Pebble Beach Food & Wine: Lexus Grand Tasting

4/19/2014


PBFW 14

Two words: Food. Wine. Those two things definitely make me happy. So when I had the opportunity to attend one of the nation’s premiere food and wine festivals, of course I was beyond excited to attend. After all, experiencing the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival has been near the top of my list of “To Do’s” for years and, even though I was sick the week leading up to the event, I doubled up on the vitamins and made sure to not miss it. I’m so glad I made it because it did NOT disappoint! If you’re at all into top-notch food, amazing wine and rubbing elbows with some of the country’s most influential chefs, sommeliers and oenophiles, then I would highly suggest making it a weekend.

This year marked the seventh year of PBFW, which officially kicked off on Thursday with an Opening Night Reception at The Inn at Spanish Bay. I didn’t attend any events until Saturday, though, when Nick and I started the weekend off at the Lexus Grand Tasting. With over 300 wines from around the world and 30 of the most renowned celebrity chefs preparing bites of delicious food both Saturday and Sunday, saying this is a dream way to spend an afternoon is an understatement. It’s not only an epicurean paradise, but it’s a really spectacular event, taking place at the Equestrian Center inside of a very large tent… complete with fancy Lexus cars, food and wine booths and thousands of really happy people.

Nick and I tasted enough wine and food to make our taste buds hurt, and then some more, but it was worth it. To sample some of the most innovative dishes and quality wines in one day is kind of overwhelming, but luckily we had two days to enjoy it. Everything was truly amazing, but a few really stood out. Here are a few of my favorites from Saturday’s and Sunday’s Grand Tasting.

The Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Sweet Shrimp, Hass Avocado Mousse & Petit Basil, from Chefs Rory Hermann and Timothy Hollingsworth of the Sprout Restaurant Group, was so simple yet so flavorful. It was one of the first things we tasted but we remembered it all weekend.

Shrimp Gazpacho | Wander & Wine

Chef Mario Perez from The Lodge at Pebble Beach definitely made some of our favorite food at the Grand Tasting. We just couldn’t stop talking about the Liquified Popcorn with Caramel Froth. Talk about a delicious shot of dessert soup! His Slow Roasted Korean Pork with Scallion Rice and Kim Chee Puree was also a big hit.

Liquified Caramel Popcorn | Wander & Wine

The Portuguese Seafood Soup with Linguica Sausage and Crackling Rice, by Chef Kim Canteenwalla of Honey Salt in Las Vegas, had the most amazing broth. I’m not always a fan of seafood, but this brought me back to our trip to Portugal last September. So tasty!

Portuguese Soup | Wander & Wine

Who doesn’t love a good sandwich, especially if there’s a freshly carved piece of ham involved? Okay, maybe my best friend Jess because she hates ham, but I’m pretty sure even she would adore this sando. The Southern Artisan Sandwich with Shaved Country Ham, by Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, was delicious. It had Pimento cheese, bread and butter pickles and a whole lot of southern love.

Country Ham | Wander & Wine

There were many other amazing dishes, like Chef Donatella Arpaia’s Spicy Meatballs (Nick would be a very happy guy if he got to eat those meatballs every day), but what about the wine? THE WINE! Everything from Pinot Gris from MacMurray Ranch to well balanced dry Riesling from Dr. Loosen, Champagne Perrier-Jouet, Inglenook Cabernet, Tablas Creek Rosé and even 20-year Tawny port from Portugal, it was all great. And don’t get me started on the 1989 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley that I got to compare to the 1999 and 2008 vintages. More to come on that later… but what a treat!

1989 Mayacamas | Wander & Wine

It was also fun to meet some of the winemakers that were there representing their wines… especially from wineries that Nick and I have visited, like Muiris Griffin from Round Pond. Hi Muiris!

Round Pond Wine | Wander & Wine

Of course, it’s always fun to see some familiar faces from Santa Barbara, like Seth Kunin of Kunin Wine. Special thanks to Seth for everything!!

Seth Kunin | Wander & Wine

Up next – more from my indulgent and fabulous PBFW14 weekend: exclusive happy hours, ‘last supper’ dinners and after-hour parties with top chefs. Cheers!

 

Shrimp & Grits: The Pairing Challenge

4/07/2014

Shrimp & Grits Pairing | Wander & Wine

I’m never one to shy away from a fun challenge, especially if it involves food and wine (duh!). So when fellow blogger, The Wandering Gourmand, asked me to participate in his wine and food pairing challenge, of course I was up for it! The task? Find a wine or beer that would best pair with shrimp and grits, the ultimate Southern comfort food.

