Summer of Rose

As a red wine drinker, I used to only love reds, all the time but as my palate matured, I realized that I needed to start re-educating my palate to other wines. I realized that I adore Rose, especially from the same grape varietals I normally drink as reds, such as a Rose of Pinot Noir, of Cabernet Sauvignon, of Tempranillo, and of Sangiovese.

Recently, I received a wonderful bottle of Rose from Willamette Valley, it was like biting into a watermelon that was soaked in strawberry and nectarine juice and had a crispness to it that made you want to drink more and more of it. This is a dangerous thing, especially by the pool. It is made by Real Nice Winemakers called Shallow Seas. It is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling sourced from some of the best vineyards in Willamette Valley.

This is my kind of “Rose all day” kind of poolside sipper!


It most recently received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast but honestly, I am more of one to try the wine and decide whether I like it or not and I do really love this rose. It is crisp and super drinkable. At $18, you really can’t go wrong but hurry as it is almost sold out!


Another very enjoyable Rose came from Lodi, called d’Art and it is a Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, which we paired with some great steaks poolside. It was a great pairing and one I plan to do again.  To me, on the nose, it had this strawberry, watermelon, grapefruit and rose scent. On the palate, it had medium acidity with a lasting finish that had bright fruited yet some herbaceousness, that was quite enjoyable. I also love that their wine label art differs from wine to wine. At $22, this balanced wine is sure end of summer BBQ hit!

Lodi has a great number of varietals that they use to make a variety of wines, if you have a chance, this is an incredible area to visit and while famous for their Zinfandel, grow over 125 varieties and this diversity is reflected in our rosés. They have rosés made from Carignan, Grenache and Garnacha, Barbera, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Learn more at Lodi Wine.

Make sure to get these before they sell out for the season! Cheers!

Don’t miss the Slow Food Nations Festival Coming to Denver on July 13-15, 2018

As a foodie, I love food events that showcase not only food but the history behind it. In this case, you get a chance to learn not only about the history but the future of the food you eat every day. On July 13-15, Slow Food USA will be holding their annual Slow Food Nations Festival in downtown Denver. This event will include free and paid events so there is really something for everyone, even kids.

For families, there is the free Taste Marketplace and Eat street and the Zero Waste Family Meal which features chefs collaborating on a delicious family meal created from the festival’s food scraps. This is likely going to be a meal to remember!

For those interested in workshops, there are some great ones like Slow Wine 101 and The Magical Mix of Cheese, Beer and Charcuterie for around $50 a workshop.  Who doesn’t love a little bit of alcohol while learning something incredible about the food and drink they consume every day? Not every workshop showcases alcohol, there are a number of other workshops focusing on honey, grain, and olive oil as well.

For the foodie/wine lover in me, Raj Patel is coming and I am super excited to hear this free talk with Gail Myers and Tom Philpott during “The Impact of Capitalism on Food.”

The best part of this is that is all located in downtown Denver at Larimer Square. Make sure to pick up some tickets soon as they will most likely sell out. I better go get my Colorado Fare dinner tickets now!

About Slow Food Nations: 

Slow Food Nations is a festival of flavor, culture and exploration. From the Taste Marketplace and Eat Street, to workshops and family fun, we’re taking over Larimer Square in downtown Denver. Kick it off with an opening party featuring the best of Colorado, and connect with farmers and artisans, chefs and food lovers over the weekend.

The festival is free and open to the public, with select ticketed workshops, talks and tastings. July 13-15, 2018. 

Click here for more information on their schedule.

A Foodie’s Journey through Denver in a Day

Union Station Denver

Stop 1: Breakfast

No trip to Denver is complete without a few food stops, and if you are a foodie like me, I would recommend starting with a hearty breakfast at Snooze AM.

If you haven’t heard of Snooze, then it’s time for you to try it. Snooze is my go-to breakfast place early in the morning. As the adage goes, “the early bird gets the worm;” in this case, if you arrive early to Snooze, you’ll beat the lines and get in fast. So literally, don’t snooze…or you’ll wait a good hour or so for your breakfast.

Snooze was started in Denver in 2006 and has now expanded to California, Arizona, and Texas. I personally love to start with their Straight Up or Spicy Bloody Marys or their fresh-from-the-tap Mimosas. Then I love to dive into one of two items, either their 3-Egg Omelets or their delectable Cinnamon Roll Pancake, the latter of which I always order on the side anyways and split it with those at the table. That is, of course, if I feel like sharing!  You honestly can’t go wrong with any item on their menu.

Visit them at the Denver Union Station starting at 6:30 a.m. at 1701 Wynkoop Street, Suite 150, Denver, CO 80202. They are tucked inside the really cool and renovated Union Station.

Stop 2: Walk it off

Once you’ve filled your belly, it’s time to burn off some of those cholesterol-laden calories. I recommend enjoying the sights with a light walking tour with Denver Free Walking Tours.  They start at 10 a.m. and meet at the Veteran’s Memorial off Lincoln Street, and they end at Coors Field.  It is about a two-hour walk and covers about two miles. Thus it isn’t too much of a hike but it’s enough to get you going.  If you are pushing around a stroller, it isn’t too hard to manage either. These tours run May 1st through October 31st, seven days a week; then from November 1st to April 30th, they run only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Denver Civic Center

These tour guides work off their tips, so do tip them generously! The tour covers the State Capitol, the Civic Center, the Denver Art Museum, the U.S. Mint, Larimer Square, and 16th Street Mall, and finishes at the famous Coors Field.  These are all the really essential places to visit while in town.  This is indeed a great way to experience downtown without having to think too much about it.

Stop 3: Food Truck time!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have recommended a big breakfast, but given that you’ve now already walked some of it off, you can indulge once again.  Do this at the Civic Center Eats, which is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from May 2nd to October 5th. It is Denver Metro’s largest gathering of gourmet food trucks and carts (23-25 food trucks to be exact).  You can taste everything from local burgers to Cajun to Indian food and all the while enjoying live music and the beautiful setting of the Civic Center Park.

Stop 4: Nap or Drink…your choice

Yes, I said, take a nap. If you are lucky enough to be staying downtown or nearby, head back for a nap and enjoy a food-induced nap.  Why?  Because tonight you will be eating at one of the top James Beard award-winning restaurants, Rioja, and you’ll need room for this wonderful cuisine. However, before you do take a nap, make sure you’ve already booked your dinner reservations at Rioja.

If you are not able to nap, enjoy a beer back at Union Station’s Terminal Bar, which has a great line-up of Colorado beers, or enjoy a coffee across the way at Pigtrain Coffee Company, where you can experience phenomenal lattes.

Another great stop is a place where you can see all of Denver from a rooftop while enjoying a beer.  Go to Tap Fourteen, on the rooftop of Hayter’s & Co, half a block from Coors Field, where you can choose from a rotating list of 70 top Colorado beers on draft! You can try out their great beer offerings from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday- Friday or start early on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. with brunch.  Tap Fourteen has many other activities and events; check out their homepage.

Stop 5: Award-Winning Dinner

Finally, the famous and historic Larimer Street located in Lower Downtown Denver (known locally as LODO) is where you will find a number of great restaurants besides my personal favorite mentioned earlier, Rioja. Perhaps this particular restaurant is a place I recommend because I am partial to (and have lived and worked in) the wine region in Northern Spain called La Rioja.  However, Rioja (the restaurant) is actually a place where James Beard Award Winning Executive Chef Jennifer Jasinski and Tim Kuklinski bring together local and Mediterranean ingredients to create sophisticated plates. While the food is not typical of my favorite wine region in Spain, Rioja’s many food and wine offerings stand out on their own and create their own little piece of heaven.

Rioja Meal

At Rioja, I recommend trying their egg-yolk ravioli, which is deliciously divine and cooked to perfection. With a buttery dish like this, I would recommend pairing this with a wine with enough acidity to cut through the starch, butter, and yolks. A chardonnay or a pinot blanc would pair well with this plate, given the acidity and body typical these wines.

If you plan to go to Rioja, I would recommend booking via OpenTable in advance as this place is well sought after. They open at 5 p.m. for dinner and are located at 1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO.

I hope you have enjoyed this day as much as I have!


Drinking Now: Black Magnolia

You may be intrigued by the name—I was. Black Magnolia wine, as the winemaker and owner, Anthony Van Nice states, describes what is in the bottle.  “Magnolias are beautiful and fragrant, and they have a velvety texture.  There really is no such thing as a Black Magnolia, so this is something new and perhaps intriguing and unexpected.”

This isn’t the only reason I was interested in trying this wine. It also had to do with the person behind the wine. Anthony Van Nice collaborated with well-known and respected Laurent Montalieu of Soléna Estate to create this wine, along with another soon-to-be-released wine, a rosé, called Shallow Seas. These wines will be housed under Van Nice’s winery Real Nice Winemakers.  Nice play on names, Anthony!

Anthony has been in the wine industry for over 20 years and got his start as a cellar rat working at Archery Summit under another famous winemaker, Gary Andrus. After this, he went on to work in Burgundy, France; Australia,: and New Zealand, and he eventually made it back to Oregon. He was the first employee of a start-up winery called The Four Graces and quickly became their GM and later President until it was sold to the Foley Wine Group.

After having spent the last few years helping others build their own wineries, he thought it was finally time that he started his own. And so Real Nice Winemakers, along with his Black Magnolia wine, was born.blackmagnolia_label

Black Magnolia Pinot Noir is sourced from three well-known and respected vineyards, Hyland Vineyard (Hyland Estates), Olsen Vineyard, and Domaine Loubejac Vineyard.  This blend of vineyards creates a uniquely balanced wine with the right amount of acid and fruit that will delight you from the first course to the last course of dinner.

Interestingly enough this wine is not your traditional $40-$50-dollar bottle of Pinot Noir .  Rather, at a very reasonable $22, it’s a wine that can still be representative of the famous Willamette Valley and delivers on quality over price. Do try it!

To learn more about Black Magnolia, visit  Cheers!

Winey Toddler: All about life, wine, and toddlers

Life continues to evolve and with it, the creation of Winey Toddler. As many of you now know, I have a little toddler who keeps me on my feet and busy…all the time. I’ve been wanting to create a place where I can write about how my life has changed since having a kid and honestly, Sacred Drop is more about wine, beer, and spirits, not about kids.

Winey Toddler was created with the premise that life with a toddler demands a good dose of humor and an incredible bottle…I mean, a glass of wine. It will be a place where I will talk about life as a mother, all things baby and toddler, life as the wife of a surgical resident, being a SAHM who consults, and of course, food, wine, and travel.  Please join me on this adventure!

Please check out Winey Toddler in the upcoming months as I begin to write more and more about life as I now know it.



Why wine clubs are the best thing since sliced bread…

In pondering the best way to buy wine, I asked myself the question, do I have a wine buying problem?

I think I do.  I think I have a wine buying problem when 1) I’m buying wine online at 4:35 a.m. in the morning, 2) have a ton of great wine downstairs in the basement, and 3) am living on a very tight budget.

So what do you do when you have a wine obsession like I do? You scour the Internet in search of the very, very best deals and that just happens to come in wine clubs. Yes, wine clubs, but I’m not referring to your standard wine club procedure: go to winery, love the wines, and sign up for a monthly or quarterly package from the same winery. While this method is great for those who absolutely love one particular winery and wine type, I like to try wines from everywhere and at all price points—but honestly, I don’t have the budget to do so!

I’ve decided that the only ways to handle my wine obsession is to 1) physically go to all the liquor stores in Denver (this is currently the only way to buy wine) in search of the best deals on wine, or 2) search online and see what is available at a great price.

Below, I’ll describe three different online wine clubs that I’ve had some experience with and which you might also be interested in.


My first thought was to check out Amazon Wine. As an Amazon customer, I love getting the best price on things and getting my shipment within two days. I have to admit, I have an Amazon obsession. However, I was disappointed in the selection and lack of packages, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to buy if some of my tried and true wines weren’t available there. I quickly abandoned this wine-buying option.

Then I remembered that when I first moved to Denver, I received mail with, well, a lot of junk, but in it, there was a flyer from WSJ Wine. I respect and used to read the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) when I had time, a long-long-long time ago.  I figured that, being WSJ, the company was likely to have a decent selection, and it appeared that I could get an all “Reds” Discovery package.


This interested me more than anything. Red wines always cost more, and while I can appreciate a white wine, I generally tend to lean red. About a week later, I received my package of twelve red wines ranging from Malbecs to Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinot Noir. I haven’t finished all the wines, but so far, every single one of the wines I’ve tried has been really good. I even got to try a Coppola wine as well, and it was quite good. However, in order to continue getting these great rates, I paid $69.99 for the intro Discovery package plus $19.99 for S&H and then additional tax, making a grand total of around $95 for twelve bottles of wine plus two Riedel glasses.  The average cost of wine came out to about $8 a bottle for this package.

Once you join, then you have access to more wines and are sent a package of twelve wines at $149.99 plus $19.99 for S&H, bringing the average cost per bottle to around $14. This is still a great deal, and you can adjust the schedule if needed. If there is a wine you don’t like, you simply let them know, and they’ll refund you the cost of the wine. The good thing, too, is that it is easy to cancel should you choose to. Overall, I was very impressed and surprised at the quality of these wines.


ONLY $20 TO JOIN: Firstleaf

Another option is to try three wines at once based on your preference in whites, reds, or a mix, and by U.S., International, or Mix. This option was created by the magazine Food & Wine and is called Firstleaf. The barriers to entry are quite small, and $19.99 includes the S&H for three bottles. It is somewhat of a Netflix of wine; you then get to rate the introductory wines Yay or Nay, and additional selections for your next six-bottle shipment will be created. The next shipment is determined by how many bottles you consume a month. If you are likely to consume three bottles a month, then they determine that a six-bottle shipment every two months is right for you. You can of course, adjust as needed, based on your needs, to four, six, or eight bottles every two or even three months. I signed up for three bottles a month and therefore a six-bottle package cost me $79.99 plus $9.95 S&H. I was able to get the six-bottle package without the S&H cost, making future packages for the year $13.34 per bottle—not a bad deal.

I personally picked the International option as I was interested in seeing what all would be included. I received a beautifully packaged box about a week later with a thank-you card and the introductory package of three wines. As of now, this seems like a great price.  Now I just need to try the wines and see if they are indeed worth it. I am in the process of trying them, but I’m sure they will be up to par as this is a joint venture between Sunset and Food &Wine magazines. I’ll post an updated review on the wines later.

Below are a few screenshots of what to expect:




And yet a third option, and perhaps one that a lot of people may be interested in as it doesn’t include a monthly subscription, is Naked Wines. A few years ago, after having attended a Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, I got a chance to try Naked Wines (not to be mistaken with Naked Winery). Naked Wines has a very interesting setup where you can initially join with a $100 voucher which is applied to your first purchase.  Generally, this will allow you to buy anywhere from a 6-pack to 12-pack case with some additional money. Or, you could use this $100 and apply it to a few select wines that you might be interested in. However, you may quickly realize that you’d rather try them at a better price, and you might consider trying a few others at the same time for the same price. With this in mind, you generally go for a wine pack of a number of wines, even those reserved for exclusive “Angels.”


“Angels” at Naked Wines are people, like you and me, who decide to invest in these blossoming winemakers. As an Angel, you are supporting hundreds of winemakers internationally who have a dream and want to sell their wine but who individually wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of a larger distribution partner such as Naked Wines.

Naked Wines makes it possible for these winemakers to get their wines out to the general public, and, in return, the winemakers sell their wine at reasonably discounted prices so that people like you and me can try them. To become an Angel, you invest a monthly amount starting at $40 a month which can be later allocated toward the purchase of future wines at a special price. If you like a certain wine, then you can buy more through Naked Wines at a great price. Click here to get the $100 voucher for your first pack.

As I’ve been rating red wines, I personally went for the Carnivore 12-bottle case and would have had to pay $134.99, which included S&H. That brought the price of this Carnivore case to about $11.50 a bottle, taking into account taxes. Shipping is free, if the purchase of over $100, and $9.99 for an order of under $100.

In full disclosure, I was able to apply a goodwill voucher of $70 to this purchase, and I was able to get the wine for around $65, making this a steal for me.  However, at generally $11.50 a bottle, this might yet be the best price I’ve seen.  I’m looking forward to the nice assortment of Syrah, Zin, and Pinot Noirs that I’ll get to try.  Needless to say, I am all set for now on wine. I’ll be reviewing them all here soon and will keep you in the loop.  Enjoy the discount of $100 and perhaps apply it the Big Reds six-pack?

I hope that this information on wine-buying has been useful to you. And, yes, wine clubs can be the best thing since sliced bread! Enjoy your wine!

