pinot gris

Memorial Day weekend trip to the Columbia Gorge (Day 3)

Memorial Day weekend trip to the Columbia Gorge (Day 3) 1280 960 celo4life

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to take my third trip to the Columbia Gorge and also take another look at the Willamette Valley. I was really excited about this visit because it was my first look at the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. I got a late start leaving Seattle and got caught in the usual “look at everyone around you” traffic, but I managed to make it to four really good wineries. Each of the wineries on this trip was unique in their own way and I was really pleased with what’s coming out of the region. The picture above is a shot from the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. You’ll see these rock formation throughout this region. The Washington side of the Columbia Gorge is like night and day compared to the Oregon side. The climate & terroir is very different from the Oregon side which makes this region very exciting to visit. So without further adieu 🙂

Cor Cellars

Cor Cellars

When I arrived at Cor Cellars, I was greeted by Lana in the tasting room. On this windy day, I was wondering if anyone was going to be coming around the vineyards, but it wasn’t long before a large group of people arrived as I was leaving. Cor Cellars had 5 wines available at the time, but have expanded to 8 wines in their collection. The price points are very approachable and the wines are great for any level of collector. I managed to pick up 3 great wines on my visit and have plans to pick up more in the future!:

Cor Cellars 2009 Alba Cor

Refreshingly different, this wine is made with a nod to the Alsatian wines of northern France. The barrel fermented Gewürztraminer adds spicy honeysuckle and floral spring aromas, while the Pinot Gris contributes vibrant pear and melon, refreshing acidity and structure.

  • Varietals: 54% Pinot Gris / 46% Gewürztraminer
  • Vineyard: Celilo Vineyard
  • Appellation: Columbia Gorge
  • Fermentation: Pinot Gris: Stainless Steel / Gewürztraminer: 100% neutral French oak
  • Time in Barrel: 5 months

Cor Cellars 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

There are no tasting notes available on this wine and I believe it’s because it is sold out. I will contact the winery and see if I can obtain them. One thing to note, they have released a 2009 Old Hwy white wine which is a Sauvignon Blanc blend. I will definitely check this out!

Cor Cellars 2008 Momentum

Black cherry, plum and cassis, with hints of dark chocolate, spice and violets. Starting with a base of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is floral, regal and extensive, we add Merlot for silky texture, Petit Verdot for spice and then finally Malbec for its earthy and expressive personality.

  • Varietals: 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petit Verdot, 21% Merlot, 21% Malbec
  • Vineyards: McKinley Springs Vineyards / Alder Ridge Vineyards
  • Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills
  • Barrel: 90% French / 10% American (40% new / 60% two-year-old)
  • Time in Barrel: 10 months
  • Bottled: August 2009

Syncline Wine Cellars

Probably one of the more talked about wineries in the Columbia Gorge, Syncline Wine Cellars offers many wines in their collection. Some of their wines are blended with grapes you may or may not be familiar with: Cinsault, Counoise, Carignan just to name a few. I found most of their wines to be light and have a very european feel to them. If you’re looking for wines that you can hold onto or drink immediately, this is the winery for you.

The tasting room is very large and was busy during my visit. I was greeted by Georgia and Sara who were very pleasant and fun to talk to. I had the opportunity of taking home 3 wines on my visit. I would’ve taken home more, but it was only the beginning of my trip 🙂

Syncline Wine Cellars 2009 Rosé

Following our faith in Rhone varietals, this Rosé is in direct response to our fascination with hedonistic country wines. Immediately striking with pale water-melon color, the aromas practically leap from the glass. A medley of different grapes yield a full satisfying dry wine: The Cinsault base gives the unmistakable aroma of rose water and violets, Grenache gives juicy strawberry and musky watermelon rind aromas and flavors, Mourvedre sends its characteristic spice to the mix, Counoise and Carignan bring fresh acidity and ripe berry notes. Finishing completely dry, this is as serious as rosé gets.