Hmmm… have I made shrimp and grits before? Nope! I have probably only had it twice in my life, but remember ordering it at a restaurant in the South where it was extra cheesy, extra spicy and extra good. Since I only had a couple of hours to decide before the deadline, I went with my best educated guess: Albariño or Gewürztraminer.

Why those two you ask? Albariño typically goes well with seafood, and it’s got a lot of racy acidity that might balance out the richness of the grits. Gewürztraminer has a good amount of weight and intensity so it wouldn’t get overpowered by the food, yet its perceived sweetness could balance out the smokiness and spice in the food (especially if there’s spicy sausage or cajun seasoning – yum yum).

To see how I did, I decided to do a taste test of my own with some shrimp and grits with spicy sausage and peppers. The two wines I chose:

IMG_3275

2012 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer ($28), from France’s Alsace region. The region, which borders Germany, is known for aromatic, dry Gewürztraminers which tend to take on floral, exotic fruit and spicy aromas like this wine. The aromas were full of sweet white peaches, roses and ginger, and, although it smelled sweet, the wine was dry with spice and noticeable acid. A pretty nice wine! I guess they know what they’re doing, as the winery is owned and operated by the Humbrecht family who have been growing grapes since the 1600s (fun fact: Olivier Humbrecht, who operates the winery, is the first Frenchman to qualify as a Master of Wine).

2011 Burgáns Rias Baixas Albariño ($16), from the Rias Baixas wine region in the Northwestern part of Spain, which is known for clean, crisp and refreshing whites that almost take on a saltiness like the ocean. Hey, if wine can smell like ‘wet dog’ or ‘cat pee’ then it can certainly smell like the ocean! This wine did have a bit of ocean saltiness on the nose, with appealing aromas of honeyed apricots and tropical fruit like pineapple and mango. It was juicy and zesty with good minerality and body. A great value wine!

So which one was the winner? To me, the Albariño worked best. The wine stayed relatively the same after trying it with the food, and the food tasted just as good with the wine. On the other hand, the food brought out the spice characteristics in the Gewürz, subduing the fruit in the wine and leaving the mouth with a bit too much heat. It wasn’t terrible, though.

Albarino with Shrimp & Grits

Want to see what other participants suggested? Check out The Wandering Gourmand to vote for me (or your favorite answer) in this month’s wine and food pairing challenge. Voting ends April 8!

Cheers!

Unti does Grenache right

3/27/2014

Unti Grenache | Wander & Wine

I’ve been holding on to this bottle of 2008 Unti Grenache for a while now after having tried the same varietal by this producer a few years ago. My friend Leigh introduced me to them because it’s one of her favorite wineries (thanks, Leigh!). This small California winery, located in Healdsburg, is family-owned and operated by the Unti family, focusing on mostly Mediterranean red wines (think Grenache, Barbera, Sangiovese…). Although I haven’t been to the winery, I really enjoy this Grenache and can’t wait to get my hands on more of their wine!

The 2008 Unti Grenache ($25) is a really nice smelling vino… it’s got black currant, raspberry, pepper and savory aromas that are noticeable but not overpowering. On the palate, flavors of blueberries, spice and a hint of smokey game leave you wanting another sip. It’s a nice medium-bodied red with a good balance of acid and refined tannins, and a soft yet rich finish. A real standout, especially at this price point!

Don’t know much about Grenache? You’d be surprised how many of the best wines out there are comprised of some Grenache! For starters, it’s actually one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, largely planted in France, Spain, Italy, Australia and the US. More often than not, it’s used as a blending grape, but it’s becoming more popular as a single varietal star (you’ll also see the grape used more frequently in some rosés).

The grape itself is almost black, but the wine it produces is typically lighter in color with an intense nose and spicy and fruity flavors. Depending on where it’s grown, it can also take on more herbaceous, savory characteristics. Any wine where I can use the word “herbaceous” said in a snobby wine geek way with an accent “eeeehr-baaaay-shuhs” wins for me. ;)

IMG_3199

Grenache is also the dominant grape in most Côtes du Rhônes. Although named after an appellation in the Southern Rhône region of France, it’s usually a blend of mostly Grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and sometimes Cinsault. In Spain, Grenache (known as Garnacha there) is usually blended with Tempranillo. This particular Grenache by Unti is actually made up of 75% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre, and 12% Syrah. These are also the 3 varietals that go into widely popular GSM blends (get it? Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre). Yum yum.

