Cornerstone Cellars, A Chic & Sophisticated Oasis In The Heart Of Yountville

Many of you know that I have been writing about the wines of Cornerstone Cellars for years, however the irony is that I had never been to the tasting room in Yountville. Truth is, I had not made it out to the Napa Valley all that much and when the opportunity for a trip up north presented itself to visit my friend Thea, the first order of business was to schedule a tasting at their tasting room in Yountville. I contacted friend and Managing Partner for Cornerstone Cellars, Craig Camp to let him know that I would be in town. He set up a wonderful tasting with Cornerstone Cellars winemaker, Jeff Keene. A great time was in store for us!

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room in Yountville

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room in Yountville

From the moment you walk into the tasting room, you are surrounded with a chic, yet elegant ambiance. The look is very contemporary and inviting. The walls are adorned with the colorful artwork of artist, Janet Ekholm. Her artwork appears on some of the labels of the Cornerstone wines including the 2010 Stepping Stone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the 2012 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé. Comfortable leather furniture and and barstools will make you want to stay a while, relax, and really experience the wines of Cornerstone Cellars.

Display in the Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

Display in the Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

Love the elegant, yet inviting feel of the tasting room

Love the elegant, yet inviting feel of the tasting room

The bar in the tasting room

The bar in the tasting room

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

Cornerstone Cellars tasting room

We were greeted by winemaker, Jeff Keene who took wonderful care of us. Jeff has been one of my favorite winemakers for a long time now and to be able to taste through his wines with him was an absolute treat. He tasted us through some old favorites that I have had the privilege of writing about on this blog before as well as a sneak preview of some of the 2011 pre-releases. Let me tell you, the 2011s were an absolute delight to preview and you have a treat in store with them when they are finally released. The new labels on the 2011 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are classy and contemporary. In addition to the labels designed by Janet Ekholm, the new labels on the 2011 pre-releases are my favorite.

The Stepping Stone 2011s

The Stepping Stone 2011s

Winemaker, Jeff Keene getting set-up for us

Winemaker, Jeff Keene getting set-up for us

We kicked off the tasting with the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. This crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc had the perfect balance of Citrus, white stone fruits, tropical fruits, and acidity. It was the perfect wine to start with on a hot summer day. We then moved on to the 2011 pre-releases of the Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Those wines will get their own respective posts in the future. They are everything you would expect from Cornerstone. They are elegant, age-worthy wines that are versatile at the same time. It was a treat to taste them prior to release and you won’t be disappointed. Next, we re-visited the iconic, bold 2010 Cornerstone Cabernets; the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. I was lucky enough to taste them earlier this year and both have their own respective posts on this blog.

Jeff had us well taken care of that day

Jeff had us well taken care of that day

Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc (pre-release)

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc (pre-release)

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

One of Cornerstone’s wines that I am very excited about is The Cornerstone. We tasted the 2010 with Jeff at the tasting room and I also tasted the 2009 during the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia. This is a classic Bordeaux-style red blend that has great depth and complexity. This wine is drinking beautifully right now but will only get better with several years aging in the cellar. This wine is robust and powerful with several layers of pleasure for your senses. This wine is very limited in production and deserves a place in your cellar.

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 The Cornerstone

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 The Cornerstone

Lastly, what is a tasting without another familiar favorite? The 2012 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé rounded out our tasting. This is one of my all-time favorite Rosés. It gets better every time I taste it. Made from 100% Syrah, this bone-dry Rosé is a perfect accompaniment to a broad range of foods or perfect for sipping on its own. It is crisp, clean, refreshing and offers abundant white peach, strawberry, ruby grapefruit, orange zest and vibrant acidity. This wine is a lot of fun to drink. Unfortunately, this wine is sold out. By the time Thea and I got done shopping in the tasting room, they were down to a single case. Have no fear, for Corallina always returns.

Stepping Stone 2012 Corallina Rosé

Stepping Stone 2012 Corallina Rosé

Thea and I had a lovely time visiting the tasting room and Jeff took exceptional care of us. We were even lucky enough to have a quick visit with Craig. I am thrilled that I finally had the opportunity to visit the tasting room of one of my favorite wineries. Cornerstone wines are always recommended by me however if you find yourself in the Napa Valley, do yourself a favor and stop in to the Cornerstone Cellars tasting room in the lovely town of Yountville. Their staff is highly knowledgeable and friendly, and will warmly greet you and promise you a wonderful experience. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the tasting room later on this year.

For more information on Cornerstone Cellars, be sure to visit their website. They can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. Craig and his team will always keep you up to date on new releases and winery news.

Until the next time friends.

Cheers!

