Aaron's Wine Chronicles embarking on our 1st Wine Escapade of 2020

2020 New Year Wine Escapades!

2020 New Year Wine Escapades!

My wife and I started out the 2020 New Year with some wine escapades and a spontaneous road trip to two separate Washington State destinations.  Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, and the Leavenworth-Wenatchee, area.  It was an outstanding decision!  Along the way to the lodge we paid visits to Maryhill Winery, Columbia Crest and Alexandria Nicole tasting rooms off Highway 14 along Washington’s southern border with Oregon.  However, much to my dismay, all were closed for the Holiday.  Jumping across the Columbia River, in a last ditch effort to find an open tasting room, we paid a visit to Hood River, Oregon.  But yet again, we found nearly the entire little town had shut down for New Year’s Day.  But wait….there’s more to this story….

Onward to Skamania Lodge!

So to the Lodge we drove.  A beautiful resort nestled in wooded slopes overlooking the Columbia River, and minutes away from the small hamlet of Stevenson – our New Year’s Day dinner destination spot!  We dined at the Big River Grill where she ordered homemade meatloaf and I had a ribeye steak.  We each had a glass of wine we hadn’t tasted before, with our dinner.  I enjoyed a 2017 Thurston Wolfe Zinfandel and she tried the 2017 Mercer Bros. Cabernet Sauvignon, both from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.  These young wines paired nicely with our dinners and were very approachable and reasonably priced.

For our evening at the Lodge, we were not unprepared.  We brought with us a 2005 Fidelitas red blend known as “Eight”, reflecting the 8 different vineyard used to source the grapes for this amazing wine.  Once we got to our room, we started a fire and cracked this baby open to end our evening.  Charlie Hoppes once again ruled the night with this amazing gem!

Day 2, Leavenworth Bound!

On the morning of January 2nd, our 2020 New Year Wine Escapades continued with a hearty breakfast, knowing our drive to Leavenworth was about 4 ½ hours away.  The breakfast was fantastic and the French press coffee was to die for.  After a scenic drive over Satus Pass, we stopped into my parents place for a quick hello before continuing on to Leavenworth.  As we entered the outskirts of the well-known Bavarian style village, we decided to stop at Silvara Cellars.  This was our first visit here, but we had driven past it many times, always promising we would one day stop in.  Today was the day.  Silvara produces approximately 1200 cases per year and Gary Seidler is their award winning owner/winemaker.

The tasting room is large and inviting.  With a mountain “lodge” ambiance overlooking a valley of orchards, the fireplace was lit and our tasting was about to begin.  Their gift shop options were interesting, as they sold a “gun” shaped wine bottle opener!  The diversity of wines offered was really enticing.  Whites, reds, Italian, Bordeaux and Rhône varietal and blended wines were all represented.  The grapes are predominantly sourced from the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley AVAs.  Our tasting included a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 Vintner’s Reserve Red, 2017 Sangiovese, 2016 Grenache, 2016 Merlot, 2017 Malbec, 2016 Syrah and the 2016 Woodland Goddess Reserve red blend – their top tier wine.  At the end of the day I took home a bottle of the Woodland Goddess Reserve red blend.  This wine is crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Viognier.  What a great find!

Wine Time in Leavenworth!

After a quick 2 minute drive into Leavenworth, we were smack in the middle of a wine tasting paradise!  Our 2nd stop was Château Faire Le PontDoug Brazil is their owner and widely recognized winemaker, while his wife Debé is the winery President and Marketing Manager.  They operate two tasting rooms, one in downtown Leavenworth and one in Wenatchee that produce approximately 3500 cases per year.  The Leavenworth tasting room offers a subset of the larger list of wine offerings crafted by Mr. Brazil.  Their list of wines is both extensive and impressive!  Varietal wines, blended wines, whites and rosés, Italian, Bordeaux, Rhône, and dessert wines, are all on the list.

Kimberly Andersen was our tasting guide and she did a great job of describing the wines to us.  We tasted five wines that included a 2016 Sangiovese, a 2016 Carménère, a 2016 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2016 Reserve Confluence (a Bordeaux style blend), and their 2016 “100% Free Run” Syrah.  We purchased a bottle of the Syrah and the Carménère.  Both were fantastic and nicely priced as well!  Just before leaving, Kimberly asked us about our plans for dinner.  We hadn’t quite thought that far in advance, so she recommended we visit the Wenatchee tasting room where they offered many more wines, live Jazz music and a full gourmet dinner menu!  Stay tuned, as that’s how this wine escapade ends!

Plain Cellars….I’m Back!

Our next stop was a one minute stroll down the street to Plain Cellars tasting room.  It had been a few years since we visited, and I was excited to see how things had evolved.  Their winemaker is Bob Sage, where they produce between 1400 and 1800 cases per year.  The grapes are sourced from a variety of AVAs all over Washington State.  On this day, we were fortunate enough to taste 9 different wines representing 2015 and 2016 vintages.  All the red wines were from the 2015 vintage while the port style dessert wine was a 2016.  The list included the Just Plain Red (Rhône style GSM blend), a Tempranillo, a Malbec, a Cabernet Franc, the Eclipse (Bordeaux style blend), a Petite Sirah, the Summer Solstice (mixed Bordeaux/Rhône blend), a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2016 Winter Solstice (Port Style wine).

As I was tasting, my wife found a chalk board where past visitors had signed their names.  She made sure to leave our mark.  We absolutely loved the wines here, and the prices were simply amazing for the quality!  We ended up buying 4 bottles – the Petite Sirah, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc, and the Winter Solstice.  Aaron’s Wine Chronicles highly recommends Plain Cellars for their price-to-quality ratio!  You can’t go wrong and you won’t be disappointed.

Music, Food and Wine to end our 2020 New Year Wine Escapades!

By this time we were ready for some food, so we headed into Wenatchee to listen to some Jazz and have a nice dinner.  As we walked into the Château Faire Le Pont tasting room, we were greeted by the staff and began to taste the remaining wines not offered at the Leavenworth tasting room.  It was a pleasant surprise to say the least.  We tasted 8 additional wines that were really nice and the quality and consistency of the wines were exceptional.  These included a 2016 Grenache, a 2016 Merlot, a 2016 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2015 Petit Verdot, a 2015 Provence (Reserve Rhône blend), a 2016 Tre Amori (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot “Super-Tuscan” blend), a 2016 Malbec and a 2015 Commander’s Reserve Dessert wine (Primitivo).  We also revisited the 2016 Confluence (from our Leavenworth experience).

At the end of the tasting, we decided to buy two bottles.  One bottle of the 2016 Confluence (Bordeaux style blend) and one bottle of the 2015 Provence.  The prices here are really affordable.   Just as some live Jazz began to set the tone, we were then seated for dinner.  The ambiance was nice and my wife ordered the braised short ribs while I ordered a thick-cut prime ribeye steak.  The bread and olive oil paired nicely with our wine, and the baked apple tarte (ala mode) was absolutely decadent.  2020 New Year Wine Escapades – A perfect way to end a perfect day!

Aaron Diaz