Whether you’re drinking to learn more about Grenache or just want to enjoy a nice wine, definitely go look for this Grenache by Unti!

 

**Wine Notes**

Producer: Unti Vineyards

Region: Dry Creek Valley, CA

Varietal: 75% Grenache (with 13% Mourvedre, and 12% Syrah)

Vintage: 2008

Alcohol: 14.5%

Cases Produced: 715

 

**Winery Notes**

Open: Daily, 10-4pm

Tasting Fee: $5

Phone: 707.433.5590

Tips: The winery is open by appointment only.

Choosing Wine for Your Wedding

3/21/2014

Spokane-Wedding-Photographer-BNOspokane-090

A few of my closest friends are getting married soon (can’t wait!), so I’ve got weddings on the brain! I’ve done my fair share of event planning (although no weddings), and I know that any big event can be pretty stressful to plan. There’s a lot to think about – like the venue, guest list, and of course, the booze…

Let’s face it, wine can be overwhelming in and of itself. Add a wedding to that and all the pressure to make that day perfect, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown stressful situation!! My number one piece of advice is to not get overwhelmed when it comes to choosing wine for an event, but to instead have fun with it! In my latest story for the Washington wedding website, Apple Brides, I gave my top 5 tips for choosing wine for your big day. To kick off another fabulous wedding season, here’s my advice below:

IMG_3102

Go for 1 White & 1 Red (at least)

Even if you have a taste for vodka sodas or whiskey on the rocks, it’s important to serve at least one white and one red wine (in addition to Champagne, which I think is a wedding must!). Some popular wines, like overly oaked, buttery bombshells (CA Chardonnay, I’m talking to you!) or super tannic reds might not actually be the best match for wedding fare. I’d recommend looking for lighter, more crisp whites that won’t overpower the hors d’oeuvres, like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. And for reds, Pinot Noir is notoriously food-friendly and is a safe bet whether the guests are eating chicken, steak or mushroom ravioli. It’s also a light red that’s good for those weddings during the warmer summer nights.

Consider alternatives to what you like

I typically don’t drink or recommend oaky, buttery Chardonnay, but I have PLENTY of friends that adore it. Hey, it’s your wedding and you should do what you want and drink what you like! However, since many people either love it or hate it, perhaps consider something that’s maybe more crowd-pleasing overall. An oaked Viognier could be a good alternative, since it’s got a similar richness to Chardonnay, but with less dominating oak and more tropical fruit flavors. Or, look for a Chardonnay aged in neutral oak.

Personalize it

I love when a couple adds small personal touches to a wedding that compliments their personalities, so don’t feel limited by the food or song list. Use the wine selection as your opportunity to tell a story! Choose a wine that has a special meaning behind it (the wine served on your first date, the wine you shared when he proposed…) or each select your personal favorites. Although, those of you with “champagne tastes” (aka, if you regularly open $200 bottles on a Tuesday) may not want to take this approach! :)

Think about the numbers & guests

Ever been to a wedding where they ran out of booze and there were no liquor stores nearby to replenish? Buzzkill. It’s usually safe to plan on one drink per guest per hour, but I say it’s just better to have too much than too little. Also, when figuring out what to buy, consider your guests’ tastes. Are they the types to guzzle down the wine without a thought before hitting the dance floor (go for less expensive wines) or the types that want to sip and savor their wines while mingling (maybe consider more special bottles)?

Make it an event

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Use choosing wine as a good excuse to hit up your favorite winery, or invite a few friends over to help narrow down the wines you’re considering. Just think of it as another pre-wedding celebration.

Happy Planning!

 

**Read the full story here to see which widely available wines I recommended. Top photo courtesy of Ariel Nay Photography.**

 

Wine, Beer and Coastal Vibes at Armada

3/12/2014

Armada Wine & Beer

Now that we’re getting settled in the new place, Nick and I are having fun exploring Santa Barbara and our new neighborhood. Living downtown and being within walking distance to numerous places definitely has its perks, one of them being that we’re only a 10 minute walk from a new wine (and beer!) bar that just opened up last month. Talk about convenient!

