Wine Road Trip

Hey Joyful Shoehorn followers!

Big news.

I am road tripping to the Napa Film Festival with @TweetHouse and @SeattleWineGal in a 2012 Buick Enclave this week. Look forward to some fabulous photos and detail, dripping posts from the events. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter & Instagram @KelseyIvey for instant updates – hey maybe I’ll even spot someone famous.

Read more about the Buick Tweet House Napa Road Trip, Buick Tweet House Events & the Napa Film Festival.

In honor of the trip & fabulous wine that I am sure to taste – like the bottle of 1974 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, that we are transporting down to the festival – here is a wine photo of the day. These lovely grapes are from Abbelone Vineyards in Eugene. Read my blog post on Northwest Wine Anthem about helping to pick these beauties.

Abbelone Pinot Noir grapes

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Northwest Food and Wine Festival

Last night I attended the Northwest Food and Wine Festival hosted at the DoubleTree Inn at the Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon. Featuring hundreds of different wines from Washington and Oregon along with 50 restaurants best finger foods, the festival buzzed with happy sippers.

Roaming the aisles of wine and food merchants, I scooped out the company before excitingly jumping in with a splash of Carton Cellar’s Pinot Gris, a crisp, dry Gris with a lovely minerality and bright citrus. A delicious start to a night that was filled with tantalizing and varied flavors that took over every corner of my month.

A few of my favorites from the night include:

J. Scott

Poured by the wine maker, who looked like he just walked out of the vineyards in a hat, jeans and work button up, J. Scott ‘s Grenache was a delicious and smooth red wine with a light blackberry aroma like the first hot week of August along the river. Based out of Eugene, Oregon, J. Scott is a small boutique wine producer blending handcrafted batches of Oregon wines.

Tesoaria

The only bottle of wine that we purchased from the festival was a deep, fruity Sangiovese by Tesoaria. Smooth on the tongue but not short in flavor, this Italian style red wine abounded with bright cherry and a floral nose. Plus never doubt the influence of a knowledgeable and personable pourer. Jay Schmidt, the winery’s proprietor greeted us like best friends and spoke openly about the wines. We had a fantastic time hanging out later in the night and swapping wine suggestions. Tesoaria’s home soil is in Roseburg, Oregon.

Chateau Lorane

Another Eugene area winery representing with wonderful wines, Chateau Lorane sampled three fantastic wines at the festival. A light, fruity red with a smooth & silky finish, Chateau Lorane’s Counoise surprised even my wine saturated mouth. With an alluring fragrance and amazing drinkability, this is a wine I would most definitely buy and drink regularly.

I also enjoyed Van Duzer Vineyard’s Pinot Noir and Mt. Defiance’s Hellfire wines.

Beyond the wine, the NW Food and Wine Festival also featured a wide selection of vodka, gin, whiskey and some more unique liquors like Pisco. From a fresh, herby gins to Cofia Hazelnut Espresso vodka by Bend Distillery and Trillium Absinthe by Integrity Spirits with a refreshing licorice flavor, the festival had a little bit of everything for guests to sample – and a lot a bit of Pate. After sampling about five different varieties of pate, which before this night I had never had before, I found out that the mushy, meat mixture was the food competition piece for the festival. Other noteworthy food items included a thinly slight beef open face sandwich with lamb meatball and a blue cheese sample topped with nuts and drizzled with honey.

Thanks to @WineJulia and Eugene Daily New’s Wine Down Eugene for the tickets and a fantastic night of wine, food and fun.

Sweet Summer Solstice

A day with more sunlight than ever, Sweet Cheeks Winery wrangled in the summer solstice with a super sweet celebration.

Two glasses of Sweet Cheeks' Riesling

With more grey days this spring than I think anyone expected, it felt like summer would never come. Did we even have a spring in Eugene? So with light lasting well into the evening, Eugenian’s were ready to party when the sun finally came out – and just in time for the first day of summer.

The patio at Sweet Cheeks even before the event officially started was jam-packed with winos basking in the sun. Selling wine by the bottle and spreading the love, Sweet Cheeks welcomed from large groups to couples for the evening.

Hanging on the patio

Overlooking the vineyards as the sun set, the music went up. Grooving to the sounds of reggae led by Norma Fraser the celebration quickly turned from sitting to standing as guests took to the dance floor.

The wine liven the night and as the stars scattered the sky, we all drank in the start summer.

 

Cheers to the start of summer!

“Summer Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year, when the sun is at its peak and the days abound with the promise of life’s fullness. It is a serenely powerful time in which the beauty of the natural world can infuse our spirit, bring us alive to the present, and perhaps awaken a deeper sense of relatedness to the community of life, to the Earth, and to the cosmos.” – Paul Winter

Sipping Pure Sunshine

It felt like summer….sitting in the sunshine, warmth heating my toes and arms and leaving small freckles building on my nose. But it was the wine that really made me warm on this first real day of spring.

I took me five years to finally venture into the McMinnville and Yamhill Valley for wine tasting. This renowned and popular tasting area in Oregon had slipped out of my reach for the last time – my entire family even went on a full day wine tasting tour without me while I was living in South Africa. So when the weather man told me it was going to be sunny and I heard a friend of mine from Portland was free, that was it – we hit the road to meet up and sip our way though wine country.

