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Mission Possible … On Old Mission Peninsula

Mission Possible … On Old Mission Peninsula

Last month my husband and I were on a mission … an OLD mission in search of great wine!

Traverse City, Michigan is a fun, hip, bustling city! If that’s not enough, only 15 minutes away is pure paradise … the Old Mission Peninsula! Old Mission feels like Sonoma about 30 years ago. You feel isolated from the rest of the world, but it’s right there, 15 minutes from this fabulous big little city! We fell in love!

This 22-mile long peninsula juts out into the middle of Grand Traverse Bay and in some areas is only one mile wide, offering gorgeous views of water both east and west, with lovely vineyards in between.  And these vineyards are producing some dang good wine!

Our first stop was 2 Lads Winery.  They have a 10,500 square foot facility with a fabulous tasting room, offering amazing views while checking out their wines. They sustainably farm their vineyards producing some really tasty stuff! I especially enjoyed the 2017 2L Vineyard Riesling and the 2015 Sparkling Rosé. The sparkler is 100% Pinot Noir and has strawberry, cranberry, and really nice acidity.  They close it with a crown cap, which I thought was pretty cool!

Another winery I really liked was Bonobo. If you’re a watcher of HGTV you may know one of the owners … Carter Oosterhouse. He and his brother Todd and their wives Amy (an actress who I happen to love!) and Caroline, opened Bonobo Winery in 2014. You can tell that the chic, rustic, cozy tasting room (with multiple fireplaces and comfy sitting areas) was designed by a pro! Their wine is darned good too! I really dug the 2017 Rosé and the Chablis-like 2017 Chardonnay C. My husband bought a couple of the oaky and fruity 2017 Bonobo Red, a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Merlot, which he looks forward to enjoying with a cigar! They also have a nice food menu.

What are my two favorite things about Bonobo Winery??? #1 – The deck behind the tasting room is FABULOUS!!!! I wish we’d visited when there was a chill in the air so that we could have sat by the fire with a bottle of wine and taken in the gorgeous views. #2 – They support the Bonobo Conservancy! Bonobos are an endangered small chimpanzee and this organization helps protect them and their habitat! Here’s a link: https://www.bonobo.org

My favorite winery we visited on Old Mission? Mari Vineyards!

Looking back at my tasting notes, I pretty much rave about all of the wines, so I’ll fill you in on three of my favorites!

2017 Ramato – Wow! 100% Pinot Grigio, this wine had been fermented on the skins (like an Orange Wine!) for 35 days. The skins’ already pink hue along with the long maceration results in an awesome colored wine! Is it a cross between a rosé and an orange wine? Perhaps. They call it a “copper” wine, and has baking spice, dried tropical fruit and will pair with a ton of dishes! Seek this out if you can find it!

2016 Bel Tamonot – This is a blend of 40% Merlot, 35% Sangiovese, 15% Cab Franc and 10% Refosco. This wine is well balanced with bright cherry and plum!

2016 Asa Nisi Masa – 40% Malbec, 33% Nebbiolo and 20% Syrah, this has dark chocolate shavings, dark fruit, and good tannins.

You may be wondering how Mari can have such good success with some of these warmer climate grapes. They use a growing technique called Nellaserra, setting up temporary greenhouses over sections of their vineyards giving these grapes about four more weeks hang time. Pretty fascinating, right? Here’s a link to their process: https://www.marivineyards.com/wines/nellaserra-wines

After our tasting with Renee (who was fabulous!), we headed out to the deck. I really wanted a glass of the 2016 Simplicissimus (a sparkling Riesling) which they don’t sell by the bottle). We ordered a delicious cheese plate to go with our wine, sat on their deck, enjoyed the view of their vineyards and Grand Traverse Bay and didn’t want to leave. Seriously, we didn’t want to leave. But all good things must come to an end, so we forced ourselves to move on!

As I said earlier, we fell in love with Old Mission Peninsula. Traverse City is a blast, there are lots of great restaurants and breweries nearby, the area’s wineries are making some top-notch wine, and the place is GORGEOUS! If you’re on a mission for some great wine in a gorgeous setting, put this peninsula on your bucket list.

https://www.2lwinery.com

http://www.bonobowinery.com

https://www.marivineyards.com

 

Alpha Omega Winery

I first heard of Alpha Omega Winery from a fellow taster at Caymus Vineyards.  She suggested I try them, and I’m sure glad that I did!

