Thai Green Curry was best with the Bougrier Reserve, due to the sugar level. This dish was a tad spicy and the sweetness balanced that. The Palak Paneer, went best again with the sparkling. Oh and dessert! We had lemon bars which were genius with the Pure Loire Brut!

Lemon bars with sparkling Loire

The French #Winophiles on Vouvray

The French Winophiles will gather on December 21st on Twitter at 8:00 am Pacific (that’s 11 am Eastern Standard time, so if you are on the East coast you can sleep in a little!) to talk about Vouvray. Just follow the #Winophiles hashtag. You can always join the chat, even if you don’t have a blog.

Check out all the great articles on Vouvray and different ways to pair it!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau #Winophiles

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

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

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

Rasteau

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

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

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

Haut-Vaucluse

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

Dentelles de Montmirail

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

Geography, Climate & Soils

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

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

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

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

Red Rhône Blends with some rules

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

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

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

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

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

Domaine La Font de Notre Dame 2016 Rasteau Le Chêne

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

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

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

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

Domaine M. Boutin 2016 Rasteau

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

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

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau
Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

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

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

Lavau 2015 Rasteau

2015 Lavau Rasteau bottle shot
2015 Lavau Rasteau

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

A little on the 2015 vintage from Lavau

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

Groupe Lavau Maucoil www.lavau.fr

Thanksgiving Pairing with Rasteau

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

The menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

The French #Winophiles

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

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

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

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

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

Cambewarra Mountain lookout

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

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

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

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

New South Wales

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

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

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

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

Sydney

(don’t worry we will come back)

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

Royal National Gardens & the Sea Cliff Bridge

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

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

Shoalhaven Coast

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

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

Coolangatta Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Figs

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

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

Southern Highlands

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

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

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

Tertini

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

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

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

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

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

Artemis

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

Camberwarra Mountain Lookout

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

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

Newcastle

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

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

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

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

Places to stay…

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

For more information on these regions:

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Cans and kegs – packaging sustainability with Quady North

Picnic with Quady North Rose in a Can

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

Bag in Box & Kegs

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

Canned Wine

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

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

It’s the democratization of wine.

Herb Quady, Quady North Wines

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

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

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

On a Economic level…

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

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

Herb Quady, Quady North

Got to love that.

Taste testing, in case you need that

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

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

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

So…can you get this?

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

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

Back to sustainability

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

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

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

Keep the sustainability conversation going!

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

Visiting Quady North

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

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The Scenic Route Part 8 – Johan and Quady North

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

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

Van Duzer Corridor AVA

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

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

Johan

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

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

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

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

A walk of the vineyard

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

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

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

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

Back to the tasting room

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

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

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

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

Applegate Valley AVA

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

Quady North

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

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

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

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

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

The Quady North Tasting room in Jacksonville

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

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

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

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

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The Scenic Route Part 7 – Du Brul to Hiyu

Cote Bonneville Dubrul Vineyard

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

Côte Bonneville

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

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

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

DuBrul Vineyard

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

Own rooted vines

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

“It’s like reading Tolstoy in Russian”.

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

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

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

Co Dinn Cellars

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

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

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

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

Hiyu Wine Farm

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

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

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

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

Community within the staff

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

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

Gardens

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

Vineyard

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

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

Livestock & Animals

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

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

Mt. Hood

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

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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 3 – Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley

Red Willow Vineyard In Yakima Washington from Within the Chapel

Day 4 – On to Washington Wine

Newburg OR to Bridal Veil, to Syncline Winery
Newburg OR to Bridal Veil, to Syncline Winery

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

Bridal Veil Falls base in Oregon
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.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil 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.

View of Mt. Hood from Syncline Vineyard in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA
View of Mt. Hood from Syncline

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.

Entrance to Syncline Winery in Washington's Columbia Gorge AVA

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!).

  • Fermentation tanks at Syncline
  • Syncline Winery
  • Syncline Picpoul boushey Vineyard
  • Syncline Estate Gamay 2017
  • Syncline Gruner Veltliner 2018

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.

Kitzke Cellars

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

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.

Seth Kitzke & I walking Kitzke's Candy Ridge Vineyard
Seth Kitzke & I walking Kitzke’s Candy Ridge Vineyard

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.

Candy Mountain as seen from Kitzke's Candy Ridge Vineyard
Candy Mountain as seen from Kitzke’s Candy Ridge Vineyard

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.

Kitzke Cellars http://www.kitzkecellars.com/news/

As we walked the vineyard we talked about the caliche in the soil (more fascinating stuff to come).

Upsidedown Wine

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

The Chapel on the Chapel block at Red Willow Vineyard
The Chapel on the Chapel block at 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 Chap