Drinking Now: Terre Margaritelli from Umbria

Italy is a place commonly known for its Tuscan wines, generally from the Chianti region of Northern Italy. Chianti’s main grape is Sangiovese followed by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Sangiovese is, however, grown in a number of regions of Italy, including that of a small region just south and literally bordering Montepulciano, one of the most famous Chianti regions, Umbria.1-vigna-e-cantina-da-sud

Umbria, somewhat of a lesser known cousin of Tuscany, mainly grows Sangiovese as well. Umbria also produces a well-known crisp peachy white wine called Orvieto made from Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello and other varieties. Umbria has two DOCGs (notable wine regions): Torgiano Rosso Riserva and Sagrantino di Montefalco.

I had the pleasure to try a few wines from a winery called Terre Margaritelli, which is located in the heart of Umbria, between Assisi and Perugia on a 128-acre estate planted with organic vineyards in Miralduolo, Torgiano DOCG area. This particular winery had its start in 1870 and the Margaritelli family has passed on its love of wine generation by generation.


Grechetto grapes ready for harvest.

One of the first wines I had the chance to try was a Greco Di Renabianca, a white wine made from the grape varietal Grechetto. It ages for about two to three months in French oak and later aged in a bottle for a year. It was a very interesting wine for me as it was reminiscent of a lightly oaked Chardonnay.  It had the same kind of apple and white floral notes with a grassiness that I tend to like about unoaked Chardonnay wines but a light buttery finish that didn’t linger too long.  The grapes pictured above are the Grechetto grapes, which are more commonly used to blend but have the potential, as demonstrated in this wine, to stand alone. It retails for around $25 a bottle.

img_0790The wine that I enjoyed the most was the 100% Sangiovese, Freccia Degli Scacchi, with the Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG classification. It has been aged 24 months in French oak and 24 months in bottle. This wine reminded me somewhat of a Priorat (NE Spain) wine with some flintiness (licorella) and licorice on the palate. The color of the wine was a deep garnet red. On the nose, baked dark berries, leather and some candied fruit and finally in the mouth: blackberries, dark cherries, licorice, licorella, and a long persistent finish.  It retails around $30 a bottle.

Both of these wines were not only tasty but eye-opening for the region. I look forward to trying more wines from Umbria and hopefully visiting the region one day!



Discovering the Hungarian Burgundy: Kovács Nimród Wines

When one now thinks of Hungary and its wines, one thinks of the deliciously sweet, luscious wine Tokaji (Tokay in English). Few, however, know that from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, Hungary was arguably one of the third most sophisticated wine cultures in Europe, after France and Germany.  Hungary sits on the same northern latitude as Burgundy, France, and the Willamette Valley of Oregon; this location makes it an ideal place to produce crisp white wines.  Yet interestingly enough, it also has a continental climate, which allows the country to produce riper, bolder varieties. Hungary dedicates about 70 percent of its total wine production to white wines. Few also know that Hungary has 21 wine-producing regions, seven of which were more commonly known based on the historic quality of their wines. One of the most prestigious of these is Tokaj-Hegyalja in the northeastern part of the country, along the Slovakian border. The six other regions include Badacsony, Somló, Szekszárd, Villány-Siklós, Mátra, and Eger.  Eger is where my story on Kovács Nimród wines begins.

Thanks to the generosity of Bottle Rocket Wine Works, a wine distributor, I was invited to taste some of the wines of Hungary.  I love a great Tokaji wine, and honestly, when I attended this tasting, I expected to taste a few Tokaji wines. Instead, I was met with some beautiful wines that were Burgundian in style and that I never knew existed. I had the opportunity to meet Nimród Kovács of Kovács Nimród Winery(KNW), located in the “Gran Cru” region of Eger in the northeastern part of Hungary.

The region of Eger is known for light-bodied reds as well as Hungary’s popular “bull’s blood,” a dry red wine. Bull’s blood, or Egri bikavér, is one of the most popular dry red wines. Eger is halfway between Tokaj and Budapest in the middle of the country. The legend goes that in the mid-1500s that when the Magyars (ancestors of modern Hungarians) were besieged by the Turks, the Magyars had been drinking red wine while fighting fiercely, and this had stained their faces red. Seeing their red-stained faces and fierce fighting, the Turks feared that the Magyars had been drinking bulls’ blood to obtain their fierce prowess—and they retreated. And this is how the wine got its name.

Compared to other regions of Hungary, the Eger region has a cooler climate similar to that of Burgundy or the northern Rhone region, and this allows them to produce varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as heartier reds such as Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It is also where Hungarian varietals Furmint and Kekfrankos can be grown.  KNW tends to use for its barrels mostly Hungarian oak, which can be likened to having the best of both oaks, American and French oak.  Barrels made of Hungarian oak come from the same species as French oak but have an even tighter grain and more subtle impact.  This oak tends to convey vanilla-, spice-, and caramel-like flavors over a longer period of time than do traditionally used French and American oak. It also gives a smoother, creamier texture to the wines as well. At a price about halfway between those of American and French oak barrels, these Hungarian oak barrels are perfect for the varietals grown in this region.

My three favorite wines from this tasting were the 2010 Furmint and 2011 Furmint; 2013 Pinot Noir made with Dijon 777 clone; and the 2007 and 2009 NJK Grand Cru.


2010 and 2011 Furmint

Tokaji, the most widely known Hungarian wine, is a beautifully luscious white-gold wine with an amazing aging potential due to the acid commonly found in Furmint, the grapes used.  Furmint has long been the dominant grape varietal for the Tokaj region in Hungary and was made popular during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It has been used since then to make sweet wine through an aging-on-the-vine process using botrytis, which is a fungus commonly known as “Nobel Rot.” Nobel Rot keeps the grape from evolving into gray rot, the destructive form of rot, and instead allows the grape to dry out on the vine, naturally concentrating the sugar compounds.  This is a process commonly seen not only in Tokaj but also in Sauternes, regions where moist air and dry air alternate, allowing the fungus to thrive.  Furmint, however, can be used to make a dry white wine as well. In this case, this 2010 Furmint came from a difficult vintage and therefore made a truly wonderful complex wine.  This wine had medium acidity, likely in part because 30 to 40 percent of the grapes used for this vintage had botrytis, giving the wine a nice complex finish.  Nevertheless, it still had somewhat of a stainless-steel Chardonnay notes with a touch of flint and buttery oak.  I loved the pear, peach, and apricot notes that peaked with a long clean citrus finish.  The 2011 Furmint was similar, but I enjoyed it more than the 2010 Furmint due to the intensity of the crisp finish of the former.


2013 Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a grape most commonly grown both in Burgundy, France and in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The clone used for this vintage was a Dijon 777, which is known for being very dark and rich and for being commonly blended with other wines.  However, this clone is now being produced on its own, showing an intensity and complexity not seen in other clones. I personally have long been a fan of this clone since being exposed to it while working for Hyland Estates in the Willamette Valley, where I had the opportunity to try several of their single-clone Pinot Noirs.

This particular vintage tasted as if it could compete with that of an Oregon Pinot Noir, and I soon found out why. This wine was made by a RoxyAnne Oregon winemaker, Kent Barthman.

The wine had a distinctly spicy perfume with a considerable raspberry note and an almost skunky-ness, but not in a bad way.  I know it’s hard to believe it’s not bad, but I really enjoyed it quite a bit, and at a $25 price point, I would happily choose one of these Pinot Noirs to share with friends.


2007 and 2009 NJK Grand Cru

Both vintages of this NJK wine were spectacular. These wines were aged for 24 months in Hungarian oak and reminded me of a big bold Syrah. The grapes come from the limestone-laden soils of their Grand Cru Nagy Eged vineyard and offer a beautiful leather, blackberry, raspberry, baked plum mouth that ends as elegantly as it started.

I hope I have enticed you to try some Hungarian wines—and at the price points, you really have very little to lose. Enjoy!


An Insider’s Guide to the Willamette Valley

Having worked in the Willamette Valley in Oregon since 2012, I am often asked, “Where would you go if visiting the Willamette Valley?” My answer generally will include places that I know that person is likely to enjoy.  However, if it were up to me, I would have some specific, special recommendations. Here are a few of my top recommendations.

Grape Escape Tour

A Grape Escape Tour

Tour companies: Either select a designated driver or take a tour.   While tours aren’t cheap, they generally are cheaper than a DUI ticket, and they are much more enjoyable because everyone can drink. Tours also generally include the tasting fees (depending on the winery, $15-$20 per person), but check with the company when you are booking your tour.

  • For groups of 4+: Grape Escape – Ask for Ralph, and he will take great care of you. This is probably one of the best deals out there. Furthermore, if your group isn’t big enough and you don’t mind going with others, it will likely be even cheaper. The tour guides are very knowledgeable.  While you will be riding in a large 10-passenger van, they pay the tasting fees and include small snacks such as meat and cheese plates for you to enjoy at one of the winery stops. Let Ralph know where you would like to go and let him know what places I recommended. He’ll do his best to set everything up in advance for you. I consider this a no-nonsense tour with great staff and service. They will also pick you up from your hotel in downtown Portland.
  • For couples 2-4 people: Oregon Select Wine Tours – Ask for Jeff. Jeff has been giving tours for a very long time, though you wouldn’t guess it since he’s a young entrepreneur. With Jeff’s beautiful SUVs with leather interiors, you will be riding around in style. Jeff works with a lot of the hotels in wine country, so if you are staying outside of Portland and at the Allison Inn and Spa or the Black Walnut Inn, I would recommend contacting him. If you are looking for a nice anniversary or couple’s weekend with class, Jeff is the way to go.  He also said he would honor a six hour tour at the price of a five hour tour, so make sure to mention that I sent you.
  • For younger groups of 6-12: Wildwood Adventures – Ask for Maria. Maria and her husband started this company this past year and have seen tremendous success with the younger, more active demographic. It probably helps that they both came from Nike before they decided to drop everything and follow their dreams. They have a winning combination of wineries to which they like to take their folks, but if you specifically want certain places, let them know.


Here are some of the wineries that I traditionally recommend visiting whenever people ask me. Picking my favorites is always so hard, since so much depends on the person who is asking. Following are places where I would spend my day with my dearest friends. I generally like to stick to four wineries maximum as more than four becomes too much and I’d rather enjoy each winery than rush to the next and to the next. Wineries these days are opening earlier and earlier; some open now at 10:00 a.m. Make sure to check their hours, and, if possible, book a reservation. Avoid Mondays because most wineries are closed then.  Some wineries also have limited hours during the fall season.  Generally, I prefer to visit when there is less of a crowd, so I recommend visiting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, if at all possible. Your doing so is generally not expected, but it is appreciated, and you will also get the best service if you do this.

  • Bubbles: Always start with bubbles. Argyle Winery in Dundee is always my first stop, I love their Pop tasting menu, which features all sparkling wines.  You are sure to enjoy them.
  • History: Try a few Rieslings and Pinots from one of the most historic vineyards in the valley: Hyland Estate. Brady, Michael, or Hannah will take incredible care of you. Let them know I sent you, and they will honor a two-for-one tasting.
Red Hills Market Pizza and Beer

Lunch at Red Hills Market

  • Lunch: Stop for lunch at one of these two incredible spots:
    1. Red Hills Market for some stone-fired pizza and a beer on tap, and, at the same time, rub elbows with winemakers and vineyard managers from nearby wineries.
    2. Enjoy a Pinot Burger at Dundee Bistro with some truffle fries!
  • One-on-one with a view: Enjoy an incredible view and top-rated wines, with a private one-on-one tasting, at either the Dusky Goose (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) or Soter. Both have world renowned winemakers and have some of the most beautiful views in the valley.  Make sure to call ahead to set this up; you won’t be able to get in by showing up.
  • Traditional and on the way back into Portland:  Visit one of the most established wineries in the valley: Ponzi, Adelsheim, Archery Summit or Bergstrom. Be aware that these are well-visited places, and a phone call to them the day before will go a long way. Also, tasting fees may be higher depending on the location.  Sometimes the fees are waived with a purchase, but each place is different, and this shouldn’t be expected.

While there are so many more that I could visit, reducing this list to only a select few wineries can be hard. These are my personal recommendations and generally where I personally would take my friends visiting from out of town. Every year there are new wineries opening up and this list may change over time but it serves as a good base to plan your trip. Visiting during the summer can be a busy time to visit but the weather couldn’t be better. Spring and Winter may be wet but you have less tourism traffic and have a chance to do more one-on-one tastings. I personally prefer to go in the middle of the week and in the Spring or Winter time as this gives me a great opportunity to learn as much as I can from the staff and have a more dedicated tasting.

Shipping Wine Home:

At the end of the day, if you haven’t already purchased a case of your favorite wine but instead picked up a few from each location, The Newberg Mailroom is where you’ll want to stop and drop your wine off to have shipped to your final destination. Sometimes you can ask your tour operator when scheduling your tour that you may want to do this at the end of your tour and perhaps to do this quick stop for you. I would recommend filling a case of 12 bottles because it won’t matter whether you send 6 bottles or 12—the shipping cost will generally be the same.

If you are flying with Alaska Airlines, there is a special program called Oregon Wines Fly Free. You can see the details at: If you are planning your trip, take this into account, because sometimes shipping wine can otherwise be expensive; thus if you can just take it with you, I would recommend it.  If you do decide to ship your wines yourself, just make sure you get the right packing material, either from a winery or from the Mail Room in Newberg.

General Overview of the Valley:

For a map of the Willamette Valley and links to a number of other places to visit:

You can also pre-order a brochure to help you finalize your plans by filling out the form at this link:

To learn more about Oregon wine, make sure to check the Oregon Wine website which is full of events and promotions in the state.


Enjoy!  If you enjoyed my recommendations, feel free to share them with others, and let me know if you enjoyed your tour. Cheers!


In search of the perfect summer beer: Sour beer

When I first moved to Oregon, I was more of a lover of big, bold wines; I would also occasionally drink a light beer to quench my thirst on a hot summer day. It wasn’t until I went to a few beer festivals, met a few Oregon winemakers who also loved beer, and sipped a few other beers that I realized that there is such a huge world of beer out there to explore. I also learned from my years of working the wine harvests in Oregon that “in order to make a great wine, you need to have a great beer.” Ryan Harms of Union Wine Co. had once told me this when we worked side by side in the wine industry. I heard it again, over and over from other winemakers in the area, and I realized that at the end of the day, winemakers want nothing more than an ice-cold beer to quench their thirst after sipping and spitting out wine samples all day.

Initially, I was turned onto another big, bold, very Oregonian beer style, Indian Pale Ales (IPAs). IPAs are a whole other story, one which I will touch upon later in another blog post. I later went back to the more European style of beers, such as white wheat beers like Hefeweizen, then later to paler ones like lagers and pilsners.  Finally, today, I’ve landed on sour beers.

IMG_7369A little about sour beers. Sour beers can be made from pretty much any beer; however, most follow either traditional or standardized guidelines. Sour beers are intentionally made acidic, tart, or sour in taste. For those Oregon Pinot Noir drinkers who love acid, this may be the beer style for you.

In order to obtain a sour beer, beer brewers need to use wild yeast and bacteria strains such as Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus, none of which are generally allowed unless in a controlled environment.

I personally love a little “Brett” in my wine, cider, and obviously, beer. These beers generally satisfy my craving for sour patch kids candies, a hot-summer-day sipper, and a little more depth than just another lager. Not that there is anything wrong with lagers–I love those, too–but lately, I’ve been craving some good sour beers.

Sour beers rarely make an appearance in winter, so if you are adventurous, get them while you can in these upcoming summer months before they’re gone.

Below, I have summarized some information on the most common styles in order of taste preference. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for providing me with some backstory information.)

IMG_7076Berliner Weisse is a beer that is popular in the summertime and meant to be enjoyed outside on a patio in the middle of a hot summer in Berlin. It is generally low alcohol, around 3% abv. and made sour using Lactobacillus bacteria. It is commonly sweetened with a green or red flavored syrup to balance out the tartness. Interestingly enough, it was when I lived in Berlin that this was my first taste of sour beers, and I had no idea that it was a sour beer. I really enjoyed it!

Gose (pronounced “go-suh”) is a top-fermenting beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. I had my first taste of sour Gose from 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Portland and loved it. I have been in search of Gose since then. Goses have a lemon-/grapefruit-like tartness with a touch of herbal to them. This type of beer is generally characterized by the use of coriander and salt. It is then made sour by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary alcoholic fermentation.

