Drinking Now: 2012 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a white wine varietal, originally from the Burgundy region of eastern France, like Pinot Noir, and is actually now grown all over the world from England to New Zealand to Oregon.

Chardonnay, perhaps one of the most enjoyed yet snubbed varietals to date. It is now coming back with vengeance due to the efforts of the Oregon Wine industry. Chardonnay is quickly becoming the other wine varietal that Willamette Valley is becoming known for.

The Chardonnay grape itself tends be quite neutral but can be heavily influenced by terroir and oak. It can be vinified in various styles, from crisp and lean mineral wines of Chablis, France to the New World style with oak, butter and hints of tropical flavors.

2012 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay

2012 Cornerstone Oregon, Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Tasting Notes: 

Today, I am enjoying a 2012 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Chardonnay on a hot summer day in Portland, Oregon.  I held onto this Chardonnay because I knew it would evolve beautifully with time.

Color: Pale hay color

Nose: Citrus, pineapple, apricot, touch of butter, and green apple

Palate: Lemon lime, mineral, vanilla, green apple with a nice long finish. Medium plus acidity.

Overall: Classically styled yet modern Chardonnay with the right amount of acidity, touch of butter and diverse palate (it is sourced from great regions of the Willamette Valley from Yamhill- Carlton to Chehalem Mountain AVAs). It has the minerality of Chehalem, yet the body you would expect from Yamhill- Carlton.

 

Basics:

Appellation: Willamette Valley

Vintage: 2012

Aging: 15 months in French Oak barrels, 28% new, 100% Malolactic Fermentation.

Vineyards: Carabella, Gran Moraine, Willakia

Bottled: February 2014

Pairing: With the light touch of butter, this would pair wonderfully with a cold shrimp cocktail and crab legs. A perfect summer lunch wine.

Price: $40

Cases produced: 300

The place where Bourbon is more abundant than people…

Welcome to Lexington, Kentucky!

Lexington is an interesting place that is well worth a visit! Did you know that there are more bourbon barrels than people in the state of Kentucky? I certainly didn’t know this when I first stepped foot in Kentucky. Whether you come to Kentucky for the bluegrass horses or for the 200-year-old time-honored recipes for bourbon, you are likely to start in Lexington.

To reach Lexington, Kentucky, you can fly directly there, or you can drive there in about an hour and a half from Cincinnati Airport (CVG).

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Click here to learn about how distilling works

There are more than 10 bourbon distilleries within a short drive of downtown Lexington. You can get a local taxi or choose from an array of tour companies to lead you though the world-renowned Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Two highly recommended onsite distillery tours are the following:
1) Buffalo Trace Distillery
2) Woodford Reserve Distillery

There are also many other distilleries, including Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, and Jim Beam.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

I personally visited Buffalo Trace Distillery. There I received a wonderful tour by J.W., whose passion and knowledge of bourbon really showed in his tour and presentation of the 400-acre estate, home to over 300,000 225-liter barrels. It is noteworthy that while Buffalo Trace makes over 17 brands, it only has three recipes. What varies is the aging time and the location for the aging. Location for aging involves different types of buildings–for example, red brick buildings, yellow brick buildings, or metal buildings. The choice of buildings determines whether the buildings holding the bourbon-in-process will either absorb the heat, reflect the heat, or even heat up and cool off faster.

Another distillery, the Old Fire Copper Distillery, or OFC, was built in 1787–indeed, established before Kentucky was even a state. (At the time, Kentucky was still part of Virginia.) OFC was one of the four distilleries in the state to continuously produce bourbon even through Prohibition.

Did you know that back in those days, bourbon was considered medicinal, and a prescription was required in order to obtain it? To this day, you can still buy bourbon at pharmacies!

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Learn 10 things you didn’t know about Bourbon and the angels share…

So what is bourbon, and what makes Kentucky so special? Bourbon can be whisky but this is not necessarily true vice versa. Bourbon’s base is corn, with a requirement of at least 51% corn; wheat and rye are considered secondary grains. Only virgin white oak barrels are used, generally American oak, for aging, and aging requires at least 2 years. The reason barrels are used is to impart that beautiful caramel color typical of bourbon that comes only from its time in barrel. Absolutely no artificial colors or flavors can be added if it is to be considered bourbon. Once barreled, the bourbon-in-process is stored, and, unlike some wines, there is no further movement or rotation of the barrel. It simply sits, and eventually the angels take their share over the years of aging.

