Wine Tasting on the West Side of Paso Robles

Paso_Westside_CoverWe recently visited Paso Robles, California on a picture perfect fall weekend.  The air had a cool, crisp feel, and the vineyards were full of color, delighting us with shades of yellow, red, and orange.

We picked three wineries for our Saturday afternoon adventure;  Thacher Winery, Halter Ranch, and HammerSky Vineyards. Armed with a cooler of cheeses and prosciutto, we headed out 46 West to our first winery of the day. Continue reading

7 Must Visit Tasting Rooms in Woodinville, WA

woodinville_WAA good friend of ours recently asked where they should take some out-of-town friends who are big wine drinkers. So we put together a list and sent it over. It then occurred to me that others may be interested in that same list. Here is it – enjoy and let me know if you feel some must-visits were inadvertently left off the list.

(1) JM Cellars – we are surprised at how many locals are unaware of this little gem. Trick is, they are only open Fri thru Sun from 11-4. Awesome grounds, good wine, unique experience and they usually serve cheese, crackers and salami. And if you happen to be a member, their pick-up parties are insane! Lamb burgers – enough said.

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Yakima Valley, WA

When the pressures of life demand some downtime and you don’t have a vacation on the horizon, we suggest a weekend road trip to Yakima Valley wine country.  Here you will sample what is sure to become among the elite wine regions here in Washington State.

As California transplants we have soft spot for golden hills scattered with orchards, groves and vineyards. Valleys that wind endlessly through gorgeous back country which seems to transport you miles from civilization. That euphoric feeling of stumbling on a “hidden gem” tasting room tucked in such obscurity that it was surly undiscovered until your arrival. And the destination wineries perched on bluffs with cinematic views ideal for sampling an array of whites, reds and rosé. If Walla Walla is Napa 15 years ago, then Yakima Valley would be Paso Robles 20 years ago. Well, at least that’s our opinion – here are a few photos to judge for yourself!

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A Portland Adventure

With a long Memorial Day weekend ahead of us, Jen and I decided to hit the road and explore our surroundings a bit. So we called the cat sitter and hit the road bound for Portland. Our first stop was our Washington Capitol Olympia, for some lunch! Found a great little restaurant called the Dockside Bistro. On the way out-of-town, we stopped to check out the Capitol and snapped a few photos – definitely plan to return to Olympia and spend more time absorbing the city!

The next stop was the pleasant Three Brothers Winery in Ridgefield, Washington. While the wines were a bit young, the grounds were nice with a large picnic area that managed to keep up a “boutique feel”. A great destination for sipping wines while basking in the sun.

After a few tastes we were ready to finish off the drive, check in to our hotel in Portland and start thinking about dinner! We stayed at the Vintage Plaza (a Kimpton property) which was conveniently in the heart of the action. While we don’t know a lot about Portland, we’re educated enough to know if you step foot outside the door only to be greeted by the infamous El Gaucho just steps away, you know you haven’t strayed too far! Despite temptation, we decided not to part with a small fortune for such a treat and opted instead for some delicious Italian fare at Pazzo Restaurant which ended up being a very good choice and highly recommended.

The next day we headed out to explore The Gorge along the mighty Columbia River. Despite less than desirable weather, we were both awe-struck by the sheer beauty of this natural wonder. Massive rock walls give a perfect landscape for some of the most amazing waterfalls just a few steps from the road. Best of all, there’s wine in them hills!

Of the wineries we visited that day, Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River definitely impressed us. I was particularly intrigued by the 1965 Triumph Bonneville which had been meticulously restored and was offered at the reasonable price of $15,000. Jen said no. But the wine helped me cope with the lost opportunity, and soon I was sipping some great Oregon vino. We learned from the Tasting Attendant that the well-known Sabatiani family (Michael Sabastiani) from Sonoma California was behind this project. The experience and long history of this family tradition was most certainly present in these delicious varietals.

With our last night in Portland upon us, we were determined to select a dinner experience that would put an exclamation point on a great trip. So we booked a reservation at the Portland City Grill, perched on the 30th floor of what seemed to be the tallest building in the city. The drinks were good, the views were great and the food hit the spot. In the end we enjoyed the experience, but did feel that the restaurant seemed to be geared toward a corporate clientele which I suppose stands to reason given the location. As always, we managed to be the very last table in this rather large eatery – we certainly have a knack for taking our time!

We arrived home on Monday afternoon just in time to enjoy one of the first sunny afternoons heading into summer. Threw a few New Yorks on the grill (because we just didn’t have enough to eat over the weekend), popped a few beers and just enjoyed the sun in our backyard. I think it was at that very moment that I realized – it is going to be an awesome summer! More to come!