~Monica

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Previewing The Jordan Winery Estate Tour & Tasting

My recent travels took me to Sonoma and Napa Valley this past weekend. While I was visiting Sonoma County, I had the privilege of being invited to Jordan Winery to preview their new Estate Tour & Tasting, opening to the public this week. The group invited to participate consisted of about ten wine, food, and travel bloggers. The purpose of this Estate Tour & Tasting is to showcase the breathtaking 1200 acre property and show that Jordan is not just a winery and tasting room but rather a journey for epicureans, wine lovers, and those who appreciate natural beauty.

Welcome to Jordan Winery

Welcome to Jordan Winery

The Estate Tour & Tasting lasts three hours but the time goes by so quickly with all that is involved. We arrived a few minutes early and were greeted outside of the Winery Chateau by our friend Lisa Mattson of Jordan Winery. The Winery Chateau is a beautiful chateau covered in ivy that makes you feel like you are transported in time to France. Outside the Chateau, fresh baked pastries and refreshing cucumber water were a welcome treat for the already warm morning. Our tour was going to make four stops along the beautiful drive along the property. We boarded an air-conditioned shuttle bus and wonderful food, wine, and scenery awaited us.

Lisa Mattson gives us a brief history of Jordan before starting the Estate Tour & Tasting

Lisa Mattson gives us a brief history of Jordan before starting the Estate Tour & Tasting

With camera’s and notepads in hand, along with much excitement, we were off to our first stop of the tour, Chef’s Garden. Right across from the garden, was a farm with livestock, chickens, and other farm animals. Jordan is working on branding its own beef from Angus to Wagyu. Just a few feet in front of the farm was the Chef’s Garden. The garden is approximately one acre in size and boasts an assortment of colorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs all of which are used in creating seasonal dishes by the Estate Executive chef, Todd Knoll, to be paired with the Jordan Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the garden, you will also find a colorful assortment of seasonal flowers. Some of the produced we sampled on-site were tomatoes, figs, and raspberries. This is a true farm-t0-table experience.

The farm on the Jordan Estate

The farm on the Jordan Estate

Flowers in the garden

Flowers in the garden

Chef's Garden

Chef’s Garden

Bloggers picking raspberries in the garden

Bloggers picking raspberries in the garden

Some of the tastiest, sweetest tomatoes I have ever had

Some of the tastiest, sweetest tomatoes I have ever had

After spending some time in the Chef’s Garden, we were back on the bus and off to our second stop on the Estate Tour & Tasting; Seven Oaks. Seven Oaks is a shaded oasis on the property and is named after the cluster of seven oak trees that surround it. The trees provide much needed shade on the warm days, magnificent views of the Jordan Lake and olive orchards, and a sense of tranquility. Seven Oaks also houses wildlife as well as a dock.

View of Jordan Lake from the dock at Seven Oaks

View of Jordan Lake from the dock at Seven Oaks

Jordan staff had our first wine and food pairing set up for us at Seven Oaks. We were presented with two dishes; Spiced garden escabeche with Gravenstein apple vinaigrette & wild fennel and Nigiri of seasonal fruit with Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sonoma honey & citrus. The two dishes were paired with 2010 & 2011 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley. Both dishes were bursting with color and a mecca of flavors. The two Chardonnays were slightly different in style. The 2010, was a fuller, richer wine, with a creamier texture and mouthfeel coming from the malolactic fermentation and Sur Lie aging process. The 2010 boasts tropical fruit, green apple, stone fruit, vanilla, spice, and toast with a nice balance and long finish. The 2011 Chardonnay is crisp, clean, and refreshing with predominant green apple, citrus, and stone fruit notes leading the way to nice minerality and vibrant acidity. Although both wines paired beautifully with each dish, I found the 2011 Chardonnay to pair the best with the spiced garden escabeche and the 2010 with the nigiri. We also sampled Jordan’s delicious extra virgin olive oil with assorted breads. Happily filled with good food and wine, we were off to our next stop; Creekside Landing.

The presentation at Seven Oaks

The presentation at Seven Oaks

The 2010 & 2011 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley

The 2010 & 2011 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley

Food and wine pairings at Seven Oaks

Food and wine pairings at Seven Oaks

Creekside Landing is another picturesque, tranquil setting on the Estate that is nestled in between Jordan’s vineyards. It is home to various species of wildlife and plants. The bridge in the Creekside Landing leads the way to the vineyards where 2013’s harvest would be underway very, very soon. For those who do not know, Jordan adopts sustainable practices in the vineyards. The two wines in production are their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay uses 100% Chardonnay grapes and while the Cabernet Sauvignon is composed mostly of the Cabernet grape, it can also contain small amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, or Cabernet Franc. The composition varies from vintage to vintage. A leisurely stroll in the vintage led to grape tasting and ideal opportunities for more pictures. A sampling of various grapes confirmed that harvest was just around the corner. After tasting Malbec and Petit Verdot, it was time to hop on the bus and head off to the fourth and final stop on the Estate Tour & Tasting; Vista Point.

