Tuesday, May 28, 2013

They Make Wine There?!? Arizona Stronghold

We topped out on the first bench of Wilson Mountain around 7am. Our day had started at 3:30 when we woke to trek into the canyon for a very early breakfast and a nice view of the Lyrid meteor shower. As soon as it was light enough to see the placement of one foot in front of the other, we set out on the trail for a sunrise trek into the desert around Sedona, AZ. One would not guess that this was supposed to be a trip full of R&R...that, or they would have to readjust their idea of what it means to relax to match that of mine and my best friend Amanda's. What can I say? Work hard, play hard.

Part of playing hard was trying out some of the awesome beverages in the area. I know that many don't think "wine" when they think of Arizona, but there are some really amazing vineyards and wineries there. The day after we tackled Wilson Mountain, Amanda and I took a lower-test day and went out wine tasting. Our favorite by far was Arizona Stronghold in Cottonwood.

The tasting room was delightfully cool and cave-like with blood-red walls. We settled in on a fat leather couch as our host, Cassy, brought us a variety of wines to test out. The first favorite was the 2011 Mangus, a Tuscan-style Cabernet/Merlot blend. Earthy and bold, this wine had a nose full of dark fruit, and a tannic but balanced flavor full of cherry and spice. This is a great sipping wine, and it made me want to eat wild mushrooms with creamy, herbed sauces.

The knockout however was the Lozen. We tried the 2010 vintage (the 2011 just came out). This wine is full of dark and ripe fruit, leather, tobacco, and mineral finish. It has all the elements of an earthy big red, with the roundness of big fruit, and herbal notes. Amanda and I both immediately ordered a full glass upon tasting it, and enjoyed in alongside both dark chocolate and sharp cheese. A bottle procured for the evening was paired with spicy grilled pork chops and veggies. The smokiness of the food was well-complimented by the wine.

We also learned that the wine's namesake, Lozen was a Chihenne-Chiricahua warrior and healer. Her hands were said to be clairvoyant, and she fought with a fierceness that equaled any man. Of course that added story appealed to the two of us!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

#WineWednesday: 2010 Esterlina Cole Ranch Rosé

As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

With the weather turning nice it means that we do a lot of grilling. It also means that we drink a lot more white wine and rosé. The other night we decided to grill some burgers and corn on the cob and whileI was originally thinking a lighter red wine like a Pinot, Katie was thinking more of a rosé, which provides the selection for this week’s #WineWednesday, the 2010 Esterlina Cole Ranch Rosé

We first visited Esterlina Vineyards on our way home from a weekend of covering Winesong! up in Mendocino County. The tasting room is quite remote and we had to travel up this winding dirt road for awhile to get there. I am glad we didn’t turn back because we found a real gem in Esterlina. We sat on the 2nd story deck of the house sipping through their wines while overlooking the breathtaking Anderson Valley. Instead of breadsticks, Cheetos were provided....yep, the artificial orange colored Cheetos.

The 2010 Rosé comes from the Cole Ranch AVA, which is the smallest AVA in the United States at just over 250 acres, all owned by Esterlina. I wasn’t sure how the rosé would stand up to all of the grilled food and thought it might be too light. I was pleasantly surprised by it though and it actually worked really well. There was enough body to it that it stood up nicely with the grilled food and it was quite refreshing since it was still 90 degrees outside.

This was such a nice rosé and I wish I had purchased more than the one bottle. I was able to taste some strawberry and watermelon and the color was just stunning. It makes me happy that winemakers are working with rosé and doing some really great things to try and eliminate the perception that all rosé are sweet wines and/or a jug of white Zinfandel.



Friday, May 17, 2013

Falling into The Abyss

As black as a cold russian night, *it* tantalizes the drinker from the instant it hits the table.

Deep, dark, intriguing.  Imperially.  Stouty.

Just a finger of dark tan head, with a bubble formation that reminds me of a pelican on the top.  Cute bubbles, really.

I want to stare into the depths of The Abyss' eyes all night long.  That would be stupid, though, because its too damn special to look at for too long.

A heavy roasted malt odor wafts up to my beautiful nose.  Hints of bourbon and barrel round it off as my excitement builds.

The first sip is a sensual experience.  My face gets a little flushed, and a tingly feeling surges through my extremities.  It may be the 11% alcohol by volume talking, but damn this beer is something.

The dark chocolate, molasses, and bourbon.  God, the bourbon.  Brewed with licorice and molasses, aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels.  It's delicious.  Dreamy. 


Deschutes Brewery has hit the mark with the 2011 The Abyss.  A year of aging has treated it well, and Seattle Beer Week has brought it to my local watering hole, The Noble Fir.

Don't just take my word for it, The Abyss rates a perfect 100 on RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com.   Two perfects make a perfect brew.

And if that weren't enough, The Abyss has been named one of the "Ten beers that will make you a man -- if they don't kill you first." In that article, Denver Westword said it better then I ever could:
The Abyss doesn't care. It just keeps winning medals and awards, but do you know what it does with all that hardware? The Abyss melts it down in the fires of hell, pounds it on a blazing anvil and recrafts it into the sledgehammer that it will hit you over the head with, Missy. At 11 percent ABV, this immeasurably dark beer tastes like molasses, wood, licorice and the soul of mankind. Deschutes claims on its website that the Abyss pairs well with caramelized onions and cream cheese on pepper crackers. Bullshit! The Abyss pairs better with the nine horsemen of the Apocalypse riding steeds made of granite. Enjoy.
Don't worry, it's for the ladies too.

So now that I've had my moment, you should too.  Seattle Beer Week continues through this weekend and if you're really lucky, you may run across some The Abyss.  If not, demand it at your local bottle shop.

