The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 2 – Southern Oregon Applegate and Umpqua Valleys

Day 3

Southern Oregon & the Applegate Valley

Day 3 had us up early and traveling back the way we had been the afternoon before. The Applegate Valley AVA in Southern Oregon established in 2000, is actually a sub AVA of the Rogue Valley AVA. From California’s border runs north 50 miles to the Rogue River west of Grants Pass.


Cowhorn Entrance Gate in the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon
Cowhorn Entrance Gate

We arrived early to Cowhorn to meet Bill Steele. This Southern Oregon vineyard is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and is a bucolic setting on Eastside Road that runs along the Applegate River. We did an interview with Bill in the vineyard and walked the property before heading into the beautiful modern tasting room to do a tasting with Bill. The tasting room features a large window that looks out onto the vineyard and the valley, which is reflected in the shiny white glass behind the tasting bar, allowing you the view while facing either direction.

The wines here are Rhône varieties primarily and the finese on the winemaking is pretty spectacular. Everything is done with native yeast. I have to admit the grounds were so beautiful, I really didn’t want to leave. We will dive in deep to our visit in a separate post and tell you about Bill, biodynamics, the patio, gardens and the tasting room. Their tasting room was the first in the US to meet the “Living Building Challenge”.

The Tasting Room at Cowhorn
The Tasting Room at Cowhorn

You can look forward to our in depth interview with Bill coming up soon.

We left unwillingly. We could have stayed all day (or perhaps forever). But we had another appointment and this one was a bit of a drive.

North to the Umpqua Valley

Cowhorn To Girardet Wine Cellars

We were headed toward Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley about 2 hours North. The Umpqua Valley AVA is a little older, established in 1984. We jumped back on Route 238 and took the scenic (and shorter) route to Grants Pass where we grabbed a bite and got on the 5. Yes it was freeway, but it’s Southern Oregon, so the views are still pretty spectacular.

Girardet Vineyards

Girardet Tasting Room in Umpqua Valley in Southern Oregon

We exited onto the 99 around Cow Creek and then took Route 42 out to Ten Mile where Girardet Vineyards is located. Mind you….our GPS had a little trouble out here and we ended up coming into the property the back way. I suggest downloading a map ahead of time and not relying on GPS.

Girardet is one of the older wineries in this area planting the vineyard back in 1971. The Girardets (Philippe and Bonnie) got in their VW bus and drove the country looking for vine starts. They picked up some French varieties from Wente and then planted some of the French hybrids that they picked up in New York; Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc, Cayuga among others. Marc was born in 1975 just after this experiment had begun. He now runs the vineyard and winery and he took some time to speak to us on the beautiful covered patio with a picnic table, next to the tasting room. After our chat he took us through the winery and drove us up into the vineyard to see the views. Vines do love a view.

We finished this stop with a tasting which included some of the Italian varieties that Marc has added on the newer section of the vineyard where they found ancient marine bed shale. We made some friends in the tasting room before heading back on the road to Newburg, where we would stop for the night. This winery has a great history that we look forward to sharing with you.

  • Grapes at Girardet
  • Ancient Marine Shale at the Shale Rock Summit Vineyard at Girardet in Southern Oregon
  • The picnic patio at Girardet
  • Vines at Giraradet in the Umpqua Valley
  • Girardet Tasting room Umpqua Valley Southern Oregon
  • Pouring in the Girardet Tasting Room
  • Philippe and Marc Girardet
  • Jack rabbits at the Girardet Vineyard
  • The view of Ten Mile from Giraradet Vineyard in Southern Oregon

Coming up Next…

Next we head North, first to the Columbia Gorge to visit the waterfalls on the Oregon side, then onto the Washington side to visit Syncline winery. From there it is off to the Yakima Valley to visit with Seth Kitzke of Kitzke Cellars and Upsidedown Wine and then enjoy sunset with Jonathan and Mike Sauer at the iconic Red Willow Vineyard.