Jordan Vineyard

Jordan Vineyard

Jordan Vineyard

Jordan Vineyard

Malbec grapes

Malbec grapes

Petit Verdot grapes

Petit Verdot grapes

Our fourth and final stop on the Estate Tour & Tasting took us all the way to the top of Jordan Estate’s highest hilltop, Vista Point. We were swept away by some of the most incredible views imaginable of mountains and several surrounding wine regions. This was my favorite stop of the tour.

View from Vista Point

View from Vista Point

View from Vista Point

View from Vista Point

In the middle of this hilltop was a beautiful gazebo that housed the next food and wine pairing for us. We sat down to a beautiful table with stemware and lovely wooden boxes filled with mouthwatering delights. Our two dishes were Miso-glazed Sonoma beef with Maitake mushrooms & braised endive and a Selection of Sonoma County & European artisanal cheeses. Both selections were paired with 2002 & 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley. The Miso-glazed beef was filled with so many layers of flavor and textures and was complimented beautifully by the wines as was the selection of cheeses. On the table, there were also baskets of breads for dipping into individual size dishes of Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Table setting at Vista Point

Table setting at Vista Point

Absolutely loved the serving dishes for each pairing

Absolutely loved the serving dishes for each pairing

A portion of the food served for the pairing (my apologies for not getting a shot of the Miso-glazed beef that was inside the miniature pot)

Cheeses served for the pairing (my apologies for not getting a shot of the Miso-glazed beef that was inside the miniature pot)

The 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander valley is the current release for their Cabernets. The composition is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. The aging process was 12 months in 77% French oak and 23% American oak. For the 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, the composition is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The 2002 also aged for 12 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels. Both vintages poured deep ruby colors in the glasses. Both offering juicy blue and black berry fruit notes, though more concentrated on the ’09. Typical vanilla, spice, oak, and baker’s chocolate were present in both. The 2002 was just starting to develop the more complex layers like leather, tobacco, cedar, and espresso while the predominant layers for the 2009 were the fruit and spice. Both provided lovely balance, firm tannic structure, and long finishes. I enjoyed both vintages but the 2002 was my favorite. The 2009 is still very young and has very long aging potential to develop the complex layers like the 2002.

2009 and 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

2009 and 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

Both Cabernets being poured

Both Cabernets being poured

After we were done wining and dining at Vista Point, our three hours somehow managed to quickly pass by and we were whisked back to the Winery Chateau to receive a parting gift from Lisa and say our goodbyes. This Estate Tour is sure to leave a lasting impression on all of us.

The Jordan Winery Estate Tour & Tasting was a phenomenal experiences and look into what the Estate has to offer in terms of a true wine, food, and scenic experience. This was the best executed, tour and tasting that I have ever been on. The staff at Jordan have left no stone unturned in putting together an unforgettable experience. As of today, the Estate Tour & Tasting is open to the public and there is one per day. The cost is $120 per person. If you find yourself in the Sonoma area or are thinking about visiting, I highly recommend booking this tour. It will provide you with an unforgettable experience in food, wine, and nature in one of Sonoma’s most prestigious Estates that is sure to be unlike anything you have experienced before in wine country.

Please visit this link to make reservations for this experience or for more information. The wines mentioned on this blog that are part of the tour can also be purchased on the website. Be sure to connect with Jordan on their Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date with winery news, events, and new releases.

A special thank you to Lisa and the staff at Jordan for inviting us and allowing us to experience this before the general public. I cannot wait to get back to Sonoma and pay Jordan another visit. Until the next time friends.

Cheers,

Monica

* I was invited as a guest of the winery to participate in the Estate Tour & Tasting. Thoughts represented on this blog are my own.

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Fab OC Wine Chick Is Off To Napa Valley & Sonoma In Two Weeks!

Some of you are probably wondering what I’ve been up to since it has been a few weeks since my last post. Things at work have been keeping me pretty busy with settling into a new role and promotion. That’s meant many long hours, however things are slowly getting back to normal. I have also been working on my WSET certification. I will be jumping into the next level this fall and hopefully starting a career in the wine industry someday. Never fear though, I haven’t stopped discovering great wines or having wine-filled adventures.

Welcome to Napa Valley!

Welcome to Napa Valley!

