Ending 2008 On A Good Note

Last night (New Year's Eve Eve) found me enjoying a glass of wine with my friend Adam. Adam knows that I am a member of this wine blog, and tonight I tried to do something a little different. While at Adam’s this evening, I pulled out a bottle of Dedication Two from Cougar Crest Winery. Cougar Crest is a winery in the Walla Walla region of southeastern Washington. This bottle was from the trip some of us from the Oregon Wine Blog took to the region over the summer.

This is a very special wine in many ways. The daughter of the winemakers was in an accident and was taken to Doernbecher’s Children Hospital in Portland, Oregon. The doctors were successful in healing the daughter of the winemakers and as a result, a portion of the proceeds from this wine goes to Dorenbecher’s at Oregon Health and Science University.

The reason this is called Dedication Two is because this the second release of this wine. The website describes this red table wine as a “complex blend of classic Bordeaux varietals, plus Lemberger, and Syrah.” It is also noted that the Dedication Two has a little bit of an “extra Syrah,” and is aged longer in the barrel.

Tonight while Adam and I drank the Dedication Two, I decided to ask him what some of his thoughts were of this wine and make note of them to see where they might be different from my perceptions, so the evaluation of this wine will be different from others I have done.

Adam’s thoughts:

- Distinctly fermented smell

- Hits strong initially

- More like a strong whiskey finish than a wine, almost “burning”

- Sharp going down, even after a bit

- Color is deep crimson

My thoughts:

- Can taste spices – not sure if it is really because of spices or because of the wood

- Wood taste

- Flavor stays on the front of the tongue

- Warming sensation on the throat

I helped Adam with notice the way the blend coats the glass. I paid attention to the legs are somewhat absent. It should be noted that despite how it might appear, we did both enjoy this wine - the full flavor of it and rich nose - tipping our hats to the winemakers.

Until next time…

A Visit With A Neighbor

Today brought another early end to the work day for me due to Oregon inclement wintery weather. When I got the notice from my University’s President that we could leave at 3:30, I immediately started to think about what wine I could possibly pass the time with this evening.

I arrived home and let most of the afternoon and evening pass me by doing a little bit of work at home before I decided it might get too late to really enjoy the wine if I didn’t just pick one. Anyone who knows me knows that picking a wine to drink is a task that could be quite time consuming. I have to decide if I want a Northwest wine or not? Do I want a domestic or international? Don’t get me started on deciding between red vs. white. So after about 15 minutes (the clock was ticking against my favor), I decided I would open a bottle from a neighboring winery.

This evening I decided to open a 2006 Oregon Merlot from Eola Hills Winery. Eola Hills located about 10 miles west of Salem, and while it is literally a 15 minute drive from my front door to the winery, I have not been there. I have driven by it many times and made the mental note that I should visit, but after living in the area for about a year and a half, it had not yet happened. Unfortunately, that does not allow me to tell you more about Eola Hills than what is available on their website.

I opened this Merlot and let it breathe for about 45 minutes before I poured the first glass. The color is one that is a rich red-grape in hue, not very transparent to the light. The nose was strong, but not overpowering. I could easily smell the “smokiness” with each whiff. There are light hints of fruits, but I am unable to detect exactly which ones are there. The first sip was surprisingly fruity, again, not overbearing, but clearly noticeable. As I took each supplemental sip, I imagine the flavors landing on my tongue, then spreading out evenly for a very full flavor.

After a while, there is a light aftertaste that I am not completely able to describe. The aftertaste is strong initially, and then subsides. I cannot put my finger on what it is, which I am finding quite bothersome, hoping that it will come to me in the middle of the night perhaps. I would encourage anyone of you to try this Merlot, not to be confused with the 2005, and submit your thoughts on how you would describe the aftertaste.

This is a very enjoyable wine and I highly encourage you all to try it as it could possibly be among my top 10 favorite wines.

Until next time…

What Could Possibly Be…Next?



We have, as of the last couple of days, had a little bit cooler temperatures and even some snow here in the Willamette Valley. For those of you who do not recall, I am a Mid-Western transplant, and so this “cold” weather and couple of inches we had are far less than what I would be used to for a Mid-Western December. That being said, I came home this afternoon, my university letting us out at 4pm so people could get home before the snow/slush re-froze to create the ice rink that would be the roads of Salem, and decided I need to open a new bottle of wine. I initially thought I would open either a sweet desert wine, Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris – all of which would need to be chilled. So it was decided that a Pinot Noir it would be!


A couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to take Josh to King Estate Winery. King Estate is located in the southern Willamette Valley about 15 miles Southwest of Eugene. The scenery at King Estate is always one that is relaxing and enjoyable. Depending the time of year though, that view could be obscured with clouds, rain, or fog. That particular Saturday was one that a little cloudy and there had been some fog. It was also late fall, so it was not like I had seen when I was there in September 2007.

The bottle that I opened this evening was their 2006 Pinot Noir, Next. At this time, I have been unable to find out about this line of wine via the internet and my memory of it from before is rather weak. This was not one of the ones Josh and I tasted, but it was one I had had before. I opened the bottle and let it sit for about an hour before I poured the first glass. I took a whiff of the nose initially when I popped the cork to find it oak and spice filled. After an hour of breathing, those scents were only further enhanced.

Upon pouring my first glass, as it came out of the bottle, it looked a lot like grape jelly, from the bottle to the glass. After I stopped pouring and looked at my glass, I could see a little more of the red hue, probably due to the cherries and pomegranate. The first couple of sips were strong, warming my throat like a nice cough syrup (I state "nice" because so many of us have a negative thought when it comes to cough syrup). You would notice the spices and oak of this wine, although based on the website, what I think are spices could be the oak char.

After a while (I ended up consuming the entire bottle), the flavor continued to be enjoyable. It was rather light, and not heavy that someone may sometimes think of for a Pinot Noir. I did not find the flavor to be overly fruity or oak-filled, but very subtle and relaxing. It was the perfect way to end a nice day filled with snow/ice and "cold."






Until next time...

On Our Table and in our Hearts

This Thanksgiving, the staff at The Oregon Wine Blog had many reasons to be thankful: great friends, family, health, and of course, excellent food and wine.  The holidays are always a time for reflection and in broad terms we're all pretty lucky.  We're thankful to you, our readers, for sticking with us for the past year.  We know that posting volume has decreased, but we are striving to maintain our quality and we'll kick things up a notch.  I'd also like to pay homage to Rick from the [BW] Beer Blog.  His influence helped inspire the creation of TOWB and we have learned many lessons from his expertise.  Rick recently retired from beer blogging and we tip our glasses to him.

