Saturday, October 23, 2010

Woodinville Wine Excursion

What was supposed to be a quick afternoon stop for the grand opening of Obelisco Estate's new Woodinville Warehouse District tasting room, quickly turned into a full "excursion" and resulted in some some epic wine tasting! Read on about each of our stops.

Grand Reve Vintners
Although we had tried to hit this tasting room twice before, we either couldn't find them, or they were closed. I'm VERY happy they were open this day, because their excellent wines set the stage for a wonderful day! I'm also happy that I was able to previously order their sold out 2007 Collaboration Series III Syrah. These are amazing wines, built to age for years, and I highly recommend them all. The concept is using the best grapes (Red Mountain, natch), grown by master vineyard manager Ryan Johnson (Ciel du Cheval, Cara Mia, Galitzine, Grand Ciel, etc...) and then having some of the top wine makers in the region craft an individual wine, hence the "Collaboration Series" name. Collaboration Series I is a Bordeaux blend made by Ben Smith of Cadence Winery. Collaboration Series II is a Southern Rhône blend made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery. Collaboration Series III is a Syrah made by Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery. Collaboration Series IV is another Bordeaux blend made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei Winery. Collaboration Series V is a Grenache made by Chris Gorman of Gorman Winery. Collaboration Series VI is another Southern Rhône blend made by James Mantone of Syncline Wines. They also have a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which we didn't get to taste, and are just about to release a delicious new lower cost, tasting room-only wine called "Petrichor", which is a Syrah-Cabernet blend.

  • 2005 Grand Reve Vintners Collaboration Series I Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Rich, full-bodies, amazing fruit, with some nice earthiness in the mid-palate. Sweet fruity finish, with just a touch of oaky vanilla. A very well-balanced, well-made wine. (93 pts.)

  • 2006 Grand Reve Vintners Syrah Collaboration Series III Ciel du Cheval Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Wow. This is the type of Syrah I love! Very structured, with some nice tannins on the finish. Great blackberry fruit, smokey, with some black pepper. (94 pts.)

  • 2006 Grand Reve Vintners Petrichor - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    This is a pre-released Cabernet-Syrah blend, from the "second label" of Grand Reve. “Petrichor” describes the smell that results from rain hitting stone, and comes from “petri”, meaning “rock”, and “ichor”, the ethereal colorless fluid that was said to flow in the veins of Greek gods. An apt name for this elixir. Very rich, with nice structure, and amazing fruit on the attack. Mid-palate is full bodied and full of fruit, with a long sweet finish. (91 pts.)

Obelisco Estate
Obelisco Estate is a relative newcomer to the Washington Wine scene, but no stranger to high-quality winegrapes. In fact, co-owner Doug Long used to own IX Estate Vineyard in Napa Valley, famous for supplying grapes for some of Colgin Cellars' highest scoring wines. The wines produced by Obelisco Estate's Red Mountain vineyard are all amazing, particularly the Electrum Cabernet Sauvignon. The first released vintage from Obelisco Estate was 2007, consisting of a single wine, the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. For 2008 that wine was renamed "Electrum". They will also release a special Reserve-level Cabernet bottling called "Nefer III" in 2011. I can't wait to get my hands on that one!
  • 2008 Obelisco Estate Syrah Tejen Les Gosses Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    First wine in the lineup, paired with mushroom bruschetta. Lots of cherry fruit, licorice, and some pepper. Very young, but there is serious potential here. (90 pts.)

  • 2008 Obelisco Estate Malbec Tejen Obelisco Estate Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Wine #2, paired with Belgian endive salad with stilton cheese, pecans and caramelized pears. Blue fruit, black cherries, with some spices. (89 pts.)

  • 2008 Obelisco Estate Tejen Red Wine Obelisco Estate Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Wine #3, paired with a caprese salad (on a stick). Plums, blackberries, spices, and some vanilla oak. Very structured with some nice, integrated tannins. (91 pts.)

  • 2008 Obelisco Estate Merlot Tejen - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    Wine #4, paired with an apple and onion tart, with gruyere cheese. Lots of cherry fruit, cola, and some vanilla oak. This is Merlot! (91 pts.)