What’s next you might ask? Well my travels are about to take me to Napa and Sonoma in a couple of weeks. I am excited to see my friends up North and looking forward to visiting wineries and taking in the beautiful scenery as well explore the culinary scene. So far on the agenda are Jordan Winery, Ridge Vineyards, Unti Vineyards, Cornerstone Cellars, and Corison. I will be attending a media event at Jordan, so look out for a future post on that as well as photos and tweets during the event. Also, as many of you know, I have been writing about the wines of Cornerstone Cellars for the past couple years and on this trip, it will be my first visit ever to their tasting room in Yountville where hopefully, I will get a chance to meet talented winemaker, Jeff Keene. So, definitely keep an eye out for a write up on that visit as well as photos during my visit. I Would definitely like to fit in a few more wineries to visit so I will be adding more to the list between now and the time I leave.

As always keep an eye out for my adventures during the trip on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in greater detail on my blog when I return.

Have a great week everyone!

Cheers,

Monica

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Prepare For Your World To Rock With Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks!

You’ve had a long, grueling day at the office and you come home and realize that Wine O’Clock is fast approaching. You wonder what wine you will open. You know you don’t want another boring two dimensional Chardonnay or Cabernet. You know you are craving complexity and fun. You want wines that will rock your palate and senses but don’t know where to turn for those wines. Good thing I have the answer for you; Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks!

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks! Wines

Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks! Wines

Most of you are already familiar with the classic and elegant wines produced by Cornerstone Cellars, both in the Napa Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their Stepping Stone brand consists of quality wines made for everyday drinking. Now, take that a step further and you have Cornerstone’s newest brand, Stepping Stone Rocks! The Rocks! wines are inspired by the blends of Southern France and no two vintages are alike. Although the composition of the blends are unpublished, you will find diversity and complexity in all of the Rocks! wines. Although I know the grape varieties that make up the wines, I challenge you to see if you can figure it out. These wines are fun and are a pleasure for your palate. These are extraordinary wines that you come to expect from Cornerstone and winemaker, Jeff Keene. Every year, a white wine and a red wine is produced for the Rocks! brand.

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone White Rocks!

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone White Rocks!

The 2012 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone White Rocks! pours a light straw color in the glass and as the wine opens up in the glass, a bouquet of flowers, stone fruit, Granny Smith apple, luscious tropical fruits, melon, and honeysuckle emerges. On the palate, you get layers of juicy white peaches, pears, honeydew melon, guava, and ruby grapefruit followed by a hint of spice with crisp, clean acidity. The flavors and acidity in the wine are in perfect harmony. This wine is refreshing and has a delectable mouthfeel to it. This wine is so very easy to love. It’s one of those wines you want to enjoy sitting out in the backyard on a warm summer evening, or any time! This wine drinks beautifully on its own but would pair fantastically with an array of cheeses or light summer salads or seafood dishes. This wine sells for $18 per bottle. Only 1,087 cases were produced, so get your hands on several bottles for your summer quaffing pleasure. A highly, highly recommended wine.

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Red Rocks!

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Red Rocks!

Now, on to the red wine. The 2011 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Red Rocks! is composed of three varietals. One of my absolute favorite red wine varietals on the planet is included in this blend and for those who know me well, you will know what I am talking about. The wine was aged for five months in a stainless steal tank. This wine pours a gorgeous deep garnet color in the glass. As you start swirling the wine in the glass the fruit aromas emerge, first come the black fruits such as blackberry, and dark plum. Then comes a layer of blueberry and raspberry, followed by floral notes. As the wine sits in the glasses longer, aromas of cherry cola open up as well as hints of fresh cracked pepper and baking spices. On the palate, there are supple blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. There is another layer on the palate of the cherry cola and hints of expresso and baker’s chocolate. The wine finishes long with a hint of pepper and baking spice. The three varietals that make up this wine give it incredible complexity and depth, but with beautiful balance. This wine is rich and luxurious and will stand up perfectly with many things such as grilled meats off the BBQ or even a meat pizza which is what I paired it with. This is an absolutely fantastic wine that will make your palate very happy and leave you wanting for more. Can you believe that this wine only sells for $18 per bottle? This is definitely a wine you will want to have on hand for any occasion but especially now for your summer BBQs. Only 941 cases were produced, so be sure to get your hands on some. This wine is also highly, highly recommended.

There you have it; two fantastically fun, and wonderfully complex wines to add to your cellar for your wine-drinking pleasure.

With each vintage of the Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Rocks! wines, Cornerstone takes what the vintage hands them and makes the most delicious and interesting wines without worrying about adhering to certain tasting profiles.  As always the blends will remain a secret but you can rest assured you are getting a finely crafted, fantastic wine with the Cornerstone name on it.

Cornerstone Cellars has an incredible presence in the social media world. Be sure to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. They also have created, recently, a new Twitter profile for this Stepping Stone By Cornerstone Rocks! series. It can be found here. Craig Camp and his team will always keep you up to date on new releases and winery news and events. If you are ever in the Napa Valley, be sure to pay them a visit at their Yountville tasting room. Until the next time friends.