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

Lone Madrone and Conversations with Christian Tietje

On my first trip to Paso a friend suggested that I stop by Lone Madrone. We did, and it was actually after a stop at Lone Madrone, and we fell in love. Jackie, Neil’s sister was pouring that day and we tasted and continued to fall in love. Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek. If you love Rhone varietals, I need say no more. These are some of the best in the US. Their sister property is in Chateau-Neuf de Pape in France at Chateau de Beaucastel. At Lone Madrone, Neil adds, in the words of Christian Tiejte, “The Funk”. This tasting room is built on the old Bonny Doon site as well as the Sycamore Farms herb gardens which are now Fat Cat Nursery. They share a tasting room with the incredible Kenneth Volk.

Christian Tiejte is the founder of Four Vines. After selling the name “4 Vines” he started Cypher. These are “Freakshow wines” based on the Anarchy, Peasant and Phoenix wines. He signs his posts as ” Winemaker, Troublemaker, Firestarter” if that tells you a little.

Bless you Neil Collins for starting your Conversations with a Winemaker. This 6 part video (parts are around 15 minutes each) are stellar! I love the opportunity to hang with you guys and listen in. For a wine geek, this is heaven.

So my friends, I had an extraordinary afternoon enjoying these. If you are a wine geek, you will love these too. Start here


Santa Barbara and Los Olivos part 2

Carhartt Vineyard and Winery

We headed up the street again to Saarloos and Sons, only to find them closed on this weekday just before the holidays.  So…we took a leisurely walk around the town to see what else might be open.  We ended up coming full circle and stopping into Carhartt which is directly across the street from Saarloos and Sons.  Known as the “worlds smallest tasting room” they weren’t kidding!  This tiny tasting room had a couple at the counter, a big group on the back patio and us at the end of the bar squeezing in.  None the less Robin welcomed us immediately to the tasting room and got us set up.  The group on the back patio Robin told us were local kids back from College and Afganistan. They came in looking for Chase which is the owner’s son, and then she realized they were really looking for her son, whose name is also Chase.  He was not yet home from college.  They asked us to take a photo of them with Robin in front of the tasting room.  When they were gone Robin invited us to head into the back patio and be comfortable in the barrel chairs and she would bring us our tastings.

Carhart Winery

Carhart Winery

The barrel chairs were VERY comfortable and the wines..sublime.  The garden patio is beautiful.  The tiny tasting room filled up and another couple joined us on the patio.  All of the wines here were extremely nuanced and layered and many were surprising.  The 2010 Savignon Blanc from the Faith Vineyard at Carhartt has the expected bright grapefruit on the nose, but then is much smoother on the palate and slightly sweeter than you would expect.  The 2010 Pinot Noir from River Bench Vineyard….okay, we tasted several styles of Pinot Noir on this trip and I love the Bien Nacido Pinots that we tasted in Paso, but this, this is a completely different animal.  I am in love.  Elegant, sophisticated  it has lavender and forest floor on the nose, the mouth is butter and oak and lavender.  It is light in the mouth but sooooo complex!  This is a stunner.  The 2009 Estate Merlot from Rancho Santa Ynez was deep with licorice & tobacco.  The mouth feel was big at the top and then ends clean making it the perfect food wine.  Finally the 2009 Fourplay is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot (a Meritage minus 1).  With a nose of dark berries, cedar and toasty oak this is balanced and beautiful.  I will admit that we had fallen in love with the place the people and the wines, and without a second thought we joined the wine club here.  Before leaving Robin told me that Pete would call me the next day to welcome me to the wine club.  He handles all the wine club stuff.  She also gave me a Carhartt business card, which has Mike Carhartt’s cell phone number on it in case we need anything.  This is truly a family run business.  Mike grew up raising cattle here and then turned the cattle farm into a vineyard.  Bill from Foxen encouraged them to make their own wine.  He had been buying their Merlot grapes for that great Merlot that I mentioned yesterday.  Mike’s wife Brook does the lab work creating the wines and their son Chase is currently going to Cal Poly studying Vinticulture and Enology, is home in the summer to assist in the vineyard.  All the grapes are manually basket pressed in small batches.  I look forward to finding a way to get out one of their pick up parties or the annual dinner that is held for members at the Ranch.

