Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: We Made It!!!

Happy New Year!

Since the whole Mayan end of the world thing turned out to be a bunch of crap, I guess we’re sticking around for another year, bringing you the best in wine, beer, and spirits of California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

As has become tradition, we like to take a look back as we move forward into another year. For us, 2012 proved to be another great year. We covered some of our favorite events while bringing you new ones, introduced you to cider, and even opened up a little as we introduced you to our college drinks of choice. You know, before we became such connoisseurs of adult beverages.

As we reflect on 2012 we encourage you to pour yourself a glass of wine or beer, or another glass of bubbly and ring in the New Year by reading through our Best of 2012 picks.

Clare's Best of 2012: Cider!

Craft cider is hot right now, and it is hitting the market in so many ways, shapes, and forms. I have been amazed by all of the creativity and variety I was able to try – dry, sweet, fruity, boozy, floral, light, and powerful. For me, cider is queen of my West Toast 2012. Here are my top 3 ciders for this year.

Finnegan – soooo dry, bone dry, middle of Death Valley dry…this cider will confound any and all experiences you’ve had with this beverage. If you have not gotten into cider because you don’t do sweet, this is the cider for you.

Sea Cider’s Rumrunner – international pick of the year for me. This Canadian cider is aged in rum barrels, and the flavor is dark and boozy. Be sure to find a friend when you crack one of these – it rings in at 12% abv.

2 Towns Made Marion – nothing I try from these cider whizzes is a disappointment. This seasonal made with marionberries is a wonderful balance of sweet and tart. I am torn between wanting them to make it again, and hoping they come up with something even better next summer.

Rick's Best of 2012: Vancouver, BC
When I think long and hard about the most inspiring beverage-related experience of 2012, I certainly have a lot to pick from. I've discovered a wide variety of delicious ciders, fell in love with Nectar Ales' Black Xantus, and even traveled half way around the world to drink Finland's finest in a can. But neither the best imperial stouts in the world nor some of the worst canned beer in the world can compare to my selection for 2012.

Nope, that belongs to Vancouver, British Columbia.

When Josh and I decided to visit Vancouver, BC back in April, we knew we would be in for a lot of firsts. Neither one of us had spent much time there aside for very work- or flight-specific reasons, so the idea of going there for invetigative journalism was pretty exciting. What we experienced was everything Vancouver claims to be; an international hub of excellent food, friendly people, natural beauty, and excellent beer and wine. I'll especially never forget this monser of a beer taster from Steamworks Brewing Company:
Toss in a Whitecaps match, some Okanagan Valley wine, and a trip to Tim Hortons and we had ourselves quite the time. A huge thank you again goes out to Tourism BC as well as the Coastal Coal Harbor Hotel for generously hosting us. Vancouver certainly embodies the sprit of West Toast and we highly suggest adding it to your list of places to visit.

Jesse's Best of 2012: Micro-Wineries

I found it too difficult to pick one specific wine or even one specific event from 2012 that I felt compelled to highlight in this post. Not because there weren’t great wines or events...to the contrary actually. I am so fortunate to be able to do what I do so as I reflected on the year, I explored what this year was all about for me in the world of wine. In the end, 2012 was the year of the micro-winery.

This love for these small producers really got started at an event dedicated to the micro-winery. With many offering appointment-only tastings out of shared facilities, this was a great way to taste from several all in one location. Pouring at this event were some of my favorites, Two Shepherds, Wesley Ashley, and Baiocchi Wines (not at the event, but still a favorite).

Two Shepherds – In the middle of his second vintage release, blogger turned winemaker William Allen brings his love of Rhone varietals and minimal intervention to his consumers. Receiving numerous accolades for his wines, especially his Grenache Blanc, William lets the grapes express themselves and takes great pride in everything that bears the Two Shepherds label.

Wesley Ashley Wines – The product of proprietor Jim Sloate and winemaker Jason Welch, Wesley Ashley specializes in Rhone blends. Their Cuvee and Cuvee Blanc are both very food friendly. As lovers of Rhone wine, their blends allow for some individuality of the grapes but also come together nicely. I have spent quite a bit of time with both Jason and Jim and it takes no time at all to feel their passion.