  • 2008 Obelisco Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Electrum Obelisco Estate Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
    The final wine, paired with a beef canape. Amazing wine! Lots of structure, many layers of flavors...blackberry, cherry, vanilla and spices. Finishing with a vanilla coke/blackberry pie mix. Very tasty wine, and a step up from the 2007. (93 pts.)

Gifford Hirlinger
Having visited the Gifford Hirlinger tasting room on many occasions, it remains one of our favorites. Not only for the delicious wines, but also for the fun tasting room manager, Jessica (sister of winemaker Mike Berghan), who always has a great story about the wines we are tasting. This visit was no different, and we had a great time chatting with Jessica, leaving with a bottle of their 2006 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • 2008 Gifford Hirlinger Stateline Red Walla Walla Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    A simple blend, but quite flavorful. Having loved their Merlot and Cabernet, I'm surprised that the whole is less than it's individual parts...although I'm sure the fruit isn't exactly the same. Nice and quaffable, at an amazing QPR. (88 pts.)

  • 2006 Gifford Hirlinger Merlot Estate - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Thinking our last bottle of GH Merlot may have been heat damaged, we locked eyes over our glasses after the first sip, knowing for sure that the last bottle we had was indeed spoiled. THIS was some good stuff! Tobacco, big fruit--blackberry and cherry--with some nice earthiness on the finish. Mike has a deft hand with wood on this wine, and there are no overbearing oak notes. Nice work! (90 pts.)

  • 2006 Gifford Hirlinger Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    This wine just keeps getting better, every time I taste it! Great fruit, solid structure, nice acidity, and some really fine secondary flavors starting to emerge. The fruit is the star of the show here, with blackberries leading the charge. A bit of cassis in there too, with some earth and tobacco filling in, not a lot of oakiness at all, but just a bit of mocha coming in on the finish. (91 pts.)

  • 2008 Gifford Hirlinger Malbec - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    This one edged a bit more towards the blue fruits than the other wines. Very rich, perhaps overly so, but a really nice wine. Not many secondary characteristics at this point, just a lot of fruit. (88 pts.)

Darby Winery
Darby Winery recently moved their tasting room from a nondescript space in the Woodinville Warehouse District to the Hollywood Schoolhouse District. The tasting room is in a new building next to Village Wines, amongst a number of other winery tasting rooms. A much better location, in my mind. Winemaker Darby English has again crafted some great wines, all at very respectable price points. My favorites are again his Syrah-based wines, and we went home with a bottle of The Dark Side Syrah.
  • 2009 Darby le deuce - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    58% Viognier, 42% Roussanne. Definitely not a fan of this one, although maybe in the heat of summer it would work better. Lots of pear fruit, with some ginger ale (minus the carbonation). Well-made, just not my type of wine. (85 pts.)

  • 2009 Darby The Endless Road - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Darby's first Rosé, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Quite nice, with some good dryness, and ample strawberry fruit. Really nice acidity too! (87 pts.)

  • 2008 Darby Purple Haze Columbia Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, from Conner Lee, Sheridan, Stonetree and Boushey vineyards. I really liked this one...Lots of cassis and raspberry fruit, with a long finish of dark chocolate. Some tannins that could use a bit more time to integrate, but other than that, it was an amazing wine (and only $20!) (91 pts.)

  • 2007 Darby CHAOS - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc, 8% Petit Verdot. Not as tasty as the Purple Haze, in my opinion. Almost too tannic, and not giving up much flavor at the moment. Not sure on the barrel regime between the two, but this wine seems like it is built to age much longer, and perhaps needs some more time to integrate. Lots of cherry fruit, but a ripple of greenness throughout that I didn't like so much. (89 pts.)

  • 2007 Darby Syrah The Dark Side Columbia Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Very meaty Syrah! Lots of dark fruit, smoked meat, espresso. Very dark and full-bodied, reminds me a bit of a Betz Syrah, only at 1/2 the price. Good stuff (bought a bottle). (92 pts.)