Cheers!

~Monica

*These wines were provided as media samples for review purposes. 

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Lunch And Wine Tasting With Wines Of Uruguay

Have any of you ever had an opportunity to visit Uruguay and taste the wines that they produce? Up until about a few weeks ago, I was never familiar with their wines until I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia. Wines Of Uruguay was among one of the conference’s many sponsors and they brought Uruguay and their wines to us during a lovely lunch and tasting sponsored by them during the conference.

Some of the wines sampled at lunch.

Some of the wines sampled at lunch.

The beautiful country of Uruguay sits in the Southeastern part of South America with its capital being Montevideo. Uruguay sits in the Southern Hemisphere between the parallels 30 and 35 S, giving it an ideal geographical location to produce wine. This is also the case for other wine-producing countries such as Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Take its location, a fairly moderate climate, and its rich clay-based soils, and you have very favorable grape-growing conditions. Uruguayan wines are grown in the purest environment in the Southern Hemisphere and Uruguay is the third purest natural ecosystem in the world.

Tannat is Uruguay’s flagship grape. Tannat is to Uruguay as Malbec is to Argentina. You will often find Tannat blended with other red wine varieties such as Merlot and Syrah or it is perfect on its own. The climate and soil of Uruguay is ideal for growing Tannat. This red wine varietal is intense in color and produces wines with great complexity and body which are very well suited for hearty meat dishes. Many Uruguayan winemakers use oak barrels to age the wine to provide a softer tannic structure to the wine. Tannat is a very versatile and food-friendly wine.

Tannat is not the only wine variety you will find in Uruguay. Uruguay is also producing an abundance of other varieties with excellent results such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah for the reds. For the whites, you will find Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, and Chardonnay; all food-friendly and complex.

Uruguay is home to approximately 270 wineries or “Bodegas” in Spanish. During our lunch at the Wine Bloggers Conference, we had an opportunity to taste wines from different producers and pair them with our lunch. I tasted a couple of standout wines from Artesana Vineyards and Bodega Bouza.

Bodega Bouza Albariño

Bodega Bouza Albariño

Artesana Tannat-Merlot blend

Artesana Tannat-Merlot blend

Lunch provided by Wines Of Uruguay.

Lunch provided by Wines Of Uruguay.

One of my favorite white wines of the lunch was a 2012 Albariño by Bodegas Bouza. As the wine opened up in the glass, lovely floral notes emerged as well as stone fruits, tangerine, and grapefruit. The wine had lots of vibrant acidity and a clean, long finish. This is one of many wines produced by Bodegas Bouza in Montevideo. The winery also produces Chardonnay, Tannat, and Tempranillo to name a few of their wines.

The other standout wine of the lunch was a 2011 Tannat-Merlot blend produced by Artesana Winery. Artesana is a small winery producing artisan wines in the Las Brujas, Canelones region. They specialize in single vineyard Tannat, Tannat blends, and Zinfandel. They produce the first and only Zinfandel in Uruguay. The 2011 Tannat-Merlot Blend pours a deep garnet color in the glass and has abundant red and dark fruits such as raspberry, plum, and dark cherries along with spice, espresso, and dark cocoa. This is a rich, full-bodied wine making it a great pairing for heartier dishes with meat. You can connect with Artisana on Twitter and Facebook.

Although the lunch was brief, it was a wonderful introduction to Uruguay and the wines they produce. Uruguay is definitely making a name for itself in the wine world and is producing some world-class wines. Take that aspect, and the fact that the country boasts so much natural beauty and gorgeous, clean beaches and you have a great vacation spot. I definitely would love to plan a wine-tasting trip to Uruguay in the near future and have an opportunity to visit the other wineries and take in the beauty and charm of the quaint towns. A very special thank you to the Wines Of Uruguay for bringing a bit of Uruguay to British Columbia for us all to enjoy. Wines Of Uruguay can be found on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to connect with them to keep up to date with all the latest news on wine production in Uruguay. Until the next time friends.

Salud!

~Monica

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Two Lovely Days Of Wining And Dining In Lake Chelan Washington (Part II)

A few days ago, I shared some highlights of day one of an excursion to Lake Chelan, Washington that I attended prior to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia. There was so much packed into two days and I took so many pictures, so I broke it up into two smaller posts. For those who missed the first post, it can be found here.

After a good night’s sleep at our beautiful hotel, Campbell’s Resort, we were off on an early start to the day with our first stop at Karma Vineyards for brunch and a sparkling wine tasting. Now who doesn’t love brunch and bubbles?

