Wit Cellars

When visiting WA wine country, I was pointed to a new winery by an established one. This new venture is Wit Cellars, which is just about a year old. They are not a huge winery, producing about 3,500 cases of wine a year and are located in the Prosser Wine Community of Yakima Valley. Their name comes from ‘We’re in It Together.’

The tasting room is in a sort of hidden place. Not in the middle of beautiful vineyards, but more of a ‘strip mall’ of tasting rooms.

Yakima

(photo source: wineyakimavalley.org)

IMG_8462

When we arrived (early in the day — strong wine drinkers!), there was only one other group in the tasting room. So one of the employees came over to help. With a tasting you get to sample eight wines, oh yes, half a dozen plus two (though one was out of stock). He was a bit concerned because he had been called in that morning to work, and was the husband of one of the owners and didn’t know all the info to a tee on the wine. Fast forward…he was quite good.

So as previously mentioned, the guy pouring us our wine ‘didn’t know a ton about them,’ so he was looking through some notes to tell us what they were supposed to taste like, etc. We ended up having a great conversation about each one and talking about them sometimes before and after he told us what the notes said. One of the best tastings you could have as the three of us were bouncing comments off each other as he had to enjoy some of the wine, too. What was great is that he gave us his history — former college football player, then in the Marine Corps, now in some IT/security/networking (he lost me after that) gig and part time in the wine industry because his wife is an owner.

So, what we enjoyed (info is directly from website, my notes in bold italic)

2015 Rose
The beautiful coral color will put you in a festive mood. On the nose you will be greeted with notes of strawberry, rhubarb and pink grapefruit. The lively acidity plays on the palate, while hints of spice and dried herbs round out this lively and refreshing summer sipper.
Price: $14.00

Light and crisp.

 

2015 Pinot Gris
Light bodied fresh and lively summer sipper possess hints of mandarin orange, honeydew melon, bosc pear, and green apple. Ancient Lakes is a cool site which lends itself to aromatic whites. You can literally taste the tortuous past of these prehistoric soils. A gravely minerality mixes with citrus notes and dazzling acidity, to create a unique gem true to its sense of place.
Price $18.00

Minerality!  LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Left with a bottle.

2015 Chardonnay
The feast of reason and the flow of soul brought us to the Ancient Lakes Appellation to source aromatic whites of exceptional quality. The vines struggle in high elevation silt loam vineyards on fractured caliche and basalt. This extraordinary example of Chardonnay possesses hints of green apple and pear. The saline minerality and focused fruit void of white noise; set this wine apart from any other. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of Wit.
Price $22.00

Unoaked, cheddar on the nose. Neutral oak barrels. I would give it ‘crisp oak’, Very unique.

2014 Riesling
Again the Ancient Lakes Appellation shines with Riesling. We were able to create a Riesling of exceptional quality. Bright acidity mixes with clove, peach, apricot, spice, honey-suckle and clover blossoms. Of course, the underlining feature of this wine is the gravely minerality brought by the tortured prehistoric soils of this majestic appellation. This racy gem is not for the faint of heart, but for the quick of wit.
Price $18.00

Not syrupy like a Riesling could be, but it was still a Riesling.

2013 Red Blend
The colors of this wine are the deepest shades of inky purple and red.

The enchanted flavors of raspberry liquor, vibrant pepper, baking spice, blackberry, graphite and gravel will tantalize your taste buds. This is an extraordinary elegant wine with silky smooth texture and lingering finish. I found that this wine leaves me fully satisfied, but longing for one more taste.
Price $45.00

Nice nose. Melt in your mouth. Just so much good stuff happening. Left with a bottle.

IMG_8477

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
We were drawn to Elephant Mountain Cabernet because it showcases the vibrancy of the site. Only at the extreme margins of this black beast can you detect a deep garnet color. An abundance of black currant, wild cherry, raspberry and cedar greet your nose and caress your pallet. The lingering finish will provide hints of anise, vanilla, toasted hazelnuts and roasted coffee which are balanced by gravelly earthy notes. This is a particularly well balanced and beautiful wine. Your first sip will leave you wanting more.
Price $50.00

Jammy, but not overkill, and not too chewy.

2013 L’armonia Red Blend
This is a big wine with an abundance of dark beautiful fruits that blend harmoniously with it’s ample body and structure.
The integrated tannins dance across your palate while flavors of huckleberry cobbler, vanilla and brown sugar tempt your taste buds. By combining classical Bordeaux varietals we believe that each individual piece of this red blend has come together to sing.
Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot, 14% Malbec, 3% Merlot
Price $60.00

I got tastes of coffee, kahlua and fruit. Unique.

 

As you can see, I left with two bottles. One was enjoyed that night when we returned to a friend’s house in Seattle, and the other the following night at the same house. Of course these guys/this winery can’t be kind and sell in stores on the east coast, let alone in stores in their area. It’s all direct from them. They do have have three wine clubs, though. The requirements aren’t super demanding, on them either. So I might have to join down the road. Overall, spent well over an hour there. I can easily see these guys getting into some of the big wine magazines in the coming years as an up and coming winery. Cheers!