Lambic beer is spontaneously fermented beer made in the Pajottenland region of Belgium and Brussels. I first tried a Kriek lambic beer when a friend told me that I had to try this sour cherry sweet beer. It is generally sweet as it is allowed to perform a secondary fermentation with fruit such as cherries (Kriek] or raspberries (Framboise). These are the most common lambics you are likely to taste.  Honestly, I have only tried the European versions, but you can find a cherry lambic beer at Trader Joe’s. Interestingly enough, the wort is left to cool overnight in the koelschip [italicize] where it is exposed to the open air during the winter and spring, and then placed into barrels to ferment and mature. Most lambics are blends of several seasons’ batches, such as Gueuze, or are secondarily fermented with fruits, such as Kriek and Framboise.

American wild ale is generally brewed using yeast and bacteria strains in addition to standard brewer’s yeast. American wild ales don’t follow specific guidelines, unlike their European counterparts.

Flanders red ale descended from the English porters of the 17th century. It is first fermented using brewer’s yeast,  then allowed to mature in oak barrels. It can later be blended with younger beer to adjust for consistency in taste, similar to the process used for a Solera Sherry.

To learn more about Solera Sherry, click here.

Oud bruin beer originates from the Flemish region of Belgium. Oud bruins differ from the Flanders red ale in that they are darker in color and not aged in wood. Consequently, this style tends to use cultured yeasts to impart its sour notes.

IMG_8305So if you are looking for that great summer beer, look no further then sour beers. Some of my favorites are from Avery BrewingDeschutes Brewery, Ecliptic BrewingDry Dock, 10 Barrel, and River North. If you are in a store, just ask one of the store associates to help you find some great sour beers and they’ll direct you to the right beers. Enjoy summer in a glass! Cheers!

Goodbye, Oregon; Hello, Colorado

The logo was designed by Denver-based Cultivator Advertising and Design, which has also done work for Breckenridge Brewery, Great Divide and New Belgium Brewing.

Recently I moved from Portland, Oregon, one of the hippest cities in America, to yet another up-and-coming city, Denver, Colorado.

While Colorado is not as well known for its wine industry, it has an amazing beer industry that is worth delving into.  With the craft beer industry having a $1.15 billion impact on the state’s economy, it’s no wonder that CNN named Denver the best beer city in America in 2015.   It has also become a mecca for millennials, and the number of people moving here is astounding.

Did you know that brewers started showing up in Colorado back in 1858 when gold was discovered in Colorado–yes, in Colorado, too, not just California! It started out being made in small batches that were then sold to the miners. Rocky Mountain Brewery, founded in 1859, is arguably the first craft brewery in Colorado, and soon after, in 1873, Adolf Coors came to the state with his recipe for Czech Pilsner. However, it wasn’t until 1959 that the first can of Coors was made.  Today, there are over 300 craft beers made across Colorado, and the number is growing.

It may come as no surprise that I will start blogging about Colorado beer, given that Colorado is home to six of the 50 largest breweries in the U.S. and produces nearly 1.7 million barrels of craft brew in the nation according to the Brewers Association.

I hope you’ll join me in my adventures in craft beer, just as you have in wine and cider over the years.  Cheers!

To learn more about Colorado beer, click here.

Drinking Now: 2012 Cornerstone Oakville Station Napa Merlot

Color: Dark garnet color

Nose: Spice, tobacco, dark berries, touch of ripe strawberry at the end

Palate: Cedar, plum and that whisper of fresh strawberry making this smooth deep wine finish on a lighter note.

Medium acidity, easy drinking, smooth and balanced.


This is Cornerstone’s first release under their new Napa Valley single vineyard program. Made from one of their Oakville Station Vineyard blocks in To Kalon. This 100% Merlot is complex and smooth yet the acidity shines though Velvety and opulent it still remains light on its feet as there is more than ample acidity to carry the amazing depth and power of this wine. While generous, this full-bodied Merlot is still a wine for the cellar and will reward five or more years of patience with a truly stunning wine. Just 97 cases were produced.

Resolution: No More Maligning Merlot

I am also not generally a huge Merlot fan but as of late have come to enjoy them for their fruit-forward nature. Perhaps this article by my friend Jeff, the Drunken Cyclist, will bring you over to the dark (red) side.

the drunken cyclist

For years, I would not touch Merlot, not because a certain movie told me that it was rather un-cool, but rather because I found most Merlots rather, well, blah. For me, it was the quintessential “tweener” variety: it was neither as structured and rich as Cabernet Sauvignon, as fruity and fun as Zinfandel, or as ethereal and complex as Pinot Noir. So I really did not see the point. Then, this past Spring, I was visiting a winegrower friend in Dry Creek Valley (he grows Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), who, up to that point, had not made any wine of his own from his vineyard—he would sell off all the fruit. Well, during the 2014 vintage, he decided to take a half a ton of the fruit and asked Erik Miller of Kokomo Winery to make him a barrel of wine.

It was a Merlot.

I cringed.

I immediately wondered why…

View original post 646 more words

Being Pregnant and Loving Wine

I am often asked, “How did you do it?”

I work in the wine industry. I am a wine writer and a wine lover,  However, honestly, until you start carrying a life inside you, you won’t understand this problematic situation.  Yes, it was initially hard to stare at those beautiful wines and pine over how delicious they must taste. The good thing is that you can taste them—just that you just can’t imbibe them.

Most recently on NPR (National Public Radio), I heard the latest findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics stating that pediatricians say that women absolutely should not drink while pregnant. While I can agree with this determination, there were so many studies before this stating that moderate to minimal drinking has been proven not to cause any cognitive disabilities.

How to process this information?  One thing to consider is that the baby you are carrying is so tiny, as are its developing organs.. Therefore, that baby’s tiny liver can’t handle the same amount of alcohol that you can. If you start to feel the effect of the alcohol, then the baby is most certainly feeling it. With this in mind, I have abstained from drinking wine on a regular basis.

It is easily avoidable to consume any alcohol during pregnancy because it is a choice all of us make for ourselves all the time. As I work in the industry, I simply taste and spit, and while I may consume a bit of what is left over in my mouth, it is quite minimal. All in all, I have perhaps consumed one glass of wine during my entire pregnancy up to now.

It is also recommended by doctors that especially you should not drink at all during your first and second trimesters (up to 27 to 28 weeks) since this is when the baby is still developing all of its vital organs. A 2013 study found that there is abundant evidence that binge-drinking while pregnant is harmful. It found that drinking in the first trimester increases the risk of symptoms such as wider range of intellectual and physical disabilities by 12 times; drinking in first and second trimesters increased risk 61 times; and drinking throughout pregnancy increased it 65 times.

All in all, there are ways around drinking alcohol, and I would like to share these with my readers. This is how I did it.

  1. Sometimes simply having something in your hands while everyone else does is all you need. I have also often replaced my beautiful Riedel glasses of wine with a Riedel filled with the following:
  2. Soda Water: You can either buy a soda machine such as a SodaStream, or you can simply pick up seltzer water at the store. The only issue with a SodaStream machine is the need to buy the cartridges, which I replace every two months or so according to the amount of water I drink. I also often add a few ounces of orange, grapefruit, or pomegranate juice to a large glass of soda water and enjoy. This is my go-to drink at night, and honestly, after a while, you won’t even notice you aren’t drinking alcohol.
  3. Non-alcoholic/ Virgin drinks: When going out with friends or at restaurants, haven’t you always wanted to try some of those exotic sounding drinks that at $3-$6 seemed too expensive as a non-alcoholic option? Normally, you would have opted,perhaps more economically, for a glass of wine instead, but now, well, you can justify it…you’re pregnant and have no choice!  If there aren’t any obvious non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, just ask the bartender or waiter if they can make them “virgin” (non-alcoholic) for you. Most of the time they can. I’ve found some delicious drinks this way, and I can still enjoy a great Bloody Mary or Mimosa sans the alcohol with my friends at breakfast.
  4. Smoothies and Juices: I got a Vitamix super-blender just before I got pregnant, or rather, it was gifted to me by my mother, who stated it would be indispensable when I needed to make soups, baby food, etc. I use this a few times a week to make sorbet, smoothies, and soups. It’s fast and easy to clean, and you know exactly what goes into your food.  Nevertheless, be careful, as an 8-oz. smoothie can be the equivalent of 300 calories, which is technically all you need in extra calories for that tiny baby, so make it a power smoothie with superfood veggies and fruit. I’ve found some incredible recipes on Pinterest for smoothies—check them out here.

In conclusion, you can and should replace alcohol as much as possible during your pregnancy with non-alcoholic drinks. At first I didn’t think this would be possible, but now, at 7 months into my pregnancy, I have realized that an expectant mom can completely do this and should do this, if not for your own health, then for that of the baby. Think of it as a 9- (really 10-) month cleanse for your liver—admittedly longer, though, if you plan to breastfeed.  Feel free to email me any comments or ideas you might have as well. I’d love to add them to this list.




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.



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).


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!


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 For more on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit

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.



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.


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.




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!



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.



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

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,

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


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:



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;

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



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.


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!

Resolutions, Sme-solutions!

As a wine writer, sometimes it’s good to take a break, regroup, refocus, and start again. I thought perhaps my liver might need a break from all the holiday and New Year celebrations, so my husband, the future doctor, came up with the brilliant idea of abstaining from alcohol for a month. My brother and his girlfriend also joined in, and soon it became this month of cleansing, not just from alcohol but also from gluten, solid food, sugar, coffee, and dairy products.

If you are like most people, one thing at a time might be the only way to do this, but then there are those superhumans who manage to abstain for everything all at once, such as taking on the Paleo diet.

I honestly tried. I bought a book called Primal Blueprint, which seemed really interesting and offers a 21-day plan for following the Paleo Diet. Honestly, I picked it up, put it down, and carried it around, and it is still in the same bag I got it from. I have a hard time imagining giving up my coffee, sugar, and milk that I drink every single morning. I don’t see why I should give up my oatmeal when I know it is heart-healthy. Perhaps I could eat less bread, but I love bread.

So this brings to me to the only thing I have been trying to do, and amazingly, I did succeed at it—at taking a break from alcohol. Yes, all forms: wine, beer, cider, and cocktails. Cocktails aren’t something I’ve touched since I became 21, but Oregon is known for its amazing breweries, cider houses, and wineries. It’s a very hard thing to avoid when on every single corner of Portland there are amazing craft brew houses and urban wineries—not to mention the fact that I work at a winery.

The first few days were excruciating, unimaginable in terms of breaking a habit formed over time. I love coming home after work to enjoy a glass of wine that transports me to a place in my memories or a wine that sings with food. However, by day three, it was ok. I replaced alcoholic drinks with sparkling water, and with that I’ve been relatively fine ever since….that is, until I was a part of a beautiful VIP tour and was re-tasting our wines, and I realized just how tasty they were! Nevertheless, I managed to spit the wine out, as a professional always does. Some were hard to spit, but it was, and is, possible—and for me, taking this break has been great on my budget, waistline, and liver.

I am, however, looking forward to opening that first new bottle of wine. Now I just have to decide which one it will be! From Washington reds to Chiantis from Italy, to Spanish Tempranillos, and of course, Oregon Pinots, I’m not sure where to start.

I think I’d like to do a tour of the world through wines. Stay tuned for this fun future series!

Pairing wine with Thanksgiving? Don’t forget these two things!


imageFor Thanksgiving dinner, pairing wine with all of those beautiful Thanksgiving plates can be a tricky endeavor. Look for wines with high acidity and fruit to complement that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner! Acid can cleanse your palate, and fruitiness can withstand all of that sugar and salt.   Here are three essential Thanksgiving wines that are sure to please everyone.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine

This wine goes with practically anything, and I mean almost anything. Not only is it a naturally celebratory wine with its bubbles and pop, it is a wine that is sure to please everyone at the table.

For Bubbly, my favorite go-to-wine is Argyle Brut Sparkling Wine.  Made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, it is not too dry but just perfectly dry enough to make even the dry wine drinkers rejoice.  At $26 a bottle, one can probably buy two bottles to share, one at the beginning of dinner and one at the end of the meal.

Perhaps you are interested in trying some Cava or a French Cremant? Most Cava and Cremant are made with the same champenoise method as Champagne, undergoing the same rigorous aging and bottling process in order to make them as miraculous as the better-known Champagne from France.  While indeed the majority of Cava and Cremants employ the same method, some use different grape varietals to make their sparkling wines. They are most definitely worth a try, especially at the much lower price point.

For Whites, you will want a white wine that has a little bit of residual sugar, emphasizing the fruitier side, like the 2012 Hyland Estates Riesling. This wine is fruit forward and has that perfect touch of residual sugar that makes it the perfect complement for Thanksgiving.  It has a beautiful pear, white peach, petrol, and green apple mouth with vibrant citrus and kiwi finish. It’s available online for $28.

Another favorite white of mine is 2010 Schlossberg Alsace Grand Cru AOC Riesling, by far one of the best Rieslings I have tasted to date.  At $35, it is a wine that is sure to please. It is generous and balanced, and it shows beautiful minerality and petrol–all the qualities I look for in a Riesling. It has been rated 91 points by Robert Parker, 93+ by Stephen Tanzer, and 92 points by Wine Spectator.

For Reds, pick a high-acid, low-tannin Pinot Noir, with bright cherry and cranberry flavors over rich spices.  One such is the Southern Oregon wine 2008 Brandborg Love Puppets Pinot Noir.  This wine shows such freshness, with ripe raspberries and strawberries, tha you think you have a beautifully baked pie in a glass. It has some rustic notes that enable it to to stand its ground and complement even the most exuberant side dishes. It is available for a very reasonable $30 online.

Another favorite of mine is a Pinot Noir: 2010 Lemelson Meyer Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This Pinot Noir has been one of my favorite vintages to date, and it comes from the great winemaker, Anthony King, who has consistently made some gorgeous wines. This 2010 reminded me of a springtime fresh fruit basket of raspberries and strawberries, with a touch of light tomato stem giving it that great structure, acidity, and length.  It would be another great pairing to consider for this Thanksgiving weekend!  It is available in 2012 vintage for $48, and if you are lucky, you might find a 2010 in a magnum (a 1.5-liter bottle).

(A secret:  The larger the format bottle, the better the maturing capability of the wine because less of the wine is in contact with air.  In other words, the same wine purchased in a larger bottle will generally taste better.)

I hope you have a wonderful and very thankful Thanksgiving. I am very thankful to have you as readers and I hope that I can continue to provide you with the kind of stories you find interesting and useful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Top 5 Things to Do in Portland #PDX

Portland is a city of food, craft beer, and wine. It is a place to ride a fixie bike and to ride the public transportation system instead of driving your car, a place where being green is the only color to be, a place where there is craft coffee, fancy donuts, crazy soccer fans, beard-toting men, and amazing cider—all in one city.

 This is my Portland. To get a true sense of what it means to keep Portland weird, here are my top 5 things to do in Portland:

1. Drunken Cycle Tours of Portland with BrewCycle Portland

Taking one of these tours is probably one of the funnest things to do with a group of your friends through Portland!  What would be better than drinking beer, blasting music, and riding bikes through a sunny afternoon in Portland?  We got together a group of six of us and mounted a BrewCycle bike with friends for a tour of three breweries in the area (see photo below). Well worth the $20 per person!  Be prepared to pay for your own happy hour priced drinks, and to have a great time!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

Brewcycle Madness: The More the Merrier!

2. Escape to Wine Country with Grape Escape Winery Tours

If you are coming to the Willamette Valley, you have to go wine tasting. It’s a must to leave Portland for a day and enjoy the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend Grape Escape Winery Tours, which is a marvelous little company that plans a trip for you based on what you like to drink and what you want to see. After a conversation with the owner, he will craft a tour just for you and your group. Groups as small as two are welcome. Also, they provide great little platters of cheese, meat, olives, fruit, and even chocolate so that you can continue to enjoy your wine trip without spitting out the wine! Besides the food with your wine, you also get very knowledgeable guides (your “Escape Artists”), who will tell you all about the history of the wineries you are visiting as well as tell you all you need to know about the Oregon wine industry. Furthermore, this isn’t your stretch-limo kind of tour but a nice van that takes you from place to place. It’s a little less presumptuous and comfortable financially. (Make sure to tip!)

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!

Visiting Wine Country with Friends and a great DD!


3. Get geeky at OMSI- OMSI after Dark

Science is fun!  Can you imagine being able to shoot off a water rocket, microwave a light bulb, and build a Roman Arch with your friends while enjoying some great beer and wine at night?  This event is held once a month on Wednesdays from 6-10 p.m.  The museum picks a theme and sets up a number of really interesting hands-on science experiments that you are sure to enjoy. Make sure to check their schedule here for the next event.