Baiocchi Wines – Located in Fair Play, CA, east of Sacramento, Greg and Sharon Baiocchi remain focused on the land and the influences it has on wine. I was first impressed with Baiocchi at a Grenache focused event in 2011. At a group pouring to celebrate the Grenache grape, Baiocchi’s Entre Nous was the overwhelming crowd favorite. I always enjoy my conversations with Greg and Sharon and look forward to some of the new wines they are releasing.

I am so appreciative of the relationships I have developed with these winemakers and have been able to continue my own wine education as a result of their graciousness and willingness to teach. I have even had the opportunity to work on a couple bottling lines with some of them, a process that increased my appreciation for the grape to glass process.

The bottom line is that when you visit any wine country you can easily pick up a winery map or Google the most visited wineries. You will likely have a great time and taste some great wine. Hopefully you will get a pleasant tasting room associate who is knowledgeable about the wine and is willing to converse with you. Or, you can look up some of these places and make an appointment to taste with them. Not only will you support a small producer who is making wine purely from their heart, but you also have a great chance of being hosted by the person who made the wine swirling in your glass. It might take an additional phone call or email to set up your itinerary but I promise you it will be worth it.

Cheers to all for a year full of great wine!

Micheal's Best of 2012: Orca Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

I didn't drink a lot of wine this year - I bet you all couldn't tell that based on the plethora of posts I made this year - but that was mostly due to my intense running schedule.  Last year (2011) found me training for my first half marathon, while this year (2012) found me actually running 13 of them.  But when I did drink wine, I enjoyed it so much, that it was really easy for me to think about what I wanted this year's "Best Of" to be.

During my journeys this year - either for work, pleasure, or for a run - I spent a bit of time in the Puget Sound area and visited many times with my colleagues at the Evergreen State College, Tyler and Justin.  My frequent visits to Evergreen were filled with wine exchanges, I would bring some and they would share some recent acquisitions with me.

During one visit this past October, Justin pulled out a bottle from Orca Wines.  It was a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I remember seeing the glass he poured for me and loving the colour of it all, the boldness and richness of it.  The nose was fruity and somewhat oaky.  The nose didn't leave you wondering what you were going to drink in a negative way, but left you filled with anticipation about what was to fall on your palate.  And when it fell on your palate, OH BOY!  I remember the first couple of sips falling and immediately looking at Justin.  "You like it?" he asked.  "ABSOLUTELY!"  I responded.  Again the way it fell, it filled the palate and seemed to reach all of the taste buds.  It was fruity, but not too much, but it was bold and exciting.

The fact that this wine sticks out to me as my immediate "Best Of" choice, and I first consumed if over two months should say something to you as the reader - GO GET SOME!  You will not regret it.

2012 has been a great year, and I look forward to 2013. Be on the look-out for more regular posts from me starting in January.

Until next time...

Josh's Best of 2012: A Day in the Rogue Valley

Thinking about the past year in the world of wine, beer, and spirits brings me immense joy. Not only have I been able to enjoy the best that the West Coast has to offer, I’ve been able to do so with some pretty awesome people in my life.

As we move into the seventh year of blogging, I’m reminded that my co-writers are not only colleagues in the love of booze, but are also the friends who are there for the special moments in life.

Sappiness aside, in choosing the “best” of 2012 has been difficult. Some obvious choices for me include an amazing trip to the Tualatin Estate with Rick and Clare, a comparative tasting of Block 15’s Figgy Pudding, or a night in Ashland where I enjoyed both Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah and Quilceda Creek Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Dinner with Dave Matthews and Andrea was pretty damn cool, and I definitely concur with Rick’s choice of our trip to Vancouver, BC.

The thing about most of previous experiences is that I knew they were going to be awesome, and they delivered. The biggest pleasant surprise of the year for me was an impromptu day of pure relaxation, indulgence, bliss and my best of 2012: A Day in the Rogue Valley.

The spa, cheese, chocolate, wine, charcuturie, beer, and friends. A surprisingly sunny day in late February. All of the best things that the Rogue Valley, Oregon have to offer. This was truly a day where the sum of the parts equaled more than all of the individual components.

Here’s to another awesome year with WestToast! Cheers.

At WestToast we feel very fortunate to be able to write about the things we love and to have developed the relationships we have. Not just with the producers of these great beverages, but with you, our reader. From our glass to yours, we wish you a very happy 2013.


Andrea, Clare, Jesse, Josh, Micheal, and Rick


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