 

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

IMG_8428

Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

IMG_8429

For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

IMG_8434

IMG_8432

IMG_8435

Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

IMG_8483

 

Sour Grapes

I was recently told about a wine documentary released last year, Sour Grapes.

            image source: sourgrapesfilm.com

 

What’s it about? Straight from the site (love to copy & paste):

With pockets full of cash, charisma and a preternatural memory for vintages, an unassuming young Rudy Kurniawan earns the reputation of a wine savant, surrounding himself with some of high society’s most fervent wine connoisseurs. But when Bill Koch, a top US collector,and, Laurent Ponsot, a Burgundian wine producer, discover suspicious bottles, a humorous and suspenseful investigation begins into one of the most ingenious cons of our time.

I will say, I buy affordable wine. I know each person has their own definition of this. The most expensive bottle I’ve purchased is $75, my normal price $10-$20. This movie was fascinating about the prices people spend on wine, what Rudy was blowing away on vino and the investigation into his family. When they were talking to Koch and Ponsot it was amazing. Then some of the jobs the people have investigating labels. Dang!

Totally worth checking this flick out. If you don’t have NetFlix, go to a friend’s place who does and take a bottle of wine to enjoy while watching.

NY Wine

We have wineries across across the country and New York is ranked #3 in the country size-wise in grape production per Wikipedia (where is Oregon?? — CA and WA are 1 & 2).  Commercial production started in the state the 19th century. Also, some fun tidbits from Wikipedia — New York is home to the first bonded winery in the US, Pleasant Valley Wine Company. It is also home to America’s oldest continuously operating winery, Brotherhood Winery in the Hudson Valley, which has been making wine for almost 175 years.

I visit the Finger Lakes area annually and last year, after not having gone for a decade (at least), stopped by the New York Wine & Culinary Institute in Canandaigua. In addition to the cooking school and restaurant, they have a tasting room.

img_6235

There were 3 of us there so we opted to each get different flights so we could get a good feel for the current stance of NY wines. Out of the 15 wines we tasted, I would say maybe 4-5 were decent/good. And the downside is they aren’t wallet-friendly ones for what they offer — $20+. New York wines are still generally very sweet, both reds and whites. Two of us were more red people and one was an oaky chard lover so there was a bit of a difference in tastes, but overall, same thought on NY wines.

We did, however, try some of the their of sparkling wines, and left with 2 bottles. That was quite good and was enjoyed later in the evening.

Overall for the day, very fun location to visit and worth the time.

img_6238

img_6237

img_6236

Barrel Oak Winery

After a weekend of hiking at Dolly Sods, ziplining at Nelson Rocks and hiking at Seneca Rocks, one must reward oneself!

 

So on the way home from WV, there are several wineries off of 66. We decided to stop at Barrel Oak (BOW) to kick back and relax. The tasting room is quite large, with several outdoor areas with fireplaces, some lofts, couches, tables and the counters.

There were 3 of us so we figured we’d get a bottle. We weren’t sure what we wanted to enjoy, though. The great person at the counter said — well, you can buy a tasting flight, or, you can get 3 tastes for free since you’re going to buy a bottle. And, since there were 3 of us, we figured that would work just fine to cover any considerations we had from the menu. Oh, when you taste they also have both oyster crackers AND dark chocolate!!!

So, after going through the menu, we decided on the, amazingly, Merlot. I say amazingly on my end. Not something I usually get. It had a nice body with some good fruit and light spice.

img_7170

We sat outside to enjoy that bottle on an amazing evening. The weather was perfect and could not have asked for more. We just did not want to go home. We had to get something else. We went inside and then there was just a perfect fire in the fireplace. We had to sit there. We then grabbed a bottle of their Cab Franc. Just as nice, with difference fruit and spice tastes. What was great is that two of us were able to enjoy more of this because the driver (1) was being very responsible and (2) isn’t as big of a wine lover as the other two of us.

This is a fun place to visit if you’re a dog lover, too, because it is a dog-crazy place! Totally take your furry friend there if you want to go. Or if you’re going through dog withdrawal, you’ll do so well there with wine & pups.

Definitely one of the good VA winery and worth a nice weekend day trip for wine, relaxing (and dogs). And, if you need more wine glasses, you get to bring the one you use home with you.

Proof

There is a nice wine-oriented restaurant in DC, Proof. Had been there a few times and opted to check it out again after going to the theater to see Nutcracker for the first time.

img_7756

Started at the bar because my friends and I arrived before our reservation. We all enjoy wine, so we were inquiring quite a bit about several of the wines they offered. The bartenders didn’t particularly want to help us more than where the wines were from and the varietals. For a wine restaurant, it was surprising. We had to order it on a whim and hope it was good. It was fine, but nothing I’ll order again, or remember. I didn’t even remember to take a picture…

We sat down at the table and it was extremely dark. The picture above is a flashlight you can use to read the menu. It’s both a flashlight and magnifying glass. The print is very small on the menu. I have really good vision and was having problems. The waiter said that is the tone/ambiance they want to set — darkness, it’s a better mood.