Okay, so that would be a pretty perfect end to the day, but…Matty’s Tavern was suggested to us for dinner and it was just up the street.  When we get there I find that this is actually Brothers Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern.  The building was originally built as a stagecoach stop then turned into a restaurant and hotel.  But the hotel always came first.  Inside it is warm and welcome with lit fireplaces everywhere.  We had a stunning dinner that was finished with a Gingerbread bread pudding that was spectacular.  No trip to this area should miss dinner here.  It was a perfect end to our last day of vacation.


Santa Barbara and Los Olivos Part 1

Los Olivos Central Coast Wine Country

When we got to this point in our trip we woke up feeling wined out.  So…we began the day with breakfast and Aebleskivers from the Solvang Restaurant.  Great service and we even ended up with an extra order of aebelskivers as the cook made one too many and our waiter didn’t want them to go to waste.  The aebelskivers are like a pancake donut served with powdered sugar and a house made raspberry jam.  So we filled our tummies and then decided to head to Santa Barbara and the ocean.  I think after so many days driving down the coast, we were experiencing withdrawal!

The drive to Santa Barbara is relatively short, about 45 mins.  It’s only about 15 min from Buellton (right next to Solvang) to Gaviota State Park and from then on you have a view of the coast for most of the drive.  We parked by the beach and went for a stroll, just soaking in the ocean on the final full day of vacation.  I will say that after enjoying the pristine coastline and whale watching at Big Sur, this part of the coast was disappointing.  Not because of the coastline, while it is different it is still beautiful, but because of the unsightly oil rigs.  The sight of them actually made me slightly nauseated.  I was longing to look for whale sign, but here, I want the whales to stay far away from the coast.  The thought of a spill in these waters where the grey whales migrate annually made me worry.

After our walk, we were ready for wine again.  We could have tasted in Santa Barbara but on a whim decided to head to Los Olivos and the tasting rooms there.  This little town has become a hub for tasting rooms interspersed with galleries and cafes.  We have never actually done a group downtown tastings, typically we head to the vineyards, so this was new.  The town is charming and welcoming.  We headed first to Consilience who now shares a tasting room with Tre Anelli.   Consilience produces Rhone Varietals and since we had tasted so many Rhones in Paso, we decided to taste at Tre Anelli who does Spanish and Italian grape varietals.  The wines here were all good.  From the 2010 Albarino with my favorite descriptor “languid” to the 2007 Langrein which had a deep deep nose but was surprisingly light on the palate, these were enjoyable wines with great layers.  Jim in the tasting room was terrific on sharing information on the vineyards and the wines and also on the growth of  Los Olivos.  Consilience was the 7th tasting room in town, when Tre Anelli opened they were the 15th.  Now there are over 30 tasting rooms in town.  Truly you could spend several weekends just here tasting in town.  Consilience and Tre Anelli are also Dog friendly, so feel free to come with your four legged friends!

From Tre Anelli we wondered up the street to Epiphany.  Michael had read about them, so we stopped in.  It’s a lovely tasting room and was getting busy as we arrived.  It was the type of place where conversations with other tasters was open and welcomed and we enjoyed chatting with the other guests in the tasting room while we all enjoyed the wines.  It’s interesting to discuss the wines and different interpretations when tasting.  Again, all the wines were good!  We felt like we were on a real roll for the day!  The owner and winemaker here is Eli Parker yes….his family does some other wines over at Fess Parker which can be tasted at their tasting room and hotel down the street.  I very much enjoyed their 2010 Grenache Blanc and 2009 Rousanne here and I loved the 2008 Santa Rita Hills Syrah.  We were lucky enough to have a taste of the 2004 Hampton Syrah which is one of their library wines that had been pulled out for a tasting for a wine club member.  Michael really enjoyed the 2007 Petite Sirah whose fruit is sourced from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa.


Day 3 in Paso 1st Stop, J. Lohr

10 am  J. Lohr

Arne helped us in the tasting room.  He is fairly new to Paso, but retired to Paso recently and loves wine and he said he was a club member for years.  We like going to tasting rooms during the week because we usually get one on one attention because it usually is a bit slower, so we get more information, most of the time this works very well, This time it did, sometimes it does not(more on this later).

J. Lohr has lots of acreage (1100 in Monterey, 2300 inn Paso and 35 in St. Helena) and the Estate Wines can be found anywhere.  The wines were nuanced and lovely across the board.  Good advertisment for the big guy making good wines without selling out quality.  The tasting room from the outside was unassuming, inside it was lovely, but not huge.  They are down Airport road, so you have to search them out.  All of their fruit is sustainably farmed, in fact they were designated Certified California Sustainable Winegrowers in 2010.