Armada Wine & Beer Merchant is a bright and airy bar tucked away in a courtyard off of State Street in Downtown SB. It was started by friends Jaime Heer and Tucker Huget, who met while working at a local winery in town (Carr Winery) and dreamed of opening their own place one day. That dream is now a reality, and, if their Grand Opening Party is any indication of how popular this place will be, I think they’re in good shape.

Armada Wine & Beer 1

Armada carries mostly smaller-production wines and artisanal beers from Central CA and beyond, perfect for those looking to try something new. The name Armada is not only a play on the ‘exploration’ of wine/beer, but also pays tribute to the Spanish Conquistadors that are carved into the facade of the San Marcos Courtyard where the place resides. Inside, the space is tastefully decorated with a coastal, nautical and airy theme that is casual and inviting (I want my living room to look like this!). Both Jaime and Tucker are super nice and down-to-earth, and you can tell they’ve put a lot of thought and time into making it an inviting place for both locals and tourists – from the décor to the wine list. There’s even a TV playing movies like Ghostbusters or Grease if you need an excuse to stay awhile…

IMG_3109

Here are a few examples of what’s on the list (some of which they change up every few weeks)… All great selections!

2012 Mes Amis Dry Riesling ($25) – Produced by two local young winemakers Matt Brady (of Jaffurs) and Drake Whitcraft (of Whitcraft), I was impressed with this wine. With notes of honeysuckle and cantaloupe, it’s dry and crisp enough to make even the non-Riesling drinkers fans.

2013 Ledge Vineyards Los Topos Rosé ($25) – A blend of 72% Grenache, 14% Syrah and 14% Mourvedre from Paso Robles, it’s a juicy rosé that isn’t overly sweet at all. It had notes of strawberry and watermelon with a hint of basil. If you’re not into pink wines, if nothing else, the label is a fun conversation starter – moles wearing Mexican wrestling masks. “Los Topos” is Spanish for “the moles” in case you’re wondering. Also, the winemaker, Mark Adams, was named one of the top winemakers to watch in 2014 if you keep up with that stuff. :)

baker & brain

2012 baker & brain Central Coast Pinot Noir ($40) - Nick and I both fell in love with this wine, which happens to be one of Armada’s most popular wines, a silky blend of grapes from Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties. Founded by two friends from college, Josh Baker and Matt Brain, their small-lot wines are created with minimal intervention. This Pinot smelled of raspberry pie, cinnamon and dried herbs, with refined fruit-flavors and a lingering finish. Rumor has it that Armada is hosting a {baker & brain} wine dinner in early April which I might just have to attend!

2011 Veramonte Primus Malbec ($25) – After tasting such restraint in the Pinot, this wine was quite different but really grew on me. The tobacco, pepper and blueberry notes will satisfy any full-bodied red wine fan’s tastes, especially if you’re looking for a good Malbec from Argentina.

2012 Medici Ermete Concerto Lambrusco Prosecco ($30) – Not a wine you’ll see on many wine lists, this sparkling, intensely-colored wine will keep you coming back for more. It smells like fresh raspberry jam, but is actually super mellow in the mouth – with light fizz, black cherry flavors and a dry finish. Grape juice for grownups.

IMG_3124

Telegraph Brewery Coffee Abbey Beer – This beer is off-the-charts good. It’s brewed with fresh ground coffee extract and has notes of toast and vanilla. And guess what? It’s the only place in town with it on tap. So good!!

Zwet.be Belgian Porter – This bottled porter is very different… almost sour or tart with interesting notes of cocoa and roasted coffee. Really different but definitely good.

IMG_3133

Grab your friends, try some new beers or wines on tap and settle in to your new favorite neighborhood hangout. Thanks to Tucker and Jaime for the hospitality! Cheers!

IMG_3121

Armada Beer & Wine Merchant:

Open: M, W, Th – 1-9pm; Fri-Sat 1-11pm; Sun -1-7pm; Closed Tuesday

Phone: 805.770.5912

Location: 1129-A State Street – Santa Barbara, CA

Tips: There are cheese and charcuterie plates available should you end up staying for the entire movie (hey, sometimes you just have to watch those classic 80s movies all the way through.)

