Turn and face the strain.

While I'd like to think David Bowie was thinking of The Oregon Wine Blog when he sang those iconic lyrics, he probably wasn't.  Since it's launch on August 3, 2007, TOWB readers have been privy to 368 posts...11 different writers...2 site redesigns...1386 days of blogging awesomeness and a topical focus that has been bursting at the seams for many nears now.  Let's be honest, we've covered more than just Oregon and more than just wine for quite a while now - it's time to be real, yo.  Today I'm pleased to announce the launch of the future of The Oregon Wine Blog:
Semi-pretentious enthusiasts of wine, beer, and spirits of the West Coast.

The West Coast is a special place - the connection between people, place, and the spirit of wine, beer, distilled beverages, and culinary excellence in the region tell a compelling story.  From this story comes, a new online publication with a mission to make fine wine, craft brew, local spirits, and regional cuisine fun, sexy, and approachable for the next generation.

WestToast unifies the editorial vision and history of The Oregon Wine Blog and the [BW] Beer Blog, featuring good beer since 2006.  With the same writing staff and conversational format of The Oregon Wine Blog, WestToast recognizes a broadened scope both geographically and topically by covering wine, beer, spirits and cuisine in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

When we started nearly four years ago, we were a rag-tag group of hooligans in Corvallis, Oregon who wanted to chronicle our journeys in the Willamette Valley.  We never anticipated some of the experiences that have made the Blog what it is.  Wende taking us through the cave at Col Solare, Keith opening bottle after bottle after bottle at Terra Blanca, Frank bringing out one dish after another at Picazo 7Seventeen.  Those experiences epitomize the relationships that make the Blog special to us and hopefully to you, the relationships and experiences we'll continue to feature on WestToast.  Four years later, we represent a group of friends spread among Seattle, Portland, Salem, Corvallis, and Sonoma who will continue to share our passion, and hopefully you'll stick with us through this transition.

This is the last post on; look for new content on  Please redirect any links to the site, and you can find our hot asses on twitter @WestToast or facebook at


Locals Out and About 2

Wine and food and food and wine...these are a few of my favorite things!

And if we're talking food here, lets talk about my favorites there...Asian cuisine, french fries, and anything associated with breakfast. So now that you know what to do with me on our first date, I'll quit free-associating and let you in on what I've been up to. It has nothing to do with french fries (sadly), could have something to do with Asian cuisine (if I so chose), and has everything to do with breakfast food and wine (yeeee haaaaw).

Locals about the Willamette Valley...we (Chris, Jason, and I). Decided to take on a beautiful day in wine country. The day started at Eola Hills Winery in Rickreall, OR. Why Eola first??? Well I'll tell you this is where the breakfast food comes in - SUNDAY BRUNCH!!!

The winery space was filled with tables and sparkling lights. The effect was one that made me feel we were at a country wedding reception - clean, bright, and lacking pretension. Our hosts gave us a tour of the dining options - a series of cooking stations where we could watch our meal being made right before us (this was done in conjunction with Simply Delish Catering). We were able to choose from foods such as fried oysters, carved beef, eggs benedict (3 different kinds), crepes, waffles, and omelets. There were also tables featuring fruit, desserts, and pastries along with hot items such as biscuits and gravy, ham, and potatoes. It was a lovely and beautiful feast.

Part of our meal price was a drink ticket for a glass of wine or champagne. The three of us opted to pool our resources in order to get ourselves a bottle. We went for the 2009 Oregon White Riesling as our designated breakfast wine. It had a lovely nose - melon, peach, and pear with hints of citrus. I found it crisp and bright, with a sweet/tart punch at the start and a soft finish that gave me a lovely pear flavor. Chris and I decided to mix our first glasses with orange juice, making a beautiful quasi mimosa.

Fun and funky gifts like this wine holder were in the gift shop

The brunch was fantastic - we definitely got our money's worth. My favorite was the eggs benedict. There were three kinds - veggie, seafood, and traditional - and I opted for the traditional. The egg was done perfectly, the ham thinly sliced and flavorful, and the sauce was creamy and full. I also sampled the crepes, made thin and light with a wide variety of fillings including fruit, cheeses and sauces. I tried the 'Vin d' Ete' dessert wine on a cheese crepe and found it amazing! The waffles were also good - small enough to try a couple with toppings that included flavored butters and fruit sauces.

