Yakima winery weekend

March 12th, 2018

Ever since the time Ted surprised me with a trip to Venice for my birthday, he’s planned trips as my birthday presents more often than not – this works out well because I emphatically don’t need more stuff! and because organizing is his superpower. In recent years, we’ve been visiting some of the wine regions around here; we’d done Dundee and McMinnville in previous years, so this year we went further afield, to Yakima, WA, where they specialized in big red wines rather than our local Pinot Noirs. We took Friday off and started with a drive along the Columbia River Gorge, with a stop at the Gorge Interpretive Center’s nice little museum.

There’s supposed to be a good art museum along the way, but it doesn’t open for the year until March 15th; likewise the observatory we drove by as we headerd north turned out to be closed. Once we got to Yakima, we tried to stop at Wilridge Winery, just above town, and that was closed as well; I was beginning to wonder if this trip was going to be a total bust (also, we hadn’t eaten much, so I was definitely getting a bit grumpy). We checked into our hotel and, after a quick nap for Ted and some lunch for me, headed out to a couple of the downtown tasting rooms. Once there, things started looking up; we actually hated the wines at the first winery, which were very dry and had some off flavors, but it was a pleasant place to hang out, and the guy serving the tastings was friendly and gave us some good advice about other places to visit. (We didn’t tell him he hated his wines, of course!) The wines at the next place were much better, and we ended up buying two whites and two reds; the ones at the third place were decent, and we finished up with dinner at Cowiche Canyon restaurant, where the food was excellent though the noise level was uncomfortably high. Friday wineries: AntoLin, Gilbert, Kana.

There are actually four winetasting areas in the Yakima Valley, so on Saturday we headed further afield into the Prosser and Rattlesnake areas. It was a gorgeous day, with intense blue skies and temperatures that eventually got up into the sixties. We made a quick stop at the Teapot Dome gas station, then visited five different wineries, finishing up at our favorite of the whole trip, which specializes in sparkling wines. The tasting was free, and when we ordered a Mediterranean platter to go with it (hummus, tapenade, etc) the food proportions were very generous. The wines there are only $15-20, so I have no idea how they make their money unless it’s just volume; the place had lots of tables and was full, whereas at some of the other places it was just us and the person running the tasting room. Saturday wineries: Bonair, Two Mountain Winery, VanArnam Vineyards, Masset Winery and Treveri (the sparkling wine place).

On Sunday, since it was another beautiful warm day, we were able to take the northern route home (when we left Friday, there was snow on the ground at White Pass and traction tires were required, which was why we took the Gorge route that day). It was even more spectacular than the Gorge: towering cliff, clear streams, capped with a spectacular view of Mt Rainier.

After unpacking and a bit of erging at home (rowers don’t get weekends off!) we finished the weekend with a trip to one more winery – because we had to pick up our wine club shipment there! No wonder Ted looks a bit tired.

things I miss from the Netherlands, part #9234

December 21st, 2016

At this time of year, when I’m getting read to take a long vacation from work, I miss the phrase “t/m”. It is very useful, and we have no good equivalent in English. It stands for “tot/met”, literally “to/with” and is used in the sense of “up to and including” as in “I will be on holiday from tomorrow t/m January 2”. There’s no easy way to say that in English that doesn’t involve a lot more typing!

But the thing I think we both still miss most is still living in the center of town and being able to walk to millions of restaurants within a 10-15 minute stroll. (Even if they all serve so slowly that every dinner out takes two hours!) OK, maybe not millions, but I bet there are over a hundred bars and restaurants within that distance from our old flat. We could live in the Pearl here, but even there the restaurant density is not nearly as high, plus our house would cost three times as much as the one we bought in Hillsboro and our commute would be forty minutes instead of five (except when there was bad weather or accidents, when it could double). And the rowing club – we miss the rowing club a lot. Portland has them, they’re just a bit far to make rowing on workdays practical.

