A song, “Waiting in the Weeds” off the last album by the Eagles is running through my head. It is a melancholy ballad type song with lyrics describing cycles of life and love as only Don Henley and collaborator Steuart Smith could craft them. The song starts, “It’s coming on the end of August, another summer’s promise almost gone…” Click the link if you want to hear the song. French Creek is spectacular through this end-of-August-day’s cycle of the moon chasing the sun. B&V, and the dog, are picnicking and waiting in the vines.
During the meal we talk about relocating to 15 French Creek.We not serious, but it is fun to think, talk, and joke about. However, back to reality for us and there would be no end to the issues with friends who actually own the vineyard. We are quite confident those friendships would end and since those friendships are more valuable than all the grapes grown in this location from now until the end of time, the idea will just remain talk without any further action on our part, save the occasional visit to our little slice of heaven on earth, 15 French Creek.
The grapes here in North Prosser – West Benton City (Richland can have a West, why not Benton City?) are close to harvest now. A couple of weeks from what we are told. The grapes in the Walla Walla and Yakima AVAs are close too and the activity which has been building over the summer will crescendo into harvest and the chemistry of wine. It has been a hot, dry season and it will be quite interesting to see what effect that had on the grapes, the growers and vineyard managers, and the winemaker’s ability to create their annual work of liquid art.
Last week was our 9th wedding anniversary and we also verbally recount to each other our trip to Walla Walla. This year’s anniversary day brought a feeble assault on the record heat of our wedding day. Thankfully, it remained the record for one more year. There are numerous reasons V’s nickname is “Smokey” and that record is but one. John and June’s “We got married in a fever” has got nothing on us. This year we conspired to take the day as a vacation day and drive to Walla Walla for the 2nd lef of “B&V’s take on Sunset Magazine’s Perfect Road Trip.” We are going to take a different route than they want us to and that we normally do, via Milton-Freewater Oregon and visit wineries we haven’t visited yet. That last part is not hard to do as there are over 170 bonded wineries now in Walla Walla, there are so many to choose from and so little time to visit. But choose we do and point the trusty Subaru to Wallula, and then turn right on U.S. 730 instead of left on U.S. 12 to uncharted territory, for us anyways. V makes a comment, “No matter which direction we turn, it is still US.” That woman is sharp and witty; I have to give her mad-props for that.
For about 17 miles we follow a portion of the Columbia River we have not seen before and turn left on OR-37, Cold Springs Highway. Now we are back into agriculture, first the irrigated kind then the dry-land wheat kind.Somehow or other we find ourselves on OR-334, OR-335, and then OR-11 as we travel through Helix and Athena then as if by magic we are in Milton-Freewater and in front of Zerba Cellars.
In talking about the winery while tasting through the day’s offerings we learned that Cecil and Marilyn started a nursery, Zerba Gardens, and that was their entrance into an agricultural lifestyle. Now, they have tasting room locations in Dundee Oregon, Milton-Freewater and Woodinville. We loved the approach that Doug, their winemaker, has with wine and we ended up purchasing the 2012 Viognier, a fragrant white with peach undertones and the 2010 Cabernet Franc, a full-bodied red with an earthy, herbal, cedar-like presence. Cab-Franc is V’s favorite varietal and we when we left the 2011 Wine Press Northwest Winery of the Year we actually felt like we swindled them out of this “library wine.” Lucky for us!
We then made our way to Va Piano Vineyards. We have to go here. Not only because we haven’t been here before, but because one of V’s co-workers is Va Piano Wine Club Member #1. That’s right club member #1!The winery has a beautifully distinct Tuscany influence and as we walk through the courtyard, the folks who were just leaving Zerba are sitting in the chairs. I look over at V and say, “Well, I guess the odds were 170-1 that we would meet up again at our next destination, right?” V smiles and says with an ever so slight bit of sarcasm, “You certainly are a genius.” Derri, the tasting room and wine club manager, takes us through the day’s tasting offerings and the story behind the vineyard and the Wylies. She also captivates us with the story of Father Bruno Segatta. Ever the opportunist I think to myself, “I need to meet and talk with Father Bruno, maybe he has information on the delayed request of sainthood for V.” We love all that we taste through here and end up purchasing the Bruno 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bruno 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. If you click on the Father Bruno Segatta link above we think you will see why.