On to Thanksgiving...this year a group of us decided for the first time to remain in Corvallis, OR
 for the holiday and forgo the stress of traveling through out the Pacific Northwest.  We all pitched in to cook a cornucopia of food including salad, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, green bean casserole, apple sausage dressing, cranberry amaretto sauce, rolls, turkey, and brownies for dessert.  The wine was excellent, from some of our favorite wineries, and paired well with the meal:

2003 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay

This treat has been sitting in my wine cabinet for over a year waiting for the right moment.  I believe it was WVV's first estate chardonnay, or at least the first good one with the dijon clone grapes, and it sold out shortly after I purchased the bottle I had.  It rated a 90 with Wine Enthusiast.  It is just right for me, oaky but not too much, it has a nice fruit bouquet and is full-bodied.  We drank the chard as we were finishing up the cooking and getting ready to eat.  While there is no more '03 available, I think the winery has some '06 kicking around still.

2006 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir Clone Dijon 777

This was a small production estate wine put out initially for members of the Oregon Wine Guild, which is where my bottle came from.  The 2006 Estate Pinot rated a 90 in Wine Enthusiast, so I was very excited for this specific clone designate version of that wine.  I was not disappointed.  This clone reflects aromas of black tea, cocoa, and earth.  It was a well balanced wine that paired very well with the main course of our Thanksgiving dinner. At 93 cases of production, pick some up if you run across it.

2004 Kiona Red Mountain Chenin Blanc Ice Wine

A nectar of the gods.  Produced from grapes frozen on the vine in the Red Mountain area of Eastern Washington, this ice wine was rated platinum from Wine Press Northwest and comes in with a residual sugar of 18%.  Made from 100% estate grown chenin blanc grapes, this is a delicious, fruity match for any dessert.  We rated it back in December, loved it then, love it now.  They have a great tasting room and beautiful estate should you find yourself in Benton City.

So...there you have it.  Thanksgiving dinner and wine selections from the home of The Oregon Wine Blog.  Coming up will be a review of a recent visit to King Estate Winery as well as a 2005 Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon, recently rated number 43 on the top 100 wines of the world, which Rick kindly found for me in a coop in Moscow, ID.  

Until then, cheers!

2003 Chateau Lorane Syrah

I couldn’t let the entire month of November go by without publishing post.

I came home this evening after a 75% day of work already thinking that I needed to open a bottle of wine. It would not be until about 9:30 this evening when I would peruse my wine collection to decide what I should open. I made the conscious decision that whatever I opened, it had to be an Oregon wine so that I could make an entry. I decided upon a 2003 Syrah from Chateau Lorane. I am not always a big fan of Syrah – it usually just depends. This 2003 bottle was one I purchased Labor Day weekend of 2007 when my friend Christopher was visiting. I must say that I am a fan of Chateau Lorane. The scenery of the winery/tasting room is incredibly beautiful, picturesque, and almost serene.

While I opened this bottle at about 9:30 in the evening, it would be 11:30 before I would pour the first glass. I think that giving this wine 2 hours, unintentionally, to breathe did great things to enhance the nose and the palate of this Syrah. When I poured the glass, I was immediately taken by the dark color. Because I don’t drink a lot of Syrahs, I wasn’t sure if they are normally this dark, but this Syrah has a very dark rich color. Holding it up to the light, it was very difficult to see through the glass.

Another thing I noticed while pouring is that the nose of this Syrah was immediately present - it was a very full oak nose. Something also noticeable in the nose was the cherries. The cherries and other fruit (blackberries) were very lightly present when sniffing this wine.

Like the majority of wines, the first sip was nothing too spectacular, there was some warmth to my throat, but that quickly subsided. What I am now noticing with this Syrah is that you taste a bit of the sweet from the fruits right away, and that subsides almost just as quickly as it came. It tastes like there are spices present, but I am unable to find the information on the 2003, which is unfortunate. The 2004 makes no note of any spices either. If I had to guess, I would probably say there are some spices and some cinnamon present here.

I do like that this Syrah has a light sweet taste, but then mellows out to an enjoyable beverage. I wouldn’t say that there is anything too special to this Syrah, but it a good way to end the day.

Until next time...

The Cabernet Franc is...

...the opposite of the Holocaust, in a bottle.  This being the somewhat satirical description my friend Rick gave for the wine of the day -- 2005 Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc -- and of course representing his great disdain for the Holocaust.  Seriously, though, this is a great wine.  We touched on it briefly about a year ago with The Oregon Wine Blog's Holiday Dinner Pairing Guide as a complement to a smoked salmon dip appetizer, and I had the opportunity to crack a bottle open this weekend and enjoy.  We found out a few months ago that Griffin Creek / Willamette Valley Vineyards were selling out of their last bottles of this gem with no more on the horizon, so many of us picked up a few bottles and have been hanging on to them for a special occasion.

I was headed to Eastern Washington this weekend to see family and friends, and as I perused the wine rack deciding what to take I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had one more bottle of  the Cab Franc than I thought I had.  In the car it went.  The fact that both Rick and I love this wine combined with a great trip was special occasion enough.

As described, this wine is earthy and aromatic, the nose has aromas of rich dark fruits, lavender, anise, and mushroom.  It's a medium to full bodied wine with mouth-coating flavors of black cherry with hints of cocoa, molasses, and earth spice.  I'd imagine it would be amazing with a steak, although haven't done that yet.  We drank it this weekend a la carte and enjoyed every drop.

A wine that good with only 229 cases bottled, no wonder it's gone.  If you happen upon some in a wine shop somewhere, pick it up.  Should be somewhere in the $35 range.  Or even better, call me and I'll buy some!

PS - The staff, friends, and family of The Oregon Wine Blog in no way assume a great bottle is wine is anywhere near the magnitude, good or bad, of a tragedy such as the Holocaust.  We are strong supporters of civil rights and encourage equality for all.

Sahalie Closed!

I was saddened to hear a few weeks ago that Sahalie Wine Cellars in Corvallis would be closing on October 25.  Open for 3.5 years, Sahalie has definitely had ups and downs but I was excited when they expanded their kitchen to improve the food service, which from my experience was one of the pitfalls.  It had a nice atmosphere and typically had live music on the weekends...now we are down to 2 wine bars in Corvallis:  Enoteca and WineStyles.  I'm not a fan of WineStyles, but love Enoteca -- I'm concerned though as it is not very large so how it will respond to the surge of wine-goers remains to be seen.

There are a number of different stories as to why Sahalie closed.  A number of people I have told have had the immediate response, "I'm not surprised."  Their assertion is that rocky service did them in.  It's hard for me to believe that a wine bar wouldn't make it in Corvallis financially, though.  Another story has a falling out between two couples who were in business together.  The official story is that the owners were pouring too much time in to the business and wanted to focus on something else. 

Word on the street is that a new dining establishment will be opening in the old Sahalie space.  I've heard upscale italian...  

2007 Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Vintage Reisling

*Josh briefly mentioned this type of wine in his post about his dinner in Dallas.*

A couple of weeks ago, two of my brothers, Harbs and Blake, came down for the WSU-OSU football game. Being one of the great guests he is, Harbs presented me with a bottle of the 2007 Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling. Now usually, I enjoy a glass of wine on Sundays to start the week. This week however, I made the conscious effort to put it off for a day or two, which leads to this evening.