Robin Baggett and Eric Sklar, both of whom have been in the grape growing and winery business for years, started Alpha Omega Winery.  Their goal was to bring the Old World of winemaking and the New World of winemaking together.  Alpha and Omega – The Beginning and The End.  Alpha Omega is utilizing the best techniques of each, from start to finish, to hand craft elegant, world-class wines!

Alpha Omega wines are unfiltered and un-fined and are fermented naturally in barrels.  They are balanced in part by using grapes from around Napa to represent different appellations’ specific terriors.

The winemaker is Jean Hoefliger, who has made wine at Chateau Lynch-Bages and Newton Vineyard.  Working with him is Michel Rolland, the world-renowned wine consultant from Bordeaux.

The winery itself is gorgeous, with beautiful outdoor seating for tastings and picnics as well.

I’ve visited Alpha Omega a few times now, and last month I was blown away at the tasting my party and I had.  Steve walked us through their wines.  He has helped us out a couple of times before, and it’s always nice to see a familiar face, especially his!

Here are the wines we tasted:

2010 Sauvignon Blanc – This is a nice Napa Valley Sauv Blanc, with a lot of melon and tropical fruit, along with some nice mineralogy to balance it off.  This isn’t a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc, nor is it a Bordeaux style.  I would say it’s a combination of them both.

2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay – This is not a wine for the fan of un-oaked chards (although Alpha Omega also makes an Un-Oaked Chardonnay that has already sold out for the year)!  I enjoy both styles, and this was a beautiful oaked Chardonnay.  The nose produces hints of vanilla and lots of tropical fruit.  On the palate is pineapple for days, along with some nice acidity to keep it quaffable.  The long finish produces crème brulee and caramel popcorn.  This is my husband’s favorite Chardonnay in Napa, so we of course had to get a case.

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – The Cab Sauv has big bold fruit along with some licorice both on the nose and palate.  This wine is approachable now, but can also be cellared for quite a few years.  It is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot.

After tasting this Cab, Steve poured us each two more wines.  He asked us to guess what they were.  The first wine was huge.  Big and bold with lots of tannins, I guessed it was a Cabernet Sauvignon.  The second wine was soft and smooth.  I guessed that this was a Right Bank Bordeaux blend that, of course, is Merlot dominant.  Steve then proceeded to tell us that they are BOTH the 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  What?????  The first wine he poured was a bottle that he had just opened.  The second bottle had been opened the day before!  What a difference some time makes.  They both had lovely black currant and black cherry on the palate.  I look forward to enjoying my bottle, but will definitely give it at least a couple of hours in the decanter before drinking.

2009 Proprietary Red Napa Valley – The blend of this wine is 37% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc and 13% Petit Verdot.  On the nose was some white pepper and tobacco, along with plum and cherry.  On the palate was the cherry, along with some chocolate and a little bit of saltiness!  This is another wine that will evolve well in the upcoming years.

Steve then offered us a very special treat; to visit the barrel room.  There we had the amazing opportunity to taste some of their most prized wines from barrel.  We tasted the 2010 vintage of the Stagecoach Vineyard, George III, To Kalon North and the To Kalon South.  What a way to end the tasting.  All of them were absolutely lovely.  I sure do look forward to tasting them out of the bottle in about 10 years!

The next time you’re in Napa, be sure to check out Alpha Omega.  They are located right on Highway 21 in Rutherford!

Walla Walla Day 2

Our second day in Walla Walla was an adventure.  We first headed to an area southwest of Walla Walla, which was the home to many fine wineries with lovely tasting rooms, and surrounded by beautiful vineyards.  This area is what I expected in Walla Walla.  It is what I had pictured while planning our trip.

Northstar was a great place to start.  The tasting room was absolutely beautiful, with an impressive sitting area adorned by a big fireplace.  How cozy it would be to sit and have a glass of wine there on a cold winters day.  They also have a great patio area for the summertime.  The view is splendid and they serve food on the weekends.  One of my clients is a big fan of Northstar, so it was a must stop.  The wines were very good.  They are known for their excellent Merlots, but I fell in love with their blend Stella Maris.  The ’07 is a blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 28% Syrah and 8% Petit Verdot.  For the price of $29, I thought that it was a great deal.  We also bought a 2007 Syrah.  We know that we can get their other wines at home, so opted for a bottle that was sold only in the winery.

