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.

Though the mountains may crumble…Apremont and some Alpine pairings #Winophiles

Apremont and morbier from Valley Cheese and Wine

Inspired to find some “Godforsaken Grapes”

At Cam’s suggestion, I picked up Jason Wilson’s “Godforsaken Grapes” to read for this month’s French #Winophiles piece. I’ve been devouring it whenever I have a moment free.

Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson and a cup of tea
Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson and a cup of tea

On Saturday February 15th, the #Winophiles will gather on Twitter to talk about indigenous french grapes, “godforsaken grapes” if you will, at 11 am EST. I can’t wait to see what other grapes that I’ve never tasted that the other #Winophiles find. You will find a list of their pieces at the bottom of this post!

As a wine lover who geeks out over obscure and underappreciated wines and grape varieties, this book turned out to really be my jam. If you are into those kind of things, I suggest you pick it up too. It’s uber fascinating!

Now that I was into the book, I needed to locate a wine from one of these “Godforsaken grapes” that was from France. *reminder…Vegas can be a wine desert, and I was really determined to try to buy from a local shop. Solenne at Valley Cheese and Wine came through for me with a Jacquere from Apremont, as well as a bit of morbier cheese to pair.

  • Our visit to Valley Cheese and Wine to pick up an Apremont & some morbier cheese
  • The cheese counter at Valley Cheese and Wine

Little did I know that the #winepw crew was diving into Savoie this month! I’ll link at the bottom to a place you can find all their posts if you want more information.

So now I have the wine and some cheese. Time to dig in deeper to the region, this Jacquere grape and perhaps some foods to pair with it.

Savoie

First things first, the pronounciation is “sah-VWA” This is not like the Benny Goodman song (Stompin’ at the Savoy) or the London Savoy Hotel, although sometimes you see it spelled that way.

Savoie is a French Department on the eastern edge of France bordered by Italy and Switzerland. Switzerland dips into France a little here with Geneva.

This is region known for it’s beauty, with vineyards, lakes and of course the alps. These are considered the Rhône Alps, and were inhabited by a Celtic tribe who fought back the Romans, until finally being overtaken in 121 BCE. The area since then has been a part of multiple kingdoms and in the middle ages was controlled by the House of Savoy. Savoy became a permanent part of France in 1860. Most of the land is mountainous, with farmland between the mountains and the lakes. The farmland is devoted to cattle, dairy, apples, grains and vines.

Apremont

Vineyard in front of mount Granier of the Chatreuse mountains, Apremont, Savoy, France.

My title for this piece is in honor of Apremont. This region had what is thought to be Europe’s largest landslide back in 1248 which created this environment at 1150 feet for vineyards. Soils here are chalky and they catch the morning sun. The name means “Bitter Mountain” in honor of the many lives lost in this landslide. From the Les Rocailles site

This appellation takes its freshness from the typical ground of Savoy, composed of calcareous rocks, consequence of the landslide of the mount Granier in 1248

http://www.lesrocailles.fr/en/cuvee-apremont-les-rocailles–5.html

Apremont is one of the Cru Villages in Savoie. The AOC dates to 1973. The landslide left it barren for decades. The wine scene here began in the end of the 18th century.

Jacquère

Jacquère, the wine grape, is thought to be of french origin. This white wine grape variety, like the others in this region does not reach as high alcohol levels as other varieties. Hence, the 11.5% abv on the bottle I have. It is one of 10 grape varieties allowed in AOC Vin de Savoie and must make up 80% of the wine. It is the most widely planted grape in the region accounting for 50% of the plantings.

Wines from Jacquère can are dry and can range from floral and fruity (think peach, pear and maybe grapefruit) to mineral. These wines are typically meant to drink early.

There is a beautiful piece in the Decanter on this grape and region.

Pierre Boniface

The biggest producer in Savoie, Pierre Boniface’s Apremont is their signature wine, making up 70% of production. Pierre took over the business from his father, starting with just 20 acres of vineyard. Sadly, his children did not want to go into the wine business. Guillame Durand and Alban Thouroude bought the business from him. They are from Savoie and were college friends. You can read more on their story below in an article in France Today, as well as some information on their Les Rocailles vineyard.

Pairings

What to pair with an alpine wine? The region is huge for cheese, and potatoes are in plentiful supply as are cured meats, fresh water fish, mushrooms, apples and fruits. This is a place where you live out of the cupboards, while the ground is snow covered. So we dipped into recipes from the region that were variations on those winter ingredients.