In fact, a full barrel will be reduced over a period of 20 years to approximately a quarter of the original barrel. When it is ready to be bottled, this concentrated bourbon is then transferred to a tank where it is blended with Kentucky limestone water to the correct proof, and then filtered, bottled, and labeled (by hand at Buffalo Trace).

So why Kentucky? Kentucky is perfect for distilling and aging bourbon because it has four distinct seasons, which are necessary in order to age bourbon. Not only this, but as mentioned earlier–similar to sake–it is all about the water source. Kentucky offers easy access to limestone water, integral in the flavor profile of bourbon. Indeed, boubon is made only in the U.S., and 95% of bourbon is made in the state of Kentucky.

I hope you’ve learned as much as I have from this trip.

And as you know, Kentucky is not just about bourbon. Be sure to visit the beautiful and historic horse Keenanland Race Course during the famous Kentucky Derby in early May or the bands at the Festival of the Bluegrass in June. To learn more about what Lexington has to offer, go to http://www.visitLex.com. For more on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit www.kybourbontrail.com.

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A Weekend to Remember in Prosser, Washington

While Prosser may not be as well-known as, say, Walla Walla, it is home to a number of recognizable and award-winning wineries. It is, in fact, the birthplace of Washington Wine, thanks to the efforts of Walter Clore but more about that later. Let’s talk about the wineries of Prosser and how to spend a proper weekend in Prosser and not treat it as just another stop along the way to other regions.

GETTING THERE

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As an introduction to those new to the area, Prosser is located about three hours from Portland, Oregon, across this beautiful stretch of the Columbia Gorge that is well worth the drive.  You can also fly into Pasco, Washington from Portland Airport in 45 minutes on Alaska Airlines, Delta and United.

HISTORY

Prosser is the birthplace of Washington wine, as declared by the Washington State Legislature, Mr. Clore was the father of Washington wine.   It was under Walter Clore’s direction that a number of experimental plantings would soon become the foundation of the now famous Washington wines.  Prosser has since remained at the forefront of wine growing and agricultural research in Washington State. Click here for more info on Prosser and the birthplace of Washington Wine from a previous article.

Prosser is home to Mercer Estates, Columbia Crest, and Hogue Cellars, as well as some smaller yet renowned wineries such as Chinook Winery, Gamache Vitners, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Bunnell Cellars, and Domanico Cellars.

 

FRIENDS TO TAKE ALONG

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A walk through the Domanico Cellars Vineyard with the crew.

 

Left to Right:  Sarah of Wow Communications,William of Wild 4 Washington Wine,  April of Sacred Drop, Mattie of By the Tun, Ken of Decanter Banter ,and Jason from Domanico Cellars.

Like any trip one takes, a great trip has only so much to do with the places you visit, the food you eat, and the drinks you consume; it has much more to do with the people you are with and the memories you share.  When visiting a wine region such as Prosser, take people with you on this trip who love food and wine as much as you do.

On this trip, I had the honor of being with four wonderful people, two of which I knew quite well from previous wine encounters and trips:  Mattie Bamman of By the Tun and William Pollard of Wild 4 Washington Wine.  I also had the chance to get to know Sarah Wolcott better; Sarah just launched her own communications company called Wow Communications and works for Zephyr Adventures as a phenomenal wine guide.  She is also the one who organized and led this wonderful Prosser wine tour. In addition to these three fine people, I got to meet Ken Trimpe for the first time.  Ken is a native of Washington and has a great video blog called Decanter Banter and runs his own agency called Vine Vertical.  Our friend, Alina, joined us but had to leave—what a pity; we hope you feel better!

We wine geeks love to geek out over food and wine, and while our significant others sometimes can’t help but roll their eyes at us, we have a blast. I’d like to share some to the great things to eat, drink and do in Prosser. Enjoy!

PLACES TO EAT

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The beautiful Bunnell Syrah vertical at Wine O’Clock.

 

  1. Wine O’Clock

Prosser is not normally the type of town you would think you could find Michelin Star quality types of restaurants, but I found this place and only wish I could be closer so I could visit it daily.

