Wine & Travel: Texas Hill Country

Picpoul blanc, charbono and tannat are featured alongside 100 percent roussanne Comfortage, cinsault Rosé and Thinkers—a red blend of petite sirah and tinta cão, proving the varietal diversity of Texas Hill Country wines. Viki Eierdam
Picpoul blanc, charbono and tannat are featured alongside 100 percent roussanne Comfortage, cinsault Rosé and Thinkers—a red blend of petite sirah and tinta cão, proving the varietal diversity of Texas Hill Country wines. Viki Eierdam

Living in the northwest surrounded by so many terrific wine regions, it can be easy to forget the world is filled with exceptional wines and even varietals yet to be discovered. On its own, the United States provides fun and exciting excuses to venture out in search of the great grapes of the globe.

Everything’s big in Texas and their wine scene is no exception. In fact, the Lone Star state boasts the second largest AVA in America. Texas Hill Country was my destination of choice back in January and it was clear early on that, yes, there is award-winning wine worthy of the voyage.

Flat Creek Estate winemaker, Tim Drake, hails from Federal Way, Washington. He came to the Hill Country to dabble in different winemaking techniques including aging pinot grigio and viogner in Russian oak barrels. Dan Eierdam
Flat Creek Estate winemaker, Tim Drake, hails from Federal Way, Washington. He came to the Hill Country to dabble in different winemaking techniques including aging pinot grigio and viogner in Russian oak barrels. Dan Eierdam

A bit off the beaten path lies Flat Creek Estate. As such, there is on-site lodging and dining and events scheduled throughout the year to make the effort worth every patron’s while. Interestingly, winemaker Tim Drake hails from Federal Way, Washington. He came to the Hill Country to dabble in different varietals and winemaking techniques. Aging pinot grigio and viogner in Russian oak barrels is imparting a subdued spice that is turning heads.

“I always felt the viogniers from Washington were nice but had a hole in the mid-palate. We fill the hole in down here in Texas,” Drake said.

In fact, Pedernales Cellars (another Texas Hill Country winery) walked away with a Grand Gold at the 2013 Lyon International Wine Competition for their 2012 Viognier; the only U.S. viognier to earn such an honor. Their compadres, Flat Creek Estate and Becker Vineyards, also earned medals for the same varietal.

The patio of Hye Meadow Winery overlooks a stunning oak grove that can be enjoyed much of the year thanks to the temperate Texas climate. Dan Eierdam
The patio of Hye Meadow Winery overlooks a stunning oak grove that can be enjoyed much of the year thanks to the temperate Texas climate. Dan Eierdam

On Hwy 290—dubbed the Wine Road which leads into quaint and friendly Fredericksburg—wine seekers will find an unassuming building containing Hye Meadow Winery. Step inside to savor the stunning oak grove that it overlooks. Chief grape stomper, Mike Batek, exudes true southern hospitality as he pours crisp Trebbiano, unfiltered Rosato, a gamay-style Dolcetto, The Full Monte—a 100 percent montepulciano with vanilla and dark cherry to plum notes—and a spicy Aglianico with gripping tannins.

Located in the heart of Fredericksburg is Lost Draw Cellars, co-owned by a fourth generation peanut and cotton farmer. Dan Eierdam
Located in the heart of Fredericksburg is Lost Draw Cellars, co-owned by a fourth generation peanut and cotton farmer. Dan Eierdam

Located in the heart of German-centric Fredericksburg, visitors will find Lost Draw Cellars. One of their Rhône-style whites not only sports a unique name but a unique grape in its blend. Gemutlichkeit, translated loosely, means ‘come together and share good cheer.’ According to tasting room lead, CJ Evans, possibly only 100 acres of picpoul blanc are grown in the U.S., 5 of which are found in Hill Country.

A short drive out of town is worth the effort to experience the wines of Bending Branch. Their lineup includes 100 percent picpoul blanc displaying green apple and racy acidity, charbono with smoky big fruit and chewy tannins and tannat with a chunky nose that finishes smooth. As with the other wineries, warmer weather tempts visitors to linger in the outdoor patio spaces.