Raclette

Of course raclette was the first pairing that came to mind, but as Solenne at Valley Cheese and Wine was out of raclette from Savoie at the time, I picked up a beautiful morbier from her. She suggested I try it plain as well as melted, as it really changes the flavors in the cheese. I picked up some raclette from the Murray’s cheese counter at the grocery store and then started digging into typical Savoie dishes.

  • Our raclette pairing with an Apremont from the Savoie region
  • fossil and Fawn, with potato chips and cheese
  • Potato chips with cheese

This alpine dish is simple, boiled potatoes topped with the melted cheese, a side of cured meats and gherkins. You can buy a raclette machine, which has trays over candles to warm the cheese.

Since I didn’t have one of those, I deferred to the method we had used for our raclette & wavy potato chip pairing we did a Christmas or so ago with that fantastic wine from Fossil & Fawn, that I believe Jim and Jenny called a “Gewürvignintocliniger” . Set the oven to broil, oil a cast iron skillet and put in the slices of cheese. When the slices are melted, use a spatula to slide them out and over the potatoes.

Tartiflette

  • Our single serving baked tartiflette
  • Tartiflette ready for the oven
  • Ingredients for the Tartiflette

I love tartiflette, discovering it a little over a year ago when planning a holiday french wine celebration. My dear friend Arnaud said it was one of his favorite french dishes. So, tartiflette was added to the menu and was a hit.

This time I riffed on a recipe, substituted muenster cheese and made two individual tartiflettes. Here’s how I did my quick version…

Saute some chopped prosciutto and onions, add sliced potatoes and cook for about 30 minutes, spoon some into each dish, topped with sliced cheese. Add another layer of both and then pour in some heavy cream. Bake at 425 for 15 to 20 minutes.

Le Farçon or Farçement

I came across a reference to Le Farçon, a Sunday dish that they make in Savoie. Le Farçon is meant to cook in a special pan (think a straight sided, angel food cake pan) in a bain de marie for 4 hours while the family is at Sunday mass. It is a potato cake with dried fruits and apples wrapped in bacon. Quite honestly it looked like something my friend Will would make for a football watching day!

  • Ingredients for our version of Le Farçon,
  • Our version of le farçon prebake
  • Just out of the oven, our loaf style version of Le Farçon from Savoie
  • An inside peak at our Le farçon our dish from Savoie

Well, without quite that much time at my disposal, I found a video with a version of this dish that was a bit simpler. Every family in Savoie has there own variation on this dish. So, I watched the video (which was all in French), caught a couple of words here and there and then from the visuals, concocted my own recipe. Here is the short version:

Le Farçon sliced, fried in butter and enjoyed with fresh greens. Dish from Savoie
A day later, our Le Farçon sliced, fried in butter and enjoyed with fresh greens.

Peel, cut, boil and mash 4 red potatoes (it’s what I had, and I riced them with Grandma’s ricer). Saute some chopped prosciutto and onions in a pan. Saute 2 sliced apples in butter. Mix it all together, add an egg and a handful of dried currants and cranberries, pour into a buttered glass loaf pan, top with a couple pats of butter and bake at 345 for about an hour. Serve sliced. Incidentally, you will find Le Farçon is even better the next day when you can take a slice and fry it in butter and serve with a fresh green salad.

Rissoles or r’zoles

Now I needed dessert. I found a reference to rissoles, an apple filled pastry that is often called r’zoles. With puff pastry in the freezer, this seemed the way to go.

Rissoles (or r'zoles) puff pastry filled with apple compote from Savoie
Rissoles (or r’zoles) puff pastry filled with apple compote

This one is pretty simple. Defrost the pastry, cut into rectangles, make an apple compote (mine had orange juice, sugar and honey). Spoon the mixture in the center of each rectangle of pastry, fold over, seal, top with an egg yolk wash and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Voila!

Vin de Savoie 2013 Apremont Les Rocailles-Pierre Boniface

This wine on it’s own was dry with an overwhelming nose of bruised tart apple. By itself…not my favorite wine. Perhaps, it is a bit of an acquired taste. Or maybe this is a result of it’s age. With the food however…it was genius! It paired beautifully with the raclette, with the tartiflette with the Le Farçon and with the rissoles! As a food and wine pairing I will rhapsodize endlessly on this. This is by far one the best overall pairings I have encountered. Truly this is a food wine, destined for the local fare.

The French #Winophiles and their “Godforsaken Grapes”

What other “Godforsaken Grapes did the rest of the #Winophiles come up with! Read on!

More on Savoie

If you are really interested in Savoie, Jill Barth from L’Occasion led the Wine Pairing Weekend (#Winepw) group on a discussion of wines from this region. Here is a link to Jill’s piece which when you get to the bottom will provide you with another 15 articles on wines of Savoie!

