A Fabulous Day in Central WA after WBC10

After the Wine Blogger Conference (WBC10) in Walla Walla, Dave and I took Melanie (Dallas Wine Chick) and her husband, John on an adventure through Central Washington wine country –  Prosser, Red Mountain and Yakima.

First, we said farewell to our new friends, Amber and Greg, at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, and then headed down the road to see our dear friend Ali at Alexandria Nicole Cellars. (Unfortunately winemaker extraordinaire, Jarrod Boyle, was out of town, so we didn’t get to see our pal “Mr. Big” too.)

07quarrybutte-250As ANC wine club members, we were ushered to the special secret room in the back, where we sampled their current excellent tasting list and found some new favorites including 2007 Jet Black Syrah, 2009 Rousanne and A2 Pinot Gris. We also had so much fun introducing Mel and John to our long-time faves, Quarry Butte, Cabernet and Viognier, and then enjoying some awesome library wines from ANC’s state-of-the-art enomatics system.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars produces 21 varietals, and we could have stayed there all day! But we had a lunch date at Tuscany with some new Twitter friends, Coop (Cooper Wine Company), Scott (Wino4Ever), Sara (Sara Nelson Design) and Kevin (KevinCole 509). We first met Coop and Scott a few days earlier at the Wine Blogger Conference, but we had never met Kevin and Sara. Suffice it to say that these friendships have been cemented and the food at Tuscany was absolutely delicious. We will be back.

CooperIn addition, we were fortunate to taste Coop’s 2008 Pinot Gris, which was perfect for a hot, sunny day. Cooper Wine Company will host its Red Mountain Grand Opening on Sept. 11, and believe me, it will be well worth the trip. Cooper Wine Company is a small, family-run operation that is all about Bordeaux-style reds. And regular readers of this blog know that Bordeaux reds are my #1 choice of wines to drink. So you won’t be surprised that I’m already a fan of Cooper Wine.

Not only does Coop make great wines but also, he is a kindred soul. We talked throughout the day about a number of things, and discovered that we have similar attitudes about many wine-related topics. Hopefully we’ll remain friends even if Dave decides to borrow Coop’s wonderful dog, D.B., for an extended period of time!

Meanwhile, back to our day: From lunch at Tuscany in Prosser, Coop took us down the road to Red Mountain, where we spent a couple of fun-filled hours with Marilyn and Cindy at Fidelitas Wines. Dave and I first visited the tasting room in Oct. 2009,  but we’ve been fans of wines crafted by respected winemaker Charlie Hoppes for much longer. (Charlie was in France when we visited; I can’t wait to talk to him about Chateau Margaux, my favorite Bordeaux winery that we visited in 2005.)

fidelitas winery_tasting_room_at_niteBut Charlie’s absence didn’t stop us from rockin’ the wines with Cindy and Marilyn, who also entertained us with some musical vibes and great conversation. We brought home Fidelitas 2007 Red Mountain Cabernet Franc – I’ve since heard that it’s sold out and wish we had purchased more. The Cab Franc was our favorite, but seriously, there wasn’t a Fidelitas wine we tasted that was anything less than excellent.

We could have stayed there even longer, but they had work to do and we had one more stop on the day’s wine trail: Gilbert Cellars in Yakima. We’ve been fans of Gilbert Cellars and friends with Sean Gilbert since we were introduced to his 2005 Estate Syrah at Sexy Syrah at Salty’s back in 2008.

Sean’s winery – and his wines – have exploded since then. Gilbert Cellars tasting room is also a wine bar with scrumptious appetizers; it’s a must-stop for us in Yakima and/or on the way to Prosser and Walla Walla. So once again, we were delighted to introduce Melanie and John to Sean, and to Gilbert Cellars wines, before we wrapped up this incredible day of wine tasting. Gilbert Cellars 09

 Indeed, we tasted through much of Gilbert’s line-up, accompanied by cheeses, olives and almonds: a dry but creamy Rose’ of Mourvedre; both unoaked and oaked Chardonnay; two very different Syrahs to appeal to different palates; a chewy, big Malbec; and our favorite Cab Franc and Cab Sauv, which are definite must-haves for our special dinners. Thankfully our hotel was within walking distance!

What a day! Our special thanks go to Ali, Coop, Marilyn, Cindy and Sean for making it so memorable.


Pamper Yourself at Desert Wind Winery

DW_rear_exterior_night On our way home from the Wine Blogger Conference (WBC10) in Walla Walla, we had an amazing experience at Desert Wind Winery in Prosser in central Washington. Our hosts, Desert Wind owners Greg and Amber Fries, rolled out the red carpet for three couples: Dave and me; plus dear friends Melanie (Dallas Wine Chick) and John, and Barbara (Seattle Wine Gal) and Jason.

It was the hot sunny Monday after WBC10. We left Walla Walla that afternoon, and arrived in Prosser to lounge on the winery deck with a refreshing glass of Desert Wind 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. (Greg is the winemaker for both Desert Wind and his family’s Duck Pond Cellars in Oregon.)

After relaxing in our gorgeous luxury suites, we were treated to an outstanding 5-course dinner prepared by Chef Frank Magaña from Picazo 7Seventeen. Each course was accompanied by a variety of Desert Wind wines, including some library wines. The food fest continued the next morning with a bountiful breakfast delivered to our rooms – we enjoyed it on our balcony overlooking the Yakima River. Wow!