Our next stop was Pepper Bridge Winery.   Pepper Bridge is also the name of one of their highly respected estate vineyards, located in the Walla Walla AVA.   They are known for their Cabs, and they didn’t disappoint.  I especially enjoyed their ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, with the grapes coming from both the Pepper Bridge vineyard and their other estate vineyard Seven Hills.  I got lots of dark fruit on both the nose and the palate, but loved the obvious terrior coming through.  This was a great wine and I couldn’t resist getting one for the $75 price tag.

Our last winery stop of the day was Amavi, the sister winery of Pepper Bridge.  This was my favorite tasting ROOM of the trip.  I loved the modern look of the building on the inside and the outside.  The view?  All I can say is WOW.  It was just breathtaking.  The personnel here must look forward to coming to work each day.  Not only are they pouring outstanding wines, but they’re facing a beautiful view of vineyards and the Blue Mountains.  Spring Release is THIS weekend, so they only had two wines for us to try.  They were both great.  We bought a bottle of the 2008 Walla Walla Syrah. I’m a Syrah lover, and this didn’t disappoint with nice berry fruit along with some spicy pepper and licorice.  It also had that meaty nose I love so well.  We’re planning on taking them up on their great case shipping deal, and will be ordering more soon.

We were starving, so we headed to the Marcus Whitman Hotel to eat at The Marc.  We were too early to eat in the restaurant (before 6pm), so decided to instead eat at the bar in The Vineyard Lounge.  We were very well taken care of by Matt, and ordered off of the dinner menu.  Our food was fabulous.  The guy next to us was munching on the Sea Salt and Vinegar Pub Chips, served with a Sweet Onion Dip.  We had to give those a shot for starters, and were thrilled that we did.    For our main courses I had the Forest Mushroom Lasagna and my husband had the Filet of Beef.  The selection of local wines by the glass was awesome, and Matt was there to guide our way!  It was probably our favorite meal of the trip.  We went back to our B&B full and happy!

Next Up:  Final Day in Walla Walla

 

Walla Walla Day 1

Heading into Walla Walla was really exciting, because it was the section of the trip to which I was most looking forward.  The beautiful Blue Mountains framed the drive in.  Greeting us was a large billboard from K Vintners and its controversial owner and winemaker Charles Smith.

Before entering Walla Walla proper, there is a small town called Lowden.  We stopped here first at L’Ecole No. 41.  The winery is housed in an adorable French schoolhouse, with the tasting room in a former classroom.  The wines being tasted each day are cleverly displayed on an old-fashioned chalkboard.  Brandon walked us through a selection of some nice wines.  I especially enjoyed their Left Bank Bordeaux blends, the 2007 Estate Perigee – Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) and the 2007 Apogee – Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc).

These wines are adorned with their new label, a switch from their very recognizable “whimsical” drawing of the schoolhouse.   They’ve found a need to make their fine wines look like fine wines on the outside, so they’ve classed up the label with a photo of the schoolhouse taken in 1915, shortly after it was built.

Brandon also told us to be sure to stop next door at Woodward Canyon Winery, and I’m glad that he did.  Taylor poured us a very nice 2009 Chardonnay, along with a great Walla Walla 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.   The Chard was golden apples and peach in a glass, with just a kiss of oak.  I had to get a bottle.  I also bought the Cab, which was a Left Bank Bordeaux blend, but with a splash of Syrah added to the mix.  It was 77% Cab, with 10 % Cab Franc, 7 % Syrah, and 3 % each of Merlot and Petit Verdot.   It had a nice spiciness on the palate, along with some mocha and dark berries.  The finish was nice and long.

Not only does Woodward Canyon have some very good wines, but a cute tasting room with nice people too!

Heading further toward Walla Walla we stopped at Reininger Winery, where Brooke helped us out.  She was awesome!  We tried some nice wines, including an ‘07 Syrah from their second label called Helix, which was really yummy for the price point of $28.  We also tried a fun Southern Rhone blend they call the Helix SoRho priced at $31.  My favorite of theirs is the 2006 Reininger Ash Hollow Syrah, with vanilla on the nose and chocolate covered cherries and some coffee on the palate.  The finish on this went on for a nice long time.  Brooke was born and raised in Walla Walla, and filled us in on a lot of the town’s history.  She told us some fascinating tid bits, for example that years ago the residents of the city voted in favor of getting the Washington State Penitentiary to boost the economy and help create jobs.  Today it is the 2nd largest prison in the state and is surrounded by wheat fields.  Brooke also spent a lot of time giving us all kinds of pointers about places to eat and other info.