Today was a beautiful day in the Willamette Valley. It started with a dense fog that lovingly envelopes everything around it. As I walked to my office much earlier than I should have, I wished I had my camera to grab a couple shots of Salem and my University's campus in the fog. Today was also a very long and busy day that brought me to many meetings in and out of my office, so when I returned home to truly lounge, I decided it was a perfect day to open this Riesling.

The bottle had been chilling for quite a while, perhaps a little longer than it should have. As I poured it into my glass, I was struck by the very clear liquid that came from the bottle. This particular Riesling has a light tinge of yellow - noticeable, but not too heavy. This wine also has a lighter coating on the glass. The nose is quite enjoyable - you are able to notice the pears, the grapes, and you can smell a bit of sweetness to it as well.

On the palate there is a little bit of tartness, but then that is overcome with a bit of sweetness - a trait very common in Rieslings. As you swallow you are able to gather the fruity flavor on your tongue. Again, it is not a very heavy flavor, but it is noticeable and one that you are able to enjoy without it being overbearing, even for those who might not like sweeter wines. There is a bit of warmth that slightly lingers in the throat from this wine, but again, not uncomfortable, but present.

One of the best things I enjoy about Rieslings is that they tend to be wines that you can enjoy on a casual basis. You don't have to have it with dinner, although you can. It doesn't have to be a special occasion. You can appreciate it on a cool fall evening, alone or with friends.

Until next time...

A Nose Knows?

On our relatively recent trip to the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla Region of Washington, one of our stops brought us to the Fidelitas winery. This winery is located in the Red Mountains, nestled near Kiona and not too far from Terra Blanca in Benton City, Washington.

One of the wines we tasted was the 2005 Cabernet Savingnon. I liked this wine enough to purchase it and recently opened the bottle during my weekly Sunday tradition. I love the nose on this wine - it is a rich and full bodied. You can smell the oak and an almost romantic way. There was a rich deep hue to this wine, which peaked my interest. In inhaling this wine, I was looking forward to a wonderful taste on my palate.

But oh how badly I would be let down.

Despite a wonderful oak filled noise that gave you a picture as to what the fermentation process might have been like, I was disappointed to find the taste very tart and unappealing. I am aware that it takes a while for the palate to appreciate everything that a wine has to offer, but the only possible thought that went through my mind was that maybe I had a not so good bottle (which perplexed me given the nose). The very first sip was incredibly bitter, sour almost. While the subsequent tastes and glasses (yes, I finished the bottle with the help of a colleague who felt so-so about the wine), eased up on the bitterness, it just didn't get much better.

I found it hard to believe that a wine that could have such a rich nose be so less than desirable. Let me say this - I am more than willing to give this wine another chance (I firmly believe in 2nd chances for wines), but until I acquire another bottle, this will be what I have to go on. I encourage you all to get a bottle for yourself, it could have just been my palate.

Until next time...

When in Rome...or Anchorage...or Dallas

For the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling for work – the job that pays me, that is, giving me the resources to enjoy my prolific wine hobby. The first half of the journey took me to Anchorage, Alaska followed by a 5-day jaunt to Dallas, Texas. When I travel, I’m a huge proponent of the “when in Rome…” philosophy. Unfortunately for me, neither “when in Alaska…” or “when in Texas…” experiences involve great wine. Nonetheless, I have some great culinary experiences to highlight for you in lieu of a wine review.

When it comes to beverage selection in Alaska, craft brewing is the name of the game. The first place I enjoyed some excellent beer was Moose’s Tooth Pizza in Anchorage. With a broad selection of standards brewed in house and the best pizza in Anchorage, there was a line out the door both times I went. Price = moderate. For great seafood, Simon and Seaforts was the next stop in the dinner journey. Their wine list was mostly Californian, but their mojitos are to die for. I had a delicious (albeit a bit undercooked) cedar plank salmon, but the real winner here was dessert. When I saw ice cream sandwiches listed on the menu, it seemed a bit simplistic. The product was far from that – house-made cherry brandy ice cream sandwiched between 2 chocolate-chipotle brownies. I’d go back just for that. Price = expensive. The final stop was the Glacier Brewhouse where I had fresh-caught halibut with some wonderful beer. An Oktoberfest lager aged for a year in Jim Beam bourbon barrels hit the spot with salad, followed by an Imperial Blonde – both brewed on the property. Price = expensive.

By time I hit Dallas, I was tired of traveling and also disappointed to find uninspired wine selections at most of the restaurants I went to AND bad beer. Yep, we’re talking a city with a penchant for Bud Light. By Thursday, 8 days into the trip, I decided it was time to treat myself and I did what any red-blooded American would do in Texas – find some good steak. Located in Addison, a city with the highest per-capita restaurant to resident ratio, Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House was the winner. It was hands-down an outstanding experience from the moment I walked through the doors. As I was dining solo, sometimes service can be lacking or the experience awkward – not the case here. My server was always there at the right times, with a friendly demeanor and great recommendations. I started off with bread and a hazelnut encrusted goat cheese salad paired with Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, followed with the main course: a 22-ounce prime bone-in ribeye steak, prepared perfectly, complimented with sea scallops and grilled asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Paired with Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon, the meal was nearly orgasmic. I wasn’t going to do dessert, but the staff knew it was my first time in and offered a complimentary glass of port (King Estate), so I said why not. With the port I had a crème brulee with fresh berries. At the end of the meal I literally waddled back to my hotel and fell asleep, satiated by fabulous food, great service, and adequate wine. Price = very expensive.

So – if you ever find yourself in Anchorage or Dallas, I hope you know have some ideas about how to best enjoy the food and drink like the locals do. Oh yea, there are moose in Alaska and cowboys in Texas. Yee haw!

A foray into the world of beer...

For some time now my good friend Rick from the [BW] Beer Blog has been introducing me to the world of speciality beer -- all the while I have been introducing him to the world of good wine. We were commenting the other day how complementary the two pursuits have been for us, although the journey into wine is certainly more financially disadvantageous for him than beer is to me. Nonetheless, I digress.

As I have experienced more and better beer, I am starting to identify and appreciate a lot of the nuance present among the hops and barley. It really is an industry, like the world of wine, with it's own vocabulary, food pairings, deliciousness, and passion in the creation and consumption process. This weekend I got to try Deschutes Brewery's The Abyss. This imperial stout, aged in French oak, pinot noir, and bourbon barrels , has immense depth with its rich and complex flavors. Notes of coffee, chocolate, molasses and licorice pull you into the abyss, and the 9-ish percent alcohol makes it a fun ride.

I'll leave the intellectual analysis to the beer experts, but I will say that I really enjoyed this brew and my realiziation of the correlations between beer and wine is certainly an exciting one that I will explore further.