Meanwhile…I’m off to find some more “Godforsaken Grapes”.

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

A tale of two syrahs

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 Descendants Liegeois Dupont Red Mountain Syrah

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

I posted about this wine on Instagram that evening…

The geeky bits…

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

14.5% abv $29.00 srp

My notes

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

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

Crushedgrapechron on Instagram January 15, 2020

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

None the less…on to the wine.

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

2013 Le Pousseur Syrah from Bonny Doon

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

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

Winemaker notes from (from Randall Grahm) Wine.com

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

Pairings

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

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

Comparing the two…

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

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

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

Want more on Syrah?

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

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

Sarah Hedges Goedhart on her journey to winemaking and biodynamics

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

Choosing Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain

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

Sarah’s journey to winemaking

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

Getting hooked on wine in Santa Barbara

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

On to Preston in Healdsburg

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

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

Returning to the Tri-Cities

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

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

Biodynamics at Hedges

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

Native ferments

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

Soothing tunes for the wines

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

The Goedhart label

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

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

Sarah on Syrah

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

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

Sarah on the reason for biodynamics

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

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

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, July 2019

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

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

Hedges Family Estate – Red Mountain Washington – the history

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

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

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

The history, the beginnings

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

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

Tom Hedges & Anne-Marie Liégeois

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

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

The beginnings of the Hedges Brand

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

The decision to build on Red Mountain

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

The Château

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

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

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

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.

Social media etc…for wine writers (and wine enthusiasts)

How do you reach a Mobile audience?

I’m not going to claim to be any kind of expert on social media. I’m just a wine writer, trying to find her way and maybe find her tribe? We’ve been publishing pieces on Crushed Grape Chronicles for a while now. A bit before that there was an incarnation called Rootstock. We are always searching for new ways to get things out there, and find new communities where people are sharing wine stories. I thought, here at the start of the year, I might share a few we have discovered with you. Some of these are facebook groups, some are #hashtags, some are more active writing groups.

Wine Country Around the World Writers

Yep…it’s a long name. This group was founded by Sarah Strierch and is the group I participate in daily. Sarah based it on some groups she was a part of in the travel industry. The way it’s set up can seem a little complicated. I will admit to being a little intimidated when I first started, but now that I am familiar with it, it’s pretty simple. We even created a video to explain how it works.

It’s a great interactive way to get out on social media and I have met some amazing people through this group. Pop over to the Wine Country Around the World Writers facebook page and join us.

#youcansipwithus

The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life
The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life (and no, that’s not her dog, just a friend she made who was happy to pose with her for this shot!)

This #hashtag is a movement started by Sarah Tracy on Instagram (hmmm…there is a Sarah theme going on here). I met Sarah at the Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla Washington. The photo above is Sarah posing with a puppy after she gave a sparkling wine pairing seminar! You can follow her on instagram at @thelushlife.xyz . Head to her instagram page and click on the story entitled #youcansipwithus, to hear why she founded this group, from her own lips. I will tell you that it is a group that is meant to be inclusive of all people interested in wine. Some of these people may be writers, others may be social media influencers. It is a group that is not for bullying, it is for sharing new ideas and perspectives on this wonderful elixir that we all enjoy.

Friends who like wine in the glass

This was the first Facebook wine group I found. It’s founders Steve & Vashti Roebuck are actually Vegas based like I am. It is an public group where you may share and discuss all things wine. You can find them here Friends Who Like Wine In The Glass

The French #Winophiles

The French Winophiles is a writing group, which is actually one of 3. I am only active in the French #Winophiles due to time constraints, but I hope to eventually dip into the other groups.

The French #Winophiles is a group of writers who “Explore French Food and Wine pairings on the third Saturday of each month”. Together the active members work to create a calendar for the year of French regions to explore. A topic is chosen for the month, and someone volunteers to host,. That person posts an invitation for people to write pieces on the topic. The pieces are posted on the 3rd Friday each month and everyone includes the links within their piece. Saturday morning at 8 am PST (or a more reasonable 11 am EST), they gather on twitter following the hashtag #Winophiles. There is an hour of discussion on the wines their pairings. It’s a great fun interactive group headed by Jill Barth of L’Occasion …but it really works as an ensemble.

#WinePW & #ItalianFWT

There are two other groups. Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW gathers on the second Saturday each month. Italian Food Wine & Travel #ItalianFWT which takes the 1st Saturday each month!

