Archive for March, 2016

the weekend’s wines

Monday, March 28th, 2016

2012 Winemaker’s Red blend
Columbia Valley, WA
Bought at Fred Meyer
With spaghetti and meat sauce. Aroma is spicy, color is very dark. With food, this has flavors of raisins (or maybe just too much grape skin; when you drink this without food (after swishing water around your mouth, or just after you finish eating) there’s a harsh and unpleasant flavor that hits toward the rear sides of the tongue, followed by more spice flavors at the very finish. These red blends can be relatively inexpensive “house wines” that are great with food and not too fancy to have any time … but this isn’t a great one.
Ted: 2.6 (when drunk with food), Paula: 2.3

Dobbs Family Estate
2014 Pinot Noir ($28)
Willamette Valley OR (multiple vineyards)
We bought this at their tasting room, on the main street of Dundee.
With grilled shrimp and asparagus, as well as homemade bread. We had lemon butter to dip the shrimp and asparagus as well as seasoned olive oil to dip the bread in. This wine is darker in color but light in flavor. Well balanced, with rounded earth flavors. There’s a more bitter earth flavor that lingers at the end after the last swallow.
Paula: 3.2 Ted: 3.0 = “look for at the right price”, where the right price would be <$20 3/26: We didn't have wine with dinner, but we headed out to a couple of the vineyards we belong to - we had to pick up the biannual shipment from Montinore - this time it includes a white blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, very dry), their new 2014 Pinot Noir, their first Sangiovese, last year's Rose, and their Reserve Gewurztraminer, which is surprisingly dry for a gewurz). We also picked up another Pinot Noir to age a year or two, as well as a couple of their Muller-Thurgaus, which are quite cheap ($8) and a great wine for someone who is not really used to wine or for anyone who prefers wine on the sweeter side. After that we stopped by Ardiri. They are having a 50% off sale on their 2011 Pinot Noir, which we've really been liking lately. I swear Ardiri wine changes more than most, even from week to week, but the 2011 should have settled down by now and I really like the warm spice nose it's developed. 3/27/2016 Sokol Blosser Evolution No vintage, sparkling white (doesn't say what grapes are included) Dundee, OR bought at the vineyard It's the weekend, let's have champagne! Well, ok, locally made sparkling wine according to the methode champagnoise. When we bought this one, we noted that it would be best with food, and we were right. We had this with Red Minestrone with Winter Greens Pesto, except this was actually yellow minestrone, since our CSA gave us yellow beets. I even used some of the champagne in the minestrone – why not? It called for a bit of white wine to deglaze the pot with, and I like to cook with whatever I’ll be drinking. Normally I think of sparkling wine as something to drink before or after a meal, but this actually went really well with the food. The flavors became more complex as the wine warms up a bit, after coming out of the fridge. Slightly sweet in front, with a tangy finish and flavors of apple and pear. Very effervescent.
Paula: 4 Ted: 3.4


lake weekend

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Back to our normal wine-drinking habit this weekend, after all the excitement of last week’s trip to Dundee. We went down to the lake this weekend and managed to get a fair bit of rowing in – nice weather Saturday, and we got out on the water before Sunday’s rains started.

Friday night, 3/8/2016
Kirkland (yes, we bought a Costco house brand wine!)
2010, Rioja Reserva
Spain, no idea what vineyard
bought at Costco
With hamburgers. (Why not?) Austere, probably a bit overaged. This was smooth and drinkable but had no fruit flavors left. Distinct tannins. No acidity to speak of, just overarching tannin structure.
Paula: 2.3 Ted: 2.7