Entrance to Karma Vineyards

Entrance to Karma Vineyards

Gewürztraminer vines

Gewürztraminer vines

Karma Vineyards is one of a small handful of wineries in Washington producing sparkling wines using the Methode Champenoise tradition, which is the true French method of producing sparkling wines. Karma boasts an abundance of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on their lovely 14 acre property for their sparkling wine production. They take their sparkling wine seriously and they do it very, very well. Other grape varieties harvested at Karma include Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Syrah.

Upon arriving on the property, we were greeting with a glass of their 2010 Methode Champenoise Brut De Brut. This is a delightful sparkler boasting crisp green apple and pear as well as a touch of brioche. This is a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, and 9% Pinot Meunier. This is a very dry sparkling wine, making it very versatile for many different foods.

Entrance to tasting room at Karma

Entrance to tasting room at Karma

Greeted with their lovely Brut De Brut sparkling wine

Greeted with their lovely Brut De Brut sparkling wine

After a tasting of the Brut De Brut and an overview with owner, Jill Pittsinger on their sparkling wine production, we were led to their beautiful patio area where a lavish brunch buffet spread was waiting for us as well as a tasting of other sparkling wines from some of the neighboring wineries in Lake Chelan.

Table set-up for brunch

Table set-up for brunch

A sampling of some of the tasty brunch treats they had for us including my favorite, Eggs Benedict.

A sampling of some of the tasty brunch treats they had for us including my favorite, Eggs Benedict.

After getting our fill of a delicious brunch and sparkling wines, as well as soaking up the magnificent views, we hopped on board the karma Vineyards trolly to take a tour of the vineyards. When we got to the top the hill, we were swept away by beautiful views of Lake Chelan while we listened to Jill talk to us about their growing season and wine production.

Karma Vineyards trolly

Karma Vineyards trolly

Pinot Meunier vines and Lake Chelan

Pinot Meunier vines and Lake Chelan

Listening to Jill speak about the growing season

Listening to Jill speak about the growing season

We all had an absolutely wonderful time at Karma Vineyards. If we had more time, I would have loved to have tasted some of the other wines that they produce. I will say that their sparkling wine is one of the best domestic sparkling wines I have ever tasted. My next trip back to Lake Chelan will definitely take me back to Karma Vineyards. At this point we were split up in several smaller groups and taken to an afternoon excursion that we had pre-selected a couple weeks prior. My choice was Vin Du Lac.

Vin Du Lac got its inspiration from the owner’s travels to France. The property’s old farmhouse was turned into a charming tasting room, reminiscent of a French country bistro.  Vin Du Lac hand harvests all of its grapes and are fermented in small batches. Their first vintage was produced in 2002. Their goal is to make the winery one of the producers of ultra-premium wines on the West Coast.

Entrance to the Vin Du Lac Tasting room

Entrance to the Vin Du Lac Tasting room

Beautiful vineyard at Vin Du Lac

Beautiful vineyard at Vin Du Lac

Vin Du Lac currently produces wines under four distinct labels:  LEHM, Barrel Select, Fresh Whites, and Red Café. All wines are hand crafted and you will find fresh, crisp, lively whites, as well as bold, powerful, and complex reds.

Upon entering the property, we were greeted by assistant winemaker, David Traynor. He had a tray of his 2011 LEHM Rosé for us. It was much needed on a hot day such as that one. This Rosé is a blend of 57% Sangiovese and 43% Cabernet Franc. It offered nice aromas of strawberry, watermelon, and fresh flowers and was crisp and refreshing on the palate. Definitely a delightful summertime sipping wine.

David greeted us with a glass of Rosé upon arrival

David greeted us with a glass of Rosé upon arrival

With a glass of Rosé in hand, we did a short walking tour of the vineyards with owner/winemaker, Larry Lehmbecker. Larry gave a sense of the growing season for Vin Du Lac and spoke of their winemaking practices as well as varietals in production. You will find anything from Riesling and Gewurztraminer, as some examples of the whites in production, to Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Pinot Noir for the reds with red and white blends as well. After a tour of the vineyards, we were treated to a three course wine pairing menu prepared onsite at their bistro.

Tasting menu prepared for us

Tasting menu prepared for us

Prosciutto in Melon with Balsamic Reduction  Vinaigrette paired with 2011 LEHM Gewurztraminer Lake Chelan

Prosciutto in Melon with Balsamic Reduction Vinaigrette paired with 2011 LEHM Gewurztraminer Lake Chelan

Smoked Duck Breast, Served in a Cherry Dressing, paired with 2010 LEHM Pinot Noir Lake Chelan

Smoked Duck Breast, Served in a Cherry Dressing, paired with 2010 LEHM Pinot Noir Lake Chelan

House-Smoked Chicken Breast, Served under Bacon and Parmigiano, paired with 2009 Barrel Select Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley

House-Smoked Chicken Breast, Served under Bacon and Parmigiano, paired with 2009 Barrel Select Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley

All three of the dishes were presented beautifully and had perfect wine pairings to bring out all the flavors and nuances of the wines. It was unanimous within our small group that all the wines were delicious however the Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Cabernet Franc really rocked. Those are wines that I will definitely be purchasing to add to my cellar, so look out for those on my blog in the future.

