Category Archives: good

The Good Stuff

Basel Cellars – Walla Walla, WA

After visiting the Figgins vineyard, our rag-tag caravan hoofed it into Basel Cellars.

As you can see, they have a stunning building.  They also had a fabulous spread of snacks out, that we fell upon like a plague of locusts.  In fact, the food was so good I don’t remember a dang thing about the wine.

They’ve got a lot of room, bring a few dozen friends!

They also have a sense of humor, as you can see below, as found above the john:

Figgins / Leonetti – Walla Walla, WA

Man, that Figgins Family knows how to keep busy.

We were part of a caravan of forlorn business people from the rainy side of the Cascades looking for a day free from conference calls, meetings and emails at least for one day. Yes, we were tourists in Walla Walla, WA.

First stop, the vineyard for Figgins Wine. There we were met by winemaker Chris Figgins, a gentle soul who introduced us to his family’s story, starting with an Italian immigrant Grandfather making wine in his dirt-floor basement, then his father starting Leonetti Cellar, and now his own efforts.

Chris laid down some interesting infos on us, things I had not personally known. The soil of the rolling hills of the Walla Walla area – turns out it’s wind-blown silt from the ice-age Missoula Floods, making for a uniquely consistent soil for agriculture. Also, the area has no Phylloxera, meaning they don’t have to graft the grape they want on Phylloxera-resistant rootstock, it’s all the same grape from top to bottom.

Chris spoke at length about the work they put into choosing the site and planning out each block with altitude, climate and solar exposure in mind.  Rainfall increases as you get closer to the Blue Mountains.  Chris tells us they get 22 inches or rain, just at the point where they have to do a small amount of irrigation, giving them control over how much water their fruit gets.

And of course, it’s a beautiful location.

So here’s your wine marketing challenge: get to the point where you only sell wine to people on your current customer list.  Want the wine?  Want to taste it?  Want to see a bottle of it?  Don’t go to Fred Meyer.  They don’t have a tasting room either.

So, I’m not going to tell you anything further about their wine. You’ll have to get on the list.

BiaCraft Artisan Ales, Ho Chi Mihn City

“But this is a wine blog!” you may say.  But it’s not really.  It’s a beverage blog… but it’s more than that.  It’s an experience blog.  Sure, once and a while you’ll get a beverage that’s authentically bad-tasting, but mostly “taste” is what you like, and that’s subjective.   We like to write about what it’s like and sometimes what it means.

BiaCraft Artisan Ales

Friendly staff, when I stepped out of the cab in a downpour I was greeted by a smiling young lady with a very large umbrella.

They seem to have turned to South Park for inspiration on anything with a name here.

  • Itty Bitty Chicken Titties = grilled chicken breast
  • Don’t F*ck With Me Pale Ale (they sold out of this)
  • No Cookie No Nookie Oreo Cream Stout
  • F*cking Liar India Summer Ale (medium body, some hints of spices, refreshing)
  • The Jonah Falcondog Foursome = meter long hot dog “done four ways” (whatever that means)

I managed to order the least healty meal I’ve had not only in Vietnam, but the least healthy thing I’ve eaten in months.  Grilled sausage and french fries.  The french fries were pretty damn good, especially for a country that has no business growing potatos.  My “Beef Injection Sausage” (300g southern spiced link, says the menu) came quite pink in the middle still, which is not generally how you want sausage, so using Google Translate I sent it back.  The waitron came back from the kitchen and told me the Chef thought it was cooked correctly, but they could cook it a few more minutes for me.  When it returned, as far as I could tell it hadn’t been heated by anything more serious than the cook’s explitives about damn customers and I decided to give up and eat it.  This place servers lots of westerners and seems to have a good rep.

If I die, tell my wife I love her.

This place is known for it’s wide selection of local craft brews, of which there are a surprisingly large selection.  If you’re missing the USA they even have beer from (one of my former clients) Rogue Ales and Anderson Valley.  Also, fine brews from France, Australia, Japan and a couple other far-away places.

The BiaCraft brews are light compared to what we drink back in the Pacific Northwest, but pretty much every beer is light compared to what we drink in the land where hops are grown.  That said, this Wildberry Wheat could duke it out with any craft beer anywhere for flavor and quality.

After so many decades of war (kicked out the French, kicked out the yanks, then fought off the Cambodians and the Chinese) and it’s clear they are very hungry to join the modern world.  I get the sense that they are looking at Singapore, Japan, etc and thinking we want what you have!

Ask your server for more information.  Or Don’t.  Whatever.


Cathedral Ridge

Cathedral Ridge tasting room in Dundee was another pleasant visit.  It’s right next to Hawkins Cellars and they share that fine patio.  It’s a comfy place, our tasting room associate was cheerful and knowledgeable and we liked their wines.  “Big bold reds from the Columba Gorge.”

Cathedral Ridge

Hey kids!  Right next to Hawkins Cellars in Dundee, this place is going to shower you with an impressive and/or incomprehensible number of choices.  No.  You aren’t going to sample 48 wines, but perhaps you could if you had good spitting practice and could sleep over.

So pick five.

Hawkins Cellars

Hawkins Cellars tasting room, more wine from our fine Columbia Gorge, right next to Cathedral Ridge tasting room in Dundee.

Hawkins Cellars

Notice the fine tapas plate they had available anyone needing a snack

What a lovely patio for a picnic.  Let me tells yas, Dundee is not much to look at during (what HST would call) this our Foul Year of our Lord 2018.  It looks like a bunch of accidents and abandoned half-born dreams between convenience stores and scruffy parking lots.

Sure, you may object to that and there are clear exceptions like Argyle and of course, Lumpy’s, and I think we can be certain that the town will be very different in 10 – 20 years, but for now Dundee presents itself as a place that feels like it’s run by a city council with a mutual death-grip around the necks of elderly land-owners and they’re all going down together rather than let change happen.

So, what a pleasant surprise to find this lovely oasis right on the main drag.   Heck, you might even be convinced to enjoy a lovely afternoon hour or two right here instead of bopping over the speedbump of Dundee on your way to somewhere else.

Why look, they even have a sense of humor – the koi pond is inhabited by a fine plastic lizard.

Zerba Cellars Tasting Room

Zerba Cellars is located in Milton-Freewater, out in the Walla Walla Valley.  Very conveniently they also have this tasting room right on the main drag in Dundee.

They make all their wine in Milton-Freewater with Walla Walla fruit, so that means if you’ll  looking to step away from Willamette Valley pinot noir, here’s a good place to stop.

They’re also very friendly.


Dominio IV Tasting Room

Dominio IV has moved their tasting room from the winery which is in the city of McMinville out into the country near Carlton.  They’ve got a lot more room here in this lovely renovated farmhouse.

It’s a great place for a picnic, as you can see:

Dominio IV turbos up their location and bottle labels with things like poems and even a visual graph of how the flavors of the wine move across your palette. Fun and unique!

Dominio IV

Dominio VI
Here’s our favorite tasting room associate of the day.  Every see someone so good at their job that they might as well be telepathic, as she always seemed to be right there with what we wanted right when we were thinking we might want it, always one step ahead.  Like magic!

Good wine, friendly people, beautiful location. We’ll be back.

Dominio IV was also our choice for the 2017 Truffle Shuffle.