4. Be a part of the Timbers Army at the Portland Timbers Game

Some claim that this is America’s version of European soccer fanaticism—II couldn’t agree more!  I have sat in numerous seat locations—from ones right on the center midline, so close that I could touch the players as they were doing a throw in; to ones on the side, where you can get the best overall view of the game; to the famed Timber’s Army seats. I have to say, my favorite by far have been the General Admission Timber’s Army seats.  These seats allow you to feel like you are a part of the game with the chanting, jumping, flag-waving community that surrounds this home soccer team. At about $25 a ticket, you really can’t go wrong.  Just be prepared to stand, sing, and yell as others stand, sing, and yell with you: LET’S GO TIMBERS, LET’S GO!

Timbers Army

5. Visit a Food Cart Pod and eat it all up!

You can’t leave Portland without having eaten at a Portland food cart. There are over 500 food carts throughout Portland. Not only are food carts a great place to try native foods from around the world, they are also safe and authentic. This is where top chefs or soon-to-be top chefs experiment with an idea, and if it takes off, they decide to expand it to more food carts or potentially to brick-and-mortar locations.  Food carts are always an experiment in entrepreneurism, low overhead, and passion.  Some stay, some go, some move. Look them up before you hit the streets.

 Some of my favorites:

  •  Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which now has become so popular for its Thai chicken over rice.  This plate comes with a phenomenal ginger, soy, and chili sauce called Khao Man Gi sauce. Nong came to Oregon with $17 and two suitcases; she worked in the restaurant industry until, in 2009, she decided to open her first food cart. A Bangkok native and now Oregonian, Nong now has two food carts and a restaurant. I love her food!  Below you will find a video on how exactly to eat her great food.

  • Gabagool, if you love italian food, you will love this place. I have been so impressed with their Piadina Sandwiches, especially its namesake, Gabagool Piadina. I have yet to try their homemade pasta, but if it’s as tasty as their Gabagool Piadina sandwich, I won’t be disappointed and neither will you.
  • Koi Fusion, the place where you can get Mexican and Korean in one amazing fusion meal. Having initially started with one food truck, the owners now recognize the balance of having not only food carts but multiple stationary (brick-and-mortar) locations. There are now six stationary and six mobile locations throughout Portland, so you are destined to run into one. I personally love their kimchi and would add it to every single item on their menu.

No matter what neighborhood you stay in, there is likely a food cart pod ( a number of food carts all in one area) in your area. Click here to find one near you.

There are so many restaurants, breweries, cider houses, urban wineries. and concerts to enjoy in Portland as well!  However, if I went into all my favorites, you’d quickly shut down this article and move on.  So,… I will hold onto my favorites for another article.  (However, if you can’t wait for that article, look back through my Sacred Drop posts on many such Portland attractions.)

To find out more about all the fun things to do in Portland, check out Travel Portland online.  At that website, you can book your hotel and tickets through their concierge staff and receive discounts to all kinds of great events.
See you soon! Cheers!

Prosser, the Birthplace of Washington Wine

The New Network:  Prosser Wine Network

From time to time there is a wine region that, while part of the larger Regional AVA (Columbia Valley) and mere miles from a famous AVA (Horse Heaven Hills), seems to get overlooked.

Special thanks to Wine Folly for sharing this map.

Special thanks to Wine Folly for sharing this map

Launched in Spring of 2014, there are 18 wineries and 10 non-wine entities that grouped together to form what is known as the Prosser Wine Network.  This network developed independently in the region to promote and support the wine being made in the town of Prosser. It is all under the tag line “Prosser, the birthplace of Washington Wine. “

According to the Prosser Wine Network,“The Prosser Wine Network is an organization focused on the promotion of Prosser wine within community and beyond. Its formation represented a concerted effort by everyone involved in the area of Prosser and environs, the lower Yakima Valley AVA.”  This network offers a voice that functions as an extension of the tourism office and other location specific marketing destination entities surrounding Prosser—but with a wine industry focus.  The purpose is to network and connect people within the wine industry in Prosser, not to create an alliance or an AVA.

Kay and Clay Simon of Chinook Wines, Jenna Hannan of Mercer Estates Winery , Monica Martinez of Martinez & Martinez Winery, and Gordon Taylor of Davenlore Winery were the main people supporting and leading this effort in building the Prosser brand. In tangent, the Walter Clore Center opened in June of this year through the support of a number of private donors in efforts to promote the Washington wine industry in this area.

For more information on the Prosser Wine Network, please visit and be sure that your first stop in the Prosser area is at the Walter Clore Center.  There you can learn more about the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of the region and taste some of its amazing rotating wines.  The Walter Clore Center is located at 2140 Wine Country Road, in Prosser, Washington 99350.  Do visit them at

 The Prosser Wine Network:

White wines of the Prosser Wine Network:
Albarino, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Marsanne, Muscat Canelli, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling (Dry), Riesling (Sweet), Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Sparkling, Viognier, White Blend, Rhone Blend, Rousanne

Red wines of the Prosser Wine Network:
Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Counouse, Dolcetto, Durif, Grenache, Lemberger, Malbec, Meritage, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Red Blend, Rhone Blend, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel

Dessert wines of the Prosser Wine Network:
Ice Wine, Late Harvest, Port

Wineries in the Prosser Wine Network:
14 Hands Winery
Airfield Estates Winery
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Apex Cellars
Bunnell Family Cellar
Chateau Ste Michelle Tasting Gallery
Chinook Wines
Columbia Crest Winery
Coyote Canyon Winery
Daven Lore Winery
Desert Wind Winery
Domanico Cellars
Gamache Vintners
Hogue Cellars
Martinez & Martinez Winery
Mercer Estates Winery
Milbrandt Vineyards
Pontin Del Roza Winery
Prosser Vineyard & Winery
VineHeart Winery
Willow Crest Wine Estates



Tales From: Press Gang Cellars

I had the honor of being a part of this awesome dinner at the Hitching Post in Buellton, California for the Wine Bloggers Conference. We all decided to take a break from the festivities to enjoy a somewhat impromptu Winemaker Dinner with our new found friend, Kyle, winemaker of Press Gang Cellars.

While I am not a surfer, the minute you meet Kyle, you want to go surfing with a guy like this. He has the swagger and laid back attitude of a person who embodies the world of surfing…and now winemaking. His style of winemaking is practiced, passionate, and deliberate, which I would imagine is how he surfs.

He only produces 300 cases of his mostly Rhone varietal wines, which is tiny, yet perfect for someone who is working as an assistant winemaker to one of the most respected wineries in Paso Robles. I personally fell in love with his 2013 Press Gang Cellars Savanna Rhea Grenache Rose, which retails at $20. I only wish I had a glass right now to celebrate this sunny Labor Day Weekend in Portland! For more information on this great winemaker and his wines, visit .

Special thanks to my dear friend and #WBC14 buddy, Jeff, the Drunken Cyclist, for this great write up, as he captures the moments we all shared with Kyle perfectly. Enjoy and Happy Labor Day!

the drunken cyclist

Last month, as most of you now know, I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton, California. On Saturday afternoon, a bunch of my fellow bloggers and I decided to skip out of the second installment of Live Wine Blogging as well as the awards ceremony (since none of us were finalists this year–yeah, bitter grapes–pun intended) and head into town for dinner. After nearly a solid week of tasting over a hundred wines a day, we decided it might be a good idea to go grab a beer before dinner. I am by no means a beer drinker, but it does serve to wipe the wine-soaked palate clean.
The ringleader of our little troupe was Chris Taranto, the Communications Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. We met Chris a few days earlier on the pre-conference excursion to Paso Robles, and he came over to Buellton for a few days of…

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“Sideways” at the Wine Bloggers Conference…#WBC14

I often get asked the question, “Where were you last week? I saw a million pictures and videos popping up! Looks like it was fun!” To this I reply, “Oh, I was at the Wine Bloggers Conference, the #WBC14 event, where anyone who writes about wine, who loves wine and shares it with the world, comes together in one place to share experiences and enjoy the wine of the region together.”  According to Zephyr Adventures, the organization who runs it, “The Wine Bloggers Conference, having started in 2008, is the granddaddy of most niche blogging conferences. It has sold out every year and now attracts around 350 participants each year. The conference is an excellent opportunity for bloggers to connect with and learn from other bloggers as well as wineries, vintner associations, tourism marketing associations, and other wine-related businesses. The conference draws top keynote speakers and key industry representatives in addition to the many bloggers.”

The rolling hills of St. Ynez Valley

The rolling hills of St. Ynez Valley

This year, it was in Santa Barbara, a place I had visited before and adored due to the sun, surf, and rolling hills. This time, I got to really try the wines in true detail. More specifically, I went to the region surrounding the quaint town of Buelton…yes, this is the Buelton, of the movie Sideways. Sideways is now celebrating its tenth year of snubbing Merlot and exalting Pinot Noir. This movie had a huge impact on the wine industry. In the April 2008 issue of Wine Business Monthly, George Schofield refers to the “debacle following the release of the ‘Sideways’ motion picture” when discussing the effects of the movie on Merlot sales.  Did this movie really alter consumer-buying patterns and change demand for either Merlot or Pinot Noir?  “Sideways” was released on Oct. 22, 2004, ten years ago, and it was nominated for five Academy Awards on Jan. 25, 2005.  It won one, for best-adapted screenplay,–and closed May 19, 2005. With popularity like this, how much does movie culture ultimately affect the wine industry?

In the panel, “The U.S. Wine Consumer: Who, What & Where,” given by, it found that there was a significant effect on consumer behavior after 2004 and the movie is still impacting sales today. Initially the sales of Merlot went down, while the sales of Pinot Noir skyrocketed. This affected not only consumer behavior but also wine-growing decisions. More acreage was dedicated to Pinot Noir, and the movie also made the US more open to new wine regions, such as Oregon and New Zealand, growing Pinot Noir.  Meanwhile, Merlot, was considered a shunned grape variety, at least for a few years and struggled to compete with the popularity of Pinot Noir.

In a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal on Merlot, referring to wine retailers, Lettie Teague stated,  “Merlot sales were stable at best and at worst were losing ground. In most cases, Merlot drinkers had simply moved on to other varietals such as Tempranillo and Malbec.”  In one marketplace in New Jersey, Merlot sales were considered “slow” and accounted for less than 1% of total wine sales.  Moreover, these is less acreage dedicated to Merlot, at least in California, whereas in Washington the acreage has increased slightly. A study was done at Sonoma State on the “Sideways Effect, looking specifically into the change in demand for Merlot and Pinot Noir Wines (click here for the fascinating paper).

According to the Wine Institute, there were more than 53,000 acres planted to Merlot in 2006, but in 2012, there are now 45,000 acres planted to the grape.  In Washington, acreage planted in Merlot grapes is up from 5,000 to 8,000 acres; however, for Cabernet Sauvignon, the acreage has doubled in the same amount of time.

Sideways, the Movie

In conclusion, yes, movie culture does have an effect on the wine industry and the culture surrounding it. However, don’t let what others are drinking necessarily affect what you will enjoy. I have always believed that if you love something, drink it!  Who cares whether it is sweet, or dry, or Merlot?…Enjoy it, and share it.


A Thirst for Cider: Oregon Cider Week

What was once old is new again. This holds true not just for fashion but also for cider. The US has now experienced a cultural resurgence of cider and is developing quite a thirst for it.

Once Colonial America’s drink of choice, the U.S. is quickly returning back to its roots for inspiration. According to federal data, draft cider sales rose 700 percent between 2011 and 2012; in 2012, U.S. cider sales topped $90 million.  Why?  First, thanks to the interest and subsequent growth of craft beer, the craft cider industry has grown as well. Furthermore, the interest in and demand for something new and different, and perhaps healthier, has created the perfect opportunity for cider.

Data also suggest that the average cider drinker is 20-35 years old. A number of these younger drinkers, particularly in the Northwest, are looking for something authentic, original, and different from the mass-produced sub-par cider and beer. Given all of this data, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for a craft revolution.

The resurgence of interest in cider has been very notable in Oregon.  On June 20, Oregon kicked off its third annual Oregon Cider Week with Cider Summit Portland, featuring over 140 ciders from 37 producers, from 6 states and 7 countries. This event will continue on to Seattle, Chicago, and Berkeley. Portland showed its support by coming in droves: 3,000 to 4,000 visitors over two days, to be exact. It was a well-attended event with a lot of people enjoying the sun, the music, and the cider being poured by artisan cider houses.  The rest of the week featured events throughout the state including a number of tap takeovers, happy hours, tastings, and dinners.



I had the honor of attending the Cider Feast Dinner at St. Honoré Boulangerie off SE Division Street in Portland. Hosted by St. Honoré Boulangerie, Chef Dominique Geulin, and Kevin Zielinski, E.Z. Orchards’ owner and cider maker, this five-course French-style dinner showcased ciders from Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  Virtue Cider, Reverend Nat’s Cidery, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and E.Z. Orchards.

Cider Feast Dinner

Cider Feast Dinner

The pairings dinner featured a beautiful Goat Cheese and Rainer Cherry tartalette, a mixed green salad tossed with Finnriver Black Currant Cider vinaigrette, a plate of country pâté and chicken liver mousse paired with a E.Z. Orchards cider mustard, and a gorgeous Alsatian-meets-Northwest tarte flambé. This feast was all finished off with a very interesting Cider and Saffron Sabayon.


For me, it was a beautifully-paired dinner by Chef Geulin, and I will make sure to return during St. Honoré Boulangerie’s happy hour for more cider-based cocktails soon. What is unique about St. Honoré Boulangerie is that they create not only beautiful breads and quiches but also wood-fired pizzas. I was happy to taste some of my favorite cider producers, from E.Z. Orchards to Finnriver to Reverend Nat’s, all paired in this great cider dinner. I look forward to seeing the other great events Portland has to offer.

Stay tuned!



Drinking Now: Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc #NZSavvy

Wednesdays are known as #WineWednesday or #WW (hashtag WW) and are therefore the best days to hold what the wine industry calls Wine Chats or #winechat. These wine chats are held every Wednesday for an hour starting at 5:00 pm or 6:00pm PST/ 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm EST. Wine chats are meant to be educational and informative tools for not just wine bloggers but for those following them as a chance to learn more about wines within 1 hour though two-way communication between a winery/winemaker and hand-selected wine bloggers.

My first wine chat was through Protocol Wine Studio based in San Diego where we did a tasting of Argentinean wines. Following that I did another tasting for a series of Malbecs for Malbec World Day in April this year. Yesterday, I had the sincere pleasure of joining a Villa Maria New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine chat under the #NZSavvy. The purpose of a hashtag is to make it easier to follow a conversation from start to finish and join in on the conversation whether you have the wine in front of you or not. I personally use a tool such as TweetDeck which automatically updates me on the #winechat stream as it happens. In order to remain a part of the conversation, you have to  make sure to include the all important # word that is being used specifically for that tasting. This way everyone on the stream can see you.

Make sure to check out the #winechat schedules for Protocol. There are also a few coming up in the upcoming weeks including one next week on Santa Barbara wines on Wednesday, June 25, just look for the #sbcwines or follow them on twitter @sbcwines.

Below you can see the chaos as it ensues…. glass of wine, wine notes, laptop and cell phone. All necessary elements of a #winechat.


The #NZSavvy #winechat begins!

The #NZSavvy #winechat begins!

Last night I tried two Sauvignon Blancs from Villa Maria, both of which were beautifully refreshing change to what I have been currently drinking. I currently live in the world of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris with a little Riesling and Chardonnay thrown in there from time to time. I welcomed the grassy, grapefruit and citrus palate like a refreshing wind on a summer day.

Honestly, it was really hot yesterday and I couldn’t have asked for a more refreshing drink. Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand holds a special place in my heart as it is such a clearly distinctive palate that no other Sauvignon Blanc that I’ve tasted tastes like.  To me, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has this fresh-cut green grass, almost asparagus nature to it, not in a bad way but in a delicate and refreshing way.

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Marlborough is located at the top of the South Island in New Zealand. With over 23,600 hectares of planted vines, it is the largest wine growing region of New Zealand and primarily known for its world-class Sauvignon Blanc.

Marlborough enjoys high sunshine hours and a temperate climate which allows for  a long slow, flavor-intensifying ripening period.  Warm days and cool nights help keep the acid in wines high. The soil type is noticeably stony, sandy loam top soil with deep layers of shingle, this allows for fast draining and therefore low fertility soils. The one thing you always want for vines is to have them suffer a bit, this creates the complexity that can not be achieved solely through winemaking. It is a combination of the land, the weather of each vintage and the winemaker’s hand that can make any wine truly unique.  In this case, the two below wines are highly recommended a true treat on a hot summer day. Enjoy!