Well priced with nothing over $40 and they all tasted like wines that were worth alot more.  Ranging from a $10 Bay Mist White Riesling to their 2005 Hilltop Cabernet at $40.  Not a bad wine on the tasting menu.  Coming from a large corporation this was great control of quality.

We left with a couple of bottles as well as a great new go to wine when we need to pick something up at home, that will be easily accessible.  I happened to have received a bottle of the 2007 Hilltop Cabernet, that thanks to Arne, I know will drink wonderfully now, but if I can hold out for 2 or 3 years, it will be amazing!


Red Soles Winery, Paso Robles

After Tablas Creek  we hit Lone Madrone, Kenneth Volk more on them later, then went to….Red Soles.  We like to get referrals from enthusiastic Wine Geeks like ourselves, the guy at Wildhorse said we should try Red Soles.  He was definitely right on.  Tiffany the tasting room manager greeted us with a smile.  She obviously loves her job.  She had worked at other tasting rooms and loves working here and loves the people she works for.  The owners are growers who have been growing grapes here in Paso for years.  She said they grow around 2000 ton’s of grapes and keep around 30 ton’s for themselves. A while ago the “wife” convinced the “husband” to make some of their own wine.  They stomped their own grapes and ended up with Red Soles.  While we were there the owner Randy came in and chatted with us.  A wine club member came in for a tasting and we found that he was on the team that did not win on the Members Blend.  Their wine club has a bi -yearly competition to mix and blend their own blend of wine, the winner gets their wine made into the club members blend.  All of the wines were very good with a great sense of humor.  The people there were all very down to earth and after talking to Randy, you could see why Tiffany loved working there and the enthusiasm showed and the wines lived up to the enthusiasm.  You could tell they liked making great wine, and that is what they served.  These are the types of companies and wine makers we want to buy from. Passionate about what they do, and down to earth, who try not get to big to lose track of the journey, and have fun along the way.  We will review the Wines in later Post.

They have brandy added to some of their Late Harvest Lineups and are working to create their own brandy to add to the their mix.  We bought some of their Monkey shine and Club members Blend wine, and look forward to buying many more of their wines in the future.


Wildhorse the finding and the tasting

So we left Cass and turned on the GPS only to find we had no signal. After floundering trying to find the back way to Wild Horse, we gave up and headed back to 46 West to 101 South and exited on 224 to Vineyard Dr.  That takes you to Templeton Drive and out to Wildhorse.

Wildhorse Sign

We managed to arrive around 4:30 when they close at 5:00.  We walked into an empty tasting room.  This is my preference as you get to talk more with the winery staff, but I was feeling guilty knowing we were probably slowing down the end of his day.

He was gracious and we tasted 5 of their wines.  They have 3 menus, one for the widely distributed wines, one for the winery reserves and an additional list with Pinots.  We tasted the 20010 Viognier it was clean and tart and a little too stainless steel for me, but nice. With honeysuckle on the nose it was tart and mouth watering.  This is a drier style of Viognier than I am accustomed to.

Next we tasted the Blaufrankisch, this Austrian/German/Hungarian varietal grows great here!  They say there are 700 tons grown in the US a little in Washington, some in Ohio and some in the finger lakes in NY.  500 of the tons are grown here on the estate.  Great round mouthfeel and great flavor without being heavy. 14.28 Alc.  560 cases $24.  This was full Flavored with a light body.  Great pairing wine for anything! Turkey or Thanksgiving stuff is perfect!  Easy drinking with cranberry hitting the sides of my tongue.

Next we tried the 2009 Unbridled Zinfandel.  This was delicious and much lower in alcohol than most Zin’s at 14.5.  Less alcohol makes it cooler and cleaner.  You get pepper and red currants on the palate.    This is very red currant wine.  So you get great Zin flavor without the heat and headiness of your typical fruit bomb zin.