Once we were able to read some of the menu, our not-so-helpful waiter (in addition to the start with the bartenders) came and explained some of the specials. We also let him know about dietary restrictions. My friend is allergic to shellfish and nuts, as well as being lactose intolerant like me.

We decided to get some side dishes as appetizers and went with:

-Brussels Sprouts, Kimchee Mayo & Vietnamese Dressing
-Fried Cauliflower with Lemon, Tahini, Garlic & Mint (didn’t get a picture since because of the nearly non-existent lighting, it was tough to get decent shots)

img_7768

After spending awhile looking over the entire menu we were finally able to choose what we wanted.

I opted for the Scallops a la Michel Richard: crispy brussels sprouts, apples, confit leeks, basil & vincotto. I asked if there was dairy in this and the waiter gasped and asked how could there not be and why would I make an alteration? I wasn’t sure and just needed it because of being lactose intolerant. He was flabbergasted that I didn’t know who Michel Richard was. Sorry. So, he said would check with the kitchen but didn’t think it would be possible to alter such a well known chef’s original recipe. Long story short, he said they would make and exception for me.

My friends ordered the Pekin Duck: käsespätzle, red cabbage, duck confit, horseradish, green apple, concord grape sauce. They made sure there was no dairy in there for her, and she was safe because there was also no fish on there, or no crazy fish ingredient in any of the sauces.

The other friend ordered the Sautéed Potato Gnocchi: butternut squash, cauliflower, beech mushroom, apple brown butter.

While we were waiting for the food, we asked for the sommelier. He came over and was a bit more helpful and gave some interesting comments about the restaurant and how it’s changed. He’d only been there a few months and once we started talking to him more he got much friendlier. The nicest service we had all night.  He did suggest another wine after taking into account our likes in wine.

The food was good. Overpriced, but at least decent in taste. The evening at least ended well when our waiter was kind enough to confirm my friend’s initial thoughts — Cal Ripken was sitting at the table behind us. My friends, who are huge baseball fans, got up after dinner to ask for his autograph to give to their grandma for Christmas. She’s a long time Orioles fan. Can’t go wrong with that.

Just Bubbles

Went to a Champagne tasting recently and found a new bottle of bubbles that was just wonderful. And when it comes in a split, it can be even better when you’re enjoying it solo! You don’t want the stuff to go flat.

This was the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve. It’s made of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. It has some nice fruit notes while still carrying the dry/brut taste. The split was about $20 so it was perfect. Great was to say cheers before the New Year.

img_7955

The Wine Harvest

There is a fun local restaurant in Park Potomac, MD (just outside of DC) called The Wine Harvest. If you know the area, it’s off of Exit 4/Montrose Rd from 270, or if you’re ever just going up 270, it’s where that Harris Teeter, Founding Farmers and the ever-growing townhouses/developments are (though that last part doesn’t totally narrow it down).  They also have a location in The Kentlands.

image

It’s a small, family-owned place that offers a casual, tasty menu and also sells wine by the bottle/is a wine shop. Oh, beer, too. They have a bar where you grab or drink and tables to sit back and relax.

Last time I was there I just went for some sort of finger food and opted for the Smoked Salmon Plate — smoked salmon served with chopped red onions, capers, sour cream and baguette slices. Instead of sour cream they were great and put manchego on there for me!

image

My friend went for the Greek Salad romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Greek olives, pepperoncini, feta cheese, served with Greek dressing and pita and added a bowl of the Soup of the Day, which was a Cream of Broccoli.

We enjoyed a bottled of Italian wine with dinner. You can order wine by the glass from the menu or buy a bottle from their nice selection, but are then charged a corkage fee. But, you can take it home if not finished.

Everything, from food to service was very good. The prices are also excellent. Not your typical DC prices, which is great!

Le Chat Noir

Have been in DC for many years and finally made it to Le Chat Noir.  I used to even live only about mile from it. It’s a French restaurant located between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown in NW.

image

Went on a Saturday night.  Had reservations but it wasn’t too busy, the service was pretty slow, though. The menu has a good amount of selection, but of course I had to do some good picking because of being lactose intolerant.

Opted for a bottle of rose, for kicks, Le P’tit Rose. It was good, a bit sweet, a fun wine to try.

image

While deciding on dinner, with the wine we enjoyed addictive bread.

Then, for the first course of dinner, I opted for a salad and my friend went for the Crèpe fourrée. Crèpe stuffed with crabmeat, bay scallops, mushrooms, Chablis cream sauce.  Apparently that was pretty darn good.

image

Main course was a Bijoux de boeuf au poivre. Grilled beef tenderloin, grilled asparagus, gratin dauphinois, green peppercorn sauce (the asparagus is on the side).  It was perfectly cooked and melted in the mouth.

image

I opted for the Saint Jacques à la Bretonne. Sea scallops, truffle risotto, cremini mushrooms, white wine béchamel & gruyere cheese gratin.  They made some nice substitutions on the dairy and grilled the scallops, put it on a bed of lentil ‘crust’ with a side of pickled veggies.  All very nice.

image

Very happy I finally checked this place out!