Proudly waving the Texas flag, Pedernales garnered a Grand Gold for their 2012 Viognier at the 2013 Lyon International Wine Competition. Dan Eierdam
Proudly waving the Texas flag, Pedernales garnered a Grand Gold for their 2012 Viognier at the 2013 Lyon International Wine Competition. Dan Eierdam

After tasting the delicate tropical fruit notes of their 2015 Albariño and light citrus of the 2015 Vermentino, the 2015 Viognier Reserve continues to prove why Pedernales Cellars was the Grand Gold winner in 2012. Oaked for 15 months, soft white blossoms are followed by toast and dairy characteristics and a melt-in-your-mouth, decadent quality.

Surprisingly, port-style wines are quite popular in Texas Hill Country including this Messina Hof 2015 Estate Black Label made with Lenoir. Coconut and chocolate-covered cherry notes follow with a velvety mouth coating and distinct toast from the French oak aging. Dan Eierdam
Surprisingly, port-style wines are quite popular in Texas Hill Country including this Messina Hof 2015 Estate Black Label made with Lenoir. Coconut and chocolate-covered cherry notes follow with a velvety mouth coating and distinct toast from the French oak aging. Dan Eierdam

Grand in scale and production, Messina Hof could be mistaken for a tourist destination but they cater to the aficionado, as well. In fact, owner Paul Mitchel Bonarrigo, is so serious about wine and educating the consumer that he’s invested in WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) certification courses for all his tasting room employees and their level of expertise is refreshing. Messina Hof is proud to be the most awarded winery in Texas.

Owner of Spicewood Vineyards and Elway, Ron Yates also possesses a law degree and owns a music company. Here, Elway is on squirrel and deer patrol to protect the 32 estate acres including a rare four acres of sauvignon blanc. Dan
Owner of Spicewood Vineyards and Elway, Ron Yates also possesses a law degree and owns a music company. Here, Elway is on squirrel and deer patrol to protect the 32 estate acres including a rare four acres of sauvignon blanc. Dan

Heading back toward Dallas just off US-281, travelers are in for a treat at Spicewood Vineyards. Owned by Ron Yates (who also possesses a law degree and owns a music company), Spicewood boasts 32 acres of vines and something I was particular delighted to find—four acres of sauvignon blanc, which is rare for the area. Bright acid, lemon/lime, citrus, a slight herbaciousness with grassy notes; it was all there and so easy to imagine as my go-to wine for lazy Texas days.

With over 350 wineries spread throughout eight different AVAs, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Texas. From more familiar varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo to regionally-specific ones like lenoir, blanc du bois, picpoul blanc and tannat, a growing wine scene is just one more excuse to visit the Lone Star state.

Need more? Check out The Treaty House—a craft cocktail cigar bar with a focus on premier wines; The Club at Baron’s Creekside—an indoor/outdoor wine bar with a decidedly European flair thanks to owner, Daniel Meyer who hails from Switzerland; The Cabernet Grill—a wine-centric restaurant located inside the unique lodging compound of Cotton Gin Village; and the Lincoln Street Wine and Cigar Bar, a perfect spot for nibbles, a night cap, live music and a cellar full of wines by the glass (or bottle).

 

 

 

 

Tickets still available for Oregon Chardonnay Celebration

At the 5th Annual Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, winemakers and serious consumers came together to analyze five different chardonnay styles all sourced from Durant Vineyards. Viki Eierdam
At the 5th Annual Oregon Chardonnay Celebration, winemakers and serious consumers came together to analyze five different chardonnay styles all sourced from Durant Vineyards. Viki Eierdam

Tickets are still available for the 2017 Oregon Chardonnay Celebration. Held at the luxurious Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, the 6th Annual event promises to be even more consumer-focused than last year.

The in-depth seminar, held from 1-3 p.m. will be led by Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor, Ray Isle. The expert panel consists of Luisa Ponzi from Ponzi Wines, Bob Morous of Phelps Creek Vineyards, Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra, Bryan Wilson from DANCIN Vineyards and Ken Pahlow of Walter Scott.

Attendees are invited to follow along as these chardonnay authorities quip and enlighten us about bringing the reputation of this noble grape back through a reverence of the unique terroir found throughout Oregon. From the Chehalem Mountains to the Columbia Gorge, Eola-Amity and the Rogue AVAs (American Viticultural Area), the soils and microclimates impart from subtle to distinct flavor profiles. Regardless of different winemaking styles, the agreed result is a spectrum from lean, crisp wine with high acidity that makes a refreshing accompaniment to seafood in its youth to wines with some age that show creamier textures and a beautiful round mouth-feel to pair with heavier sauces.

Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting is an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from over 40 Oregon wineries. Viki Eierdam
Held at the Allison Inn & Spa, the Oregon Chardonnay Celebration Grand Tasting is an opportunity for consumers to sample exquisite examples from over 40 Oregon wineries. Viki Eierdam

After this virtual vineyard tour, apply what you’ve learned as you taste over 40 exquisitely-produced Oregon chardonnays at the Grand Tasting from 3-5:30 p.m. Combine your ticket to attend both events or, if time is tight, purchase the Grand Tasting ticket only.

If you’re a wine drinker who swears “I do not like Chardonnay,” this is the event for you. Oregon winemakers will make you a convert and you’ll forget the overly-oaked California style from the days of old in no time.

To make the most of your time in the Valley, why not book a night at The Allison Inn & Spa? Special rates are available for Oregon Chardonnay Celebration guests but you must call ahead to reserve (no special rates with on-line bookings).

 

N. Mississippi restaurant features Italian-inspired wine dinner

QuaintrelleQUAINTRELLE HOSTS WINEMAKER DINNER WITH DARRYL JOANNIDES OF VIOLA WINE CELLARS

Four-course family-style dinner with wine pairings, $75

February 14, 2017 – Portland, OR – Quaintrelle will host a February winemaker dinner on Wednesday, February 22 with Darryl Joannides of Viola Wine Cellars.

Join sommelier Matt Hansel and chef de cuisine Bill Wallender for a four-course family-style dinner. The seasonal menu will be paired with Italian-inspired natural wines from Viola Wine Cellars. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $75, including gratuity. For reservations, please call Quaintrelle at 503-200-5787 or purchase tickets online.

Viola Wine Cellars selections include:

2016 Viola Ramato of Pinot Grigio

2015 Viola Bianco d’Allegre (Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Pinot Grigio)

2015 Viola Dolcetto d’Allegre

2015 Viola “Dugger Creek Vineyard” Sangiovese

Darryl Joannides has spent the past 20 years immersed in Italian food and wines. Darryl’s first Italian-inspired business was as chef/owner of Assaggio in the Sellwood neighborhood from 1995-2005. Viola Wine Cellars was created in 2002 during harvest when Darryl worked as an intern for Andrew Rich Vintner during the inaugural year of the Carlton Winemaker’s Studio. Viola became a full-time venture in 2012 and today production is located in his garage in NW Portland. The majority of the vineyards used to produce Viola’s wines are located in the Columbia Gorge appellation.

Upcoming winemaker dinners will feature Brianne Day of Day Wines on April 12 and Pam Walden from Willful Wine Company on May 17.

About Quaintrelle: Located in Portland’s bustling N. Mississippi neighborhood, Quaintrelle serves Pacific Northwest inspired cuisine made with passion and intention and works with a range of purveyors to ensure the best seasonally available local ingredients. The restaurant is located at 3936 N. Mississippi Ave. Reservations may be made through OpenTable, or by calling the restaurant at (503) 200-5787 or online at www.quaintrelle.co.

 

Local vintners featuring port-style wines for Valentine’s Weekend

English Estate Winery carries a large line of fortified ‘nectars’—dessert wines made with their own pinot noir brandy distilled by Clear Creek Distillery. Viki Eierdam
English Estate Winery carries a large line of fortified ‘nectars’—dessert wines made with their own pinot noir brandy distilled by Clear Creek Distillery. Viki Eierdam

Valentine’s weekend is upon us and, with that, wineries will be hosting their annual Chocolate & Wine Pairing festivities from SW Washington to the Yakima Valley, Southern Oregon and beyond.

In honor of the occasion, I tasted several of the port-style treats being crafted by vintners throughout Clark County. Be sure to pick up a bottle or two to enjoy at home with your sweetheart. Keep in mind all prices are for 375 ml size.

English Estate Sweet Ruby Red Pinot Noir Nectar

Only slightly less ABV than traditional port, this is the truest port-style wine offered by English. Made from their own Pinot Noir brandy distilled by Clear Creek Distillery and estate Pinot Noir, showing considerable toast from aged oak barrels and succulent cherry notes. 17.5% ABV, $28.