  • 2008 Darby The Flip Side - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    This is a Grenache-based Rhone blend, barrel sample (I think). The bottle was unlabeled, at any rate. Quite young tasting, with ample tannins, in sort of a Chateauneuf du Pape style. Some mocha/oak, strawberry and cherry fruit. A touch of white pepper. (90 pts.)

  • 2008 Darby Syrah Aunt Lee - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Another barrel sample (I think--unlabeled bottle at least). We had a bottle of the 2007 Aunt Lee, and LOVED it, so it was no wonder we really liked this wine as well. Definitely on the younger side, but already showing some serious legs. Big blackberry and plum fruit, with lots of spices and smoked meat. Just what I love in a Syrah! (93 pts.)

Tasting notes posted from CellarTracker.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Penfolds Tasting Seminar

Penfolds tasting seminar, hosted by Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants in NW Portland, and presented by Penfolds' Assistant Winemaker Steve Lienert and Technical Winemaker Andrew Wright. A great slideshow presentation of Penfolds history, and current winemaking areas, techniques, and the wines themselves. We tasted through 10 red wines from various vintages, including 2 vintages of Grange. A great event, and only $20!

The Bin Wines
The 'budget' end of Penfolds red wine lineup at this tasting, these Bin wines are typically around $20, and named for the concrete "bins" the bottles were stored in while aging. Some of the Bin series (Bin 389, Bin 707, etc) are quite expensive, however, and rival Grange in quality and prestige.

  • 2006 Penfolds Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre - Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Wine #1. Nice nose of blackberry and chocolate. Sweet & spicy fruit with a bitter, dark chocolate finish. (88 pts.)

  • 2006 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 128 - Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
    Wine #2. Black fruit and spices on the nose. Elegant but with ample tannins. Some mint along with the black cherry fruit, and finishing with some spicy cherry. (90 pts.)

  • 1996 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #3. Plummy nose, with big red fruit and lots of pepper. Sweet plum fruit and vanilla, with surprising tannins for a '96. (91 pts.)

  • 2004 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #4. Not much on the nose...very tight, with just a touch of fruit. Lots of tannin, sweet blackberry fruit, oak and vanilla. A bit disjointed to me... (89 pts.)

  • 2006 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28 Kalimna - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #5. Big peppery nose with blackberry and currant. Surprisingly less tannin than the '04. Much sweeter, with a long finish smoky finish. (92 pts.)

St. Henri
The St. Henri wine goes back to the 1950's with Penfolds, and even older vintages before it was purchased by Penfolds. A true Australian relic, known as the 'alter-ego of Grange'.
  • 2006 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #6. Completely different than any of the other wines so far. Elegant nose of black fruit and cassis. Much more refined flavors than Bin 28 and none of the big pepper. Sour cherry flavors ending with some dark chocolate. Somewhat Bordeaux-like (!) in it's complexity. (92 pts.)

RWT - Red Winemaking Trials
Started as an experiment in 1995, and first launched in 2000 with the 1997 vintage. Working from a single region within Barossa Valley, and matured only in French oak, RWT is more muscular and assertive than Grange.
  • 2004 Penfolds Shiraz RWT - Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Wine #7. From magnum. Wow...Spices and sweet black fruits. This is what I like in Shiraz! Still quite tannic and drying, but very smooth and silky too. Blackberry pie comes close, with the sweet fruit and vanilla. Happy I have a bottle in the cellar, but I won't be touching it for at least 5 years. (94 pts.)

  • 2007 Penfolds Shiraz RWT - Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Wine #8. Couldn't be more different from the '04. Huge peppery nose, with some alcohol as well. Very tannic and a lot of pepper on the palate. Huge blackberry fruit, and some black licorice. A bit too over the top at this point. Needs a good 5-8 years in my opinion. (90 pts.)

The iconic Australian wine. And rightly so! Just an amazing line of Shiraz.
  • 2002 Penfolds Grange - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #9. From magnum. 98.5% Shiraz, 1.5% Cab in the blend. Huge nose of black fruit pepper and vanilla. Such an immense wine, and so damn good! Fruit for days...blackberry, sweet with oaky vanilla. Still just a baby, especially from magnum. (98 pts.)