Wine O’Clock is located in Vintners Village in Prosser, a place where you will find a number of my new favorite Washington wineries, such as Martinez & Martinez, Gamache Vintners, Cayote Canyon, and of course, Bunnell Wines.

Home to the winery of Bunnell Wines, Wine O’Clock also serves as a wine bar and bistro with an amazing and rotating selection of food made from local produce. I would not leave Prosser before thoroughly enjoying the wine flights and menu of Mrs. Susan Bunnell.  Check out her weekly menu here.

  1. Martilla’s Kitchen- Caterer

You can find wonderful food working with Kristin of Martilla’s Kitchen.   This is run by Mrs. Kristin M. Johnson, formerly of Alaska; she named her restaurant after her grandmother, who showed her how to cook her beyond-delicious meals.  If you need an Alaskan chef to cater your meals, or perhaps you are hosting an event, be sure to contact Kristin.

PLACES TO DRINK

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In Washington, there is always wine for you too!

 

Other than Wine O’Clock and Bunnell Wines as your favorite winebar, make sure to visit the following great places:

Prosser Vintner’s Village:

1. Gamache Vintners:  Prosser Vintner’s Village, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Since 1982, Gamache Vintners have been farming a unique spot of land in the White Bluffs of the Columbia Valley, working alongside Mother Nature to grow top-quality grapes for some of the state’s best vintners. They decided along the way to make a few bottles of their own and have since had award-winning success. Make sure to try their 2010 Estate Cab Franc.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Summer Open daily 11-5 | Winter- Call for Appointment: 509-786-7800

2. Martinez & Martinez Winery: Prosser Vintner’s Village- Winemaker Loft- 375, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Martinez & Martinez Winery is dedicated to the production of high-quality wine from high-quality grapes, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills. I had the pleasure of meeting Monica and trying her 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The people at Martinez & Martinez are wonderful people and have phenomenal wines.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Call to confirm hours: 509-786-2392 or email at info@MartinezWine.com.

3. Bunnell Wines: Prosser Vintner’s Village, 100 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA, 99350

Although I previously mentioned Bunnell Wines, I wanted to point out my favorite wines from Bunnell.  I loved, loved the 2009 Bunnell Alx- Syrah; it was stunning—as was their 2006 Horse Heaven Hills Syrah, which they paired with an amazing duck plate that blew me away.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Wednesday – Sunday from noon until 5 pm; Tastings for groups of 6 or more by appointment: (509) 786-2197

The team

The dream team at Mercer Estates Winery

Prosser Food and Wine Park:

1. Mercer Estates Winery:  3100 Lee Road, Prosser, WA 99350; 509-786-2097

The Mercers have a long history in Washington.  Mercer Wines is now in its fifth generation of farming in Washington State. Make sure to stop by their tasting room and try their Ode to Brothers-Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre blend, and their beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. If you want to contribute to the Flight 93 Fund, make sure to take home a bottle of Eagle and Plow Cabernet Sauvignon; with your purchase of this wine, Mercer Wines donates 100% of its profits to First Responders groups and veterans. Well worth the visit, and say hi to Jenna! That’s where we took this great picture in front of the terracotta egg used for fermenting wine.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (March-December)

2. Chinook Wines: 220 Wittkopf Lane, Prosser, WA 99350; 509.786.2725,  info@chinookwines.com

Chinook Wines just celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013.  The brainchild of Clay Mackey and Kay Simon, Chinook Wines has become well known for its gorgeously balanced wines and its beautiful, renovated farmhouse tasting room. Make sure to try Chinook Wines’ tropical 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and its food-friendly 2011 Cab Franc.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Saturday and Sunday 12–5 May through October, or by appointment

3. Alexandria Nicole Cellars: 2880 Lee Rd, Suite D , Prosser, WA 99350

Alexandria Nicole Cellars is dedicated to producing small lots of hand-crafted wine from their 267-acre estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard.  This vineyard is located high above the bluffs on the Columbia River, near the town of Paterson, Washington, where the grapes thrive in the soils and climatic conditions of the Horse Heaven Hills.