2014 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc

It really sings in the glass, highly aromatic with fresh-cut green grass, lime, kiwi and ruby-red grapefruit with a long-lasting finish and crisp acidity. This is a special early release. At $14.99, it would pair beautifully with some oysters.

2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection

With a bit more time in bottle and allowing the wine to warm up a little, the nose just jumps out at you with lychee, grapefruit, green grass. In the mouth, passion fruit attacks your palate with a clean crisp acidic finish of a lemon-lime-grapefruit sorbet. Really quite delightful. Retail on this is $19.99.

I keep wishing I had some nice seafood, like a pan-fried fish, oysters, scallops and a side of seasonal vegetables, to pair it with but a beautiful view from my new place full of boxes and my trusty French Bulldog, El Guapo, will have to suffice for now. He really wanted some!  Cheers!

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Drinking Now: 2013 Corallina Rosé of Syrah by Cornerstone Napa

Every now and then, I have the amazing luck of being a blogger that gets wine sent to them. While you aren’t required to write about it, there is this unspoken rule in the wine world that if you receive a bottle of wine and like it, you should write about it.

Simple enough but sometimes you grab a bottle and enjoy it with so much relish that you forget to write about it.

Such is the case for not just me but also my thirsty German husband who attacked the bottle and then called me later to ask if it was ok. As you can see from the bottle, I was left enough to enjoy on this beautiful Oregon day.

I’m starting a short series of blog posts dedicated to those wines I am currently drinking and thoroughly enjoying. In my opinion, if I haven’t written about them, it’s simply because 1) I honestly haven’t gotten around to them yet, or 2) I’d rather write something positive or nothing at all.

Some of the wines, or rather, most, are wines I have purchased myself, others have been gifted to me by the wonderful UPS or FedEx man who asks for my signature and asks if I’m over 21.


I say, and gladly sign as I’m as excited as a child to rip open the box like a gleeful school child waiting to see what is wrapped up in those square-shaped amazing cardboard boxes!

All silliness aside, please enjoy this wine as much as I have. And, yes, this is a GoVino glass, as we are in the middle of packing our home up for an upcoming move and it’s the next best thing to a regular glass. Plus, it won’t break and you can still enjoy the wine as it should be. Enjoy and cheers!

Cornerstone Napa Valley 2013 Corallina Rose of Syrah:
Color and Nose: Pale melon color with light cantaloupe & strawberry nose
Mouth: Medium acidity with a candied watermelon and cherry finish

Great on a warm, sunny day with a view! Cheers!


Foodie Paradise from Rioja to Portland

When most people think of Europe, they imagine the patisseries and the beautiful coffee shops with Parisian-looking people in stylish clothes sitting outdoors at café tables on narrow cobblestone streets, with beautiful churches in the background.

My idea of Europe may have initially started that way, with the romantic Parisian stereotype, but soon enough I was introduced to the hustle and bustle of the Spanish way when I stepped foot in Rioja.


Rioja has a beauty to it, a simplicity to it, a way of capturing your heart and soul with not only the love of wine by its inhabitants, but also with their love of food and, ultimately, of life. This is why I called this place home for two years and why my heart yearns for it every day. It was a way of life, not just a place in which I lived for two years.  It was an escape to an alternate reality that brings for me new meaning to the maxim “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Cobble stone streets of Rioja


The Spanish know how to live life; they live it fully every single day, from the moment they wake up and head down to their local cafe for a “café con leche y una tostada” to their evening get-together with friends after work for a quick drink and some tapas. Rioja is truly what I would call a foodie paradise. Their foods are simple, not overly complicated. They take the simplest of things and make them spectacular without a lot of tricks. Simple dry-cured ham, or Jamon Serrano, which is a leg of pork that is covered with salt for two weeks, then rinsed and hung to dry upside down for a period of six months or more.  The resulting meat, which is cut in thin slices just before consuming, is spectacular and buttery; it simply melts in your mouth. The very best variety of these hams is called Jamon de Bellota.  It is from pigs fed on acorns, and it is incredible. Right now my mouth is watering as I am picturing my favorite place, Cafe Bar Garcia on Calle San Juan, 28 in Logroño, where I get a “Zapatilla,” a thin slice of bread spread with olive oil and jamon serrano, then grilled.

Here is a picture of my mother holding up this wonderful delight.Mom enjoying her jamon serrano


Another spectacular and yet so simple dish is their “Champi,” which are fresh local mushrooms that are brought in that same day, cooked with garlic and olive oil, stacked, and topped with a tiny shrimp. It may not sound like much, but every single person who has come to visit me raves about how wonderful this tiny stack of mushrooms cooked, or rather, bathed in garlic and olive oil, is their most favorite thing in the world. If you go to Calle Laurel in Logroño, make sure to stop by Bar Soriano.



I could go on and on about the beauty of Rioja and its amazing food. Did I mention that they have world-class wine too? In my opinion, it is some of the best wine in the world. For more information on Rioja, check out my write-up here on this website.


Unfortunately, I had to leave Rioja: with my master’s program ending and the economy in Spain not improving, it was time to pick my next adventure. I needed a place that offered culinary delights as well as the world of wine.  Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the Portland area, and now to Portland itself, my soon-to-be new home, where the food is local, fresh, and delicious.

Lately, I’ve been writing about all the incredible events that I’ve had the privilege to attend—events including wine and spirits, and, most recently, including cider. Oregon has so much to offer, and Portland as a city has the most interesting culture of young, enthusiastic people who are focused on sustainability and everything that is local.


The plan of attack for N. Missississippi Tour with Forktown Food Tours

If you are new to Portland or simply wanting to experience a bit of the foodie scene in the region, you should check out Forktown Food tours. It is a great way to explore the four quadrants of Portland and experience not only the food but also the culture of each area.

I went on the North Mississippi Ave. tour, led by Kelsie, a 6th generation Portland native who loves all things food, art, music, and culture. North Mississippi Avenue is a historic, artsy, and exciting neighborhood on Portland’s north side and is one of Portland’s newest culinary hot spots, full of great food and personality.  It is fun for locals as well as for out-of-town visitors.  This part of Portland is well worth the visit!  I would recommend coming very hungry; perhaps skip the traditional Portland brunch and leave room for these offerings, as you are going to need it.IMG_7801

The tour led us through seven different places, starting at a sit-down meal at Mee Sen Thai Eatery for some great Thai food, then on to a food cart called Gabagool, which featured a phenomenal Italian flat bread mozzarella and capicola sandwich, which my husband devoured in 2.5 seconds. We then went to the super locally-sourced Little Big Burger which offered a perfectly-sized goat cheese burger to pair with a nice organic HUB IPA. Did I mention that they have the world’s best Truffle fries? Wow…enough said.


As if there had been room in our tummies for more food, we then took a little break and headed to Sidecar 11, a great little intimate speakeasy-style whisky lounge where we had a chance to pair prohibition-era cocktails like the Gin-Gin Mule with some great seasonal aperitifs.


At this point, we were only half way through the food tour, and I was wondering how I was going to fit the great Koi-Fusion Korean/Mexican fusion tacos that came next. What is great about the food cart area next to one of my favorite watering holes, PROST, is that you are allowed to bring your food cart food into their patio or restaurant.  Who could ask for more?  Great German beer and great Portland food! (Disclaimer: My husband is German, so this is the perfect way to satisfy his love for German beer and my love for Portland food carts.)


After this we finished off with a visit to the cute little salt-and-chocolate boutique shop called The Meadow, where we did a salt-and-chocolate tasting, and then headed off to Ruby Jewel for their real ice cream sandwiches, which are literally two fresh cookies with fresh ice cream between them.

This tour was phenomenal and well done.  I would love to go on some of their other tours as I am sure they are just as great. Check out Forktown Food Tours for more information on their upcoming tours.

That was just Northeast Portland; wait until I get to Southeast Portland! Thanks for joining me on my foodie adventure from Spain to Portland. Cheers!



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7 Reasons I’m Crushing on Portland

Portland is a city of many faces and adventures. Whether you are a local or a visitor to this lush, green, eclectic city, there is something new for everyone. Join Lauren in her adventures through Portland in her “7 Reasons I’m crushing on Portland” post! I know I am still crushing on Portland after being in Oregon now for almost two years!

Looks like I need to add a few places to my PDX Must Visit List! In particular, I need to visit Blue Star Donuts and check out Burnside Brewing! I can’t wait to try the Blueberry Bourbon Basil donut at Blue Star Donuts and enjoy a Burnside IPA! Cheers!

Eat.Drink.Write.Be Merry.


A few weeks ago, I was on Spring Break (one of the many perks about working in academia).

I traveled up to the great state of Oregon, and developed a serious crush.

Portland and I…it’s getting pretty serious you could say.

And, as much as I love Los Angeles through and through, here are 7 reasons Portlandia will make you swoon!

1. Portland Is Like A City In A Terrarium

2013-11-17 14.31.59 I’ve never been to a city where there were so much foliage and trees! My lungs practically exploded from oxygen overdose.

I’ve never visited a city that felt so “green” before! Everywhere you turn in Portland, you are constantly reminded that you are in a city, tucked in a forest. From bridges covered with moss to the gorgeous Willamette river that divides Portland, you can literally look up any direction and see the towering trees hugging the skirts of the city.

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A Cider for Everyone

In a previous article, I wrote about the history of cider, my experiences in Spain, and now those in Oregon. I had the opportunity to visit the Northwest Cider Association Rite of Spring event in Portland, where I tasted ciders that would work for pretty much any palate, from those who aren’t so sure about trying cider, to the wine lovers among us, to the beginner cider drinkers.

Whether you are drinking cider simply because it is a gluten-free alternative to beer or perhaps you simply love the taste of apples, there is a cider out there for everyone. Here is my list:


For the “Not so sure about cider” people: You know who you are; you are generally a craft beer drinker, and you may sip wine from time to time, but…cider? Yes, cider…it is quite tasty, has hops, and is well worth a try.

For Saison Lovers:  Rev. Nat’s Hard Cider Hallelujah Hopricot starts with classic American apples such as a Belgian wit(white)-style cider which is then steeped with coriander, bitter orange peel, and paradise grains, and subsequently fermented with a French saison ale yeast. Lastly, it is topped off with pure apricot juice and finished with Oregon-grown Cascade and Amarillo hops. The coriander lingers with a back sweetness of ginger and a slight hoppiness at the end. It is a very interesting hopped cider that I would highly recommend finding. They also have a phenomenal Tepache which is made from pineapple and can be blended with a Lager. If you’ve been in Germany, just think Bananaweizen but with Pineapple and Lager. In fact, it is so new that they are doing their release party this Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) at their Portland Taproom.

For Beer Lovers:  McMenamin’sEdgefield Dry Hopped Hard Cider is a fermented dry cider with the addition of three different types of hops at different times. Initially they use Cascade hops after the primary fermentation, then prior to bottling finish it with Chinook and Nugget hops. This cider has a nice crisp citrus finish to it; it isn’t overly hoppy and has more aromatics than bitterness.

Sea Cider

 For Wine Lovers: Cider is a relatively new thing to you, or perhaps you’ve had a number of sweeter hard ciders and had initially written them off. I am happy to say, there are a number of great French- and Spanish-style ciders out there for your refined palates.

If you like a little barnyard, just a subtle amount: Try 2009 Ez Orchards Cidre. This cider (or cidre in French) is among my very favorite of ciders.  It is complex and has multiple layers to it due to its extensively long, cold, and wild fermentation process. It is unfiltered, and final fermentation takes place in the bottle, giving it a natural fizziness similar to champagne. It is not for the faint of heart but for those true European wine lovers.

If you like champagne: Try Alpenfire Ember, which also uses wild yeast.  However, champagne yeast is added at the end to create a French-style cider with about 2 to 3% residual sugar to balance out the acid.

Another one worth trying: Make sure to try Finnegan Dry Cider, which is fermented completely dry and has a nice balance of acid and fruit. Finnegan’s is also doing a Spanish-style Sidra type of dinner at event on May 4th at Pix Pâtisserie in Portland.


For the Newbie Cider Drinkers: Beer isn’t quite your thing; you might not like the bloating.  You kind-of like wine, but wine is a bit dry for you? You tend to prefer the sweeter things in life. If this is you, then perhaps you’d enjoy the following great ciders.

Love Apple Pie?   I have the perfect cider for you, full of spice and all things nice.  Try Carlton Cyderworks Auld Lang Spice, which has about 14 grams of sugar and literally could be a liquid dessert. It tastes just like apple pie. If anything, I love their tongue-in-cheek labels like Carry Nation.  If you like the apple pie, you’ll also like their Duke Apple Blueberry, which not quite as sweet, and with a hint of blueberries at end.

Land of Flowers and Honey:  At Finnriver Farm and Cidery, you can literally taste the land in the ciders they make. This certified organic cidery makes two very tasty ciders, the Honey Meadow cider, which is infused with botanicals like lemon balm, chamomile and honey; and their Sparkling Black Currant cider, which reminded me of when I used to pick currants off our family bushes and eat their tart sweetness.

There you have it, a cider for all palates!  If you are in California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, or Washington on June 20-29, make sure to join all of these great Northwest cideries to celebrate Oregon Cider Week in your area. To kick off Cider Week in Oregon, join the Northwest Cider Association for the Portland Cider Summit NW at the Fields Neighborhood Park in the Pearl District on Saturday, June 21-22, 2014.


Enjoy all these faces of cider!


Cider, a drink meant to be shared

Cider is rapidly becoming America’s darling as an alternative to beer and wine. This fermented apple juice is not only rich in flavor but also in antioxidants. Moreover, it is gluten-free.  Cider is, in a lot of ways, “apple wine.” Given all this, it is clearly a drink meant to be shared, if not for your health then for your friendships, according to Mr. Franklin.

“He that drinks his cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone.”

     ~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

Cider has a truly interesting history.

The History:

Once considered America’s favorite drink, cider was widely consumed by the early English settlers on the East Coast.

Due to the inedibility of the apples the English settlers found upon arrival, the colonists requested apple seeds to be sent from England, and they began cultivating orchards. Initially the cultivation of barley and other grains was difficult, so cider became the beverage of choice. Furthermore, due to its low alcohol content, cider was a beverage that could be consumed throughout the day and as an alternative to water when sanitation was an issue.

However, later, the Temperance Movement and Prohibition slowed and nearly eliminated the production of “hard” cider.  It wasn’t until later that apples gained popularity as a table fruit.

Modern Day:

Today, craft cider is rapidly gaining popularity just as is the craft beer movement. In particular, the Pacific Northwest offers a unique location where the soil is rich, the water plentiful, the winters mild, and summers ideal, making this area a perfect location to grow apples.

As craft beer consumption has exploded, drinkers are now looking to find the next interesting beverage. Craft cider offers a great alternative to beer.  Besides being gluten-free, it is slightly sweeter (depending on the cider you choose), and it also is a great food-pairing option.

The cider industry is ripe for expansion, especially with the fact that ciders fill an interesting niche market. With its being sweet, gluten-free, and natural, and having a low alcohol content,  cider creates an appealing market option for women and for drinkers seeking the next big thing.  It has also caught the attention of the larger breweries such as MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, and Carlsberg A/S.  In February of 2013, MillerCoors and Molson Coors bought Crispin Cider Co.  Anheuser-Busch also introduced their premium-priced Stella Artois Cidre and a low-calorie Michelob Ultra Light Cider.

Despite all these big breweries purchasing up some of the small cider houses, there are still plenty of individual craft brewers making the kind of cider that may not appeal to the mass market.  However, in the quantities these individual craft brewers produce, this is not an issue.

According to the Northwest Cider Association, “cider can range from light, delicate and sparkly to rich, dark, and full of complexity. There are hundreds of varieties of cider apples that can grow a wide variety of luscious flavors, fragrant aromatics and intense tannins. These are the building blocks for good cider. Cider makers carefully select their preferred varieties to get the flavors they seek.”

Cider appeals to all those looking for a new taste experience:  from wine lovers, beer lovers, and chefs, to foodies and anyone who is curious. Everyone can now enjoy the new resurgence in the world of cider, and all the new flavors are there to experience.

Basque-Style Cider, also known as Sagardo 

Having returned from Spain recently and having experienced the Basque style of cider, I was looking forward to finding cider with a similar dryness and almost bitter taste. A cider house in Basque country is also known as Sagardotegi, in Basque. The word sagardotegi is built on three roots: sagar (apple) and nardo (wine) give the word Sagardo, literally “apple wine”, translated into French from cidre. The suffix –tegi means a building or activity in a place. The word translates as “place of manufacture of apple wine (cider).”

