pinot noir

Anam Cara Cellars wine tasting

Anam Cara Cellars wine tasting 975 500 celo4life

On September 16th, I had the pleasure of going to Greenlake Wines & Wine Bar (@grlakewine) for their Thursday wine tasting which featured Anam Cara Cellars. I wasn’t too familiar with Anam Cara Cellars, but I was looking forward to trying their wines. When I arrived at the tasting, I was really impressed by the grape presentation around the table. They brought various wine grapes that are planted in their vineyard  which either had actual names or were designated by numbers. Each had their distinct flavors and characteristics so it was very nice to learn about them.

The tasting featured a selection of four wines from Anam Cara Cellars. For convenience, I have included links to the full tasting notes for all of the wines I tried that night.

Anam Cara Cellars 2008 Estate Riesling

“From our one-acre block of Riesling, this lovely, off-dry wine is immediately reminiscent of bright, golden delicious apples, ripe pears and cantaloupe melon on the palate. Aromas of Meyer lemon, honeysuckle and fresh peaches with quince.

There’s an elegant creaminess in the texture and the fresh acidity inherent in each of our Rieslings creates a fresh, lovely, balanced and softly crisp wine. Wonderful chilled and paired with Fusion cuisine, sushi, fresh crab or fried calamari.”

This is a very pleasant wine to drink. It has a touch of sweetness, but not much. It also has a very nice apple flavor to it, among other fruits mentioned in the tasting notes. I really like this wine and found it very enjoyable. Just like the tasting notes suggest, this will go well with seafood.

Anam Cara Cellars 2007 Nicholas Estates Pinot Noir

“Plum, raspberries and dusty rose petals on the nose blend with pomegranate, tea and toasty spices on the palate. All framed by the vineyard’s signature minerality, silky texture and rich yet soft tannins. The nicely rounded mid-palate rolls lingeringly into the sustained finish.

Continuous attention to the vineyard throughout the growing season and great winemaking has resulted in one of the most elegant Pinot Noirs produced to date from our vineyard.”

The nose on this wine had a lot of earthiness to it, which I like. As I tasted the wine, I found it to have a light taste with a slightly creamy finish. This is a very easy drinking wine and one I would definitely suggest. You can definitely hold onto this wine for a few years if you’re collecting, or you can drink it now.

Anam Cara Cellars 2007 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

“As we learn our vineyard, we have identified sections and rows with Reserve potential. This wine was blended from selected barrels and individual rows bearing only 1.5 tons of grapes to the acre.

Well-received by chefs who recognize the wine’s versatility and ability to enhance rather than overwhelm a dish, this wine’s evolution in the glass is remarkable. Wonderfully delicate, yet layered with flavors and aromas, tones of wild blackberries, plums, red cherries combine with earthy notes of cocoa and dusty sandalwood.”

This was my cellar purchase of the night! The nose was quite surprising to me. It has the usual earthiness you’ll find on pinot noir wines, but this one also has a floral characteristic. As I drank the wine, the first thing I noticed was the spice on the wine. This was a great addition to the overall balance on the wine. If you like your wine to have a lil spice/smokiness to it, then this is a clear winner.

Anam Cara Cellars 2008 Nicholas Estates Gewürztraminer

“From only one acre of Gewürztraminer vines planted on the steepest slope of our vineyard, and next to our single acre of Riesling.

This “ice wine” has opulent aromas of apricot, white flowers and bosc pears which join ripe cantaloupe, warm juicy peaches and tropical fruits on the palate.

The grapes for this wine were commercially frozen in their original Harvest bins for 10 days before delivering to the winery for a slow, gentle crush.

This is a sweet wine, but because of the natural acidity it is fresh and clear with a full, creamy mouthfeel and lingering finish.
Delicious with seasonal desserts such as apple pie, pears, peach cobbler and persimmon pudding.”

This wine has a nice citrus nose to it and was fairly pleasant to drink for a dessert wine. It did come off a little heavy for my liking, but not so much where you can’t enjoy it on its own. My suggestion would be to enjoy this with your favorite dessert.

Overall, Anam Cara Cellars has some great wines and I highly recommend you check them out during the holiday weekends (when most Oregon wineries are open to the public) if you’re around the Portland area. For more information on Anam Cara Cellars, please visit their website:

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!