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2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris

Appellation: Columbia Valley, Washington

Tasting Notes: 100% Pinot Gris.  13.9% ABV.  Color is a cloudy yellowish gold, almost looks like it’s too old.  Nose is very metallic at first, opens up with grapefruit.  This is all metallic/mineral and grapefruit.  Very one dimensional. Good acid.  Light.  Not bad, not fantastic, just average.  Certainly not a bad Saturday mid afternoon on the deck wine.

Rating: 2/5

Price: Unknown, someone brought this to our house.  Cellartracker says it’s about $11.00

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0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-118A week before embarking on a 7-day Alaskan cruise with my family (including Aunt Karen and Uncle Ed) and 2 weeks before departing for Paris to spend the next two years of my life refining my Public Affairs skills, I took off on a one week solo road trip through the wine country of Washington State and British Columbia, Canada.  June 9th through the 12th to be exact.  I covered the regions of Woodinville, Walla Walla and Lake Okanagan.  The scenery was stunning, the ambience was serene, and the wine was quite often excellent.  The reds of Washington tended to be crisp and refreshing, presenting a lot of cherry on the palate, and certainly B.C. was all about the ice wines.

Day 1, Chateau Ste. Michelle Vineyards & Winery tour and tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
1998 Reserve Merlot, $50: more subtle than the other merlot, earth
2003 Ethos Merlot, $39: initial nose of port that faded, very dry, leather, earth, dark cherries
2004 Col Solare, $70: molasses, big wine, dark fruits
2006 Cold Creek Vineyards Riesling R.S. 2.22%, $20: pears
2006 Eroica Riesling R.S. 1.54%, $25: peach, very minerally, slate
2005 Ethos Late Harvest Riesling R.S. 22.4%, $40 half bottle: WOW!, apricot, tropical fruit peel, sryup, honey, unending finish, tantalizing bouquet
Conclusion: Christina was a great host to my wine tasting.  The late harvest stole the show without question; in fact it was the top bottle of the day I’d say… very ethereal.  The Eroica and the Ethos merlot were also quite unforgettable.  There wasn’t a single disappointment in this tasting.  I also went on a tour, including a crowd from Clintonville, Ohio, who were professors ar OSU.  The tour and Layne the tour guide were great!  Overall Ste. Michelle grabbed the gold for day 1.

Anecdote: I spent the prior 2 days with Mike Lebeiko.  I slept in his apartment on 45th Street and after the first night of bar hopping and getting stupid drunk, I woke up and ran around Green Lake, which was AWESOME!  Mike meanwhile was on the verge of death, contemplating whether or not life was worth living.  Upon revival we hit the streets and visited Pike Farmer’s Market, the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project (well the outside), Queen Anne’s city view, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and I forget what else.  In short, Seattle is bad ass!… cultural, laid back, fun, beautiful… EVERYTHING but good weather, although we had great weather for the site seeing day 2.

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-128Day 1, Columbia Winery tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2006 Yakima Valley Unoaked Chardonnay, $22: grapefruit side note, crisp
2004 Wychoff Vineyard Chardonnay, $20: creamy toasted hazelnut aroma, acidic, crisper
2002 Otis Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $28: earth, leather, cherries, toasty oak
2004 Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $30: darker fruits, blueberries, vanilla
2003 Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Franc, $28: fresh cherries
Conclusion: All good wines, no great or at least no memorable wines, a rather eventless and generic wine experience.

Anecdote: An old couple had a polar opposite experience than I and loved Columbia and were not impressed with the tasting experience at Ste. Michelle, although their critique was on the tasting hostess, not the wines.

Day 1, Novelty Hill (NH) & Januik wine tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2004 NH Stillwater Creek Late Harvest Semillon: apricot, grape
2005 NH Stillwater Creek Semillon, $12: apple, tropical fruits, fig, honey, pear
2006 NH Stillwater Creek Rousanne, $22: floral, apple
2005 Januik Lewis Vineyard Syrah, $30: spice, pepper, cherries, plum
2005 NH Stillwater Creek Sangiovese, $25: a lot of cherries
2005 Januik Columbia Valley Reserve Bordeaux blend, $65: big wine, earth, cherries
0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-136Conclusion: Overall great experience.  No particular wine caught my eye; however, I’d recommend them all.

