(B&V NOTE – This article was scheduled to appear last week, however events being what they were, we felt last week’s post needed precedence)
It’s the day of Red Mountain Block Party. There is a gloom over the Columbia Valley and Red Mountain.A storm is blowing in and I mean blowing. However, we are not about to let a little grey, a little moisture, lower than normal temps, and a breeze keep us from experiencing a new winery out on Ambassador Road and a new one, Frichette, as well as our favorites on Sunset Road. The gloom also permeates our house as V’s sister has taken a downward turn and we talked over not attending at all. V needs a psychological and physical diversion at this point, so we agree together to make the short drive to Benton City, in an attempt to put a little brightness into a dark situation.
Check in was breezy. I mean a breeze with the young lady volunteer from Moss-Adams Yakima swiftly performing registration duties, incentivized as she was due to the chill in the air and a mist falling from the grayness. With red bands secured on our wrists clearly advertising we are of legal age, plus a couple years, we are off to our first stop, Ambassador Vineyard. We chose this winery to be first as they were providing guests a lesson in the aromas of wine. We are always open to learning and that is just one of the positive reasons for attending this annual event out here.
We are cheerfully greeted by our hosts, Jeff and Allison. Jeff poured through and explained the 2009 and 2010 Envoy blend and 2008 and 2010 Syrah and Allison provided the educational experience in the form of a little game with vials of essences which we were to smell then write down on paper what we smelled.
The fragrances like chocolate, licorice, tobacco obviously stood out, while others; violets and vanilla, for example, were a tad vaguer – for me anyways. The trick to this as Allison described it was, “To place a picture in your mind of the smell, then as the aroma comes around again the picture reinforces what your nose is telling you. Then practice to exercise the smell memory.” Try this experiment; close your eyes for a moment and think of fresh baked bread or peanut butter cookies. What picture do you see in your minds eye?
When I smell lavender, I see V. She’s my aroma-therapy. It’s like that.We see the kits like the one Allison used for sale on the web. Maybe there is one in the future for us and our guests as an ice breaker for our functions.
After the aroma class, we make our purchase of the 2009 Envoy, the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc blend, and the 2010 Joseph Phelps Clone / Tablas Creek Syrah and we are off to the next educational experience at Frichette.
The gravel crunches underneath the tires then back to Highway 224, around Red Mountain, back on Sunset Road we go then turn onto gravel again towards Frichette. One of the things we love about Red Mountain is its rural feel. Most likely that will change with the upcoming auction November 23rd, but then again, things hardly ever stay the same. Change is not just coming, it is here. That revelation is not just the fact we see more and more “Millennials” or “Gen Y’s” at wineries these days, although that is a good thing. It is the fact we see more and more development out here. More and more people are taking risks in the wine business; Hamilton’s new digs notwithstanding.Once in the Frichette facility, constructed by none other than a friend, O’Brien Construction, we are treated to Greg and Shae’s story, a sauce and wine pairing, and a sample of their wine out for the event. The set-up for the paring was a card to mark down the parings, four wines; Semillon, Merlot, Red Wine, and Cabernet Sauvignon with bowls of; Marinara, Raspberry Compote, Herb Vinaigrette, and Red Pepper Hummus sauces to dip bread in and try to match up what went best together. Totally Fun! The wine was enjoyable and it was nice to see the support of none other than Charlie Hoppes dropping in with a bottle of bubbly to ensure the new residents get off on the right foot. We bid our farewells, “Best of Luck”, and a “You married up” from me to Greg; then we are on our way up Sunset Road.
We are beyond hungry at this point in the day and Hightower’s have a BBQ tent setup outside. I can see the day is starting to wear on V and as we pull into the parking lot I vainly joke about ordering “One of Everything Please.” We select the tropical chicken and the pulled pork sandwiches to fill the emptiness in our stomachs as we anticipate the sampling the three stages of wine fermentation. After the sandwiches we go inside where there are three pitchers fill with Merlot juice pressed yesterday, Syrah pressed a week ago, and Merlot pressed two weeks ago. V remarked how entertaining the effervescence of the two week pressed Merlot was. I had to agree.
We headed back down Sunset road to where Hamilton Cellars is building their new facility. We were in luck! Stacie and Dick Boushey are in the frame-out, giving guests the lowdown on the grounds and the design of the building. Dick is the vineyard manager for Ambassador as well as others on Red Mountain so Stacie certainly has picked great individuals to surround her and Russ for this part of their adventure. Speaking of picking great individuals, as it turned out the designer of the Hamilton winery building is the same fellow which is putting our remodel dream to paper! Small world indeed!
We were going to the Winemaker’s Tent next but V’s heart is just not in this, I can tell. I say, “Let’s go up to Col Solare and see if we can get in an hour early. Maybe because of the inclement weather someone has cancelled.” Instead of driving around the mountain I take the shortcut through various vineyards’ tractor roads. Its good to know people and thus have an excuse at the ready, “just in case” is all I am saying about that.
As it turned out there were two spots available and as luck would have it the spots are at a table with a fellow and his wife that we have socialized with at my work functions. It was nice to be thought of as welcome instead of crashers, to say the least. This year Col Solare had guests sign-up for time slots instead of queuing up like last year. Nice to know they changed due to feedback from last year’s attendees.
The hostess gave a talk about the background of Col Solare vineyards here on Red Mountain then introduced us to the new winemaker, and it was interesting to hear Darel’s take on the harvest and 2013 vintage. It is fun to go to events here, although most of the time we can’t afford to purchase wine here – it is out of our price point yet it is engaging to get an inside scoop what they have planned and to pretend to be one of the elite. This visit to the winery was different though because a young man named Jordan Chaney recited two poems he had written. One of the poems, Ode to Grape, specifically intertwined metaphors about grapes. The words themselves were like clusters of grapes on vines and they were harvested, crushed, fermented, barreled, bottled, then poured from him and consumed by us all in the space of five minutes. We hope you Click This Link to experience it yourself.
We are home now, but not without another stop at Frichette. It seems we were so enthralled by everything going on there we didn’t purchase anything to take home. We couldn’t allow that, now could we? The dog greets his long lost humans, V quickly throws a few things in a bag and is off to spend the night with her gravely ill sister. I on the other hand get the dog fed, I put a sandwich together, watch a little TV disinterestedly, then turnout the lights and turn in. Sleep doesn’t come easily this night.