Category Archives: 2018

Mansion Creek Cellars, Walla Walla Washington

Here’s Tess telling us the story of Mansion Creek Cellars.

Mansion Creek

What’s interesting about Mansion Creek Cellars? Here’s Mama Julia:

Mama Julia

What’s different about Mansion Creek is not just a focus on Spanish styles, but Portuguese as well. When’s the last time you heard of these varietals: Touriga Nacional, Souzão, Tempranillo and Tinta Cão.

Probably never, so go check it out!

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.

Sai Gon Wine

Found this at an honest-to-golly supermarket in Ho Chi Mihn City.

Ruou Sai Gon.  A form of distilled rice wine.

Here’s underground Portland beverage maven Trevor M. using his phone to research this bottle which has almost zero english on it.  He brought up this overview of this category of beverage:

Interesting early translations included “pear” and “sand” and eventually “glutinous rice”.

How does it taste?  I’d say it tastes “OK”.  It clearly has a rice character, and I could easily be convinced that there’s a pear note in there.  I don’t have documentation on what it set me back, but if it was more than $5 I’m sure I’d have remembered.  Is it great? No.  But try to find something this good for under $5 in Oregon or Washington.

Tasting new things from far away places = fun!

Vang Đàlạt Classic White Wine

Vang Đàlạt Classic White Wine

At last I found a locally-produced wine, made right here by the good people in Vietnam!  What?  Wine made in the tropical climate of Vietnam?  Here’s what wikipedia has to say:

The area was first cultivated for viticulture during the French colonial rule of the region in the late 19th century. The region’s tropical climate was ill-suited for the type of Vitis vinifera that the French colonists were used to and the wine industry turned its attention to fruit wineproduction. The late 20th century saw renewed focus on the development of Vitis vinifera with the assistance of flying winemakers from regions like Australia. In 1995, a joint venture with Australian winemakers started an aggressive planting scheme to reintroduce international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnayto land that was until recently littered with landmines left over from the Vietnam War.[1]

As I didn’t have a wine key of any kind along, I bought that barely-functional overly decorative souvenir de-corkifier, because I needed one and I’m a sucker for silly things to begin with.

So, what’s the wine like, Steve? Ok, I’m really a terrible wine taster as I can’t stop eating spicy food.  In fact, I sometimes eat food so spicy that people next to me start sweating.  So it’s no surprise that subtle flavors may escape me.  I think I can detect a little bit of pear and apple, it’s really a perfectly fine uncomplicated light white wine.  Not fabulous, but nothing wrong with it.

Google Translate of the wine description from their web site reads as follows:

With the complete fermentation technology from the bunch of Cardinal grape varieties to ripen to create notes of notes of grapefruit and lemon. Sour taste in harmony with the light aroma of balance. Dalat White Wine – Classic is the perfect choice for enjoying dishes made from seafood, poultry or salad.

These guys are a bit more judgemental, though they were drinking the red (which I haven’t seen yet) and it had to travel in a suitcase to NYC.

What A Sommelier Thinks Of Vang Dalat, The Mighty Table Wine Of Vietnam

Later that night I was relaxing in something like a Vietnamese sports bar, a simple place with cheap food, copious amounts of cheap beer, big TV screens and good people watching.  In another collision with our Western society, the Strongbow Cider brand ambassador girls came by.

More Beer in Saigon

And so, we continue our tour through beer available here in Ho Chi Mihn City.   Here we have Blue Cap from Sapporo (Japan), Tiger Crystal (Vietnam) and Huda (Vietnam).

They’re all pretty much budweiser, which is fine given the heat and humidity here. I did enjoy the Blue Cap a bit more than other versions of Bud, but it’s hard to really properly nerd-test these things while also eating kimchee.  But that’s the way it’s supposed to be drunk anyway, right?

Huda wins the award for the most interesting can.  It comes very close to having not one word of English on it.  Appears to be brewed by Carlsberg Vietnam.

Saturday we took the Apple Dumpling Gang out for Dim Sum, shopping and chocolate.

Me in front of An Dong Market. If you go up to the third floor there’s numerous stalls with good nick-nacks to bring back. It’s far lower key than Ben Thanh Market. Feel free to haggle a little bit to keep your bargaining skills strong.

The House That Chocolate Bars Built:

Maison Marou

Maison Marou makes fine French-style chocolates using beans grown in Vietnam.  One word – YUM.  Stop in and get some drinking chocolate.