Filled with goodness, and enjoying happy sipping, all three of us gave the Eola Hills Sunday Brunch (9:30-2:00) a big thumbs up, and have made plans to make plans to go back again!

The name is Merry...Cellars that is.

"You take North Grand out of town.  Turn at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads towards the engineering lab. Drive around the bend, through some wheat fields, and you'll find it," I overhead the clerk tell my friend Kyle as I was browsing through the shop. We were at the Old Post Office wine shop in Pullman, Washington, having recovered from a Ludacris concert at Beasley Coliseum the night before. By the way, if you'd like to be hip the kids call him "Luda".  We knew there was wine in them there hills, and we were on a mission to find it. Stat.

Merry Cellars was the destination du jour, a winery that we were all tangentially familiar with from our time living in Pullman.  Back in my day, Merry Cellars was located at the Old Post Office, so you could understand the confusion when we walked through the door and found a wine shop and production brewpub but no winery tasting room.  Unfazed and armed with directions, we hopped back in the car and headed to the other side of town...all of a 5 minute find the man they call Merry and drink his wine.

Founded in 2004, Merry Cellars seeks to craft age worthy and approachable wines, those which are elegant yet casual enough to serve at the family dinner table.  Winemaker and owner Patrick Merry finds a sense of place in his wine, capturing the essence of the Palouse region through small lot productions.  The winery uses a minimalist, hand-crafted approach through the entire wine-making process, and as we were soon to discover, produces some outstanding wines from varietals that are relatively rare but up and coming in Eastern Washington.  And talk about fruit!  Sourcing from some of the finer vineyards in Walla Walla and Columbia Valley, most of the wines in the Merry Cellars portfolio are backed with Les Collines, Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, Stillwater Creek, Stone Ridge, and Echo West offerings.

We turned at the last stoplight, you know, the one that leads to the engineering lab.  We drove around the  bend and through some wheat fields, and there it was.  In an otherwise unassuming building, with simply some sandwich boards announcing it's presence stood what was to be the start of a great afternoon of wine tasting.  We walked through the door, a rag-tag group consisting of Rick and myself, blog regulars Alyssa and Kyle, and my brother Chris.  Immediately we were greeted with a smile and some glasses by Joe, a relative newcomer to the Merry Cellars family but certainly an asset to the tasting room, and Bruno, the Merry Cellars puppy.  At 12-weeks old and adding an incredibly cute and cuddly attribute to our experience, Bruno was conked out on a pillow in the corner of the tasting room after reportedly lapping up spilled Carmenere off of the floor.   I'd guess we tasted 6 or 7 wines, although my notes are sketchy in that arena.  In fact, they don't exist so I'm going to profile a few wines that stuck out among the crowd and we'll go from there:

2008 Crimson: Merry Cellar's interpretation of a Bordeaux blend, the Crimson brings about 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the balance in Cab Franc to the table. Smoky and masculine as described by the winery, this one has long been Kyle's favorite Merry wine.

2008 Carmenere: This one was a nice surprise to our group, many who were completely unfamiliar with Carmenere as a varietal. Entirely from Seven Hills Vineyard, spice and pepper was evident on the nose but we found a very well-balance wine on the palate. Yum.

2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Merlot: This is the one that I took home and for good reason. A deep, rich, but moderately tannic wine, the merlot has been critically acclaimed by everyone and their brother. It's classic Columbia Valley, delicious every time. In fact, my brother did enjoy it.

After tasting through, Joe asked if we were interested in seeing the back room as they were in the process of bottling. Never ones to turn down back room tours or back door deals, we were in. He led us through a gorgeous barrel room, which is available for events by the way, to the bottling line. When I say bottling line I mean a group of Merry Cellar's closest friends hand bottling each and every drop of the wine with care and attention to detail. It's definitely cool to see.

Merry Cellars is one of those places that is a bit off of the beaten path, well at least in Pullman terms, so really not much. Firmly planted in a college community, they have a phenomenal opportunity to help in our mission of making wine more approachable to the next generation, and the winery is a great place to spend a hot Palouse summer afternoon sipping wine on the their patio. There's also a puppy.

Locals Out and About 1

Though I have been here in the Willamette Valley for a few months now, I had not really gotten out and about to some of the local wineries. The hubbub (not to mention the cost) of moving and settling in kept me pretty close to home. The times I did get out of town were to head off to faraway places such as Portland, Jackson, and Mt. Shasta. I was quickly getting myself into that rut where a person can be in one place for years, but never take part in the entertainment close to home - kind of like growing up in NY but never seeing the Statue of Liberty, living in Washington and never seeing Mount Saint Helens, or living in Utah and never going skiing (not that I know ANYONE for whom all of these apply).