Doing A Great Wine Justice

I have hesitated writing and publishing this post because I have wanted to make sure that I did it justice. I doubt I am alone in being one who may struggle with conveying the great work of the wine makers and others who have been involved in us (The Oregon Wine Blog contributors) having a great experience to the readers.

Josh wrote that some of us went to the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla area a couple of weeks ago. One of the wineries we visited was Terra Blanca. Terra Blanca is located in the Red Mountain region of South Central Washington, just west of the Tri-Cities in Benton City, Washington. This was not my first time at Terra Blanca, but this visit allowed me to really see the scenery and beauty that the summer held in the Red Mountain area - my previous visit having been in the winter, I can now easily contrast the two seasons here.

We arrived at Terra Blanca with it being our last stop in a day full of tasting in the Tri-Cities area. It was a very picturesque summer day with a the sun shining brightly and only a few clouds in the sky. We walked under the terrace, draped in various types of foliage, toward the main building, and behind us we could see Red Mountain for which the region is famous for. The Terra Blanca website has a little bit of history which can be found here.

Upon entering the building, which is constructed in a way that makes you think of a Medieval buildings- with large wooden doors and large stones - you come into a large hall with high ceilings, and plenty of space. The tasting bar is located just opposite the door. We had arrived not long before they would be closed and the employees were setting up for a wedding rehearsal. Rachel was the server who gave us our samplings, chatted with us, and to our surprise, offered to give us a quick tour of the facility.

The tour began with a ride down a very nondescript elevator to the basement. When the door opened we stepped into a large warehouse type area with the temperature several tens of degrees cooler than it was outside and even upstairs in the main area. I recall there being a few barrels, but nothing to the extent of what our eyes would soon behold. Not far from the elevator were two more large wooden doors - adding to the Medieval atmosphere. When Rachel opened the doors, the only thought that comes to mind is the scene in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original one with Gene Wilder), where the door opens and the children see the great candy room. For those of us from The Oregon Wine Blog who were at Terra Blanca that day, we saw a series of corridors, some long and some short, that were stacked several barrels high, full of wine. It was cool (temperature-wise), clean, and a bit aromatic with all of the wine there at various stages of the fermenting/aging process in either lighter wood barrels and dark wood barrels. To know we were able to see something that might not be very common for others to see gives you a little bit of excitement. As a person who constantly wants to know how things work and come to be, that mini-tour was amazing.

While my description might seem a little anti-climactic, you have to understand that there was a lot of excitement about this for us. Here we were, in the cellar, a true real wine cellar. Wine cellars like those you imagine existed in Elizabethan England or during the reign of the Hapsburgs in the Holy Roman Empire or on the Iberian Peninsula. The ambiance, the setting, the intentionality of the owners for to you feel like you are NOT in modern times, that is what got me, and made it that much more of an unbelievable experience for me. It was really quite the site to behold, and for me was second only to the Hanford tour we had taken the previous day.

We tired quite a few wines at Terra Blanca, between the five of us, everything on the tasting menu. One of the best wines we tasted was the 2003 Onyx. This wine is an amazing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The Terra Blanca website describes the Onyx as, "Raspberry, cherry, and blackberry with notes of violets that explode from the glass and mingle with hints of cedar and toasted oak on the nose. Smooth, lush flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and cassis wrap around a core of full, yet soft, structured tannins. Cedar notes with light touches of spice fold into lingering dark plum, black cherry and berry flavors bounded by dark chocolate on the vibrant, elegant finish."

I bought a couple of bottles, sharing one with the members of the Wine Blog at our dinner in Walla Walla, and bringing the other two home to Salem with me. I opened one with a old student of mine just before the beginning of the school year, and that evening, I introduced Ryan to the greatness that was Onyx. When poured, we took note of the deep plum, red, grape color that appears to be a trademark of this blend. I told Ryan how to sniff the wine and get a good sense of the things that were on the nose - the oak and cedar mixed with the spices and a hint of the chocolate noticeable only with taking a deep sniff of the wine. I told Ryan about how to he should observe the way the wine coats the glass in nice even streams when the wine is swirled.

Like all wines, one taste is rarely enough to get a full sense of what it has to offer, really just preparing the palate for what is to come, and Onyx is no different. With the first couple of sips, the flavor and "tartness" are on the front of the tongue. As you get into it, you will notice that you get a rich burst of flavor that lingers lightly as you swallow and Onyx gently soothes your throat. The spices are present, as well as a very light fruit taste at the end that is only very lightly present - you may miss it if you don't realize it might be there.

This blend is one that I recommend to everyone, you cannot go wrong. It is one that you can enjoy with a great dinner as we did in Walla Walla, or one that can be sipped on its own, as I did with my former student. I only hope that I have been able to capture the best of this experience to at least intrigue you all into looking to secure your own bottle of Onyx.

As just a side note, I know I speak for all of us here at the Oregon Wine Blog when I say an incredible Thank You to Rachel for showing us around Terra Blanca.

Until next time.

Columbia and Walla Walla Valley!

Like salmon spawning up the Columbia River, staff of The Oregon Wine Blog headed northeast this past weekend into the heart of Washington Wine Country. A trip that had been in the planning stages since February and conceptualized months before that, I was pleased to take our group to my hometown and showcase the wine, food, and culture that most certainly didn’t exist there when I was growing up. I’m going to share some overall thoughts on the trip, culinary, and lodging experiences – look for upcoming posts about specific wineries and wines.

We started the weekend in Richland, WA gateway to a number of appellations within the Columbia Valley AVA. Known for arid soil, warm days, and cool nights, the 300-plus days of sunshine in this region make for some excellent big reds. While in Richland we stayed at the Red Lion Hanford House, a recently refurbished property sitting on the edge of Howard Amon Park, bordering the Columbia River. The view was nice (be sure to ask for a view room), the balcony was perfect for sipping a bottle of wine in the evening, and beds were quite comfortable. Free internet and parking, what more can you ask for? While in the Tri-Cities area, we primarily visited Red Mountain and patronized the following wineries:

Barnard Griffin
Kiona Winery
Fidelitas
Terra Blanca

In terms of dining, we explored Katya’s Bistro and Wine Bar in Richland one evening and had a wonderful experience. A mix of Italian and Greek cuisine with an expansive local wine list, be sure to ask for a seat out on the deck where you can get a sliver of a view of the river nearby. Service was a little awkward; however, we had some delicious food and great wine. I enjoyed one of the specials, fresh coho salmon in a nectarine sauce. The next evening, after a long day of wine tasting, we stopped by Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery before hitting the road. The wood-fired, gourmet pizza hit the spot and gave us fuel to finish the day right.