  • 2005 Penfolds Grange - Australia, South Australia
    Wine #10. 96% Shiraz, 4% Cab. Another huge wine! Lots of plum fruit, seemingly from a hotter vintage? 100% new American oak for 18 months. Black pepper, big plum fruit and A LOT of tannins! Vanilla on the finish, but fairly hidden by the chalky tannins. At this stage, I much prefer the 2002. (93 pts.)

Tasting notes posted from CellarTracker

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Walla Walla Wine Tasting - Day 3

Be sure to read about our Day 1 and Day 2 adventures first!

Day 3 started off much like Day 2, except that the boys rolled into town and had breakfast at a delightful little cafe called Someone's In The Kitchen. Good food, great coffee and stellar service! Even still, with the hangovers we were rockin' that morning, a trip to Starbuck's for more coffee was definitely in order. Dave and Des took off for home later that morning, so it was a nice 4 person group to go tasting, this time down south of town where most of the area's vineyards and wineries are located.

First stop was the beautiful Basel Cellars. What a gorgeous winery! It has to be seen to be believed...great wines too! Lisa was still a little hungover, so she didn't taste but Trish, Woody and I enjoyed their entire line. The 2006 Syrah was my favorite, and on sale to boot, so I grabbed 2 bottles. I could have sat in the sun and drank in the gorgeous view all day, but more wineries beckoned! Tasting fee: $5 (waived with my bottle purchase).

Next stop was on JB George Road, at Saviah Cellars. While the wines here I'm usually a big fan of, they only had 5 wines open to taste, and just one Syrah, "The Jack", which was corked! I couldn't believe they were pouring this wine, and that none of the annoying, overweight, drunks tasting there picked up on the flaw. TCA was slight, but quite noticeable all in our group. The 2008 Une Vallée was my favorite in the lineup, but overpriced. Sorry guys, but the experience there was not a good one for us. Tasting fee: $0.

Right next door to Saviah Cellars is Waters Winery and Gramercy Cellars. Another beautiful winery, and we spent much longer here than we had originally planned, just because it was so cool to hang out there. They excel in Syrah at Waters, and of the 4 on offer (Columbia Valley, Loess, Forgotten Hills, and Pepper Bridge), my favorite was the Forgotten Hills. Amazingly funky and barnyard-y, the wine was delicious! Unfortunately, the 21 Grams red wine that is a high-end project by Waters and Gramercy together, was not being tasted. Tasting fee: $5.

Sharing the same facility is Gramercy Cellars, which requires a tasting appointment (we didn't have one). However, we were lucky enough to catch Matt, who was running the tastings, after a group left (one of the group members had THE WORST comb-over I've ever seen, starting from his neckline and going up over the top of his head. Truly amazing...), and Matt gave us a tasting appt. for a couple hours later.

We motored on, in search of Northstar Winery, and their much-lauded Merlot. I think they were having a wine club event or something, because the place was packed. Very cool tasting bar too. Anyway, the wines were all good, but nothing really stood out for me. The Merlot's were both tasting great, but a bit too high in price for me at that point. Tasting fee: $10.

Back to Gramercy Cellars for our tasting. Gramercy is another new winery in the area that is making a big splash, and rightly so. I had previously tasted their wines, and met winemaker/founder Greg Harrington, at Storyteller Wine Company in Portland, so I was no stranger, but wow, all of the wines blew me away. We tasted the new releases: 2008 Syrah, 2008 "Third Man" Grenache blend, 2008 "Inigo Montoya" (as in, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") Tempranillo, and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I loved the Cab best, but since I already had a bottle (thanks Trish!), I picked up the Third Man. Regrettably, the John Lewis Reserve Syrah was not yet released. Tasting fee: $0.

Our next stop was Trust Cellars, over on Merlot Dr. Nice little tasting room, with an sweet view of the Blue Mtns. And of course, great wines! My favorite was the 2008 Walla Walla Valley Syrah, and I brought home a bottle. Tasting fee: $0.

