A Day in the Willamette Valley Part II: J Wrigley

Part I is here.

After enjoying the views and the wines at Youngberg Hill, our next stop was J Wrigley. Owned by John and Jody Wrigley, the winery is located on 200 acres outside of Sheridan, OR. While a majority of that 200 acres isn’t currently suitable for vineyard land, it is certainly in the long-range plan. I, for one, can’t wait to see the future developments at J Wrigley.

J Wrigley has a feature that no other winery that I know of has. No, it’s not a unique breed of winery dog, nor is it a unique view. No. It is something even more amazing. They have a quarry. Yes, a quarry.

The quarry at J Wrigley
The quarry at J Wrigley

The quarry at J Wrigley gives you a great perspective on the layers of soil that are underneath the vineyards not only at J Wrigley, but throughout the Willamette Valley. These layers of soil give John, a scientist, the opportunity to have continual experiments which allows him to make quality improvements. He also uses a minimalist approach, so you’re getting the true nature of the wines.

What about the wines? They are amazing. My favorites are the Rosé of Pinot Noir and the Proposal Block Pinot Noir.

The Rosé of Pinot Noir is light, crisp and refreshing. With hints of strawberries, peaches and cherries, this is great value at only $20!

The Proposal Block Pinot Noir is earthy and complex. It’s well worth the time to seek out. And the story behind the Proposal Block is sweet. If you’re a hopeless romantic, you’ll love the fact that this is named after the spot where John proposed to Jody.

If you’re in the Sheridan area, take the time to go up the hill to J Wrigley. You won’t be disappointed!

A Day In the Willamette Valley: Youngberg Hill

I live within an hour of the Willamette Valley. Being so close, you’d think I would spend plenty of time down there, exploring wineries, meeting the producers and consuming plenty of delicious Pinot Noir. And I do…but I, like everyone else, get stuck in a rut. I don’t take the time to truly explore the wonders that the region has to offer.

When the opportunity arose for me to visit 3 unique Willamette Valley producers, I took it. These were producers who were on my go-to list, but for some reason, I hadn’t made it out to them. Why hadn’t I made it to them sooner? I don’t know. With school and my volunteer efforts with my local wineries, my excuses are endless. Now, with the spectacular views and the beautifully crafted wines, I now have 3 more amazing places on my list. Over the coming weeks, each of the wineries I visited will be highlighted.

View from Youngberg Hill
View from Youngberg Hill

Youngberg Hill: The first winery stop was Youngberg Hill. The owners, Wayne and Nicolette Bailey, encourage your senses to fully take in what the hill is about, from the vineyards to the rooms in the bed and breakfast. “Everything is in sync with nature,” says Wayne. And for good reason. This biodynamically farmed winery takes pride in being good stewards of the land. With bioswales, a few head of cattle and a connection with the earth, the atmosphere they are producing is hard to beat.

According to Wayne, “Organic only takes you halfway.” Through diversification of the ecosystem, the Bailey’s are taking organic production to a new level. According to The Biodynamic Association, biodynamic farming requires that a the farmer generates as much health and fertility as possible from what’s available on the land. This means that every insect and animal, the unique characteristics of the layout of the property and the unique soils upon which the vineyards are planted play a vital role in the way that the grapes are grown.

What about the wines, you ask? Well…to summarize them into a few words, I’d use the following: Stunning. Elegant. Mystifying. Food-friendly. This is where Wayne’s experience as a food and beverage consultant shines. While he didn’t aspire to be a winemaker or a grower at first, he got to know vintners in France through his consulting position. When that job was complete, he stayed in France for an additional two years and got to know the production side. He came back to the states, armed with knowledge and a desire to grow Pinot Noir.

When asked why he picked Oregon over anywhere else, he said, “The Willamette Valley is the best.” He continued on to say that he sensed a feeling of “home” in McMinnville and in Oregon. He wanted his three daughters to experience what he did growing up in a farming community in Iowa. A sense of pride, dignity and community.

