Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Extra Cheese, please

Day 5: July 27, 2011 Rogue Valley, OR

Remember how I mentioned Chris was smart enough not to make me wake up early and run about two days in a row? Right, so day 5 was another sleep in leisurely day. Plus, we were in Rogue Valley and it turned out there weren't really a lot of wineries in Rogue Valley that had wines from the Forgotten Grapes. BUT...there was a Rogue Valley cheese shop!! With all the wine we'd been tasting and still would be tasting, clearly we needed cheese. We bought some blue, some goat, some tasty local stuff and some really wonderful rosemary crackers and headed off to see what wineries we could see.

Our only stop turned out to be at Longsword Vineyard and Fly High Vineyard (they share a tasting room) where we had a pleasant tasting of their wines and our cheeses out on the patio.

And then we hit the road--a 4 1/2 hour drive down to Lake County, California. And that drive turned out to be spectacular fun for us.

We were a little too focused on the wine in planning our trip and thus, manged to be very surprised by this:

That's Mt. Shasta, and I'm guessing it's been there awhile. Still managed to be news to us. But it wasn't nearly as surprising as this:
We thought it would be more crowded. Sort of a popular destination, if you know what I mean.

We also were unable to resist pulling off the highway to see the "world famous sun dial bridge" at Turtle Bay in Redding, California. You can see why it's world famous, right?

These were the only turtles we saw at Turtle Bay though:
 I was a little disappointed that the museum was already closed. But...we had an exciting night ahead. Oh yes sirree. Because this is where we stayed:

Rancheria Resort Casino. Emphasis on Resort....no.... emphasis on "Casino"...well, no, emphasis on "Rancheria." But yeah, we stayed here. God I love road trips like this.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dogs and Donuts

[Note from "real time"--as opposed to going back to tell you about our wineapalooza trip which took place a month ago--this blogging every day thing is a lot of work! How did I do it when I was working and going through chemo??  I'm thinking it will now be every other day. Besides, we had 18 friends over last night to try out some of these wines--18 bottles to be exact. I've got a lot of cleaning up to do today!]

Day 4, Part 2, July 26, 2011 in the evening....

After Steve Reustle made a call over to John Olson at Tesoaria, we hustled over to meet John. So, so glad we did. TeSoAria is in Roseberg, OR and is a small but  beautiful winery. Here's what their website says about them: "Our name, TeSóAria, encompasses the true spirit of what our vineyard and winery are all about, and defines the artisanal estate wines produced: Terra (soil), Sol (sun), Aria (air and music). These three words perfectly describe the terroir where the estate grown varietals and wines are produced."  That's a good description. John's passion is readily apparent. He was hard at work in the barrel room when we arrived but happily set up a tasting for us. His dog Bella (the ball -obssessed) was by his side, which made me happy as I was definitely missing Seamus by then. Once Chris explained Forgotten Grapes and his quest for the lesser known grape varietals, John lit up and out came the wines. 14 total. It may have been more. I couldn't keep up.  But here's some highlights of what he poured, and I'd encourage you to check out his website to read more about these really interesting and tasty wines. He's doing some great stuff.

2009 Dolcetto
2009 Bull's Blood (a blend of Pinot Noir, Baco Noir, Marachal Foch, Tempranillo and Hugarian Kadarka...nope, I'm not making that up)
2009 Tempranillo
2010 Bulls Blood
2010 Sangiovese
2010 Kadarka
2010 Barbera
2010 Primotivo

It went on and on! So much so that I had to bust out the appetizers...2 day old Voodoo Donuts! But let me tell you, the maple bacon bar was perfectly paired with the 2009 Baco Noir!

And notice all the 2010 vintages? That's because John started climbing up the barrels to have us taste barrel samples (this is the point at which I lost count of the wines. Crazy good stuff).

