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My August Wine of the Month

Robert Young Estate Winery
Alexander Valley Barrel Select Chardonnay

The Wine – If you like big, oaky, buttery California chardonnays, you’ll love this wine.  It has a golden straw color and is very viscous in the glass.  The nose offers some sweet golden delicious apple, pineapple, butter and caramel accompanied by a touch of minerality.  On the palate there is ripe pineapple and honeydew melon, smoky vanilla, hazelnuts, honey, candied apple and caramel corn.  The finish is wonderful.  It is nice and long with caramel lingering for an extended time.  I rate this wine 92 points.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is aged in 100% new Seguin Moreau French oak barrels that was chosen specifically for this wine.  Only three barrels were made.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery –It is in an absolutely stunning location in the Alexander Valley. The gentlemen pouring were wonderful and the wines lovely.  They guided us through many wines, with the whites and the reds both wonderful.  They planted the first cabernet sauvignon in Alexander Valley in 1969, and they have their own chardonnay clone that is known around the world.

The Journey – We were referred to Robert Young by another winery. The tasting room is located on Red Winery Road, and is a hidden gem.  Driving up to the winery you see a beautiful, historic house with a circular driveway, and the tasting room is in a building next door that appears to have once been a stable.  The Robert Young Estate Winery was a definite highlight of our most recent trip to the Alexander Valley wine region.

Venice, Italy (July, 2011)

On my recent European excursion the first stop in Italy was the magical city of Venice.  In a city full of fine dining and extensive wine lists, it was fun to try many different wines from the Veneto region, in which Venice is located.   The wines of Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone poured freely.  Well, freely may not be the accurate word, as Venice is a very expensive city!

The wine highlight for me in Venice was Prosecco.  I found myself ordering a glass of Prosecco on many occasions: while my husband was having a beer at an outdoor café, before most meals, while listening to the dueling orchestras in Piazza San Marco, and sometimes instead of lunch!  The most important Italian phrase I learned was:  “Vorrei un bicchiere di Prosecco per favore!”

For those of you who don’t know, Prosecco is a spumante, principally made from the prosecco grape.  It is usually not made in the Methode Champenoise, but by the Charmat process, where the second fermentation is done in a pressurized tank rather than in the bottle.  That’s one of the reasons that one can find some nice Prosecco without a huge price tag.  In all of the restaurants and cafes I visited, Prosecco is not served in a Champagne flute, but in a Bordeaux style wine glass.

The ultimate Prosecco experience was visiting Harry’s Bar in Venice for their world famous Bellini.  This was a must visit for me and I wasn’t disappointed.  We sat at the bar where we could get a great view of our bartender concocting the famous drink, which was created at Harry’s Bar by it’s founder Giuseppe Cipriani sometime between 1934 and 1948.  The Bellini is one part freshly pureed white peach juice and three parts Prosecco.  The drink was just what the doctor ordered for a hot summer day in Venice.  It was served in a 7-ounce glass for a whopping 15 Euro each, so if you’re on a tight budget, plan on ordering just one!

Most locals undoubtedly avoid the expensive tourist spots and head to little wine shops around Venice where they buy their daily table wine.  We ran across such a place by simply watching.  We spotted a woman walk into a shop with some empty 2-liter water bottles, so we followed her inside.  We watched as the man in charge filled her bottles with the wine she chose and off she went after paying a small sum.  We were curious.  We asked if they have any bottles to buy and sure enough, he produced an empty water bottle.  We had him fill it with a local wine, and the total price was 3 Euro.  The wine wasn’t half bad, either!


Next Up:  Visiting a Winery in Soave


My July Wine of the Month

J. Bookwalter Couplet
Conner-Lee Vineyard

The Wine – This is a great wine for these hot summer days we’re experiencing. There is luscious white peach on the nose, accompanied by grapefruit, some clove and a touch of rose petals. On the palate was the white peach again, along with a lot of pear, green apple and grapefruit. There’s a little lemon peel as well. It is well balanced with nice minerality and just enough acidity. I love the name too, and the wine does it justice. The Chardonnay (60%) and the Viognier (40%) compliment one another nicely. They harmonize in the glass! I rate this wine 89 points.

My Experiences Visiting The Winery – J. Bookwalter has two tasting rooms; one in the town of Woodinville (right outside of Seattle) and the other in Richland, Washington, which is located in the Yakima Valley. We visited the Richland location.

J. Bookwalter is a really fun winery. It is also very pleasing to the eye, with dark, sleek stone and a very modern tasting room. We had an awesome tasting there with a very nice and knowledgeable young man named Jared. We even went back for lunch a little later in the day. They have a great little restaurant right there on the property, which serves some good, light meals. They are also open late on some evenings, where one can purchase their wines and listen to live music.

The Journey – I first tasted J. Bookwalter wines years ago. It is probably the first Washington State wine I had ever experienced. I remember enjoying it then, so it was high on my list for a visit while tasting in Washington. We were there on a rainy day, and the dark, modern structure was a very nice refuge from the outside elements.