Anecdote: This was the most atypical tasting room I’ve ever seen, very minimalist and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Not the traditional cottage chateau style.  I guess it’s won awards for the design.  Also, the tasting hostess was a very cute and rather young red head.  She was from Alaska.  THAT’S HOT!

Day 1, Silver Lake Winery tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
Glen Fiona Viognier, $25: bananas, apricots
Glen Fiona Cuvee Parallel 46, $25: pepper, acidic
Glen Fiona Basket Pressed Syrah, $30: blueberry, spice, acidic, cherry, blackberry
Glen Fiona Claret, $30: leather, cherry
Conclusion: No disappointments but no super stars.  I was very impressed by the bananas in the viognier.  I had never experienced that before.  With the exception of the Claret, these were all Rhone-style wines.  The tasting room itself was very unimpressive.  Reminiscent of a Chevy Chase National Lampoon’s family vacation

Anecdote: The host was good but a little annoying and his hand shook as he poured.  Some old geezer condition.

Day 1, Woodhouse Family Cellars tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-1452006 Southern Hills Country Club Picnic Blend White, $20
2006 Auntie Meredith’s Picnic Blend White, $20
2006 Tempranillo, $24
2003 Malbec, $20
2002 Kennedy Shah BLT Cabernet Sauvignon
Conclusion: I didn’t make a single note as I was talking to the host the entire time.  All the wines were great and I especially was fond of the malbec, although I don’t know if my reaction was because I enjoyed the malbec the most or because it’s been a while since I’ve had a malbec.

Anecdote: The tasting host dude was cool.  We talked the entire time about wine and our plans to move to France.  I forget his name but the guy’s been in wine for nearly 10 years, appears to be around my age, maybe a little older, and will be moving to France soon to enter an oenology and viticulture program.  HOW COOL!  He’s wants to go into consulting and eventually have his own label.  DUDE I WANNA DO THAT!

Day 1, Brian Carter Cellars tasting…
(Woodinville, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2006 Oriana White, $24: apricots, apple, floral
2005 Tuttorosso Super Tuscan-style blend, $30: earth
2005 Byzance Southern Rhone-style red blend, $30: black fruits
2004 L’Etalon Bordeaux-style red blend, $30: leather
2005 Abracadabra Magical Red Blend: oops
Conclusion: Great wines and very representative of a number of European wine regions.  The Abracadabra was a cool concept.  Brian Carter every year takes whatever red grapes are left over and mixes them together to make a quite magical blend.  Magical because he figures out how to make a great wine every year, regardless of the concoction of grapes.  Sort of a Brookside Suicide soda of wine if you will.  Although quite a bit better.  It wasn’t my favorite wine in the tasting, although the novelty and stand alone quality combined for a very fun wine.

Anecdote: As throughout the entire day the tasting hostess was super cool.  Sort of a MILF if you will to boot.  Oh yeah and her name was Laurel (spelling not confirmed).  I never asked her where Hardy was… (two snare strokes and a cymbal splash)

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-158Day 2 L’Ecole No. 41 tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2006 Coumbia Valley Semillon, $15: citrus
2006 Fries Vineyard Wahluke Slope Semillon, $19: nuts!!!, creamy
2005 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $29: acidic, fruit forward, black fruits, leather, spice
2005 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $36: acidic, earth, black fruits, leather, cherry
2005 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Perigee Bordeaux Blend, $49: acidic, earth, spice
2005 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Apogee Bordeaux Blend, $49: fresh fruits, earth, spice
2005 Columbia Valley Syrah, $24: berries, cherries
2006 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah, $36: earth, fresh fruit, plum
Conclusion: Very enjoyable winery.  Great conversations with both girls, one of them being from Butler, Ohio and a graduate of O-H!!! . . . I-O!!! . . .  The Semillon was so pleasant yet nutty.  Both the Perigee and the Apogee were top shelf.  All of the wines were great.