LEHM 2010 Riesling

LEHM 2010 Riesling

LEHM 2011 Gewurztraminer

LEHM 2011 Gewurztraminer

We spent a fabulous afternoon sipping lovely wines and eating delicious food, all while taking in breath-taking views of Lake Chelan at Vin Du Lac. It was hard to believe that our time in Lake Chelan was coming to an end, but sadly it was. Before we knew it, we were back on the bus with a long drive ahead of us to cross the Canadian Border. We bid farewell to our new friends at Vin Du Lac and made our way back to our bus.

If you think that all the wining and dining stopped once we boarded the bus to Penticton, think again. Joining us on the three hour ride across the border were the lovely ladies from Veranda Beach. Veranda Beach, located on the east shore of Lake Osoyoos in Oroville, Washington is not only a winery that produces award-winning wines, but it’s also a resort, overlooking the beachfront community of Veranda Beach. The resort offers cottages on the water and boasts a variety of activities such as water sports for the adventurous or a beautiful beach for laying out and relaxing. Veranda Beach is a perfect vacation spot for families because it offers a wide range of activities for people of all ages.

The winery at Veranda Beach, Veranda Beach Cellars has three small-lot wines in production currently; Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Regatta Rosé (made from estate-grown Barbera grapes), Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Lakehouse (Riesling), and Veranda Beach Cellars 2010 Collage (70% Barbera, 20% Sangiovese, and 10% Cabernet Franc). Veranda Beach provided us with a three course lunch with wine pairings. The food was prepared by their onsite restaurant, The Breadline Diner. Apologies in advance for not taking pictures of the food. The tighter quarters in the moving bus made it kind of difficult to take clear pictures. The Riesling was delicious and provided a touch of sweetness but balanced out nicely by nice acidity. The Regatta Rosé is made in the French Saignee method and boasts flavors of strawberry, watermelon, and white stone fruit. The Collage red blend offers dark fruits, leather, spice, as well as a bold, complex structure.

Lunch menu and wine pairings provided by Veranda Beach Cellars

Lunch menu and wine pairings provided by Veranda Beach Cellars

Really loved the fun label on the Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Regatta Rosé

Really loved the fun label on the Veranda Beach Cellars 2012 Regatta Rosé

We had a wonderful time with the ladies from Veranda Beach. They provided a lot of enthusiasm and fun while keeping us entertained on the ride to the Canadian border. They are a must visit on your next trip to Washington and with their close proximity to the Canadian border, it’s easy to plan a getaway to Veranda Beach and continue into British Columbia.

We finally reached the Canadian border. Penticton, here we come!

We finally reached the Canadian border. Penticton, here we come!

Our time in Lake Chelan was much too brief. There are many hidden gems to explore and a very easy-going and relaxed community. You will find very friendly people and very passionate winemakers that will welcome you with a friendly smile. Lake Chelan is a scenic three hour drive from Seattle or two and a half hours from Spokane. It’s definitely not hard to get to. It you prefer to fly, Horizon Airlines offers connecting flights from Seattle to the Wenatohee Pangborn Memorial Airport. I highly recommend a trip here. There are so many other wineries I want to explore on my next trip up, as well as re-visit some newfound favorites. I want to give a very special thank you to Nicole Campbell and Erin McCardle of the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance for putting this wonderful trip together as well as thank all the people and wineries who welcomed us all with open arms and proudly showed us what Lake Chelan had to offer. It was truly a memorable experience; one which we will never forget. I will definitely be recommending a trip there to everyone I know as well as plan another one for the near future. The friendly people, delicious food, beautiful scenery, and wonderful wines make it a must visit on your next vacation.

Next stop, Penticton, British Columbia and WBC13!

Cheers!

~Monica

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Two Lovely Days Of Wining And Dining In Lake Chelan Washington (Part I)

Prior to the start of the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, I attended a pre-conference excursion to Lake Chelan. If you haven’t attended a pre-conference excursion before, it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit a different area from the conference and get to learn about the wines and the region. Another nice aspect of a pre-conference excursion is that it is a smaller group of people, so you have time to really get to know some of your fellow conference attendees. I chose this particular excursion because I have never been to Lake Chelan and I was not familiar with the wines that they produce, so it was a great choice for me.