Harvest Notes

Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley
Varietals: 37% Cinsault / 35% Counoise / 12% Grenache / 11% Mourvedre / 5% Carignan

I picked this wine up in my belief that it will develop quite nicely over time. The blend on this wine is unlike anything I have tried or have in my collection. It was a very subtle wine and had a good balance. I’m looking forward to opening this bottle sometime next year or the year after that.

Syncline Wine Cellars 2008 Roussanne

Unfortunately, the tasting notes for the 2008 Roussanne are unavailable, but here are the 2009 tasting notes to give you an idea on the wine. I’ve always enjoyed Roussanne wines from Washington State and this was among my favorites. The nose on this wine was very nice and the flavors came through very nicely. Definitely one for the summer time or to be enjoyed with a nice dinner.

Syncline Wine Cellars 2008 Subduction Red

Long inspired by the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley, this is our answer to a Washington version of a Cotes-du-Rhone Villages wine. Ripe and hedonistic, this wine displays vivid ruby color with varying degrees of purple-black. This is a blend of classic southern French varieties that are unique and expressive on their own; yet each contributes to create a harmonious whole. Bold and seductive, this wine exhibits ripe raspberry, violet and game aromas, with juicy plum flavors. The bright, supple finish and pleasing fruit-filled mouthfeel make Subduction Red adaptable to many foods and occasions.

Harvest Notes

Appellation: Columbia Valley (80%Horse Heaven, 20% Wahluke Slope)
Varietals: 26% Grenache / 25% Syrah / 24% Cinsault / 12% Mourvedre / 9% Counoise / 4% Carignan

This was one of my favorite wines during the tasting. Just look at that blend of varietals above 🙂

Memaloose Winery

Overlooking the Hood River is Memaloose Winery. Driving up to the winery, I noticed the great views of the river and the high winds in the area. It’s very unique and definitely worth the visit. As I was getting out of the car, I was greeted by a curious, 4 legged friend:

Wine dogs are just so entertaining 😉 Inside the winery, I was greeted by Rob who was quite knowledgable about the region and quite friendly. Memaloose had 4 wines at the time and was barrel tasting a 5th wine. Now they carry 6 wines. All their wines have a european feel to them and weren’t high on alcohol volume. I only took one wine home, but I would’ve taken home two if the other one was available at the time:

Memaloose 2008 Rosé of Tempranillo

Unfortunately there are no tasting notes available for this wine. I can tell you that it was a very pleasant rosé that you can enjoy during those summer months. As their tag line suggests, Memaloose wines go well with food.

Domaine Pouillon

My last stop on day one, and my favorite, was Domaine Pouillon. This winery focuses on Rhone style blends. I had the pleasure of hanging out with the winemakers while I listened to some classics on their antique record player. The feel of this winery is very warm & inviting and I highly suggest taking a visit. I tasted through all their wines and I wound up taking these home:

Domaine Pouillon 2008 Deux
Double Gold, Seattle Wine Awards, May 2010

Unfortunately there are no tasting notes for this wine, but here are the stats:

Columbia Valley AVA
Source: Brehm Vineyards & Coyote Canyon Vineyard
57% Chardonnay  43% Viognier
Cases Produced: 199     ABV: 13.8%

This is an excellent wine that you can have with a nice dinner or it can stand alone. I’ll be looking forward to trying out the 2009 vintage in the spring. To give you an idea, here are the tasting notes for the 2009 vintage.

Domaine Pouillon Black Dot

Horse Heaven Hills AVA
Source: McKinley Springs Vineyard & Coyote Canyon Vineyard
35% Grenache 25% Syrah 30% Zinfandel 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Cases Produced: 352 ABV: 14%

“The nose of Black Dot delights with hits of curry spices, licorice, and blueberries. This wine has a balanced tannin structure with an extremely long and nuanced finish of marionberries, anise, and earth.

The blend for Black Dot changes every year. This wine is blended by spirit and flavor, (we’re always trying to recreate the first magical vintage that contained grape varieties that no one can seem remember). An experiment in non-conventional winemaking, Black Dot proudly breaks the rules.”