The Basque country of Northern Spain is well known for its cider, and, like traditional French-style cider, Basque-style cider tends to have a bittersweet taste to it that pairs extremely well with foods of the region. From the picture below you can see how the Basque style of cider is stored and later retrieved by lucky cider lovers.  The cider is aged in large oak barrels and retrieved by customers on a rotating basis of about 20 minutes so that the barrels are always partially filled. The ritual of capturing the cider is called “Txotx.”  See the photos below! In this case, we were on the outskirts of the lovely city of San Sebastian, Spain (Gipuzkoa), at a place called, Petritegi Sagardoa.

How to properly catch your cider in the Basque country of Spain.

How to properly catch your cider in the Basque country of Spain. The“Txotx.”

You are allowed about an inch of the cider stream at a time, and this ensures that you get the freshest cider possible. It is common tradition in Northern Spain for people of all ages to capture their own cider. The trick is to capture this beverage from a distance to oxygenate the cider.  There is generally a line of people waiting patiently behind you to grab their next inch of fresh cider.

Catching the cider, quickly and efficiently.

Catching the cider or Sagardo, quickly and efficiently.

Back in the US

When I returned from Spain, I missed the cider houses and the taste of cider in Europe. In the U.S., I tried a number of the commercially made ciders, with no real success. However, one day, I was invited to join a number of friends for a homemade pizza gathering and there met Sharon Zielinski, the sister-in-law of Kevin Zielinski of EZ Orchards. Mark, Kevin’s brother, quickly introduced me to this dry, traditionally-made French-style cider—and I fell in love.

EZ Orchards is located in NE Salem, Oregon.  Kevin Zielinski is the lead cider maker; his family has owned and operated this farm and its orchards of apples, pears, and peaches for three generations.  He is focused on making the traditional French-style cider from French cider varieties that are more bittersweet in taste and have the tannin structure necessary to make a traditional cider.

What makes this French-style cider from EZ Orchards different is that it uses spontaneous fermentation, which means that there is no foreign yeast added to the apple juice, and the only yeast it has is wild yeast from nature itself. This ensures that there will be a cold fermentation process lasting from two to three months.  This also ensures that there is maximum flavor and aroma in the cider, as well as natural carbon dioxide development in the bottle, thus providing that sparkling quality that we all love and enjoy. Following in the footsteps of the traditional methode champenoise (a process very similar to that used for the creation of French champagne), the cider undergoes its last stage of fermentation in the bottle.

You might be wondering how other commercially-made ciders are made.  In general, mass-produced cider generally has yeast added to it; this yeast addition can change the output and the speed of fermentation. Additionally, mass-produced cider has carbon dioxide added at the end right before bottling takes place.

To learn more about EZ Orchards, check this video out:

Here’s a unique chance to taste and experience Northwest cider:

Rite of Spring

NWCA Cider Rite of Spring on Saturday, April 26 at the Tiffany Emerald Ball Room in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are $25

Cider Week

2014 Oregon Cider Week on June 20-29 throughout Oregon

Now, it’s time for me—and you!—to enjoy a nice glass of cider!  Cheers!


My Favorite Cider Houses


5504 Hazel Green Rd NE, Salem, OR. 97305


Lake Oswego, OR. Available at many locations


33848 SE Eastgate Circle, Corvallis, OR. 97333


275 S Beavercreek Rd #149, Oregon City, OR 97045


For a list of cider houses in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Canada, click here for the NorthWest Cider Association Members.

“Salud! Santé! Prost! Cheers!”

About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and with life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado.  April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain, during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and, finally, the wine–thus changing her life and eventually her career.

She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage-and-food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy; she also founded and writes the Sacred Drop Channel at She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her websites:,,

Orecchiette Pasta with Rainbow Swiss Chard and Sausage

Written and shared by my lovely cousin, Lauren. Check out her blog here! Cheers! Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Eat.Drink.Write.Be Merry.

Swiss Chard 22

Lately, I’ve been on a real greens kick. Which is a good alternative for all the other kinds of kicks I usually fall victim to…cookie-kicks, Breaking Amish kicks, Taco Bell kicks, etc.

But the real reason I’ve been on this fantastic greens kick is simply because I can’t help, but fall in love with all the beautiful produce of the season! This week, rainbow Swiss chard fell on my radar.

Rainbow Swiss chard is one of those vegetables that you look at, and think “Oh this is too beautiful to eat…”.

Swiss Chard 1

See what I mean?

Aside from being beautiful, it’s also quite tasty (oh, it’s also healthy for you too…boring).

I cooked my lovely rainbow greens in a pasta dish that could be described as “deceptively light”. Pasta with sausage seems like a rather heavy dish, but with the Swiss chard, red chili flakes and lemon juice, this pasta is de”light”ful!

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Portland’s TOAST 2014: Come sip artisan distilled spirits

The largest artisan spirits revival of America- TOAST 2014

The largest artisan spirits revival of America- TOAST 2014

The growth of local distilleries in the state has skyrocketed in the last few years. With a food-centric focus on locally made, artisanal products, this rapid progression in the world of spirits is no surprise. Fortunately the Oregon Distillers Guild coordinates an annual TOAST event for all the spirit aficionados in the Portland area.

With over 30 producers pouring handcrafted whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, tequila, brandy and liqueurs, everyone will have their sip of choice. Craft spirits from Oregon and beyond will be available to try and purchase at theTOAST event. Make an evening of it by hitting the Food Cart Court with several different options to suit all palates.

Ted Pappas, President of the Oregon Distillers Guild, says “This year we will have multiple events throughout the greater Portland area highlighting local distillers along with some of our outstanding restaurants leading up to the event. It’s the first step to transforming our event from a few days to a week of activities.”

So whether you like it in a cocktail or drinking it straight, distillers from across the state and beyond will be sharing their handcrafted wares. Celebrate the start of Spring with some food cart fare and a sampling of locally made spirits at TOAST 2014 on Friday and Saturday nights.

Who: Oregon Distillers Guild

What: TOAST 2014

Where: Two World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street, Portland, OR

When: Friday, April 11th from 5-10pm & Saturday, April 12 from 4-8pm

How: Pre-purchased tickets are $20 for either day and can be bought at the door for $25. Get your tickets today at Tickets include single day admission, interaction with over 30 spirit producers, taste spirits from around the world, and a tasting glass, while they last.

Click here for a map to TOAST 2014

Parking: $5/day at the World Trade Center underground parking

Guest post by Michele Francisco:  Michele Francisco has over 18 years of marketing experience, with almost four years in Oregon’s wine industry. She hails from California, where she earned a B.A in English from UCLA and spent much of her free time tasting wine around the state. Michele completed her first year of law school at Santa Barbara College of Law but after tasting a Pinot noir from Oregon, she finally “got” Sideways and decided to move north in search of exceptional wine.

Originally posted on the Portland 

The Rise of the Craft Beer Revolution

Double Mountain Brews from Bend, Oregon

Double Mountain Brews from Hood River, Oregon

Tell me if this doesn’t completely entice you to want to drink a beautifully crafted Oregon beer:

“Welcome to a place where the water runs pure and clean, from snow-capped mountaintops through lush green valleys. A place where hops grow in such abundance, their harvest is celebrated each autumn by beer makers and beer lovers alike. A place with a metropolitan area that has more craft brewers per capita than any other place on earth. Is it a dream? No. It’s Oregon, home to Oregon Craft Beer. And we’ve been waiting for you.”

This was brought to you by the Oregon Craft Beer Guild.

Oregon is home to over 136 brewing company operating in 61 cities across the state. Did you know that in Portland alone, there are 54 breweries—and over 70, if you include the entire metro-area?  Portland has beat out Cologne, Germany, for the highest number of breweries per capita and has become the Microbrew Capital of the world.  For my German husband, this revelation is a serious blow to his ego.  Good thing for us, we live in Oregon!

Well, if you haven’t heard of Oregon beer, it is time to pay attention. Oregon is home to craft-brewing pioneers such as Deschutes Brewery, RogueHopworks Urban Brewery, Santiam Brewing, Widmer Brothers BrewingMcMenamins, and Full Sail Brewing Co.—all of which make incredible beers that are well worth the trip to visit.  Oregon craft brewers make a wide range of beer styles, so there is always going to be something for you.

Given all of this, it is not surprising that Portland has been chosen as the first place for the launch of the film CRAFT this Thursday, April 3, 2014, at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.  It will be the first of a multi-city tour; click here for more information on upcoming stops in Denver, Fort Collins, Austin, Oakland, and San Diego.

If you are new to the craft beer scene, this film follows a Cicerone (a beer expert— Cicerone is to beer as Sommelier is to wine) by the name of Craig Noble on his coast-to-coast once-in-a-lifetime journey, from his start as an apprentice at a farm brewery, to his beer schooling in Vermont and then to the development of his own farmhouse ale recipe.  This documentary film also takes a look at how breweries are taking on the mandates of quality, creativity, and integrity expected in this industry and the passion required by the people behind these hand-crafted beers.  Enjoy the trailer!

I am just now discovering all there is to offer in this great foodie-and-beverage capital of the Pacific Northwest.  Local is what is supported here, and Oregonians are very loyal to all things local. Furthermore, if your local brewery is putting on something that supports local causes (as Santiam Brewery supports the local Humane Society), Oregonians will be there.

From start to finish, the beer making process

From start to finish, the beer making process

Visiting Oregon soon?

If you are coming to visit Oregon, make sure to save the dates of upcoming events in the area:


April  3            Widmer Brothers Pub Grand Re-Opening in Portland

April 3             CRAFT Film Launch at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland

April 18-19      20th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland

April 25-27      10th Annual Brew Fest at Oregon Gardens in Silverton


May 2-3          Cinco de Micro Brew Fest at the Salem Convention Center in Salem

May 16-17       Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest – 8th Annual in Newport (Rogue)

May 23- 31      Central Oregon Beer Week  in Bend

May 30-31       Cheers to Belgian Beers in Portland


June 21           Eastern Oregon Beer Festival in La Grande

June 2-29       10th Annual North American Organic Brewers Festival at Overland Park in Portland

July- Oregon Craft Beer Month

July 23-27       27th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland

If you are looking for great events in your own neck of the woods, visit the Beer Advocate for more information.

A few of my favorite local Brewers

Come support some of the local Oregon Breweries. If you aren’t in the area, take note of these great places, and add them to your Must Visit list!

There are a few of my favorite places:

Hood River

Check out this great page for more info on all there is to offer in Bend: BeerMeBend

Pacific City

Brewery Tours in Portland

There are tours for everyone here in Oregon. Choose your own adventure below:

Enjoy and drink safely! Cheers!

About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and with life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado.  April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain, during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and, finally, the wine–thus changing her life and eventually her career.

She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage-and-food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy; she also founded and writes the Sacred Drop Channel at She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her,, and

Unique Portland: The creation of the Urban Winery and Restaurant: Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon

As part of my Unique Portland series on things that make Portland strange, different, and wonderful, I had the chance to sit down with Sasha and Michael of Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery for an interview about how to bring two passions together into one location. Learn here all about Sasha and Michael and their adventures in creating a successful Portland Urban Winery and Restaurant: Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon.

Sasha, a self-proclaimed cheese BFF (best friend forever), and Michael, a wine connoisseur and now winemaker, have created a great place. Clay Pigeon, an urban winery run by Michael in Southeast Portland, specializes in Pinot Noir and Syrah wine from this great state of Oregon. Cyril’s, run by Sasha, is the restaurant, wine bar and tasting room.

Michael started Clay Pigeon originally in their basement in Portland; when they found the right space, they moved the winery to where it is today on Oak Street, on the other side of the wall from Cyril’s.

Michael and Sasha have even created a great video themselves about their passion:

The Fixe Lunch Special

The Fixe lunch of your dreams! Eggplant Involtini with a glass of Bourougne Chardonnay.


Make sure to check out Cyril’s Fixe lunch menu, which is priced at $14-$18 for a three course European-style lunch. You choose whether you’d prefer a glass of wine with your meal or whether perhaps you’d rather have a sweet finish with a delectable dessert. Check back every week as the menu changes.

This is comfort food to the extreme. You can’t help but leave here with a full belly and a content heart.  Cyril’s is open Monday through Friday for lunch, and it is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.Clay Pigeon Winery Syrah 2012

Because we live in this phenomenal foodie town, there is a time, once a month. when over 30 top-notch restaurants offer varying three-course meals throughout Portland for a mere $29 per person. Cyril’s is also a part of this great culinary event.

While you are at Cyril’s, I would highly recommend tasting their Sunshine Salad and cheese boards and enjoy a glass of Michael’s very own Clay Pigeon 2012 Syrah.  At this link you will also get a chance to view the bottling of this beautiful Rogue Valley Syrah.


Cyril's Dining Room

Where you can kick back and relax: Cyril’s Dining Room


Where to find Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery:

815 SE Oak St (@Sandy), Portland, Oregon

Phone: 503.206.8117
Hours of Operation:
M: 11.30-4P
T-TH: 11.30-9P
F: 11.30-10P
S: 4P-10P

For more information: visit Sasha and Michael at and

Follow Sasha and her passion for food on Twitter @CyrilsPDX

Follow Michael and his adventures in wine on Twitter @ClayPigeonWine



About the author: April Yap-Hennig

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer with 12 years of experience in International Marketing and Communication in Europe and the United States, and life experience also in the Caribbean and South America. She holds a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of La Rioja, Spain, an MBA from Purdue University, and B.A. from University of Utah. She is also a Certified Wine Sommelier from the International Wine Guild in Colorado. April was born in Utah, raised in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador and has lived and worked in The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Her love of wine started when she studied in La Rioja, Spain during her undergraduate studies. This is where she fell in love with the country, the region, the people, the culture, and finally the wine. Thus changing her life and eventually her career.  She is now the co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at She is forging a new future in Oregon with her husband and their hilarious French bulldog, Guapo.

Check out her websites and

FoodWorx, the Future of Food: Part II

FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. This is part two of the conference regarding food insecurity, Chefstable, and My Street Grocery.

Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council threw some hard-hitting facts at us.  I was stunned to learn that in the United States one in six people are food insecure.  What does “food insecure” mean? It means that on a daily basis, approximately 16 percent of Americans do not have access to food and are therefore hungry or in fear of starvation. On top of that, did you know that 40 percent of the food in this great nation is not eaten?  I was astounded by this fact.  That means that on your plate, you will eat 60 percent of your food, and the rest will be wasted while there are one in six people starving.  Dana pointed out, “If food waste were a country, then it would rank 3rd in Green House Gas emissions.  This food is actually the number one contributor to landfills, and because of it creates an incredible amount of methane.“

Did you know this simply means the food is at it's peak and not an expiration date?

Did you know this simply means the food is at its peak and not an expiration date?

Another interesting fact is that the size of a standard cookie has quadrupled in size since the 1970’s.  Again, compared to the 1970s, Americans waste 50% more food than they did back then.  So what can we personally do to remedy these issues of food waste?  Dana’s recommendations were the following: 1) create a shopping list and plan your meals;  2) avoid the massive bulk purchases;  3) use your freezer to store additional meals;  4) learn your labels and really know for a fact when your food is bad (the “Best by…” label simply means that the food is at its peak, not that it should be thrown out);  5) stop demanding perfect food—an incredible amount of food is thrown away for simple imperfections in color.

Following Dana’s talk came Kurt Huffman from Chefstable, discussing what sells and what doesn’t. Chefstable was created to allow chefs to focus on what they are good at—their passion, which is food—and not on running the business. He emphasized three principal components of making a restaurant “hot:”  1) Environment, creating a space that is comfortable;  2) Service, which is what is most written about;  enthusiasm is key, because, in Kurt’s words, “ it is better to be an enthusiastic idiot” than just an idiot;  3) Product–Yes, product is sadly the least important but still necessary.  Kurt then went on to talk about what investors look for:  1) Team—what they are really investing in; 2) Neighborhood—does it make sense;  3) The story—what is it. and is it likely to draw others;  4) The risk—because 90 percent of investments fail, are they willing to lose their money?

The conference concluded with some stunning storytelling videos by Rob of GLP Productions and an inspirational mobile grocery concept by Amelia Page of My Street Grocery aimed at providing fresh food access to all.

Rob Holmes, founder and chief storyteller of GLP Productions, talked about the four key elements of storytelling. Every story must have a purpose, a location, a journey, and a character. He used several videos to demonstrate each of these aspects. The one that I enjoyed the most was the emphasis on the key character of a story.  He or she doesn’t have to be a CEO; the key character just has to be a person who is authentic and easily relatable, and who has a great story to tell.


