Sunset magazine does try to put a little something in their trips for everyone, don’t they? Dinosaurs? Ale? Wine? See last week’s post here. Side trips to The Country Mercantile? Last week when my sister was here V and her went to “The Merc” and came back loaded up, I don’t think we will be going North, if you know what I mean.
As we can break the trip up into two days, we decide to make the trip to Yakima first. We are going to introduce a couple of travel substitutions, on Old Empire Highway from Benton City to Prosser then Wine Country Road through Grandview, Sunnyside to Granger to see the dinosaurs.
In the early 90s the City (yes it is a city now) of Granger decided it would be a good thing to have a theme, dinosaurs. Why not? In fact, they were a little ahead of the curve there as a great deal of cities with thematic branding efforts didn’t start until a decade later. Examples of this are; Milton-Freewater has frogs, Seattle has pigs, and Vancouver B.C. has Orcas, Eagles, and Spirit Bears. One of my favorite Orcas, discovered during a special trip V&I took in 2004, wore a “Spoked B” Boston Bruins sweater with the number 4 emblazoned on it. The Orcas name? Bobby Orca of course. To Boston Bruins fans that means something. To other folks it means a mammal is wearing a yellow and black sweater, not quite the same thing. V’s favorite was Orcis Presley. I’m quite sure you have the picture without further linguistics.
After spending time in Granger with the dinosaurs on land and water, volcano toilets, and a few more of B’s memories divulged we travel to the hops yard I showed the intern last week. V has not seen hops up close or stand inside of the tall vines and she is getting more and more excited as we pass corn growing right up to the road and fragrant mint. Man, that stuff smelled great. The stories about me stopping by mint fields on weekend evening trips to Yakima and throwing a handful in the back window to deodorize the car are completely unfounded.
A turn into a dusty tractor road from the back road we are on and we find further travel blocked because of a tree fallen across the path due to the surprise and sudden winds of last evening. Good thing there is an alternate route and once parked close to the hops we perform a quick shoe swap out and start walking. In and around the thick trellised vines strung up on a support system of large telephone poles and wires we go. The cones are getting bigger, even in a week they show more development. In one of the rows a vine is down in the dirt. I wonder, “Is it a casualty of the winds too?” I pluck a few of the cones off the vine and press them between my thumbs and fingers, then lift up to my nose. With a big inhale, the pungent aroma reminds me of a fresh IPA, reminds me of being in high school working the hops harvests, reminds me my mom wouldn’t wash my clothes with any other laundry, then during my final harvest season she just stopped washing my work clothes all together. She said it made the washing machine smell bad. I guess by bad she meant the machine smelled like hops. To the Washington Hops Growers, I’ll wager it smelled like money. In fact; 1970’s (the first harvest I worked in) harvest was over 31 million pounds and selling at .55 per pound compared with 2011’s harvest of over 51 million pounds selling for 2.75 per pound. The harvests which yielded the most however was 2008 which came in at over 63 million pounds selling for 4.08 per pound and 2009 totaling over 74 million pounds selling at 3.54 per pound. That smells like money.
We are done walking the yard and are famished. We jointly make a decision to go to the casino in Toppenish for lunch. That is so unlike us. Except for that time I was in Reno – but I didn’t shoot anyone, and when V went on a cruise with her sisters and mom, we just don’t frequent these places. We are not gamblers except for spending money maybe at horse races at Emerald Downs or Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. We believe any horse has a chance to win on a given day and with the wagering limit set at $24 for the day, a great deal of entertainment can be had for an entire afternoon on that meager amount.
We enter the casino and the cacophony of sounds from all the slots surround and envelope us. We make our way to the back deli and the smell of concentrated and compressed cigarettes does nothing to enhance our hunger, that is certain. We gamely order and then eat. As we spend more time in the building the slot machines are becoming a white noise. Loud but not. We are finished eating and walk out a different way vowing not to return. One the way out we stop at a table to purchase a couple of souvenir chips. Then I place a $5 wager at the blackjack table. The dealer deals me two face cards and he loses. I let it ride for another hand. With that he deals himself a 10 and a Jack of Spades. I get dealt small number cards then have to stand pat at 16 and lose. I look over at V and say, “That’s one less tasting fee out of the budget.” On that note we are out the door of the one and only trip here.