The first words out of my mouth when I tried this wine were, “DAMN!”  I was really impressed by the flavor of this wine, it was quite unique. This wine has a lot of depth and its worth holding on to.

After a long day of tasting, it was time for me to head back to my hotel and rest up for the Willamette Valley portion of the trip. Overall, it was a great day of wine tasting and I will be looking forward to my next visit on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Thanksgiving wine trip to the Columbia Gorge – A wine region worth visiting! (Day 2)

Thanksgiving wine trip to the Columbia Gorge – A wine region worth visiting! (Day 2) 600 450 celo4life

After not finishing up the Hood River area of the Columbia Gorge on day 1 and a ton of debate, I decided to return to visit the vineyards and valleys of the area. Antonio and his girlfriend joined me on this day and it was a lot of fun. This was also Antonio’s first taste of wine ever, which surprised myself and the vineyards haha 🙂

Cathedral Ridge Winery – Oregon Winery of the Year

Our first stop of the day was Cathedral Ridge Winery, a beautiful winery in Hood River. We walked into the packed tasting room filled with samples of great pies for the holidays. All of the wines were great and the staff was really friendly. There was one interesting thing that happened at the winery. One of the staff was eagerly anticipating the birth of his new baby. I kind of felt bad for him because he was a nervous wreck, but excited for him at the same time. Although I had to limit my purchases to just one, I would’ve left with a lot more. There was one that caught my eye because of its uniqueness:

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2008 Halbtrocken (Columbia Valley)

Meaning “half-dry” in German, this wine is semi-sweet, floral and aromatic with hints of a dry finish. As a wine maker’s secret red-white blend, it has been tantalizing wine drinkers for years.

On our way to the next winery….
Antonio found some new friends strolling down the road:

These miniature horses were the surprise of the trip. We talked with the owner for a little bit and she noted that she has been raising these little guys over the years. These friendly creatures were a sight to see on our way to ….

Marchesi Vineyards

This cozy tasting room was warm and inviting. When we walked in, there were several folks enjoying glasses of wine. The one staff person, Nicole, was very friendly and is also the assistant winemaker for our final destination of the trip. The winemaker for Marchesi favors the Italian style of wine making and it showed in his wines. Although they only make 5 wines, they were good overall. Here are the two I walked away with:

Marchesi Vineyards 2008 Anjola, Pinot Grigio (Columbia Valley)
Note: This is the only Pinot Grigio I currently have in my cellar

We named this wine Anjola, after Franco’s grandmother Angela who lived in Piemonte all her life. Since 2007 we can call our wine Pinot Grigio, before then it was called Pinot Gris, we found the Grigio more suitable for our style of wine. We first planted our vines, Pinot Grigio VCR 5 on 3309 rootstock In the spring of 2004, we had our first commercial vintage in 2008. Our Pinot Grigio has wonderful aromas of pears, lemons and a touch of anice, good mouth feel with crispy acidity. This wine can be served as an aperitif, seafood dishes, roasted chicken most white meats, goes well with aged cheeses too. Enjoy chilled but not too cold.

Marchesi Vineyards 2007 Giuseppe, Pinor Noir (Columbia Gorge)

We named our Pinot Noir Giuseppe, because in Italian the nick name for Giuseppe is Pino. The Pinot Noir grapes where the last grapes to be planted at the south end of our property at the end of April 2008. We sourced grapes for our 2007 and 2008 vintage from growers we know well and can count on the best fruit from the wonderful Hood River area. Half of the fruits came from Wy’East Vineyards and the other half from lower altitudes of Mount Underwood on the opposite side of the Columbia river, right in the middle of the Columbia Gorge. Our 2007 Pinot Noir has a pale robe, aromas of mushrooms and earth with a violet note, quite light but silky on the palate, dark cherry fruit, strawberries and a touch of sweetness on the finish. Most enjoyable with roasted salmon or chicken alla cacciatora.