The excursion was arranged by Erin McCardle, Executive Director of the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance and Nicole Campbell, PR & Social Media Manager of the Lake Chelan Wine Alliance. We spent two days and one night in Lake Chelan, experiencing the wonderful hospitality of several local wineries. I have decided to break up the highlights of this excursion into two blog posts because there was so much packed into two days and I have many beautiful pics to share.

View of the lake

View of the lake

We all flew into Seattle and were greeted at the airport by Erin and Nicole. We were wined and dined from the moment we set foot on the bus. Erin and Nicole had delicious, gourmet lunches waiting for us as well as a flight of wines from some of the local wineries we would be visiting during the excursion. They had a very busy two days planned for us, filled with great food and wine.

The Lake Chelan AVA is encompassed within the Columbia Valley AVA and is made up of 17 wineries. Their AVA status was granted in 2009. The Lake Chelan AVA has a unique climate that makes it different from surrounding AVAs allowing it to produce a diverse selection of wines. You will find anything from Italian varieties such as Sangiovese to Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and classics like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, with several other varieties in between.

As soon as we arrived in Lake Chelan, our first stop was to Rio Vista Wines for a welcome reception and optional seaplane ride. This lovely winery on the lake, provides some breath-taking views of Lake Chelan. We were greeted by owners/winemakers John and Jan Little who had a beautiful spread of meats and cheeses for us as well as all of their wines for us to taste. John was also kind enough to take us to do some barrel tasting of his upcoming releases. My favorites in the tasting line-up were the 2012 Wild Rose Rosé Estate, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2011 Tempranillo. Rio Vista produces approximately 600 cases annually.

Rio Vista Winery

Rio Vista Winery

Rio Vista Winery

Rio Vista Winery

Assorted cheeses at the reception

Assorted cheeses at the reception

Barrel tasting at Rio Vista

Barrel tasting at Rio Vista

After spending the afternoon at Rio Vista, we made our way to our hotel, Campbell’s Resort to check-in and get ready for dinner. Unfortunately there was not a lot of time to admire the beautiful lake views from my balcony since we were quickly off to a grand tasting and dinner at Tsillan Cellars.

View from my balcony at sunset at Campbell's Resort

View from my balcony at sunset at Campbell’s Resort

Tsillan Cellars is an Italian country retreat in Lake Chelan. They grow a wide assortment of grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Grenache for the reds, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Gewurtztraminer for the whites. Tsillan prides itself as an award-winning winery. Their Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have won gold medals and their Estate Pinot Grigio and Estate Gewurtztraminer have won double gold and platinum medals in both regional and national wine competitions.

Prior to dinner, there was a Grand Tasting of wines from Lake Chelan held at Tsillan Cellars. Several wineries were pouring in their courtyard. Some of the wineries included Hard Row To Hoe Vineyards, Mellisoni Vineyards, and Nefarious Cellars. This was a wonderful introduction to the wines being produced in Lake Chelan.

View from Tsillian Cellars at sunset

View from Tsillian Cellars at sunset

Dinner was hosted by Tsillan Cellars at their onsite restaurant, Sorrento’s Ristorante. We were treated to a lavish four-course dinner complemented with various wines from Tsillan Cellars. The winemakers pouring at the Grand Tasting also joined us for dinner and provided us with a memorable and enjoyable experience. Bob Jankelson, owner of Tsillan Cellars warmly welcomed us into his winery and restaurant and made us feel like part of the family. His staff made sure our glasses were always full and took wonderful care of us.

Hard Row To Hoe, owner Don Phelps speaking at dinner

Hard Row To Hoe, owner Don Phelps speaking at dinner

Dinner menu

Dinner Menu

First Course:  Oysters Rockefeller paired with 2010 Estate Chardonnay

First Course: Oysters Rockefeller paired with 2010 Estate Chardonnay

Second Course:  Roasted Roma Tomato & Basil Soup paired with 2010 Estate Sinistra

Second Course: Roasted Roma Tomato & Basil Soup paired with 2010 Estate Sinistra

Third Course:  Chicken Marsala paired with 2009 Estate Bellissima Rossa

Third Course: Chicken Marsala paired with 2009 Estate Bellissima Rossa

Fourth Course:  Tiramisu paired with Methode Champenoise Brut

Fourth Course: Tiramisu paired with Methode Champenoise Brut

After a wonderful night of wine, food, and friends, we were back at the hotel for a MUCH needed night of rest. The next day had much in store for us. Keep an eye out for the last post covering our excursion to Lake Chelan with highlights from Karma Vineyards and Vin Du Lac, ending with more food and wine on the bus ride across the border into Canada.

Cheers!

~Monica

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