About this time, I got a call from Gramercy Cellars, advising me that I had left my debit card there (oops!) so we decided to head back, but not before making a final winery stop at Va Piano Vineyards. While the winery was pretty cool, there was a fly infestation that was annoying, and the wines while good, were probably not tasting so well for us, after trying so many prior. At any rate, I wasn't very impressed and didn't have any money anyway, since my debit card was over at Gramercy. So we tasted through quickly, and left. Tasting fee: $0.

Back to camp to freshen up, and the out to dinner at T. Maccarone's for an excellent meal and killer bottle of Adamant Cellars Syrah ($28), and then to the Green Lantern Tavern, known locally as "The Green", or just "Green". Best bar in Walla Walla. Lisa schooled some guys at pool while the rest of us looked on, and enjoyed our drinks. We tried to go back to Sapolil Cellars for Syrah and live music, but they were closed, so we called it a night.

Headed home the following afternoon, after one hell of a chilly night camping. We broke camp, loaded up the Disco and rolled west, stopping at Reininger Winery again, to taste through their line up and buy some more Rosé. The drive home was long but interesting, what with all the wind turbines and the river, but long it was. We're planning to head back for Holiday Barrel Tasting the first weekend in December. Should be a great time!

Walla Walla Wine Tasting - Day 2

Read about our Day 1 adventures in this post.

Day 2 started off early, with everyone hitting up the showers and jokes about "fire in the hole!". We set out in Woody's Rover Disco, with me in the far back manning the iPhone Charging Station (AC inverter and powerstrip), since everyone had an iPhone, and maps/GPS. Since we had a couple tasting appointments (1:00 at Long Shadows, 2:30 at Rasa Vineyards), we decided to head way out west, and start at Woodward Canyon, one of the oldest wineries in the area. Woodward Canyon is located on Highway 12, out in the tiny (TINY!) town of Lowden, and has some delicious wines. No detailed tasting notes here, but the Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing, and my wine of the flight. Tasting fee: $5.

Woodward Canyon is is conveniently right next door to L'Ecole No. 41 Winery, which we made our second stop of the day. If you go, be sure to "ring the bell" before you walk into the winery. You'll know what I'm talking about when you arrive. This winery was packed, with people standing 3 deep at the tasting bar. Huge wine list too, with Columbia Valley and local Walla Walla Valley options. I loved their Syrahs, as well as the Apogee/Perigee Bordeaux blends. As a bonus, we were able to taste some older vintage (2002) bottles of these two tasty wines, and what a difference age makes! While they had the 2002's available for sale, they were a bit above my price range, and I ended up taking a bottle of their 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah home, for $24. Tasting fee: $5 (waived with my bottle purchase).

We were able to fit in a third winery before our 1:00 tasting appt. with Long Shadows, and Reininger Winery fit the bill nicely. Great tasting room, that would be excellent for a big party (hint-hint), and delightful tasting room staff. They took very good care of us, and had plenty of knowledge about the wines. I think everyone's favorite wine was their 2009 Helix Rosé. I really loved the Ash Hollow Vineyard Syrah, because of it's funkified nose. Really dirty and earthy...yum! We lingered here a bit too long, and had to beat feet to get out to Long Shadows in time. Tasting fee: $5.

Long Shadows Wineries is off all by itself, up Frenchtown Road off Hwy 12, in the midst of rolling grain fields. The winery is of ultra-modern design, and situated such that when viewing outside from within, the sense of being in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around is incredible. Inside, it is very modern and luxurious, with a tasting 'host' and viewing windows down into the working part of the winery. You can tell they spared no expense when creating the winery! We were fortunate enough to chat with Bonny, who schedules the tasting appointments, and handles most (all?) of the sales and such at the winery. The wines here are all delicious, from the Riesling to the blends, and Syrah. Each wine is made by a different well-known winemaker, most from outside the US. Resident winemaker Gilles Nicault, who makes their Chester-Kidder wine, also takes care of the wines when the others are not in residence. My two favorites were the Pedestal Merlot, by Frenchman Michel Rolland, and Sequel Syrah, by Australian John Duval. Both were tasting perfectly that day, and I ended up splurging and took home a bottle of 2007 Sequel. Tasting fee: $10 (waived with my bottle purchase).