All of the groups are welcoming and the invitation post gives you the details of how to join. Here’s a link to a this months invitation post for the French #Winophiles from Jeff at FoodWineClick. Jeff is the host for January’s Newcomers Guide to French Wine. Join us on twitter on Saturday January 18th on twitter to see what this group is all about. Or come any 3rd Saturday of the month!

A few more facebook groups

Facebook photos for Wine groups
Facebook groups to follow for Wine! Wine and Spirits Bloggers, #Winelover, Natural Wine Forum, Winetraveler & Wine.

These groups are facebook groups where you can share your content (as long as it is not commercial content). With all these groups, read the fine print, see what they are about and what they allow. And don’t just post! This is meant to be a community! The best part is interacting! You will find great content on wines and regions from a personal perspective.

I am sure that I have just hit the tip of the iceberg here. I hope that you will share with us additional, resources and communities for wine writers and wine lovers! Share in the comments!

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

Red Mountain AVA Yakima Valley Washington

Red Mountain in Washington's Yakima Valley

Red Mountain. If you have not heard of it, it perhaps conjures thoughts of red earth, or red trees covering a towering mountain. If you have heard of it, your brain defaults straight to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Red Mountain is an AVA in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. Here is a quick reminder on Washington State and it’s nested AVA’s.

Washington-AVA-Map-courtesy-of-Washington-State-wine
Washington-AVA-Map-courtesy-of-Washington-State-wine

That large brownish area at the center and east is the Columbia Valley AVA. You see it, the Columbia Gorge and Walla Walla AVA’s dipping over into Oregon. The Yakima Valley AVA encompasses a strip there in the center that includes Rattlesnake Hills AVA, Snipes Mountain AVA and then on the eastern edge of the AVA, the tiny little triangle labeled as Red Mountain.

So to begin, Red Mountain AVA is nested inside the Yakima Valley AVA which is nested inside the Columbia Valley AVA, like Russian dolls.

Red Mountain – not really red – not really a mountain

Red Mountain AVA is on Red Mountain, but it is not the entire mountain. We are talking grapes here right? In order to catch the best sun, the vineyards are on the southwest facing slope of the mountain. And then there is the term mountain, which indicates a landmass above the earth surface that typically rises above 2000 feet. Red Mountain is actually part of the fold belt that makes up the Yakima Valley and at it’s highest point sits at 1410 feet. As to the red? There is cheatgrass that in the spring is reddish. The vineyards here sit between 540 and 1400 feet. The whole AVA only covers 4,040 acres, the smallest in Washington State.

The Yakima River flows by, moderating temperatures and keeping away the threat of frost. It also provides water for irrigation. With only 5 to 6 inches of rainfall annually, irrigation is necessary.

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

Vineyard History

The first vineyard was planted here in 1975, by Jim Holmes and John Williams. These two met when their desks got pushed together working at General Electric. Some things are kismet. The vineyard that grew from this friendship was the Ciel de Cheval Vineyard. Just a few years before, the land on Red Mountain was nothing but sagebrush, grass, cougars and snakes. Power and irrigation had been brought in. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what the AVA has come to be known for, and the site is still revered for the quality of fruit it produces.

John & Jim started Kiona Vineyard & Winery, the first winery on Red Mountain. The Williams, John & Ann, built a house and opened Kiona’s tasting room. Their son Scott helped with planting the vineyard and eventually took over. Scott’s son JJ now works for Kiona.

The buzz for Red Mountain spread, first with other friends and co-workers jumping on the bandwagon. Today there are around 2,200 vineyard acres planted in this small AVA. There are over 15 wineries in the AVA with loads of others jostling to get in line for some of the prized fruit that comes from these vineyards.

What makes Red Mountain fruit so good?

Well, the soil here, has a decided lack of nutrients. It also has a high pH. This combines with the wind to cause small berries with thick skins which give you a greater skin to flesh ratio, as well as higher tannins. That gives you much more intense juice.

Wines from Red Mountain are some of the most well thought of and highly rated wines in Washington State.

For More information visit

More to come

We visited with Sarah Goedhart, winemaker at Hedges Family Estate, while we were in Red Mountain and look forward to bringing you our conversation with her soon. In the meantime, you can see a few photos and a bit of our conversation with her, as well as a bit on the Goedhart Family Syrah at the links below.

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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Champagne – a history beyond the bubbles

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristen Harmel

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel’s novel “The Winemaker’s Wife” takes a story of Champagne during World War II and brings it to life.  She takes us through the day to day of characters experiencing the events of the war in different ways, even as they walk the same vineyard.  She also contrasts this story with a modern tale that in the end links the two.  It is a page turner.

I received this book as a sample for review. All opinions are my own.

Champagne and Reims

The story is set in a vineyard near Ville-Dommange, a village that can be traced back to the VIVth century. The original name was “Villa Dominica” meaning “the farm of a Lord”.  This Lord?  Well it was King Louis I the first king of France.

Sunrise on vineyard , Montagne de Reims, France
Sunrise on vineyard , Montagne de Reims, France

This village is in the Marne department which, during the occupation of France during WWII was very active in the Resistance.  The village itself is South West of the city of Reims, a place we get to explore in the book during the war and then in modern day.

The City of Reims

You will find yourself itching to visit, to see this place in person. Well… to hold you over, I offer a small gallery. The Reims Cathedral, Notre Dame de Reims is similar in style to the beloved Notre Dame de Paris. This cathedral celebrated 25 coronations of French Kings, including one attended by Johan of Arc. The Fountain Sube is topped with Winged Victory. The victory, with its bronze wings, was taken by the Germans in 1941 and replaced in 1989 thanks to patronage. The city is the site of the Armistice of Reims, where the Germans surrendered in May of 1945.

The story and it’s characters.

The story explores the history of the region, introducing us to historical figures like Herr Klaebisch who was the “weinführer” during this time as well as Syndicat Géneral des Vignerons, and Robert-Jean de Vogüé from Maison Moêt & Chandon.  It weaves these historical figures with our fictional characters. While it is not a “true” story, it is inspired by the history and stories told by those who lived through the war.

We see the Champagne Houses and Growers protect their region, cooperating while quietly resisting the Germans, many of them working with the resistance to get people out, hiding families in the cellars and caves under their vineyards.

The web Kristin weaves gives us characters that we love and hate, sometimes simultaneously. The characters all have flaws that make them human and her two story lines allow us perspective, from a view in the midst of the war, to a look back from today.

Champagne Pairing

Taittinger La Francaise NV Brut
Taittinger La Francaise NV Brut

When choosing a Champagne to pair with this book we went with a Non-Vintage from Taittinger, the Brut La Francaise. There were a couple of reasons for this.  First, Champagne Taittinger hails from Reims and we wanted to stick to this region.

Second was due to a beautiful piece I came across in “Decanter” that told the story of the vineyard owners and champagne houses during the war. It included a bit about François Taittinger that I’ll sum up here. I do encourage you to read the entire piece in Decanter, as it is fascinating.

François Taittinger

François Taittinger was just 20 years old when he was called before Klaebisch.  Taittinger had been sending inferior bottles of Champagne to the Germans.  It was a quiet practice of resistance that many in the region participated in.  It is said that Klaebisch admonished him “How dare you send us fizzy dishwater!”  Taittinger was a bit of a smart mouth, and answered as all the champagne houses wished they could “Who cares? It’s not as if it’s going to be drunk by people who know anything about Champagne!”.  He was tossed in jail, just for a few days (the germans still needed their bubbles after all).  His brother Michel fought in the war and lost his life on his 20th birthday defending the last bridge over the Seine.

You can read more on the Taittingers history here https://www.taittinger.com/en/legacy

Some personal thoughts

I will tell you that with Champagne being a celebratory beverage…you may wish to wait until the end of the book to pop that cork.  This book gives you a glimpse of the hardships faced France during WWII, with rationing, losing loved ones, as well as the fine balance of cooperation and resistance for survival.

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel
The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

You will finish the book and find that Champagne perhaps tastes a little different, is there a touch of salinity in that glass?  Perhaps a remembered taste of tears.

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12 Days of Wine Day 12 – Syncline

Syncline

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

View of Mt. Hood from Syncline Steep Ranch Vineyard

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

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

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

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

The Columbia Gorge AVA

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

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

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

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

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

Picpoul

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

Syncline 2018 Picpoul Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley

Syncline Picpoul boushey Vineyard

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

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

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

http://synclinewine.com

The Tasting

Syncline 2018 Picpoul flavor profile
Syncline 2018 Picpoul flavor profile

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

The Pairings

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

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

Mussels with lemon zest
Mussels with lemon zest

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

Visit them….

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

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

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

That’s a wrap!

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

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

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12 Days of Wine Day 11 – Johan

Johan Grüner Veltliner 12 Days of Wine Reveal

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

The Van Duzer Corridor

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

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

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

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

Johan Vineyard

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

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

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

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

Now onto the wine

Grüner Veltliner

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

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

2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

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

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner
2017 Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner

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

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

The Tasting

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

Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents
Johan Estate Grüner Veltliner Scents

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

The Pairing

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

Other pairing suggestions

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

Noooooo….Only 1 day left!

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

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