Yep.  Tasty, tasty macarons. This plate set me back about $3.50.

Noah settling into a nice dark chocolate high.

Here Trevor takes a break from bugging me to play Minecraft for a quick photo in my hat.

Noah’s youngest.  She’s a cutie!

Ron Pampero Blanco

Went into a new-to-me grocery store here in Ho Chi Mihn City and made some new discoveries, including this: Ron Pampero Blanco from Venezuela.

The label is all in Spanish, which is so refreshing as that’s a non-English language I can actually read!  (So far my Vietnamese hasn’t progressed past “thank you” and “I’m sorry”) The label says this rum has flavors of ripe banana, carmel and vanilla.

Now, I know my tongue is scoured by my daily intake of a quart of  kimchee so I may not be the best person to be tasting subtle flavors.  In my mouth this rum is so light it’s nearly vodka.  Not that it’s bad or anything, made a perfectly good Cuba Libre.

Circle K is big around here, somehow. Also notice the excellent local wiring.

The energy coffee that changes life!

Walking along the river at night.

Cheese!  If you look closely you’ll see the “american style” prepackaged cheese slices are named by their intended use, for those who don’t know how to use cheese, apparently.  Sandwich, Toast and Hamburger.  If you look close you can also see a cheddar labelled “strong and bitey”.


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.


Fighting Rhino Strange Strange Mouth

Clearly Uncle Ho is no more interested in your sobriety than Uncle Sam is.  Earlier today while walking home from the office here in Ho Chi Mihn City I ran across a western-style Supermarket.  Inside, it’s delicious.

Found a selection of local products on the shelves and brought them home.  I mean, I guess they’re local because it’s all in Vietnamese, which I can’t read.

Mekong Royal Rhum

Took me a while to place the flavor.  Finally I realized it’s bubblegum.  A 630ml bottle of this will set you back about $2.50.  Poking about thar intarwubs a bit about this stuff and found this factoid.  So now you know…

Ingredients: Ethanol (31.25%), water (68.45%), synthetic rhino

Ruou De Bach Ma

On this keyboard I’m not going to attempt to punch in all the appropriate appropriate accent marks on the name.  Looking at the selection on the shelf my Bukowski-sense tingling, I figured this was a version of local rice booze.  Sure enough, the aroma of rice is obvious on pouring and the flavor in this example is quite nice.  Slightly sweet, deep and warming.  Well worthy of sipping on it’s own without a mixer.  Note: I did buy the most expensive bottle I saw, $5 vs. the average hooch $1 – $2.  So your hooch milage may vary.

“Rượu đế” appears to be the official designation, and it has an interesting history on Wikipedia.  Read about it here.

Ruou Chanh Rhum

Light, lower in alcohol and with a slight pleasant carmel flavor, at about $1.80 per 500ml, you’ll have plenty of money left over for a stay in rehab. tells us:

Incredibly with how to make lemon rhum wind for the whole house.

Ah, so much better than the kind of wind usually generated inside the house.  Follow this site for more recipies in Vietnamese.  Also for endless amusement with Google translate.  Here’s two examples of other articles:

Uncovering the way to make rhubarb orange cat


Fighting rhino strange strange mouth

…and now some more travel photos.  Traffic here is quite the experience.  Crossing the street is like diving into a swarm of bees.  Yet, somehow I’ve yet to see a single altercation.  Back when I was commuting daily from the Hillsboro area into SE Portland on hwy 26, I generally saw one accident per day, sometimes more.  Here, not so much.


What’s In Your Fridge?

Hello again from Ho Chi Mihn City, while we continue our tour or locally available beverages.  What do we have today?

Zorok Lager Beer - made somewhere in Vietnam… or maybe not.  I can’t read any of the local languages.
Gauden Schwarzbier -  from the Red Rock Brewing Company in Singapore

I’ll keep this simple.  Zorok is another local example of Budweiser.  Given the climate here, that’s pretty much what you want anyway.  The Gauden?  It’s quite good.  An excellent example of a schwarzbier with all that yummy dark beer flavors but not heavy like a stout.

My favorite comment on their facebook page:

Black and loose mineral dynamics (do not have to increase the movement) :)) ♥ ♥ ♥

What more could you want?

Some more photos of street scenes in Ho Chi Mihn City: