Category Archives: good

The Good Stuff

Lyle Wine Weekend 2017

Here’s the deal – Lyle, Washington, lovely place.  They got the local wineries together for a group event.  One $15 fee, you get a glass and a welcoming smile everywhere you go: http://www.wineriesoflyle.com/

Is the Columbia Gorge lovely?  Yes, yes indeed it is:

What mysteries await us?  Let’s just see…

Syncline.  An old favorite of ours.

See back there?  They’ve expanded their garden / picnic space.  Lovely, lovely place to visit.



Cor Cellars.  They have built a beautiful tasting room.  Spacious, airy, comfortable.  We like to focus  on what people are doing *right* vs. what people are doing wrong.  Some years ago we had a poor experience at Cor, this is the first time we’ve been back.  The location is absolutely lovely, but the people there aren’t doing more than  pouring juice in a glass.  Sorry gang, you’ve got some work to do on the experience.


Voted as Most Improved:
Domaine Pouillon

Our first visit some years ago was quite lovely.  Down by the barn, with all the wine making machinery, a giant wheel of cheese, goats, chickens…. very informal.  Like hanging out with the family. Lovely.  We really enjoyed it.

On our second visit, they’d built an official tasting room up the hill.  The experience was cold, like visiting a museum gift shop. We didn’t want to go back.

This visit, however, was a pleasant switcheroo.  What was different?  We think two things.  The physically layout of the room was more welcoming.  By having the tasting bar to the right on the way in seems to open up the room in a way that wasn’t true before.  Also, Joyce believes the people behind the wine were behind the bar, and showed a lot more heart.  It’s more than just a job, eh?



Memaloose.  Man, they have a lovely view of the Gorge.  Their wine was fine.  Go check it out.



And the big winner for the weekend is:
Tetrahedron

Here’s Darren Michaels holding court in his tasting room in Lyle.  Why was Tetrahedron the best experience of the weekend?  Why is it the only place we bought a bottle to take with?  I’ll tell you:  Enthusiasm.  These people are excited by what they’re doing.

Oh, and we got to talk about Dungeons and Dragons.  That’s always fun for Steve.

Lovely hand painted bottles.  You know you need a couple of these for your gift-giving needs:

Instead of nothing, or a bowl of Costco crackers, Tetrahedron stepped up and showed the other wineries how it’s done.  That’s right.  Six wines to sample, and six snack-o-miendos to pair with each one.  But not just any snack – well picked to compliment the flavors of the wine.  Note: only two of the other wineries on this weekend’s even bothered to have Costco crackers.  Tetrahedron went above and beyond.    If you’re only going to stop in one tasting room in Lyle, this is the one.

Now, if you’re a regular reader, you know that this blog is about the experience of visiting and not so much about the actual wines.  Why?  Well, we are blessed in that almost every place you visit has good wine, so for our blog we concentrate on the experience and how it affects our ultimate purchasing decisions.

In this case, on top of the tasting room experience, Tetrahedron threw us for a loop with their wine.  Not only did Joyce enjoy their white wines, she even bought a bottle of white wine for later.  That never happens.  Joyce is not interested in white wines.  It’s not that white wines are bad, it’s just that they are mostly boring on the tongue. Tetrahedron’s whites are built with a more herbaceous quality.  We aren’t going to go into flavor detail here, like the old “notes of tobacco and broken dreams over BBQ and the souls of forgotten swamp children’s coffee” kinds of things you might hear elsewhere.  Probably the closest thing I can compare their three whites is to a cocktail of a regular white wine plus a bit of a European liquor.

Result?  Yummy!  Go get some for yourself.  You know you want to!

…and now some bonus shots of our heroes in action:

 

 

 

Heritage Distilling

When in Gig Harbor, WA why not stop in and visit Heritage Distilling?

It’s a lovely place, this Gig Harbor:

water

If you look close, you’ll see a giant monster volcano decorating the sky and waiting to turn us snotty northwest types into volcanic ash or disaster refugees…

water

Should you need to settle your nerves, here’s Kelton, your friendly tasting room guide.

awesome

Then there’s this guy:

Welcome to the Pacific NorthWest.  We do things maybe a little different. In this case, you can get a growler of booze.  A GROWLER OF BOOZE.  Up here in the Portland area, growler stations for filling bottles to-go has gotten quite popular for our fine craft brews.  This is the first time I’ve seen it for spirits.