The next stop in our journey was Walla Walla Valley, the aptly-named AVA currently home to over 85 wineries and 1,400 acres of vineyards. We had the fortune of finding a wonderful 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom rental home for a very reasonable price, courtesy of VRBO.com. It served as the home base for our journey to the following wineries:

Cougar Crest Winery
Tamarack Cellars
Sapolil Cellars
Three Rivers Winery

Much of our culinary experience in Walla Walla was centered around the farmer’s market that was downtown on Saturday morning. There, we were able to pick up farm-fresh Walla Walla sweet onions, elephant garlic, corn, blackberries, Serrano peppers, and garlic jalepeno focaccia bread. Add some sirloin steak, and we feasted all night with delicious food and wine. For breakfast we tried Merchants, Ltd. downtown and for the most part had a nice meal. When stopping by later in the day, though, to grab a baguette and some cheese to take out to Three Rivers, we were really turned off by the rude manner in which one of the employees told us the kitchen was closed (which apparently means they can’t sell cheese out of the deli case). Yes, we saw the sign – but it doesn’t necessarily require the kitchen to cut off a block of cheese and you didn’t have to be rude! That place is crossed off the list.

All in all, an amazing weekend that is indicative of the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. What more can you ask than good friends, food, wine, and great scenery? It was a fairly inexpensive weekend, at least in travel expenses. Wine purchases? That’s a whole different ballgame.

Cottonwood Canyon 2000 Synergy Classic

Last night, Bob Woodshed of the [BW] Beer Blog and I were putting the final touches on a project that we had been working on, and the completion called for celebration. To the wine rack I went, were our choice was whittled down to three different options -- a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Kiona, a Dolcetto from Erath, and the 2000 Synergy Classic from Cottonwood Canyon. The Synergy hit the spot, so open it became.


If you recall from a post from some time ago, Cottonwood Canyon Winery is in the Santa Maria Valley AVA (California), and my aunt works there part time so I visited the winery in March of 2007 when I was down in the area. They focus on Chardonnay and Pinot, but put out some bigger red bordeaux varietals as well. The Synergy is a bordeaux blend -- 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Interestingly, by taste I would have sworn there was some Syrah in there but of course then it wouldn't be a true bordeaux blend due to the Rhone origin of the Syrah.


According to the winery, the wine had a deep, warm blackberry color, and opened with a nose of pomegranate and smoke. I detected some leather in there as well. Flavors of rich, dark cherries come through in the mid-palate. Soft, smoky tannins and flavors of blackberry, blending into chocolate cherry repeatingly throughout, create the lingering, complex finish. It was very pleasant and very enjoyable for both of us -- thankfully, since Bob mentioned that he wasn't interested in Merlot that evening (and I didn't even think about it until we were well into the wine). Definitely a winner. I'm looking forward to opening the bottle of 1996 Synergy that's on the rack waiting for another special occasion.


We rounded out the evening with a Barnard Griffin 2005 Syrah (tulip label), always a standby winner and a great value wine.

Honeywood 2006 Pinot Noir

I have a confession to make - I have been consuming quite a bit of wine, yet not blogging about it. I am hanging my head in shame, as I write this entry.

Those of you who read some of my entries know that I am a fan of starting the week/ending the weekend with a nice glass (or 2) of great wine, and this week is no exception. Today, while looking at my quickly diminishing wine selection and deciding what I should partake in, I decided I would open a 2006 Honeywood Pinot Noir. About a week and a half ago, Aileen, Kristen, Dan, and I decided that a trip to Honeywood was in order. Stan was unavailable, so another one of the staffers assisted us with the tastings. Once again I tasted the 2006 Pinot Noir.

I really enjoy this Pinot Noir. They have an 04, which just doesn't compare (I am tempted to buy a bottle and review that one as well...). Everything about the 06 just speaks volume of the quality wine this is - from it's color, coat, nose, and taste, everything is absolutely enjoyable.

I left the bottle to breathe for about 45 minutes while I prepped some pasta for dinner and did a little bit of cleaning up. Then came the first pour. The hue on this wine, from the very beginning, is one of a very deep grape red in shade. The nose is one rich with oak and spices. The website writes - "in the nose are strawberries, black cherries and cinnamon, but there's more in the background with bay rum, violets and black pepper." I, unfortunately, am not able to smell the strawberries and cherries as much - I find them to be very light and the cinnamon to be only slightly heavier (this could be due to my allergies).

The first sip is very subtle. It really takes the second sip for things to really kick in, but it is worth it. After a couple of sips, you can really taste the oak and spices, and feel them warm your body as you swallow. This Pinot is not very heavy on the palate, even after it goes down. When you take in the wine, there is a burst of flavor and sensations on the palate, but then is dies down, almost like a wave - coming in, then receding. The aftertaste leaves the palate warm with the spices lingering, but not annoying. There are some moments where some of sips are sweeter than others, something I am crediting to the fruits. After a little bit, things mellow out a little with this Pinot.

Overall, very enjoyable, two thumbs up on my end for this great Pinot Noir. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try the 04, but the 06 is definitely better.

That Perfect Wine Rack

Have you found it? I sure haven't. For the past two years I've been on a mission to find the perfect wine rack / cabinet to hold the delicious nectar, to minimal success. It has to be just right. Not too big, not too small...classy enough...and not too expensive. You'd think I was asking for a miracle. There seems to be a void of 72 - 120 bottle offerings that aren't either really cheap or really expensive. In a tragic turn of events, some friends in Pullman found exactly what I was looking for in Spokane at Pier 1, so I dutifully went down to the Pier 1 in Eugene only to find that cabinet had been permanently discontinued and wasn't in stock in any store in Oregon. The search continues. In the meantime, my wine will stay in the hodge-podge of storing devices that it has been since I moved here.

It's been quite a while since I've posted -- sorry -- I've been in California for the past 11 days and was on vacation for a week before that. No excuse, I know. The readers of The Oregon Wine Blog will be happy to know that we drank some delicious wine in both venues, and have some great features in the works for the next few months. Notably, we are working on a trip to Eastern Washington which will feature wines from Walla Walla, Red Mountain, and Columbia Valley.

Block 15 King’s Gold -- Beer and Wine Fusion

Today I spent some time with Nick Arzner, founder and assistant brewer at Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery in Corvallis tasting an upcoming release – King’s Gold. This brew is an interesting fusion of the Oregon microbrew and wine industries.

King’s Gold starts its life as Golden Glo, the pub’s crisp and refreshing Golden--light in body and brewed with all organic grains. For this batch, instead of kegging it off the beer was sent to a used King Estate Pinot Noir oak barrel for aging. The name of the beer, of course, is a play on the winery and base of the beer. The idea for this brew was borne in a conversation between Arzner and brewer Steve van Rossem, who has some contacts at King Estate and knew he could easily get an old barrel. Arzner said that many breweries age beer in old bourbon barrels, but not many use wine barrels so this was a perfect endeavor for a small brewery like Block 15, where they have the ability to experiment with different and unique beers. After aging in the wine barrel for about 6 weeks, this beer is about ready to go out with a 5% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Nick thieved a glass out of the barrel for me pre-release, and immediately I noticed an aroma similar to the Golden Glo but with the added hint of oak and a fruitiness reminiscent of Pinot Noir. In terms of color, this beer is a bit darker having taken on an oaky look. I found the beer to be easy drinking with a subtle oak and pinot flavor, with the fruit coming out on the finish. Arzner described this as a connoisseurs beer in that it takes a subtle palate to pick up and appreciate the changes from their golden. I’m not sure that someone who didn’t know how this beer was made could tell it was a pinot flavor, although once you know "there it is". The more the beer breathed the stronger the oak and pinot odor came out, and with more carbonation I think it will have a very nice aroma.

Basically, this beer is a sexier version of the Golden Glo with a wine twist. It’s a bit sweeter, so may pick up a niche following as a result. Arzner is quite pleased with the outcome. He didn’t quite know what to expect but was concerned that the oak would overpower – which didn’t happen. There are only 4 kegs of King’s Gold that will be released in the next week or two, so I expect it to go quickly. Folks will probably select this beer for the shear novelty of aging in a wine barrel, but will continue drinking it due to the enjoyable flavor and drinkable quality. I certainly enjoyed my taste.

Not quite Oregon...or the Northwest...

(This was published after my return from my trip to Chicago in June 2008)

Once again I am writing about someplace not quite Oregon or the Northwest. I am writing this from Chicago where I am spending 2 weeks. The other day, I met up my friend Aiden and his girlfriend, Heather, for wine and cheese at a place called Bin 36. Bin 36 is located downtown Chicago near Marina City (one of my favorite places downtown) and the House of Blues. Aiden and I hadn't seen each other in several years, but he knew of my like for wine, and has one himself. While we sat in Bin 36 for only a couple of hours, Aiden told me all about this establishment that has an array of wines and cheeses while offering you the chance to just relax and unwind each evening.

The ambiance of the bar/restaurant was incredibly appealing. I remember the West and South wall of windows that let it lots of great natural light. There was this huge curtain that could be drawn if part of the restaurant was being used for a private function. Aiden mentioned that they have "classes" and tastings for those interested in wine. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of great wine with Aiden and Heather, and I will be making an entry about an amazing Pinot Noir (from Hahn Estate in Monterrey) that Aiden gave to me and survived the trip to back to Oregon.

So if you are ever in Chicago, I encourage you to check out Bin 36, you wont regret it.

Same Day Delivery!

Starting June 29, grocers in the State of Oregon will be allowed to make same-day delivery of beer and wine to private homes. While there are some restrictions to this new policy released by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), the possibility for underage drinking has drawn some immediate criticism for the policy from a number of non-profit groups. Under the policy, grocery stores can deliver an unlimited amount of beer and wine to a home on the same day as long as the order is placed by 9 AM and delivered by 9 PM. Liquor is still only available in OLCC liquor stores.

This policy is largely a grocery industry driven initiative; Safeway being one of the largest proponents of the change. Interestingly, Safeway is based out of Pleasanton, CA - a state where you can by liquor at a gas station. I'm not sure what I think of this policy. First off, we don't have any stores that deliver groceries in Corvallis anyway -- and I suppose I'm more opposed to the whole idea of having your groceries delivered than I am of the beer and wine component. The exception to my hesitance, of course, would be in situations where a person may be home bound or have other reasons where they cannot make it to the grocery store. I feel like your general, healthy adult should get out of the house and go shopping.

Nonetheless, as home delivery grows it will be intriguing to see if any unintended consequences arise.

"Crisp"

The close of this academic year means the nearing of my one year anniversary working at my current institution. The end of the the 2007-2008 academic year also brings new changes for me in that I relocated to a new apartment, which I moved into this past weekend. As I sat in my old empty apartment the last night I was there (this past Saturday), I enjoyed a bottle from my recent wine guild shipment - a 2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling.

As per the label, the grapes in this wine are "pressed" rather than crushed with the "juice fermented slowly in cold temperatures to enhance varietal flavor." The description makes note of this Riesling as "fruity, clean, and crisp, with acidity in balance with sweetness."

I have to say that I am glad to read that "crisp" is one of the ways the winegrowers and makers would speak of this wine, because as I sat in my old apartment drinking it, that was honestly one of the first descriptors to come to mind..."crisp."

This Riesling has a nice clear white grape hue to it. I may have chilled it too much because I was not able to see how it coats the glass. The nose on it though - quite enjoyable. The nose is one that makes you think there are pears combined with the grapes to give it this nice, lightly sweet scent, but not too heavy. The taste on this wine is also enjoyable and pleasant enough that it can be consumed by itself, as I did.

The taste of this wine can really only be described as "crisp." One of the first things you taste is this combination of pears and grapes. The reason I think you might taste pears is because the grapes of Rieslings are a little sweeter, but not overly. As such it may make you think of a pear mixed with a grape. But this sweet flavor lingers just a little bit on the palate, with a hint of acidity. The sweetness slowly melts away to a light and gentle tartness of the grapes, which is the last taste on your tongue.

This "crisp," clean, and enjoyable wine was a great way to end the time I spent in my first apartment in the Willamette Valley.

California Wine

I'm in Weed, California...so, California wine it is for tonight! Drew and I (and our friend Calvin) were lucky tonight to enjoy some amazing wine at the Quality Inn here in Weed, courtesy of a good friend. We opened a 2000 Chateau st. Jean Cinq Cepages Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2002 Rubicon Estate Rubicon. Both are wines that are consistently rated 92 or above, and the Chateau has twice been the best wine in the world. More information to come later on how much I enjoyed these, as I am currently enjoying them.








Honeywood - Mulller Thurgau

May 20, 2008 means election day here in Oregon.

As I watched the Kentucky and Oregon results, I decided it was important for me to enjoy some wine to either ease my pain, or assist with the celebrating based on how candidates performed. Now, you may recall I wrote about Honeywood Winery a couple of weeks ago. In that time, I, mostly with the help of Aileen, have consumed the other two bottles I purchased while there - without being a true blogger and writing about them. Tonight I knew I had to remedy that and make sure I wrote about this Muller Thurgau.

When we were at Honeywood, Stan, the salesman/proprietor who chatted and gave us our tasting, and I spoke about Muller Thurgau wine as Aileen and her friends were unfamiliar with it. While not bad wines, a Muller Thurgau is a wine that just is. The noses may vary, the coats and the clarity may waver slightly, but you are just not going to find a Muller Thurgau that will differ too much from another. Nor will you generally come across a Muller Thurgau that you find tastes amazing or any of those other adjectives that people use to describe something overly desirable. This one from Honeywood is no different.

According to the Honeywood website, their Muller Thurgau is a "distinctive dry white wine with a hint of muscat aroma, finished in a traditional European wine style...Flavorful, spicy and complex food demand a wine that is refreshing and uncomplicated." The nose on this wine is one that might deceive the drinker. There is a sweetness that you perceive might occur based solely on the nose, but it isn't a heavily sweet scent, rather a light one with a mixture of grapes and pears.

