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My July Wine of the Month

J. Bookwalter Couplet
Conner-Lee Vineyard
2010

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
2007

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!

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

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