I said demand.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

#WineWednesday: 2008 Frick Winery C2

As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast  and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.
I actually didn’t open a lot of wine this week as I was frolicking around Disneyland this past weekend for my nephew’s birthday. However, I was pleasantly surprised to come home last night after a long night of teaching class to find that Katie had opened a delectable bottle of wine. This week I’m talking about the 2008 C2 from Frick Winery

This wine is a blend of Carignane and Cinsault, two grape varieties that are quite rare, especially in California. The wine had a deep rich ruby color and a great nose of red fruits and I also picked up on a little sweetness in the air. The wine was absolutely delicious and I think it was benefitting from being opened for awhile so it had plenty of time to breathe. I picked up mostly on dark cherry and plum initially but then noticed some great spice on the finish. I was drinking the wine without food and although the wine had medium body, the tannins were light enough that it was still enjoyable on its own. I go for a blend like this when I want a wine that has some weight to it but isn’t so overwhelming or will dry out my mouth with overbearing tannins. The C2 is a great balance of those two things.

I always enjoy opening a bottle of Frick wine because I recall the first time I met visited the winery and met Bill. My in-law’s had visited him and recommended the wine to me so Katie and I went out years ago....we were still “The Oregon Wine Blog” at the time. Bill and I had a great conversation as he told me about the rare Rhone wines he was producing. I didn’t know much about them at the time but Bill never made me feel bad about that. He was so willing to educate and walk me through his wines. His tasting room is a quaint and he is typically the one pouring. I always love going to a tasting room where the winemaker is pouring. I have sent so many friends and family to Frick since discovering it and no one has ever told me they didn’t enjoy their time. It is always on my recommendation list for those looking to try new things.

Until next week...cheers!

Twitter: @JesseRAndrews

Monday, May 6, 2013

Seattle Beer Week: Coming to a Pub Near You!

Cinco de Mayo is over, and if you're like me, you've had enough marginal Mexican beer and *gag* tequila to tide you over for 364 days.

We've also made it over the hump of the Kentucky Derby and the awesomeness that is mint julep season.

So what's next?  Seattle Beer Week, that's what.

More than a week, really, Seattle Beer Week is a 10-day extravaganza throughout the City of Seattle and environs bringing special tastings, promotions, guest appearances, and an opportunity to drink some fantastic beer from the tap that typically never makes it into the pubs up here.

In it's fifth year, this year's SBW will bring more than 200 events at more than 80 of your favorite beer venues throughout the Seattle area.  Seriously, check the map, you'll certainly find something within stumbling distance.  If you'd rather browse by event versus venue, you can do that too.

Now that we've dispensed with the "facts", on to the WestToast Seattle Beer Week recommendations.   While you can find 3 - 4 events on each of the 10 days that look awesome, these are the ones on my must-do list:

Saturday, 5/11:

  • Kegs n' Eggs:  I think the name speaks for itself, but if not, Brave Horse Brunch and awesome beer?  What a way to kick off the week.
  • BrewGrass 2013:  Here's our altruistic plug.  A benefit for Northwest Harvest, Brewgrass brings beer and music to Hale's Ale.
Monday, 5/13:
Tuesday, 5/14:
  • Deschutes Brewery Night:  A chance to try the Black Butte XXIV and 2012 The Abyss on tap at Ballard's Noble Fir.  Simply awesome beers.
Friday, 5/17:
  • Eugene vs. Corvallis Night!  Corvallis is going to win, duh.  Fremont's The Sixgill will be pouring brew from Oakshire, Block 15, and Flat Tail for a side by side comparison.  Pretty sure this is the first time that Block 15 has been poured in these here parts.
Saturday 5/18:
There's my lineup. Andrea will surely have a few more to add to the list as I focused on triangulating awesome events with navigability via pedestrian means or public transport.  Close to home or close to work?  Check.

Oh, one more thing...each year, SBW asks a local brewer to make a beer all special like for the week  This year it's Fremont Brewing and they've done what sounds like a very nice Pale Ale.  Get it while you can.

See you around Seattle next week!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

#WineWednesday: 2011 Colagrossi Duetto

As you may have seen on Twitter, each Wednesday is dubbed #WineWednesday and provides the opportunity to give mention to those that have something to do with wine. I am bringing that idea to WestToast and will be bringing you my thoughts on a recent bottle I drank on each #WineWednesday.

This week’s wine comes from Colagrossi Wines, located in Sebastopol, CA. However, because they are a small producer, roughly 600 cases a year, they pour out of the Inspiration Vineyards tasting room in Santa Rosa. Currently they produce some single variety wines like their Gli Amici Cabernet Sauvignon and the Duetto, a 100% Pinot Noir. They also make several blends like the Vino Bianco, a Viognier/Rousanne blend, and the L’inizio which is a white Rhone blend. This #WineWednesday I will be talking about the2011 Duetto.

On the nose were aromas of cranberry and cherry with a bit of licorice. The nose of the wine was quite inviting and taking the first sip I noticed some similar fruit flavors. A medium body coated my tongue and the tannins weren’t so intense that it dried out my mouth. I picked up on the cranberry from the nose with a few other hints of red fruit. On the finish the wine turned a bit savory and I noticed a bit of vanilla at the very end. The color was a medium deep red and definitely richer in color than many Pinots from the northwest.

Overall I really enjoyed the Duetto and found it to be a great food pairing wine but also easy to drink on its own, which is how I enjoyed it. Even in this 80-90 degree weather, when I would normally go for a Sauvignon Blanc or a nice Rose’, I gave this wine a chance. By putting it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to cool it down a bit, the Duetto was just as refreshing as any white wine. 

Until next week...cheers!

Follow me on Twitter @JesseRAndrews