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Open daily 11-5 | 2880 Lee Rd, Suite D , Prosser, WA 99350  | 509.786.3497
HOLLYWOOD SCHOOLHOUSE: Open daily 12-5 | Friday night happy hour 5-8 |
14810 Northeast 145th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072 | 425.487.9463
DESTINY RIDGE VINEYARD AND WINERY: Open by Appt.| 158422 W. Sonova Rd., Prosser, WA 99350 | 509.242.9979

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Pontin del Roza

Pontin del Roza

1. Pontin Del Roza:  35502 N Hinzerling Rd, Prosser, WA 99350

If you love bocce ball and love a beautifully designed tasting room, this is your place. Scott Pontin will host you with some of his very nice white and rosé wines; however, he’s sold out completely of his reds (which is a pity, as this region is now becoming known for their stellar red wines)!  Scott’s family began as turkey farmers; however, in 1967, they started selling Concord grapes for juice to Yakima Valley Grape Producers, now Welch’s. Today Pontin del Roza is a thriving estate winery with over 100 acres of 10 varietals including: Riesling, Malbec, Syrah, Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Petit Verdot.

Scott’s family also farmed wheat, mint, potatoes, and sugar beets and later planted five varieties of apples, which they still farm.  Scott generously took us to see…and pick his apples. I took home some as-big-as-your-head Fuji apples, which I am now enjoying as I write.

Scott will show you a great time, and you will love the events he has at his place.  To get a sense of his place, check out his latest video:

[http://vimeo.com/68493659]

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Open daily 11-5

2. Davenlore Winery: 23103 South Davlor Pr SW, Prosser, WA 99350

This family-owned Yakima Valley winery produces high-quality DavenLore wine from hand-picked local grapes. Gordon Taylor heads up the winemaking and is also the December pinup for the Prosser Winemaker’s Calendar! He’s a hoot, and he has some beautiful wines to boot! I took home a bottle of his Sangiovese Rosé.

PROSSER WINERY & TASTING ROOM: Fri – Sat – Sun: 11am-5pm, Mon – Thurs: Call for Appt. 509-786-1575

3. Domanico Cellars:  825 NW 49th Street, Seattle, WA 98107; 206.465.9406; info@domanicocellars.com

Domanico Cellars is a small family-owned-and-operated winery.  Jason and his wife first started their winery in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle and have since grown their operations to a larger warehouse, where they house their tasting room and winery in the same neighborhood. I had the pleasure of walking through Jason’s vineyard in Prosser.  His vineyard is home to a number of different varieties and vines that have been long planted in the soils of Prosser.  Jason commutes back and forth between Prosser and Seattle and is also a very active member and board member of the Prosser Wine Network. I fell in love with his two amazing 2008 Domanico Mesa Rojo and Domanico Family Wine.  This latter wine, unfortunately, is not for sale but is only for the family. I guess I can count myself very lucky!

SEATTLE TASTING ROOM: Friday – 5:00 to 9:00PM; Saturday –  2:00 to 9:00PM

PROSSER TASTING ROOM: Coming soon!

 THINGS TO DO

While every town has its attractions, Prosser is the place to come if you want to enjoy wine events. .  Click here to find out more about the latest winery events in Prosser. The events change by the season, so it’s worth checking before you head out.  You should also book your spots in advance, as spaces fill up fast.

In addition, Prosser offers great Farmers’ Markets, including their Prosser Winter Market, where you can find all the greatest of the local produce that this region is known for

Berns Tavern

Every location has a dive bar that is worth visiting at least once to get a feel for the local wildlife. We had the pleasure of visiting the one place that everyone says you have to visit before you leave.  This place is Bern’s Tavern. Bern’s Tavern is where you can rub shoulders with a lot of the local winemakers and ask them how things are going in the fermentation hall.  Even if there isn’t a local winemaker there when you go, the people in Prosser are really nice and will chat you up over an ice cold beer.

PLACES TO STAY

Desert WInd

Desert Wind Winery not only has wine but also offers four luxurious guest suites.  It’s located in the heart of the Prosser Wine & Food Park, right next to Kestrel Vintners, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Hogue Cellars, Mercer Wine Estate, and across the street from Chinook Wines.

Also highly recommended is the Seven Gables Pensione, which is a beautiful restored historic home built in the early 1900s.

There is always a place for you and your budget in Prosser!  For more recommendations, contact the tourism office of Prosser at Tour Prosser for more information.

I hope you will enjoy Prosser as much as I did!   Cheers!