If you ever want to really appreciate the wonders of Washington wine country deluxe-style, Desert Wind is the place for you. Four luxury suites are each so stylish and comfortable, it’s hard to choose one. DW room

We stayed in the Jean Baptiste room, with a southwestern decor so appealing and attractive that we decided we want to copy in our house one day. I particularly loved the pillows that looked like envelopes with brown leather flaps. When I asked Amber if they were for sale in the winery’s incredible gift shop (which I blogged about a couple of times in the past), she was very amused. The answer was no, unfortunately!

And then there was the food and wine. Desert Wind’s Mojave by Picazo is open noon – 3 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, when Chef Magaña works his magic for the lunch crowd. I had heard (too many times to count) about the wonders of Frank’s meals, but when he prepared a feast for us at Mojave, it was the first time we experienced it ourselves. Each of our courses had the wow factor – not surprising, when he describes himself this way:  frank magana

Chef Frank Magaña, a passionate young man with a talent to tantalize and a spirit to dream; a culinarian that has no limits to create the perfect pairing with the fruit of his neighbors and a glass from a winemaker down the street.”

So true! The first course was a casual, sit-at-the bar-and-chat, array of appetizers – Dungeness Crab Cakes with Chipotle Aioli Firecracker Prawns, Patatas Bravas, Marcona Almonds and Olives, paired with Desert Wind’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and equally refreshing 2009 Viognier. A couple of the guys (including John, who is a foodie) said they could have easily consumed all the firecracker prawns but were being polite to make sure everyone else could also enjoy them.

After about a half hour of summer sippers and incredible appetizers, we sat down at the beautiful table, where we were served Proscuiutto-wrapped Mixed Field Greens with Ancho Chile Vinaigrette, paired with 2009 Dry Rose’ and 2008 Semillon. I found the Dry Rose’ a perfect accompaniment to the tasty second course and never looked back!

DW dining And I must mention the lovely and lively dinner conversation – we were joined by assistant winemaker Scott Siver and his guest, Anita, Catherine and David, and another excellent Picazo 7Seventeen chef, Darren Dewalt.

The third course was one of my favorites, although it is really hard to determine a favorite when every course is marvellous: Basil-Stuffed Salmon with Tempranillo Pan Sauce, Blue Prawns & Trumpet Mushrooms with Cream. Naturally, we sipped on 2008 Tempranillo in addition to 2006 Duck Pond Cellars ‘St. Jory’ Pinot Noir. I was pleasantly surprised to experience how well the 2006 Pinot paired with salmon. The wine was big and bold and brought out the flavors of basil and salmon, while matching the mushrooms. Sigh.

By the time the next course was served, I didn’t think it was possible to eat or drink anything more. But the aromas from the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin (with Savory Ruah Sauce), Black Truffle Risotto, and Grilled Lamb Chop (with Ruah-Garlic Marinade) were impossible to ignore. A vertical of Ruahs (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) was available to pair with the scrumptious food. Seriously, I didn’t think I even liked lamb chops until I tasted Frank’s masterpiece. And Desert Wind’s Ruah is award-winning, as I’ve written about before, and a smooth touch to the rich food. Yes please, I said.

And finally, there was dessert. I almost passed on it, because I haven’t treated myself to dessert in months. Thankfully, I didn’t this time. We were still talking about the dessert plate for days after the dinner! Yes, I said plate!

If you haven’t tried Espresso Creme Brulee, you’re missing out on a heavenly experience. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Oh, and also thinking about the Gorgonzola Truffle. I can’t even describe how delicious those two desserts tasted. Oh, and by the way, the dessert plate also contained Chocolate Creme Brulee and assorted dark chocolates, matched with the perfect pairing of 2004 Desert Wind Syrah or 2004 Duck Pond Port.

Regular readers of this blog know that I rarely write long posts. This one is a tribute to our hosts, Greg and Amber, for such a marvellous and memorable experience. Thank you so much – and special thanks to Frank, too.


WBC10 – An Individual Experience

The Wine Blogger Conference (WBC10) in Walla Walla has come and gone, but the experiences will remain for a long, long time. Three hundred wine bloggers and industry folks gathered together and toured Washington wine country – before, during and after the three-day conference June 25-27.

Not surprisingly, each person has his/her unique stories to tell.

You can find many already written – some of the best summaries can be found on two blogs of writers I’m happy to call friends and colleagues: Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report and Josh Wade of Drink Nectar.

And you will soon find our stories here at Write for Wine. Our unique trip was divided into four parts:

  1. Joining the WBC-or-Bust contest winners along the beginning of their road trip, in Woodinville, at Cave B and in Walla Walla (June 23 & 24)
  2. WBC10 (June 25-27), where I met so many new friends and finally met face-to-face with Catie McIntyre Walker, the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, who has been my special wine blogger friend for more than three years. 
  3. Walla Walla winery touring with my dear friend Melanie Ofenloch (Dallas Wine Chick) and her husband, John (June 27-28)
  4. Prosser, Red Mountain and Yakima winery touring with Melanie and John (June 29-30)

We have many stories to share and many people to acknowlege for making our experiences so special. If you can’t wait, you can always read about our journey (and numerous wine tastings) as I posted live on my Twitter page: @WriteforWine.