Tag: wine travels

Wine 101 eBooks (Moscato, Grenache, Tempranillo) are now available!

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This was a great project – Thanks Anna Roth for the recommendation! I wrote three short-ish Wine 101 guides to three different grapes – Muscat, Grenache and Tempranillo. Since they are trying to get the books out there, you can get a free copy of one of them – check this out:

Get your free Wine eBook 

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Okanagan Days

As I’m writing this on a Sunday morning, I’m watching the neighborhood’s three-legged cat hobble around a construction site next door. He gives me hope—that even though I’m a procrastinator and often don’t post when I know I want to, that I’m still hobbling around nonetheless! I’m out there searching for mice even though I might not catch them! That said, here is the post I should have posted two weeks ago right after I came back from my trip to Okanagan, B.C., Canada. Here it is!

We finally have summer—the days are dry and even what you might call hot. I’m off on my friend Danielle’s annual birthday wine tasting trip—two years ago we went to Willamette Valley, and last year we went to Chelan. This year, the four of us ladies, of various ages and positions in life, agreed wholeheartedly on B.C.’s Okanagan region, just north of central Washington.

I drove out, they flew, and I was the designated rental car. Our first day, we visited three wineries and a goat cheese maker, a full day for five hours. Lunch at Quail’s Gate, then to the famous, fabulous Mission Hill. tried Chardonnay and Ice Wine, but mostly drank in the view and the architecture. This place is known as the most beautiful winery in the area, and I’d have to agree. It’s Mondavi-ized the area, created a destination for people to ooh and ahh over, and then go taste the wines at the smaller, more boutique or mom-n-pop wineries.

We also went on a trek to find the Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan farm and shop, off in the hinterlands of Kelowna’s alpine hills along the shores of Lake Okanagan. They featured over a dozen styles of goat cheese with lovely names like Misty, Blue Velvet and Heavenly—and they were—from fresh yogurt cheese to ash-covered soft-ripened cheese, to smoked cheese to hard, tangy cheeses to a fantastic blue. I bought two Moonlights, a soft-ripened cheese similar to Mt. Townsend Creamery’s amazing Cirrus. Then to Cedar Creek Winery just down the road.

The next day, we visited the Naramata Bench, some miles south of Kelowna along the shores of Okanagan Lake. We visited Poplar Grove, Nichol, Kettle Valley (with their crazy Gewurztraminer slushy, great idea but there was nowhere near enough wine in it, just sugar icee with a splash. Then to Elephant Island Fruit Winery, one of the best tastings we had. All their wines are fruit wines, and before you get all snobby on me, you have to realize these wines are their own animal, and each is unique. The pear wine was light, fresh and dry, with a nose of jarlsburg and smoke, to me at least! The perfect thing with a goat cheese salad and an afternoon on a sunny porch. There are also wines from Fuji apples, crabapples, raspberries and their wonderful non-vintage Stellaport made from dark red Stella cherries, fermented and aged in French oak in an 8-year solera system. This wonderful wine had a nose of baking spice and mocha, and dark cherry, of course, with coffee, balsamico and prune on the palate. Would be fantastic with fondue!

We had lunch at the gorgeous little Heritage Inn, an old renovated hotel with a good restaurant. At lunch we opened a bottle of Joie’s 2007 A Noble Blend and loved it. Joie’s winemaking couple, Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble, have a small cooking school and winery (not open to the public) just up the road. This wine has a nose of lime zest with a bit of fresh tropical fruit, pineapple, and zesty acidity, great balance. We were so impressed with the wine that Monique called them right from the lunch table and asked if we could come by. Michael said sure! he’d be happy to show us around, so we trotted off to the winery and met he and Heidi and their lovely little farm. We ended up leaving with three half bottles of wine from their afternoon test tasting, and arms full of pears from their little orchard.

There’s so much more to say about this trip, but other wines I liked were Le Vieux Pin (we had lots of laughs trying to prounounce that – it’s Le (as in book) Vee-yeuu (as in book) Pa nh (nasally n!) how do you write that phonetically, I don’t know, but the wines were fabulous. Also visited their other new winery, LaStella, which was gorgeous, you MUST go there! More on that later. Also Blue Mountain sparkling wine and pinot blanc and pinot gris.

And Nk’Mip (INK-a-meep) which was big and resorty and disappointing as far as wine goes, but looked like a great place for family vacations.

More later!

Old-school organic in a new-school recyclable bag-in-a-box

Bill Powers and his organic Chardonnay
Bill Powers and his organic Chardonnay

On a recent trip to the Tri-Cities wine region (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco for you non-Washingtonians) I had a chance to visit four vastly different wineries. One was one of the oldest wineries in the state—Powers (and Badger Mountain, their organic brand) on the hills above a Richland suburb, literally—we had to drive through suburban neighborhood to get to the tasting room and vineyard. I took a short truck ride with owner Bill Powers (now in his 80s) up to see the Chardonnay vines and have a sip of the Powers 2007 Chardonnay – a clean, crisp organic wine, full of fresh green apple and citrus flavors.

Powers has been growing grapes here since 1977, and has been organic almost that long. He says he was putting all these chemicals on the vines, and his boys were doing the work. He didn’t want the kids to do it, so he was doing it and not liking having to use these chemicals – so on a trip to California, he talked to some hippie grapegrowers who were farming organically, and they encouraged him to do the same, and so he did. And still, he’s one of the few certified-organic vineyards in the state. He does, as other organic farmers do as well, use sulphur to combat powdery mildew on the vines, about once a week for a certain period during the vine’s growth – this year was very humid and perfect for the evil fungus to grow. And then of course, sulfites are added to the wine to preserve it – pretty much every winery does this, or we’d be opening a lot of bad bottles. But Powers (Bill and his son Greg, the winemaker for Powers & Badger Mountain) and Mickey Dunne, part owner of Badger Mountain, have found a solution for their “no sulfites added” organic wine – bag in the box! It keeps oxygen away from the wine, and therefore keeps it completely fresh for up to 30 days! This is so common in Europe that I’ve heard box wine is almost 50 percent of the market. Here, it is growing, but still only about 10-12 percent. I hope that will increase as people put higher quality wines in completely recyclable boxes.