My personal recommendations from Youngberg Hill are the 2014 Aspen Pinot Gris (SRP: $20) and the 2011 Jordan Pinot Noir (SRP: $40). The Aspen is fruity, but still has a great backbone of acidity. The Jordan screams “Look at me! I’m worth your time and money!”

The next time you’re in the Willamette Valley, make sure that Youngberg Hill is on your list. For the whole experience, book yourself a room! Their daughter Natasha summed up the feeling of Youngberg Hill perfectly…”It’s so quiet, I can hear the stars.”

Gamay Room at Youngberg Hill
Gamay Room at Youngberg Hill

Disclaimer: My tasting fee was waived in exchange for a blog post.

Where the Country Meets the City: Walla Walla comes to Portland

I’ve raved about the wonderful wines that come from Walla Walla before here. And for good reason. They’re amazing!!

While browsing Facebook one night, I saw that the Walla Walla Wine Alliance was coming to Portland. From luscious, thought-provoking reds to delicate, crisp whites, Walla Walla wines never disappoint. I knew, without a doubt, that I needed to be there.

Of course, my two favorite Walla Walla wineries, Basel Cellars and Sleight of Hand Cellars were there…and believe me, once I found where they were in the room, I made a beeline for them. I’ve mentioned them before here and here. I will sing their praises whenever I can, because I love their wines.

But it wasn’t just Basel Cellars and Sleight of Hand that rocked my world at this tasting. In fact, there were many others who made me want to go back to Walla Walla immediately so I could taste through their lineups again!

The one that everyone was buzzing about was 2012 Sinclair Estate Vineyards Chardonnay was one of the best Chardonnay’s that I’ve had in a long time. This Chardonnay is crisp, yet it still packs a punch. It represents the beauty of Washington Chardonnay in such a manner that I was left speechless.

Other wines that left a lasting impression on me:

  • 2012 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah from Va Piano
  • – supple and soft, yet it packs a nice punch of spiciness.

  • 2012 Columbia Valley Merlot fromTamarack Cellars
  • – dark fruit lingers throughout the nose and palate making this Merlot very food-friendly.

  • 2012 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Doubleback
  • – soft tannins and a fruit-forward quality shine. I would love a glass of this with a steak, please!

  • 2011 Walla Walla Valley Trine from Pepper Bridge
  • – dark fruits and an herbaceous quality make this extremely intriguing.

All in all, this was a great tasting event. I’m looking forward to next year!

Sadly, I didn’t get any photos at this event, but I will share an image from my most recent trip to Walla Walla below. Pictures from the event are available on their Facebook page, locatedhere.

Vineyards at Basel Cellars
Vineyards at Basel Cellars

Disclaimer: As a member of the media, I was able to attend this event at no cost in exchange for coverage.

Super Bowl: A Time to Eat, Drink and Have Fun

Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away. In your last minute preparations, have you thought about what you’re going to drink? I see you shaking your head. Don’t fret. Here’s a quick roundup of what to serve at your Super Bowl party and *NOT* break the bank.

Now, there’s no questioning who I’m rooting for. I’ve been a loud and proud 12 since the days of Jim Zorn and Steve Largent. I love my team in the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright SUCK. Do I think Richard Sherman is the best corner in the league? Damn right I do. Do I love me some Marshawn Lynch? Thanks for askin’. Do I think that the Legion of Boom is the #1 defense? Duh. So of course, I’m going to recommend some Seattle/Pacific Northwest beer and wine to go with your Super Bowl feast. Have no fear, though, Pats fans…I’ve got a treat or two for you as well.

Wine

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Wine? What the…? You’re crazy, Alina!” but hear me out. Wine has it’s place at a Super Bowl Party just as beer, chili and chicken wings do! What do I recommend you drink?

O Wines Chardonnay & O Wines Red Wine

O Wines Red Blend and Chardonnay. These two wines are excellent pairings with the variety Super Bowl fare. And at $12.99 and $10.99 respectively, they won’t kill the food budget (since we all know that the food is *always* the star of the show).