Wy’East Vineyards

On the suggestion from the assistant wine maker we met at Marchesi, we decided to take a trip to Wy’East. I can’t thank Nicole enough for the suggestion. The journey took us down some windy hills to the valley area. The views were incredible and definitely will be a sight to see in the spring and summer months. When we arrived at the winery, we were greeted by the dogs of the winery. Inside we met Christie Reed, one of the owners of the winery. She told us stories about the area and their wines which made our visit very enjoyable. This winery features 7 wines and they are all very good. While I would’ve taken all of these wines home, I had to settle for two:

Wy’East Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay (Columbia Gorge)

Our Chardonnay carries only a hint of oak barrel aging, the fruit is so delicious we didn’t want to mask it. Bright citrus and pineapple flavors make this Columbia Gorge treat an excellent choice for casual sipping. This is the Chardonnay for people who are tired of overly processed, mass produced flavorless Chards.

Wy’East Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris (Columbia Gorge)

 This luscious Pinot Gris is sourced from our own vineyards in the Hood River Valley. Rich tropical flavors are balanced with good acidity, yielding a rich, mouth-filling finish. It is the perfect summer cooler for the patio, and is tasty paired with crab or pears and cheese. Cheers! PLATIUM award winner @ NW Wine & Food Festival, Nov 2009

Thanksgiving wine trip to the Columbia Gorge – A wine region worth visiting! (Day 1)

Thanksgiving wine trip to the Columbia Gorge – A wine region worth visiting! (Day 1) 600 450 celo4life

After getting my palate assaulted in the Willamette Valley two weeks prior, I decided to change things up for my wine tour and check out the Columbia Gorge region for their Thanksgiving Winery Open House. After spending two days in the region, I know I made the right choice. Not only was the selection deep, but it was very accessible from Portland (about an hour drive away). The only bad part of the trip was the fact that I got a late start on both days and not many people were able to go. So on day 1, Rebecca Masulo and I ventured out and hit up three wineries. I literally could’ve bought almost everything, but I limited it to these selections:

The Pines 1852 Vineyard & Winery

What was going to be the 4th stop of the day, ended up being the first stop. This winery was in downtown Hood River, where you’ll find a collection of tasting rooms. The staff was very friendly and the room was filled with a collection of art. While I tasted a lot of good ones, these are the ones I left with:

The Pines 1852 2007 Big Red
Note: This one didn’t make it home 🙂

Your favorite blend of Cabernet Sauv., Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel is back! This wine brings together the best of four wines for a hearty blend with a full mouth-feel. Long legs, jammy berries, and a peppery finish make this wine great with steak and pasta.

The Pines 1852 2008 Satin
This white blend of 50% Pinot Gris and 50% Gewurztraminer combines the best of both worlds: a beautiful floral bouquet from the Gewurz paired with the fruity, crisp Pinot Gris. Satin is sure to pair well with melon, fish, chicken, and thai.

Quenett Wines

Stop two on the tour was another great one. Quenett has a very deep selection of wines and I found myself like almost everything they had. The winemaker was really nice as well and we’re looking forward to having him pour for us in the future.

Quenett 2007 Chardonnay (Columbia Valley)
A great, everyday white wine with a medium body, slight notes of butterscotch and green apple, with a subtle finish.

Quenett 2006 Zinfandel (Columbia Valley)
Note: This wine was just released over the weekend, so the tasting notes are not available

Naked Winery

This is, by far, the best winery I’ve visited in 2009 (if not, all time!). When I first saw the name, I thought that they were either marketing geniuses or they were referring to the grapes in some way. When I walked in, I knew they were marketing geniuses! The marketing they put behind their brand is a work of art and it’s a model that many business can follow in other sectors. Their wines carry the name even further. This is one of the first wineries where the first 8 wines I’ve tried, I would’ve bought immediately. Overall, I would’ve bought one of each, but I settled for four wines:

Naked Winery 2007 Pinot Gris (Rogue Valley)
This refreshing wine offers a full frontal blast of sun country nose! It’s time to sip into something a little more Naked…

Fermented in cooler than normal temperatures with nice hang time on the vines, this brings out a medium bodied wine that’s great for summer, or by a warm fireplace. Melon, apple, & pear run throughout this wine.