2011, Due Stati Pinot Noir
75% Willamette Valley OR, 25% Napa Valley CA
bought at the vineyard
With grilled salmon, tomato/mozzarella salad, homemade bread. Very fruity, with strawberry flavors all the way through, and earth flavors at the finish, all on top of structured tannins. No unpleasant flavors, even if you aerate the wine or hold it in your mouth for 30 seconds. (Many wines do have overpowering tannins or acidity develop when you do either of those.) We had a lot of Árdíri wines, because this is a local vineyard, and we’re members of their club. Their Pinots seem to be extremely variable over time – you can have one, and then have it again a month later and notice different things. Lately we’ve really been liking their 2011s and 2012s.
Paula: 3.5 Ted: 3.5

Christopher Michael
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
grapes from Washington, bottled in Oregon
probably bought at New Seasons
With Hungarian Goulash Soup and homemade bread. Rounded, jammy front. Tannins ramp up through the palate, with spice flavors at the finish. We had some of this winery’s Pinot Noir a few weeks ago and didn’t like it much, but this one wasn’t bad – decent but not remarkable.
Paula and Ted both: 3 (look for at < $10)

birthday weekend in Dundee

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

We have a lot of stuff – two houses full of stuff, in fact. My yarn stash and my closet could both use some culling and thanks to my beadwork hobby, I have more jewelry than I can wear. So a few years back, Ted had a brilliant idea for my birthday, and surprised me with tickets for a trip to Venice (we were in the Netherlands at the time). Since then, we’ve made it a tradition, and have kept that up since returning to the US. Two years ago we went to Seattle, last year we went skiing in Jackson Hole. This year, he planned us a trip to a place most people out of Oregon have never heard of, that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while: Dundee, right in the heart of the Pinot Noir wine country. It’s only about 45 minutes away (if there isn’t much traffic) but being based there allowed us to to visit a lot more of the local wineries than we could easily do in a day trip.

We took the day off Friday and headed out in the morning, timing it to arrive around 11, when most of the tasting rooms open. That day we visited: Methven Family Vineyards; Brooks Wines; Grochau Cellars; Keeler Estate; and Coelho Winery. Then we checked in at our B&B for a nice nap. (Mostly just because we could, not because we absolutely needed it. With so many wines to taste – usually 3 to 5 at each place – we shared one tasting at each winery, and were careful to just taste and then pour out the rest.)

A few notes: I hated the Gamay wines at Methven, through their Pinots were decent. The Gamays had the strongest manifestation of a weird chemical flavor that we encountered on and off all weekend – maybe it’s something in the local soil. Brooks was one of our favorites of the whole trip; they have a beautiful tasting room and some excellent Pinots. Grochau Cellars was just reopening after being closed for three months, so I don’t think we got to taste everything they had to offer – I’m particularly curious about their red blend. We did taste their Mourvedre, a French grape we hadn’t tasted on its own before. (It was OK but not spectacular.) Keeler is more focused on their vineyard than their winemaking, but we’ll be having their grapes again, since they sell to Montinore, one of our favorite wineries nearer home. They have about 200 acres, of which only 40 or so are in grapes. Beautiful place. We finished with Coelho, who (we were told) makes wine in a Portuguese style – though we’ve mostly had heavier reds from Portugal, while the majority of these were Pinot Noir.

The B&B was in a 1908 house, furnished in period but comfortable, and featured some of the most amazing breakfasts I have ever seen. We were the only guests there, since this is low season, and the owners went out of their way to make us comfortable, including providing a half bottle of wine with a “Happy Birthday!” note and making me tea one evening when I was coughing (probably swallowed some dust!).

Dinner than night was at the Joel Palmer house, whose cooking is centered on wild mushrooms. Yum. Unfortunately I’d had a bit of an upset stomach the night before; the wine seemed to be sitting OK, but I didn’t want to overstress things, so Ted got the 5 course tasting menu so I got to taste everything without actually eating much. We ordered a bottle of wine from their private label, which turned out to be the worst Pinot Noir we had all weekend. Oops. But the food was excellent.