 

 

Wine and (healthy) Food

3/07/2014

Healthy Food & Wine

In addition to my day job, I’ve been spending a lot of time doing some wine writing outside of the blog. It’s been really fun because A) I like to help people learn more about wine, and B) writing is enjoyable for me! Recently I had an article about pairing wine with healthy food published in North Idaho Wellness Magazine. Most people, even dedicated wine lovers, don’t know a lot about pairing wine with food, let alone the healthy kind. Asparagus? Arugula? Intimidating…

It’s actually not that hard to pair wine and food once you learn the basics. Of course, I say this now, but in my early 20s I didn’t know much about pairing besides red wine with steak and white with chicken or fish. I now know that matching wine and food isn’t so black and white, but that there’s a whole lot of grey.

One of my favorite things is having a nice glass of wine with a meal, especially at a fancy restaurant where the Somm is selecting the wines for me. Duck, bone marrow butter, bacon-wrapped filet – ha! Who can eat that every day? It’s not only expensive but it’d be really unhealthy. Outside of a restaurant, I try to pair wines with things I eat more regularly – like healthier food that I can cook at home. So, which wines go with things like tomatoes, veggies, etc? Just follow my tips below!

Match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine

Hearty, heavier foods tend to pair well with wines that will stand up in body to the food and not be overpowered (aka, fatty steak and tannic Cabernet). Lighter, more delicate foods work well with lighter wines because neither is dominating the other. So, since a lot of healthier foods are lighter in body, you’re probably going to be reaching for the whites and the light-to-medium bodied reds more often than not.

Find similar flavor profiles

Similar flavors in food and wine are BFFs. Why? If you have food with a rich, earthy or mushroomy flavor, you wouldn’t want to pair it with something really acidic and fruity, you’d want something to complement the earthy flavors. For example, Pinot Noir can have earthy characteristics that are reminiscent of mushrooms and herbs. Sautéd mushrooms with rosemary might be a perfect match. A Pinot Noir that has more fruit-forward, berry flavors might be better matched with pork with a cherry or fig sauce.

IMG_2446

Think Regionally

Wines from a certain region are usually made to go with the foods of that particular region, especially in “Old World” countries in Europe. It makes perfect sense… over there they’ve been doing it for centuries. Take Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine from Italy’s Abruzzo region, which is a red that tends to have bright cherry flavors, tart acidity and earthy, herbaceous characteristics. The foods of that region, like simple tomato sauces, braised meats, mushrooms and olives, are all a safe bet.

Get to know some staples for healthy foods

Sauvignon Blanc has citrusy, green, herbal notes that tend to work with many green veggies, like arugula, asparagus and even artichokes, especially with a lemon sauce or pesto. Gruner Veltliner and Vinho Verde would also work with these foods.

Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red with low tannins and diverse flavors. It can have bright, spicy fruit or meaty, earthy characteristics. It’s a safe bet for chicken, pork, vegetables, and fish. Dry Rosé is another nice option for these foods.

Chianti contains a high amount of acid. It’s a great match for tomatoes and tomato sauces, which naturally contain a lot of acidity, so they balance each other out. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese and Barolo are also good options.

When in doubt, Champagne is usually a good choice. It’s light and versatile enough to go with chicken, vegetables and soft, creamy cheeses when you need something rich. On that note, it’s time for me to make dinner… tonight it’s gnocchi with a tomato basil sauce and roasted veggies. Anyone want to take a stab and what wine I might be opening? Cheers!

 

5 Girls, 5 Courses and Pappy Van Winkle

3/03/2014

IMG_3067

Well, I made it to California. My home state. Where pine trees have been replaced with palm trees and I no longer need my ridiculously puffy jackets for the cold Pacific Northwest weather. I’m so excited to be back, but of course I miss the family and friends I left behind. But, who can complain when it’s 70 degrees and sunny out?! Not I!

Prior to the big move, the lovely ladies I work with threw me a very grown-up going away party consisting of a 5-course meal with wine pairings (cooked by a private chef no less). My kind of party! It was a truly memorable and special night with a few of my favorites (thanks for hosting, Leslie!).

photo 1

We started the night off with a 2012 Decoy Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20) which was crisp with tropical fruit and refreshing citrus flavors. It’s always a really easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing white. We paired the wine with a few appetizers that were spot on as matches… flat bread with brie, apple butter, prosciutto and apples (winning combo, by the way), roasted red pepper hummus, as well as watermelon bites topped with goat cheese and balsamic reduction. Talk about starting the night off with a bang.