And I'll have to admit defeat here too. I had to stop tasting. Chris kept on, but I turned my attention to Bella and her ball. Bella has her own game of catch and I'm not sure I ever learned all the rules, but I'm pretty sure you can't be looking at her when she puts the ball down, and the ball must always be in her sight (or in her mouth), and she'll let you know when it's okay to throw the ball by putting it down in front of you and staring at it intently. But it takes her awhile to determine whether or not you are a worthy player. Funny, funny dog. But so cute.

Day 4 of Wineapalooza the Mother of all Epic Wine Tours was a doozy. So many good wines and interesting people. He had to push on though. We drove to the Rogue Valley that night, stopping on the way for dinner. We both had a craving for Mexican food. And margaritas.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wine Guys

Wineapalooza Day 4: July 26, 2011

The easiest way to tell we were tourists in Oregon would have been to count the number of times I said "Look at all these trees!" It's really a beautiful state. And the drive from Florence to the Umpqua Valley (conveniently located on the Umpqua River) is gorgeous and serene. To wit:
And yes, I made Chris stop so I could get out and take a picture. He's an excellent traveler like that--doing all the driving and perfectly agreeable to stop whenever and wherever.

Of course we stopped for wine too. First was Brandborg Winery in Elkton. We had a great time tasting wines with Terry Brandborg himself. In fact, it was such a nice time we ending up tasting 12 wines. 12! Our favorites were the 2010 Fleur de Lys White Pinot Noir, the 2008 Reisling and 2007 Love Puppets Pinot Noir. (I also happen to love the name of the Pinot Noir--it's got a romantic story behind it having to do with a painting and Terry and his wife Sue's courtship; very sweet--the story, not the wine.)
Chris with Terry Brandborg 

We couldn't resist heading over to the winery across the way from Brandborg. River's Edge winery sits....well, on the edge of the Umpqua River.

Eight wines were tasted with the 2007 Barrel Select Umpqua Pinot Noir as our favorite. It is hard to beat an Oregon Pinot Noir.

Our next stop was a doozy. We'd been visiting mostly smaller wineries--beautiful, rustic places with small productions. So we were not prepared for what Reustle Prayer Rock winery and vineyards looked like. The drive in was, in keeping with Oregon's custom, gorgeous. And then the winery appeared. And, well...wow. See for yourself:
Gloria Reustle gave us a tour of the winery and some of the most elegant private tasting rooms I've ever seen.

But as beautiful as the winery was...the wines were even better. Steve Reustle joined us for what turned out to be a 3 hour tasting. Steve is passionate about his grapes, his wines and winemaking. Chris is, as we know, also very passionate about those things. There was wine. There was talking. There was more wine. More talking. Repeat. A fabulous afternoon! The 2010 Gruner Veltliner was the favorite (and the 2009 reserve was also excellent). I also must give a tip o' the glass to the kitchen at Reustle Prayer Rock. They serve small bites with each wine (okay, not each wine we tried...that would be two meals worth; but each wine in the "normal" tasting) and everything was delicious. Loved, loved, loved the rice cracker with goat cheese, avocado slices, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

We spent so long there (that's Chris still chatting with Steve) we thought we'd probably not get in another winery that day. But, Steve picked up the phone and called John Olson over at Tesoaria and asked him to stay open for us. Boy were we glad he did that. I'll tell you all about that tomorrow. Let's just say it involves not just wine, but dogs and donuts.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Day 3: In which Wineapalooza heads to Florence...and gets a tasting break.

Chris knows me well. Which means he knows better than to try to get me to be up early and out the door doing "things" (anything, anything at all) three mornings in a row. So Day 3 started with a sleep-in. Breakfast in bed at the hotel. Much coffee. Check out was at noon, or I'd probably still be in bed at the Marriott in downtown Portland.  We had a leisurely day ahead of us though. We were going to meander our way down to Florence, OR where we'd meet up with my high school buddy and best friend Corby and her new husband...who just happens to also be her high school love. They dated the summer after we graduated from high school--he was three entire years older than us (really significant back then!) and the "cool guy in the band." She was giddy. But it didn't last (who could get over that age difference?? ;-) ) and they broke up. They each went on to marry other people, they each had a son, then a daughter, then a divorce. Then he looked her up and ....boom! They were back in love and before you knew it, almost 30 years after their first date, they were married and she moved up to Oregon with him. That was two years ago and this would be the first time I'd see her in her new happy life. So, I was excited to get there....but there was driving to do and wines to be tasted.