Joyce is fond of the brown spirits, so here’s a close-up of our tasting.  Overall we rate their offering as “dang fine” though it’s clear their offering will improve as they have more time to age their product.  They sell a wide variety of flavored vodkas.  We’re not fond of those – what’s the point of something that tastes like nothing, except this bit tastes like blueberries?  Whoop-de-do, can I just have some blueberries?  However, from a business perspective a distillery has to sell something today while they wait for their aged product to be ready for market.  The way to enjoy vodka is to go here: http://kachkapdx.com/

Anyhoo – their gin products are also worthy of attention.  Check out their “soft gin”.  You heard it here first!

yes

I generally like to post positive product reviews, but sometimes I’m forced to warn the reader.  In this case, their Brown Sugar Bourbon – http://heritagedistilling.com/product-tag/bsb-brown-sugar-bourbon/ is something they are pushing on customers.  I’ve even seen TV commercials for it.

Ok, maybe you’ll like it, in which case please enjoy.  However, if you’re interested in one spirit over another, you can save yourself the time and money by just buying a bunch of this: http://www.quakeroats.com/products/hot-cereals/instant-oatmeal/maple-and-brown-sugar.aspx cuz, that’s what it tastes like.  And if you include it in your tasting flight, don’t drink it last because the cloying sweet maple flavor will follow you for a long time.

Also, be sure to double-check your receipt before making your way out.  They charged us incorrectly and we didn’t notice until later.  I’m sure they would have fixed it had we been willing to drag my malfunctioning hip back to their location to discuss.

Shafer Vineyard Cellars

Well the photo on their web site is so much better than our attempts you’ll just have to go look at it here: http://www.shafervineyards.com/

Just west of Forest Grove Shafer Vineyards is worth the trip just for the view itself. Something we noticed right away is they’ve been doing the do since 1978 and you can see it in the size of the vines they’ve got growing out of the ground there.

…and they are friendly. Here’s myself and Ryan, our man behind the bottles:

Shafer puts an unusual twist on the winery tasting room experience by also having an extensive collection of Christmas decorations available for sale … nearly every possible item the mind can conceive is available as a Christmas tree ornament, including St. Louis. You might as, “why, god, why?” And I would have to agree with you. However, there it is. Once you’ve figured out how to stay away from the Christmas stuff, you’ll find they have some very nice picnic tables just begging you to stay awhile and enjoy yourself, and I think you should!

The big winner in today’s wine lineup is clear, and it’s a white! (Frequent readers will know we’re more tickled by phat reds generally) Their 2014 Müller-Thurgau has an unusual and very pleasant flavor. Well, we like it at least, and maybe you will too.

wine

Oysters and Saké One

Hey kids! Join the club, you know you want to! Joyce joined the club at Saké One and as a result we were there today and this happened:

oysters

Take a look at the menu.  “Stinging Nettle Oil” – ok, who the heck thinks up these things?  Truth or Bullshit?  Our server told us this story: “They make it themselves.  You have to be really careful as the stems are poisonous.”  This much I know is true – that oyster was the best of the six very fine oysters.

Here’s Joyce making the face of sadness:

Hats off to Saké One for a stunning lineup of shellfish!  We enjoyed the saké as well.  My personal fav:  http://sakeone.com/g-sake  Has a particular taste and mouthfeel, honestly demands more study on my part.

Heater Allen

The stars finally aligned and we able to darken the towels at Heater Allen Brewing in McMinville.
beer

The crowd pleasing brews today: Yeti Topper and Schwartzbier. Yes, the Yeti Topper is a takeoff on the Heady Topper from Alchemist in Vermont. My friends and relations who’ve spent time in Vermont treasure this above all other beers.  I’m not trying to cause a fight with them.  I have not lived through a Vermont winter, so what do I know?  What I *do* know is the Yeti Topper is yummy.  Go have one!

Heater Allen

Here’s brewer Lisa Allen allowing us to handle her prized Octoberfest mugs and generally act silly for the camera.  It’s a family affair there.  The name comes from Lisa’s mom’s maiden name + Lisa’s dad’s maiden name.  Clever!

Good beer and a friendly informal vibe in their tasting room.  Be sure to stop by if you’re in McMinville!