Amelia Page, a young twenty-something, came on stage and talked about the fact that over 23 million Americans don’t have access to fresh food, creating food deserts.  Her solution?  It was to create a mobile grocery truck called My Street Grocery, which visits these food deserts and provides neighborhoods with a chance to buy local, seasonal fresh food at reasonable prices. She uses this as a way to educate people on food as well as to help them with planning their meals through meal kits that cost approximately $2 to $3 per serving. This enables people to eat healthy without having to rely on unhealthy food alternatives such as fast food restaurants. She started in Portland and hoping to expand this to other food deserts in the United States.

Overall, this conference was a very interesting and eye-opening event in which I was motivated to “heed my call,” eat at home more with local food, and waste less, and, when I feel adventurous, visit and support the local food vendors in Cartopia.

Thank you for joining me. For more information on the event visit:

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at For more information on April, please visit her website and

Foodworx PDX, the Future of Food: Part I

Imagine being a person with a dream, a dream to one day do something you love, and imagine that your dream is to be the owner of a food cart or maybe of a restaurant?  If what I am describing sounds like you or someone you know, then you should have been at this conference.


FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution.  As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. I met people of various backgrounds—from tour operators like ForkTown Food Tours, to food truck managers like Koi Fusion, to hops soda makers like Portland Soda Works—all of them with the dream of capturing the attention of the people of Portland.

Forget basketball, forget soccer.  Think food. “Eating is our biggest sport in Portland,” stated Erik Wolf of the World Food Travel Association, “Food tourism starts at home.”

What better home than Portland to start exploring your backyard?

I moved to Oregon from Spain and was so surprised by the number of food carts and the abundance of selection Portlandia people had. While at this conference, as a relative newbie, a friend of mine, Bee Talmadge, owner of The Spicy Bee and manager of Koi Fusion, stated, “You haven’t been to Cartopia?”  No, I have not yet been to Cartopia. I’m guessing I need to go. Just in case you are a relative newcomer to Portland, it is on SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd and is the land of the best food carts in Portland.


The Power of “And”

Given that there is a demand for great food at reasonable prices, there are “cartrepreneurs” and other food-related entrepreneurs springing up everywhere in Portland. David Hewitt of the Meriwether Group just wrote a book, Heed Your Call, to support all those who are seeing guidance. His book talks about how “human values can be expressed through business.”  With his wife, David initially launched Oregon Chai in 2004 and had tremendous success of bringing together two people, one with a dream (right brain—hers) and one with a business mind (left brain–his). He emphasized the importance of the “Power of ‘And’.”  This Power of And theory stresses that you need to be all three: an Operator, an Exec, and a Founder. By being creative and being logically minded, you can create a successful business.

Gregg Abbott, owner of Whiffie’s Fried Pies and head of the Oregon Street Food Association, talked about the new consumer demand by an educated constituency that demanded “novel food experiences.”  He said that the Portland food carts scene has created a drive back into city centers. More and more cities with downtowns want the formula to duplicate this incredible economic driver.  This is easier said than done.  The Portland food cart phenomena is due through the convergence of ideas, opportunity and demand—all factors that need be readily available to recreate Portland’s enormous success.

Perhaps Portland’s success has also been this overall drive back to all things sustainable.  By “sustainable,” I mean local, wholesome, homemade, and economical.  Food that is created, as Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s Bistro states, “from squeak to wag.” Food made the way it was before the 1900’s when people used to eat slow-cooked meals at home that were made with love. We are now facing a wake-up call where the cost of exotic foods has gone up with the cost of gas, where fine dining is just too expensive, where climate change is affecting our food supplies and where industrial agriculture is affecting our health. There is a return to the old ways in Oregon, where there is a demand for food markets and microproducers. People are raising their own backyard chickens and pickling their own vegetables. This is the start of the “Locavore” movement and perhaps a return to our great grandmother’s cooking.

Stay tuned for Part Two on food insecurity, My Street Grocery, GLP Films, and Chefstable next week.

For more information on the event visit:

April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at For more information on April, please visit her website and

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Unique Portugal: An interview with the venerable Tony Smith

I had the chance to sit down with the venerable Tony Smith of Lima Smith Lda., which owns Quinta de Covela and Quinta da Boa Vista of northern Portugal.  This was a unique opportunity to sit down with this former editor, previously based in the UK, of Conde Nast  and discuss how he went from being a editor to the owner of these prestigious properties in the Douro River Valley.  Tony went from living in São Paolo, Brazil (population: 58 million), to São Tomeo (population: 681). In the interview, he talks about his experience with this change as well.

The Covela Boys: Gonçalo Sousa Lopes, viticulturist, Rui Cunha, winemaker, and Tony Smith, partner, at the end of the 2012 harvest

The Covela Boys: Gonçalo Sousa Lopes, viticulturist; Rui Cunha, winemaker; and Tony Smith, partner; at the end of the 2012 harvest

Lima Smith Lda. is the brain child of Tony Smith and Marcelo Lima. They both initially purchased Quinta de Covela through an auction in 2011. They later went on to purchase Quinta da Boavista, a former Offley estate from Sogrape Vinhos, in 2013, and also took over the Quinta das Tecedeiras brand.

I had the opportunity to visit Quinta de Covela and stay on the estate. It had the most gorgeous views of the valley and was situated in the middle of the Vinho Verde region of the Douro River Valley. The estate has 70 hectares, with approximately 20 hectares-49 acres of vines under production, with another 50 hectares available to plant. Right now their current production is about 100,000 bottles—8,333 cases of 12 bottles—annually.

Quinta de Covela 3

Dating back to the 1500s, the estate was formerly known as Casa de Covela, where, to this day, the ruins of the old stone Renaissance manor home still remains. The estate went on to belong to various owners, but in 1980s it was acquired by the businessman Nuno Araújo, who created the brand Covela. In 2007, Casa de Covela gained the classification as a bio-dynamic producer, which at the time was above and beyond what others in the region had done. Unfortunately, the estate was later abandoned, and when the property was first purchased in 2011, it was in disrepair and in need of a little TLC.  After two years of neglect, Lima Smith picked up the winery and, resurrecting it, refocused it from 50/50 red-to-white production to 20 percent red and 80 percent white under the direction of renowned winemaker Rui Cunha.

Rui had been involved in the original project back in 1992 and later returned to help revive this beautiful property; he also has a consultancy and makes his own wines through Secret Spot. Rui made the decision to return to help rebuild Covela because he could finally make the wines he always wanted to under the new ownership. When he came back to Covela, he was able to make a single variety wine out of the Avesso grape variety, which has now gained national acclaim. This grape variety wine turns out to be one of my favorite Vinho Verdes.

Wine Notes: Avesso 2012 Edicion Nacional. Covelo- first vintage.

Sold out (Unfortunately!)

Covela Vinho Verde 2012 Avesso

Covela Vinho Verde 2012 Avesso

It has a touch of baked goods with a crisp lemon-lime mouth; it is dry and delicious.

Price:        $16.

Importer:  David Boland

The winery has sold its wines mainly in Portugal in the past, but its focus for the future is to sell 40 percent of their wines nationally and sell 60 percent internationally, first into 3 new markets opened this past year: US, Brazil, and Germany, with plans for three other new markets.


In recent news, Quinta de Covela was just awarded the Trophy of “Best Viticulture” at the annual 2014 gala of “The Best of the Year” organized by Revista de Vinhos magazine.  This is one of the most prestigious awards of the wine and gastronomy industry in Portugal. Congrats!

For more information on Quinta de Covela, visit

This concludes my series on Portugal. Next up is Portland and the urban winery movement as well as additional regions of interest in Oregon. If there is something you are interested in learning about tweet me @SacredDrop or leave a comment below.

Thanks for joining us!  Make sure to sign up to receive notifications of newest posts by email.

Unique Portugal: An interview with Quinta de Leda Winemaker- Antonio Braga

In a recent trip to the Douro River Valley, I had the honor of sitting down with Antonio, the winemaker of Quinta de Leda of Casa Ferreirinha. Young and affable, this winemaker tells us about the grapes of the Douro Valley and a bit of the history of the estate. Casa Ferreirinha is owned by Sogrape Vinhos.

For more information visit on Quinta de Leda, visit…

You will also find more information on Portugual and the beautiful Douro River Valley visit the rest of my website for more information.

Welcome to the Valley of Gold: Douro, Portugal

The Douro River Valley has steep and twisting canyons that have been sculpted over the years into terraces by hard-working farmers. The birthplace of port wine, the Douro River Valley was demarcated in 1756 by the Marquis of Pombal and is one of the oldest regulated wine regions in the world.  It is also one of the most beautiful regions in the world to visit. Indeed, this spectacular region was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. It’s not surprising, given the history and beauty of this place. I was rendered speechless by the majesty of this region, this valley of gold, and what it has to offer.

While there are numerous theories on why this region was called Douro, the name might be traced to the Celtic god of water Durius, or perhaps to the phrase “De ouro,” which means “gold” in Portuguese. Either way, this region is a region of many riches and experiences to be had.  While this valley is known primarily for its port wine, it is now starting to be recognized also for its high-quality table wines.  All of these wines come from the terraced vineyards of Portuguese grapes, such as you can see in the photo below.

The Douro River actually begins in north central Spain, where it is called Duero; it then flows from there to Porto, Portugal, where it is called Douro.

How to get there: As you can see from the map below, the easiest way to get to the Douro River Valley is actually via a flight from Lisbon to Porto.  Then you can travel by boat or train to Régua or Pinhão, the two most popular cities of the Douro River Valley.

Plan on spending at least two days in this beautiful valley. Port wine enthusiasts will likely want more days to visit all the beautiful Quintas (country inns or estates) along the river. When planning your trip from Porto, it is about two hours in car, or two to three hours by train, to the cities of Régua or Pinhão. It is advisable to visit during the week, since weekends in the summertime may be quite busy. Map of Enticing Douro

Where to visit: Quinta de Covela– S. Tomé de Covelas Covela My recommendation would be to take the train from the São Bento station in Porto directly to Régua. While in Régua, stop off and visit the Vinho Verde region of the valley. Visit Quinta de Covela, where some of the best tasting Vinho Verde is made. (The direct translation of vinho verde is “green wine,” otherwise known as white wine.)  Under the management of Mr. Tony Smith, part owner of Quinta de Covela, and renowned winemaker, Rui Cunha, Quinta de Covela has come back from near ruin to prosperity.  Their award-winning wines are making strides in the wine world—in particular, their Covela Escolha Branco 2012, and my personal favorite, COVELA Edição Nacional Branco.  This last wine is made with 100% Avesso grapes.  I had the pleasure of enjoying their wines and their beautiful Quinta this past fall. I even had the chance to go running with the Covela dogs, Teddy, Alef and Spot, through the small towns of Portinha and Covelas. Stay tuned for my interview with Mr. Tony Smith.

Quinta de Napoles– Niepoort Winery in Santo Adrião Niepoort, while well-known in Portugal for their high-end quality Ports, their modern still wines are stunning. I have yet to have a Niepoort that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.  This beautiful Quinta de Napoles is situated in the town of Santo Adrião and has a brand new facility with state of the art equipment and a spectacular view of the valley. If not for the wines, come for the view.

State of the art facilities at Niepoort.

State of-the-art facilities at Quinta de Napoles of Niepoort

What to experience: 

One of the most beautiful times of the year to visit this region is during harvest, usually around September of each year.  If you happen to visit during this time, I recommend taking a three-hour boat river trip along the Douro River, starting in the morning to mid-day, and departing from Pinhão.  You can take the train back to Regua and spend the evening at Quinta Sta Eufêmia, where you can experience grape stomping in traditional lagares (a large, typically stone trough in which grapes are stepped on and pressed, separating the grape skin from the pulp to create must, grape juice).

When I first came here with the University of La Rioja as part of my master’s program in viticulture and enology, I left with unforgettable memories, including wading in grapes while dancing to accordion and drums at Quinta Santa Eufêmia Winery in the Douro River Valley. Take a look!

Quinta de Vesuvio– W.J. Grahams of Symington Family Estates

I had the pleasure of studying under Pedro Leal of Symington Family Estates and experiencing harvest in the Douro River Valley for the 2011 Vintage at one of the most prestigious and well-known Quintas, Quinta de Vesuvio.  The 2011 Vintage is now known as one of the best years for wine in general, as well as the best Vintage year for port wine.  I was honored to be a part of the punch downs of the Tinta Roiz (also known as Tempranillo grape varietal) while I was there.  Watch this:

Where to eat:

While there are plenty of great places to eat, one of my most memorable and exquisite experiences was at the Restaurante DOC- Rui Paula in the town of Folgosa, located off Estrada Nacional 222:

tel.: +351 254 858 123, e-mail:

Every small plate was paired with a regional wine. Needless to say, there were many glasses of wine and many, many memories to pair it with.

Here is an example of their version of Terra/Mar or Surf and Turf.  All I can say is that it was one of the best meals I had ever had in my life.

If all of this isn’t reason enough to visit, I don’t know what is.  Time for you to add this beautiful valley of gold, the Douro River Valley, to your list of must-see places!

Note:  It is highly recommended to call or e-mail for reservations at this world-class restaurant.

If you are interested in having me lead you through a tour of the valley to a number of unforgettable Quintas in the Douro River valley, please contact me to discuss options.

My Favorite Portuguese Wines

Here you will find an ongoing list of my favorite Portuguese wines. Most of these wines are from the Douro River Valley of northern Portugal, but there are plenty of other regions of this great land I have yet to discover.  (Alentejo, for example, is one region I’d like to explore.) Portugal is one of the regions of the world with an amazing selection of wines at reasonable prices. If you can get your hands on some of these wines, especially 2011 Vintage Port, consider yourself very lucky. I’ve enjoyed every single one of these wines and wouldn’t have posted about them unless I had enjoyed them. To learn more:

Vintage Charts:

To learn more about the Douro River Valley, stay tuned, because this is the next article in my series on Portugal.  Chin Chin!

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Learn the basics of Port with Oscar of Vinhos Oscar Quevedo

In my recent trip to Porto and then into the Douro River Valley, I had a chance to sit down with a good friend, Oscar Quevedo. He teaches us the basics of Port 101.

Oscar’s family owns and runs Quevedo Port Wine, which you can visit in Porto, Portugal. His Port Wine Cellar is located across the riverfront of Porto, in Vila Nova de Gaia.

For more information, visit their website at Quevedo Port Wine.

Chin Chin!

Make sure to check out the most recent posts on Porto and Port wine on Sacred

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Port wine, the nectar of the regular folk

We have champagne to thank for the evolution of what we now know as modern day port wine. In the late 17th century, champagne became known as a modern wine and was incredibly popular with the British and, of course, with the French. According to legend, a Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon, pioneered quality changes for champagne and declared, of sparkling champagne, “I am drinking stars.” It wasn’t until later, after his death in 1715, that subsequent changes in production technique following his initial invention caused drinking champagne became the height of fashion in Paris and Versailles. Because it was so limited and nothing like it had been made before, the people who purchased it were invariably rich. This left little for everyone else.

When France and England went to war in the late 17th century, the English boycotted French wine and soon began buying their wine from Portugal. Due to the Methuen Treaty of 1703, Portuguese wine could be imported into England at a third less duty than other wines. This lead to an influx of Portuguese wines into the English market. 1

The first port that was initially made was coarse and cheap, sold as an alternative to claret wine. Port was first introduced to satisfy the tavern market of the English. In 1717, the first trading post was established in Porto. The city of Porto, with its many wine cellars or adegas in Vila Nova de Gaia, has long served as the main export port for port wine. This is where the main production and export of this fortified wine has taken place over the centuries.

Port wine, also known as Vinho do Porto, is a Portuguese fortified wine from grapes grown in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Traditionally, after the grapes are picked, they are placed in Lagares, which are these large open stone basins where the grapes are trodden by foot or by a wooden stick. While the grapes are fermenting, they create must, which is grape juice. The sugar in the must is then converted to alcohol.  When the must has reached about 6-7 percent alcohol, it is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente (a type of brandy). This simultaneously stops the fermentation process and stabilizes the wine. By stopping the fermentation before it is has completed, there is little residual sugar left in the wine, and a slightly sweet wine results. However, with the addition of the neutral grape spirit and residual sugar, there is an increase in alcohol as well as sweetness.

The first port wines produced were made with dry wines, meaning that the fermentation process had already run its course, leaving no residual sugar. This is what we would call a Dry Port. However, the traditional dessert wines that many know today are made with sweeter wines; thus when fermentation is stopped, residual sugar remains, giving this fortified wine the sweetness and potency we now enjoy.

Port wine is quality protected and monitored by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP). In 1756, the Douro Valley, where port wine is produced, was established as a protected region or appellation, making it one of the oldest demarcated and protected wine region in the world.

The Douro Valley has hundreds of varieties of grapes, but there are five key varieties widely cultivated and used in the production of port: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roiz (Tempranillo), Tourigua Francesa, and Touriga Nacional.