When you take a sip, your tongue and taste buds wonder and battle each other a little bit for who will win - the spices or the sweet, and it ends up being a draw, almost. Initially, you feel this spiciness which feels good on the palate. After you swallow, there is a light sweet aftertaste that makes you wonder what you just drank. (After a glass or two, that slight sweet aftertaste almost goes away, but not completely.) But it isn't over yet. Just a second after the sweet aftertaste comes, once more, the spices - they are not heavy, but just ever so lightly.

I need to be clear - this tasting battle that occurs does not mean that this is a wine that is going to be "complicated," because Muller Thurgau is not - it is a simple wine. It is neither a great wine, nor is it a bad wine, it just is, and that's completely okay.

A beer festival on the wine blog?

"What a horrible weekend to be on the coast" Nick commented on Saturday morning as we sat in the house in Newport, OR. Of course, he was playing the opposite game as it was, in fact, a gorgeous weekend on the coast. Drew and I went over to help Chris and Nick from Block 15 Brewing Company pour beer at the Rogue Memorial Brewers Festival, and as noted in my previous post I was quite interested to see how it compared to the wine festivals I had been to. Here are my observations.

First off, there was a strong sentiment of camaraderie among the brewers in the crowd (from about 20 microbreweries) which showed a lot of collective pride in the Oregon microbrew industry, much like the pride taken in the wine world in the context of geography. As I poured beer throughout the night and became better versed in beer vocabulary (try ABV, IBU, and hop profile), it reminded me a lot of the vernacular that comes with wine. It's easy for folks to feel like outsiders if they don't speak the language -- it's up to people like us as to welcome newcomers into the hobby. Our booth was immediately next to the gentlemen from Rogue Creamery. While first bonding over beer and Oregon Bleu, we quickly noted that their cheese is a perfect pairing with wine and in fact is carried at a number of wineries throughout the state. I plan on stopping by the creamery to visit David next time we are down in Southern Oregon.

Outside of the festival, we found some gems in the rough in terms of Oregon wine. As we wrapped up the evening on Friday, we realized that we hadn't had nearly enough to drink -- or really anything for that matter as we had been serving all night. I was very surprised to find an expansive wine selection at the Thriftway in Newport. In addition to a respectable local portfolio, they also had some high brow stuff you could drop nearly a grand on. The Block 15 house was in the Devil's Punchbowl area, in between Newport and Depoe Bay. On Saturday we visited the Flying Dutchman Winery, the only operating winery on the Oregon coast which just happens to be right in front of our house (good planning on someone's part). They salt air ferment a lot of their wine, and have some decent Pinot. I enjoy their blackberry and raspberry wine specifically to make some special desserts, for which I'll share the recipe at some point.

On our way back to Corvallis on Saturday, we stopped by the Rogue Distillery to check it out. There we found the chief distiller, as proud of his work as any head winemaker would be. He sampled some of the Rogue fare, and then honored us with a taste of his personally distilled stock of single malt whiskey. Unfortunately for us this whiskey will never see public distribution, but it was sure good. All in all, I greatly enjoyed my first beer festival experience, and found a clientele every bit as passionate and talented as that in the wine world. It was also a great way to escape the 100 degree heat of the Willamette Valley this weekend.

In other industry news, Willamette Valley Vineyards has just released it's 2006 Estate Pinot Noir. It has a bigger flavor profile than their previous vintage, and I enjoyed the taste. I'd let it age a while before cracking open a bottle if you pick some up. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is accepting comments on a proposal to establish the Snipes Mountain viticulture area. Covering 4145 acres in Yakima County, WA, this AVA would further allow winemakers in that area to better describe the origin of their wine. Finally, don't forget that Memorial Day in Wine Country is coming up. Next weekend. Make your plans!

Cheers.

Checking out the "competition"

This evening Drew and I will be joining some of the staff from Block 15 Brewing Company as they pour beer at the Rogue Brewers Memorial Ale Festival in Newport, OR. A weekend of microbrew, music, and dogs; this event will feature over 50 microbreweries and local cuisine. I've never been to a beer event, so I'll be interested in seeing how it compares to wine events.

A full report to come after the event. Boy, though, what a great day to be out at the coast. I just have to get through a few hours of work first...

2004 Silvan Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve


Friends, my apologies, I have been lax in upholding my Oregon Wine Blog responsibilities... This and my recent birthday required opening something special, something big, something red. A bottle of 2004 Cabernet Reserve from Silvan Ridge (http://www.silvanridge.com/) fit the bill, especially because a new stainless BBQ graced the backyard and awaited two beautiful New York steaks and some asparagus!

The nose on this bottle was very, very smooth; vanilla, cinnamon, and anise notes dominated the nose and palette. The first sip did have a slight bite at the very back of the mouth, which was lost completely when paired with the steak. However, the peppery flavor of the steaks brought forward similar notes from the glass. These spices were not present at the first sip-a great example of wine making the meal and the meal making the wine!

Such a pairing is standard with Bordeaux varietals and has been sighted previously on the Oregon Wine Blog however, this Rouge Valley red is something special to me. Syrah's are still supreme, but this Cabernet is exceptional and I will be looking for the next Cab Reserve from Silvan Ridge- luckily only a ten minute drive south of Veneta on Territorial highway will get me (and you) to the winery!

With only 150 cases produced, this a rare bottle in the age of 1000+ cases/vintage/year. This particular bottle was received as a house warming gift so I don't have a price quote, but I would guess $30 to $40 would be a good guess-not cheap, but this is a very good Cab that is worth a spot in someone's special selection.
CORRECTION- I received some valuable input from a Silvan Ridge insider. The 2004 Silvan Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve described above retails for $20 to $25, which makes this bottle a bargain for people who like big reds! Cheers!

Memorial Day Weekend!

Spring is upon us, the economic stimulus checks are in the mail...and, well...it's still rainy in the Willamette Valley. All the more reason to take that check from the government and spend it on wine, and what a better opportunity than Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country! This extravegant weekend is one where nearly 200 wineries in the Willamette Valley open their doors for tasting all weekend. Often there are special tastings, deals, food, and some wineries that aren't typically open for public tasting welcome visitors, May 24 - 26. A group of us went last year and had an excellent lunch at the Dundee Bistro in the middle of the day. My advice -- make a plan and hit the wineries you are really excited about early in the day, before the crowds get out and about. Most of the wineries open at 11 AM. Beware, our law enforcement friends like to make their presence known on this particular weekend especially. As always play safe!

Of particular note, Willamette Valley Vineyards will be hosting a Memorial Day open house, including a chance to become a winemaker for the day! Details can be found here. Sokol Blosser recently announced they would be releasing Meditrina 5, their famed red blend, July 1. With that release will come a brand new label. I, for one, am a huge fan of red blends when it comes to a day-to-day drinkable wine. I've loved Meditrina since a magical night in Calgary, and am looking forward to this release.