Our one and only wine stop that day was a good one--Ankeny Vineyard, in Salem, OR. (Notice the dog on the mural on the building? Yeah...you know I had to stop in.) Since we were only stopping at one winery, we knew we'd need some serious numbers. How about 7? We tasted 7 wines. We greatly enjoyed the Ankeny Sunset (bottle on the right above) which is a rose blend of 84% Pinot Noir and 16% Marechal Foch...which, you guessed it, is one of Chris's Forgotten Grapes. We also really liked the pure Marechal Foch (which Chris's notes call "zippy" and also brambly and "syrah like with a little zin kick."). Tasty stuff, but we had to get back on the road to get to this:
Kevin, Corby, Teresa & Chris

It was so great to see them! And, it's possible, there was wine with dinner. There was also quite a menagerie of animals at her home, so I got a kick out of that and got my animal fix (they even have two beagle mixes--but they're huge! twice Seamus's size!).

The giant (and old, but happy) beagle

The less happy (but pretty adorable) cat

Pet ducks! They're hilarious

The wild deer come right into their backyard! These two fawns weren't too far from mama

Mama deer getting a snack from Corby
A nice, relaxing vacation day. But tomorrow...it's wine time again. Tough, tough work...but somebody has got to do it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shine On Adelsheim!

Before continuing with wineapalooza, allow me one "real time" break-- I had my UCLA check-up (mammogram this time) yesterday. All was fine. And I graduated. I have been returned to "normal" and will only have mammograms once a year now. Just like folks who never had cancer! Woo-Hoo! Now, on with our regular programming....

July 24, 2011: Day 2, Part Two

Okay, I was wrong. But I can clear it up now. We didn't have that fabulous lunch (see post below) after Barrel Fence. Oh no. We went on to Adelsheim Winery and guzzled tasted another 7 wines before lunch. If you're counting, that means we had tasted 21 wines before breaking for lunch. I don't know if I'm impressed or mortified. No, wait, I do. I'm impressed.

Adelsheim was a winery that I put on our itinerary. A few years back they had a stainless steel Chardonnay (2007) that was my "buy cases of this I'm drinking it forever" wine. And we bought cases. Until we couldn't buy it anymore. Then I put Michael on it (he who lives in the region) and he couldn't find it. It was over. And I mourned the loss of that wine. That's the thing about wine---when a vintage is gone, it's gone. It won't and can't be repeated. Even with the same land, same vines, same winemaker... the weather over the year is going to be different, so the wine will be different. The barrels (or steel vats) are going to be different. The wine will be different. It's the fun, the glory, the agony and the great mystery of winemaking (and, uh, buying). Which is why I wanted to go visit the winery and taste every single one of their white wines in search of my new favorite.

Marketing Manager Catherine Douglas was our cheerful and informative tour guide,
out in the vineyard
and in the cave. And then in their "library" (the storage room for each of their vintages from way back to current):
and you know what I was looking for, right? Yeah, it was there. But, damnit (Willamette) I couldn't reach it. Or, well, steal it. I just can't.

But we did love the 2010 Ribbon Springs Vineyard Auxerois (yes, that's a grape and yes, that's a white wine, second from left in the above photo). Quite a tasty wine ("full bodied up front segueing into lemon; good minerality; finishes as a tarter lime mid-mouth" per Chris). Also, it was the 2009 Willamette Valley Chardonnay that came closest to my fond memories of the 2007 (as opposed to the 2009 Stoller Vineyard Chardonnay...but that was good too!).