The day started off at the Oregon Hotel in downtown McMinnville. The one landmark that we both knew of in the quaint downtown, but we quickly skipped out of town after consolidating cars. With no plan into this spontaneous trip we just picked one road out of town and followed the blue road signs to the wine rooms.

Luckily in this fertile part of Oregon it didn’t take long to stumble across our first winery – even if we did end up mainly tasting in the town of Carlton, just outside of McMinnville and less time in the countryside.

Of the Carlton wineries, two stood out from the rest.

The Carlton Winemaker’s Studio

Modern styled with large, flat bar and full of light, the Studio tasting bar welcomes winos with an air of 21st century courtship. The cold surfaces and sharp edges of the tasting studio are offset with fun, personal photos of the wine makers decorating the walls and brighten with the sunshine that constantly streams through the bank of windows that looks out onto the large patio. But beyond the tasting room it’s really the wines that make this a deliciously modern winery – or should I say wineries.

CWS Wine Tasting

The Carlton Winemaker’s Studio (CWS) pours ten individual vintners produced all under one roof. Offering artisan winemakers a joint space to share their high-end and innovative wines, the studio is common ground for the area producers to showcase their recent releases. By sharing space, the winemakers cut down on their individual costs and cooperate as a group in marketing and promotion; however, one sip of most of these wines is all you need to be convinced to buy a bottle.

The wineries available at CWS are: Andrew Rich Vintner, Ayoub Vineyard, Blakeslee Vineyard, Brittan Vineyard, Dukes, Hamacher Wines, Lazy River Vineyard, Monebruno, Retour Wine Company, and Wahle Vineyards.

For my sunny afternoon at CWS, I ran with the red flight while my friend sipped through the Pinot Noirs. From a cozy spot out on the patio at a wooden table, the wine pourer brought out each wine with knowledge, spunk, and perfect timing. Out of the seven we tasted, two wines marked my memory from take-off. The first from the red flight was Andrew Rick’s Coup d’Etat, a Rhone style blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah (surely influenced by the wine maker’s time at wine school in France). It shined in the sun with a beautiful, rich red color and a balance that both blended and exemplified the three varieties flavors. The second from the Pinot noir flight was Ayoub’s “Memoirs.” The winemaker’s second label using a blend of Pinot noirs from around the Willamette Valley, this wine not only stood out with those amazing, complex layers that only come (in my opinion) from Oregon Pinot noirs, but also for its charming label showing  blast-from-the-past photographs of his parents.

At the end of our shared flights, we were also surprised with a special tasting of an infrequently opened bottle – a taste that paid off for the studio for my friend bought a bottle of it and another wine before we turned to leave.

Open Daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., 801 N. Scott Street, Carlton, OR 97111, (503) 852-6100

Cana’s Feast Winery

With so many wines to taste in the area, we didn’t want to travel far and to our luck just next door to CWS was Cana’s Feast Winery. A Tuscan styled tasting room, also with a huge back patio that looked over the rolling, golden hills, Cana’s showed a variety of more formal, traditional wines that tasted with sweet delicacy that makes you salivate – it didn’t help though that the location also serves food, so as soon as you walk through the winery doors your mouth practically drools from the aromatic scents floating through the air.

View from Cana's Feast Winery's Patio

At Cana’s my friend and I shared a flight of their wines. Specializing in Italian and Bordeaux varieties, this winery offered tasting of wines less typically produced in the Willamette Valley. Highlighting each wine, the individual varieties each sat on top of an oak wine barrel in the tasting room. Here I tasted my first Nebbiolo, a red Italian style varietal grown in the Columbia Valley, and also enjoyed one my favorite wines, a big bodied Sangiovese.

While we didn’t have time to sample their wonderful smelling food, Cana’s does offer lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays and Brunch on Sundays. Reservations are strongly suggested according to their website.

Open Daily 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., 750 West Lincoln St., Carlton, OR 97111, (503) 852-0002

From Carlton we slowly moved our way back into McMinnville for tastings at the local downtown wine bars and some much need dinner. The last stop of the night before a yummy meal at the French café, Bistro Maison, was one of those “save the best for last moments.”

Twelve

Located in a shared building with Honest Chocolates, a huge selling point for the me and most women wine drinkers out there I think, Twelve is a family-owned vineyard that focuses on making small quantity but high-quality wines, specifically Pinot noir. The wine server for the evening, which was the wine-maker’s wife, was charismatic and friendly adding that missing trait that many of the other wineries we had visited in the afternoon had missed– and a personable wine server is something not to be overlooked in the wine world. The wines, like the service, were also top notch. Held in individualized artsy labels, each year of the Pinot noir showed the slightest of changes and demonstrated the varietal’s chameleon characteristics that develop with the best wines over time.

Twelve's Pinot noir

The 2008 Pinot noir 144, a wine that was surprisingly different from the previous tasted on the flight, blended grapes from the oldest blocks on the vineyard; being picked on October 29. The wine danced on the palate, like the ballerinas on its label, with elegance and a concentration that only comes with well-balanced and carefully crafted wine. If I had the money, I would have bought a case of this wine on the spot. I highly recommend this winery to anyone heading to their area.

Open Thursday & Friday, 2 – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 12 – 6 p.m., 581 NE 3rd Street, McMinnville, OR, (503) 358-6707

While this wine-tasting trip proved to be exciting and fresh with new wineries, the McMinnville area left more to be explored.

Have you tasted the areas wines? When I make a trip back, where should I go next?