Goin’ Glamping at Destiny Ridge

Glamour + Camping = Glamping – and that’s what we’re doing at Destiny Ridge Vineyard, where the estate wine begins for Alexandria Nicole Cellars.

A night under the stars — which, by the way, light up the sky in an extraordinary show that you’d never see in the city —  in a vineyard that overlooks the Columbia River in central Washington. Gorgeous!

So what does glamourous camping really mean? A large canvas tent with a luxurious queen-size bed on a Persian carpet, a down duvet, towels, a French Press coffee pot, mugs, dishes, a mini-refrigerator, an air-conditioning unit and a space heater. And don’t forget the enclosed, roofless shower, a propane barbecue on the deck, a propane fire pit to sit around a campfire and — of course — sip on award-winning Alexandria Nicole wines.

The tough choice is which wine to drink – perhaps the amazing 2009 Crawford Viognier during the warm days and the just-released rich and distinct Mr. Big Petite Sirah in the cooler evening. Or maybe the perennial favorite Quarry Butte? Or the refreshing Sauvignon Blanc? Or — well, here’s the list – you decide!

By day or by night, the views are spectacular.

No mobile phone. No laptop.

Goin’ glamping!

Earth Heart Erath

Earth Heart Erath is a logo on the back of the many Pinot Noirs made by Erath Winery, one of the first in Oregon we visited when we lived in the area in 1997. Thirty-two years earlier, Dick Erath made his first barrel of Erath wine in the garage of his home. By last year, all 10 Erath single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from the 2006 vintage received ratings of 90 points or higher from the wine industry’s top publications.

Indeed, the red, iron-rich earth in Oregon’s Dundee Hills does love Erath grapes.

We know that first-hand because over the past couple of months, we’ve tasted samples of the 2008 vintage sent to us by the winery. From the special Pinot Noir, 2008 La Nuit Magique (The Magic Night) to the classic 2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir, we recommend them all – different wines for different occasions.

2008 La Nuit Magique: Ooh la la, c’est magnifique! We could most definitely discern the difference in this magnificent, magical Pinot Noir, made from the finest barrels in the Erath cellar. According to the winery, La Nuit Magique “refers to the defining moment when one falls in love with Pinot Noir – that Magic Night when wine transcends the moment and becomes immortalized as one of life’s great wine experiences.” Save this beauty for a special occasion! – 92 points from Wine Spectator ($65)

2008 Prince Hill Pommard: The Pommard clone is planted at the top of the hill in Prince Hill Vineyard, next to Dick Erath’s house. The clone was originally sourced from the Chateau de Pommard in France, and introduced to Oregon in the early 1970s. While we didn’t smell the promised root beer float aromas, we really enjoyed the smoky dark fruit flavors with hints of dark chocolate. – 90 points from Wine Spectator ($50)

2008 Leland Pinot Noir: This has been a special wine for us since the 2005 vintage. Complex, rich, powerful and elegant, we once again paired Leland with steaks, even though the tasting notes suggest sipping it with savory cheeses, rack of lamb or lasagna with bolognese or carbonara sauce. The 2008 vintage is smooth and silky with a delicate smoky finish. ($50)

2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir Clone 115: Also from the Prince Hill Vineyard, this plush Pinot was one of our favorites, with spicy notes and a luxurious mouthfeel. We sipped this without food, and it was a beautiful way to enjoy the evening. – 93 points from Wine Spectator ($45)

2008 Prince Hill Pinot Noir: This is a classic Erath Pinot Noir – bright, light and fruit-forward. The Prince Hill Vineyard was where the first Pinot Noir vines were planted in 1983. – 91 points from Wine Spectator ($45)

2008 Estate Selection Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: We paired this lovely wine with roast beef although apparently it complements salmon, lamb and duck too. This reserve-quality Pinot is bright and lively, with a bit of a spicy finish. – 90 points from Wine Spectator ($34)

If you’re a Pinot lover, Erath offers a wide variety of choices to suit every palate.


Dunham Cellars

We recently had the fortune to sit at a dinner table with Mike and Joanne Dunham of Dunham Cellars. We were at the 20th annual Washington Wines Festival at Waterfront Seafood Grill in Seattle, and we couldn’t have asked for more delightful company.

Mike and Joanne are so down-to-earth and so much fun, with so many stories to tell. We talked about wine, of course — Dunham Cellars wines and other Washington wines that we tasted at the festival. And we jokingly tried to identify some of the more obscure ingredients in the many tasty courses that were placed in front of us.

We also talked about their winery in the remodeled World War II-era airplane hangar in Walla Walla, and we shared many, many tales of all of our dogs.

The two of them had us laughing throughout the delicious dinner and prestigious auction. We had met Mike and Joanne briefly at their winery and at several wine events in the last 10 years or so. But we never had the luxury of time to talk to them at length, particularly over good food and delicious wine.

We’ve enjoyed Dunham Cellars wines for years – my first blog post about their Three Legged Red blend was in 2007 – a price-friendly wine packed with flavors and named after their wonderful dog, Port.

We met Port when we first stopped by the Dunham Cellars tasting room – he was as adorable as his photo on the wine bottle. When he passed away in 2008, I wrote a tribute.

Since then, we’ve sipped several vintages of Dunham Cellars Trutina, a delightful blend of Cab Sauv, Syrah, Merlot and Cab Franc, and we love 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon XII, which received a 93 rating from Wine Spectator.

We haven’t yet tasted 2007 Pursued by Bear Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a creative collaboration by their winemaker son, Eric Dunham and actor Kyle MacLachlan of Desperate Housewives. And we’re looking forward to trying the recently released 2007 Cab and Syrah from Lewis Vineyard.

We’ve always said that Washington wine is about so much more than the juice itself – it’s about the people, the stories and the spirit. Mike and Joanne Dunham, and their award-winning wines, exemplify the passion of the wine industry in this state.