We then tried the Unbridled 2009 Syrah which was really lovely.  Again lower in alcohol at 13.5% it had lots of spice and darker berries than the Zin. The fruit is grown at Halter Ranch.  It had a  medium finish with lavender and dark earth.  Slight tannins on the teeth.  this runs $36 per bottle.

Lastly we went to try the Pinot 3rd down on the list that Jacob recommended.  Only one of the 1st Pinots was sold out, so we didn’t know if it was really the 3rd down or the 4th.  Jacob mentioned earthiness, so our pourer figured it was 4, but poured us side by sides of both.  The first Pinot was from Arroyo Grande (fruit from Laetitia) the 2nd from Bien Nacido in Santa Maria.  The noses were incredibly different!  The Arroyo was fruity and light and lovely, but the Bien Nacido was earthy with a bit of barnyard that was really fulfilling.  Done in a burgundian style this had a long finish and while it is terrific now, it will age well for about 5 years.  It was the priciest thing on the menu, but we could not leave without a bottle.  (Thanks Jacob).  We were given a discount since Cass sent us so we paid $42.90 for the $50 bottle of heaven!

When I asked for suggestions on vineyards, he mentioned Kenneth Volk.  Of course I said, your founder… that led to Lone Madrone and Tablas Creek which are of course already on our schedule.  Three other suggestions were Red Soles, Fratellie Perato and Linne Calado.  Castoro was on our list and a guy we were talking to at Cass recommended retasting at Peachy Canyon.  they have a new wine maker and the wines are night and day from what they were.  The sun was setting as we left and with the mist over the hills and the stark trees almost leafless, it was lovely.

more to come

Paso Trip to Cass Winery

The drive to Paso started very early.  The drive was uneventful and we arrived at Cass Winery in Paso Roble at 1:30 or so.  To get to the winery you take Union road off of 46 West right by Tobin James, follow Union to Geneovese and turn right on Linne.  The winery is ahead on your right.  Although there was patio seating outside, we opted to go in as it was a little cold.  The tasting bar is n the left as you go in and the cafe is to the right.  Lindsay told us to have a seat anywhere we liked and she would be right with us.  With the cafe, you can choose a glass of wine or a tasting free with lunch.  We opted for the tasting and a cheese pairing platter, plus I had the soup of the day which was an incredible deconstructed french onion soup with a veal broth (that was incredibly balanced) andouille sausage and of course onions.  Michael chose the pit roasted pulled pork tri tip sandwich..  Lindsay started us off with a 2010 Sparkling Grenache done in the Champagnoise style that is a Paso Roble Blanc de Noir.  12.5 % Alcohol. $55.00 225 cases.  Yeasty on the nose with bright tart green apple on the palate it was a refreshing start.  It is harvested early to keep the crisp acidity.  Cool weather made this especially good.  Michael who typically does not like sparkling wines, enjoyed this.   Jacob Lovejoy the chef brought the cheese platter and came out to describe each of the incredible cheeses that they had paired with their wine tastings.  We tasted the Midnight Moon from the Netherlands which is a pasteurized goat milk cheese done in a Gouda style.  This paired with the2010 Rockin’ One Blanc which is a White Rhone blend of Viognier (52%) Rousanne (20%) Marsanne (28%).  Alcohol 13.6% $32.00 Golden in color, you could smell the oak on the nose (18 months I think in neutral oak?) You get white peach and candied lemon on the palate.    The cheese is aged 24 months and has a great brown butter flavor with a bit of nuttiness.  Really good with the wine.

Next we tried the Western sage cheese.  The sage is beautiful in this cheese with the2010 Oasis Rose.  The Rose is a Syrah based Rose with a little Grenache, a little Cab and some other stuff kitchen sink style.  It is not a Rhone style grenache, probably due to the cab addition.  You get warm strawberries and guava on the nose.  On the palate it is crisp clean and refreshing cool strawberries and watermelon.  15.8 Alcohol.  225 cases $22.00 It was beautiful with the cheese.

Next was a central coast Holey Cow cows milk cheese.  Soft chewy nutty in a swiss cheese style.  This paired with the 2009 Grenache.  14.5% Alcohol and 18 months in french oak. $28.00 620 cases.This was a clear and clean wine with a nose of ripe cherries and strawberries.  This would pair well with turkey or duck.