IMG_3055

Second course, which was also paired with the Decoy Sauv Blanc, was an amazing lemongrass and miso soup with mushrooms, grilled bok choy, lemongrass infused tofu and yuzu sauce. Are you getting hungry yet?

IMG_3059

Next up was seared ahi with seaweed salad and sriracha mayo. Our chef, Dani, paired this course with a dry and very zippy sparkling wine, Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs. The wine was very dry, with yeasty characteristics (think bread dough) and a slight spiciness. I think it actually tasted somewhat sour after having the soup, but not a big deal.

You know when you have a meal that is just so good and over the top that you don’t think it can possibly get any better? Enter the main course… our chef’s take on “Surf & Turf.” Pork belly and grilled lobster tail over quinoa with watercress and a Béarnaise sauce. Um, yeah. The lobster was one of the best things ever, and all the flavors went surprisingly well with the 2005 Artesa Merlot ($20) from Sonoma/Napa. It was a bold Merlot with lots of spice and red berry fruit.

photo 5

Finally, we rounded out the meal with one of my favorite things to end a meal with, which, coincidentally, is any type of dessert whatsoever. haha. Although I’m not a huge chocolate dessert fan because they tend to be pretty rich, our chocolate mouse tart with a gluten free chocolate cookie crust was sinfully delicious. It was on top of a wine-infused blackberry sauce and paired with the 2011 Erath Pinot Noir ($16), which was used in the sauce. When pairing wine and foods, having wine actually IN the food is a pretty safe bet.

IMG_3086

So we didn’t end the night after dessert, because Leslie’s husband poured us all a bit of the very rare bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle. Often considered one of the finest bourbons in the world (and not to mention extremely rare to find), we tasted both the 15 year and 20 year. Unreal. It was definitely quite the bourbon to end quite an evening!!

IMG_3101

You can’t get better nights than that, and I truly wish I could have that meal all over again (and share with you all!). Cheers.

Tasting Wine at Gifford Hirlinger

2/22/2014

GiffordTasting | Wander & Wine

Continuing the tour of Walla Walla, Sarah and I stopped into a place that neither of us had been to but were excited to try – Gifford Hirlinger. Yeah, the name may be a bit hard to pronounce and/or remember, but the place is definitely worth remembering. It’s a small, family-owned winery (not too far from Va Piano and Pepper Bridge) and and was our 4th stop of the day. If you missed the full story on our Walla Walla weekend, click here.

GiffordOutside

The winery was started in 2001 by the Berghan family, who were growing grapes to sell to other wineries and then decided to start their own gig. Their first vintage was in 2003, but the current winemaker has been with the winery since 2005. So how did they come up with the name Gifford Hirlinger? Well, turns out that both sides of the Berghan family crossed the country in covered wagons back in the mid 1800s, settling in Walla Walla. Gifford and Hirlinger were the last names of those relatives.

The tasting room is modern with floor to ceiling windows and was actually empty when we were there – a perfect place for us to post up at the tasting bar and enjoy the view on a chilly day! They don’t make a ton of wines, and those they do make tend to sell out quickly, but the few that I tried were good. The first we tasted was the 2009 Estate Merlot ($32), made up of 100% Merlot. It was a very spicy, leathery wine with black licorice and dark berry flavors. It’s hearty with structured tannins and is a pretty good example of Merlots of the area.

photo (28)

Next, we tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26), consisting of 84% Cabernet, 8% Tempranillo and 8% Petit Verdot. I got a lot of dark berry fruit, oak and some earthiness that lingered on the palate. I especially liked the next wine we sampled, the 2010 Malbec ($34), which was earthy and peppery with hints of coffee and black fruits. It was smooth and spicy and easy to drink.

Gifford Hirlinger Wines | Wander & Wine

In short, GH is a chill place to taste wine (no pretentiousness here!) and the light coming through the windows makes for great photo opps, too. Although the place probably does get a decent amount of visitors, I recommend going on an off day in the winter when you can enjoy the tasting room all to yourself. Thanks to Blake for bringing us here. Cheers!

 

**Winery Notes**

Open: Fri-Sun 11am-5pm

Phone: 509.301.9229

Location: 1450 Stateline Road – Walla Walla, WA

Tips: Bring a picnic to eat outside on a nice day.

Every Empty Bottle…

2/18/2014

Cheers from California! Since I’ve been spending the last few days moving, I’m a little behind on my recaps of Walla Walla. Looking forward to sharing more details of the wineries I visited, but until then, I’ll leave you with this awesome wine quote (designed by my good friend, the talented Jesse Pierpoint). After all, it IS National Drink Wine Day!! Here’s to many many more stories to come!