The Red Wine is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon & syrah and shows the classic Washington characteristics of dark berries, cherries, cocoa and baking spice. It would go well if someone is grilling some form of beast, or if you serve hearty fare at your party.

The Chardonnay is a lovely wine with pear and baking spice on the nose & palate. Aged in stainless steel, this Chardonnay would be lovely with seafood dip, chicken and any cheese you may have out.

And the best thing about the O Wines? Each purchase supports their scholarship fund!

Beer

My go-to game day beer is 12th Man Pale Ale from Dick’s Brewing in Centralia, WA. Don’t let the fact that this beer is in a can fool you, this is good stuff…and this is coming from the girl who would rather walk barefoot across the sun than drink canned beer. 12th Man Pale Ale is an approachable beer with a nice balance of hops and sweetness. This would go *very well* with any of your game day fare.

My other go-to game day beer is Redhook Audible Ale. This is another Pale Ale, but this one brings lacks the sweetness from the 12th Man Pale Ale. What it lacks in sweetness, it makes up for hoppy goodness, though. While the Audible Ale isn’t designed specifically for the Seahawks, you have to figure that’s who they had in mind. ;)

For those of you who want to drink something from Boston (a city which I love, mind you…I just don’t like the Football team), I was pleasantly surprised by the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat enough to want to seek out other Sam Adams beers. :)

Cocktails

Who doesn’t love a good cocktail? I flexed my mixology muscles and came up with a couple of fantastic cocktails!

Boston Tea Party

1.5 oz gin
0.5 oz grapefruit bitters
fill glass with iced tea, unsweetened
lemon wedge
thyme infused simple syrup (optional, to personal preference)

Combine gin, bitters, simple syrup and iced tea over ice and stir. Add lemon wedge.

To make thyme infused simple syrup: combine equal parts sugar & water in a sauce pan. Boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add in fresh thyme leaves, cover and steep for one hour. Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.

The Seattle

1.5 oz moonshine/white whiskey
0.5 oz blue curaçao
1.0 oz sour apple schnapps
4.5 oz lemonade

Combine all in a glass over ice and stir.

*NOTE* When I stir any cocktail, I prefer to use a butter knife over a spoon, but do as you wish.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday everyone! As always, be smart. Don’t drink & drive. Call a cab, a buddy, crash on a couch…whatever you need to do to sober up before getting behind the wheel. And if you’re like me, you will also watch the Puppy Bowl and the Kitten Bowl before hand! :)

Disclaimer: O Wines were provided as a media sample. Cocktails and their respective names were products of my imagination and any similarities to a similar drink at a place of business are merely coincidental.

Walla Walla – The place so nice, they named it twice

35 years ago, if you had said you were going to Walla Walla, an eyebrow would’ve been raised and a judgmental glance shot in your direction. Why? Because at that point, Walla Walla was known as the destination for criminals who were to be housed at the Washington State Penitentiary. It was not known as a destination for wine. Luckily, that has changed. Walla Walla is now one of the premier destinations for Washington Wines for good reason. The quality of the wines coming out of Walla Walla is hard to beat.

Walla Walla is a quaint town located in the Southeast corner of Washington. Receiving less than 20″ of rain on average (according to Wasington State University, there was 10.3″ of rain in 2014as of 11/1/14), Walla Walla has a semi-arid climate. While most people think that Washington as a whole is a rainy state, Walla Walla takes that stereotype and turns it on it’s head. In an average year, Walla Walla gets 188 days of sunshine per year versus Seattle’s 58 days. A pesky little mountain range known as the Cascades is easily forgotten when people think of Washington’s climate.

Walla Walla’s 188 days of sunshine allow for an experience that is completely different than anything you’ll experience in Western Washington. Those of us on the “wet side” cherish those rare sunny days. East siders, y’all are LUCKY! Oh wait…you get bitterly cold in the winter, so it’s not necessarily a good thing! ;)

Beyond the weather differences, though…Walla Walla’s wines are phenomenal. From delicate whites to bold, in-your-face reds, Walla Walla (or W2 as it’s sometimes known as) has something for everyone. For me, I have two must visits when I go to Walla Walla.