Onto the cheese that Lindsay made!  This was a truffled goat cheese and it was paired with the 2009  Mouvedre.  15.3 Alcohol.  18 months in french oak$36.00.  The cheese is a creamy spread that we put on crackers. Later I added a little of Jacobs fig compote and it paired well also.  The Mouvedre was 2009. It is a light red, soft round and gentle.  Strawberries on the nose and palate.  Light mouth feel.

Next was a cheddar aged 5 years from Hooks cheese company in Wisconsin.  Jacob loves this and calls it velveeta on crack.  This paired with the Rockin’ One red blend.  This is a Rhone Style blend with 50% Syrah plush Grenache, & Mouvedre, petite Sirah . 15% alcohol and 18 month in the barrel.  The wine was dark red and peppery.  Michael found it hot when he paired it with his pulled pork.

Now to the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (700 cases produced) this is a typical cab blend with 75% cab, some merlot, cab franc, petit verdot.  Aged 22 months in 75% new french oak.  14.2 alcohol.  This is a big wine with a short finish and a clean aftertaste.  You could smell the tannins but they were not assaultive on the palate like the Petroni wines it left you ready for the next bite. Great food wine.  This paired with the Paive Vecchio cheese.  This is a cows milk cheese aged 12 months.  It has a texture between cheddar and parm.  Paired beautifully with the cab.  Roasted red pepper on the nose, deep red color, nice spice.

Last we tasted a syrah port 2009 1350 5 mil bottles produced paired with a 72% cacao chocolate.  Very nice.

Listened to Jacob working with the catering manager to plan a burger bar for a wedding.  He gets exceptionally excited about this stuff.  He mentioned that he had been to Wild Horse the other day and really liked the 3rd Pinot down, so we went looking for that.

More to Come.

Wine and the Pacific Coast Highway part 1

Cass Winery

I’m a planner.  No really!  Michael and I are planning a trip on the Pacific Coast Highway and of course I am finding as much wine country as possible to cover on the trip.  I started with my typical excel spreadsheet to layout the days, the gas, the cost, hotels, restaurants, wineries and state parks.  Yes we will toss in a little hiking so we don’t get too fat and sassy.  It’s a 9 day trip we are planning and as I gathered information it started to get a little unwieldy.  I had links to sites and history for each location…etc, etc.  As I started thinking of accessing this information on the iPad on the trip I opted to change formats and create my own guidebook with itinerary.  Sometimes I think I enjoy the research and planning almost as much as the vacation.

Well my guidebook is closing in on complete, but I thought I would share with you a little of what our trip will entail.  We will leave early to drive to Paso Robles, beginning with some inland wine tasting before heading to the coast.  We have been to Paso once before and loved it.  There are a few places I want to revisit and then some new spots to try.  I will admit, that you will have to wait for trip details later to see if we really make it to all these spots.  As much as I am a planner, I often enjoy tossing the plan to the wind and seeing where the wind takes us!  But for now, after the 6-7 hour drive to Paso we will head directly to Cass for lunch and a tasting.  Cass is on the South East side of Paso and we have never been to that area before.  They have a cafe where a tasting flight or a glass of wine are included with lunch.  Hungry as we will be after the drive, food with the tasting will be important.  They specialize in Rhone varietals here.

Cass Winery Sign View

After the tasting there we will head to Wildhorse, also on the East side.  I have been wanted to stop here ever since we missed getting here on our last trip.  Wildhorse was founded by Kenneth Volk.  I find him an incredibly innovative winemaker and love the wines under his Kenneth Volk label.  During our trip they will be accepting donations for tastings to benefit the SLO food bank.

As it will then be late in the day, the plan is to check into the Adelaide Inn.  I have seen nothing but great reviews for this hotel.  It’s not luxury, but comfort and with coffee and tea service in the room and a microwave, breakfast is easy!

With body aches from the drive we will head to River Oaks Hot Springs Spa for soak.  $16 per hour for the private spas outside or $12 inside and add $8 for each additional person.  These naturally heated mineral springs are one of the added attractions to Paso Robles.

After a relaxing soak, it will be a simple dinner, perhaps at Margie’s Diner near the hotel.  Then some sleep to be ready for our first full day of wine tasting on Paso’s West side….more on that tomorrow!