Ports from Portugal can be divided and then subdivided into numerous categories. There is port that undergoes “reductive” ageing, which are wines aged in sealed glass bottles. A second main category is port wines that are matured in wood barrels—a process known as “oxidative” ageing. The port wines that possibly interest you most are the Rubies and Tawnies that you have likely heard about and maybe already tried.

Tawny Port is wine made from red grapes, aged in wooden barrels known as pipas. This process exposes them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. They are generally nutty in flavor and a golden brown in color. They can be aged for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years. In the image below, you will see what we call Colheita.

Colheita is a tawny port of a single vintage, instead of an age indication of 10, 20, or other years. Rather, it has a specific vintage year mentioned. Below you will see there is a Colheita of 1998 that is still in barrel. Colheitas can spend 20 or more years in barrel before being bottled and sold.

Ruby Port is among the most popular of port wines produced. These wines are generally stored in concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative ageing and to protect the beautiful ruby color common to these wines. Rubies are generally blended to be consistent in color and flavor. They are fined and cold filtered. They tend to be somewhat fruitier on the palate and in some ways fresher. A Ruby isn’t generally a port that will improve with age.

Vintage Port is a wine that is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year by the individual Port house. Vintage ports represent approximately 2% of overall port production. While some perceive producing port wines labeled as vintage ports as a way to increase revenue by naming every year a vintage (or as some perceive it, a great year), the decisions to label certain port wines as vintage port are not taken lightly, and many reputations hang in the balance here. Vintage ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling and then require another 10 to 40 years of ageing in bottle before they are ready to be consumed. Since they are aged in barrels for less than three years, they still retain a dark ruby color and a substantial amount of freshness. It is recommended to consume a vintage port wine within a few days of opening it, and it should be treated like a normal wine.

2011 is an example of  a phenomenal vintage- many wineries have released their 2011 Vintage Ports. I would highly recommend getting your hands on Vinhos Oscar Quevedo Vintage Port 2011, which was awarded 96 points by the Wine Spectator this month.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is generally a port wine that was destined for bottling as a vintage port, but which, due to lack of demand, was left in barrel longer than planned. These port wines are generally bottled four to six years after the vintage year. Some are filtered; others are not and require decanting. The wine is ready to drink when it is released.

Calem Port Tasting- Bottom Row: Left to Right- 30 yr White Port- 40 yr Tawny – 1940 Colheita – 2011 Vintage Port

There is, honestly, so much to learn about port, and there are even white and rose port wines available as well. Port wine is extremely flexible as a wine/spirit and can be used to make mixed drinks as well.

Two good friends of mine, Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of CataVino, told me about a phenomenal White Port and Tonic drink. Such a drink would be a great intro to enjoying port wines, especially on a hot summer day. I found a recipe online by For the Love of Port with a great recipe to try.

How to make a Port and Tonic:

What you’ll need:

  • Bottle of Dry White Port (such as Taylor’s Chip Dry, Fonseca Siroco, etc.)
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Ice cubes

In a tall glass, place 5-8 mint leaves and then top off with ice cubes. You can add more or less mint depending on your taste preference. Then add in equal parts White Port and tonic water and stir.

Chin Chin!

And stay posted for an interview with a port wine producer from Vila Nova de Gaia—coming soon!

1 Work Cited: Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures, by Paul Lukacs; W. W. Norton & Company (December, 2012)

Porto, the Gateway to the Douro Wine Region

Porto, formerly known as “Portus Cale” by the Romans, latin for Port of Cale, is now known as Oporto (The Port) by the locals following the Reconquest in AD 1000.  This city is full of Old-World charm with its red-tiled roofs, soaring bell towers, extravagant baroque churches, and stately buildings tumbling down the hillside to the River Douro (Rio Douro). Porto is one of Europe’s oldest centers and was registered as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1996.

Oporto of "Portucale"

Porto of “Portucale”

Fun fact:  Did you know that Porto put the “Portu” in Portugal? In AD 1000, after the reconquest of Portugal from the Moors, the city’s name was made the name of the new country,“Portucale.”

I personally love the beauty of this town, and on my first real visit to this town, I marveled at the historical and modern significance that it had on the wine industry. Porto is famous for its export of Port wine; however, this region has so much more to offer than just Port wine.  Indeed, Porto is a vibrant city with amazing food and culture.

A little wine history of Porto:

While it is thought that grapes have been grown in Portugal for over 4,000 years, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Portugal really became known for its wine trade with England.  This wine trade later expanded in the 17th century to other countries such as Scotland and the Netherlands.

Port Wine Basics:

Port wine, also known as Vinho do Porto, is a Portuguese fortified wine made exclusively from grapes from the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. It is typically a sweet red wine that is often enjoyed with desserts or cheeses. There are now many different types of port: white port, rose port and the traditional red port.

Before I delve into everything port, I want to talk about Porto.  I’ve covered Port wines in this article.

The city of Porto:

Porto—or Oporto, as I like to call it—serves in many ways as the historical and cultural gateway to the stunning Douro River valley. It is worth it to stay a few days here before setting off into the Douro river valley.

Porto is a compact city with rolling hills, so be prepared to walk up and down quite a bit. I would recommend a great pair of walking shoes. As I visited the city, I created an “Oporto Must See List” which I saved on my Foursquare account. (I love using this tool because it maps it all out for me and as people provide me with recommendations, I add it to my list and can find it instantly.)

Ribeira of Porto looking over at Vila Nova de Gaia at night

Ribeira of Porto looking over at Vila Nova de Gaia at night

Porto is technically divided into three parts:

Ribeira, which is Porto’s riverfront center with a gorgeous view of all the Port wine houses across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is a stunning neighborhood with great riverside restaurants and outdoor patios. It can be very touristy, so be prepared to look at menus and pricing first before sitting down. If you are a runner or a walker, you can run all the way from the port at the river’s edge inland as well as out to the sea along a busy road. I would recommend going early in the morning before the traffic picks up.

Places to visit:

  • Palácio da Bolsa, R. de Ferreira Borges 55, next to the Church of St. Francis —This stunning building is a must-see.  It  has some lavishly decorated rooms, including the Arabian room, which was inspired by Granada’s Alhambra.

Place to eat:

  • Bacalhau Restaurant—This tiny little place is hidden on Rua de Cima do Muro Bacalhoeiros 153. It is right on the river, and they offer some great dishes of seafood and in particular Bacalhau, also known as dried and salted cod, the nation’s national dish. They also have a great wine menu. You can sit outside or inside, but the views are worth waiting for a table outside.  +351.960.378.883


The Historic Sao Bento Train Station

The Historic Sao Bento Train Station

City Center, which is located directly up from Ribeira, on the top of the hillside.  I would consider this area to be a more realistic and less touristy area of Porto, especially if you are considering doing some shopping.

Places to visit:

  • Sao Bento Train Station, Praca Almeida Garret: This train station, opened in 1916, is still in operation.  The entry hall to the train station is covered in over twenty thousand vivid blue “azulejo” tiles, showing the historical and folk scenes of the Douro River region; the tiles were painted by Jorge Colaco in the 1900s. Throughout northern Portugal you will be able to find beautiful blue “azulejo” Portuguese tile that you can take home as a souvenir.
  • Clérigos Church and Tower, Rua S. Felipe de Nery:  Are you interested in seeing the beautiful city from above?  If so, brave the 225-step climb to the top of this towering landmark of Porto. Afterwards, stop over at the Clérigos Vinhos & Petiscos for a small bite and great wine.

Places to eat and drink:

  • Bella Doce Praça Almeida Garrett 11, is a great place to sit down and enjoy some of the local pastries and amazing coffee at a phenomenal price. At less than a Euro, you can enjoy a beautiful shot of espresso.  It is located directly across from São Bento Train station and has white umbrellas covering the outdoor tables. The entrance has a white awning.  It is also directly behind the large green magazine kiosk and by the entrance to the São Bento Metro stop.
  • Clérigos Vinhos & Petiscos, Rua das Carmelitas, 151, is a cute wine bar that offers a really good selection of Portuguese wines and aperitifs. It is located in the middle of this very modern-looking outdoor mall with outdoor and indoor seating.  I went in the middle of the afternoon, after lunch and before dinner, and enjoyed a small three-bite nibble and spent 3 euros for a Reserve glass of Douro wine. They serve regular-size meals for lunch and dinner.
  • Café Aviz, Rua de Aviz 1, is a great no-fuss cafeteria where you can get a reasonably priced meal. I’ve heard the francesinha, which is a sandwich made with a number of different meats, roast beef, different sausages and bologna, then covered with melted cheese, and a beer-and-tomato sauce. It is then topped with an egg at some places and served with French fries.  Be aware, it is a heart-attack type of meal but I would rather eat this than food at the millions of fast-food restaurants you now see. Click on this link for a fellow traveler’s experience with the Francesinha.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Now that you’ve stuffed yourself with this amazingly dense sandwich, let’s walk back down the hill and across the river to the Port wine center, Vila Nova de Gaia.  This is arguably one of Porto’s main tourist attractions, the port-wine cellars (Caves do vinho do Porto). The Douro can be crossed by any of the six bridges that connect the two sides of Porto together. If you are walk as I would imagine you would after the Francesinha, cross via the Ponte Dom Luis I. The metro runs above it, and the cars and pedestrians can cross on the lower level directly from the Ribeira water front.

Vila Nova de Gaia has always played a very important role in the history of the port wine business. All port wine that was to be exported outside of Portugal, had to first pass through Gaia. It would travel from the Douro Valley, almost 100 kilometers, approx.. 62 miles down river to Gaia, where it would be stored and aged before it was shipped out. This is where you will find a number of port houses that are definitely worth a visit. Here are a few of my recommendations.

Places to visit and taste:

Quevedo Port Wine Lodge, Rua de Santa Marinha, 77, Vila Nova de Gaia: This family-owned port wine business was officially founded in 1991, but the history of the land and the family goes back even further. The Quevedo Vineyard is located in João da Pesqueira, a small town in the heart of Douro Valley, where they make still wines as well as port wines.  Oscar, the most well known and recognized member of the family, acts as the face of Quevedo. He is also the member of the family whom you are likely to see in the tasting room, while his sister, Claudia, the winemaker, is generally out in Douro making the wine.  Oscar explains how port is made. I personally love his accent. Enjoy:

W. & J. Graham’s Lodge, Rua do Agro 141, Vila Nova de Gaia: W & J Graham’s was founded in 1820 by the Graham brothers from Scotland. The lodge itself was built in 1890, where you can now visit, taste, and tour the amazing facilities. I would highly recommend visiting this great lodge. W & J Graham’s now belongs to the prestigious wine group, the Symington Family, along with CockBurn’s, Warre’s, and Dow’s.

Porto Calém, Av. Diogo Leite, 344, Vila Nova de Gaia: Calém is the closest port lodge to the bridge and therefore makes it a great beginning or end stop. Established in 1859, Calém is one of the oldest port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia. In 2006 and 2008, they won the Best of Wine Tourism award for their architecture and wine tourism services. They offer daily tours and hold a number of events throughout the year. Since 1998, Calém is now a part of Sogevinus Fine Wines S.A., which also owns Kopke, Barros and Burmester.

Given that you’ve probably already drank quite a bit of port at this point, the only option is return to the City Center or go across the river and enjoy the night life and great food Porto has to offer. While I haven’t had a chance to visit all these places, I would recommend checking out my “Oporto Must See List” on Foursquare for more recommendations given to me by fellow travelers and locals.

After visiting Oporto for a few days, make sure you make it to the Douro River Valley. Stay tuned for a series of stories on Portuguese wine and travel.

Chin Chin!

Seasons of the Vine in La Rioja

A single wine estate, such as Finca La Emperatriz, is beautiful, especially when the clouds roll in. The colors of nature naturally come forward and create this beautiful contrast.  We are currently in the time of year, while unpredictable lately, goes the saying, “April showers, bring May flowers!”

In this case, the month of April, in La Rioja brought the much needed rain, especially important at this period of time for the growth of the vine. At the end of January to the end of February, the pruning was done and the old branches/canes were removed. This was done to optimize the production potential of the grape vine. As Finca La Emperatriz is located at the outer most edge of Rioja Baja at an altitude of about 570 meters above sea level, the weather is cooler here and is influenced not only by the Continental but the Atlantic and Mediterranean winds that converge here.  This altitude, weather and rocky soil causes the vines to bud later than the rest of Rioja Alta.

Taking this into consideration, this is also an advantage due to climate change. As the weather throughout Europe and the rest of the world, goes up, locations in higher altitudes and generally cooler climates will benefit from a cooler summer than other wineries located in areas such as Rioja Baja. Right now, you can see the differences in growth states of the vine.

Right now, it is fascinating to see the differences not only in trellis style but in where the vines are located around the estate. We are currently experiencing 4 different stages of growth at the winery as of 25 of April, 2012 and 5 different stages as of May 2, 2012.

Dormant Bud Crying-  Stage 0

Dormant Bud Crying- Stage 0

Stage 0: Dormant

The buds are closed and there is no indication of growth. In this image, we have just pruned it and it is “crying” and the sap has begun to flow through the vine and begins to come out of the cuts where we have pruned it. The buds are almost not apparent.

Swollen Bud and Bud Break- Stage 2

Swollen Bud and Bud Break– Stage 1 and  2

Stage 1: Bud Swelling

The buds on the vines in Goblet or Bush style, a very traditional trellis system in La Rioja, are either dormant or just now starting to swell.Bud Burst/ Bud Break- Stage 2

Stage 2: Bud Break- Bud Burst

This is when the leaves from the buds start to swell and emerge, still maintaining a slightly rounded shape. In the above image you get a chance to see bud swelling and bud break. The Bud Break or bud Burst is on the top right of the image above.

Here in this image, you can clearly see the leaves starting to come forward out of Bud Break/Bud Burst. It is somewhat in Stage 2 and 3.

Leaf Emergence- Stage 3

Stage 3: Leaf Emergence

Leaves are now recognizable and the shoots are starting to photosynthesize. Here you can see they are starting to open up.

Stage 4: Shoot Growth
1 to 3 inch shoots with 1 to 3 small leaves at right angles to the stemMore leaves become apparent as the shoot elongates. At this point, it is very important that the temperature does not fall below freezing. Any frost at this point could potentially jeopardize the crop yield.

The vines furthest from the River Oja are already starting to enter the 4th stage, which is called Shoot Growth.

Stage 5: Flower Cluster Emergence

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

Shoot Growth- Stage 4

–          4 to 8 inch shoots with 3 to 6 leaves there is also flower cluster emergence.

Others in more clay like soils are actually already into Stage 5 where the clusters are starting to show.   I will have to go out into the vineyard one more time so I can upload the picture. Stay tuned!

Written by April Hennig of

Have you ever wondered if you could plant a grape seed and from it, a vine would grow?

Normally, this is something that as curious children we do with seeds.  In fact, I believe my father has some grape vines outside his home that were planted in this exact way.

Yes, technically, you can grow a vine out of a grape seed; however, the grape produced will be different from the grape you consumed in order to obtain the seed. As two parents produce a child that is a blend of both, the same thing would happen here with the seed being the child.

Grapevines are grown from vine grafts. The primary reason for this is is due to the Phylloxera outbreak that originally started in France in 1863 and later spread throughout Europe. Because of this, French enologists and viticulturists came to La Rioja to plant vineyards, initiating the wine industry in La Rioja. However in the late 1890s, Phylloxera had crossed the Pyrenees and invaded this grape-growing region as well.

Phylloxera, originally native to eastern North America, is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide. Phylloxera was introduced to Europe when avid botanists in Victorian England collected and imported specimens of American vines in the 1850s. Because Phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are at least partially resistant. By contrast, the European wine grape Vitis vinifera is very susceptible to the insect. These almost microscopic, pale yellow, sap-sucking insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots and leaves of grapevines. Phylloxera attacks only the roots.  After employing numerous other methods to try to kill and exterminate this “bicho” (insect), viticulturists found it was simply a better solution to live with it than to struggle to find a solution to kill it.

This is where the idea of using grafts of an American vine began.

Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together.  In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots; this plant is called the stock, or rootstock. The other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits; this plant is called the scion. The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future production by the stock/scion plant.

In the case of Phylloxera, the solution was grafting a Vitis vinifera scion onto the roots of a resistant Vitis American native species (Vitis Riparia, Vitis Rupestris or Vitis Berlandieri), as you can see in the two images below. Afterward this graft is usually covered in wax to seal the graft. These are then sold, and viticulturists will then plant these rootstocks in the ground—and this is where today’s European grapes come from.