So it was great when my friend Chris suggested a trip into wine country last weekend. We rolled out semi-early, and wined and dined our way through the area around Monmouth for the day, enjoying lovely wine and vittles where ever we went. Instead of writing a loooong piece about the whole day, I have decided I will break it up and highlight my favorite parts as to give them a bit more credence.

One of the wineries we went to was Firesteed. Just off of 99W North of Rickreal, we spotted Firesteed on our way to another location, and decided if we had time we would check it out. With the firm belief that you really always have time for wine, we made sure to stop in on our way back by. We climbed the hill up to the massive warehouse and tasting room, and wondered for a moment if it was open as there seemed to be no cars there. Upon entering the tasting room we met our hosts, John and Kristen, who greeted us with friendly smiles. When hearing we were there for a tasting, John replied "suh-weet!" We knew we had come to a great place.

Modern and edgy with a rustic flair, the tasting room was comfortable and posh without seeming pretentious. I especially enjoyed the wine rack that seemed to be made out of old barn wood standing behind the counter. A large window behind the bar allowed us to sneak a peak at the barrel room that included a massive German-style barrel with a stainless steel door on the front. We were informed that this was used for short-term white wines in place of stainless steel fermenters. Don't get me wrong however, there were still the big steelies there as well, towering to one side and making me want very much to climb in for a nice swim (yeah, I am strange - I'm OK with it). We joked warmly about that for a bit, and learned that the only way to clean them out was to actually get inside and scrape and spray - so perhaps I might get a chance to see the inside of them after all...add it to the bucket list - pun intended.

The lighting provided beautiful shadows around my glass as I tasted

We tried a number of wines while at Firesteed, here are the ones I enjoyed the most!

Our tasting started with their 2008 Pinot Gris. I found it to be light and silky on the nose with a large dose of melon and peach. There was a citrus-y topnote that promised crispness along with hints of wild honey. I found it tart and crisp with a silky smoothness that was cool on my tongue. There were hints of melon and peach that came through a strong green apple flavor. It made me dream of summer heat, honey barbecued chicken, and sweet corn roasted on the grill in the husk.

We also were able to try the 2008 Chardonnay - W3. The W's in W3 stand for Walla-Walla and Willamette where the grapes are grown. I found the nose toasty and cool simultaneously along with a high sharpness that suggested the wine would pack a punch. I found it to be the exact opposite upon tasting it however - it was smooth, mellow, and silky. The oak flavor was soft and subtle, hitting me gently at the finish. I noted a floral aspect at the top of my palette along with a balance of tart and sweet fall fruit - pear and apple. Not a huge fan of chardonnay, I was pleased to find this wine highly drinkable. Its strength and complexity would be wonderful by the glass, or paired with foods that are sweet and spicy.

I really enjoyed trying the 2005 Cayalla RTW (red table wine). This wine continued my current love affair with Oregon red varietals. The nose was rich and earthy and filled with dark fruity notes along with chocolate and vanilla. I found the taste equally deep with cherry at the front, an oily and peppery cocoa at the middle, and a long finish filled with mineral, earth, and moss. If there ever was a wine I would call a comfort food, this would be it. I'd drink it on its own, but really wanted to have it with my mom's macaroni and cheese followed by chocolate chip cookies. Despite the homeyness of this wine, I think it would stand well in a fine dining situation as well.

Another wine I noted well was the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The nose opened into a strong and complex mixture of berry and spice - deep and clear - blackberry, clove and pepper with almost a citrus flash that lingered late, opening up my sinuses and asking me to take another whiff. A long-time lover of the mountains, I found this wine to be the olfactory equivalent of springtime in the peaks just below the snow line. The taste was fresh, full, and tantalizing, and completely matched what I had just smelled. I enjoyed the acidic texture and the greenness of the finish. I loved loved loved this wine. I doubt I would pair it with anything lest I lose something from my experience of it, but if forced to choose I'd eat it with Greek food - feta cheese, olives, and smoky roast lamb.

All in all the experience at Firesteed was one of hospitality, fun, and great wines. I walked out with a bottle of the Cayalla RTW and (duh!) the 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. As the weather improves here in the area I intend on hopping on my bicycle and visiting them again!