Last Galapagos Post: lizards and iguanas

August 11th, 2016

The tan iguanas are land iguanas; the red and black ones are marine iguanas (or in one case an ex-marina iguana). There’s also a photo of a hybrid between the two, using its marine parent’s climbing abilities to climb up a cactus-tree and eat the fruit – there are only 18 of these known. There’s also a little lava lizard, an iguana skull and a whale skeleton, plus a couple images of a fairly young lava flow (about 100 years old) just for texture. As always, click on any photo to see it bigger.







Galapagos 4: bird photos

August 11th, 2016

During the trip, we saw the Galapagos mockingbird, lava gulls, albatrosses (freaky!), blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, various finches, short-eared owls, frigatebirds, red-billed tropic birds, brown pelicans, great blue herons, cattle egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, penguins swimming by very fast, and even flamingoes (at quite a distance). We don’t have photos of all of those, but…














Galapagos 3: Photos (tortoises and sea lions)

August 11th, 2016

OK, time for what I know everyone wants to see – the photos. I want to include too many to do it all in one entry; I’ve debated about whether to split them by day, location, or what, but I’ll be mixing together two sets of photos, mine on the iPhone and Ted’s with the DSLR and zoom lenses, and it’s not always obvious which island what photo is from. Also, all the tortoises would have been on the first day anyway, since the only ones we saw were in the high-altitude rainy area in the middle of Santa Cruz island, as we were driven from Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora where we met the ship on our first day. So instead, I will divide them up by subject – tortoise and sea lion photos the first day plus crabs and scenery shots, then birds, then iguanas and lizards. (We also saw sting rays, lots of tropical fish and a couple of penguins, but those were all in the water and we didn’t have a waterproof camera.) You can click on any of the thumbnails to make them bigger.





I took the first one below, then turned around 180 degrees and took the second:




Also, bonus sea turtle! This photo wasn’t taken by us, but by another person on our trip who was smart enough to bring a waterproof camera. (Posted here with permission.)

Galapagos Trip: About the trip

August 10th, 2016

We visited the Galapagos islands aboard the Reina Silvia, a 91′ ship, along with 10 passengers (including us), 7 crew members and our amazing guide Fernando. Fernando is a marine biologist, former member of the Galapagos National Park Service, diver, and the guy who runs the Galapagos Challenge triathlon, so he pretty much knows everything about the Galapagos – it was obvious when we met him that we were in good hands.

Our ship’s passenger list included a doctor, a music teacher, a choral director, a lawyer, three engineers of various kinds, two retirees, a nice Jewish family, a speech language pathologist, three generations, a brother and sister, one single woman, three married couples, two women and a man whose significant others didn’t come along, two people even shorter than I am and one only barely taller, a triathlete, a swimmer, two rowers, two river rats, a couple of skiers, and ten people who like to travel. (There are a total of ten people included in that list above.)


The Ecuadorian government strictly controls who comes to the Galapagos, where they can go and when they can be at each island. There are two basic itineraries, eastern and western; we took the eastern route, visiting more of the smaller islands.


Fernando kept us busy – here’s a sample agenda for just one day.