On Saturday we hit some of the tasting rooms in the middle of town: Argyle, Chapter 24, and Dobbs Family Winery. Then we headed a bit further out to Sokol Blosser. We were going to stop at Domaine Drouhin, but it was closed for a private event so we stopped nearby at Domaine Serene instead, then White Rose, and finished up just uphill from our B&B at Torii Mor.

More tasting notes: I really wanted to go to Argyle, because we’d had and liked their sparkling wines before. Those were good as expected, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for their excellent Pinots too. Their big new tasting room was crowded and noisy, though! That made it odder that Chapter 24, right next door, was empty except for us. This was a pure winery, who buy all their grapes from other people. They focus on blends that try to encapsulate the essence of the whole region, so that was interesting – bit pricy, though. Sokol Blosser was our highlight for Saturday. They do everything well: tasting room, reds, rose, whites, sparkling wines. It was fairly crowded; unfortunately it was pissing down rain all day, so no one could take advantage of the beautiful views from their terrace. Domaine Serene had an even bigger and prettier tasting room, but their prices seemed too high to be justified by their wines. White Rose is on top of a hill with fantastic views, but oddly, their tasting room has no windows. The room was dark and crowded and feels more like a rathskellar; the wines were good, but again, expensive. In fact, their 2013 White Rose Vineyard Pinot Noir set a new record for priciest wine we’ve ever tasted. Torii Mor is in the middle of forest, so has smaller views but a beautiful setting anyway. Their Pinots didn’t seem to be anything unique, but they’re doing some interesting experimenting; we brought home a bottle of their brandy.

Actually, quite a lot of wine followed us home; there were only about three places where we didn’t buy a bottle or three. Besides the brandy, we ended up with three bottles of sparkling wine, at least one white, a number of Pinots Noirs, and several rosé – we are finding that a good rosé de pinot noir is versatile, refreshing in summer, and often the bargain of the vineyard. And you see comparatively few of them in the supermarkets where we usually buy wine, so we stocked up. We tried to be good about making notes on the bottle for which wines are good to drink on the deck watching the sun set, vs the ones that will be best with more strongly-flavored foods.

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three wines, plus cooking notes

Monday, March 7th, 2016

More recent wines – one fairly unlikeable, two pretty good. We probably need to stay away fro the wines for the rest of this week, because Friday we’ll be heading out to the town of Dundee, where you can’t throw a wineglass without hitting a vineyard, for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday. (Ted’s comment today: “Well, I think I’ve narrowed it down from hundreds of wineries to about 25 – I’ve got different loops, just depending on what we want to do.”)

Thursday, 3/3/2016
Christopher Michael
2014 Pinot Noir
Tualitin, OR
bought at New Seasons
We had this with cod with a mustard caper sauce, Brussels Sprouts and sourdough bread. Cherry flavors up front transition to flavors of Liquid Smoke (well, it’s smoky and a bit chemical-y) on the palate. There’s a long finish with some other nasty flavors at the end – we couldn’t nail them down. This was one of those where, the more we drink, the less we like it – especially after we finished dinner and were drinking it on its own.
Paula: 2 Ted: 2.4
Note: though I can’t recommend this wine, I can really recommend the pan-fried cod with mustard-caper sauce. Cod isn’t my favorite fish, so I appreciate a strong sauce on it – and it’s an unusual and pleasant change to try a new recipe and have it be both tasty and quick and easy to make.

Friday, 3/4/2016
La Fiera
2014 Primitivo (basically the same as Zinfandel)
Salento, Italy
bought at New Seasons
With tapas (mostly an antipasto-type dinner – salami, proscuitto, cheeses, bressaola, veggies, stuffed mushrooms). Warm spice aromas, red berry flavors in front, with spice flavors coming in early on the palate. Mellow, medium-bodied and well balanced. Some tannins with a touch of bitterness on the finish.
Ted: 3.2 Paula: 3.2
Cooking note: I do not recommend using matzo meal as a subsitute for breadcrunbs in stuffed mushrooms – they drank all the oil I added but still didn’t want to stick together.