Naked Gris is our chillin’ wine. Smooth, ripe and a bit silky, this wine delivers a full frontal blast of sun country nose that explodes midpalate. Stripping the skins down to the bare essentials, it’s hard to take your eyes off those luscious legs as they streak down the glass. Sip into something a little more Naked… wouldn’t you A-Gris?

Naked Winery 2006 Foreplay Chardonnay (Columbia Valley)
This is a delicious way to warm to an evening. Who doesn’t like Foreplay, ladies?

A large portion of the blend was barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation which yielded a soft butterscotch finish. Notes like pear and melon are accented by some caramel and toasted coconut aromas from the barrels.

Foreplay teases your senses upfront with a bouquet of luscious ripe fruit. No hurry here… once uncorked, let it breathe and work into a nice rhythm as it warms up. Anticipate the sweetness at the end, complimenting the silky tannins. A little Foreplay goes a long way.

Naked Winery 2008 Gay Rosé
Our Rose is light and fruity with a hint of sweetness. Even if you haven’t been feeling Gay, this wine could make you change your mind!

Naked Winery 2007 Pinot Noir
This is our bare-all wine. Who doesn’t love to get Naked?

Try the Varietal that made Oregon wines famous: Pinot Noir. 100% Pinot Noir, enjoy the classic light body and floral bouquet with a delicate satin tannin finish.

Naked is our bare-all wine. Stripped of traditional attitudes, only the free-spirited grapes go into this voluptuous wine. Lusty with a smooth complexion and long legs. This wine gives a full-frontal of ripe cherries with a firm well-rounded end. Who doesn’t love to get Naked?

Although I didn’t get to all the wineries I wanted to, this was a perfect way to start the trip. Day 1 was filled with tasting rooms in the downtown area of Hood River. Day 2 is a trip to the actual vineyards and the valley. To be continued!

An impromptu visit to the Willamette Valley wineries

An impromptu visit to the Willamette Valley wineries 952 632 celo4life

Some of the best trips are the ones you don’t plan. Before I came home from Portland last Thursday, I decided to travel to the Willamette Valley and tour a few wineries before I headed back to Seattle. Oregon is best known for its pinot wines. The only problem with this fact is that’s all they tend to have. So after 6 wineries or so, your palate will feel like it’s been assaulted! Nonetheless, I was able to come home with 9 great wines including a sparkling wine!


First stop on the trip was to Rex Hill. When I walked to the tasting room, the first thing I noticed was the front door. Inside the tasting, quickly learned that things have certainly changed over the past two rooms. One thing you should be prepared for is the high tasting fees in the Willamette Valley (Around $10). The second thing you should be prepared for is the fact that this fee is only waived if you buy a case of wine in most cases. Cases of wine in the Willamette Valley don’t come cheap either as most of the wineries poured most of their highest priced wines. Now, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but that is the biggest thing I noticed. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time at Rex Hill and managed to leave with one bottle. I would’ve bought a couple others, but I needed to spread the wealth around if I wanted to cover more ground.

Rex Hill 2007 Willamette Valley Oregon Chardonnay
The 2007 REX HILL Willamette Valley Chardonnay is true to vintage and variety. We ferment in neutral oak and small stainless steel barrels giving the wine enhanced lees contact. This results in a rich texture while maintaining bright acidity balanced by natural fruit sweetness and minerality. Complex aromatics and flavors of nectarine, roasted vanilla bean, lemon verbena and white pepper create a versatile food wine.