Basel Cellars: This stunning property oozes grace, elegance and small town charm. This former private residence is built on a hill and was named “Double River Ranch”. A manmade, subterranean cave initially housed the original owners classic car collection now houses the wine making operations. The property also houses a 13,000+ sq. ft. guest house, a pool house (which can be rented for events or overnight stays, visit their website for more information) and a roomy tasting room.

Pool House at Basel Cellars

Main Guest House at Basel Cellars

Tasting Room at Basel Cellars

Sleight of Hand Cellars is another one of my favorites. Sleight of Hand is definitely the most rocking tasting room in Walla Walla. Literally. One wall is full of vinyl records and a common hashtag on their Instagram is #sleeveface, where you take the sleeve from one of the records in the tasting room and hold it over your own face. Oh, and did I also mention that the vinyl is there for more than decoration??? Yes, you can listen to those great records on the record player they have in the tasting room! When I was there, it was Pearl Jam being played.

The record player at Sleight of Hand Cellars

The view from the parking lot

Where are your favorite spots in Walla Walla?

A Thanksgiving Wine Primer

Thanksgiving is, by a foodie standard, the orgasmic holiday. Everyone stresses the perfect turkey, the perfect sides, the perfect desserts and the holy grail…the perfect wine pairings.

The typical Thanksgiving dinner has a myriad of flavors. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole. Macaroni and cheese (that may just be my family…). Stuffing/dressing. Cranberry sauce. An assortment of sweets for dessert.

What is a perfectionist to do when it comes to wine pairings and Thanksgiving dinner???? Here’s what’ll be on my table:

Sparkling: Yes. That stuff that’s meant for celebrations. Sparkling wine isn’t just for celebrating a promotion or the new year any more. Sparkling wine adds a nice versatility to the table, as it can easily pair with everything from appetizers to dessert. My recommendations: Michelle Brut, Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blanc Brut or Rosé and Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, Brut Prestige or Cuvée M.

Rosé: A nice dry rosé is always welcome throughout the year, but there’s something special about the pairing of turkey and rosé. My recommendations: speak with your local wine shop specialist to see what they have in stock. My personal preference lies within the Provençal and Rhône style rosé’s. A nice Rosé of Pinot Noir is also divine.

White: Riesling. Without a doubt, the balance of acidity and sweetness in Riesling makes it super friendly with the myriad of flavors on the table. My recommendations: Personally, I’m on a big Washington Riesling kick, so anything from Washington of course tops the list, but an Alsatian or German Rieslings are divine as well.

Red: Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir (Beaujoulais) are the classic answer to this question. But why play it safe? Experiment with a Syrah or Merlot-based blend. You’d be surprised how a nice Merlot or Syrah can pair with roasted turkey. My recommendations: Owen Roe Ex Umbris Syrah, Helix Syrah by Reininger Winery and Basel Cellars Merriment or Claret.

If you’re not feeling like wine, then here’s a delicious harvest-style cocktail to enjoy:

3 oz. White Whiskey (I use Colonel Cobb Moonshine from Double V Distillery in Battle Ground, WA if you live in the PDX area)
1 oz. Maple Syrup (I’m partial to barrel aged like this one from Woodinville Whiskey Company, but any high quality maple syrup will work…)
10 or so dashes of Grapefruit Bitters

Mix in a shaker with ice. Shake well. Pour into a highball glass and enjoy.

Here’s just a brief preview of what will be on my table this year. Mind you, this is not the end all of end all bottles, either. We may end up opening some other stuff in addition or to substitute.

Thanksgiving Wines at the World HQ

Now, if you have a special bottle that you’ve been dying to open…the best advice comes from my dear friend, Jeff Weissler of Pairings Portland Wine Shop‘s latest newsletter: Drink that yummy, special wine (the one you’ve picked out and have been waiting to open), before your guests arrive! Why? Chances are it’ll get lost in the orchestra of so many flavors and a crowded full plate! Having said that, sometimes it’s all about the sharing. :)