Empty Bottles | Wander & Wine

Balboa Winery Welcomes You

2/09/2014

Balboa Winery | Wander & Wine

There are some wineries that you walk into and immediately feel like you’re walking into a corporation, complete with sterile decor and plenty of snoot. Then, there are places that are warm, welcoming, and laid back… where it feels more like someone’s home than a tasting room. Well, Balboa Winery in Walla Walla is the latter.

The winery was founded in 2005 by Tom and Amy Glase, a husband and wife team whose kids and dogs can be seen running around the winery helping out, too. The winery, which shares property with Beresan Winery next door (Tom is also the winemaker there), is in a rustic yet modern building at the base of Pepper Bridge Vineyard (you can’t miss the bright red roof and doors!).

Balboa 2

Balboa Tasting Room

My friend Sarah and I stopped here during our awesome wine tasting weekend, otherwise known as the “I’m moving soon so let’s go to Walla Walla to taste a lot of wine and eat amazing food last hurrah weekend.” We were immediately greeted by two adorable dogs and the smell of brisket cooking as we entered the tasting room. I wasn’t kidding when I said this place was warm and welcoming. Although the food wasn’t for us (darn!), we still enjoyed the aromas as we sipped our way through the tasting list.

We first started with the 2010 Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($34), which is 100% Syrah. It had lots of toast and cigar box on the nose, with a nice balance of juicy fruit and spice on the palate. Next, the 2009 BalBOA Constrictor Walla Walla Valley ($36). Fun fact about this wine: the owners’ daughter did the label! The apple must not fall far from the tree, because Amy Glase is actually an artist, too. The wine itself is made of 50% Cab, 33% Petit Verdot and 17% Malbec. It’s got notes of raspberries and slightly bitter orange rind, with nice acidity and hints of tart berries, chocolate and sage. It was savory yet fruity and definitely tasty!

Balboa Winery Wines

Next, we took our glasses out to the back so Tom could give us some samples from the barrel. I say “some” but I’m pretty sure we tasted everything in there. ;) Thanks, Tom!

BalboaBarrels

Back in the tasting room, we tasted the newest release, the Sangiovese ($26) which had deep raspberry candy and black cherry aromas, as well as the 2011 Cabernet Franc ($40), with notes of pepper, vanilla and black fruits with minerally characteristics. Both were great ‘bonus’ pours since they weren’t on the list. Back to the regular tasting list, we continued with the 2009 Mith Columbia Valley ($45), which is the winery’s best seller at the moment. It’s a proprietor’s blend of different varietals every year, so you can never expect the same wine. The 2009 had ripe blueberry, cocoa and mocha aromas followed by flavors of black licorice, almond, cassis and dark fruit. The tannins were silky with a strong finish.

My favorite wine of the day, Sarah’s too, was the 2009 Eidolon Walla Walla Valley ($75). Yes, this is pricey, but it is oh so worth it! Made up of 37% Cabernet, 37% Syrah, 14% Malbec and 12% Petit Verdot, this is a wine with a lot going on. It’s got notes of dark red fruit, olives, truffles and herbs with a long, smooth finish. A great blend, and the name is interesting too – “eidolon” means “apparition” in ancient Greek thought.

Balboa Barrel Room

Overall, Balboa is a fun place to taste wine because the owners are really passionate about their winery and don’t take themselves too seriously, and that carries over into the relaxed and friendly tasting environment. It’s just an added bonus that the wines are good too! Plus, I’m a dog lover and who can resist a cute puppy named Moet (after Moët & Chandon Champagne) greeting you at the door. Cheers!

 

**Tasting Room Notes**

Open: Daily, 10-4pm

Phone: 509.529.0461

Location: 4169 Peppers Bridge Road – Walla Walla, WA

Tips: If you’re a dog lover, head to their 2nd Annual ‘Best In Show’ dog show event in June, benefitting the Humane Society. There are many categories (like ‘Best Catch’ and ‘Waggiest Tail’), a food truck, and lots of great people/dog watching.

Other: Their wine club is called the Ringside Club, a play off of the rocky soils where the vineyards are located. Get it? Boxing, Rocky, rocky soils…haha.

 

 

 

Theme by Blogmilk   Coded by Brandi Bernoskie