Other offerings:

Raspberry Delight—When the freezer broke one day, threatening the estate raspberries that Gail English had harvested for canning, Carl Sr. quickly found a way to preserve the just-picked freshness. He nailed it! Excellent for sparkling spritzers or as a sauce over cheesecake. 17% ABV, $49.

Sugar Plum—At the heart of this nectar with baking spice on the palate are the juicy plums found on the homestead. 17% ABV, $39.

Sweet Autumn Gold—A combination of estate pinot noir juice and their own pinot noir brandy, light oak lends coconut to the finish. Versatile paired with blue cheese or crème brûlée.  16.5%, $28.

Not only does it hit the palate just right, the label of the Gougér Cellars Mine, Mine Mine took an International Double Gold Medal for Design at the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Viki Eierdam
Not only does it hit the palate just right, the label of the Gougér Cellars Mine, Mine Mine took an International Double Gold Medal for Design at the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Viki Eierdam

Gougér Cellars Mine, Mine, Mine

Sweet enough to be paired with desserts but not so much that it can’t be enjoyed alone, aged brandy is employed to add complexity to this blend of syrah, zinfandel merlot and muscat of Alexandria (an ancient vine with an impressive lineage). 18% ABV, $22.

Mine, Mine, Mine Chocolate—This wine captures the essence of chocolate in a bottle with a lush weight that romances the palate. Popular for pairing with high-end chocolates. 18% ABV, $22.

 

Hints of white blossom from apple to honeysuckle draw you into Koi Pond Cellars Elle’s Crème Brûlée. Photo provided.
Hints of white blossom from apple to honeysuckle draw you into Koi Pond Cellars Elle’s Crème Brûlée. Photo provided.

Koi Pond Cellars Elle’s Crème Brûlée

Hints of white blossom from apple to honeysuckle draw you in. Hot on the front with hazelnut and a bit of coffee mid palate with a caramel finish and whisper of chocolate, this white port-style wine delivers something from beginning to end. Warm and soothing. 16% ABV, $35

 

Moulton Falls Winery collaborated with Yacolt Valley Vineyard to create this port-style dessert wine. Viki Eierdam
Moulton Falls Winery collaborated with Yacolt Valley Vineyard to create this port-style dessert wine. Viki Eierdam

Moulton Falls Winery NV Yacolt Valley Vineyard Port-Style Dessert Wine

Made from deep, rich Red Mountain syrah and fortified with Yacolt Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir, then distilled to brandy locally at Double V Distillery. This syrah brings out a deep cherry flavor reminiscent of candied cherries followed by a silky, dark fruit finish. 19.5% ABV, $28

 

The complexity of Daybreak Cellars Tempranillo Dessert Wine is a result of a blend of four beautiful vintages. Viki Eierdam
The complexity of Daybreak Cellars Tempranillo Dessert Wine is a result of a blend of four beautiful vintages. Viki Eierdam

Rezabek Vineyards Daybreak Cellars Tempranillo Dessert Wine 

With a port-range ABV and grape composition including tempranillo (aka tinta roriz), touriga nacional and a scant amount of tinta cão, this may be the closest port-style wine being made in Clark County. Baking spice aromas follow with big juicy cherry notes on the palate, a swirl of chocolate and coconut notes on the finish. 19.5% ABV, $18

 

Rusty Grape Vineyards 2010 Vino de Ciocolotto is the perfect pairing of wine and chocolate. Viki Eierdam
Rusty Grape Vineyards 2010 Vino de Ciocolotto is the perfect pairing of wine and chocolate. Viki Eierdam

Rusty Grape Vineyards 2010 Vino de Ciocolotto

This syrah-based treat is the perfect pairing of wine and chocolate. Retaining its higher tannin quality, the warm nose teases your palate with notes of cocoa nib and brandy while the mouth feel is full and velvety. Pair with dried fruits like figs, plums and apricots or a nut cake.18% ABV, $32

Other notable dessert-style wines:

Bethany Vineyards

  • Blackberry wine, a sweeter berry wine that makes an excellent addition to white wine for a summer spritzer. $25
  • Blueberry wine; blended with merlot it becomes a quintessential sauce for drizzling over salmon. $25

Emanar Cellars

  • This authentic Spanish tasting bar offers a range of traditional Sherries from very dry to sweeter, even cream, category. In this way, Sherry is perhaps as misunderstood and versatile as riesling. Those allowed to age in barrel impart nutty notes like almond and coconut. At 15-20% ABV, these fortified wines warm you up from the inside out.