Galapagos Trip: Quito

August 9th, 2016

Finally, a real travel entry! (I know, I’ve fallen way behind on the wines.) For Ted’s parents’ 50th anniversary, they asked us to plan a family trip. We decided to go with them to the Galapagos – they’re birdwatchers, and it was a place we’d wanted to see. Ted decided to do the thing up in style – so when his parents drove up here the evening before, we kicked off dinner with a champagne toast, to a cumulative 73 years of happy marriage, theirs plus ours, and the hope for as many more. Before dawn the next morning, we were picked up by a stretch limo for our trip to the airport (sorry, no photos – the parents are in all of them, and don’t want their images used in an identifiable way on the Internet). For their next surprise, we’d cashed in our airline miles so that the four of us could travel in comfort up in Business class. Good thing, because it was a long trip – one five hour flight to Atlanta, then another to Quito.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 2AM, so we took it easy the next day, just walking around the Mariscal area close to our hotel, which has restaurants and galleries. This included a visit to the local artisan market, where we got most of our souvenir shopping out of our systems. The next day, we elected to skip the canned tours and go on our own to the colonial city center, which has a bunch of churches dating back to the 1600s. Our first stop was Santo Domingo; in a lucky stroke, Ted’s mom asked if there was a map to the attached museum – there wasn’t, but the attendant closed the museum door and conducted us personally through the old monastery that serves as a museum, including several areas that are kept locked. From there we walked to the City Museum, which was very good, sat down in their cafe to enjoy a coffee (tea for me), then to the other old churches: San Francisco, the Society (of Jesuits), and the Cathedral in the Plaza Grand, the square at the heart of the city. We finished up with our first meeting with our fellow passengers and a guide (who turned out not to be ours, just filling in) then a quick dinner to get ready to head out to the islands!




getting around to Memorial Day weekend

June 6th, 2016

The thing about a good weekend is, of course, you’re too busy enjoying it to blog about it. Memorial Day weekend was a good one – and then I didn’t write up its wines on Monday because Monday was still “weekend”.

We spent it at the lake house, and Ted’s parents came up to visit. More people = chance to taste more wine! The neighbors also came over one night, bringing some god Scotch. We started early with the wine if not with the holiday, so ended up haivng wines Thursday through Monday, two different ones some nights.

2011 Rioja (Tempranillo)
from Spain
bought at Fred Meyer
This wine is named for the joint venture that produced it; I don’t remember their full names, but R is a French winemaker and G is a Spanish wine trader, teaming up to make a Spanish wine with French influences. We had this with steak and corn on the cob. Aromas of dark berries. The front is loaded with warm spice and fruit; the fruit vanishes and the spice turns peppery on the palate. Without food, the finish just … dissipates; food brings out more complexity and a lingering peppery finish with hints of tannins.
Paula: 3.2 Ted: 3.2

2015 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley
from the vineyard
Brooks was one of our favorite wineries from our Dundee weekend in March. We had this with (and after) tapas – in this case, assorted cheeses, crudites, grilled Buffalo wings, andouille and shrimp. The wine is light but not simple. Ranier cherry flavors in front, earth flavors on the finish. Distinct and complex but delicate.
Paula: 4 Ken: 4 Karen: 3.75 Ted: 2.9

2011 Overlook Pinot Noir
Dundee Hills AVA, Oregon
from the wine club
With grilled salmon, grilled asparagus/purple chard, and salad. Light. Paula described it as a typical Willamette Pinot: cherry front, earthy finish – everyone else disagreed about the earth flavors. Smooth finish with tobacco notes.
Paula 4.2 Ken: 4 Karen: 4 Ted: 4.2
We should buy some more of this.

Chapter 24
2014 Rose of Pinots Noirs
Willamette Valley OR
from the vineyard
another one from our Dundee trip. We had this on its own, while cooking dinner.. Light, just slightly sweet, with dstrawberry flavors in front that almost transitions to citrus but stops just short, finishing with honey flavors that coat the back of the tongue.
Ken: 3 Karen: 3 Ted: 2.6 Paula 3.2

Schmidt Family
2013 Chardonnay
Applegate Valley
from the winery (Ted’s parents brought it up)
With grilled spatchcocked chicken, salad, bread. Tangy with grapefruit flavors and moderate oak. Classic Chardonnay.
Ken: yuck (he’s not a Chardonnay fan!) Ted: 2.8 Paula: 2.8 Karen: 3.0

Also on this evening, a neighbor brought over some Laphroig Triple Wood Scotch for us to taste. We don’t drink enough whiskey to write a proper review, but it’s got a lesser helping of smoke and peat flavors you’d expect from Laphroig, with a smoother finish. Paula likes Laphroig; Ted liked this a lot better than other ones of theirs he’d tasted. Should have tasted it both with and without water, because according to other reviews the flavors change.