Downtown was our next destination to grab a bite to eat.  We went to Olives, where we each ordered a small pizza.  The food was GREAT and so was the atmosphere.  The guy who helped us was obviously being trained, but he was awesome.  The gal training him wasn’t as nice, but she wasn’t horrible either.  It seemed to me that she was more interested in flirting with the new guy than helping hungry customers.

After getting some nourishment, we headed to our lodging.  We stayed in a LOVELY Bed & Breakfast set smack dab in the middle of some vineyards.  This lovely location is exactly what we were looking for.  Three glorious nights would be spent here, and we couldn’t think of a better spot.  The Walla Walla Inns at the Vineyard is owned by Debbie and Rick Johnson, who also own Walla  Walla Faces winery.  They left us a bottle of their ’06 Syrah, which was very good.  We were sad that we didn’t make it to their downtown Walla Walla tasting room, but will be sure to hit them the next time we’re in town.

The only negative about our Inn at the Vineyard was that we couldn’t get Internet access.  Rick tried to help us and got his provider on the phone.  My husband spent at least thirty minutes on the phone with technical support, to no avail.  Rick told us this happens only with Mac users.  So, if you use a Mac and need to get some work done, you’ll need to head downtown to their tasting room, Starbucks or Olive to get online.  They are working on this problem, so hopefully it’ll be solved in the near future.

Next Up:  Walla Walla Day 2

Yakima Valley 2011

 

We were sad to leave the cute little town of Leavenworth, but eager to see what lay ahead.  So … off to the Yakima Valley we headed.

The drive was another beautiful one.  Lots of mountains, river views and windmills paved the way.

Yakima itself is just a city.  A rather dirty city at that.  It was great fun, though, to see the vineyard backdrops as we headed to Rattlesnake Hills AVA.  The main reason we headed to this particular AVA was because of the day.  It was Easter Sunday, and after calling many wineries prior to our visit we found this area to have the most wineries with tasting rooms open on the holiday.

Here we hit Two Mountain Winery, Paradisos del Sol, Wineglass Cellars and Knight Hill.

Brothers, nephews of the original owner, run Two Mountain Winery.  Their wines were good; really good.  Their Chardonnay was full of butterscotch with a hint of banana.  It was really good stuff, if you’re into big Chardonnay.  We bought a bottle!  We loved their reds too: good stuff!

The guys at Two Mountain told us to be sure to check out a winery not far away, but they were closed.  Paradiso del Sol, located just down the road, was open, so we decided to check them out.  This is an interesting place.  Lots of wines and lots of atmosphere!  The wines???  Well, it was difficult to find one to buy.

Next was Wineglass.  This is one of the friendliest wine tasting rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  David Lowe (owner and winemaker) and his wife Linda are absolutely delightful.  The wines were good too.  Maybe this explains the busy tasting room on Easter Sunday!  David brought us (along with the others tasting) into the barrel room for a taste of his ’09 Cabernet, and it was coming along very nicely.  His Cabs were my favorite.

Our last winery stop of the day was Knight Hill.  It was quite the drive, along a long gravel road, but the payoff was good.  The wines were really good, and so was the view!  They had a beautiful Dry Riesling and a fabulous Mourvedre!

Many people warned us that finding a restaurant open for dinner on a Sunday night in the Yakima Valley was next to impossible.  Boy, they weren’t kidding.  We thought that we’d head to Prosser to check out the area around Merlot Drive, and perhaps grab a bite to eat, but once again they were closed.  We ended up driving all the way to Richland, one of the tri-cities.  There we found a Courtyard Marriott right on the Columbia River.   A short walk away was a great restaurant named Anthony’s.  We had a nice dinner with GREAT service.

The next day was another day planned for golf, but the rain and wind changed those plans.  We instead headed to J. Bookwalter, where we tasted with a very knowledgeable and nice guy named Jared.  They had a white called “Couplet” which was 60% Chard and 40% Viognier.  Wow, was this an interesting wine.  I loved it.  It was a pear in a glass, with some fabulous clove.  The reds were really good too.  My husband’s favorite was the ’08 Protagonist and my favorite was the the Conflict!  Good stuff!  We also stopped back for lunch, which was really yummy, and our server, Majesta, was awesome!  The cool thing is, that they also serve some light fare.  If you get hungry, and need a little noche during tastings, they serve up some fun flatbread and fondue.  Check it out!  They’re also open late some nights and have live music!

We also hit Barnard Griffin.  The wines were pretty good, but the tasting room wasn’t very warm and fuzzy.

Next Stop:  Walla Walla!!!!

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