One of the best things about a wine trip is stumbling onto a winery that’s not found on the map. Sometimes these wineries can be a pleasant surprise while other times, they’re not on the map for a reason. The Four Graces was definitely one of those wineries I was happy to find. The lady pouring in the tasting room was very friendly and told me all about the winery. I spent about an hour there talking about wines, life, and family. I will be back to The Four Graces this summer and I highly recommend you visit the winery. I would’ve walked away with more, but I managed to purchase these bottles:

The Four Graces 2008 Dundee Hills Pinot Gris
True to the varietal, this Pinot Gris is deliciously bright, fresh and crisp. On the nose asian pear, lemon, and honeysuckle greet you. Granny Smith apples, key lime and red grapefruit open up on the palate. Characteristic of the vineyard, there’s an interesting minerality and acidity on the palate balanced by soft floral aromas. The silky finish and fresh, full mouthfeel are indicative of a great Pinot Gris.

The Four Graces 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Earthy and elegant, fruit forward with smooth, expressive tannins, this wine bears all the hallmarks of a great New World Burgundy. Reminiscent of wild mushrooms and blackberries, damson and warm red roses, the 2007 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is vibrant and delicious yet has the soft, focused tannins to suggest aging with grace. Over 10 months in French oak contributes a velvet softness without masking the lovely red to black fruit characteristics. Deep, bright ruby with purple rays. The aromas are quintessential Oregon Pinot Noir.

Argyle was the surprise of the trip. Not only does Argyle produce some nice wines, but they also produce some great sparkling wines. Instead of trying their wines, I decided to do the sparkling wine tastings.  I have to say, the most interesting of the sparkling wines I tried was the Argyle 2006 Black Brut. I wasn’t really sure if I liked it because I haven’t tasted anything like it. After a few tastes, it definitely grew on me. While I could’ve tackled the Black Brut, I decided to play it safe and take home this bottle:

Argyle 2006 Brut Sparkling Wine (Willamette Valley)
An Indian Summer followed by late harvest lent exciting structure to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir used to make this 2006 Argyle Brut. The color is that of pale yellow diamond, pre-harvest wheat field or plumeria alba. The aromas are honeysuckle, Mutsu apple skins, casaba and soft vanilla, followed by hints of allspice and red currant thanks to the Pinot Noir component. This 2006 Brut is highly effervescent in the mouth and brings a classic, stony minerality complimented by lemon zest, currant and a late, savory yeast that coats the palate for a long, pleasing finish.

Maresh Red Barn Winery is a nice stop to make in the Willamette Valley. This winery is in a classic red barn that overlooks the Dundee Hills. The views are incredible and the wines are all affordable. I do not have tasting notes for these wines so you’ll have to try them for yourself. I did walk away with these bottles:

Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2008 Pinot Gris (Yamhill County)
Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay
Maresh Red Hills Vineyard 2007 Pinot Noir

Erath Winery was my final stop on my tour and one of the best. If you’re ever in the area, this is the one winery you must come to. After paying large tasting fees all along the tour, I was pleased to hear that Erath offers 4 complimentary tastings in addition to their paid tastings.  Besides seeing what new wines Erath was offering, there was another reason why I came to Erath. I needed to recover a wine bottle I purchased a few years ago! To my disappointment, there are only 6 bottles of this wine available and they’re saving them for wine club members 🙁 Erath did make up for this by offering me a complimentary taste of all of their wines 🙂 I spent the rest of the evening here and walked away with a few bottles:

Erath 2008 Oregon Pinot Gris
Swirl this glass of sunshine and invoke bright fresh aromas of banana and honeydew melon. Savor the tropical fruit, lemon and floral notes that are seamlessly balanced with a clean lift of acidity, enlivening the palate and encouraging a gratifying length of flavors.

Erath 2008 Quail Run Pinot Blanc (Southern Oregon)
Luscious fruit infused aromas of peach, banana and Meyer lemon are intriguingly scented with aromatic lavender. Guava, minted melon and a hint of toasted hazelnut envelope the palate with full and rich abundance, yet the invigorating acidity refreshes and extends the flavors long after the first sip.

Erath 2008 Sweet Harvest Pinot Blanc (Dundee Hills)
Spiced banana and honey scents lead to flavors of peach pie and hints of blood orange.

Another great trip in the books, hope some of you can make it on the wine trip so we can explore these wineries and more!