On to Gilbert Cellars through Wapato. All along the way there is more agriculture, more reservation life, and more conversation centering it seems on various beneficial aspects of casinos in our area.
Not only did we want to go to Gilbert because of the Sunset magazine article, we have been seeing them regularly on a Yakima Chamber of Commerce commercial in the mornings as we gather our thoughts for our daily work activities. As we drive through Union Gap and arrive at Gilbert Cellars on the corner of Front Street and Yakima Avenue. This area evokes more memories of high school, leaving for college and then the east coast, and finally returning and “Dragging The Ave” with my contemporaries. This area was not a good place to find oneself in regardless of the time of day. I speak from personal experience. I have witnessed just a block away from here, a man leaning against a wall putting a hypodermic in his belt-bound arm then sliding down the wall slumping onto his butt. I vigorously shake my head as if to clear the memory as we walk down the sidewalk to the tasting room. Things have vastly changed now. We take note of the restaurants; Carousel French Cuisine, and Cafe’ Melange, as well as a little shop with plants and sundry items called Garden Girl. There is an unspoken conversation between us as we walk past that store. V looks at me and I know we are going in there after the tasting and I am telling her be careful of the budget. She looks at me and I am saying, “Where are you going to put that?” She looks at me and I am struggling to say, “No.” It is a great deal easier to be relaxed and have fun now in this area with the new vision from whoever is in charge of this stuff in Yakima.
Once inside Gilbert Cellars Brodie greets us warmly and provides us with a pour of 2012 Riesling to start and the story of Gilbert Cellars. We “Clink” then experience all the Riesling has to offer. The grapes are from the Sunrise vineyard. At 1,200 feet above sealevel it is one of the higher altitude vineyards. The wine from those grapes is clean, crisp, not overly sweet, in fact just a bit tart – Granny Smith Apple tart if you will, because that is what I smelled and tasted if only for a brief moment. V loved the floral aspect so it is on the list to purchase.
Another one of the offerings we enjoyed and purchased was the 2010 Allobroges. This red wine is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache. We both loved this Wahluke Slope sourced blend as well as the fruit-forwardness of the wine. The Grenache lent a lightness, the Mourvedre imparted an earthy, herbal quality and the Syrah the foundational structure. Very nice, indeed.
One thing our host behind the bar said which really struck home with us was, “It’s alright to taste things from different growing regions. It certainly broadens your horizons and educates your palate. It is acceptable to prefer wines growing in your region. There is something about loving that which is grown at home. There is something, “a rightness” to wine here.” V&I call that a “sense of place.” Thanks Brodie! You are a great ambassador for Gilbert! We look forward to experiencing a concert out at “The Cave” next summer!
After the restrained shopping at Garden Girl we are on the way home through Moxee. We had planned to include the suggested stop at Bale Breaker Brewing Company as we turned the car home, but the anticipated tour of the brewery was cancelled due to “a special event.” Here I thought B&V carried enough weight to trump a “special event” as well as their good planning for the visitors who would participate in one of Sunset’s “perfect road trips.” We drive through acres and acres and acres of hops yards, some of the oldest hops yards in the state are located here. The trellises line the highway right up to the roadway it seems. That reminds me of a fact I relate to V as the Gamaches are not only in the wine industry but as one travels west of Wapato deeper into the Yakama Reservation towards Harrah, Brownstown, and White Swan, they have a large hops enterprise and actually have a patent for a particular variety of hops, Amarillo. They certainly are an agrarian family.
We are turning east now, towards home and the end of the first leg of B&V’s take on Sunset Magazine’s “perfect road trip.” We round the Rattlesnake Mountain range, turn on to Highway 240 and look for the Hanford Elk herd, but it is too hot. They are in cooler climes right now, not a bad place to be. But as I contemplate cooler temps that means the onset of the upcoming wine harvest and how early it is this year. Another thought follows that one about how B&V’s anniversary is next week, how our outdoor winery wedding was the hottest on record, the planned vacation day comprising the 2nd leg of our take on the “perfect road trip.”
As much as I look forward to getting home and as much as the dog is looking forward to the return of his humans and dinner closely following that, I am looking forward to another day, another week, another month, another year with V, celebrating our union and living in the “Best Place Ever” as V puts it.