2015 Albariño (white)
Umpqua Valley, Oregon
wine club
We had this by itself, just to finish out the holiday weekend. Crisp, dry and elegant. Pale floral notes, with flavors of apple and grapefruit. Ted commented: tangy flavors that focus in the top back of the mouth.
Ted: 3.2 Paula: 3

wineblending at Gran Moraine

May 20th, 2016

On Saturday we went to Gran Moraine for their first-ever wine-blending event. We’ve been to a couple at Montinore, but this was very different. At Montinore, it’s a Valentine’s event; they just hand each couple a basket with everything you need, you play around with blending wines from three vineyard blocks, and you get to take home a bottle of wine blended to your favorite proportions. This had a very different feeling, more academic.

It started with a taste of their new rose just to get us in the mood. It’s a bit different from last year’s, more tart and less fruity. The tour itself began with the tank room, where grapes go in and fermented wine goes out. Rudy (not sure of his exact role, but he’s one of the two people we mostly see there) explained a bit about their winemaking process. The tank room is open to the outer air, but the tanks themselves are chilled to an even temperature. Apparently they try to do a minimalist style of winemaking. As the wine ferments, a crust of grape skins, stems and foam rises. They break the crust and stir it back in twice a day – some wineries do that up to 8 times a day. I wasn’t paying close enough attention, though, and he has a heavy French accent, so I never did quite figure out if they add sugar to increase alcohol level. I think he said they do, Ted thought otherwise. After that, we went down to the barrel room and tasted the wine from three different barrels. They varied quite a lot in aroma, amount of fruit flavor, tannins and acidity, though none of them tasted very good compared to a finished blended wine.

Some photos of the tank room and cellar:









After that came the blending. The winemaker herself was there for that; Eugenia told us a bit about herself and the wine business, along with her philosophy of how to blend (always start with the ‘center’ of the flavor; you can then add in a fruitier front or a longer finish). We played around with different proportions, but the three samples we had to blend were set in order so it was pretty clear which was expected to be the main backbone of the flavor. She asked a few people about their preferences, and told some more stories. My main takeaway from the day was that what we were doing was just the play version of what a winemaker does – blending three tastes can’t compare to tasting every single barrel in the cellar, deciding how much of which and what to use to get a consistent wine. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to take home a bottle of our own blend, as at Montinore, and that there wasn’t any food except a dish of excellent local hazelnuts to clear our palates. We’re glad we did it and it was a good learning experience, but we probably wouldn’t make this a regular annual thing – we’ll save that for their dinners.



the wine report, a few days late

May 13th, 2016

We were out at the lake last weekend – Saturday was gorgeous and luckily we rowed before the wind kicked up; Sunday was colder, gray and windy. But we did get to have a couple nice dinners on the deck!

We keep saying that we need to stop at the Willamette Valley vineyard (it’s right on I-5, so we pass it every time we head out to the lake house) but I’d have to say that we were not terribly impressed with their Pinot last weekend.

Willamette Valley
2014 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon, obviously
bought at Fred Meyer
We had this with hamburgers. Ruby color, cherry flavors up front. I thought this was a bit acidic, with overpowering tannins; Ted disagreed on the tannins but commented on “strong nasty flavors” in the finish. (Actually, he thought the wine might have gone bad, but it tasted OK to me.
Paula: 2.8 Ted: 1.8

On the other hand, we do tend to like Abacela (which of course is why we belong to their wine club.

2013 Albarino
Umpqua Valley, Oregon
from the wine club
With grilled salmon, sourdough bread and tossed salad. Apple aromas and flavors. A little tart, with light oak flavors on the finish. Tropical fruit notes at the start.
Paula: 3.0 Ted: 3.4

This coming weekend should be fun – we are going to a wine-blending event at Gran Moraine!