Saturday: No wine at dinner, because we just had mac’n’cheese – yes, basic Kraft Dinner in the blue box. I was on the Rose City Yarn Crawl in the limo set up by my local yarn store and after 10 (!) yarn stores I was wiped. We did have “champagne” in the limo – a bottle of Muller-Thurgau sparkling wine I brought (light, slightly sweet, perfect for day drinking) and some Cook’s someone else brought.

Sunday, 3/6/2016:
Elk Cove
2014 Pinot Blanc
Willamette Valley, Oregon
bought at the vineyard
With roast chicken, asparagus, and homemade bread. A little sweeter in the beginning with hints of pear that quickly transition to a burst of citrus with grapefruit flavors and an acidic flavor. Tart, but that’s less noticeable when drinking it with food.
Paula 2.9 Ted: 3
Cooking note: rubbed that onto the chicken breast and legs, under skin – it came out very tasty. Lately, also, I’ve been making my chicken soup from the carcass of roast chicken instead of from raw chicken, as my family’s tradition recipe says. It still makes good soup, and the chicken tastes much better before it’s been in soup than after.

catching up on the weekend’s wines

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I spent last week in Arizona for work, and it was great – got to meet up with some of my favorite people and visit some of my favorite places there. (That’s why the last wine I blogged has four people rating it.) And then I came home, we headed down to the lake, and we made up for lost sleep and lost wine 🙂 So here are the weekend’s wines, and a few pictures.

The lake we rowed on in Tempe – that previous wine I rated was at Caffe Boa, about 5 minutes’ walk away:

Tempe Town Lake

The last day there, I got a coworker to come out to Chandler airport for lunch (no wine, it was a workday). This is where we did most of our pilot training, and the Hangar Cafe is right by the flightline, where you can watch the planes take off and land.

Chandler airport

I got back home Thursday night, and on Friday we headed out to our lake:

our lake

We had wine there on Friday and Saturday night:
Willakenzie Estate
2014 Pinot Gris
from the Yamhill-Carlton region, Oregon
bought at Fred Meyer
With sauteed shrimp and steamed broccoli. This wine has an acidic backbone (well, the label said that but we agree) with flavors of pear and hints of pomelo on the palate. (Pomelo is like grapefruit but milder.) A little heavy on the acidity / tartness.
Ted: 2.6 Paula 2.8

Grayson Cellars
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
California (labeled implied they use grapes from several vineyards)
bought at New Seasons
With grilled steaks, herbed new potatoes, tossed salad and bread. Low key, open front that rapidly transitions smoke and tobacco flavors on the finish. This wine only has two stages, front and back (not aroma, palate and finish) and the front is a bit watery but the finish is well balanced.
Paula 3.2 Ted: 3.4

Then we came back to Hillsboro, erged (it was raining too hard to row before we left the lake), and had a nice lazy Sunday afternoon, where we cracked open a sparkling wine just because.

2014, Rose of Pinot Noir
Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon (this is the region near us, by the way)
Bought at the wineyard
With popcorn and then by itself. This sparkling rose looks fancy but is easy to drink – good for a casual day. Not much complexity, very drinkable, not too dry or too sweet. A good sparkling wine for any time.
Paula: 3 (“buy at the right prince – the right price would be about $15) Ted: 3.2 at $15ish

Then on Monday we weren’t going to have still more wine, but we ended up making chicken Marsala (Paula) and salade caprese (Ted) – doesn’t this dinner cry out for wine to go with it? (Just one glass apiece, though!)

leap day dinner

El Cortijillo
2014, white
La Mancha region, Spain (where they probably get tired of Don Quixote jokes!)
bought at Fred Meyer
With chicken Marsala and salade caprese (wee above!). Very dry – like a vino verde without the fruit flavors. Drinkable, nothing wrong with it but nothing that jumps out and says “Drink me!”
Paula: 2.5 Ted: 2.8