Our fifth stop was also our second 'scheduled' appointment, with relative newcomers, Rasa Vineyards, owned by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane. Their winery, previously the Artifex crush facility, is now the Hence Vineyards winery out on Powerline Rd. A beautiful winery, with river rock walls and a "lodge" feel to it! Rasa is only just preparing to release their second vintage (2008), and are already making a huge splash in the Washington wine scene. Their wines are all amazing! Had I the cash, I would have bought a case, at least, of each wine! The tasting lineup consisted of 2 vintages of their QED Rhone blend, Vox Populi Mourvedre, The Composer Riesling, Principia Reserve Syrah (my favorite), and two new wines from their second label, PB Wines. Released at a much lower price point than the regular line, the PB line is going to be a winner. They have a Red Mountain Syrah, and a Red blend as well, for just $29. Comparatively, the QED retails for $50, and the Principia $85. This was by far my favorite experience that day. Pinto and Billo were excellent hosts, and had a great story behind every wine. I could have spent all day just talking to them about wine and their philosophy behind it, let alone sampling their delicious wines! Almost everyone bought at least a bottle here, with me taking a Principia, QED and a couple bottles each of the PB Wines line. We're trying to get the brothers to come out for some tastings in Portland, so stay tuned! Tasting fee: $0.

After spending the rest of the afternoon at Rasa, we ended up back in downtown Walla Walla, attempting to hit Happy Hour at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. But guess what? No Happy Hour. See ya!

Next stop, Sleight of Hand Cellars tasting room. I love the wines here, and winemaker Trey Busch is super cool. We were picking out records (yes, actual LP records!) to play and having a great time chatting with Trey. He was unfortunately sold out of my favorite wine, the 2007 Levitation Syrah, but was gracious enough to pull out a yet-to-be-released 2008 Levitation for us to sample! Awesome wine, and one that I will be purchasing when it is finally available! Thanks Trey! Tasting Fee: $0.

About this time, we were starting to get hungry, and looking at food options. I happened to wander off, and stumbled upon the DaMa Wines tasting room on Main St, just down from Sapolil. Mel, the tasting room host, was awesome, and she had us all laughing hard from the start. The wines were great, with my favorite being the Syrah. I didn't make a purchase here (others did), but I probably should have! Tasting fee: $0.

Finally, dinnertime! We hit up Sweet Basil Pizzaria for some excellent pie and (you guessed it) more wine! Nothing ever tasted so good as that pizza...

We ended the night back at Sapolil Cellars Tasting Room, with more of that yummy Syrah and live music (different band), before crashing out back at camp.

Read about our adventures on Day 3 in this post.

Walla Walla Wine Tasting - Day 1

Some friends and I planned a nice weekend in Walla Walla for some wine tasting. Dave, Woody, Trish, Lisa and myself all took off early on a Friday and headed east. After making the 4 hour trek up the Columbia River, we secured a couple tent sites at Blue Valley RV Park, on the north side of town (camping in the city, yo). Thus began the fun!

Our first order of the day (Friday night, really) was to go for a tour through downtown and get the lay of the land. Right off the bat, we keyed in on Red Monkey, if only for the funny name. Dinnertime! Great burgers and drinks, but as it turns out, this is a restaurant...and nightclub! Hmm. We finished up right at the transition between the two, and once the lame hiphop beats started hitting, we knew it was time to move on.

Our next stop was Mill Creek Brewpub for $3.33 margaritas! Yes, they were sickly-sweet with cheap mix and cheaper tequila, but...$3.33! Couldn't pass that up! As a bonus, friend Des finally showed up, having left PDX much later than the rest of us, and made the trip out alone.

The last stop of the night was the Sapolil Cellars Tasting Room for some live music and a glass of their excellent Patina Vineyard Syrah, and "Gandy Dancer", a blend of Syrah, Sangiovese and Malbec. Great little place, with a fun, diverse crowd. Located next door to the Cayuse Vineyards tasting room (which is almost never open).

The town pretty-much rolls up the sidewalks, along with everything else, around midnight, so we headed back to the campground to rack out and make an early start on our wine tasting excursion. My Day 2 and Day 3 posts cover the majority of our wine tastings. Read on!