My June Wine of the Month

Mounts Family Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon

The Wine – Wow, what a nice Cab!  This dark ruby hued wine has a nose full of cassis, black cherry, black raspberry and licorice.  It also has a hint of oak.  On the palate I picked up the cassis, along with some red current, vanilla and a dark chocolate covered cherry.  The finish was lovely, with the fruit lingering a nice long time.  I really love this wine now, and it will be drinking nicely for years to come.

My Experiences Visiting The Winery – Mounts Family Winery sits on a beautiful piece of property in the Dry Creek Valley region of Sonoma.  We tasted in an outdoor picnic-like setting, overlooking a valley of vineyards. We were there on Valentine’s Day of 2010, and they were serving some wonderful cupcakes and chocolate along with the wine tastes.  The owners are very welcoming in a genuine way.  David Mounts is also the winemaker and does a bang up job!  We especially loved this Cab, along with their Cabernet Franc and their Syrah.

The Journey – We came across Mounts Family Winery by accident.  While driving to another winery, we saw some balloons with a sign, inviting us to Mounts for Valentine’s Day.  We love discovering new places, so we headed their way.  The drive up to their winery is on a long, gorgeous driveway that leads to some beautiful views and some wonderful wines!

Last Day in Walla Walla

Our final day in Walla Walla started at Charles Smith Wines.  I really wanted to hit the tasting room at K Vintners (owner and winemaker is Charles Smith), but they are closed most days.  Charles Smith was a fine replacement.  The tasting room was awesome.  It was very different from most, but I loved it.  It has a very industrial feeling with exposed pipes, big wooden rafters, and fabulous brick walls.  It’s huge and can easily be used for some potentially fun-filled events.  The wines were fun too.  He makes some very affordable wines such as “Kung Fu Girl“ Riesling, “Eve” Chardonnay,  “The Velvet Devil” Merlot and more.  They were all pretty good for the price.  Personally, I dig his Syrah.  They’re HUGE, but I really like them.

We had a 1pm appointment at Long Shadows, so that was our next destination.  We arrived about ½ an hour early, but Jeff was great and let us come right in.  Boy oh boy, this place is special.  The building is beautiful, the views are stunning and the wines are spectacular.  It’s really difficult to find anything wrong with this tasting.  Jeff was perhaps the most knowledgeable person of the trip, and again, the wines …

Long Shadows is very different from other wineries.  They have a different winemaker (all well respected and well known in the wine world) for each varietal, and each wine is named differently.  I could go on and on about Long Shadows and each wine and their winemaker, so I plan to feature one of their wines in an upcoming Wine of the Month.  I loved all of the wines, but only had room for two in my checked case boxes.  Luckily they distribute!

Our next stop was Va Piano.  They had some nice wines and the gal was very nice.  The tasting room was packed with a bunch of men on a tour.  They seemed to be having a good time!  We bought a Bruno’s Blend V, which is a nice, easy drinking wine for only $23.

Next up was Waters, another pretty spot.  They also have a very nice tasting room and some good wines.  We picked up a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our last winery of the trip was Sleight of Hand.  My stepson is a magician, so a stop here was a must!  Little did we know we were walking into a REALLY fun experience.  As soon as we walked into the tasting room the co-owner and winemaker, Trey, greeted us with a question:  “What do you want to hear?”   I was a little confused; until I saw the row of albums he had lining the back wall.  I suggested Bryan Ferry, and by gosh if he didn’t have some Roxy Music!  So he put on the album, (yes, VINYL!!!) and we started tasting.

They have some really nice wines.  My husband fell in love with them.  We ended up buying four, even though we didn’t have the room.  We decided that we would need to drink two bottles before leaving Washington!  Shipping isn’t an option when it’s already in the 90’s at home.  So we purchased a 2009 “Enchantress” Chardonnay, a 2008 “Levitation” Syrah and two bottles of the 2008 “The Illusionist” Cabernet Sauvignon.  The chardonnay was full of green apple with some nice oak, but not too much.  The acidity was good, so it was nicely balanced.  The Cab has some nice dark fruit on the nose and palate, and is one we’re going to cellar for a little while.   We also picked up some swag for our 17 year old magician!

After all of the wine tasting, a beer sounded pretty good.  So we took the advice of Brooke from Reininger and headed to a local hangout called The Green Lantern.  My husband had been dying to sit at a fire pit all during the trip, and Brooke had told us this was the place.  Unfortunately, we were there too early!  Oh well.  We had a couple of very tasty beers and some filling nachos and called it a day.

The next day we headed to Spokane, from where we were flying out.  We stayed at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino.  We had a fabulous dinner at Masselow’s (the Port Mushrooms with Parmesan are a MUST ORDER).  They let us bring in a bottle of wine for a moderate corkage fee, which helped us with our overage!  We then hit the craps tables for a couple of hours and headed to bed for our journey home the next day.

By the way, the state of Washington has unbelievably awesome bathrooms.  The bathrooms in every one of our rooms except for the Courtyard by Marriott (which was pretty basic) were so great.  The bathroom at Northern Quest was the coolest I’ve ever seen.  We took pictures and hope to update our bathroom at home to look like a Spokane Washington bathroom!!!

Next Stop:  Italy in July!

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