Well, friends, enjoy you're wine -- for it's the weekend and we've certainly earned it.

Honeywood Winery

My colleague, Aileen, had two friends/family members in town - Daniel and Sophia. We decided there was no better way to spend the very first thing on a beautiful Saturday morning than to explore a new winery. So at about 10am, I met them at Aileen's apartment and we walked the 10 minutes south and arrived at Honeywood Winery.

Honeywood is known as the oldest winery in Oregon. Stan, the person who greeted us and subsequently gave us our tastings proceeded to tell us a bit about Honeywood. They get their grapes from growers in the Eola Hills just west of Salem. They also just recently planted their own grapes, so it will be a couple more years before their are able to see the end result of that. In the meantime they are able to produce over 50 types of wine.

Stan told us about the second owner of Honeywood, whose name I forget, who is responsible for both tasting rooms and the ability of wine makers to sell wines directly to consumers in tasting rooms through lobbying and bills being passed.

Aileen, Sophia, Daniel, and myself tried quite the array of wines and left with about 9 bottles between the 4 of us. I purchased 3 - a Muller Thurgau, a Cranberry L'Orange, and a Pomegranate. I am sure that I will be consuming at least one of those bottles over the course of the next week, once I get them from Aileen's apartment.

So be on the lookout for those reviews.

Weekend Musings

Happy Saturday to all you oenephiles! Posts have been a little light here recently mostly due to the fact that all the staff have been busy with travel and our paying jobs; we'll try to do a better job. I don't have anything in depth to report, but I have had two excellent bottles of wine recently that are worthy of The Oregon Wine Blog recommendation.

First, the 2004 Griffin Creek Syrah, from Willamette Valley Vineyards. This vintage won the 2007 Oregon State Fair, and I picked up a bottle pre-release and had been hanging on to it for a special moment. I found out my soon to be picked up Oregon Wine Guild shipment includes a bottle, so we cracked open the one I had been saving and certainly was not disappointed. The second bottle that I really enjoyed was a 2006 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir. This bottle has been sitting on the shelf for a while as well, and I've actually been meaning to get out to the winery for a visit. Regardless, some good friends were in town from Utah so we opened this baby up and it was gone in short order. A delicious Pinot!

In other news, I've been drinking a lot more beer recently due to the opening of Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery here in Corvallis about 2 months ago. A number of us here at TOWB have played various roles in the opening process, and the owners are certainly supporters of the blog. Something I'm looking forward to is the pending release of King's Gold -- a golden ale that is slated to undergo secondary fermentation in an old wine barrel from King Estate's pinot. The brewer is expecting the beer to take on some characteristics from the french oak barrel and pinot residue, so expect a review once it is released. Also, if you are looking for something to do in Corvallis tomorrow (4/20/08) check out Block 15's Grand Opening and Earth Day celebration. Food specials, live music, great beer, wine...what more can you ask for?

Enoteca

No, I'm not talking about the tech firm from Office Space, rather Enoteca is the Italian word for "wine cellar" and just so happens to be the namesake of the new wine bar in Corvallis. Located at 136 Washington (and riverfront) in the Renaissance Condo building, Enoteca is a welcome addition to the Corvallis food and wine scene. A group of us checked out the new digs this evening after a great dinner at Block 15.

Upscale, classy, yet relaxed, Enoteca has an abundant selection of wines that cover the spectrum of varietals and appellations and are reasonably priced all the while. Ample selections of both red and white by the bottle from California, Italy, Australia, and of course Oregon tantalize customers and an adequate by the glass selection is available as well. The food menu is *just* large enough to meet OLCC regulations for food service with alcohol; the dessert plate we had was tasty with a selection of truffles, fruit, and candied nuts. It paired nicely with the 2002 Kiona Reserve Estate Cabernet that we enjoyed.

In a unique blending of market segments, Enoteca serves espresso and coffee as well -- catching the morning crowd with caffeine and the evening crowd with alcohol. Details are the key, with custom monogrammed wine glasses, local furniture from Inkwells, and a unique menu concept. Local ownership rounds out the package, in fact 4 of the 6 owners live in the building. Outstanding customer service was the icing on the cake to a fine evening. I'm hesitant to post this because I want Enoteca to be *our little secret*. I'll do my duty, though, and gladly share.

Watch out, Sahalie, there is a new show in town...

PS: Enoteca is hosting a grand opening tomorrow, April 12, rumored to have some pretty nice bottles open for tasting!

2003 14 Hands Merlot

I realize that it has been quite a while since my last post, but I have decent reasoning - among them being I haven't been consuming as much wine that would warrant making any entries in the last couple of months. I am definitely at a point where I will be remedying that situation, in a very responsible way.

Tonight, as I prepared a Cornish hen for dinner, I struggled with what wine to partake with it. I had staring at me, a 2006 Vintage Willamette Valley Riesling and a 2003 Merlot from 14 Hands. I know the cardinal rule of the type of food that should be consumed with what type of wine - but I couldn't bring myself to open the Riesling, so instead, I decided to go with the Merlot. I know, I know, shame on me.

Anyway, I received this bottle of 2003 Merlot from my friend Jon a couple of months ago after I dog-sat for him for about a week. I shelved this bottle of wine and truly forgot I had it until this evening. 14 Hands is a winery that is completely unfamiliar to me, at least I think it is (I don't recall having been there, but if it is in the Tri-Cities area, then it is possible I have visited them, but only once before). The grapes come from the Horse Heaven Hills, the south-central area of Washington in the Columbia River Valley. I have to be honest, I have not been able to find out much more about the winery itself. I have called the 800 number, but it being a Sunday, they were closed, so I will work on finding out more and make an addendum to this post.

I opened the bottle and let it breathe for about 30 minutes before I poured my first glass. Holding the glass, I noticed a very rich, very deep and dark color, which peaked my interest. I took a whiff, and the first thought that came to my mind to describe it was "clean." The nose on this wine - and I have continued to smell it - can only be described by me as clean. Don't get me wrong, its not like a cleaning agent, but just "clean." The nose also is not very strong - you smell it initially while sniffing the wine, but it doesn't remain.

The first sip was not very impressive, as is not completely uncommon with wines, but it definitely gets better. I do find the taste to be very "oak-filled," not in a bad way, but it is clear that it was fermented in oak barrels. You are also able to taste the spices of this Merlot, which comes in the form of an aftertaste - there isn't anything that hits you before you swallow it. I continue to sip as I write this, and I can feel/taste a little bit of a kick that enhances the spices.

What I am finding here is that this Merlot is not over-bearing, nor is it bland, but rather, it has a mellow sense to it. I definitely imagine that this is a wine enjoyed while just relaxing. A not bad wine for under $15.

Enjoy!