We bid our farewells and drive just down the road for our final stop, Sleight Of Hand Cellars. Why wouldn’t we stop there? After all, Trey Busch makes The Enchantress Chardonnay from French Creek Chardonnay grapes. We pull into the gravel parking lot and we are greeted by the sight of a young man on a forklift and with the sound of rock music being played loudly in the background so he could hear it over the noise of the forklift.V&I look at each other and excitedly say at the same time, “Our kind of place!” It is so splendidly awesome to be in unison at times like these. The young man hops off the ‘lift, trots over to turn the music off and then over to us to let us in the tasting room. He is multi-tasking and enjoying every second of his wine-life. What is not to like? He introduces himself as “Adam” and pours “The Magician” Riesling for us to taste then walks over to put Pearl Jam vinyl on a turntable. Adam relates the story of the winery throughout the rest of the tasting tour and brings us back to the start; with the correlation of the Pearl Jam song “Sleight of Hand” to the winery. I start hearing the song in my head at that moment and a chill of the parallels in my life with the protagonist of the lyrics sweeps up my spine. I look over at the love of my life – enthralled as she is over the roundness, suppleness, and lingering finish of “The Enchantress” – and I am OK, whole, centered once again. There will be time enough later for ruminating on dichotomy of my life. As we make our purchase of the Chardonnay from French Creek and “The Conjurer”, we give our thanks to Adam for expertly guiding us through the tasting and presenting the winery in such a fun manner; and then head into town for a very late lunch.
While choosing “The Where,” Olive Marketplace, for lunch is a somewhat easy task, “The What,” was another whole level of complexity – as we decided to share instead of ordering our own. There were so many offerings; V wants the Turkey Club, I on the other hand am not a big fan of turkey, never have been. Turkey falls one week in the calendar – most people in America know this. We are going back and forth in the way that we do, negotiating lunch, and the cashier is cracking up. No, he is out-loud laughing now. Good thing there is no one impatiently waiting behind us. V says to him, “We are in love, don’t you know. Love is all about compromises.” I add, not wanting to be left out of the fun say, “Today is our 9th anniversary and we are celebrating and compromising! So, we will have the Turkey Club.” “And a glass of the Sangiovese.” I quickly add to continue in this memorable moment of fun. I look at V and say, “There will be plenty of more occasions to have the lamb pizza.”
“Ooooh! There is lamb pizza?” V questions, then quickly adds “Can we change our order?” The cashier can’t verbally respond because he is laughing so hard; but least he has enough control of his motor skills to nod his head in the affirmative and lunch is finally on it way.
The pizza crust was thin and crispy with a light sauce, and sage. The lamb was a generous portion, moist, and placed skillfully. To sum it up in one word, “Succulent” would be appropriate in this context. Added to that, the Sangiovese paired well and made for a most memorable lunch. Taking the dishes back inside from the outdoor eating area, I looked over at the cashier and said as I normally do, “Thanks for making our day!” He said back, “Thanks for making my week!” Mission accomplished.
That day was a blast and so is the picnic we are now enjoying in French Creek during the final stages of the day and August. On the menu is V’s roasted corn, avocado, black bean, jalapeno, and mango salad, some flat bread, manchego and emmenthaler cheeses, caper berries, and of course “The Enchantress” where it originated.
With the “Clink/Clunk”; comes a toast to us – and to the owners of the vineyard and Trey Busch too – obviously. Dinner in vineyard with the sun waning
and the huge full-moon waxing;
Life, Love and Wine in Washington, and 15 French Creek – we would add, doesn’t get much better than this.