Anecdote: Walla Walla is a beautiful small town, surrounded by vineyards and rolling green hills.  I ate at Sweet Basil for lunch-dinner, a New York style pizzeria.  I’m spending the night in Dayton, Washington at Blue Mountain Motel, about 20 minutes from Walla Walla.  BTW, L’Ecole is the 3rd oldest winery in Walla Walla.  First place goes to the untouchable Leonetti, strictly open to NO ONE!  5-year waiting list and $100 dollar bottles.  2nd place goes to Woodward Canyon Winery.

Day 2, Woodward Canyon Winery tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2007 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, $24: crisp, steely, typical stale and generic taste so common in bad whites
2007 Washington State Chardonnay, $39: creamy and crisp
2005 Columbia Valley Merlot, $39: fruit forward, oak
2005 Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, $44: mocha, blackberry, oak
2006 Nelms Road Merlot, $21: spice, pepper, cherry
Conclusion: No particular wine jumped too far out, although the Columbia Valley Merlot was my top pick.  The rest were all good, with the exception of the Estate Sauvignon Blanc.

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-169Anecdote: I had a very long conversation with the tasting host about my upbringing and marching band and school and education and work and future plans.  She also talked a whole lot about her family and her past and her interests in nursing and how she didn’t complete college and how her kids are all entering a 2-year community college this year, in order to figure out what’s up.  All and all a very relaxing, interesting, and compelling conversation.

Day 2, Reininger Winery tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2007 Helix Sangiovese Rose, $18: watermelon
2002 Cima Red Blend, $45: spice, plum
2003 Ash Hollow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $32: fresh fruit, cherry, pencil lead
2005 Carmenere, $45: herbal, cherry
2005 Ash Hollow Vineyard Syrah, $41: dark fruits, earth, pepper
2005 Syrah, $36: earth, blueberry
Conclusion: All good and recommendable wines but nothing stellar.  I wish I could have tried the Malbec, which apparently won the wine of the year in Washington this past year.  For this reason the bottle was taken out of the tasting, due to such a high demand and such a limited quantity, 184-case production.

Anecdote: Mr. Reininger was a mountaineer (basically a tour guide to the summit) turned wine maker.  The tasting hostess was a former school teacher who busted her back doing house work and took on the wine gig 2 months back to pay for medical expenses.

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-193Day 2, Three Rivers Winery tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2007 Biscuit Ridge Vineyard Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, $15: lychee, apple
2004 Ahler Vineyard Syrah, $39: brambleberry, white pepper, earth
2006 Minnick Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $39: floral, blackberries, subtle
2005 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, $50: fresh fruit forward, black cherries
2006 River’s Red Table Wine, $15: baked and fresh fruit
Conclusion: A rather large winery with its own vineyard.  I particularly liked the Minnick Hills and the Champoux.  The subtlety in the Minnick led me to respect the wine and the more aggressive fruit forwardness of the Champoux was quite enjoyable.

Anecdote: The Reininger lady told me to not go to Three Rivers.  I’m glad I didn’t listen to her.

Day 3, Pepper Bridge Winery tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2005 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: leather, spice, floral, blackberry, earthy
2004 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: supple, silky, ripe black fruit, barnyard, smoky
2005 Walla Walla Valley Merlot: red and black currants, earth, black fruit
Conclusion: All three wines were excellent, but both cabs were superior to the merlot, on a rather subjective note.

Anecdote: I ran into the same couple (40-50 somethings) from Ecole No. 41 from the day prior.  We all shared a rather nice and wine intensive conversation.

Day 3, Northstar tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-1972006 Stella Blanca Columbia Valley Semillon, $20: lemon zest, apple
2008 Stella Maris Red Blend, $29: leather, cherry, raspberry
2005 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $41: floral, smooth, plums
2005 Columbia Valley Syrah, $40: earth, leather, pepper, black cherries
2005 Walla Walla Valley Merlot, $50: leather, cherry
2005 Columbia Valley Merlot, $41: fresh fruit, chery, plum, coconut, blackberries
2005 Columbia Valley Petit Verdot, $40: floral, black currant
Conclusion: All great wines.  The merlots were amazing.