Heisen House Vineyards

  • Cupid’s Arrow, an off dry white blend infused with white chocolate and raspberry.
  • Love Potion No. 9, a red wine blend infused with dark chocolate.

Olequa Cellars

  • 2014 Viognier, slightly sweet and packed with flavors of melon, papaya, pear, apricot, and lemon. An excellent wine to enjoy with fruit desserts.
  • 2014 Riesling, rich and full bodied with flavors of peach, apricot and lemon.  It pairs well with spicy Asian and Indian dishes and fruit desserts.  Enjoy now or let it improve with age.

Pomeroy Cellars

  • DuBrul Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, must wait for May 6 Spring release but developed flavors of stone fruit and citrus are typical. Can run the gamut from cheese to fruit to glazed ham.

Three Brothers Winery 

  • Late Harvest Pinot Rosé, made of late harvest Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.  Currently their sweetest wine, in the 13% alcohol range with 3.5 percent residual sugar. Calms the heat of Latin cuisine.

 

 

NW Wineries make Wine Spectator cover story

WS022817_CoverUS.inddHave you caught the January/February issue of Wine Spectator yet? Two Oregon wineries—Ayoub and Bethel Heights—and two Washington Wineries—Novelty Hill/Januik and Sparkman Cellars—are featured in the cover story: 30 Wineries to Discover.

The wineries are noted for consistently delivering high-quality wines. Ayoub crafts eight small-production wines that I can say from personal experience deliver all the power, elegance and depth we’ve come to expect from the Willamette Valley.

Mo Ayoub pouring at the recent Pinot in the City in Dallas, TX. Dan Eierdam
Mo Ayoub pouring at the recent Pinot in the City in Dallas, TX. Dan Eierdam

It’s all in the family at Bethel Heights where cousins, Ben and Mimi Casteel, are carrying on the first generation’s legacy. Slightly more fruit-forward than Burgundian pinot noirs, their offerings deliver consistent layers to ponder.

Sourcing from Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope and even more affordable releases throughout the Columbia Valley, Mike Januik took a wealth of knowledge with him when he left Chateau Ste. Michelle nearly two decades ago. Now crafting wines for Novelty Hill and his own label, Januik, here is a man who has certainly hit his stride.

Photo supplied
Photo supplied

An $18 bottle of riesling from an esteemed producer is nearly unheard of in this day and age. Along with other bright whites, Sparkman Cellars sources quality fruit from top-rated vineyards throughout Washington State to grace their firm yet approachable reds.

Read all about these NW Wineries to Discover in the latest issue of Wine Spectator, on newsstands now.

 

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Clark College hosts Food Summit this Friday

FoodA daylong discussion about the region’s food ecosystem and the college’s role in its future 

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Clark College will be hosting “Growing Our Future” on Friday, February 10, to explore issues within the local food system and possibilities for new curriculum at the college to support this region’s food-producing industries.

The daylong event, which is made possible with support from the Clark County Food System Council, will feature speakers from local businesses and organizations like Heathen Brewing, Lapellah, Ecotrust, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture, as well as Clark College faculty. Together, attendees will explore concepts like the future of farming and the challenges of trying to use local ingredients in commercial enterprises. In between workshops and speakers, participants will enjoy a “locavore lunch” and “talking and tasting café.”

“Our goal in hosting this event is twofold,” said Vice President of Instruction Dr. Tim Cook. “First, we want to provide an opportunity for our growing community of food providers to discuss the issues confronting their industry right now. Second, the college wants to investigate the ways we can help support that industry, whether it’s by providing specialized training or potentially even creating a new Ecology and Agronomy program.”

The event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be held at Clark College at Columbia Tech Center, 18700 Mill Plain Blvd. Driving directions and parking maps are available here. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased, cash only, at the door. For more details about the event, click this link. 

About Clark College

Located in Vancouver’s Central Park and serving up to 13,000 students per quarter, Clark College is Washington State’s second-largest single-campus, for-credit community college. The college currently offers classes at two satellite locations: one on the Washington State University Vancouver campus and one in the Columbia Tech Center in East Vancouver. Additionally, its Economic & Community Development program is housed in the Columbia Bank building in downtown Vancouver.

Disclaimer: This is a reprint of Clark College’s press release