Now, the real reason why we were out there:

wine barrel

That’s right.  Joyce bought a wine barrel from the good people at Remy Wines, right next door to Heater Allen.

Sadly, the wine was not included.

Brunch at Beast

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Beast.  It’s a place to eat in Portland, OR.  Three seconds on them intarwubs you’ve heard so much about will tell you more than I could possibly share.  We just did their brunch.  Anything good you’ve read about them, seems likely to be true.

Steve

I am now spoiled.  Breakfast will never be the same again.  Yeah, their brunch will hit the spot.

chow

No, we won’t torment you with too much food p0rn.  Just imagine what you had for breakfast today, only it was basically perfect, and you didn’t have to do any of the work.  And yes, apparently we are they only people in Portland over the age of 30 who were able to afford to eat breakfast here.

There are words on this menu I hadn’t seen before in the wild.

Basically, the place is pretty much perfect.  If I could improve on two things that would be:

  1. Portland Loud Restaurant Syndrome.  I don’t spend enough time dining out in other cities to know if this disease has spread beyond our fine city, but why can’t we carry on conversation without having to lean in close to hear what each other is saying?
  2. This might be splitting the hairs too fine, but the perfect brunch is not just about great company and delicious food, but also a luxurious experience, which includes a luxurious use of time.  Don’t get me wrong – the team there did a lovely job and I’m looking forward to a future visit.  It’s hard to find something for them to improve on, but my request would be to work on the perception of the luxurious use of time.  There’s a bit of a feeling of being on a schedule.  The music and noise is a touch frantic… perhaps?

Maryhill Wine Pickup

So, kittens.  The Maryhill wine club pickup had turned into a circus.  Jam-packed with people and really not as much fun as it oughter be.  In fact, if you’re like me (and I know I am) you’d think twice about jamming yourself through that grinder again to pick up wine.

The smart people at Maryhill have clearly picked up on the issue and they’ve made some changes.  As of this last pickup club members pick a time and get a short tour of the winery, including snacks (we love snacks) and a barrel tasting.

A bit chilly out, but the Gorge and Joyce are both still quite lovely:

Maryhill

Remember kids, if you’re thinking of crawling in here, ask your parents first.

The lab, mysterious substances waiting…

Here’s some secret winery stuff.  They are equating the sections of the cellar to positions on a pirate ship.  No, I did not ask why.

Joyce shows us some moves.

…and here we are!

2017 Truffle Shuffle – Brittan and Winderlea

The next stop on the 2017 Truffle Shuffle was at the combined tasting room of Brittan Yineyards and Winderlea Yineyard and Winery

foo

The interior is a bit ultramodern for our tastes, but was full of happy people having a good time. They probably wouldn’t want to hear this, but the most memorable part of this stop was the truffle cheese and truffle salami they were serving. The staff was too busy for us to find out where they found these fine items, but I can assure you, these truffle-y wonder nuggets were salty taste nuggets of joy!

2017 Truffle Shuffle – Dominio IV

And it’s Dominio IV for the Truffle Shuffle win!

it says LOVE

In truth, there were no losers on the Truffle Shuffle path through McMinville, but Dominio hit it on all cylinders.  Delicious red wines, attractive space, friendly staff and excellent truffle snacks, as you’ll see below!

Dominio IV’s wines are also biodynamic, which in our opinion is even *better* than organic.  Why?  In short, organic strives to grow food without the use of chemical additives, etc, and of course we believe that is good.  Biodynamic takes that a step further … in short a system in balance manages pests, soil fertility, etc without much additives of any kind.

For additional fun, check out our visit to El Toledo, biodynamic coffee farm in Costa Rica.   They were once a “traditional” coffee farm until the pesticides nearly killed the owner.  Long story short, they’ve developed a biodynamic farm that today is more like a native forest that happens to have a lot of coffee plants.

 

The walls are adorned by art from the winemaker which attempts to show visually what happens on your palette as their wines cross your tongue.  Fun and unique!

dommy

 

 

 

Our lovely and helpful hosts today were LJ on the left and Nicci on the right.  LJ was pouring and Nicci chef’d on up the delightful truffle snacks!  The best combo of the day!

 

yum

We found the site of these barrels stacked by the giant agricultural building quite visually attractive.

Joyce prefers this photo to the one above, which I prefer, so you get to see both.

…and after all the beauty, here’s a bland industrial photo, just to even things out.