Day 3, Saviah Cellars tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2007 Meadows Columbia Valley White, $20: white peach, apricot, citrus
2005 Walla Walla Valley Syrah, $32: smoky, fresh cherry
2005 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $28: flowers, wild berries, black cherry, silky tannins
Conclusion: All above average wines, but nothing memorable or great.

Anecdote: Upon arrival Rich, the owner and wine maker, was workin’ hard making wine and moving around barrels and what not.  This was a very small husband and wife winery.

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-210Day 3, Stephenson Cellars tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: earth, tannic, ripe berries
2005 Syrah: spice, pepper
2005 Merlot: cherries, currants, fresh fruits
Conclusion: All great wines with the Syrah stealing the show.  Although I really wish I could have tasted the viognier, which was sold out.  Only 60 cases were sold and it was considered the wineries top bottling, receiving accolades from all around Washington State.

Anecdote: This was the smallest winery I visited.  The owner/winemaker also made the wine at Otis downtown, which I was unable to visit.

Day 3, Dunham Cellars tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2006 Shirley Mays Lewis Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, $29: orange, butter, green apple
Three Legged Red Table Wine, $19: cherry, acidic, spice
2005 Trutina, $26: pomegranate, black cherry, leather
2004 X Cabernet Sauvignon, $45: earth, leather, cherry pie, cinnamon
2004 Columbia Valley Syrah, $45: sweet tobacco
2005 Lewis Vineyard Merlot, $75: black cherry, blackberry cobbler, leather
2005 Lewis Vineyard Syrah, $75: black cherry
2006 Four Legged White Riesling, $16: mineral, peach, crisp, pear, pineapple, mango
Conclusion: The top winery of the day, although Pepper Bridge and Northstar were both damn good.  The Lewis Vineyard merlot and the Four Legged Riesling were my favs.  Dunham is considered one of the top wineries in Washington State.  They earned it!

Anecdote: I was greeted by two beautiful dogs upon arrival.  The young wine maker is a dog lover, which is incorporated into a number of his bottlings.

Day 3, Russell Creek Winery tasting…
(Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington)
2003 Winemakers Select Merlot, $50: fresh fruit, spice
2003 Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, $35: earth, floral, plum
2004 Winemakers Select Syrah, $35: leather, tannic, black fruits, cherries
2006 Tributary, $20: vinegar, dark fruits
2006 Sangiovese, $32: cherry, earth
Conclusion: Above average wines.  Nothing special.

Anecdote: The winemaker is an old geezer.  There was a frighteningly bad photo of him published in the main Washington State wine guide.

0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-219Day 4, Quails Gate tasting…
(Kelowna, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
2007 Chasselas Pinot Blanc, $16: light, orange, mineral
2007 Gewurztraminer, $17: melon, lemon
2007 Rose, $15: floral, bone dry, strawberries
2006 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay, $30: apple, subtle
2006 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir, $45: earth, smoke, leather, fresh berries
2005 Stewart Family Marshall Foch (varietal) OVF Reserve, $40: earth, black cherry, chocolate, berry
2006 Optima Botrytis Affected, 11 R.S., $33: apricot, noble rot
2006 Riesling Icewine, 20 R.S., $35: honey, peach, zest, nectar
Conclusion: Overall not too impressed with any of the wines.  The icewine was okay.  I did quite enjoy the pinot noir however.

Anecdote: They served the icewines in a small chocolate cup, which was a nice novelty but actually drew me off, considering that if I’m going to pay money to taste an icewine or any wine for that matter, I really prefer to “taste” the wine and enjoy its bouquet, etc.  I opted out of the chocolate cup for the tasting, although I did try the chocolate-icewine combo and it was quite good.

Day 4, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery tasting…
(Summerland, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
NV Steller’s Jay Brut Sparkling, $27: citrus, light yeast
Gewurztraminer Private Reserve, $15: peach, mineral
Black Sage Vineyard Meritage Red, $30: toasty, caramel
Black Sage Vineyard Merlot: fresh berries
2005 Pinot Blanc Icewine, $60: apple, pear
2005 Gewurztraminer Icewine, $30: honey, apricot, melon, nectar, apple, peach
Conclusion: Very unimpressive.  No particular wine of note.