So, right at this point we are 21 wines tasted. You'd think that'd be good for a day, but no.
We headed over to Cana's Feast, in Carlton where Wes gave us quite a tasting. I have to admit...I could not keep up. Plus, we were tasting in the barrel room, which is a nice private way to taste but, uh, they keep the temperatures where the wine likes it...call it 56 degrees. Yeah, I can't do that.

I cannot tell a lie...I ducked out and took a nap in the car. Michael and Chris though, they powered through another ten wines. 10!!! Their favorites were the 2008 Barbera and the 2007 Nebbiolo. I have to take their word for it for now...but bottles did come home with us.

Day 2 total wines tasted (well, by Chris at least): 31. Total for Wineapalooza: 36.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Willamette, Damnit

July 24, 2011: Day Two of Wineapalooza

We were not up at the crack of dawn. We were however up and out the door at an hour that was too early for Michael's boyfriend Brian or friend Carmel to join us. And really, they live there, so I can see their point. Why is it that wine tasting rooms open at 10 (freakin'!!) a.m. and close, mostly, at 5pm? Them don't seem like normal drinking hours to me. And I'm a seasoned pro.

Nonetheless, after a lovely room service breakfast, we met Michael in the lobby and we were off in our trusty white wine-mobile. Headed to the Willamette valley, which, yes, is pronounced to sound like Damnit, not William's diminutive (much as Chris tried, he continued to say William-ette all day....causing several cheerful folks to respond with the helpful "It's Will-a-mette. Damnit." For the record, Chris also can't say "query"--he says "quarry" instead. Other then that though, he's perfect. Which is why I share those two things.)

Chris on left, Michael on right; box of heaven above
Our first stop was the beautiful in name and in reality, Four Graces Winery. And I'm just going to stop right here and say: Pinot Blanc. Buy their Pinot Blanc (and send it to me!!!). We all loved it and we all bought it. Chris's notes say "good citrus with candied orange. Long finish. 500 to 700 cases made." My notes say "Oh my god! Oh my god! Ohmygawd!!" (You can tell which one of us is the professional.) I was also a fan of the Pinot Gris. And you can (almost) never go wrong with an Oregon Pinot Noir. Purchases were made.

We moved on to Winderlea Vineyards and a truly spectacular tasting room (also, the beginning of our "let's find the best tasting room bathroom" game! It was also the end...it was awesome and unbeatable. Think fancy hotel bathroom. Sorry, I did not photograph it. I don't actually take my camera to the bathroom with me, which I now see as a character defect.) But look at this place!You just know they have a fabulous bathroom. (And this is coming from a woman who spends a lot of Sunday in the kitchen and bath showrooms of Standards of Excellence where Chris does his Sunday Night Chef Fights.)

They are known for their Pinot Noir (which is not a Forgotten Grape, Chris's specialty, but tasty nonetheless). We tasted five wines and preferred the '07 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir. And this view:

We couldn't help but venture across the street from Winderlea to this clever looking winery called Barrel Fence Cellars. You can see where the name came from, no?
Does this help? See? The fence has barrels in it? Oh and a giant corkscrew sticking out of my head the end barrel.  The winemaker also owns a vineyard in New Zealand which just happens to be located at the 45th parallel south and his vineyard in Oregon is at the 45th parallel north, which is a fascinating coincidence and also allows for a very unique vertical...no, wait...horizontal...no, parallely-elle, no...well, a unique tasting of these two wines. Same grape varietal (Pinot Noir), different vineyards on these two parallels. Way cool. And for the record, I'm a south-y.

You'll be happy to know we had lunch next.
I was happy to know there was such a thing as a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, snuggled in a fresh bun with a slab of blue cheese, served with potato salad and baked beans on the menu at the Horse Radish Wine & Cheese bar and cafe in Carlton.
 Hey, one needs to keep nourished with all that wine tasting going on! And note...there was iced tea to drink. A little break in the wine tasting to let those taste buds relax.. And speaking of relaxing, we're only at lunch on this day. I think we'll take a little bloggy break and split this day up into two posts. I'm sure you're feeling a little tipsy after all those virtual wines anyway.