Day 4, Blue Mountain tasting…
(Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-2372006 Pinot Gris: citrus, acidic, mineral, lime
2006 Pinot Noir: leather, earth, acidic, berries
NV Brut Sparkling: baked bread
Conclusion: Good above average wines.  No where near as impressive, however, as the beautiful gravel road drive up the mountain, through the vineyards, to the winery.

Anecdote: This was the most “off the beatin’ track” winery I visited.  The sales manager, who conducted the tasting, warned me about the rattle snakes that frequent the greenery nearby.  I told him been there done that, reflecting upon my experience back at the Barbosa Ranch!

Day 4, Wild Goose tasting…
(Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
2007 Gewurztraminer, $19: lychee
2006 Pinot Gris, $18: pear, peach
2007 Riesling: citrus
2007 Autumn Gold White Blend, $19: apple, floral, citus
2007 God’s Mountain Riesling, $19: apple, apricot, floral, mineral
2006 Merlot, $20: plum, vanilla, black fruit
2006 Pinot Noir, $20: cherry, earth
2006 Black Brant Marshall Foch (varietal) Port-Style, $20 : plum, licorice
2007 Blanc de Noirs Rose, $19 : strawberry
Conclusion: Overall good wines.  The rose was my favorite.  Wild Goose was recognized as the winery of the year by some local publication.  I probably wouldn’t go that far, however, the wine was good.

Day 4, Burrowing Owl tasting…
(Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-2482007 Pinot Gris, $20: citrus, pear, apple
2006 Chardonnay, $25: butter, toasted oak, peach, nutty
2005 Meritage Red, $45: floral, smoky, blackberry, plums
2006 Cabernet Franc, $33: dark fruit, leather, earth
Conclusion: Good wines, but nothing really stood out.  Although the winery was beautiful, surrounded on all corners by vineyards, often considered one of the top wineries in the province.

Day 4, Inniskillin Okanagan Winery tasting…
(Oliver, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
2005 Discovery Series Chenin Blanc, $17: honey, apricot, apple, cantaloupe
2005 Discovery Series Zinfandel, $30: pomegranate, raspberries, ripe red fruit, earthy, leather, barnyard
2006 Plut Vineyard Vidal Icewine, $53: honey, peach, pear
2006 Whitetail Vineyard Icewine, $60: honey, apricot
2006 Dark Horse Vineyard Riesling Icewine, $70: apricot, honey
Conclusion: Great wines.  The Whitetail Vineyard Icewine was the best.  I didn’t know this before ranking the wine, but the bottle was awarded the “Best Dessert Wine In Canada” trophy at the All Canadian Wine Championships in 2007.

Anecdote: I almost drove into the vineyard as I was driving up to the tasting room, while talking long distance with Joahnna.  Ha!

I spent the night at the Kelowna International Hostel… what a fun experience!  This was definitely the best managed and most fun hostel I’ve ever stayed at.  It was run by a bunch of Aussies, all very nice people.  Spin, his nickname, 0806wine_trip__alaskan_cruise-266was who I conversed with the most.  There were also a number of people from Montreal and well basically all around the globe.  We had a very long and fun night of Balderdash and lots of “Canadian” beers (the brand).  “Americans Americans Horse America”!!!  Naturally I won the game… well sort of… we didn’t really finish.  Then some nice but a little shady Aussies (just the vibe I got) and I went on a munchie quest at 4am in the morning.  We ended up grabbing some great pizza.  Prior to that we were shooting lead pellets at trees and lights with their air hand guns.  MAN HOW STUPID!  No damage or fatalities however, luckily.  BTW, prior to that we watched the Celtics come back from a 24-point deficit to beat the Lakers in the NBA finals.  This was the largest lead in the first quarter in the history of the NBA.  The Celtics are now ahead by 3-1.  No team in the history of the finals has lost from a 3-1 advantage.  GO CELTICS!!!!!!  I HATE THE LAKERS!!!!!

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